Saturday, February 27, 2016

Happy Weekend!

Good morning from the Springfield Starbucks on S Campbell!
I am here bright and early this morning so that I can be in Springfield this morning to pick up my first ever Craig's list purchase.

I finally pulled the trigger and bought a big boy bike!

Yesterday afternoon I bought a 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 LT. It was late in the day and I didn't have a way to get it home so I rode to work with Chris this morning and walked the 1.2 miles to Starbucks. I'll enjoy a few cups of coffee, play around on the Chromebook for a little while, read a bit and then contact the seller and make the 2.2 mile walk to his house to get my bike.

I'll post pics on Instagram which will also show up on Twitter and Facebook. You can find me at @magicianary. I may even edit this post this afternoon to include a pic or two!

I hope to take a few road trips over the coming spring and summer months. There is a Missouri Baptist Bikers Fellowship (MBBF) that I've already been in touch with that has a ride scheduled in Branson MO in May. Branson is only a few miles down the highway from me so I wouldn't need to spend the money on lodging. Maybe I will join them and give it a whirl. Last year they did mission work along the I-29 corridor north of Kansas City.

Although I had really been wanting a new bike -- an Indian Scout -- it was hard for me to justify spending the money on a new bike when there are so many other things that I would also like to purchase. I know that I will not be as cool nor as badass as a Harley rider, but nobody has ever put me in the cool/badass category anyways. I will just have to be happy with being an un-cool, not so badass motorcycle rider.

It's a little embarrassing to say this, but I finally got around to actually taking the test for the motorcycle endorsement on my drivers license -- yesterday! I got my permit over a year ago, but never went for the skills test until yesterday. I just never took the time to do it and wasn't in any hurry to get it taken care of. I figured with the freedom that a bigger bike gives me, it would serve me well to get rid of the restrictions that a permit places on a rider and get the endorsement.

As a bonus -- it's supposed to be sunny and near 70 this weekend in the Ozarks! I plan to spend some time on the highway getting used to the new ride!

Be safe out there...
...and keep an eye out for us motorcycle riders!

John <><

Bike has a new home! Here it is in my driveway!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Part-time Pastoring

First of all, I need to say that part-time pastoring is a poor title -- both for a blog post and as a description of a pastor's duties. Good pastors are always pastors. Some of them have other jobs that help to support them, but it doesn't mean that there are times when they are not pastors.

Bi-vocational pastor is the term commonly used today.
In my case, interim pastor is a position that I am being considered for.
After brief phone conversations with about a dozen people whose names were given to a church by our state convention, the church committee has decided to ask four of us to submit resumes for consideration to serve as interim pastor while they search for a full-time permanent pastor.

A year ago, I took the state course in interim pastoring. Unlike most of the men in the class that week, I had never served as a church pastor. (Okay, I was the only one that had never served as a pastor!) The majority were retired pastors, pastors nearing retirement or pastors that had been recently let go from their previous churches.
In spite of this lack of pastoral experience, I feel that I could serve some churches well during a transitional phase from one permanent pastor to another.

If you are a praying person, I would appreciate your prayers for the church committee that will be considering us. The ultimate goal is not for me to have a position, but for the people of God to be served by the person that will help them to grow and flourish, and will guide them in their search for a permanent pastor.

John <><

Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Old Town!

Good morning from the Airport Hilton in St. Louis!

It's just a quick (and spontaneous) overnight getaway to the Gateway City. Last night we walked downtown and got a bite to eat at an outdoor cafe. It was a beautiful mid-February evening. Chris wore jeans and a light jacket. I had shorts and a long sleeve shirt.

Today looks like another gorgeous day and we are headed to the St. Louis Ikea store. It's been a pretty lazy start to the day and I don't expect that we'll do much more than wander through Ikea and maybe make a small purchase or two. We'll be back home sometime this evening and up for church at Hopedale tomorrow.

I really like the City of St. Louis. It has been a couple of decades since we've lived and worked in the area and much has changed. St. Louis is a little bit like an overgrown town. It is a relatively small city that offers city living with country charm. Maybe we'll find ourselves back this way in a few years. It would be nice to live in an area where there is more to do in the way of entertainment and cultural events. It is also a city with a couple of professional sports teams and host to several sporting events. I'm still waiting for St. Louis to host a UFC Fight Night!

It's also nice to be close to an airport with better connections to the world of international travel!

It is time to set aside my Chromebook and get this Saturday started.

Have a grand weekend.
Do something nice for somebody.

John <><

Friday, February 19, 2016

Writing ... when you don't feel like it.

I usually come away from our writers' club meetings inspired to write. I did after our meeting last Saturday. It just never lasts very long.

One of the writing tips that they always give for writers is -- write.
Write every day.
Write anything.
Free write.
Write a letter.
Just write.

I do have a few things written down for topics to write about. I just need to make the daily habit of writing.
And I probably need to get a little more creative about my writing, too. There is a short-story writing contest if any of you are interested. The deadline for submission is Feb. 29. I've committed to making an entry but have yet to begin. The rules for the contest can be found here. The entry deadline has been extended to the 29th so we still have 10 days!

Time to get busy!
Have a great weekend.

John <><

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Blast From the Past

It's a kind of Throwback Thursday type of post.
I'm not sure why, but for some reason I've been thinking about air traffic control lately. It could have to do with the bill in Congress that has to do with shifting air traffic to a non-profit corporation, or maybe it's just recent contact with a couple of controllers. A recent lunch caught me up on the all the latest tower news.

As expected, my contacts with former coworkers have become fewer and less often. When I was working and someone retired, it didn't take long before life went on without that person and they were seldom brought up in conversation. I expected that to be the case with me and those that retired at the same time as I did. There were four of us that retired from the facility in Dec '14 and Jan '15. Three more retired during 2015 and one left to take a promotion.

For a while Chris and I were meeting with two other couples for dinner, but it has been several months ... and life goes on.

As a controller, I rarely did anything outside of work with other controllers. Our relationships were really centered around being air traffic controllers. I was pretty certain that when that ceased, so would our relationships.
For the most part, that has been true.

There are a few people that I think I will continue to stay in touch with, and a few others that I will probably be in touch with less often. It is a little sad, but it is just the way of things.

I can honestly say that I do not miss it at all. I am also glad that I was able to retire prior to a changing ATC structure. I'm not saying that it won't be a better way of doing business. The way the FAA has been managing it over the past few decades has been terrible. Staffing is at critical levels and will probably get worse before it gets better with so many controllers eligible or soon to be eligible to retire.

I do see things that make me think of different people and some of the conversations that we had and occasionally send a text message. But there really aren't too many instances when I think of work or the people there. I stopped by the tower once when I had to drop Hannah off at the airport, but that has been the only time.

Life goes on.

I'm enjoying my days -- especially when the weather is nice enough to get out and walk. I managed to walk 100 miles in January and will make another 100 miles in February, even with 2 fewer days! Some days are nice enough to sit out on the deck, and we've managed to cook out a couple of days. I'm motorcycle shopping online and hope to make a purchase before April. Baseball season is only weeks away and all will be right with the world.

Well ... I guess there is still the election year politics, strife in the Middle East and all kinds of other issues, but my world is pretty quiet.
This blog is my main form of interaction with others on most days ... and I am really okay with that!

Tomorrow will be a new day and we're going to take a weekend road trip. I'll report back later.

John <><

Monday, February 15, 2016

Making Religion Small

I've noticed that religion is getting a lot of play time lately.
It is big in the politics of those that are running for office. It plays big in the social issues of the day. It is big on social media feeds.
And in some ways, I suppose it should.

But I think that I am going to start making religion small -- at least for me.
I've noticed that religion has become more of a tool for manipulating others into a desired type of behavior than a means of bringing about a change in our own hearts and attitudes.

I am going to look for the little things that I can change in my own life and walk with Jesus so that I can become a better person -- more like Jesus.

A week after challenging a church to share the message -- God loves you and Jesus died for you! -- on a weekly basis, I have to admit my own failure. It wasn't as if I didn't have a couple of good conversations about Jesus and his teachings throughout the week; just no opportunities for that that exchange with an unbeliever.
I even had a couple of good conversations about what it is to be a follower of Jesus -- one with a believer and one with a non-believer.

In the past, I've mentioned that I am a poor ambassador for my Lord and Savior Jesus.
That needs to change.
If I am (we are) to be ambassadors for the Kingdom, then I (we) need to realize that I always have the role of representing the King. It has to be my full time vocation. Being His ambassador has to become who I am, not what I do.

When representing Jesus is what I do, it makes it too easy to just stop doing.
When representing Jesus is who I am, then I can only stop representing Jesus when I stop being.

I think that we (Christians) need to stop worrying about how other people practice our religion and only concern ourselves with how we live out our own faith.
I do believe that living out the Christian faith means telling others about Jesus.
I will continue to spread the message, "God loves you and Jesus died for you."
I will gladly teach what He taught (make disciples) so that others can grow to be more like Jesus.

But I will allow others to live out their faith as I work to live out my own.
My religion will be about how I follow Jesus and not about how others live.

In the grand scheme, that does make my religion seem small.
But in my little world, it has just become very big.
It has become everything!

John <><

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Social Media Changes

I've finally done it!

Last fall I said that I would soon delete many of my "friends" from my Facebook account. I did open a page for magic and ministry and have invited my followers to "like" it. If you are on Facebook, I'd invite you to do the same. You'll find my page here.

My Facebook account is now mostly my family and relatives, schoolmates from the past, some controllers that I have met or would like to meet, a few of my blogging friends and a few writing friends. There are others, of course, and if you would like to reconnect you can make a request.
If my contact with you was from a ministry connection, you may want to make sure that you have liked my other page to keep up with my ministry work, or you can subscribe to this blog. You can also make a connection through Twitter or a professional connection through LinkedIn.
I have kept a few church friends but if I see you on a pretty regular basis, I've probably dropped you from Facebook. I figure that if we see each other and are friends, perhaps we should just talk to one another.

Even though the idea behind social networking is to make more connections rather than fewer connections, my plan is to compartmentalize them better than in the past. Besides, I was reminded today that I am anti-social (Thanks, Mom!). My Twitter and Instagram accounts are pretty much open and anyone can follow them. LinkedIn is a professional networking account and so I will use it as such.
All-in-all I have deleted another 100+ accounts.

I expect there will be some consequences. Hopefully, they won't be too negative.

Be well,
John <><

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Monday, February 08, 2016

MOnday MOrning in Southwest MO (see what I did there?)

It is a windy and cool Monday in the Ozarks of Southwest MO and there are a few snow flurries blowing around outside. I suppose it's pretty typical weather for early February. It's just that we've become accustomed to a pretty mild winter this year.

Today seems to be a bit more of a slow day than most Mondays. In truth, most Mondays are just another day. Maybe it's due to the last moment call (about 45 minutes before service time) to preach yesterday morning.
To be fair, it's not like there isn't plenty of material in the Bible. I know that I've read the book, prepared a few sermons and from any place will get to God's great love for us and salvation by faith in His Son, Jesus.
But still -- between getting ready and getting to the church -- 45 minutes isn't much time.

Also, there is an energy drain from preaching that most people would not expect. With two services on Sunday at Hopedale, well let's just say that I was feeling it yesterday afternoon. Even after my three mile walk I wasn't feeling re-energized like I usually do. I found myself in the extremely rare situation of taking a Sunday afternoon nap. I didn't set out to nap. It just happened that I sat down in my chair and the next thing I knew an hour had gone by!

The bad thing about Monday rolling around after a Sunday sermon is that it is now the time to practice what you've preached -- making disciples, teaching what Jesus taught.
As I said yesterday, making disciples -- teaching what Jesus taught -- is a difficult command to follow if you don't know what Jesus taught. We have to be disciples in order to make disciples.

The YouVersion Bible reading app is trying to help people get in the habit of daily reading by establishing a 21 day habit of reading every day. The app has many different daily plans and for the first 21 days of February is encouraging readers to share their daily accomplishment on Twitter using the hashtag #BibleFor21. I think there is some kind of prize drawing at the end or something.
My current reading plan goes through Acts and the epistles in 85 days. I started on Jan 3, and have managed to keep up with it daily.

The real challenge now is to find somebody to tell -- God loves you and Jesus died for you!
I've seen Chris this morning and I have to make a trip to the post office today, but I doubt that I'll run into anybody while I'm walking today so my opportunities today will be somewhat limited. The same is pretty much true on any other day of the week. I just don't interact with many people throughout the week.

Maybe I need to join a gym or club or something. I suppose I could go hang out at the local coffee shop and be the guy that pesters other patrons. I've been thinking about a neighborhood Bible study or meeting at a coffee shop or other location -- I don't know, but I need to do something other than remaining in my happy little solitary life.
Personally, I'm perfectly happy in my solitude. It's just that it doesn't work very well with the make disciples thing.

So, I'm going to ask for your thoughts.
How would you suggest I meet people?
The neighborhood walks work well when people are out -- they're not in February.
What places should frequent? Where should I go? Should I join a club?
What do you think?

Have a great week!
God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

John <><

Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday Night Thoughts on Evangelism/Religion

It's Friday night and life has stepped in to keep me from posting over the past two days. It's nice to be busy with stuff to do, but I also miss my quiet time and solitary life.

Yesterday and today was the Missouri Baptist State Evangelism Conference. Fortunately for me, it was in Springfield. This makes it close enough that I don't have to travel and I have no associated expenses. It is always nice to see other evangelists and pastors that I have served with in the past. I do enjoy the interaction and sharing of thoughts, but ... as I have said before, I am an introvert so getting back to my alone time is quite a blessing.

Having said that, I am a little concerned with the fact that I am doing so little to share Jesus with the few people that I encounter. I need to be purposeful about interacting with more people and purposeful about sharing my faith. I have even been less diligent to use this forum to tell others about how much God truly loves them and that He sent His son Jesus to die for them.

I know that in life, I am a poor ambassador for Jesus.
It is sometimes difficult to represent Him well when I am no better than anyone else. We often place such a burden on others to be more perfect if they claim to be a follower of Jesus. Sometimes we place that burden on ourselves. The truth is I am no better than anyone else. I am poorly qualified to discuss theology with anybody. As an evangelist, all I know is to preach Christ and Christ crucified. I've never quite figured out this calling and often wonder about what I'm doing or why I feel compelled to continue in a ministry that seldom seems to have any impact.

I do know that people are in need of Jesus.
I know that many people are desperate for hope and for meaning in their lives.
I know that we (followers of Jesus) have all been charged with the task of telling His story to those that haven't heard it and to making the truth clear to those that seek understanding.

Conferences like this one can be disturbing as they serve to remind me of my calling and often point out that I have been negligent in my service to my God.
I'm pretty certain that I don't fit the Southern Baptist image of what an evangelist should be.
I'm also pretty certain that I don't really care about that. I get very frustrated that we (Baptists) seem to get so distracted from our mission of making disciples for Jesus. We seem to think that it is our calling to fix the laws of our nation, elect officials, judge the morality of non-believers, and do just about any self-proclaimed, self-righteous deed so that we can forego the one task that we have been assigned -- to make disciples.

In these past days I have heard some very good messages.
I have also heard some disturbing comments.
In recent days I have also heard some very solid believers lament that they wish they could just do away with religion!
Oh, how I know that feeling!

Several years ago, an atheist friend was about to ask me a question and began by saying, "You're a religious person..."
I interrupted him and said,"I am not!"
He looked at me for a moment and said, "No, you're not. But you know what I mean..."

I don't remember what his question was, but I'm glad that he felt comfortable asking me. And I'm glad that he understood that I don't want to be identified as a religious person.
To be clear -- I do want to be identified as a person that seeks to follow Jesus and that is often found telling others about Him.
But I know too many religious people that I don't want to be around nor do I want to be associated with them in any way.

The real problem comes when I try to figure out how or why Jesus would want to be associated with me!
I can't figure out why Jesus would choose any of us, least of all -- me!
And yet, He does.
So we serve -- humbly, perhaps reluctantly, but we serve.

When Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except by Him ... I believe He was telling us the truth.
When Paul wrote that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved ... I believe he was telling us the truth.

I don't believe that I use Christianity as a crutch to make it through life.
I truly believe that God created me, that He loves me and that He provided a way for this sinful man to enter into His glorious presence by offering His own Son to take my punishment. Jesus died so that I might live ... and then God raised Him from the dead that He might live again!

Yeah, it's almost as fantastic a story as those that say there is no God ... but I believe that there is more than enough evidence to convince a prudent person that it is real; that it is true.

I don't expect that these words here will convince a non-believer of their need for Jesus, but if it does, or if you have questions, please contact me. You can ask your questions via comment or email. If you want your questions kept confidential, just say so. Comments are all moderated by me. I can answer without posting your identity, you can comment anonymously or you can provide me an email address to respond.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Politically speaking...

I ran across an Einstein (you know, the genius guy) quote the other day that I think is deserving of contemplation.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

It is an election year in the US.

This November we will elect a new president.
In addition to electing a new president, all 435 members of the House of Representatives spots are up for election and 1/3 of the Senate seats.
Let's face it ... while the president can set policy and is the spokesperson for our nation, it is Congress that writes laws, sets the budget and spends our tax dollars.
And we continue to send the same people back into office, term after term after term.

Maybe it is time for a Congressional turnover.
There was a time when I was opposed to term limits. My thought was that we have term limits. They are called elections. We have the opportunity, on a regular basis, to remove any politician from office.
Unfortunately, we (the voting public) appear to be too stupid to realize that putting the same imbeciles back into office will only get us more of the same thing.

If we want to change things in our country, somebody different is going to have to take charge of change. Change isn't going to come from the White House. It is going to have to come from Congress.
...And the same people can only bring us more of the same.

I am not saying that Democrats have to vote for Republicans nor vice versa. I'm saying that we need good candidates to oppose the politicians that are in office and we need to replace the existing mindset.

Just my thoughts this morning...

John <><

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

NYX Hotel Cancun

I thought I'd give a quick review of our stay at the NYX Hotel Cancun.

If 1st impressions are any indication of how a stay is going to be, we were in for a long week. We arrived well past our scheduled arrival time due to snow and deicing in Atlanta -- yes, I said snow in Atlanta! Instead of arriving at 12:30, just in time for lunch, we arrived at 2:30 and were hungry, tired and ready for the beach!

The airport transport dropped us off at the hotel and we were left there by ourselves to figure out just exactly where the main entrance was. With no hotel staff there to greet us, we tried a few of the doors on the ground level before coming to the conclusion that we were going to have to carry our bags up the stairs (or ramp) to the second floor main entrance. There, the check in process was okay but could have been quicker -- no worries, we were on vacation, right?

We did have someone help us with our luggage to our room. It was a good thing, too! A short walk past one pool and the hot tub, down one level of stairs to another building then up two levels of stairs to our third floor room.

The room was large and functional. The NYX is a relatively new owner (less than 3 yrs) of an old hotel. It was the old Avalon Grand. Our room was clean, but definitely showed it's age. If you are used to finer resorts with all of the amenities, this isn't the place for you. But as I said, the room was large (more like a studio apartment), functional and more than comfortable for the little amount of time that we intended to spend there.
And it had a great view! All of these pics were taken from our balcony (late afternoon, dawn, moonrise).

We put away our things, dressed for the beach and headed down to the restaurant to get something to eat.

This hotel was different from any other all inclusive resort where we have stayed. There was only one place to eat for lunch and dinner...and no buffet! There was a soup/salad/dessert bar for dinner, but you ordered lunch and the main dinner course from a menu. This was great for me and I feel I was better able to control my diet and not over eat. The portions were a fair size (smaller than US restaurants) and really just the right amount to leave you satisfied and not full.

And the food was DELICIOUS!

Seriously, I think this was the best food that we have ever eaten at an all inclusive resort. Not only was the food great, the restaurant was right on the beach so the atmosphere was also fantastic. Part of the dining area was cleared at night and a small band played and sang during dinner each night. The one small restaurant might mean a short wait at dinner time, but waiting around the pool bar next to the beach isn't really so bad.
For the most part, I'd say that service was very good. It was a little slower than you might expect at a restaurant in the states, but we were in no hurry. We were dining with friends, enjoying our time together and we never felt rushed.

Lunch service on the beach was also great and we ordered pizza and burgers to eat right where we had been sunning/sleeping/reading/relaxing all day!

Breakfast was in a separate area off the lobby and had a pleasant view of the lagoon. It was on the west side of the building and shaded from the morning sun. It was a small buffet with an omelet station and the coffee was good. I tried to keep breakfast fairly light before going for a walk on the beach.

The hotel had three types of guests -- those that paid for their room only and then paid for drinks and food as they went, all inclusive guests like us and time share owners that had the option of purchasing a meal plan or not.

We took a short walk on Sunday and went through a little tourist mall that is right across the street from the hotel. On Friday, we walked to the flea market which is 1.5 miles from the hotel. Other than that, our days were spent on the beach, in the pool or in the hot tub.

I should mention that Chris and Jo-Jo took the poolside salsa dance class one day and I won the ring toss and football throw on back to back days.

In the end -- I would definitely return to the NYX Hotel Cancun. They are making renovations in different areas of the hotel and I believe that it will be an even better place the next time.

John <><

Monday, February 01, 2016

Personal Writing Challenge

It is February!
I am looking to make February a month for writing! In January I had a grand total of 28 posts -- 18 here at Out of My Hat, 7 at Healthy Living (by an unhealthy guy) and 3 at Amateur Cigar Smoker.

For those that have been reading for some time, I am sure that you have noticed that my posts have taken on more of a personal diary type composition over the years. I hope to be a little bit more informative and entertaining in the coming year and to include a little more variety in my posts. I know that it will often still be based on personal events, but hope to add more insight, making it less about what I did and more about what I think (not that anyone really cares about either). Eventually, some political posts are bound to creep in during this seemingly eternal election cycle.

I am a little behind on my cigar smoking reviews. I was able to sample a number of cigars on our trip, but I didn't take the time to review any of them. I'll be posting some of those reviews this week.

I also intend to post more often at Healthy Living. I hope to post more about healthy eating as well as about keeping up with my exercise goals. I don't really expect that an overweight 55 year old guy is much motivation for others, but it does help to keep me on track and accountable to myself -- so I write.
And I do hope that (maybe) the occasional recipes will find their way to the tables of a few readers.
Truthfully, there are very few readers of any of my blogs, fewer of the other two. Writing them is really more of an exercise for me.

My plan is to post everyday in February. If you see that I've missed a day at Out of My Hat, check out my other blogs. It'll probably be at one or the other of them -- or you could just follow them, as well. I'm sure that there will be days when I post on more than one of my three blogs. I do link to all of my posts on Twitter. You can follow me there @magicianary.

Fair warning -- I do plan on one more vacation post this week. It will be more of a review of the resort where we stayed. Again, I doubt that it really matters much to anybody -- it's just something that I want to do.

Read to learn.
Write to share.
Be well,

John <><