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 <><