Monday, November 30, 2015

Bring on December!

Another month in the history books as November 2015 comes to an end.

We are now within a year of the next presidential election in the USA and it is hard to believe that there have already been several debates. I have to honestly say that I haven't watched more than a few minutes in total -- and that includes the internet video clips and news channel highlights. I will be paying much closer attention as we drawn nearer to election day and Missouri's primary election. For now, it's just a lot of noise.

The Christmas shopping season rolls in with the usual post-Thanksgiving bang. It was nice to see some of the big retailers remain closed on Thanksgiving day this year. Maybe the big Black Friday deals will slow down in the coming years. I think that more and more shoppers are shopping online and avoiding the crowds altogether.

Along with the Christmas shopping season comes the winter weather season in the USA. This past weekend saw lots of rain in the Midwest that caused flooding in some areas and icing in others. We had three days of light, but constant rain in Southwest Missouri. I'm just happy that temps stayed a few degrees above freezing so that we didn't have snow. We'd be up to out butts if it would have been three days of snow. The cold rain kept me in for most of the weekend, but as I am fond of saying -- You don't have to shovel rain!

I'm working on getting into a good seasonal spirit. Hopefully, it won't take a heavy snowfall to push me over the edge.

Well there are things I must be doing today so I had better get to it.

John <><

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unexpected Encouragement

Sometimes I feel out of place in church. I'm not sure why, I just do.
Perhaps it has to do with all of the people. I've mentioned that I'm a bit of an introvert. I'm not really uncomfortable around people. In fact, I'm very comfortable around them and can easily converse and get along well with most people. It's just that I would generally prefer to be alone.

And church is an interesting mix of people. The one thing that we have in common -- worshiping the same God -- is often the only thing we apparently have in common. Truthfully, we might never meet or relate to each other in any way if we had not first met in church.

But we do have much more in common with each other than worshiping the same God. Though we may come from different backgrounds, have different levels of education and different levels of wealth (or poverty), we are still people living in the same community and we all have struggles. Some of us have similar struggles; some are very different -- but we all deal with life.

And, occasionally, we can all use a little encouragement.

Maybe that's why I still feel compelled to go to church. To encourage others and to be encouraged.
Today my encouragement came from one of our high school guys. He sought me out after the service to tell me that the message of my sermon from several weeks ago has really helped him. He said that he often repeats the words to himself throughout the week and they are a part of his devotion time.

It seems a little odd that I have had several adults tell me that they really liked the message that day, and others have asked when I might preach again, but none of those comments have encouraged me the way this young man's did today.
I am always appreciative of the positive comments of others, but there was something special about today.

I am reminded that words have power.
We can be an encouragement to others simply by taking the time to let people know that they have helped and encouraged us.
Is there somebody that you need to thank for something?
Why not just do it?
Go out of your way. Send them a note, an email, a text or go to them and tell them that they have been an encouragement and help to you. I promise you -- it will be an encouragement to them!

John <><

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Weekend Thoughts

It's the end of Small Business Saturday and I have to admit that I didn't buy anything from a small business. The only place I've been in the last three days is a brief visit to Starbucks today for a cup of coffee that I didn't have to make myself. Other than that, I haven't even been out of the house.

At some point in the coming days, I suppose I'll have to get our Christmas decorations out of the attic and up. It has been some time since I've really felt like being festive around the holidays. Christmas Day  isn't the same with the kids grown and moved out. Aaron and Jenny will be here around New Year's Day. I don't know if we'll wait until then to exchange gifts with Hannah and Daniel as well.

It probably sounds pretty strange coming from a preacher, but I am becoming weary of the celebration of Christmas. In truth, there is little about the season that points to the birth of Jesus (an event that happened more than 2000 years ago).

I don't think that Jesus expects a birthday celebration on his behalf. And I don't think that we give our gifts with Jesus in mind.
Don't misunderstand me -- I like giving and receiving gifts. I like getting together with family and friends. I like the parties and festivities (and food) that goes along with the season.

But I wonder what God thinks of all the celebration.
I wonder what God thinks of our make believe "war on Christmas" that people talk about as they take their kids to see Santa and put up a holiday tree (see what I did there?).
I wonder what God thinks of us as we go much of the year never sharing Jesus with our neighbors and now take offense that they don't know about Him or observe Christmas as a celebration of His birth.
I wonder what people would think of us if we turned that around and talked about Jesus throughout the year and then just celebrated Christmas like most everybody else does.

I wonder if I'm just becoming a curmudgeonly old man that is tired of listening to people complain about the great life they have.

I wonder...

John <><

Friday, November 27, 2015

Random Thoughts: Black Friday and Other Things

It is a rainy Black Friday in the Ozarks.
While thousands of crazed shoppers brave the fall rain and the other crazed shoppers looking for the best Christmas deals, I'll enjoy my comfortable couch, Costa Rican coffee and share a few thoughts here at Out of My Hat.

I was thinking --
If Black Friday is called Black Friday because it's the day that retailers finally hit the accounting black for the year, how can they do it on a day when they offer such huge deals on merchandise?
Yeah, yeah. I know that there is a huge volume of their sales that will come from things that are not at great prices, but if this is the day that makes up for the rest of the year's losses, they must really be ripping us off for the first eleven months of the year.
Just wondering ...

I was also thinking --
Earlier this month was the Leonids meteor shower. In a couple of weeks will be the Geminids shower. There are periodic meteor showers throughout the year. Most of them are caused when the orbit of the Earth intersects with the orbit of a comet (the Geminid shower is caused by an asteroid) and the particles left in the comet's path are burned up in the atmosphere.
I usually think about this as I am enjoying the shooting stars. Yeah, somewhere out there is a comet (actually, several of them) on a collision course with the Earth!
No worries. It's a huge solar system. What are the chances it could actually happen ...
... again?

I was also thinking --
Why is it that some people claim that God is in control, but seem to be more fearful of the country's (or world's) condition than anybody else?

I was thinking --
How did we let Christmas get kidnapped by marketers and retailers to become a holiday that celebrates greed and capitalism more than the birth of Our Savior?

I was thinking --
Why do we still have Advent -- a season to prepare for the coming of the Savior -- when He is here?
He was born more than 2000 years ago, right?

I was thinking --
It's a good thing we have a monetary system. If we still relied on barter as a means of trading for goods, I'd be in pretty sorry shape.

I was thinking --
I have a very blessed life.
And I don't know why.
I don't know why I have been so favored that I live a simple, yet very comfortable life. I have a great, loving family and more material wealth than is necessary. I am not rich by any materialistic standard, but I am doing well. My struggles are few and relatively insignificant in a world that is often torn by violence and greed.
Yes, I was thinking -- I have a very blessed life, indeed!

John <><

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thursdays are for Thanksgiving -- especially this Thursday!

It's pretty hard not to be a thankful soul on a morning like this. Though overcast, it's not a bad day out.
There are storms forecast for later in the day, but temperatures are seasonably warm and you don't have to shovel rain.

Chris worked prepping most of the Thanksgiving dinner yesterday so pies are baked and everything else is pretty much ready for the oven.

I really enjoyed my weekend visit to Chicago and could see getting used to city life (again), but I am also very thankful for the quiet and pretty boring community of Ozark MO. In fact, I would also be happy living out in the woods with no neighbors for miles. While many areas of the world are tormented and oppressed, I am peacefully sipping on a cup of coffee made from freshly roasted beans and typing away on my Chromebook.

I am free to type without worry of censorship and I can write about the government, religion, politics or controversial social issues without fear of imprisonment or fine.
Later today, I will walk the streets of my neighborhood or town and I will not have to go armed and will not be afraid of my fellow Ozark residents.

We have plenty of food and will share it with friends later today.
And when this day is over, we will rest peacefully in a comfortable home.

Yeah, I've got a good life!
And I am thankful!

John <><

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Eve

Why isn't there a Thanksgiving Eve?
Okay, I suppose there is one, but why don't we celebrate it?

We have Christmas Eve celebrations, services and family traditions.
We have New Year's Eve parties and watch night services.

Why not a Thanksgiving Eve?
Or an Easter Eve?

Just a thought...

John <><

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Non-traditional Thanksgiving Dinners

We've always had pretty traditional Thanksgiving Day dinners.
You know the kind -- roasted turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, some kind of sweet potato dish, cranberries, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie.
Oh yeah...and the dinner rolls that you forgot to take out of the oven!

We'll have pretty much the same this year, too.

So I was wondering...

Do any of my readers have non-traditional Thanksgiving family traditions?
Or have a meal tradition of something other than turkey and the fixin's?
Do any of you have a daily tradition like a morning run, football game, etc.?
Or maybe you have a pretty traditional kind of day plus something special.

A part of many people's holiday includes travel over the hills and through the woods. We won't be doing any travel and rarely have for Thanksgiving. With a career that was one of those 24/7 kind of jobs, we usually were home for the day and often scheduled dinner time around my work day.

This year we'll have a few friends over for a late afternoon meal with Hannah and Daniel coming over, as well. Aaron and Jenny have started their own Thanksgiving tradition of hosting a holiday meal for international students that go to school at IIT in Chicago. I'm really proud of them but miss having them around our dinner table.

I'm pretty sure I'll try to be careful but will overeat anyways.
Okay -- let's hear about your non-traditional traditions!

John <><

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday, Monday. Can't Trust that Day!

What happened to Monday?

The day is nearly gone and no post for the day -- yet!

I had a pretty full and enjoyable weekend. The Thursday drive to Chicago was uneventful (that's a good thing) and pleasant. I arrived around 6pm and then took Aaron to pick up their car from the shop. We then grabbed a quick bite to eat and waited for Jenny to get out of class. It was pretty cold out and I was dressed for driving (just a light jacket) but managed a short walk on the IIT campus while we were waiting.

Aaron had a Friday morning meeting. I tagged along and had coffee at a Bow Truss coffee shop and managed a morning post for the blog. Then we had a late breakfast at The Little Goat. On Friday afternoon, Aaron took me to where they roast the Bow Truss coffee.
Oh my! There were pallets and pallets of green coffee beans from all over the world. Somebody was roasting coffee and several people were weighing and bagging coffee. It wasn't fancy and many might have found it a boring place, but I thought it was pretty cool.
And when you walked outside -- oh the aroma of the roasting coffee beans!
Yeah, it was pretty cool to get to see that!

Anyways, I had a great visit, got to eat at a few of my Chicago favorites and even managed a short visit and dinner out with my mom and dad on the way home. Today was an all day drive. Tomorrow is a day of helping someone move. Wednesday is get ready day and Thursday is Thanksgiving!
Gonna be a full week!

I hope yours is a grand one.
Be thankful!

John <><

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chicago! Chicago! That Freezing Town!

It is a frigid Sunday morning in the city of Chicago. The thermometer hasn't moved from the 14F (-10C)  from when I first woke up a couple of hours ago. It's eventually supposed to climb all the way up to 29F (-1.6)! I had to move my car yesterday afternoon. California Street (where it was parked) by Douglas Park is a snow route. It's now parked a couple of blocks away near the Lagunita's brewery. I'll need to stop by their Schwagshop before I leave today to pick up something for a neighbor anyway. I had a late lunch there yesterday with my favorite daughter-inlaw. I had the Hogunitas with mac & cheese.

It sounds like we are going to hit The Haymarket for brunch. I already know what I'm having -- the morning riot!  Aaron has to work this afternoon and at some point I'll make way to Metamora to visit with my parents. Home on Monday.

Part of the good thing/bad thing of not living in Chicago is that there is so much in the way of really good food -- from pub food and sandwiches to the fancy, high dining places. With just visiting from time to time, I often want to go back to the places that I've been and really liked the food. Of course, that means missing out on something new! I think that we usually end up at places that Aaron and Jenny frequent and that's okay. They have great taste and know that we are open to trying anything.

Time for some coffee!

John <><

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Saturday Supplement

As long as I posted Thursday's thanksgiving post on Friday, I figured that I'd post a Saturday supplement to it this morning. I suppose it's kind of a kidding/not kidding kind of thanksgiving but I'm definitely saying that I am thankful that I don't live in Chicago!

I love visiting the kids here but prefer to visit them during the summer months.
Because it is cold and snowing -- and it is not even winter, yet!

It was snowing last night from about 8 o'clock and was still snowing at past 1am when I went to bed. There were still a few flurries coming down when I woke up this morning, but it has now stopped.
And it is cold.
My phone tells me the current temp is 34F (or just above freezing for my Celsius friends) and that is the expected high temp for the day. Tomorrow's high is forecast to be 26F (-3.3C) with tonight's low at 14F (-10)!

I know that there are many of you that love the snow and don't mind the cold. Great! You can have it. I am grateful that Southern Missouri doesn't get the snow and cold of a Chicago winter (although I understand that there is also light snow in Ozark this morning).

In a rather self-serving kind of way, I don't think I'll mind if we have a snowy winter in the Ozarks this year. I don't have to be out in the bad weather as far as driving goes. I can walk in the snow. And every time I hear Chris say, "I hate winter," I can suggest that we move to a beach in Mexico!

Have a great weekend!

John <><

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thursdays are for Thanksgiving (even on Friday!)

At some point during my drive to Chicago yesterday, I realized that my Thursday post was not a thanksgiving post. I thought that I might get another post in last night, but that didn't happen.

So today's Friday post will be a Thursdays are for Thanksgiving post, albeit a day late.

As I ponder about what I might share this morning, I can clearly see that I live a first world kind of life. I am truly thankful that so many of life's simple pleasures are mine for the taking. It is nothing for me to be able to drive all day to make the trip to Chicago to spend some time with my son, and yet there are many in the world that live out their lives within a relatively small area--maybe never travelling more than a few miles from where they were born.

Even in the USA there are people that -- whether due to means or circumstance (or choice)-- never experience life or cultures outside of their immediate area. My family has a bit of both. My dad (with the exception of that Navy gig that sent him halfway around the globe to meet my mom) has pretty much lived life in Central Illinois. He is not much of an adventurer and prefers to stay pretty close to home. My mom (and her sisters) all married men from different countries and moved away from their home in the Philippines. Her brothers remained in the Philippines.

My siblings and I (there are 6 of us) live in six different states. Our kids that are grown are also adventurous. Although Hannah is still in the immediate area, I sense that she longs for a more active city kind of life and a more diverse culture than the nearly pure whitebread culture of Southwest Missouri. However, I do think that Daniel (her fiance) is a less adventurous type and may be more content to stay close to home.

In any case, my thanksgiving today is for the ability and the desire to travel and to experience a bit of the life that other people live; to experience the tastes, the smells and the activities of life in their cities, towns and countries.

Yes, it is a first world kind of thing.
But the reality is I have a pretty good first world life!

John <><

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Religious Literacy

I've just started reading a book titled Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. I'm reading it to better understand the Jewish faith, but also to better understand the beginnings of my own faith. It is going to be one of those books that will take a long time to work through and I'll be reading it more slowly as learning material, not as one would read a novel.

I was intrigued by the opening sentences of the introduction.

"At a time when Jewish life in the United States is flourishing, Jewish ignorance is too. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of teenage and adult Jews are seeking Jewish involvements -- even Jewish leadership positions -- all the while hoping no one will find out their unhappy little secret: They are Jewish illiterate."

It goes on to say that many are uneducated in some of the basic things of Jewish history, culture and terminology.

I think that the same could be said of Christianity in the United States.
Just last Sunday my pastor was explaining a couple of simple words that are often misused, and therefore misunderstood, in our church language. It seems unfortunate that many today receive their knowledge of what Christianity should be from the news media or politically motivated personalities rather than from the Bible or from qualified teachers of the faith.

My plan on working my way through this book is to read a chapter or so each day after my daily Bible reading. Also in my 2016 reading plan is to work my way through the Qur'an and its teaching in much the same way. If anybody knows of a good Qur'an study guide, I'd appreciate your recommendations.
I also have the Kama Sutra, The Book of Mormon and a book on the life of Siddhartha on my bookshelves.
Oh yeah, and a few books on witchcraft, magic and the occult. Some Christians might find it disturbing that I have such books, but I just see them as tools of the trade.

I know that there are many books on Christian apologetics. I wonder if there are as many resources for Islam apologetics, Mormon apologetics or apologetics for any of the other multitudes of belief systems that exist in our culture.

I know that there are Christians of many different denominations that read this blog from time to time. I know of at least one Buddhist, suspect a couple of Mormons and know of several other non-Christians and atheists. It would surprise me if there are any Muslim readers. It actually pleases me that there are different beliefs represented in my small readership.
It is not my intent to become an expert on what everybody believes. I don't even know that I can become an expert in my own Christian beliefs. I would like to know enough about what others believe that I can engage in an intelligent conversation and ask good questions about their beliefs and I'd like to know enough about my own Christianity that I can truthfully and factually answer questions about my faith and the Jesus of the Bible as opposed to the Jesus of the media or contemporary culture.

Enough rambling for today.
I have an eight hour drive ahead of me as I make my way northward to see my son and his wife for a weekend visit.

A double check of the calendar shows this to be the 30th day of consecutive writing in my 30 Day Writing Challenge. I don't believe that I completed it according to its original intent and didn't use very many of the suggested topics. For me, it was more of an exercise in taking the time to write every day. I think I'll continue with a daily post through the end of the month and will try to be more frequent through 2016.
I thank you for your indulgence and for taking the time to read and occasionally comment on my posts.

John <><

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Good Morning!

Checking the calendar, I see that I have only three days left to complete my 30 Day writing challenge.
Without a topic of my own that seems demanding of being written, I turn to the suggested topic list and find one that says: Your morning routine.

I have a pretty boring morning routine, but I suppose the simple fact that we call it a routine would indicate that is the case for most of us. Of course, as a working air traffic controller, each day was a little different so it was more like having a Monday routine, a Tuesday routine, etc. Now that I'm retired, I can say I have a morning routine.

Typically, I sleep a little bit later on days when Chris isn't working. Part of that may be that we tend to stay up later when she doesn't have to get up for work (she works three days per week), and part is because I generally get up shortly after she leaves (around 6am) on days when she does work.
Once up, I head to the kitchen to make my morning pot of coffee. I use a stove top espresso maker that makes 12 oz and add hot water to fill a quart carafe. As I've said before, I'm glad that Chris isn't a coffee drinker because one pot is just about right on most days!

I generally do a dozen squats or so and a little stretching to get the blood flowing while the coffee is brewing. Most mornings I drink my coffee black, no sugar. Sometimes I add a little half and half, and on rare occasions I add half and half and a splash of Mexican vanilla. I'll pour a cup, grab my Chromebook and sit in a comfortable chair (not always the same one or even in the same room) and read my regular blogs, check Twitter and Facebook and fall into the Great Internet Time Suck. I manage to break away a couple of times to go refill my coffee cup, but generally spend a couple of hours before deciding that I've spent enough time doing nothing. Sometimes (very rarely) I watch a couple of morning news shows. I'm more likely to watch a training DVD in an attempt to learn some new magic.

Then it's usually out for a walk before getting a shower and figuring out how to spend the rest of my day.

All-in-all, it is way better than the make coffee, shower, dress, drive to work, grab my headset and camp out on radar for awhile routine that I had for much of the past few decades. It's generally way past noon before I ever encounter another human being (other than Chris on days when she's home) and I kind of like it like that.

I'll manage some reading time later in the day -- sometimes before I take my walk -- and maybe watch a little TV. Most days are pretty non-eventful. On nice days, I tend to spend an hour or so on the deck with a decent Dominican (sometimes Honduran) cigar while reading or just taking a break from doing nothing.

I've learned that retirement is no picnic.
You never get a day off from being retired.
Avoiding people, while not difficult, is an ongoing task.
And when you're doing nothing, you never really finish.

Yes, I have a good life -- but I need another cup of coffee!

Have a grand day!

John <><

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Diminishing Circle of Influence

To be fair, I doubt that my circle of influence is truly getting smaller. I think that I am just beginning to realize how small it has always been.

When we are young and full of ourselves and our grand ideas and opinions, we think that everybody wants and needs to hear our thoughts on every subject under the sun. Sometimes, even as we grow older, we continue to believe that we have all of the answers and people want to hear what we have to say.

I'd have to be honest if asked how often people actually come to me and ask, "What's your opinion on this matter?"
It hasn't been very often. There have been very few times that somebody has come seeking my opinion or advice.

I guess we often figure that if somebody freely offers their opinion, they are inviting us to give ours. I'd say that isn't really true. Having to listen to our affirming or contrary thoughts are just the price they have to pay to speak their piece. They know that. It doesn't mean they want to hear what we think. It means they want us to hear what they think.

I've considered writing about the attacks on Paris and some of the worldwide responses, but I've decided that I'm not willing to pay the price of sharing my opinion. In fact, I'm going to pull a page from a much older and wiser cousin's Facebook playbook and just restrain myself. Having to listen to the views of others is often more than I'm willing to do.

I don't mind that we have differing opinions and I actually enjoy discussions with well informed people from diverse backgrounds. I'm happy to have thoughtful friends that can give me valuable information that may give me a better perspective. However, the truth is that we (self included) usually don't want a better perspective or to have to change our opinions. That would imply that we were wrong and had to learn something from somebody else -- and don't we all want to be the smartest one in the crowd? Don't we want to be the one doing the teaching?
Shame on us when that is the case.

There are many social, political and religious battles that we can fight over. The grand majority of them have little impact in our daily lives and are not worth the time and argument effort to me.

(A couple of notes here -- discussions and arguments are different things,
and social media discussions between two three people can easily turn into fights or arguments when others decide to chime in.)

Realizing that giving my opinion (which nobody really wants to hear) is an invitation for others to give theirs ... well, I may just keep them to myself (at least in public forums). I'll also be more selective about sharing in personal discussions. As I said before -- I don't think there are too many people that are really interested in what I think about most things.

Looking back over this post I'd have to say that I've said a lot about saying nothing!

Be informed.
Be well,

John <><

Monday, November 16, 2015

Leonids Meteor Shower

I love watching the night sky!
The winter sky is pretty impressive on its own. Some of the brightest stars and deep space nebulae and clusters are visible in the winter sky. It's too bad that it is often too cold to stay out and star gaze for an extended period of time.

In addition, the fall and winter months offer a couple of other highlight events. Tonight (actually early tomorrow morning) the Leonid meteor shower takes place. This will be the best night for viewing, although you may still catch a glimpse of a few shooting stars through the end of the month. This year isn't expected to be a grand event as in some years, but if you have clear skies you should be able to see a dozen or more per hour.

It is forecast to be overcast in the Ozarks, but I'll still probably get up and check the sky in the early morning hours. For those of you that don't have clear skies or just aren't going to get up in the middle of the night to watch a meteor shower, the Geminids shower is only a month away and is best viewed just after sunset (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).

John <><

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars , which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalms 8:3-4 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

How Cold is Too Cold for a Motorcycle Ride?

I have decided that I really enjoy riding my little motorcycle. I also know that I'll be upgrading to a more highway worthy bike before next spring. I'd like to take a couple of long rides next year.

But as fall sets in and the temperatures continue to drop, I'm wondering -- How cold is too cold to ride?

I don't really have any cold weather riding gear (yet), just a leather jacket and gloves and a full face helmet. I have been riding in the 40s with a pair of exercise tights on under my jeans and was very comfortable. I know one guy that has a heated suit and rides year round as long as there isn't snow or ice on the roads.

I suppose I could get a snowmobile type suit and gloves that do a better job of covering my wrists, but I'm still curious about how cold is too cold for most riders? And how do you dress for riding in the cold?

I found a motorcycle windchill chart but if windchill is how it feels against exposed skin (and it is) then this doesn't really apply to being properly dressed, right?

Whether you are a fair weather rider or pretty hard core when it comes to winter riding, I'd be interested in your opinion.
I'm just curious.

John <><

Saturday, November 14, 2015


After the monthly meeting of our Christian writers' club I am forced to realize how little I actually write and how little I promote the material that I've written. It is true that I haven't written anything that is for sale or worthy of marketing in any way, but there is an awareness that someday that may be the case. Building a brand and a base may not be a bad idea.

In the past few years, I have been surprised at the number of people that are writing and publishing books. While I have always thought that I might do that (and even have a couple of ideas and starts) I have yet to be inspired or motivated (or disciplined) enough to actually do that. These simple posts at Out of My Hat are the best that I have managed.

As for my blog (blogs if you count the times that I occasionally post on healthy living), I only share them on my social networks and have seen the readership dwindle to a faithful few over the years. At one time I was getting over 100 hits per day. Controversy, coarse attitude and general curmudgeon-ness has managed to cut that in half. I think perhaps I am writing to one demographic and marketing to another (when marketing at all).

Perhaps separating my personal Facebook account into two accounts -- one for business and ministry, and one as a personal account will help. If you are a pastor, minister or Facebook friend through church contact, please go to my new account The Message in Magic and "like" it so that you can follow my ministry related posts there. I will soon be dropping you from my personal account and will be using it for family, friends and personal contacts from ordinary life. Truthfully, you that are ministry friends or business accounts care little about day to day postings. It is not meant to offend anybody. It is just a way to catalog contacts in a more efficient manner for everybody.

I have no plans for a separate Twitter account, but that may change.

I am currently only a week away from completing my personal 30 Day Writing Challenge and will continue to try to post more often. I also think that I will work more towards some real writing every day (think books I have started on) which was probably the original intent of the challenge, anyways.

I do have some ideas about regular series of posts for the coming year. You know us retired guys have all kinds of time on our hands for such projects, right?

In any case, I will continue to write and I hope that you will continue to read. If you find something worth sharing, please do.

John <><

Friday, November 13, 2015


I may have written about procrastination in the past. If I haven't I can at least say that I've meant to do that...

However, there often comes the time when you can procrastinate no longer and must be about what ever dreadful task lies before you. I have arrived at that time -- or at least nearly so.

In this case, the dreaded task is house cleaning. I've been meaning to do this since the beginning of the week. Monday was a weird day with an unusual headache most of the day. In addition to that, I was kind of giving myself an easy day after a day of driving and a late night on Sunday. I started doing the floors on Tuesday but remembered that it was supposed to rain all day Wednesday and decided that I should just put off the indoor work for a day that I would not be able to get outside much. Wednesday came and it didn't rain so I was outside and didn't take care of the house stuff. Besides, Chris was going to be gone on Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday, so I could always take care of business then.

She left yesterday (Thursday) morning. I was in a meeting for a few hours in the afternoon and there was a St. Louis Blues hockey game on last night. Today I finished reading a book and took a motorcycle ride into Springfield. I've now had an evening walk and dinner and I know that I have the early part of tomorrow set aside for our monthly writers' club meeting.

I guess that only leaves tonight!
...Which is why I'm on my Chromebook writing about what I need to be doing instead of doing it.
Actually, I also need to write today so this takes care of that while allowing me a few more minutes of procrastination on the house cleaning.

One task finished. One more ahead of me.
It's time...
...or at least, close to it!

John <><

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Alone; not lonely

Today's Thursdays are for Thanksgiving post might seem a little odd. It's probably not so odd that I might be thankful for alone time -- many people probably long for some time alone. I have lots of alone time. I'm almost always alone. And I really do like it that way.

I like that I have only me to be concerned with most of the time. I like not having to worry about how someone else feels about -- well, pretty much anything all day long.

I am fine with long drives -- alone.
I am fine with long walks -- alone.
I am fine with watching a ballgame -- alone.
I am even fine with going out to eat -- alone.

I know that there are plenty of people that live in loneliness and always feel alone, even when they are in a group of other people. Because of my family and (few) friends, I never really feel lonely. I don't have feelings that nobody loves me or suffer any kind of loneliness related depression.

It is true that technology helps keep me connected -- even when I am alone. I don't know if that is a good thing or not. It may add to some people's isolation rather than connecting them to others. Maybe it does that for me, too. I don't think so.

I've said that there are plenty of days when the only other person that I talk to is Chris -- and I'm okay with that. Yesterday I had interactions with a few other people -- a hostess and waitress at a restaurant (dinner with Chris), a grocery store clerk (errands with Chris) and I met a neighbor while walking.
However I also sent a couple of texts to wish a Happy Veteran's day to friends and posted or commented on Facebook or other social media to other friends. Maybe that sounds a little pathetic when it comes to personal interaction, but I'm okay with that.

Maybe, given that I am alone most of the time, I should just be thankful that I am okay with that.

Yeah, I know -- it's weird.
But it's real.
And it's me.

John <><

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Think before you speak; then just keep quiet!

Long gone are the days when a person can simply forget the stupid things they've said or done and move on. Gone are the days when we can distort the truth without somebody "fact checking" our content and accuracy.

While these are well known bits of information, one has to wonder at the competency of those that we elect to serve as public representatives of our government. Politicians want everything they say to be heard, but seem to forget that it is also recorded. It's pretty hard to claim that you never said something when it can be played back for you (and yet, they do this anyways).

I've been blogging for going on ten years now.
I have changed my thinking on some things and have said things that I would no longer defend. That happens over a lifetime. We learn new facts. Our perceptions change. We gain experience and wisdom. We change and sometimes we change our minds.
I'm certain that I believed whatever I wrote at the time I wrote it. That doesn't mean that an older (and hopefully wiser) John still believes or agrees with the younger me.

And that's okay.

I think that anybody that runs for public office is a little crazy. I can't imagine having to answer for everything that I've done in a public forum. The person that you see today isn't the same as the twenty-something kid that would smoke a little pot and get throwing up drunk on occasion. My best defense of some of the stupid things I've done would probably be to just admit that I was once a stupid, immature kid and move on.

In an era where everything that you say is recorded and judged, it seems it would be best to say very little and to only speak words that have been well thought out in advance. I'm glad that few people care about what I say or think. It makes it a lot easier to say nothing when nothing is expected ... and still, great care should be taken before I speak.

I am often surprised at the impact of words that I have spoken or deeds that I have done. There have been times that I later found out that my simple words moved someone and had a positive impact. It makes me fearful and careful for words or deeds that may have a negative impact.

People sometimes think that blunt honesty is a good trait. I used to be that way -- one of those "at least you know where I stand" kind of people. I no longer think that is a good thing. There are some things that we should keep to ourselves.

One of the things that I have learned in the past few years is this:
While as an American I enjoy freedom of speech, as a follower of Jesus, I do not.
There are things that I may have a right to say, but saying them may not be beneficial to anybody and may not glorify God.

There are pastors that are Republicans that keep Democrats (or liberals as they call them) from coming to their churches by the things that they say and post in social forums. Where will they learn about Jesus?
There are preachers that believe (and preach) that you can't drink alcohol and have a Christian world view. What happens to a friend that is looking for a church home for his family but enjoys a beer or owns a bar? Do we send them down the road and wish them luck on that whole heaven/eternal life thing?
It's funny, but I know Democrats that are followers of Jesus
...and I know Republicans that are not.
I know people that drink alcohol that are Christians and people that don't that are not!
I know pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans.
Too often, we forget to keep the main thing (Jesus) as the main thing!

We (as Christians) often have differing opinions on politics or social issues. If that is the hill you want to make your battle about, have at it. But you'll have to fight that fight with somebody else at your side. It's not my fight. Wage your war on Starbucks or alcohol or over political ideals ... but know that while you fight that battle, people are going to hell because you'd rather judge somebody for buying a lottery ticket or having a glass of wine with dinner than to tell them that God loves them and Jesus died for them.

If we (as Christians) agree on eternity through Jesus and Jesus only, shouldn't that be our focus? If we believe that people that die without Jesus are condemned for their unbelief (John 3:18), shouldn't we make it a point to tell them that God sent His Son for them?

If Jesus says to boycott Starbucks or to fight to defund Planned Parenthood -- I'm in!
For now I'm going to go with that go and make disciples thing (Matt28:19-20). You know -- baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach them the things I taught -- yeah, that thing.

I'll go back to being quiet now.

John <><

Monday, November 09, 2015

A Brief Red Cup Rant, Baseball and a Date in History

I had considered writing about the stupid Starbucks boycott over the "War on Christmas" that some self-righteous, self proclaimed spokesperson for God has declared, but decided that it really isn't worth the time to try to make sense of his proclamation or anybody that takes him seriously. Neither is it worthwhile to defend Christianity from these idiots because those that really believe that he represents Christ are as unreasonable as he is.
If I believe that Jesus is being attacked and believe that he needs my help in defending him, I'll be there for him. That won't be at this time. I don't believe that Jesus is being assaulted by the red cup, that Christmas is under attack by Starbucks or that Christians should be offended by anyone other than the morons that claim to be offended by a simple red coffee cup.

In other news...

There are 146 days until the St Louis Cardinals' Opening Day baseball game. The Springfield Cardinals open 3 days later.

Tomorrow, November 10, is the fortieth anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
If you care to, you can listen to the Gordon Lightfoot song here.

John <><

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Family Matters

One of the 30 Day Writing Challenge topics is to write about a family member that you dislike.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind.
1) I don't have any family members that I dislike
and 2) This writing challenge is about writing and not about actually publishing or sharing in an open kind of forum

...unless of course, you really dislike this person and want everybody to know it!

I have written several past posts about my family so if you have been reading for some time, you already know that I think I have a pretty awesome family. Even beyond my immediate family, I have some pretty awesome cousins and other relatives (meeting some of them for dinner tomorrow night).

Although I know that there are families that do not get along with one another, I really don't understand it. Many families seem to have a crazy aunt, creepy uncle or obnoxious kid that no one else wants to see at family get togethers. If our family has one, it must be me ... because I don't know of anyone else that it could possibly be.
Oh we have our crazy ones (Have you met my mom?), but it seems that everyone wants to see them. Heck, the crazy one are usually the reason we get together in the first place!

I hope that there isn't anyone in your family that you would write about if tasked with writing about a family member that you dislike. And I hope that no one in your family would write about you.

I'm sure that there are plenty of people that might write about me if it were as general as just writing about somebody -- anybody that you dislike, but I hope that my family feels about me as I feel about them.

I guess I'll have to come up with a different topic on that day!

John <><

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Hacked Off at being Hacked

So it is once again the end of the day and I'm just now realizing that I haven't posted anything.
I've spent the some of the afternoon and evening responding to several friends and family about Facebook friend requests and messenger contacts that they received from somebody pretending to be me.

I know that I have many friends that did not grow up in the internet era and perhaps are less savvy than those that have. (Yes, I'm calling out you older people that grew up when networking was making personal contact and actually talking to people!)

I know this because when I went to the bogus account to report it, FIFTY EIGHT of my Facebook friends had accepted the friend request in spite of the fact that we are already friends!

If you are one of those friends, go to the cover photo of the fake account and click on the ( ... ) in the lower right corner. Then follow the instructions to report the account. If you are unsure if it is my account or the fake one, my account address is
Then you'll probably want to unfriend and block the false account and maybe change the password on your account.

I suppose that there is something to be gained by accessing somebody else's friend list. I imagine that we all fall for a scam at some point. Hopefully, not often and not at an expense other than feeling a little foolish at being a little too gullible and trusting.

I would offer the advise that if you receive a social network request to connect with somebody that you are already connected with, it is probably a bogus request. Let them know before taking any action. And you can (and should) make the report about it being a fake account!
I had many messages, posts, texts and a few phone calls to tell me of the infringement on my account.
Thank you!

I should probably change my passwords more often than I do and I should probably make use of better techniques. Unfortunately, since I use my account for ministry contacts, I have more open access than if it was for friends only. I guess I need to set up a separate account for that.

I hope your day was a grand one. Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day. I'll be spending several hours (6+) in the car as I head to southeastern Missouri for a morning service.

John <><

Friday, November 06, 2015

Low-tech Music Guy

One of the 30 Day Writing challenge topics is:
Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what your initial thought is.

I don't actually have a music player.

Yeah, I know.
Weird, right?

I listen to the radio, CDs or albums ... yeah, actual vinyl.

The player on my phone doesn't have any music on it, only Pimsleur Listen and Learn Spanish!
Crazy, isn't it?

Chris has a Sirius subscription in her car and generally listens to 70s music.
I have regular radio and usually listen to classic rock, NPR or nothing at all ... until March when baseball will begin again. I have a few CDs that I may listen to, but not often.

While walking, I use a Milk Music app for music, listen to my Listen and Learn Spanish or to nothing at all. I'm okay with just walking and observing my surroundings. Sometimes it's necessary due to the proximity of traffic, other times it's more enjoyable if I'm in a quiet area.

In any case, I don't have a "music player" to put on shuffle so I guess this will have to do for today's post!

John <><

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Thursdays are for Thanksgiving

Some time ago I started a post label of Thursdays are for Thanksgiving. As with most things in my life, I have a way of getting distracted from a good intention and it falls by the wayside. As this is the first Thursday of November and I'm in the middle of this 30 Day Writing Challenge, I thought it might be a good time to revive it and begin anew a reflection of things for which I am thankful.

I don't want my Thursday posts to be trivial, nor do I want them to be a long list of many things. There are many things that we take for granted and often go without saying -- even though we should probably mention them every now and then.

I'll begin this first Thursday of November with something that is simple and yet very significant to me.
This will be my first holiday season as a retired person!
I can't begin to express how blessed I feel to have been in a career that allows (or forces, depending on your attitude) me to retire at an age that is much younger than most. Though not wealthy by any means, we are in a safe place when in comes to finances. Even though Chris continues to work, we have more time to do things together and to take an occasional trip -- even if it's just a short weekend adventure.

I truly feel that I am in a good place -- financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
Financially -- I don't know if we ever have as much money or as many things as we want, but I have more than what I need.

Physically -- I still have areas to work on and a lifetime of poor habits to overcome, but I am probably in the best condition and health that I have been in for several decades.

Emotionally -- I'm not really certain of how to judge that, but I feel that I am pretty stable. I don't know if it's age, maturity or that my "give a rip" factor now dismisses most things that used to bother me, but I generally feel that I am on a pretty even keel.

Spiritually -- Yeah, that's good, too. Blessed, challenged, comfortable but not really content.

Mentally -- This one is kind of a big deal. Toward the end of my career, I was really beginning to worry about dealing with depression. Most days, I didn't even want to get out of bed, much less go to work. And there is no help for a depressed air traffic controller. You can't work if you've been diagnosed with depression and you can't work on the medication that treats it. You're just finished.
So you don't even talk about it. You just put on your big boy pants and deal with it.
The walks and getting into better physical condition helped a lot -- but still...
Coping with life is much better when you spend most of the day alone and with your own thoughts.
Who you spend time with, what you think about, what you talk about, what you read, where you go ... all of these things are better when you have more control.

Today is a rainy day and I'm doing laundry. Chris is running some errands and meeting a friend for lunch. I'll probably take a walk -- in the rain. Later, we'll go to an afternoon movie.
It's not a glamorous life, but it's a good life ...
...and it's my life.

John <><

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

My Life in Seven Years

Another one of the 30 Day Writing Challenge topics.

In seven years two things will happen that will be of significant financial benefit to us.
Our mortgage will be paid off and I'll get a bit of a raise as a change in my retirement plan kicks in. I'm hoping that will mean that we'll be able to do more traveling.

I really have no idea what my life will be like next year, much less in seven years.

I imagine that I will still be preaching some and doing some magic. I hope to be in decent physical condition and good health. I expect that we will be living in Southwest Missouri. Other than that, I really don't know what life holds for us.
I do expect that I will be happy.

Although there are many areas of life that are out of our control, choosing to be happy is well within our control. It is a choice. We can choose to be happy in spite of our circumstances. Even though I have never really faced adversity, I hope that I will choose to be positive and have a good attitude no matter what challenges we face.

Having more control over the people that I am around on a regular basis definitely makes keeping a positive attitude easier.

All-in-all, life is good and I'd rather live it a day at a time than to think about what might be years down the road.

John <><

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Too Much Stuff!

It is late in the evening and I've yet to write to keep the streak alive in the 30 Day Writing Challenge.

One of my projects for the winter is to finally get my magic room organized to the point that I know what is in there and can find it when I need it. For the past few years it has just been a place where stuff goes. When I first started putting my stuff in there, it was in some kind of order. But eventually it became a place where stuff just disappeared in the mass collection of -- stuff!

And it's not just magic stuff!
Also in the stuff are my books that have to do with church stuff and other spiritual stuff and books that are about all kinds of other stuff, too!

You know the kind of undertaking I'm up against (or maybe not)! It's the kind of project where there is so much stuff that you really don't know where to start so you just start. And you can't really put stuff away yet because there isn't any place that doesn't already have stuff that is going to have to be moved and put someplace else -- that already has stuff!

But I am finding some cool stuff that I had forgotten about!
I have some really cool stuff that I haven't ever used in a show. Early on, I was buying stuff that I thought was cool magic even though I didn't really have a venue to perform with it. Fortunately, I gave up that bad habit. However, I have some fun magic and need to work on it and maybe work on finding some new venues.

I am looking forward to working on some close up skills this winter and am thinking about a venue where I may be able to hone those skills. I want to work on cards, coins and other close-up stuff and maybe a little bit of mental stuff.
But first, I need to get my stuff organized!

Maybe I can be working on some stuff while I'm still getting organized.
After all, I have all winter and it's not like I have a job that I have to go to!

I'm going to have to get a video camera and a You Tube channel to demo some stuff and maybe sell some of this magic that I never use.

John <><

Monday, November 02, 2015

If You Could Start a Church...

In a recent conversation with a church planter, the comment was made that if you don't like what church has become you should start your own and make it what you want.

Well that got me thinking and wondering...

I know that many of my readers are church goers and many are not. For those that are not, the reasons for not going are many. Even for those that attend church on a semi-regular basis, the reasons for going are many and the taste in churches and service style is quite varied.

I am not foolish enough to believe that everybody believes in God the way I do. So I do not believe that everybody wants or believes in a church that I would attend or start.
But I am interested...

What would the church of your design be like?
What would be the doctrinal basis for your beliefs?
Would there be a set of rules for members?
What would a typical gathering be like?
Would it be for everybody or would you target a certain demographic?

There are countless other questions that could be asked and I know that most of you haven't thought in terms of designing your own church. But, I'm sure that you have thoughts along the lines of, "I wish my church would ...," or "What if our church tried...?" or how about, "I wish that churches would be less (or more) concerned with ..."
You get the idea.

What would be some of the things that you would like or wouldn't like in a church of your design?
What are the things that would attract you to a church?
What are the things that would drive you away from a church?
If you were on the planning committee for a new church, what would you want the new church to be like?

Really ... I'm interested in your thoughts.

John <><