Tuesday, December 30, 2014

No 2014 Review...Pushing on to 2015

I know that it is normally a good thing to look back; to check your progress.
I think I'm going to forego the 2014 year in review and just say that it was a good one.

Sure, it had some not so great moments, but all-in-all it was a pretty good year.

But it is in the past--which is no place to dwell.
There is only today and tomorrow and then it is 2015!

I'm not big on the New Year's resolutions but I do like to keep a few goals in mind and I am really looking forward to this retirement gig.

I guess the biggest thing on the "to do list" for 2015 is to figure out what I'm going to be doing ministry wise. I have a couple of conferences and a couple of revivals already scheduled for the winter and early spring. I'd like to do more but I really don't know if that's where I'm going to be spending my ministry time. I'm thinking that an in home Bible study or perhaps a coffee shop Bible study is something that could happen in the coming year. I'm still trying to figure that all out.

I have the "Drugs, Strangers and other Dangers" magic program to market to schools and kids camps. I am looking forward to finally spending time on that and hope to be performing it this spring. Getting my "magic room" set up will be an early retirement project.
I also have a few new magic effects that I'd like to get into a show. Practice, practice, practice!

There is much more to look forward to in the coming year, but I still have that work gig to worry about for a few more days. It is calling me right now! Eighteen more actual days of ATC work! I think I can handle that.

As for 2014, finish well, my friends!
Finish well.

John <><

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Christmas Re-run (X2)

These are two of my favorite Christmas posts.

This first one is the story.

This second one is the song.


John <><

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Not your typical Christmas story

Saturday is our annual Christmas reading meeting at the Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers. When I signed up to write something, I had no idea what I would write and never imagined that it would be anything like what follows.
It is a little dark (like the night), a little heavy (like oppression) but with a glimmer of hope (like a shining star).

On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day, the unthinkable happened. A vehicle crashed in a nearby community and four young men were killed. Several others were injured. I heard this story from a woman that is a close friend of the family of one of the victims.

I heard this story, this testimony, just nine days after the event. The wounds, the grief and the hurt were still pretty raw.

The call came late at night...don't they all. The woman left her young kids with her husband, jumped in her car and hurried to the scene of the accident to support her best friend. On the way to the rural site, she learned that her friend's son didn't make it.

When she arrived at the scene, she parked at a distance and ran down the hill to where the first responders were. She was desperate to find her friend. She was stopped to be identified. When the chaplain that stopped her determined that she was not a parent of one of the boys but a friend, he stopped her and got her full attention. He made her focus on him and told her that he was going to pray for her. When he finished, he told her that he was sending her back up the hill (where the parents were gathered). He told her that if she couldn't do this, to come back to him and would pray for her again.

The woman was there for her friend.
He was there to make sure she was strong enough for the encounter.

When she reached the people at the top of the hill, the first person she saw was the dad of one of the boys that survived. She was still looking for her friend. They saw each other through the confused gathering of people. The friend ran to the woman, fell to her knees and cried, "Thank God he knew Jesus!"

Even in the midst of this tragedy, she found peace in knowing that her son was safely with his Savior.

Later that morning my thoughts turned to another mother that lost a son many years ago. He died never having made a profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

And that torments her to this day. It has destroyed her life. It ruined her marriage. It cost her a relationship with a surviving daughter. She survives...but without hope.

I know that this doesn't sound like much of a Christmas story, but the hope and peace given to a grieving parent is why He came.

Without Jesus, we are all walking in darkness. Without Him, we are all helpless. Without Him, we are all hopeless.

He came on a dark night, to a small town. His birth was made known to the lowest members of society, the workers tending the night flocks. He was swaddled in strips of cloth and laid in an animal's feed trough.

He would pay the price for our salvation, ...and for the salvation of our sons and daughters.
He came to give us hope.
He came to give us peace.
He came to give us life.

We celebrate His coming because without it we are doomed to an eternity apart from God.
It is a tragedy if we don't take advantage of the season to tell the story of God's great love for all of us.
It is a tragedy that we don't tell the story year 'round and celebrate His coming every single day.

But the real tragedy is that today...today, somebody's son, somebody's daughter, somebody's mother, somebody's father will die not knowing that Jesus came so that they could have eternal life.

I know.
It's not a story that goes well with the festivities of the season.
It's a story that brings us to a somber place; a place of deep thought and reflection.
It's a story that makes us want to hug our kids and our loved ones.
It's a story that needs to be told.
It's the story of Christmas.

For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas.

John <><

Friday, December 05, 2014

Bah! Humbug!

Unfortunately, I am progressing well as a Curmudgeon in training.

For a short while, I thought that I was going to end up as a fairly nice older gentleman.
But then Christmas season has come along and inspired that curmudgeonly behavior to make its seasonal appearance.


I thought that listening to Christmas music would help put me in a cheery mood; it helps but I get frustrated with the format of the local Christian radio station.

Throughout the year, this station plays only Christian music. But for the holy season of Christmas, we get to listen to secular, seasonal songs that have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. That just seems wrong to me--the regular stations play music that include Christmas hymns, and the Christian station adds non-Christ centered music to their format.

I'm also more bothered than I used to be by the commercial aspect of Christmas. Especially by well meaning (or maybe not so we'll meaning) Christians that join in the commercial shopping fray but get all agitated by a clerk that wishes them "Happy holidays!"

We (well meaning Christians) are all about the gift buying, gift giving, Christmas partying festivities and still manage to be quick to criticize anyone else that only celebrates the Santa Claus and snowman side of the holiday. If we were honest about it, we'd have to admit that most of our holiday activities have little to do with Jesus and more to do with family and friends. Not a bad thing, just not really CHRISTmas, if you know what I mean.

I certainly get that family time and gift giving are joyous times. But does my giving gifts with a nativity scene under the tree celebrate the birth of Jesus any more than a neighbor that doesn't know anything about him?

I think I need to be more clear about what I believe about Christmas. Too often, our actions betray our words.

I want to encourage you all to enjoy your holiday season--however you choose to celebrate. But at some point, you might want to ask yourself if the "eat, drink and be merry" part of your Christmas is all there is to life. Luke 12:13-21

Merry Christmas!
John <><

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Planning Ahead for Churches and Pastors

Working my ministry calendar has never been a real priority. My work calendar has always dictated just how much I could put into ministry. I have often been amazed at how I could make it to the end of August with few dates for the fall and then have one of the busiest seasons ever!

Because income has never been an issue for me (God has provided me a great career), I have never worked to get bookings for revivals, shows or special events. And I have never worried about not having anything on my schedule. Income still won't be the issue in the future, but I feel that I need to make the most of my available time by planning for working in ministry.

Here's where I'm going with this--

You have your church calendar planned out for next year. When are you planning to fill in the blanks on who to invite as your guest preacher, entertainer, camp pastor, etc.?
Sometimes I get calls for events that are annual events (like Upwards Basketball or VBS), but I don't get the call until a month (or week) before the event takes place!

I still don't plan on being the guy with calendar in hand, looking for bookings at conventions or conferences, but I do plan on being a little more proactive when it comes to looking for ministry opportunities.

For all of the evangelists, entertainers and missionaries I am urging all of the pastors, planners and committees to book your events as early in the year as possible--like January! If you plan on spring revivals, I hope that you have already booked a speaker! You can be a blessing to those that count on meetings and calendar dates by allowing them to plan ahead for your event and giving them a little peace of mind that they have work ahead of them.

I am so exited to have a couple of spring events already on the calendar! I am hoping to have some camps (kids/youth/families) for the summer as well as a VBS event or two.

Let's plan on a grand 2015!

John <><

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why They Call it Retirement

It's another beautiful weekend here in the Ozarks! It's the end of November, sunny and temps in the 60s. In a little bit I'll be outside building a new roof for our shed. Anybody that knows me knows that is well outside of my skill level, but I'm sure that I'll enjoy it, just the same. (yeah, right!)

The shed has been a three sided shed that I built with material from an old dog run that was here when we moved in many years ago. The roof had rotted away and was replaced last weekend. Chris has decided that we need to close it in on all sides so I'll put a new section of roof on the front and then build a wall to close it in and put a door on the front. Hey! It's just a shed. I think I can do this. It will take me longer than it should. I'll have to make an unexpected trip (or two) to the store for something I need for the job. But I'll get it finished...eventually.

Tomorrow, I'll spend my afternoon going north a little ways for a Thanksgiving Dinner magic show at a church an hour or so from here.
Pack up.
Drive there.
Set up.
Pack up.
Drive home.

That's a full afternoon.

I think I'll have plenty of weekends days like this in the near future. Maybe that's why it's called retirement. You stay busy all day and get tired. You sleep until you need to get up. You get busy with the next day's projects and get re-tired.
I might need to get a job in order to take a break from all of the projects ahead of me!

Can you take a vacation when you're retired?
Does that mean you go back to work for a couple of weeks?
Or does it mean that you just spend time without any projects/plans?
Hmmm...maybe there is a slight learning curve on this retirement thing.

I'll think I'll get it figured out.

I'd better get busy before I run out of Saturday. I'm not retired yet! Sixty-three days to go!

John <><

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

God Loves You (but I'm His favorite)!

I stole the title of this post from a bumper sticker. It fits.)

The Thanksgiving holiday always gives us the opportunity to pause and examine our lives and the many reasons that we have to be thankful. As I look around and see the trials and struggles of so many good people, I can't help but believe that I am truly favored by God.

I am not a believer in luck and coincidence is too random to account for the blessed condition of my life. I can offer no reason for my position other than God's grace and mercy.

I am not subscriber to fate, nor one that believes everything happens for a reason. I do believe that we were all created to glorify our Creator and gifted to do so. While there are many that give Him glory and honor in trials and tribulations, I have not been asked to do that...at least, not yet.

I don't think that I'm going to get out of this life without suffering or extreme sadness. Life has its cruel nature of pain and torment.
But for today, I am thankful.

And I feel compelled to share my blessings with others.

I'm not really sure of how to go about that. I think that sometimes we get to planning so much that we miss the simple opportunities to bless people that make their way into our days. We often hear the term "random acts of kindness" and yet I am convinced that these are not at all random acts. They are purposeful acts by random people that have made it their mission to be a blessing to people they encounter.

I want to be one of those people!

Would you care to join me?
We can be a purposeful army of people doing purposeful acts of kindness for people.
And not just random people we meet; all of the people we meet!

I honestly have to ask, "Is it even possible to be kind to everyone?"

I don't know if I can do that.

I'm up for trying.
How about you?

John <><

Monday, November 10, 2014

Missed... or not

With retirement just around the corner, I've been wondering a little bit about how I'll be remembered at work...or if I'll be remembered at work!

The reality of life moving on and nobody giving a second thought to my not being there is the most likely scenario. Others have retired before me and air traffic continues to flow as somebody else fills that gap in the schedule. Over the years, I have had little contact with those that have retired or moved on to other facilities. They simply move out of my little ATC (Air Traffic Control) world and we each carry on without thinking much about the other.

I imagine that will pretty much be the case at SGF ATCT (Springfield Air Traffic Control Tower, for my non-ATC friends).

However, it occurred to me that now isn't really the time to be thinking about how one will be remembered. Thinking about how you want to be remembered and acting accordingly is way better than thinking about how you will be remembered. There is no going back to unsay harsh words nor undo unkind acts. I can't travel back in time to offer help or to be a friend. I wonder how differently I might have acted if there was a voice inside that quietly said, "Is this the way you want to be remembered?" before each action or sentence.

Unfortunately, many of us end up with regrets over the way we have acted or the things we have said. One friend suggested that it may take some time before people actually realize that they miss having me around or before they recognize that I did have some impact in their life. At some point in the distant future, they may find a way to let me know.

I don't know if that will be the case, but it did make me think that maybe we should let people know when they are doing a good job and having a positive influence over us or others.  There are people that have encouraged me and helped me along the way. There are those that have inspired me and made me want to be a better co-worker/employee/friend. Perhaps a word of recognition would serve to encourage them to continue doing that for others.

Telling someone that they're being a jerk probably won't have much impact in changing them, but encouraging someone to continue doing good may give them a boost when so many kind acts and kind people go unnoticed.

Personally, I'm not looking forward to any kind of retirement send off. I'd be perfectly content with handing in my headset and walking out the door. I expect that there will be a couple of people that I will maintain some contact with for a short time, maybe a couple that I'll see once in a great while; but for the most part, I expect that I'll leave my ATC world in the past and move on.

Several weeks ago I deleted over 300 Facebook friends. Most of them were people with whom I have no contact and share little in common or people that I see on a regular basis and can have real conversations with instead of checking each others status throughout the day. Most of my co-workers were deleted because the fall into the second category and will most likely stay deleted because they will soon fall into the first.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not at all sad about my decision to retire. I'm not sad about the people that I'll be saying my goodbyes to, either. I am a little disappointed that I didn't pay more attention to how I'd like to be remembered when I had the chance to do that.

But we can learn from the past. And while it may be too late to change what has been done, each of us can begin to live purposefully to leave behind great memories and to encourage the people that we encounter today!

We don't even have to plan to leave a life long legacy behind. We only have to think about how people will  remember us -- tonight; at the end of the day. Will anybody think back (for just a brief moment) about a kind word or kind act from someone that they may or may not have known?

Let's face it. Our memories are pretty short. After nearly two decades at SGF ATCT, March will come and go and nobody will have even a thought of good ol' JH. But maybe tonight someone might have the thought, "That was a nice thing he said today," or "That was a nice thing he did."

I think it's fair to say that I'll not be missed much; and not for very long. Why should it be any different for me than it has been for others? I guess it's really not that important, is it?

Maybe we work too hard at leaving behind legacies.
Maybe not being remembered isn't such a bad thing.
Maybe living to do well in the moment is what legacies are really made of.

John <><

Monday, November 03, 2014

Family Visit

It;s rare that I would be up early on a Monday morning. My work week typically starts at 3pm on Monday afternoon, so there is no need to get up with the sun (or slightly before as is the case today).

However, this weekend we have been blessed with a visit from Aaron and Jenny and our traditional send off is to have breakfast out with both of their families. Hannah and Daniel have opted out of the early morning send-off and said their goodbyes at dinner last night.

I really am so blessed with a grand family!

The times that we get to spend together are so few. I was very happy that Aaron and Jenny went out to lunch with Hannah and Daniel yesterday (and a little jealous that parents were not invited!). It's been interesting to watch as Aaron and Hannah have grown through the buddy stage, the bugging each other stage, and back to being good friends as adults. Sometimes I suspect it may be an alliance against their parents as much as a real sibling friendship, but I do think that they actually like each other most of the time. Having everybody together for a couple of days was great!

I hope that we get to see Aaron and Jenny more often in retirement than we have in the recent past and fear that we will see less of Hannah as she makes her transition into living as a completely dependent adult woman. I guess that is the way of things in our mobile society. I suppose that it is difficult to complain too much as I am one of six siblings, soon to be back to living in six different states!

I enjoyed watching the fights with Aaron on Saturday night. It has been a long time since we've been able to watch them together. We often watch from our own homes and tweet or text back and forth during them but this was way better! I know that Chris sometimes feels that she doesn't get to spend as much time with her boy as I do, but I think that she understands the father/son thing, too. Weekend visits are tough on everybody as both families want to spend as much time as possible with the kids. I'm afraid that we put a lot of pressure on the kids to be more places than is possible in just a couple of days.

I imagine that they are happy to be on their way home and back to their normal routine, sans parents!

We are also back to our normal, unexciting routine.
Work, household chores, a little exercise...you know, not exactly boring, but far from exciting.
All-in-all, it's a good life.

I hope that yours is also a good life.

John <><

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Easy Transition

I really don't think I'll have any problems transitioning into retirement.

I know that taking a few days off is nothing compared to being retired, but still -- I think I'll manage the change quite nicely.

I took last Friday off and had a nice long walk at the Springfield Nature Center with Chris.
Saturday was an easy day with Chris working and me doing very little.
Sunday night I had the opportunity to preach for a group at the Laclede Baptist Camp.
I also took a couple of days off (Mon/Tue) to hang out at the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelists' booth at the Missouri Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. I was excited to be able to share about my winter retirement plans and how that meant an open schedule for 2015. I was able to talk to several pastors about possible dates and events for the spring!

I have a magic show to prepare, lesson plans to write (apologetics), a book to work on (writing, not reading) and plenty of household projects. I seriously doubt that I'll ever be pacing in my living room and saying I'm bored as I often do in the tracon.

I'm sure that there will be plenty of adjustments to make, but I'm looking forward to them.

I expect that I'll be cooking more and we'll be eating out a little less often. I'm not sure how Chris feels about that but we'll be eating better (than eating out). I'm not too big on salad prep. I love eating them, but Chris is the salad chef in the house, not me.

In any case, the days off have really helped me to feel like it is time!

They very first week of retirement is the Missouri Baptist State Evangelism Conference, here in Springfield. They end of February is the Pulaski Association Evangelism Conference. I need to work on a March trip to Florida for a little spring baseball. April is Easter and my first tentative spring revival.

I don't think I would have time to go to work...or to be bored!

I am a happy boy!

John <><

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Random thoughts on my pending retirement

It's not often that I post from my phone, but this morning finds my with time on my hands, thoughts in my head and my phone as my only handy media device.

With just fifteen work weeks left in my incredibly average ATC career, "What's next?" is a question I hear (and think about) often.

I really doubt that I'll have to get used to not going to work everyday. I'm pretty sure that I'll fall into that habit quite easily. I do expect that it will take some time to adjust to a new normal and allocating my time to a new schedule.

I do not expect to be bored!

I have been unable to devote the proper time to working on and marketing the magic show that I bought last year. That will be a priority. I've never really considered myself as a professional magician; perhaps the new show and new market will change my personal perspective.

Another thing that I haven't done in the past (haven't had to) is to be proactive about booking revivals, camps or other ministry events. With no work schedule to get in the way, I'm looking forward to a more active ministry calendar.

I've considered going back to school. A degree in Biblical studies would be nice for the pedigree, but I'm not sure how necessary it is at this point. Chris has pointed out that I read and learn plenty on my own and sees little practical benefit from the official piece of paper.

If I were to consider a different area for continued education, it would be something along the lines of herbal medicine or some kind of natural wellness or natural health studies. Once again, I'm not sure that I'd need the degree since I doubt that a professional practice is in my future. It would just be for my own interests and those that might share them.

And there is writing...
I do want to have a daily writing time. I don't know if I'll ever write a book or a magazine article; I just know I need to write.

And travel!
Yes, definitely need to plan a few trips.
Spring training in Florida.
Spring in Australia (our Fall).
Beaches in Mexico any time the sun is shining.
And there is weekend camp in Canada that we need crash in the summer.

No, I don't believe that I'll be bored.

When the fun stuff runs out, there are plenty of household projects to keep me busy.

Life is good!

John <><

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Facebook Re-purposing

I've been spending a lot less time on the social networks and made a few discoveries. I thought I'd share them with you.

1) I have way more "friends" in the virtual world than in reality.
2) Some of the people that I see on Facebook, I actually see in person pretty often.
3) Many of my "friends" I don't really follow (and I'm sure many don't follow me).

There are several other observations that I could share, but these are the three that stand out for me.

I like Facebook for a number of reasons.

It helps me --get this-- network! I like it for the ability to have an easy contact for pastors, churches and other organizations that might want to use my services as a preacher/teacher/magician/speaker/etc.

I have really enjoyed connecting with old classmates and staying in touch with relatives that live far away (and all of my relatives live far away).

Some of my friends post some pretty cool things.

Again, there are other good things, but that's not really important.

In the coming days, I'm going to be making some massive cuts to my friends list. I'm not out to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm just re-purposing my use of this particular social network. If I work with you or see you on a fairly regular basis, you might get dropped. We may have to talk about what is going on in our lives rather than the "I saw your Facebook post" beginning and end to a conversation.

It could be that we became FB friends out of a single event or a single commonality and we really have no other interest in one another's lives. It's not that I don't like you, but you're probably going to go.

In the end, my 635 current "friends" will be greatly reduced. Most of them will never notice (which is a good indication of why they were dropped). Some of you might. If you think that I've been too extreme, feel free let me know. If you want to keep in touch via FB, just say so.

I'm not planning on making a grand production out of who I keep and who I delete, I'm just going to go down the list with a simple yea or nay and move on. Kids, youths, workers from camps--we had fun and I wish you well in your lives, but I'm probably gonna drop you. Some of my ATC friends I know, some I'd really like to know, and others are here because we've met once (maybe) and share a common career. Some I'll keep, some I won't and again, the ones I drop will probably never notice.

I hope that nobody gets their feelings hurt by this. It's really more of a self-preservation thing; a way to make sure that I spend less time on my phone reading about people that are far away and more time relating to the people that are actually close to me.

John <><

Sunday, September 14, 2014


A few days ago I was having breakfast with a friend. We were talking about preachers and preaching styles and how they vary according to one's calling and purpose. Pastors preach/teach differently than evangelists or revivalists. And while we all have our different personal styles of delivering a message, our source is (or at least is supposed to be) the same.

We have the teacher, the encourager, the exhorter, the motivator. We remind one another of how we are to live according to the Bible and how we are to love our fellowman. There are many methods and ways used to communicate the message of the Bible.

However, there seems to be a type of messenger that is missing today:

The one that declares the coming danger.

I'm not saying that we should be on street corners with our "world is coming to an end" signs. I'm not typically a gloom and doom type of messenger.
And while there are certainly many that believe we are in the final days or living out the end times, I'm not sure I believe that is the case.

What I do know is that our days are limited. Whether we die of the natural aging process and live out many decades of life, or meet our end through illness or an accident, nobody gets out of this alive. If death is simply the end of life and nobody can avoid it, then a warning about what is already certain seems pointless. But if there is something on the other side that is dependent on how we live in this life, then perhaps a warning is in order.

Is there an afterlife?
Does this afterlife consist of a heaven and a hell?
If so, how does one get into heaven and avoid hell?

It may be that most people are so wrapped up in their current life and so secure in their own goodness that they either haven't considered what happens after death or figure that they're doing okay.

I know plenty of good people that believe that the scales will balance on the side of good and their eternal souls will be okay. I'm not sure of the source of their end times theology, but it doesn't match with the teaching of the Bible. The thing is, most of them would tell you that they believe in the God of the Bible--and because they believe themselves to be good people, surely God won't send them to hell.

I don't know if you're one of those people or not. Maybe you know the things you need to know and yet you postpone living for Jesus or sharing the truth of the Gospel with your kids. Maybe baseball, football, hockey, band, school, and life have become the priorities of life and you'll find time for God and the things of God later. Perhaps, we've come to think of tomorrow as an entitlement and will settle our eternal future on the coming tomorrow.

Today, I am sounding the bell of warning!
The end is near! If you have seen your last sunset, are you ready to meet your eternity? What about your kids or your loved ones?
What do you think it takes to get into heaven?
Where do you find that information and is it reliable?

These are all questions that are worthy of a well considered answer.

If you are a follower of Jesus and believe that heaven is only available through Him, will you share that belief with someone today? Or are you content to let those around you go through life without knowing what you believe about heaven and hell? Would you have your friends go to hell simply because you failed to share what you believe? Because you failed to warn them?

If you are a follower of Jesus (a Christian), would you join me in sounding a warning?
Let's make sure that we are sharing the Gospel of salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus.

If you are not a follower of Jesus and are uncertain of what's next, feel free to call or e-mail me with your questions. My contact info is available in the right column of this blog.

John <><

Monday, September 01, 2014

Another Step Towards Going Green

In an effort to continue to reduce the size of the carbon footprint that I'm making on the Earth, I'm considering a reel lawn mower for my suburban sized yard. I'm past the point of needing a new mower as the gasoline powered unit is limping along and may make it to the end of this mowing season...or not. It's a little embarrassing mowing the lawn as it makes its sputtering sounds while working its way through the task of cutting my grass.

I was considering an electric mower but started thinking that with a relatively flat lawn and small size, why not go completely powerless and provide the power myself?

I'm wondering...
What are some of the ways that you are reducing your carbon footprint?

A little less air conditioning?
Walking or biking for short errands?
A more fuel efficient vehicle?
Eating less red meat?

Here's an interesting one--drinking less bottled water!

That's right! With plastic bottles being a petroleum product, we use millions of barrels of oil to make plastic bottles that are filled with tap water, shipped via gas guzzling trucks to the store and then thrown away after a single use. I'm guilty--but have decided to really cut back on this one.

So, how about it?
What are the ways that you are friendly to our Earth home?
Please share so that all of us can join you.

John <><

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Judged...for not judging!

Yeah, that happens.

This time it wasn't me. It was a friend.

So Christian friends, how are we to reach out to the dreaded scourge of society (you know... (whisper font) the gays) if we don't associate with them or build meaningful relationships?

Maybe it's just more sporting to judge them, condemn them and condemn the brothers and sisters that are not doing the same. I don't know if it makes me sad or mad to hear such stories. I don't know if I get more aggravated with the condemning of those with different lifestyles or with the judging of others for not condemning them.

Sometimes I just get fed up with religious people.  I know, I know, I'm supposed to be one of them, right? It just that I have a hard time putting Jesus in the modern day hater role.

Maybe it's because I can relate to the "sinner" better than to the saint. On the holiness scale, I fall pretty much at the low end. As much as I would love to make the claim of being Christ-like, I'm really not. In fact, Jesus follower is a better description of me than Christian if one assumes that a Christian is a Christ-like or a little Christ.

I'm really just struggling with the masses.

To be clear, I am trusting in Jesus, and Jesus only for eternal salvation. I know that there is nothing in this wretched being worthy of heaven and can't imagine why God would love me so--but I believe He does.

And He also loves those that we love to judge for Him. He hasn't called on us to judge them. He has called on us to love them and to tell them of His great love for them.

If you are in the midst of the battle; if you are loving those that need to be loved and being judged for it-- I want to encourage you. Keep on doing what you are doing. Show them the love of Jesus. Be His voice. Be His representative. Tell them the truth...
God loves them.
Jesus died for them.

John <><

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Lazy Weekend

Heck, let's face it--it's been a lazy week!

I did manage to get a few things done, but sometimes it just doesn't feel like it.

Do you ever notice how important things get set aside for the more urgent things? I guess it's the squeaky wheel thing.

And then even when you get something important completed, it doesn't always feel like you've worked hard enough nor frantic enough to really consider it an accomplishment. Maybe that's where list making has its benefits. Crossing things of a list give a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I should start making lists.

I can cross off drink coffee and blog on today's list--as soon as I make my list!
I've got plenty of things that I can put on the list.

For all of you list makers--Is the idea to complete everything on your list by the end of the day or to carry forward as few things as possible?
Do you complete your list before making a new one or just keep adding to it as new things come up?
How do you decide what to do next? Easiest? Quickest to accomplish? Most urgent? Most important?

That settles it. I'm making a list for today this week.
Better get to it!

Have a great week!

John <><

Monday, August 18, 2014


I'm not really much of a NASCAR fan. There are only two drivers that I ever really check on and I rarely watch any races.

I like to know how Carl Edwards is doing since he pilots his own jet and flies into our airspace. It's nice to be able to congratulate him on a good run or wish him well as he heads out for another weekend race.

I also follow Danica Patrick.
I think that every successful woman makes it better for the next generation of young women (like my daugher and daughter in law). Even though Ms. Patrick is a beautiful woman, she is recognized as a competitor on the track and a skilled driver.

But this post isn't about either of them.

I've waited a little bit before writing anything about the Tony Stewart incident because it's a hard thing to write about as a non race fan. It turns out that the only races that I've actually attended were dirt track, sprint car races.

I think that it's wrong that Tony Stewart is being assigned blame in this case. Once a driver leaves the safety of his car, no other driver should be blamed for any harm that might happen. Even if Stewart was to blame for the initial incident, a pedestrian in the middle of the dirt track has disregarded his own safety and allowed his emotions to override his good judgment.

Even if visibility was good and other drivers could clearly see a dark suited pedestrian on the track, is a driver even looking for a pedestrian?

Like I said, I don't know much about racing.

I was thinking that having a driver like Stewart in a dirt track race might be very aggravating to the other drivers. Many of them work on their own vehicles and have minimal funding or sponsorship. Then along comes a guy with more than enough personal money and skills that have already put him in a racing circuit that the other drivers are striving for.

It would be like Adam Wainwright pitching in rookie league!

I know that there is a family that is grieving their loss. Perhaps having someone to blame makes grieving easier.

I know that there is a driver that has to consider his part in the tragedy and find a way to cope with his assessment.

Maybe we (society) have a role in assessing blame, but I don't really think so. Our internet world of instant information (and misinformation) often helps us to jump to conclusions and poor judgment where we really have no business making any.

Sure, we all have opinions.
And we believe that everyone else is interested in what we believe to be the truth, regardless of how little we actually know.

As I said, I'm not much of a race fan, but I hope that Mr. Stewart gets back to racing soon. I hope that some good can come this tragedy.  And I hope that the grieving family can find peace.

John <><

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Happy Sunday morning from Chicago!

We're having a wonderful visit with the kids and looking forward to church with them today.

Yesterday we managed to over indulge on the Chicago cuisine (including a couple of late night White Castles) while getting in plenty of walking and activity. I managed to avoid the ballpark hotdog (figuring that I was  already getting more than my share of daily calories) but caved to the Cracker Jacks when cotton candy vendor came by for Chris (he had both)!

No worries! I'm off the calorie counting wagon for the weekend. The weekend plan is to enjoy our visit, enjoy our food without going crazy, get in enough walking to feel good about it, get back to the routine on Monday and be okay with that.

It sounds like morning alarms are going off so others will be getting up soon. (I've already showered and finished my first cup of morning tea.) Looking forward to another day with family!

Have a grand day!

John <><

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fitness Addict...NOT!

I'm becoming one of them!

(Note to them: I'm not really becoming one of you so no worries.)

I'm talking about those fitness crazy people. You know the type--the P90X, Insanity, Cross-fit, always training, gym rat type of people.

Like I said, I'm not really becoming one of them.
But I am becoming a little bit more like them.

I'm beginning to feel bad (not sick bad, more like sad bad) if I miss a day of exercise.  Of course, my idea of exercise is a brisk two mile walk not some crazy high intensity interval training that leaves you half dead.

Like I said, I'm not really becoming one of them.

I do, however, find myself looking forward to being able to do some running after some corrective foot surgery next month.
...And that's just weird.

I don't even know that disturbing little voice. I didn't like running when I was a teen and was a decent runner. I used to hate the road work part of training. Who is this "fitness John" voice in my head and from where did it come?

And what about this burpee challenge thing? Why do I think this is something I need to do? Can't I just be satisfied that I did a hundred of them? What does it prove if I manage to do them in 12 minutes or less? Who might be impressed by that? (Other than me!)

(Oh, and note to self: That is high intensity training!)

If I continue down this fitness road, is it going to get worse? Am I going to become "one of them" (or one of you if you're one of them)?

Geez, I hope not!

I mean, I like the feeling fit part, but the whole fitness addiction thing is disturbing to me. I'm guessing that there really is some type of hormonal addiction that takes place. The compulsion to exercise appears to be greater than what one would expect from just feeling good or experiencing better health.

I've always thought "those fitness people" are a little whacked in the head.
And I'm telling you, "I am not becoming one of them!"

This may become a real problem. Trust me when I say that I'm not going back to the fat, lazy guy that can (and will) eat six Burger King Whoppers at a time. I happy with the good food diet and the better health body. I like more energy, better sleep, slimmer looking John over the fat boy. But I really don't want to get crazy about it.

Is there such a thing as a moderate addiction? Isn't the nature of any addiction to overtake the addicted one?
Maybe not.
I've managed to cut back on my coffee...and that's an addiction, right?
Okay. I'll try to keep it under control.
But I'm still counting on my non-fitness junkie friends to help me from going too far.

As a matter of fact, why not come along with me on a nice, easy, moderately challenging fitness journey? We can do this together. We can hold each other accountable and make certain that nobody goes over to the dark side of the fitness addict. Everybody is healthier, happier and nobody gets too crazy!

John <><

(Note: I am publishing this on both blogs...because I can.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

By Faith, Noah...

It's a about 70 degrees (21C) in the shade of the deck, the birds are singing their summer songs and the bugs are providing the background music. It is going to be another beautiful day interrupted by some scattered thunderstorms later this afternoon!

This is a great way to prep for preaching this morning at Charity Baptist in Springfield.

I'm going back to a variation of one of the first messages I ever preached (I hope it's better this time!) from the Book of Genesis--the story of the Great Flood.

I know that there are many that dismiss this story (along with most of the Bible stories) as a fable, but it is not coincidental that many other cultures also have a story of a great flood in their deeply held convictions. There is historical, archaeological and scientific evidence that validates a cataclysmic flood.

But that's not what the message is about.

In a nutshell, the story of the Great Flood is a wonderful picture of God's love.
Oh it is definitely a picture of God's wrath, too! Make no mistake. Our God is a jealous one. He is a just one. He is intolerant of those that purposely and willfully deny Him His proper place.

But for those that recognize Him and seek Him, He is full of mercy and grace.
Just as God favored Noah for his faith and righteous living, He still favors those that seek Him and desire to follow His ways. Noah was obedient as he and his family constructed the great ark. God shut the door of the ark and secured Noah's family from the destruction of the deadly waters that covered the Earth.

When the writer of Hebrews tells us that it was by faith that Noah believed God and is saved, he is not referring to salvation from the flood. He is referring to salvation from the eternal judgment of sin and death. Our salvation comes in the same manner--by faith.

I know that there are many gods from many beliefs. I know that it is not possible that all beliefs are valid (some of them contradict one another). I also know that it is possible that we are all wrong (even those that say they have no beliefs).

I know that the evidence of the Universe points to a Supreme Creator.
The order, the intricate design, the precision planning; all give evidence of a Creator.
It is far beyond the abilities of my feeble mind to explain a God that desires a relationship with the beings that He created. I don't know why He spared Noah, nor do I know why He has provided me with the atonement for my sin and granted me eternal life through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
But He has...by faith.

Each and every story of the Bible points to the cross. Each Old Testament law, each prophesy, each story is there to tell of of God's promised Redeemer.
The Gospels introduce us to The Redeemer, the One that buys our souls by giving His life in our place. They teach us how to live and how to follow God's ways. They teach us that God really does love us. It is not His desire to punish us, but rather it is His desire to teach us...to discipline us (think disciple) so that we can live with Him forever.

The letters and stories that follow point us back to the cross and at the same time direct us to a future of living with and for Our Lord and Savior.

I can't wait to get to church!

Have a grand week!

John <><

Sunday, August 03, 2014

My Happy Little World

It's pretty much the end of the day--6 pm on Sunday evening, and I'm realizing that I've had very little interaction with anybody today.

And I'm good with that!

I got in pretty late (or early--1:30 am) from my day trip to St. Louis yesterday and woke up late this morning with a stiff back (from too much time sitting yesterday, no doubt). I missed church and then went out to lunch with Chris. Chris, a waitress, a store clerk, a phone call to my dad and one to my daughter...that's the total of my personal interactions for the day.

I'm not saying that I'm an introvert, but the evidence is pretty convincing.
Yesterday was pretty much the same. I spent about 8 hours in the car and listened to very little radio. I spent most of the time with my own thoughts--talk about your quiet time! I was grateful to spend the afternoon and evening with Aaron (and 45,000 fans at the baseball game) and had a few encounters with others, but mostly I kept to my relatively small world.

I was wondering...
How many people do you interact with on a daily basis?
Some (people that work in retail, food industry, or other public venues) have contact with large numbers of people every day. Some have contact with a limited number of  people every day and some have contact with only few people.

The bonus of no contact is no drama. No drama. No judgment. No conflict.

Today has been a nice, quiet day. I decided on a day of rest from any exercise--didn't even take a walk. I watched a little baseball, read a little on the web, made a couple of phone calls and did little else. I'm sure that the week will bring more contact with others in its due course.
Sacre Bleu!

Have a great week.

John <><

Friday, August 01, 2014

Midsummer Night's Eve

It is a beautiful evening in the Ozarks. It's just above 80 degrees (that's around 27C for my international friends) and the humidity is tolerable. It's a good night to sit on the deck, enjoy a cigar and write a few words on my blog.

It has been a good week!

Work has been uneventful. Chris is back from visiting with her sisters. I've managed to get back on track as far as diet and fitness go, and I have plans to meet my boy in St. Louis for a baseball game tomorrow. All-in-all, it's a good week to be John Hill.

I've been playing with a few old magic effects. I'm gearing up for some new venues for magic and have been digging through some of the things that I own but haven't used in some time (or ever). It's like it's Christmas time when I find an old favorite or an effect that I never worked to performance level and get to start over on practicing it and shaping it for future use. Some of my co-workers have been the beneficiaries (or targets) of my recent rediscoveries. I'm not always sure if they enjoy them as much as I do or not. Maybe I need to invest in a little magic shop for my retirement.

That would be fun except for the part about having to be there everyday!

I think that working on new venues to perform in will be enough. Even if I don't find paying gigs, having fun in close up venues will be fun. Magic as ministry is starting to lose its appeal a little at a time. I still have fun with it and can see that it has some value, but I'm always a little torn by the idea of having a gimmick to get people to listen to the message of salvation. Too often, we preachers sound more like traveling salesmen or carnival barkers than messengers of eternal life. We shouldn't need to have a gimmick or schtick to share God's message of love and forgiveness.

I know that we are to be more aware of the condition of the world around us, Unfortunately, it seems that awareness has only led to judgment rather than leading us to the place of sharing what we know about God's grace and plan of redemption.

However you do it, tell somebody...
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Monday, July 28, 2014

Worth Sharing...

Life, lived well.

John <><

End of July

I can't believe that by the week's end we will be into the month of August!

Yesterday afternoon, Hopedale Baptist Church had a "back to school give-away" day and gave away shoes, t-shirts and supplies to area kids. We also had sno-cones, popcorn, face painting and games, a local fire truck with tours and ZOE Bus.

It was a pretty fun afternoon...except for the part that reminded the kids that summer is almost over and they'll be back in school in less than three weeks.

For my part, I got to share a little magic and tell the salvation story as kids and their parents stopped by. It was a fun day and there were plenty of Hopedale workers to serve our community.

I spent yesterday morning at Pleasant View Baptist Church filling in for their pastor and had an enjoyable time sharing from God's Word.

Working backwards into last week--Saturday I was in the Northern MO community of Laclede serving with Laclede Baptist Church at their Block Party in the Park. I arrived in Laclede after a 4.5 hr drive from visiting my folks in Central IL and then made the 4 hr drive home afterwards. Long day!

Visiting with the folks to make sure that dad was getting along post-surgery was a treat. Not only did we get to visit with each other, we also made trips to see a couple of cousins and an aunt and uncle. Dad seems to be doing well and still waiting for post-op lab results.

I'd say that this will be a more normal week, but that is highly unlikely. Chris has a rare schedule of working on Mon/Tues/Sat since she will be going to St. Charles for a sisters' get-together Wed/Thur/Fri. While she works on Sat., I'll be making my way to St. Louis to meet Aaron at the ballpark for a Cardinals/Brewers game.

It's a nice cool morning for the last week of July. It's time to set aside the computer and get about the week's business. Today's meatless lunch prep is already underway, but there is laundry to be done, exercise to be done and other chores before starting the work week.

God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

John <><

Friday, July 25, 2014


My 1,000th post comes to you eight years after my very first post. This morning finds me at a quaint little coffee shop and bakery in Metamora IL.

Historic Grounds (I love the name!) is located on the square just a few doors down from the courthouse where President Lincoln once served. This same courthouse is featured in the movie Lincoln.

Metamora was a rival town to my high school. However, it was a town with which  I was very familiar. My dad's big sister lived here so we made regular journeys to visit and play with our cousins (and endure the good natured teasing from my uncle).

By the time I was in high school, I had another reason to visit Metamora as I dated a girl that lived here.

As a kid, I knew about the courthouse (Who didn't? It was the town's claim to fame.), but it didn't mean anything to me. At some point, I remember going inside and looking around. I don't think it made much of an impression.

Today, Metamora serves as my parent's home. This little coffee shop is a mile from their place so I'll complete the second half of my two mile walk when I've finished my Americano (4 shot) and my post.

I still haven't got to the point that I like posting from my phone, but this morning I'm making an exception.

To the few of you that faithfully read this and my other blogs, I am honored to be a part of your day. Thank you.

Let's see what the coming year brings!

John <><

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In My Small World

I've been thinking about how small my world is and how meaningless my influence is -- even in my little world.

While we can talk of the tragedy of another Malaysian Air flight or rant for or against Israel, the truth is that these major world events have had little impact on my life.

Closer to home we can talk about SCOTUS decisions, gay rights, and what to do about thousands of immigrant children arriving at our border, but still these things have very little impact on what I'm going to do tomorrow.

...And I have very little influence over how decisions are being made.

Oh, I know that many of the decisions are made by the people we elect to various offices (and I will be voting in the midterm elections), but I still feel that my voice is unheard.

In my small corner of the world, I'm struggling to be a good husband, a decent co-worker, a good employee and a faithful follower of Jesus. To be honest, I'm more concerned with getting my retirement estimate from HR than whether or not same gender marriages are legal in Missouri.

I have enough difficulty managing my own life and don't understand why people are so concerned about running other people's affairs. How is it that the small government party is also the party that wants to tell people how to live?

I'm about finished with this little rant, but I do want to invite you to my little world. We can share our thoughts, beliefs and cultures.  We can agree to disagree if necessary. And we can be civil in our disagreements. Bring your favorite food. We'll discuss things over a good meal or a cup of good coffee!

John <><

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday, Monday...

Can't trust that day!

This Monday is different than other Mondays. I'm looking forward to the week. I know that Mondays are to be dreaded as a new week begins, but most of my Mondays aren't so bad.

For one thing, I don't have to be to work until 3 PM. I get a lazy morning and can get quite a bit accomplished before my work day begins. Today, I posted over at Healthy Living, put in a 2.25 mile walk, worked on the dreaded burpee challenge, booked a church for Sunday morning, prepared lunch, got my work dinner ready, cleaned up the kitchen, laid down for a short rest, and will stop for a quick errand on the way to work.

I only have a two day work week as I head to Central IL to help mom and dad after dad's surgery.
I have a church magic show Saturday afternoon in Northern MO on my way back home.
I'm preaching Sunday morning at one of our association churches.

Yeah, this Monday turned out to be a great way to start a great week!

I hope that your week is as great!

John <><

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I Found a Small Treasure!

Well, so much for more regular writing, eh?
Only one post on two blogs in the past week!

I'm not sure how it came to be that I didn't make the time to write this past week. I just happened that the week was over and ...no posts.

I've been working on getting my "magic" room more organized. Actually, "more" organized is a bit of a stretch. It's to the point of being a little overwhelming. I've decided that every time I go downstairs, I need to go into the room and fix one thing. It might be to throw something away, put something on a shelf or in a drawer, anything...as long as it's something. Little by little, it's getting better.

One of the advantages of this method is that I keep finding some cool things. Most of them are things that I bought years ago and have forgotten about. But this past week I found a real treasure! Okay, so it's not like something really valuable or anything, it was just something that was sort of special to me.

An Invisible Deck of cards!

You might ask, "How did you ever find an invisible deck?"
Good question, but that would be for another post.
For this post, I'll tell you that the Invisible Deck was the first trick deck of cards that I ever owned. I received it as a Christmas gift when I was around ten years old. Back then it was called the Imaginary Deck.  I think I like the name Imaginary Deck better. It works for the patter that I use. I'm going to go with Imaginary Deck!

I've been playing with this Imaginary Deck (don't worry, it's a full deck of cards). I have even taken it to work to share it with a few co-workers. So far, I've had great response to it!

I wish that I could share it with you here, but...
Unfortunately, my video and technology skills are quite lacking and a You Tube video wouldn't have the same impact anyway.

I've also found a few other items that I need to work on. Some are things that I bought because I thought they were cool effects even though I don't have a proper venue to perform them. Maybe it's time to find new venues! In any case, I'm having a good time playing with my newly found magic effects. So far, nothing new for my stand up routine, but I'm guessing that I'll run across something that I haven't used in a while for that venue, as well!

Have a grand week!
Be well,

John <><

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Inspiration for Writing; and creating an environment conducive to writing

As many of you know, I am a member of the Ozark's Chapter of American Christian Writers. In spite of the fact that I've had nothing published (other than the published ramblings of a couple of blogs), I am also an officer of our organization. My position as an officer is mostly due to my comfort in speaking before a group of people and ability to facilitate our meetings. Perhaps, they felt that by offering me a position on the Executive Team, it would make it easier to get me to agree to run the meetings.

Whatever the reason, as an officer, I was at our summer board meeting today.

Even though the summer meeting isn't really about writing, just being around people that are writing and publishing works makes me want to write more. I even jotted down a couple of ideas about things to write as we discussed various topics of business during our meeting. I hope to write more often...maybe even work on that book thing!

As always, the biggest obstacle is the irregular schedule of an air traffic controller. Throughout most of my career, I have enjoyed working the mid-shift. As a matter of fact, I generally work more than the normal one mid/week by taking one from a co-worker that really doesn't like them. One year I worked 15 of 17 shifts on the mid.

The mids at SGF are very quiet. We have never had the traffic to justify being a 24hr facility, but have had to deal with the politics, pull and power of various levels of government and continue to waste tax dollars to staff and  satisfy the unknown needs and irresponsible favors that have been granted along the way.

In many ways the mids have suited me very well. They suit my anti-social self very well as I work my area solo; no supervisors, no other controllers. They don't have a great impact on my sleep time as I haven't ever been one to sleep a normal eight hour kind of night. There are other benefits (including a 10% night differential) that make the mids attractive to me.

However, I'm also beginning to see the benefits of a more regular schedule. Last week I had a rare week without a Friday morning mid. It wasn't too bad. I got a good night's sleep on both sides of the day and felt a good energy level. I have another such week coming up and am looking forward to it. I may quit taking the double mids and even consider giving up my assigned mids when possible. It would be interesting to see how that changes things.

A more normal schedule would offer the benefits of more regular sleep patterns, more regular eating habits, more regular exercise times and the ability to set aside a more regular time to write.

I may have to polish my social skills as I start to work around other people more often. Others may not be so happy about my being there more!
We shall see!

John <><

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

My Other Blog

Don't forget to check out my other blog.
Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to keep up with my posts over there.

John <><

Monday, July 07, 2014

Making Lists

I am not a list maker.
I'm pretty sure that we've gone over this before.
But I'm thinking that a little more organization in my life might serve me well.

For the most part, I'm a rememberer. My spell check says that isn't a word, but I'm going to stick with it just the same. My memory does a pretty good job of keeping me out of trouble by remembering the important things. I even remember tons of insignificant things. But sometimes I don't do so well in remembering little things that I would really like to remember.

Maybe making lists would help.

I used to write things down but forget to make a mental note of where I put what I had written. I didn't matter. Writing it down seemed to be enough to lock it into place in my memory and the paper became unnecessary. Going back to that (along with remembering where I keep my notes) might not be a bad idea.
It would save a lot of second trips to the store and get less important things done in a more timely manner.

I'm also looking to improve my use of time. Scheduling things like time for exercise, food prep, writing, etc., would mean that I actually do more of those things that I'd like to do but seem to manage to put off until it becomes unlikely that I'll actually get them done--or done well.

For today, that means finishing my morning writing and coffee, taking a walk or getting in a short walk/run, going to the store to get this weeks supply of healthy foods, preparing my meatless Monday meal for work, cleaning, cutting and bagging my fruit for the the freezer to use in smoothies throughout the week. Holy smokes! I should have made this list earlier!

Well, as new habits are tough to get set, I'll start small.
In addition to the above mentioned items, I'll add one more to today's list--make a list for tomorrow!

Enjoy your Monday!
I think I'll put that on my list, as well!

John <><

Saturday, July 05, 2014

More on the ministry thing...

This first Saturday of July is a beautiful morning in Southwest Missouri. Just 69F at 9AM with a breeze rustling through the trees. It will be warmer later and the week to come holds temps in the 90s for us, but it is a beautiful morning as I enjoy my coffee on the deck with my computer in front of me.

In what is becoming a normal situation, a red wasp is hovering around on the inside of my screened in habitat. So far, they haven't bothered me and so I haven't bothered them.

I am a little disappointed (though not very surprised) that I didn't get any pastoral feedback on my last post. I am thankful for my one friend's comments. I really am a little frustrated about ministry and wondering just how all of it (not just my part) will play out in our society in the coming months and years.

As far as my part is concerned, is there room in conservative Christian theology for a socially liberal person like me? It appears that there is less room than there once was. In the past, I have used forums such as Out of My Hat and Facebook to share my social and political views, as well as my spiritual beliefs. Unfortunately, I believe that has been a part of my lower numbers of readers and fewer invitations to preach in churches--in spite of the fact that I have never used the pulpit to share anything other than the Gospel.

I've toned down the rants quite a bit and have really limited my Facebook posts and comments...perhaps too late. However, I have to admit that doing that makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite. It's not the real me. Of course, the real me is kind of a jerk and I'm certain that I don't want most people (there are a few that I'd like to unleash Ugly John on) to see the real me, but I don't feel free to completely express myself within the highly judgmental community of Christians.

In my heart, I often feel like dumping the whole concept of church as we know it -- or as we've created it to be. I wish that I could just be free to live out life as I believe Jesus instructs us in the Bible and share that with others. I know that you are going to say that I can, but it is simply not that simple.

If I come out and disagree with you on the SCOTUS ruling of the Hobby Lobby case, I'm judged for it.
If I say the pro-life/pro-choice debate bears no weight in my political decision making, I'm consenting to murder.
If I say that I am not in favor of legislation that defines marriage as a union between a man and woman, I am condoning sin.
If I follow the Bible and claim faith in Jesus as the only means of salvation and yet fail to live up to your particular set of legalistic rules for life, I am a heretic.

If I could live out my retirement as a hermit on a tropical island, I probably would.
But in the end, I don't know how I could face my God and say that my comfort was more important than telling people about His great love for them.

Maybe the preaching thing is over-rated. I just don't know. On Sundays that I'm not preaching or teaching, I feel like I'm missing out on some great work; that somebody needs to hear what God has called me to share. I wonder if I have been a poor steward of my gifts and squandered them on sharing my feelings and my message rather than sharing His love and His message.


John <><

Thursday, July 03, 2014

July 3rd: Examining the call and reinventing evangelism

It is a beautiful sunny day and unseasonably mild temperatures for the beginning of July. Temps are mid 70s and humidity is low for Southwest MO. It is very comfortable on the deck and the windows are open in the house.

It's a rare week that I don't end my work week with a mid-shift, but such is the case this week. I had hopes of skating out of work early tomorrow and heading to central Illinois to join my cousins and family for a 4th of July celebration, but life happens and it looks as though I'll stick around here. I could get the time off of work, but figure to go ahead and take the holiday pay. Maybe I'll invest it in a new kayak.

Chris was scheduled to work tomorrow but managed to get it off. She still has to work on Saturday, though.
She is planning on taking in a Jackson Browne concert Saturday night. I'll stay home and watch the fights. I'm not sure if I just have weird interests for a guy my age or just don't have any friends that share those interests (which would indicate that they might be a little strange--the interests, not the friends). Or it could be that I really don't have many friends (likely). I usually end up watching the fights alone and that's perfectly okay. I am pretty much of a loner when it comes right down to it.

I've heard it said that writers are often happiest when they are alone. That would be me...if I was a writer! Maybe that is something that I really need to focus on.
The whole loner thing has me considering what I'll be doing in retirement from ATC and whether or not the ministry thing is really my calling or my choosing. I'm not sure that I can explain that. Those that know what I'm talking about also know that it's difficult to explain to someone that doesn't.

In recent conversations with pastors and evangelists, it seems that today's evangelist is going to have to approach our calling in different ways than we have in the past. I've been thinking about an online revival.

Although I am a technological moron, I do know guys that are real tech geniuses. Although a video presentation is very possible, I'm not sure that an audio file wouldn't be a better choice. Even a written sermon series might do well and reach an audience that would never go to an actual church revival service. Such files would be easy to share with friends via text messages, emails or social networks. I know that there are already thousands of daily podcasts and blogs. I follow some of them. I also know that I reach--and you reach--many people that do not.

Maybe the writing thing and ministry thing are meant to come together in a new kind of work for me--electronic revivals from the comfort of my own well shaded deck! I can type away while enjoying a good cigar and a cool drink (or hot one in cooler seasons) and preach away, free from the judgment of otherwise well-meaning brothers and sisters in Jesus.  (The cigar thing might not work for a video revival!)

I'd be interested in hearing your opinions on such an electronic revival--especially from pastors and other evangelists. Would an audio file that could be listened to during your commute or while you walk/run/exercise be an effective way to share the Gospel? Would a YouTube video message that you can listen to at your convenience be more effective at reaching today's active family than week long revivals at 6:30 PM every night?

I do not believe that God's message of love, grace and salvation has changed.
But, perhaps it is time that our methods of sharing it should change.

John <><

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Writers gotta write...

This is going to be on of those "forcing myself to write" kind of posts.
That means that it will be a random collection of thoughts that have been running through my head for some time and manage to make their way to the forefront of my pea-brain during this forced writing session.

Feel free to move along to your next site.

It is a beautiful, mild day for the end of June and I'm able to sit out on my deck with a nice Dominican cigar and a cool drink while I type away on the ol' keyboard. I have to check, but I'm thinking that next month will be our summer board meeting for our Christian writers' club. I should probably make sure that it gets on the calendar. I miss the monthly meetings for their regular reminder (and encouragement) to write.

As far as what's on my mind...

Retirement is never far from the forefront of what I'm thinking about. I'm waiting for some numbers from the FAA to see how it will be if I go in early 2015. I can't go much farther than that as they will force my retirement from air traffic at the end of June 2016. One of the many reasons that I hate to wait until they force me out is that I know a number of controllers that held on until the last possible moment and then went kicking and screaming only to find failing health or other life circumstances that prevented them from enjoying their retirement. I'd like to go while I'm still young enough and healthy enough to be able to enjoy retirement. Working for another 12 or 18 months isn't going to give me a great financial advantage, so I think I'd like to go earlier rather than later.

Besides, I'm growing weary of going to work every day.

Don't get me wrong; I really like my job.
And I'm hoping for a great career in air traffic for my daughter.
It's just that I'm really getting tired of the negativity that seems to have overtaken the work place.

As much as I enjoy the work that I do, I'm not enjoying the people I work with as much as I used to. Our sense of entitlement and our selfish attitudes are really starting to wear me out. And yes, I said our. I include myself since I am as much a part of the overall problem as anybody.

I don't want to be the grumpy old man that needs to retire, and there are starting to be quite a few days that I feel that is the case.

So, let's say I do retire.
Then what?
More magic?
More ministry?

I was thinking along those lines, but...
...what if that's not it?

What if more magic and more ministry just means more travel and time away from home? I guess I'll always have control over my schedule to the degree that I can always say, "no." But too many times saying no usually ends up with fewer invitations and fewer opportunities. I guess I'll need to find the balance.

Weighing out the need to fulfill a calling (or perceived calling) with the need to tend to personal needs and responsibilities is always tricky. Air traffic controllers are well aware of the balance between crazy, demanding schedules that provide a good income and family needs. Far too many of my ATC friends have had to deal with divorce and other family issues because of our work. Balance can be difficult.

One thing that I am looking forward to is having more time to write.

I have several ideas on things to write about--have even started writing a couple of them out--but not having the schedule (and the discipline) to be regular about sitting and writing makes working to completion difficult. Perhaps when I can consider writing to be a JOB I'll be able to get something accomplished.

The same is true for magic. Lots of things that I'd like to work on; not a lot of time to spend working on them.

At least I have this problem.
Too many people will not have the options that I have and will not have many choices when they reach retirement...or may never be able to retire.
I am blessed.

If you've managed to stick it out to this point, thanks for listening to my rant. Maybe my retirement travels will bring me to your neck of the woods and I can say "thanks" in person.

John <><

Sunday, June 22, 2014


It's an old song, but one that I think of every year as summer begins.

I love the words used to describe the early morning mist that hovers above the water and I often see this displayed as I drive home after a mid-shift and drive over the James River at Springfield Lake or the Finley River in Ozark.

Enjoy the song.
Enjoy your summer.

John <><

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weekend Reflections

It's Saturday evening and another beautiful day in the Ozarks!

We spent the day on Table Rock Lake with friends and had a nice dinner out. Hannah and her boyfriend bailed on the dinner portion of the day, opting for a nicer venue and less crowded table to celebrate their one-year dating anniversary. Kids!

I'm sitting on the deck with a cool drink, nice cigar and my laptop. The light is quickly fading from the sky and I think that life is pretty doggone good!

I ate fairly well today so it's not too big of a deal that I went for the hand breaded, deep fried tenderloin tonight. Mmmm! It was pretty tasty. I did skip the side fries that normally goes with the fried sandwich, figuring that one fried food per day is plenty. I also determined that the ciabatta bun was okay since I skipped the bread at lunch and loaded my tuna salad into halves of an Anaheim green chili pepper (also quite tasty!).

I think that I'm going to start setting aside time for writing.

I haven't yet determined if it will be everyday or days when my schedule is better for setting aside blocks of time. I have determined that the only way to actually be regular about writing is to set aside the time for it. I'm thinking of about three days/week that are generally good for me. It may be more, but I may just start with those days and times and go from there.

Of course, then I need to figure out what I'm going to write about!

I may go back to the idea of writing about Characters. It's a label that I started some time back but only wrote a few posts. You can check them out here and tell me if you think it would be worth spending some time on.

The real danger in regular writing is making sure that the filters in my head are set correctly so that I don't just go on a rant and start offending people at random. Maybe write one day, read it the next would be a good practice before publishing...

Have a great Sunday!

John <><

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New Blog

Hey, Out of My Hat readers (both of you),
I just wanted to let you know that I've started a new blog called Healthy Living (by an unhealthy guy).
You can find it here.

I figured that I'd spare you the boring details of my struggle to better health and let only those few that want to read about it or be encouraged to live a more healthful lifestyle make their way to that subject matter.

I'm certain that I'll still find issues and time to post here, although I'm finding that it's becoming easier (and safer) to keep my thoughts to myself these days. I've always hated the negative person in the room and I'm finding that person to be me more often than I care to admit. I'm not sure why I seem to be growing more weary of people's general selfish attitudes and lack of common courtesy, but day by day I'm finding that I like being around people less and less. To be fair, people are probably feeling the same about being around me.

Although the FAA has provided me with a great career and I genuinely like my job, on most days I can usually think of at least one other place that I'd rather be. And although I still like coming to work, I like it less and less each passing day. Coming to work every day wouldn't be so bad if they didn't expect me to stay for eight hours! I'm ready to move on.

Anyways, I hope to see you over at Healthy Living from time to time.

John <><

Sunday, June 15, 2014


From time to time, I get the urge to de-socialize and remove myself from the world of social networking.
The reality is: I don't really want to completely de-socialize, I just want to severely limit my social interactions. I think that "un-friending" can be a little extreme but have definitely unsubscribed to a number of contacts.

I'm pretty good about ignoring the posts I find offensive and can move on without having to leave a comment. It's more difficult to move on when they leave an offensive comment on one of my posts. I've noticed more rude behavior on Facebook than on other social networks and I'm considering a Facebook diet--more like a Facebook fast, really. I'm pretty sure that I'll still check in once in a while, but I'll be pretty invisible, for the most part. I'll still link when I post at Out of My Hat but little else.

My Run Keeper updates, Four Square check-ins and LinkedIn posts all go through my Twitter account. I've disconnected the Twitter link to Facebook. If you'd like to follow me on Twitter I'm @magicianary. I'm also on Google+ and will be spending more time over there.

John <><

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Another Trip Around the Sun

In just a few hours I'll complete my fifty-fourth trip around the sun and begin another year long journey through space.

This year I'm treating myself to a day at the ballpark. I'll grab a few hours of sleep after the mid and then pick up a friend and make the afternoon drive to St. Louis for the evening game.

I'm giving myself permission to indulge in a few off diet entrees and realize that seven hours in the car will yield very little exercise! I'll try to get some work in before making the drive and I'm sure there will be a little walking downtown, too.

However you choose to do it, I hope that you enjoy my birthday!

Another good day to be...
John Hill <><

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Return to ONE-derland

Okay, so I know that you're probably tired of reading about diet, health and weight loss.
If that's the case, move along, there's nothing to see here.

At the age of 26, I hit 197 pounds. I said that I wasn't going to go over 200 pounds. I quit drinking regular sodas and started eating five or six smaller meals per day. That's it. I hadn't read anything about metabolism. I hadn't learned anything about weight management. I just did a couple of things that seemed to make sense to me. In a few months I was back down to 174 pounds.

I don't remember how long it took me to top the 200 pound mark, maybe a year or so. The event passed with little fanfare and the last time that I actually remember weighing less than 200 was I weighed that 174...

...until yesterday.

Yesterday (and again today) the scale puts me at less than 200 pounds! Yesterday 198.6. This morning 199.4.
Back in the land of the one hundreds...ONE-derland.

I know that I've said I generally wait three days to claim a weight, but I'm just too pleased with this to wait another day! I know that I may drift above 200 as my weight loss does vary on its general downward trend, but for today, I am well pleased.

Friday, the 13th I'll turn 54. I can't say that I'm in the best shape of my life, but I am in better shape than I've been in for a very long time. I feel great and would encourage anybody that is struggling with weight or just being badly out of shape to do something...anything. Eat a little less, move a little more. Just get started.

I know, I know... it took me a decade or two of poor habits to get my head right and get back on the right track. It's like that for all of us. I just want to encourage you to start much sooner than I did. You will sleep better, have more energy and feel better. You will spend fewer days sick and more days doing the things that you wish to do.

And you'll spend less money on health care!

You don't need any special equipjment (other than a decent pair of shoes) to walk. You don't need any special training (you're already an experienced walker) and you can usually manage to find a few minutes (30 or so) for a walk.

You also don't really need any special diet advice. Just eat more fruits and vegetables and less crap foods. I've only been to a fast food place a handful of times in the past year and try to make the best choices when forced to eat away from home. We eat very few "boxed" foods now and much less fried stuff.

I do watch what I eat and know what foods will do to my metabolism but I also indulge in "bad" foods from time to time. I have the occasional soft serve ice cream cone, still enjoy a ballpark hot dog or brat and will be making a White Castle stop on my trip to St. Louis this weekend. I love fried hot wings but know that the calories add up more more quickly than I fill up on them.

I'm thinking about starting a different blog to deal with health and diet and letting Out of My Hat get back to the posts that you're more familiar with...or maybe not. We'll see.

John <><

Monday, June 09, 2014

Summertime Fun

I thought that I was going to try to spend a little more time writing this summer; so far, that hasn't worked out so very well.
On the one hand, summer hasn't really started yet. On the other hand, I don't see that I'm going to have any more time in a week or so when it does officially begin.

Ministry stuff has kept me busy during the early part of June. The 1st found me at a weekend Children's camp where the keep asking me back as camp pastor (something like 15 years, now). That camp wrapped up on Sunday evening and then I was back to the same location to share a little message in magic with another children's camp on Monday.

Saturday (7th) I was in Neosho MO for New Salem Baptist Church's Carnival Day. It's been a few years since I've been there and it is always a pleasure to be invited back to a place! I'm impressed with this small country church. It is in a very rural location and yet seems to be doing very well. The young bi-vocational pastor and his wife seem like they genuinely care about the community and I sense that God is going to use them to reach the rural area with His message of love and grace.

On Sunday I traveled to our neighboring community of Nixa and shared the Salvation story at North Nixa Baptist Church on their Children's Day. It was a grand day!
I'm always amazed that God has chosen me to share His story in the ways that He has allowed me to do it. It's hard to understand why He would choose mere men and women to tell this grand story when our tendency is to mess things up very badly and on a pretty regular basis.

And yet, He does.
And they keep coming.
They keep coming to make professions of faith.
They keep coming to testify of their belief by following in baptism.
They keep coming to work and serve Him by serving those that come in need.

It's a pretty good gig that God has given me. I hope that I never grow tired of serving and that the blessings never get old. I'm looking forward to the day that I can do more in the way of sharing His Word through preaching and magic!

This week will be a different kind of busy. There is a lot of work to be done around the house before this weekend's open house for Hannah's college graduation. If you're in the area and want to offer her your congratulations, please stop by on Saturday between 5-8 in the evening.

I need to get things done before Friday. Friday the 13th is my birthday and I've decided to treat myself to a St Louis Cardinals baseball game. I'll get a couple of hours sleep after working the mid-shift on Friday morning and make the drive to St Louis for the evening game.

Yep, it's going to be a busy week!
(I need to shed this ATC thing that takes up like 40 hours every week!)
Soon enough...

Better get busy.

John <><

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Catching Up: camp, health, work and other stuff

It's been a busy week!
I shortened my work week last week by a day for Hopedale's kids' camp. It was supposed to storm Friday night and Saturday, but God smiled on us and provided us with beautiful weather.

Our camp was the smallest that I remember but we had great kids, the most incredible workers and an awesome weekend.

I was back at the camp on Monday to perform a little magic for the Tri-county Baptist Association kids' camp.

I'll continue to be busy this week with a performance in Neosho on Saturday and church in Nixa on Sunday.

Tonight will be a timeout night and Chris and I will take in a concert and listen to a band from the distant past--The Marshall Tucker Band.

June is here and the 1st came over camp weekend so I missed my weigh-in. I gave myself a correction day and skipped the 2nd for my one year check. On the 3rd I weighed the same as last week's weigh in, 202.0!

I end the year at minus 56 pounds and figure I'll still lose another 5-10. While keeping the good eating habits, I'll start to focus more on the exercise, strength and conditioning. It's been half a lifetime since I've been below 200 pounds...maybe by my birthday on the 13th. We'll see.

Work is kind of crazy. A couple of medical disqualifications, retirements, temporary assignments and vacations are leaving us pretty short on most days. Overtime is being used regularly and spot leave is scarce. I think it's like this everywhere.

On the 14th, we will have an open house to celebrate Hannah's graduation! She is one of about 1500 (out of about 29,000 initial applicants) waiting on a date for the FAA Academy in OKC to take her place in the grand profession of air traffic control!

I was at the Academy when Hannah was just a few weeks old. Now she'll be there as I'm winding down my career. Makes me smile.

I am blessed.

John <><

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Camp Season

Summer time means it's time for summer camps. This coming weekend kicks off the summer camping season with Hopedale Baptist's children's camp.

Surprisingly, I actually look forward the weekend camp. Over the years, I have been to a number of children's camps and always maintain that nobody does kids' camp better than Hopedale. It is a perfect blend of activity, Bible study and worship. We pack a week's worth of camp into a long weekend, have plenty of parent and non-parent volunteers for cabins, activities, cooking and whatever is needed.

There is a lot of planning and pre-camp work that goes into making the weekend a great one. We have held camp at a variety of places but are going back to one of my favorites this year--Baptist Hill Assembly in Mt. Vernon MO.

There isn't anything fancy about Baptist Hill. It has a good facility for worship, decent cabins, a nice pool and water slide and lots of open space! It suits us quite nicely. Best of all, it has an great staff!

After our weekend camp is over, I'll be back at Baptist Hill for the first day of the Tri-county  Association children's camp. Even though I don't have any other camps scheduled for the summer, I'll probably be going to one or two more before the season is over.

As retirement looms in the near future, perhaps camps will be a bigger part of my future summers. We shall see.

John <><

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Finishing Year One of the New John

It's almost been a year!
I was June 1, 2013 that I weighed in at 258 pounds and decided that it was time for a serious lifestyle change. I will admit, originally it was just about weight loss. Chris was already losing weight by simply cutting out breads and pastas. I was already a self-proclaimed expert on weight loss. Over the years, I had lost (and regained) well over a hundred pounds (probably a few hundred pounds). What began as an effort to lose weight has changed into trying to find a sustainable, healthier way to live.

The past year has been quite a study in foods, drinks, meds, activities (including sleep) and how they affect my metabolism, energy levels and weight loss. Although I haven't put anything on the permanently banned for life list, I am careful about what I eat. I still occasionally eat pizza, ice cream, burgers, brats and hot dogs. I am pretty aware of everything I ingest and how it will impact my immediate state as well as my overall health. Knowing is half the battle.

I lost about 35 pounds through the middle of October and then regained some during the holidays (don't we all?!). I started 2014 at 229 before getting back on track.

Today, I have changed my everyday eating habits and believe that I have a sustainable diet that includes mostly fruits and vegetables, a limited amount of red meats and healthy amounts of good fats. I limit my grain based carbohydrates and eat very few processed foods. I'm getting a little more exercise than most people, but nothing too extreme. I'm also getting more sleep than I used to get.

I'll be at Kids' Camp on June 1 this year and won't get to make my one year weight-in. I guess I'll have an extra day.

As of today, I'm at 202.8. This is my second non-consecutive day below 203 or at minus 55 pounds. It's no longer about weight loss. I expect that I'll continue to lose a little bit until my eating and exercise find me at the weight that my intake and output reach a balance. I'm guessing it will be around 195 or so.

This past week I had two different people ask me if I was okay and if I was losing weight on purpose!
The answer is, "I am well. I am very well!"

John <><

Monday, May 26, 2014

Getting Back on Track

After a couple of weeks of travel and a couple of weekends of caloric splurging, it is time to get back to what has become my new lifestyle of eating healthy foods and getting a little bit of exercise.

This mornings's breakfast smoothie: 1/2c raw oats, 1/2c skim milk, 1scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 apple, cinnamon, 1c raw spinach, ice. 438 calories, 40g protein.

I'm letting that settle while I sip on a cup of coffee and plan to hit the pavement for a brief morning run/walk. Although I have no plans to participate in an upcoming 5K run, I think that I'm going to train as if I was going to. I really don't have a running partner and don't care, even though most experts will tell you that it helps to have one. I don't feel like competing with others and don't think that I need the "goal" to be motivated to train. Some time back, I used Run Keeper's couch to 5k workout when I was working on getting back to running. That didn't last too long as beginning the running process brought forth some other issues. 

Today, I'm thinking that time (it's always about time) and temps will have the biggest impact on keeping faithful to a running program. Hopefully, I can self motivate to get out in the morning on most days. I'd hate to be the cause of somebody's increased stress levels due to finding an out of shape old guy passed out on the roadside on some hot, sunny afternoon.

No holiday BBQ for me this afternoon. Duty calls. It's probably for the best. It's hard to keep a meatless Monday at a BBQ.

Honor those that sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

John <><