Thursday, August 27, 2015

Baseball, Magic and other Random Thoughts

It's the end of August and we're having some pretty fall like days. The nights have been in the low 60s and daytime highs have barely reached 80. It's been beautiful, but I am not ready for the fall nor the coming winter.

I am looking forward to this years post-season baseball play as it appears that the Cardinals will be making another World Series bid. I have to say that I am enjoying this west coast road trip and managing to watch each late night game. The 9pm to midnight time frame works well for this Central Time Zone boy and allows me to enjoy the games without feeling like I'm neglecting something else. I can still manage a good night's sleep and enjoy my (later) morning coffee and quiet time the following morning completely guilt free!

Today (like most days) I've had very little interaction with people other than my wife. I'm beginning to realize that this will probably be my life from here on. I keep having people ask me if I have any hobbies like fishing or golf or what I do with my time in retirement. So far I am happy to report that I am just enjoying my free time. I wouldn't mind doing a little fishing, but I'm not really thinking about taking it up as a hobby.

I have some magic shows booked for the fall and am working on getting a few more. I also have another revival and several preaching dates.

I have a small area that is set aside for a garden. I've been planning on gardening a little for the past two summers but have let the springtime get away from me. I am hoping to have the area ready this fall so that the spring planting will be all that I need to worry about in 2016. I really do like the idea of fresh produce from the backyard! This year (like every other year) we have been counting on the bounty and generosity of our gardening friends.

As a matter of fact, tonight's dinner was pork fried rice using onions and peppers from my parents' friend Clarence's garden and grilled pork steak and side meat (bacon that is not cured) from the half hog we recently purchased from one of Chris' coworkers. As much as we enjoy eating out (which is about every night!), there is something especially rewarding about good food that is prepared well at home.
Perhaps next year we'll have more of it!

I also have a few trips planned for the fall so it's not like I'm bored or planning on being bored. I was at a retirement party for a former co-worker earlier this week and plan on attending another one this fall and one in the winter as the old guard continues to age out of the air traffic control world.

I've also been thinking about a couple of controversial posts for the blog. I don't know if that's something that I'll do or not. My following has dropped off considerably since my last controversial posts so it may be that I won't do any more damage than what has already been done. And a large readership has never been the goal of Out of My Hat.

Honestly, I think the reason The Donald has such a huge following is because he says what ever he feels like saying and doesn't care about what others think of it...or of him. I doubt that I'll ever be as insensitive as he is, but there might just be something to telling it like it is.

I'd write more but it's time for the baseball game to start and my cigar is down to a stub.
Be well, my reading friends!

John <><

Monday, August 24, 2015

Moving On...

I had a great weekend with the friendly members of the Fremont Hills First Baptist Church. I have to say that it is often difficult to assess the success of a weekend revival at the end of the weekend. I suppose the real assessment won't take place for several weeks or months. By then, I'll be on to other churches for other events and other revivals. It can be difficult and frustrating to be task oriented instead of results oriented, but moving on is what I am called to do.

Next weekend I'll be at another of our association churches. This is a small rural church that is currently without a pastor. I have been there twice in the last couple of months. The last time they mentioned that they had two youths that needed to be baptized and asked if I could come back to baptize them. Next Sunday is the first week I had available so I'll be there for the morning service, an after church meal and then we'll head to the creek for an old fashioned baptism! I am pretty excited about it!

Then vacation. Then a school show. Then the association annual meeting. Then another revival. Then ...
...Moving on. 

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." --Ferris Bueller

John <><

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tell Your Story. Tell His Story!

How did you meet Jesus?
How did you come to know Him as your Savior?

It's a story that you should tell.
It doesn't have to be a long story. In fact, it probably shouldn't be so long that people would tune out before you get to the good part. But tell the story.

Maybe you've heard the fantastic stories of lives that were changed from addictions or horrid conditions and you think that your story doesn't compare to those. The story that secures your salvation ought to be your favorite tell it! Tell it often.

I remember talking to friend that said she didn't really have a story to tell. She grew up in a Christian home and made a profession of faith at a very young age. My response was, "That's a great story! Do you know how many people wish that they had the testimony of growing up in a Christian family?"

If that is your heritage (and the heritage you are giving to your children) -- tell it!

We will relive all types of events and share them with others. I tell the story of the time I went to Wrigley Field with a friend. He's a huge baseball fan and had never been to Wrigley. It was quite an experience for him and a great weekend for both of us.
People reminisce about concerts they went to decades ago.
We remember getting autographs of our idols, meeting certain people, going to special places.
We re-live so many of life's events.
Why not share our encounters with God.

And keep your testimony current.
Is God still working in your life?
Do you still interact with Him?
What's He done for you lately?
...And what have you done for Him?

God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

John <><

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Good News, My Friends!

It is another beautiful day in the Ozarks!
It is more like an early autumn day than a late summer day. Although I am not a fan of the fall or winter, I do have to say that I have been enjoying these cooler temperatures. The windows are open. The a/c is off and life is good.

And that's not even the good news that I'm talking about!

I got to spent my lunchtime and the early part of the afternoon with the men that make up the Administrative Team of the TriCounty Baptist Association. These men are servants of The Most High God and truly remarkable ambassadors for the Kingdom. I always come away from these meetings feeling both inspired to work in ministry and a little ashamed of my own small contributions to the advancement of His kingdom.

These guys are mostly pastors of local churches. There are only a couple of us that are at large members of the team and are lay members of one of the association churches. It's pretty easy to see why the other laymen sit on this team. I'm not certain of my roll or why I have been a part of the team for several years now.

The good news is that God is alive and well in the TriCounty Association! Although there are several churches that are currently looking for pastors, there are also churches that are sharing the gospel and reaching out to change lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. We heard reports of successful camps, clothing giveaways, VBS programs, mission trips and testimonies of people of all ages that are coming to profess Jesus as Lord and Savior!

This weekend I will be at the Fremont Hills Baptist Church for a weekend revival. On Friday night I will be giving my personal testimony of how I was called into the gospel ministry and how I came to use magic to share the gospel story. I will share the call and some of the effects that I use when telling people of how God loves them and Jesus died for them.

On Saturday evening I will be talking about the ministry of John the Baptist and how we have a similar ministry of preparing the way and sharing the message of "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Sunday morning will be about the work of Jesus and how He has been our advocate before the throne of our Heavenly Father.
And Sunday evening will be about what happens next. Where do we go from here?

If you are in the area, I invite you to attend. It is my hope that the take away from each service is that God loves you and Jesus died for you.

More than that, I hope that each believer takes away that we are called to share this Good News. We are all ambassadors to the kingdom of heaven.

"Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter." --Charles H. Spurgeon

John <><

Monday, August 17, 2015

Saying Grace vs Being Full of Grace

I saw a sign in a coffee shop this morning that is worthy of sharing. Unfortunately, the booth where the sign was located was occupied so I couldn't get a clear picture to share.

Even so, the words are worth remembering:

Grace isn't a little prayer we say before eating; it is a way of life!

Be gracious.
Live well,

John <><

Monday, August 10, 2015

Stereotypes and Mistaken Identities

Recently my daughter-in-law posted a picture with the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer.
If you go to the link, you'll see that pic along with many others that show the faces of today's engineers.

It's weird how we have preconceived ideas of how certain people should look or how we might look at somebody and make a judgment about what they might do for a living or about their social standing or other aspect of their life.

While walking to my car from the baseball game the other night (I usually park a mile or so away for the walk) I passed nearby the skate park and saw a young woman skateboarding down the street. I smiled to myself because it was the first time I remember seeing a young woman skateboarding as a means of transportation. The next day, I saw another young woman skateboarder.

And those young women could be engineers, doctors, students or anything else.

Our world is so diverse that we really have to stop making judgments based on appearances or expectations. I know that people have voiced their surprise that I am a UFC fan. I guess it's not expected of my "type" of person.

I read Facebook posts from church leaders that disparage Democrats as if none of their church members or friends could possibly be Democrats or as if they think that those friends will believe their gospel of love in spite of their hate.

I know people that do all types of unapproved or unexpected "church" things, have contrary political or social beliefs to the evangelical core and are more loving examples of Jesus than the people that harshly judge them.

I'm slowly learning to be more worried about the person that I am and how I treat people rather than try to put people into a convenient box and determine how to treat them based on that. It's a process.
I hope that your struggles to build relationships with others are less impeded by prejudice and bias than mine are. Or that you are at least making progress in the process of adapting to our diverse world.

John <><

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Real Debate...

I missed the Fox News debate last night.
I was faced with my own personal debate: go to the Springfield Cardinals game or stay home and watch the debate.
I guess you know which side won that debate.

As for who won the televised debate ... well, I really don't care. It's far too early for me to get wrapped up in the antics of the wanna be candidates at this point. I heard very few positive comments about the candidates and even fewer about the debate itself. In a few months when the field has been narrowed, the more ridiculous statements made last night will be brought up as ammunition against the candidates and I can hear all about it then.

I'm pretty much avoiding Facebook today and scrolling through most of my Twitter feed.

The debate of which of these candidates will be the Republican presidential candidate doesn't interest me ... yet.

So what is the real debate of the day?

In the race for the nomination, each candidate is trying to convince the party (and the country) that they are the best person for the job of making the United States a better place. To date, most of them are telling about the mistakes that have been made in the past and are offering little in the way of meaningful conversation about what they will do differently.

On the other hand, we can do something to make our little corner of the world better -- today!

Each one of us can be a positive influence on someone or do something for someone. We can improve our health and we can help others to improve their health. We can reduce the garbage and waste that we contribute to our world. We can make our world better.

In truth, there is little that I can (or will) do today that will have an impact on our standing in the international theater. The same is probably true for you.
But each of us can make the people that we meet today feel good about themselves. We can give them value. We can encourage them and we can help people that need a little help. Sometimes, we can even be a blessing to others by allowing them to help us!

In the past, I have often told people that I have to work VERY hard to be a nice guy. Being nice and doing good things for people is not my nature. I have come to the stark realization that I am a natural born jerk (and that's putting it nicely). For me, being nice is a decision. It is also quite a challenge. But it is doable.

Maybe being nice is natural for you. Maybe you are one of those people that everybody likes and you are always taking care of the people around you. The rest of us are blessed to have people like you in our lives. All of us not-so-naturally-nice people are going to have to work being good to those around us. We can improve our world one relationship at a time.

The real debate is will you or won't you contribute to making the world a better place today?

Be kind.

John <><

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Drugs, Strangers and Other Dangers

It seems crazy that the 2015-16 school year about to begin in the United States.
College students are packing up and heading off to campus. High school students are coordinating their schedules with classmates and jobs. Elementary schoolers are still excited about going back to school and many parents (not all) are celebrating the return to a more routine schedule and time controlled life.

A couple of years ago I purchased an elementary school program called Drugs, Strangers and Other Dangers. I had intended to begin marketing it last fall but was unable to get time off from work during the peak time of Red Ribbon Week.
This year, I will have no such problem!

I have already started booking shows for this year's Red Ribbon Week!
I'll be contacting area elementary schools to market this program in the coming weeks. If you are an educator, you may want to book as early as possible to get the date you want -- before, during or after Red Ribbon Week.
I'll be offering discounts to districts that have multiple elementary schools and book multiple shows or to districts that help me book shows in neighboring school districts.

It's going to be a good year!

Be well!

John <><

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Healthy Living

from my other blog...

Northern Bias

I'll admit that I've never really understood the fascination with the rebel flag. I haven't always associated it with slavery or racism, but I have always wondered about the loyalties to the losing side of a war to which many seem to cling.

As a proud citizen of the United States of America, I've always viewed the Confederate flag and the sentiments that "the South will rise again" as treasonous.

While I understand that everybody should be proud of their heritage, waving the flag of the side that lost a war more than a century and a half ago seems a little off.

I grew up in Illinois -- the Land of Lincoln. I obviously have a different perspective of the Civil War than those that grew up in the South. Today, I live in Missouri, a state that was often divided in its loyalties. As a border state, there were a number of Civil War battles that took place in Missouri.

Last weekend we visited several of the state parks in southeast Missouri and also revisited the memorial site at Fort Davidson where the Battle of Pilot Knob took place. This battle has been called the Thermopylae of the West by one author, as a small Union outfit took on a Confederate army of nearly ten times its size and successfully delayed their advance on St. Louis and Jefferson City. It is an interesting story and the site, though small, does a pretty good job explaining the battle and its significance to the war.

I know that in any war, it is the winners that get to write the history. The losers always get painted as the villains. The winners get to be the heroes. Because the Union won the war, we are still the United States of America. To this northerner, the Confederate flag, the rebel flag, the Confederate battle flag -- whatever you want to call it -- still represents the treasonous states that wanted to divide our nation.

There are many that still display the Confederate flag in Southwest Missouri -- even a few more since it has become an issue in South Carolina. I just shake my head and wonder if they know that the South lost the war; that the flag says, "I'm a loser!"


John <><

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Truth and Perspective

I know that we all have this idea that the truth we know is the real truth and anything else is a deception. But what if truth looks different based on one's perception?
Can two different perspectives define different truths?

I know that there are many people that only seem willing to take a stance based on their narrow perceptions. It doesn't matter whether they are conservative or liberal, theist or atheist, rich or poor. Until we at least listen to what others are saying, we cannot hope to see things from their perspective. It may turn out that we are both right, or maybe both wrong. It doesn't always have to be that I am right and that makes everybody else wrong.

Before you speak,
before you write...

Am I seeing this from all sides?
If I listen to others, will I learn something important about this?
Am I open to changing my own thoughts based on others perceptions?

John <><