Saturday, January 31, 2015

What is a Christian?

We all have our ideas of what makes somebody a Christian. Some might have the simple answer of someone that is trusting in Jesus for salvation. Someone else might be a little more vague and say a Christian is a follower of Jesus. Some will be more literal and say a little Christ.

Personally, I don't like the word Christian.

And in today's world, it has come full circle and is back to being spoken with disdain and disrespect. Unlike the original derogatory term, today's disrespect for Christianity may be deserved.

We are told that first century disciples of Jesus called themselves...well, disciples of Jesus or Followers of The Way. I wonder if those terms would work for us today. Are we (those that claim to be Christians) disciples of Jesus or followers of the way? Are we studying His ways and following His commands?  Are we making disciples? Are we loving others as ourselves? Are we living life as He would live it?

If modelling Jesus' behavior and following His commands are prerequisites for wearing the label of Christian, then I find myself falling far short of the mark. I am not a dedicated student. I am not a close follower. And I am certainly not anything close to being a little Christ.

At best, I am a pitiful sinner, saved by God's amazing grace.

In today's multi-cultural, politically inspired, self-serving language, I don't think I want to be called a Christian -- not by any sect of our society (including self proclaimed Christians). And I often think that I am a poor spokesperson for the God that has saved me from eternal condemnation. Maybe the pulpit preaching and "professional Christian" thing isn't really for me.

Until I get it figured out, I guess I'll just keep working on being a better small step at a time.

John <><

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Updated Information

I've just spent a few moments to get things current on the right side column of my blog.

The "About Me" text reflects that I was an air traffic controller and am now retired.

There is a link to my other blog between the Facebook and Twitter links.

And I've updated my "Coming Events" calendar.

As you can see, my first month as a retired air traffic controller is going to be a busy one!

John <><

Nothing to see here...Move along!

Yeah, if you're tired of listening to me talk about my retirement and related things, you can just move on to the next blog in your reader. It's pretty much where my life is right now and so that's what I'm writing about.

A couple of months ago I began a small project to talk to people about the ways that they have inspired or influenced me during my career/life. I have managed to talk to several co-workers, both past and present, and people outside of air traffic that have been a part of my life outside of ATC. My goal has been to express gratitude and to encourage them to continue to inspire and encourage others.

I find that I often hop on the negativity bandwagon when I talk about how much negativity there is in the workplace/church/world/where ever.
The truth is -- there are a lot of good, positive, encouraging people!

And encouraging people need encouragement!
Positive people need some positive reinforcement.

As I said in a previous post, it's a little late to be concerned with the legacy that I'm leaving.
But it is the perfect time to remind others that they are forging their own legacies each and every day.
Air traffic controllers have long and unforgiving memories. Chances are if you are a lazy, self-serving, poor co-worker today, you will keep that reputation for the rest of your career. Even if you mature and become a very positive influence in the workplace, you will still have your poor reputation haunting you.

I don't know what memories people will have of JH. The truth is that they'll rarely, if ever, think about me. By this time next week, the new normal will be one that involves the people that are there doing the job.

The same will be true for me. My new normal will not include the people that I've been working with and chances are that I will rarely, if ever, think about them. There will be a few that I will keep in contact with as we have developed friendships that go beyond the workplace. Some of those few left SGF some time ago and we still manage to keep in touch from time to time.

It's time to head to the tower for the last time to process out.
My official retirement date is Saturday, but the headset is on the hook and I have talked to my last airplane.

The controller formerly known as JH

Monday, January 26, 2015

Kind Acts, Tender Moments & Living in Isolation

Last week I posted about being intentional about being kind to one another. I have to admit that was more difficult than I expected it to be -- not because it's difficult to be kind, but because being kind to people means that you have to interact with them.

One of my brothers is on a 30 day mission to observe and report on tender moments observed. It's a different dynamic when you are looking for the kind or tender moments that happen around you rather than just going about your own business, unaware of the people around you.

Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that I am much more of an introvert than an extrovert. This will come as a huge surprise to many people that know me -- or think they know me.

Here's the thing:

Even though I do not have a problem speaking before large groups of people or being in groups of many people, as a rule, I'd rather be alone.

I'm perfectly comfortable going through my day without any contact with other people.

I often find brief conversations with strangers to be more comfortable than conversations with people I know.

I have very few friends. This one surprises most people. One person said, "You have lots of friends. Everybody likes you!" It's true that I try to be a friendly person (most of the time). It may be true that many people like me. However, it is not true that I like most people. I'd say that I tolerate most people, but even that would be a stretch.

This blog may be the most interaction that I have with people today. It's a regular day off from work--my last one! I will be getting some exercise (at home) this morning and working on a malfunctioning garage door opener this afternoon. If I can't fix the garage door opener, then I'll have to get a new one. I might have to interact with someone other than Chris today.


I'm going to have to take care not to be isolated in the coming months.

Be kind.
Watch for others being kind.
Make allowances for us introverts and give us some space.
Report your good stories here in the comments.

John <><

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Early, Book Often!

So as I begin the final week of my career as an air traffic controller, thoughts turn to the future...

As an evangelist/gospel magician, I've never been very proactive when it comes to booking engagements. I've generally had enough to keep me busy with my work schedule and even had to turn down events.

No more!

This is already an exciting year when it comes to advance bookings.
We're not even out of January.
I haven't been to any evangelism conferences.
And I've already booked events for spring, summer and fall!

I know that many associations are planning their summer camps.
I have served several associations as camp pastor for week long children's camps and youth camps. I have also just come in for a one night performance for camps or weekend retreats.

My new kids' program, Drugs, Strangers and Other Dangers, will be marketed to elementary schools next fall and would be a great program for children's camps this summer (or Summer School in late May/early June!).

I'm working on some new things in the way of magic shows and also as an apologetics teacher. I am so excited about what lies ahead.

Look on your calendars and start filling those dates where you need an evangelist for revivals, pulpit supply for vacations, entertainer for VBS kick off or closing programs, AWANA programs, Upwards Basketball, camps, banquets, outreach events or other engagements.

The dates are already on your calendars. Start booking your speakers!

John <><

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Good Deed for Today...

It's fairly early to be up for a retirement training day...but, since I'm training for retirement, I figure that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.

It was just one of those rare mornings when I woke up in the middle of the night (3 am) and couldn't go back to sleep. I figured that since I have the day off (burning up the remaining supplemental leave (s/l) I have on the books) and can nap later in the day, I'd just get up and start the day.

Looking out the front window I can see that it's a little foggy out and the temperature is just below freezing. That should make for an interesting drive to work for all of my friends that are not retired and are not actively training for it.

But enough about that!

I started the day by brewing my morning coffee and contemplating what to do at 4 in the morning. I decided to bake a batch of my protein cookies. My current variation is about 200 calories and 9 grams of protein. You can find the basic recipe on my other blog and make whatever modifications suit your taste.

Now it's time to read a little, write a little and contemplate what I might do today to bring a little joy into my little corner of the world.


Recently, I've talked to a few of my co-workers about some of the impressions they've made during my career and what I'll miss about them. I've kept it to the very positive things that I've noticed, but haven't got around to everyone just yet. Truthfully, there are many that I'm not going to miss and will probably be a better person for not being around them on a regular basis. No doubt, there will be those that feel the same about me. Controllers tend to have pretty strong personalities and they are often conflicting personalities. Tact and diplomacy are not job requirements and many of us are lacking in those characteristics.
In any case, I guess I'd better make plans to complete that task in the near future.

But what about today?

Would you care to join me in an effort to brighten somebody's day?

It can be somebody you know or it could be a stranger.
You can send a note of encouragement or pay for a stranger's coffee or lunch.

I'm sure that you can come up with better ideas than I can, but let's all try to do something nice for somebody today. I'm not a real believer in "random acts of kindness." I believe that there are random targets for acts of kindness, but most kind acts are either planned or just a part of a person's natural character.

If being kind is not a part of your nature (it's not a part of mine) then perhaps we need to make a plan to be more intentional about being kind. Surely we can come up with one thing for one day!

If you're in, comment back on what you did to be kind today. I'll do the same.

Make a phone call.
Send an encouraging note.
Lift a burden.
Just do something!

John <><

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's a Training Day!

After a great weekend with the kids it's back to work. Today is a training day.

You might ask what kind of training I have with only a couple of weeks left.
Answer: Retirement training!

Yeah, after having breakfast with the kids before Aaron and Jenny head back to Chicago and Hannah and Daniel start their work days, I'm chillin' at home. Laundry is going. An old movie is on TV. An I'm spending a few moments with the keyboard before taking care of filling out a couple more retirement forms for the paperwork driven FAA.

Other than that, I'm just going to enjoy another beautiful mid-January day in the Ozarks.

If you have MLK Day off, I hope that you are enjoying the day. If you are working, be thankful for your job.

John <><

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


It's a cool January morning in the Ozarks and I find myself dreaming of being on a beach with the warm sun and an ocean breeze.

This tropical daydream is probably inspired from my daughter-in-law's encouragement to buy a place in Mexico so that they'll have a vacation place to visit! Unfortunately, I'm not the one that needs to be encouraged. I would move in a heartbeat. Chris is a different story. While she enjoys vacationing on the beaches of Mexico, she has no desire to live there.


To be fair, it could be that I would eventually find beach life to be boring and routine -- but I'm willing to take that chance.

And if we had a place that could accommodate a few guests, I'm certain that we would have enough visitors to keep from falling into too much of a routine.

Besides, isn't any routine enhanced by a beach atmosphere? Instead of blogging on my laptop while drinking coffee in my living room with outdoor temps well below the freezing point, I could be enjoying my same cup of coffee and blogging from my deck while listening to the surf and smelling the fresh ocean air.

As far as the food goes (and food is an important consideration), I love Mexican food and it's pretty tough to beat the year 'round fresh fruits and vegetables. As a matter of fact, this was my breakfast from yesterday -- my own version of homemade huevos rancheros.

Black beans with peppers, onions and tomatoes, spinach leaves, fried eggs sprinkled with cheese on a whole grain tortilla. (And yes, there are four eggs!)

As a bonus, we could have a full-time maid/cook for around $10/day! That would be more than the hotels pay, the work wouldn't be as difficult and we'd be way better bosses!

Ah well, back to reality. I'm not retired yet.
And it's time to get about my day!

I hope your day is a grand one. Daydream for a few moments.
Live well,

John <><

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Morning Transition

I'm going to start early on the retirement habit of writing more often. This month (especially these last three weeks) are going to be transitional in starting my new life as a retired air traffic controller.

This will be my last week of a pretty traditional schedule. I'll work my pretty normal eve/eve/day/mid/mid schedule this week, but the next two weeks are going to be pretty irregular with days off and day/mid combinations...then I'm finished.

One of the plans that I have for writing is to write before Facebook. More than anything, that just gets me writing before getting caught up in the Huge Time Suck. Actually, I have really managed to cut back on the Facebook time suck in the past few months--but still...

Also, I need to keep a list of topics handy.

One topic was suggested at our Saturday morning writers' club.
In a conversation with a retired man, he said that six months from now I'd be so busy with people asking me to do things that I'd have to learn how to say "no."

I told him that I didn't think I'd have a problem with that. It's long been my practice to give people the freedom to ask for anything as long as I had the freedom to say no. His response was that I needed to write about that.
It's on the list!

   * Write early, before other internet activities get in the way.
   * Keep a list of topics handy

What else?

As I look at the labels that I've used for my posts, I see that there are several that have been un-used in quite some time. Caught being nice, Characters, Favorite Bible Stories and Thursdays are for Thanksgiving are a few of the ones that need to be used more often. Most of my lists should fall into these categories. Other labels that have been un-used--politics, religion, rants--should probably stay that way!

I haven't decided if I need to set a time or word count to push my writing habit. Either one would set a minimum time for being at the keyboard. I may just use the coffee pot as my gauge. I could call it "Coffee and Keyboard" or something like that.

   * Write early, before other internet activities get in the way.
   * Keep a list of topics handy
   * Set a minimum time

Anything else?
Really, I'd like your suggestions. As a writer/blogger, how do you stay motivated to work at your craft? What habits have you established to write daily/weekly/monthly or however often you write? How about helping a fellow writer wannabe out?

Readers, any topics or suggestions for posts? You are free to ask for anything...and I'll keep my freedom to say no. Fair enough?

John <><

Monday, January 05, 2015

Off to a good start...

Today has been a pretty good day. I have to admit that it got off to a pretty slow start, but that's okay. I like slow in the morning.

There are a couple of things that I'm going to have to get used to when it comes to retirement. In a recent conversation I mentioned that I would try to do something if I had a free weekend in February. Then it dawned on me--I don't have to wait for the weekend anymore! I'll have free days during the week!

Another thing (happened this morning) is that I don't have to worry about sleeping at night and doing stuff during the day. I was awake this morning pretty early (5am) but stayed in bed thinking that I needed to go back to sleep. An hour later I was still awake. I'm not sure why, I just was. I was thinking that I should just get up but the habit of needing to sleep at night was still strong. In just a few weeks, I guess I'll get up and read, write, exercise, whatever! I can take a nap during the day if I want to.

Eventually, I did get up, had my coffee, posted on my other blog (you can read it here if you don't follow that one), read a book, read some in The Good Book and had a light breakfast. I managed a couple of hours of yard work (raking and burning the winter leaves...darn oaks will be dropping leaves until the new ones come in next spring!) and I think the plan is to go to a yoga class with Chris this evening.

I've only managed a little more than half of my 10,000 steps so far today. I should probably get a walk or run in before we go for our yoga class. I hope that you have also had a productive day.
I feel pretty good for a Monday. My work week starts tomorrow.

John <><

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Let's Get This Year Started!

It's the first weekend of the new year!

I am looking forward to 2015!

Unless you are new to Out of My Hat, you already know that I am just days away from retiring from life as an air traffic controller. Okay, maybe weeks would be more like it -- 4 weeks. Yep, just 28 days; fifteen actual shifts.

I am really looking forward to this next phase of life!

Here are a few of the things that I am looking forward to in the coming year:

* Writing more.
     Yeah, I know, I've said that before. But I really do like to write and rarely feel like I have the time to just sit and write or to do the research to write well. I have several projects in mind to go along with posting on my blogs.

* Reading more
     It seems that I just don't devote the time to proper reading. I say "proper reading" because I read crap all day long--articles on the internet, blogs by friends and other sources, news stories, health and fitness how to stuff, etc., etc.
     I want to read for study and enjoyment. It seems like it has been a long time since I've allowed myself that kind of treat.

* Cooking more
     I am really looking forward to doing more cooking and eating at home more often. I hope that Chris will be looking forward to this, as well. I want to try out some new recipes and I really want to take more control over what we eat.
  Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that we will still do our share of helping to stimulate the local restaurant economy by eating out several times per week.

* More magic
     School programs, churches, camps.

*More ministry
     I am really not certain where this is going to go.

     This can go along with cooking more. I think that I would like gardening; I've just never felt like devoting the time to it. It may turn out that way this year. We will see.

*More travel
     If I can manage to keep up with the stuff around the house during the week while Chris is still working, then we can have her time off to do what we want to do. I hope for some short trips to see more of the country around us and some long trips that involve beaches and lounging about without a care in the world!
     I am also looking forward to a few trips to see my very spread out family!

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons for wanting to get to the end of this month and to that long awaited retirement.

I hope to have plenty of stories to write about and share with you in the coming year. Maybe my travels will bring me to where some of my virtual friends and readers live. If so, I would love to meet you at your favorite local place and share a meal or a cup of coffee. Better yet, if there is a major league or minor league baseball team around, we can enjoy a game and a ball park dog!

Here's to a grand 2015!
Let's get to it!

John <><