Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursdays are for Thanksgiving

It's the end of the's been a good day.
I didn't want a Thursday to get past me without posting a "thankful" kind of thing.

Last night I spent some good time talking to Hannah on the phone. It was an enjoyable late night father/daughter conversation about looking for a job, her love for pets, her frustrations, etc. I'm really looking forward to seeing the young woman that she is becoming. I hope that she is able to afford a huge farm to accommodate all of the creatures and critters that she wants! She is really growing up too quickly. I've always told her that she will always be her daddy's baby...and she will, but she's going to be a formidable woman, too.

I'm getting ready to head north for a UFC fight weekend with Aaron. For the second year in a row, my Christmas present from Aaron and Jenny is a ticket to the UFC on Fox event in Chicago. I miss having my fight buddy close and am really looking forward to the weekend. Aaron and Jenny just closed on their first home, a condo. I'm looking forward to seeing their new place and will probably get to help them move some things as they shift from the apartment to their condo.

I'm sure that I could bore you with a long post about my kids. I won't because I know that you don't share my love for them.

I'm a pretty proud dad. My kids are doing well and are great young adults! I am so thankful for them. I really do miss them and regret that they are away from home. It is the way of life.

John <><

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hebrews 9:27-28

It was the spring of 2003. On the Wednesday night after the beginning of the Shock and Awe bombing of Baghdad, a tall man stood up during our mid week prayer meeting and said that maybe this action would open up the Middle-East to Christian missionaries and that he believed God wanted him to go.

Over the next months (and years) applications were made, training and qualifications were met, and finally he and his family moved into an Islamic country and began to share the Salvation story. While they were still at my church, the woman was a part of my FAITH visitation team. The oldest of their daughters was in Children's church where I worked.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with this man while they were home on a furlough. Because of the country where they served, he used an alias when talking to people in the US. He was "Clyde" and was a school teacher in the Middle-eastern country. The stories of lives being changed were absolutely mind boggling. These people that were finding faith in Jesus were giving up everything to trust Him. They risked their freedom; they risked their lives.

Sometimes their own families were the ones that turned them in...or tried to kill them.

Death is no respecter of persons. Whether death comes through persecution, by accident, by war, from disease or from old age--it claims all of us. Living has a 100% mortality rate.

Yesterday my ministry teammate passed away leaving behind her husband and two teenage daughters. ALS claimed her still young life. I am sad at the passing of this servant of God. I ache in my heart for her husband and girls. I know that she is rejoicing in heaven with her Risen Savior and am thrilled for her.

And yet...I am sad, too.

I love the quote from Stephen Covey that says, "We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey."
Sometimes, that is hard to remember.

My friend would be disappointed if I didn't ask the condition of your spiritual being. Our earthly lives will all come to an end. Our spirits are eternal. When this human journey ends and your spirit continues on, where will you be for eternity?

If you are not certain of your spiritual future, perhaps we should talk. Send me a message, leave a comment, call me. Let's get it figured out.

John <><

Just as people are destined to die once and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  Heb 9:27-28

Monday, January 20, 2014

Job's Answer

By all casual observations, today is another beautiful day in the Ozarks. Though it is mid January, the temps are in the mid 50s. The sun is shining and there is an added bonus of it being a holiday.

It is one of those days that being grateful to God is easy.

But somewhere not far from here, a friend is saying goodbye to his wife. His teenage girls are saying goodbye to their mom. And a woman that served on a ministry team with me years ago is passing from this life into the next.

I have no answers to the whys of our sufferings. I know that death is a part of life. I know that suffering is a consequence of living in a fallen world.

Perhaps the ancient man of the Bible said it best: Naked I came into the world and naked I shall return. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

I guess it's still one of those days that being grateful to God is easy.

John <><

Meatless Monday

Yeah, I know it's a little weird for a big ol' steak lovin', bacon eatin' boy to be thinking about going meatless, much less writing about it; but it's only for one day per week and I'm pretty sure it's not going to kill me. As a matter of fact, the whole idea is that it will help me to live a longer and healthier life.

According to all of the different recommendations for daily meat and/or protein consumption, even with skipping a day, I far exceed any weekly totals. I don't exceed them by as much as I used to, but it's safe to say that I'm not in any danger of protein starvation.

If it weren't for the simple fact that I really love meat, I don't think that I would have too much difficulty in switching to a vegetarian diet. I doubt that I would go full on vegan, so I would still have dairy products as a protein source. My simple refrigerator oatmeal (this morning's variety: oats, Greek yogurt, 1/2 banana, peanut butter, a little protein powder, cinnamon, milk) already provided a third of the RDA of protein for men. Even if the rest of today's diet included no more protein, I'm pretty certain that I'd be okay.

In addition to my "meatless Mondays," I've also cut back on the amount of meats (especially red meats) that I eat during the week. Yesterday I had pork (probably enough for two days), Saturday an average size serving of chicken, Friday was salmon...anyways, you get the idea. A little variety, some good seasoning, and enough to satisfy without over doing it.

Even though I still think that the recommended meat portions are incredibly small, I am feeling satisfied with them as I increase the amounts of vegetables and fruits that I eat.

It's time to get the day going. Exercise first, then visit with a friend having surgery before I start my ATC day.

Be well!
John <><

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Healthy Diet (way of life)

I know that I said that I generally wait three days to claim a weight, but I'm making an exception today because this is the first time in a very long time (more than twenty years) that the scale showed a number less than 220 pounds (99.8 kg).

A few people have asked about what I am doing to lose the weight and I'm not sure how to really explain it. If you go back to the origin of the word diet, you will find that it comes from the Greek and basically means way of life. So rather than saying "I'm on a diet," I prefer to think of it as having changed my way of living. Fast food is pretty much a thing of the past (although I plan on a couple of White Castles as I make my way through St. Louis next weekend), along with sodas (even diet ones) and most sweets.

I've been eating more fruits and vegetables, less processed carbs (like breads and pasta) and less red meat. I've managed a "meatless Monday" most weeks and have often included a 20-24 hour fast in my weekly routine. Water, tea and coffee have been my beverages of choice and I have cut back on the coffee part.

Whether you subscribe to the Atkin's plan, The Zone, South Beach Diet, Fit for Life or any of the other plans that regulate insulin production, the main thing seems to be to regulate insulin production. There is some pretty good science behind all of that and it gets packaged and promoted in different ways that can really be confusing. What I find working for me is that when I eat better (better foods), I feel satisfied. When I'm satisfied, I'm not hungry. When I'm not hungry, I don't eat whatever crap is close at hand. It's becoming a way of life.

I don't worry about saturated fats. In fact, I believe that they are better than the crap fats that we've been taught are good for us. I try to get my sweet fix from fruits that are naturally sweet and will occasionally use a little honey. I still love chocolate, but try to be more reasonable in how much I enjoy.

While I am a firm believer in diet for weight management and exercise for good health, there is no denying that there is a connection.

I have also been getting some regular exercise. It's mostly been walking and bike riding, but I'm starting to add some strength training, too. I feel pretty good.
It's been close to two years since my last thorough physical and I have one coming up at the end of this month. I'm kind of looking forward to it.

One book I read suggested that our ideal body weight is what it was in our early twenties. Even though our body structure will be different as we age, the ideal weight should be around what it was when we reached the point where we achieved our full height and physical maturity. I'm getting there.

I'm not always one that subscribes to wholesale changes, but I did change a lot of things this past year. If what you are doing isn't working, maybe a change is in order for you, too. Whether you change a little at a time or go for the big change all at once; do something.

I've still got plenty of weight to lose, but I'm pretty much letting it come off and settle in at where ever this way of life dictates. I have a feeling it will be somewhere around the 200-205 pound (91-93 kg) mark.

John <><

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursdays are for Thanksgiving

I was sitting here this morning (relatively speaking--it's 1pm but I'm just up after working a mid) thinking about writing my Thursday post. I was thinking about writing about being thankful for coffee (hey!, it's morning--well sort of) but thought that I may have already done that. Checking shows that I have, here.

However, I'm still in the mood to write about coffee--or at least about taste. I don't know if it's the change in dietary habits or the simple desire to get a little more pleasure from simple things, but I am learning to taste. I am tasting coffee rather than just drinking coffee. I am learning to appreciate the subtleties of food combinations and spices more than I ever have in the past. I am experimenting with more flavors of teas--and enjoying them.

I've never had a real sensitive sense of smell, but I'm learning to use what I have to enjoy the flavors of food and drink more. Whether the differences are subtle (like between different roasts of coffee), noticeable (like different varieties of apples) or great (as in completely different food entrees); I am learning to sense and enjoy the differences.

Perhaps it's a matter of eating better and eating less that has encouraged me to better appreciate the flavors of life. Maybe it's the variety of foods. It could be that I'm paying more attention to what I eat and drink and the overall impact on my physical well being.

In any case, I am thankful that I've been given the ability to taste and enjoy the most basic things in life--our food and drink!

Bon appetit!
John <><

Monday, January 13, 2014


It's the beginning of a whole new week!
How will you spend your time this week?

Few of us start the week with intentions to make somebody angry or to offend people in the coming days. Few of us start the week with an uncaring attitude about people that are hurting or in some type of distress.
Few of us start the week with the idea of being apathetic to the needs of the people around us.

Of course...
Few of us start the week with intentions to make somebody happy or to encourage people.
Few of us start the week looking for ways to minister to people in need.
Few of us start the week with eyes wide open, looking for opportunities to care for those that are un-cared for.

I'll share a couple of the things that I'm doing this week.

In the past few months, I occasionally pay for the person behind me in the Starbucks' Drive thru. I figure it will give them a good start to their day and it makes me feel good, too. It's not too often and it's only a couple of bucks. I'll probably do that at least once this week.

I've started a plan to send some notes to people that have impacted my life and encourage me. I have few people that I really respect and that I consider to be close friends. I think that I have failed to express how much I value these relationships in the past and don't want to continue with that particular failure. Over the course of the next few weeks or months, I plan to send one or two notes per week to these people.

I know that there are plenty of people with real needs that I can do nothing about.
But there are also people that simply need a positive word of encouragement. Some of them need to be forgiven for an offense; most of them need to forgive themselves. Some of us need to learn to forgive others and move on.

I want to say that it's not hard to care...but it is. It takes an effort to see the needs and it takes a motivated heart to genuinely care. It is unnatural to care about the needs of others--at least for a grumpy old curmudgeon like me.

Some of you are list makers; I am not. If you are a list maker, why not put a random act of kindness on your list (it won't make it less meaningful to plan a random act)? Why not plan to send an encouraging email, text or card to somebody? Why not say thank you to somebody that has encouraged you in the past?

List maker or not, why not plan something to lift up another person this week?
The whole week is ahead of us. We have lots of time.

Share your plans.
Share your accomplishments.

John <><

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Do you ever have those moments when you really want to say something but know that saying it would cause a problem that you don't feel like dealing with? Do you ever get it so bad that it isn't enough not to say something, but you have to let everybody know that you have opinion but you're not going to say anything because the consequences would be more than you care to tolerate?

There is a certain smugness that goes along with the personal long as everybody knows that you had something to say but were the better person for not saying it, right?

Yeah, that's how I feel about writing tonight.

John <><

Friday, January 10, 2014

Good days; Bad days.

It turns out that today is going to be a bad day!
Not a bad day as in a really crappy kind of day; just a bad diet day.

It didn't start out that way. As a matter of fact, it was going to be a pretty good day--until...

It started out as a great day. In my weight loss efforts, I generally wait until I've managed to meet a goal for three consecutive days before I claim that goal. That way, a great day of fluid loss, diet or exercise doesn't skew reality by making a one day achievement. This was my third day in a row of sub 223, which is -35#.
I was at 221.0 which is actually sub 222.2 for the third straight day! My plan was to make Saturday my "bad" day and allow myself an indulgence or two. However, cake and dessert at a retirement gathering made today the "bad" day. Just as well, it was also a zero exercise day!

Tomorrow, I'll skip the morning weigh-in and make sure to get right back at it. I'm pleased that my restart after a couple of months is having the same great results that one might expect on a fresh start. I don't expect the rapid loss to continue, but it is a very encouraging way to get started. I am really learning a lot about how my system reacts to different foods, drinks, activity levels and sleep. The science of anatomy and physiology is amazing.

I hope that your Saturday will be a good day! I plan on making my Saturday a great day!

John <><

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Read a Book

Today's Thursdays are for Thanksgiving post is I am thankful for books and for the simple pleasure of enjoying a good read.

In my reading world today, I read very few fiction books. Most of what I read today are books on apologetics, bible study or (more recently) healthy eating and healthy living. I am currently reading a fiction book written by one of our writer's club members--Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult by Ada Brownell. It's one of those that is on the Kindle app on my phone and I am able to read as time allows. It is one of three books that I am currently reading. My review will be on Amazon when I complete it.

I post about book reading today because of a Facebook post that I saw earlier today. I find it sad and a very poor commentary on our society that we are becoming non-readers. Find a book about something you like and read it. Read a classic. Read a comic book! Just read.

John <><

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

First Week: How'd it go?

Today is the final day of the first week of 2014.
So how are those New Year's resolutions coming?
I didn't really make any resolutions, but there are those things that I want to continue doing or need to do better.

It's pretty tough to fall behind on daily Bible reading in just six days, so I'm still doing okay. Last year's plan found me behind and playing catch up several times, but I managed to finish on schedule. I'm not one to promote reading through the Bible in a year(although I have). I do believe that every believer needs to have a plan to read a little every day. Last year I read through the New Testament plus read a few other short term plans.
This year's plan is to read through the Old Testament. I'll add a read through the gospels plan at some point and will probably include some other short term plans as well.

Exercise is going okay, although I haven't been working the weight machine like I want. It's just been too cold in the unheated garage. I am including some body weight exercises along with the walking (have done that down to 12F or -11C) and indoor cycling.

I'm really paying more attention to the food I'm eating and stuff I'm drinking. I'm trying to learn how different foods affect me as far as energy, sleep, weight, mood, etc. I've been reading about chronic inflammation and how it affects our health and the foods that cause the inflammation. It's pretty amazing how so much of our well being begins in our gut. I'm going to limit my coffee a little more and drink more tea, especially green teas and other herbal blends. Oh, and plenty of water, too.

I'm back on the right path to weight loss and have dropped the couple of pounds that I gained in the last few months of '13. I'm still looking for a slow 20 pound loss. If I can manage to lose 20 lbs by the 1st of June, that will make minus 52 lbs in 52 wks. I think that regular sleep will continue to be the biggest health challenge in this year, as well.

I'm still working on being a better John for 2014. Diet, exercise, spiritual growth are easy compared to being less critical, more forgiving and more compassionate.

It's one day at a time; really, it's just moment by moment. One week is in the books--well, almost.

How has your first week of 2014 been?

John <><

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Social Networking and Unwanted Friends

How many of you have social network "friends" that really are not your friends?
How many of you have social network "friends" that you don't subscribe to their feeds and cringe whenever you see that they've responded to one of your posts?
How many of you have social network "friends" that are really friends of "friends" or merely acquaintances?
How many of you have social network "friends" that you've never met and probably never will?
How many of you keep these "friends" because you don't want to hurt anybody's feelings or just don't want to have to explain your actions?

I have a bunch of them that fall into all of the above categories and then some.
Many of my friends come from camps and churches where I've been.
Many are air traffic controllers that I've met; many are controllers that I haven't met.
There are writers, bloggers, friends of writers and bloggers and a rather large family that is spread across the US and in Australia and the Philippines.
I have hometown friends and classmates.
I have "friends" from my own church; some that I barely know and never have contact with other than a Sunday morning greeting.
I have friends that we've met on vacations.
I even have friends that I have no idea of how I know them.

Facebook says I have 642 friends and I've never played any community games that require friendships. On Twitter I have an even 100 followers. Google + says that I have 65 people in my circles and 69 people have me in their circles. And over on LinkedIn I have 137 connections. On Blogger I have 31 followers, but many more read Out of My Hat through the links on the other networks.

Since the main reason that I started using social networks was for professional exposure for both ministry and magic (and later, writing), I'm wondering if it's time to cull through the networks and eliminate some of my contacts.

Maybe it would be better to set up separate accounts and keep one professional and one personal. LinkedIn is still pretty much a professional network and Google+ lets you direct posts to your "circles" so not everybody sees every thing. I may just start using those more.

So I'm curious.
How do you use your social networking sites?
What are your personal guidelines for accepting or rejecting requests?
Have you ever unfriended multiple friends in a purge? How'd that go?
Have you ever been unfriended?

Just wondering...

John <><

Yesterday's Gone

Well the clock has moved past midnight and the calendar has changed to Sunday. That's fine with me. Saturday was a pretty long day.

We're supposed to get some wintry weather tonight and then join the rest of the country with extremely cold temperatures later Sunday and for all day Monday. So far, the temps have managed to stay a degree or two above the freezing mark with just a little bit of mist. Snow was supposed to start a couple of hours ago, so maybe will get a break on the precipitation and not have to deal with poor road conditions in addition to the cold.

I'm really thinking that I need a Mexican beach and a freshly rolled Mexican cigar to help pass the wintertime blues.
But, no! My next trip will be to the frozen "Windy City" of Chicago to take in another UFC fight with Aaron at the end of January. No worries, it will be warm inside and I always enjoy visiting with Aaron and Jenny!

I hope that you are warm if you are in the Northern Hemisphere and I hope that my Southern Hemisphere friends and family are enjoying your summer. I may have to spend my retirement winters visiting you.

John <><
Note to my non-USA friends: these temps are Fahrenheit, not Celsius.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Old Man

January 2 was the last day of a coworker's ATC career. DW's retirement leaves me as the "Old Man" of the facility. I'm still hovering just above the middle as far as seniority goes because I came in as an old guy.

Given the nature of air traffic controllers and the fact that there are a number of controllers here that have worked in busier facilities and have more years under their ATC belts, I have no direct responsibility to serve as any type of role model controller or employee. It's probably just as well. The air traffic world would be a disaster if it was populated by JH clones.

No, my "old man" status doesn't mean anything other than I am now the oldest of my coworkers. It doesn't mean I'll be next to retire. It doesn't mean I know more about ATC. It doesn't even mean I know more about life or have experienced more life than my coworkers.

It doesn't mean that I have any great wisdom to offer or knowledge to impart. Nor does it mean that I've earned any kind of respect for being old. It just means that I'm old (at least in ATC years). Maybe I could at least get a premium parking spot with a sign that says "Reserved for the Old Man."

Not likely.

Enjoy your retirement DW! I'll be along soon enough!

John <><

Feeling Good About Being Uncomfortable

For the most part, I am at a pretty comfortable place in life. My career as an air traffic controller continues to provide for a good living and is winding down to the point of providing a good retirement. The kids are grown and doing well with Aaron and Jenny getting ready to buy their first home and Hannah getting ready to start her final semester of school.

Chris and I are considering our plans for future housing--stay where we are and remodel or buy something else (and still remodel!).

I am pleased with my decision to pass on the supervisor bid at work. That's a discomfort that I don't need. However, I do find some other areas of discomfort to be healthy in that they serve to motivate me to do something positive. As often as I rant about things that trouble me (politics, religion, social issues, stupid people, etc.), most of the time I manage to keep things to myself. (Really. I do!)

I'm probably going to do a little more venting in 2014. I doubt that I reach the level of offensive venting that I've reached in the past, but it will be more than in 2013 and with (hopefully) a little more tact and diplomacy than in the past.
I once heard that diplomacy is the ability to tell somebody to go to hell in such a way that they'll look forward to the trip! In my case, I hope to give them a more accurate picture of where they are heading so that they'll want to avoid that destination. And I hope to do that in such a way that they'll listen to a reasonable view of life, death and what lies beyond.

As an example of one of the things that disturbs me, I present this letter that was posted by Franklin Graham in regards to the Duck Dynasty debacle of 2013. In it, the Rev. Graham says, "God is not 'politically correct' and He is certainly not tolerant of sin. The Bible tells us that He is going to judge all sin one day; and anyone who is not found under the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, will face an eternity in hell separated from God."

I completely agree with this statement. What I don't agree with is this: When we talk about sinful behaviors to people that are without Jesus, it is an unfair expectation to think that they will be convicted of their guilt. At some point, we are going to have to trust the Holy Spirit of God to do that job. Our job is to tell them about the saving grace of Jesus. If God is going to judge all sin (and He is), then we will also be judged. If we are trusting in the grace of God found through faith in Jesus, that will be the only thing that separates us from those that are without Jesus and the only thing that will save us from eternity in hell.

If we needed to stop sinning to get into heaven, then I could see telling everybody about the sinful behaviors that offend God and that they need to stop doing. But let's face it--even if they (or we) stop all of their sinning right now and live completely sinless lives from this point on, it won't be enough to cleanse the past. If Jesus is the only way, why are we harping on their sin rather than telling them about God's grace? With Jesus in their hearts and the Holy Spirit to guide them, then we can offer them wisdom on how followers of Jesus are to behave. We can't fix the problem of sinful behavior without changing their hearts and we can't change their hearts--only God can do that. Our job is not to judge them nor to condemn them. Jesus tells us the we are already condemned. That's why He came to save us--and them!

Our job, as followers of Jesus, is to tell them about Jesus and to live lives that reflect His goodness and grace. We are not doing a very good job of it.

So today I am going to be thankful for the discomfort that motivates me to speak up. I am going to pray for wisdom and grace that I might share the truth in a way that will draw people to Jesus rather that drive them away. Though I am not skilled at debate and am an amateur apologist at best, I will gladly talk with anybody that has questions about life, death and life after death. It may be uncomfortable, but that's okay.

John <><

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Day 1, 2014

The first day of 2014 is about to come to a close.
It started off with a beautiful (but blurry) sunrise (pictured here through a not so clean window),

And ended with snow coming steadily down as I begin my first mid-shift of 2014.

I can tell that I will be challenged by people as I try to remain positive and healthy through the new year. Over all, day 1 was no big deal. A pretty typical day with a few smiles, a few annoyances and a feeling that all is as it should be.

I can live with that.

I completed my Bible reading program on time for 2013 and am now beginning a new plan for 2014.
Yeah, I like that, too. You should try a daily reading plan. If you've never tried anything like that before, I'd recommend reading through the New Testament in a year. There are a number of plans that are available through daily e-mail of via your smart phone or tablet. Try it. There is some pretty good stuff in that Book!

I'm considering going through my Facebook friends and either deleting or unsubscribing to a number of people. I've already unsubscribed to most of my "friends" and may just leave things pretty much as they stand. I think that I'll just spend a little less time there in 2014.

I'll go ahead and get this posted before the day runs out and be I'll be back later on day 2 for my Thursdays are for Thanksgiving post.

John <><