Sunday, February 17, 2013

Random Thoughts...

There are several random thoughts that are rolling around in my otherwise empty head. I thought that if I would take a few moments to write them down in an unorganized fashion, maybe they would find an escape and leave me alone.

I'm laughing a little bit at the arrogance that we often have. Many years ago I was invited to an evangelism conference and then subsequently uninvited. At the time I suspected that it had something to do with the sometimes negative perception that "magic" has among Christianity's conservative core, although the reason that was given was that they had invited too many evangelists and had to cut back a few. Years later, I did find out that it was because of magic. That's okay. I've learned to accept that it is going to be a part of what I face as a Gospel Illusionist. I did get to go to that conference about six or seven years ago, but haven't been invited back since then.

Really, I'm good with it today. The only reason that it comes to mind is that I was at a church in the area of that conference last night and this is the weekend that it is being held this year. Perhaps the churches in that area are better served by the more traditional evangelists. We all have our places in the work of the King.

Many years ago, I was invited to a church for a children's program. I suspected that the church had a very fundamental core and so I asked the pastor if using playing cards would be a problem. He told me that it would be better if I didn't.

My initial reaction was -- Really? You've got to be kidding!
But as I thought about it, I realized that he was probably really sticking his neck out by having me come in the first place. I decided to honor his request and give him a great program, sans playing cards. I've been invited back to that church many times now--and the use of playing cards in no longer an issue. I've developed a relationship with them and they trust me to deliver a clear gospel message. Today they give me the freedom to share using whatever props or illusions I feel led to use.

Building relationships is often the key as we work to share the gospel. I recently saw a Facebook post that shared a picture with the words, "A woman that has an abortion isn't a victim; she's a murderer!"
I thought, "How sad."

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, this is not the way to build a trusting relationship so that we can share the love and forgiveness found in Jesus.

I immediately thought of Jesus when the adulteress was brought before him. The crowd wanted to stone her to death and pointed out that the Law called for her death. Jesus didn't condemn her; the Law already had--the people already had. He would have been "right" to say that since she had violated the Law and the penalty was to be stoned to death, they should stone her. But he didn't. He said that whoever had not violated the Law (whoever had not sinned) should throw the first stone.

I'm wondering if Jesus would have the same thing posted on His Facebook timeline. I don't doubt that Jesus would preach against sin. It's just that I remember all of the times that Jesus seemed to go out of his way to build relationships with sinners! There was the woman at the well in Samaria, the tax collector's home where he had dinner, the Pharisee's home and the encounter with the prostitute who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. There were great numbers of unclean lepers that he touched, blind that he gave sight, sick that he healed, hungry that he fed.

And what about you and me? What about our sin? Our uncleanliness? Jesus came a great way to build relationships with us. He left the glory and majesty of heaven to take on our flesh; ultimately to take on our sin and our punishment so that we could have eternal life in heaven. Isn't that the story that we need to be telling?

Last night I issued a challenge that I've issued many times before. I'm issuing it here, again.
Tell somebody--somebody that desperately needs to hear it: God loves you. Jesus died for you.

When I started writing this, I was going to cover a few more of the random thoughts in my head, but this rant has gone gone on long enough. Be kind to the masses that are struggling with life. Share the love of Jesus with them. Give them hope in a hopeless world.

And remember--
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's Showtime!

Today begins the first of three consecutive weekends with shows. Tonight I'll be at the First Baptist Church of Washburn MO. I'll be doing a program that follows their Valentine dinner. Several years ago, I did a Sunday morning program for this pastor while he served at a different area church. It's always nice to be asked to come back by a pastor/church!

Next weekend is the annual Pulaski County Evangelism Conference. I was unable to attend last year's conference but am thrilled to be invited back for this year's event. The four-day conference begins with a "music-fest" on Saturday night that features the music evangelists. It's a fun night of worship through song led by several different singers/groups. There is a short time set aside for some guy to share a message using magic. On Sunday morning and evening, all of the evangelists will be in various churches around the association. Then there are morning and evening sessions on Monday and Tuesday that provide opportunities for pastors and churches to hear the evangelists preach and the singers sing. It's a nice get together for the evangelists and a chance for pastors to book us for events for the coming year.

The first weekend of March I'll be travelling back to Chicago for an annual All Church Event at Holy Trinity Church. This is the church where my son and daughter in law serve, so I get the added bonus of a visit with them!

We have plans to spend the following weekend in St. Louis to relax with family and friends. If you are with a St. Louis are church and are up for a guest preacher that weekend, there will be two of us available!

Time to start getting things together for tonight's show!
Have a great weekend!

John <><

Friday, February 15, 2013

Politics: As Usual



What ever happened to government? Has our entire legislature gone crazy? In fourteen days the sequestration deadline (that they imposed on themselves and then delayed until March 1) will go into effect. To make sure that the whole country knows just how serious they are about solving the budget problems we face, Congress is taking a ten day recess!

If they were grade schoolers that hadn't completed their work, the teacher would take their recess away and make them complete their work first. If they were responsible adults (instead of the entitlement minded brats that they always rail against) they would stay without being told that this needs to get handled before anybody takes a break.

The across the board cuts will affect everybody in varying ways. The following is from Politico's summary on its effect on transportation:

SECRETARY SOUNDS SEQUESTER SIREN: Senate Appropriations Democrats joined their House counterparts in raising a warning flag on the sequester’s aviation impacts, as the upper chamber committee posted a letter ( from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explaining the tangible impacts of the nearly $1 billion in automatic transport cuts the sequester would serve up. His chief worry is that thousands of air traffic controllers would face furloughs, causing a reduction in air traffic that threatens to have tangible effects on Americans’ everyday travels. “The result will be felt across the country, as the volume of travel must be decreased. Sequestration could slow air traffic levels in major cities, which will result in delays and disruptions across the country during the critical summer travel season,” LaHood wrote.

But don't worry, "safety will not be compromised."
The FAA isn't waiting to start waving that tired old flag.

I know and trust my fellow air traffic controllers to be doing what we do every day. But I also know that the industry will push the limits of balancing reduction in workforce and maintaining as much volume as possible to the limits.

I also expect each government agency to follow the irresponsible leadership of Congress by making "across the board" cuts. That is the simplest (not the safest or best) way to solve the less money problem. What that means is that we'll still have money in the budget for new office furniture (that we'll have to spend or lose) but won't be able to move it to the pot that pays controller salaries where it is really needed. Instead of looking for ways to cut waste, we'll just cut everything. Instead of prioritizing our spending needs, we'll treat everything as equal. We'll just follow the lead of our Congress.

Of course, following the lead of Congress might mean that when it's critical to be on the job, separating airplanes... will be time for recess.

I can promise you, the Federal employees that provide safe service for the flying public have a far better work ethic than the legislators that represent them. We'll be on the job every day that they'll let us...

John <><

By the way, you can help. Go to this link, type in your zip code at the bottom and then follow the instructions. A letter will be generated and sent to your legislators urging them to deal with the issues and avoid sequestration.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

One of My Favorite Things...

I suppose that a pair of warm, woolen mittens would come in handy if it was so cold that the snowflakes were staying on my nose and eye lashes, but none of these things would number in "My Favorite Things" list as they did for Maria, the young governess/nanny of the Von Trapp family.*

I imagine that each of us has that unwritten list of things that can make you smile to yourself at any moment and brighten up an otherwise dreary day.

I was thinking about that the other day when I was talking to my baby sister on the phone. (She is far from being a baby, but I had mention it after her "favorite oldest brother" comment on Facebook.) Yeah, she is one of those people that makes me smile.

I smile because it is so obvious that she really loves being a mom (even on days when she is looking forward to being alone are foiled by a sick child).
I smile when I hear that she and my niece (her oldest) are out late at night, bundled in blankets, watching a meteor shower.
I smile when I hear her laugh or when she has a story to tell about her kids.
I smile when I get a text from her that says, "He said goodbye." (sorry for the inside joke on an outside forum)
I even smile when I see other ladies that are all into being moms. They remind me of my baby sister.

Face it, the kid makes me smile.

It really is too bad that many miles separate me from all of my siblings. I love hearing about what they're up to through e-mails (I guess that dates us), Facebook and the occasional text message. I love getting together with them on the rare occasions that we are able to manage to coordinate our schedules. I love them all, but it's baby sister that seems to be able to make me smile the most often.

Who (or what) makes you smile?
One of your favorite people? One of your favorite things?
Share with me in the comments.

John <><

* The Sound of Music 

Friday, February 08, 2013

Writing Critique Group

It is late on Friday night and tomorrow morning is our monthly meeting for the OCACW.

After each monthly meeting, there is a critique session for those that are writing and looking to improve their writing. I went to the after meeting critique session once, but since I really don't do any writing other than my blog and the occasional sermon, I haven't been back. I suppose that is a bit selfish on my part. I imagine that I could still participate; offering constructive critique or learning from the works of real writers.

All that being said, I'm going to attend tomorrow's critique session and share a project that I've started. It's just in its beginning phase--really not much more than an idea--but I wanted to get some input as I get started. Perhaps I'll share it here in a few weeks; perhaps not. It might be something that I'd like to develop more fully before "going public" with it.

In any case, I always look forward to our meetings and am amazed by the talented writers that choose to share their time and talent with wannabe hacks like me.

Enjoy the weekend.
Invite a friend to church.
If you need a place to worship in the Ozark area, give me shout. I'd be pleased to introduce you to my friends at Hopedale.

John <><

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Old Blogging Habits and Other Old Habits

It is the end of the first week of February and it may appear that I have fallen into the old habit of irregular postings here at Out of My Hat.

And while that may be true, I am comfortable with not posting daily. I would prefer to post more often than once or twice per week but would rather be devoting writing time to other projects. I suppose that I'll work on sharing those as time goes on.

Last month, I posted about enjoying a good cigar and got a few comments on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Nobody that commented seemed to have anything positive to say about the habit; some were comfortable in expressing their opposition to the habit and any neutral or positive comments have come from personal contacts and from other cigar smokers.

I understand that cigars are not for everybody. Currently, I smoke just one (if that) per day and am generally enjoying a nice walk while I'm at it. For those with health concerns, there is this from Wikipedia:

"...for those who don't inhale and smoke 1–2 cigars per day, the risk of dying from all causes is statistically insignificant when compared to non-smokers..."

I think the greatest impact from this minor indulgence will be the cost. Even when buying from a warehouse or through an auction site, a decent cigar will cost several dollars per cigar with some getting quite expensive. Since I don't appear to have any cigar smokers as readers, I'll probably not post reviews of the cigars I sample here. In fact, I will probably not write about cigars or cigar smoking again. The only reason that I am thinking about them today is because I just received notice that by previously back ordered shipment is on its way.

You enjoy your indulgences. I'll enjoy mine.

John <><

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Superbowl Sunday: Who Wins? and Does it Really Matter?

If you've followed Out of My Hat for very long, you already know that I'm not a big NFL fan. Back in the day (it was a Tuesday) I was a Viking fan. To give sports fans an idea of how long ago that was, names like Jim Marshall, Alan Page and Carl Eller were a few of the names on the roster. The Scrambler managed the offense and they still played in an outdoor stadium.

But back to the point--today I'm not a big fan and Sunday is the BIG day for football.

I know that the NFL season is a big deal to its millions of fans. I just don't understand how everybody can get so worked up over seeing your favorite team play a grand total of twenty games--if you're one of the lucky few; sixteen games for the majority of fans.

But that's also off point.

Does it really matter who wins?
And not just for football. You could ask the question about baseball's World Series.
In the grand scope of things, what does it matter?

I know that professional sports are major league industries and billions of dollars are at stake for those that are vested in the business. But for the average guy or gal that is watching from their Super Sunday gathering, isn't it just a momentary escape from the burdens of everyday life. So often, we have elevated these sports super heroes to the point of modern day gods that not only do we shower them with indecent amounts of money and attention, but we choose to look the other way for their bad behaviors and even their cheating through the use of illegal substances.

Oh we are quick enough to condemn them when the obvious meets with hard evidence, but we would rather give them the benefit of the doubt until then because we all know that it makes for better sport. Here's a great article for any sports fan that is tired of the accepted practice of cheating and the example that it teaches our kids.

Of course, there are also great stories in sports; so much so that some would have us believe that God really cares about who wins and might influence the outcome of the big game. (I guess they've forgotten about that Notre Dame game.)

Yes, we can look on as cyclist Lance Armstrong bears his disgrace on national TV (part 1 and part 2 if you really want to watch it) and we can join those that are piling on with the long list of lives he's ruined. We can excuse the people in charge of monitoring the sport as we do in other sport venues, but we all know that the game, the race, the sport is more about making obscene amounts of money than it is about competing fairly. Here is an audio clip of Daniel Tosh's take on pro athletes. There is probably more truth in it than we care to admit. And I should make this language warning. If you stop listening when he gets to the NBA part, you can avoid the unnecessary foul language.

In the end, I may or may not watch the big game Sunday. If you will be pulling for one of the teams, I wish you well and hope that your team wins. I'd rather watch the UFC 156 fights tonight.

John <><