Thursday, April 28, 2016

Now You Don't See It ...

One of the things about being a magician is you tend to study deception.
Much of misdirection happens in the mind, not in what you actually see.

Magicians know that we often miss "seeing" what is right before our eyes.
Even though we might see something with our eyes, our brains tend to dismiss things that it deems as irrelevant or unimportant.

I hadn't really connected that information to why drivers don't "see" motorcycles until a friend shared this article with me.

It is really a must read article for bikers as well as every driver. It explains why we miss seeing motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, other vehicles, etc.
And for goodness sake -- PUT AWAY YOUR CELL PHONES!!!
There is enough to distract you from seeing everything you NEED to see without the added distraction of your phone!

I can't begin to tell you how many drivers I see with their eyes on their phones when I'm out walking or riding my motorcycle.

If you blew past that link and didn't read the article -- here it is, again.
Read it.
Share it.
Look twice.

John <><

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Easy -- Like a Sunday Morning

It is Sunday morning and I am at the local Starbucks enjoying my morning 5-shot Americano.

I knew that I was out of coffee at home and planned on the early morning coffee at Starbucks to review my sermon notes before preaching at Hopedale this morning. The short morning ride is a nice way to prepare for morning worship, as well. It's kind of like church before church.

Today's message will look at the relationship between Paul and Timothy.

Paul refers to Timothy as his son in the faith and says that Timothy served with him as a son serves with a father. It is really a pretty sweet relationship as we watch Timothy grow from a helper to a partner and then to serving on his own as a leader in the first century church.

I trust that all will go well and that we (Hopedale) will continue to prepare and encourage our young people to serve our God and glorify Him through the work of the church.

John <><

Friday, April 22, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again

I have been without my motorcycle for a week now!
It was last week when I went out to ride and noticed a flat rear tire and the offending nail.  The weekend activities and travel would mean mid-week at the very earliest to have it repaired and it ended up with today being the day I could get it taken care of.

I feel like I have been missing out by not being able to ride on some very nice days.
I know that it isn't exactly withdrawal, but I am feeling like I need to ride!
Waiting for them to roll out my ready to ride cycle is trying my patience. (Okay, so pretty much waiting for anything tries my patience, but you know what I mean.)

It's probably not a bad thing that I haven't been able to ride. It has allowed me the time to work on my sermon for this coming Sunday. I have to admit that this preparation is much different than I'm used to doing. As a traveling evangelist, I never really get to work through a book in the Bible as I'm usually looking at a single service or a limited amount of services. Most of my sermons are going to focus on challenging believers to share and live their faith, while making clear to unbelievers their need of a Savior and introducing them to Jesus.

I'm not a big fan of topical messages, nor do I particularly care for themed messages (i.e. Mother's Day, Father's Day, God and country messages at Memorial Day or other holiday, etc.)
This Sunday is kind of a themed service Sunday. This Sunday is Youth Sunday and many of our young people will be participating in the service. The day was scheduled some time ago and our Youth Leader was set to deliver the message. Due to his mother's death from cancer this past week, he asked me if I could take his place.

The truth is that I can fill in for him, but as for taking his place -- I doubt that I will convey the need to encourage and support our kids with the same passion that he would have used. In any case, I'm not sure if I would say that I am looking forward to this Sunday. If you're the praying type, I'd appreciate you putting in a good word for me during your prayer time.

Time to clear the mind and take a ride!

John <><

Monday, April 18, 2016

Apo AY-teenf

Early in the morning of April 18, 1989, Aaron (The Baron) Hill made his grand entrance into the world. His early morning arrival was after a very long day of labor and forever changed me from some ordinary guy to a dad.

We didn't know in advance if our baby was to be a boy or girl and had picked Caitlyn as a girl's name and Aaron for a boy.

I remember that on the evening of his birthday, some friends came to visit at the hospital. During their visit, Chris walked with them to the nursery to look at the other babies leaving me alone in the room with my newborn boy. I flip on the TV and found the Blues and Blackhawks in game one of their post-season series. Turning my boy towards the TV I said, "Buddy, this is hockey!"

And so it began.

The Blues ended up losing that game (and the series) as they often would over the 27 years since then.
Perhaps this year will be different as they currently hold a 2-1 lead in this year's post-season series with the Blackhawks.

Fortunately, the years have been kind to the St. Louis baseball team and a little more harsh towards Chicago's National League franchise. (That tide may be turning, as well)

Tonight, we will be with Aaron and Jenny for the first of this season's match-ups between the Cardinals and Cubs. Pre-season expectations are that the Cubs will dominate baseball and the Cards will struggle to make their usual strong showing in the National League Central.
Because of the rivalry, head to head match-ups are always a coin toss. It just depends on who has the best day. Regardless of today's outcome, I plan on enjoying the game (it's my Christmas present!), the company, and a ballpark dog with grilled onions, 'kraut and mustard (maybe two)!

Yeah, it's a tough life!

John <><

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tax Weekend (and other bad news)

Due to a lump sum disbursement of some retirement funds in January of last year and a little underestimation on my part, we are left with a sizable tax bill this year.
Always the procrastinator, I am usually a late filer any way. With the extended deadline of April 18th this year (due to a DC only holiday that normally falls on the 16th being shifted to Friday the 15th) and an amount due, this will be the latest I've ever filed my taxes!

I have actually been one of those guys at the post office late on the night of the 15th back in the day when we had to actually mail our returns, so I will be earlier than the last minute this year. It will just be on the 18th.
(Btw, next year's tax date will also be the 18th.)

In other bad news...
I am grounded again!
A second flat tire on my motorcycle has me temporarily restricted to a caged vehicle (car) or some form of personally powered transportation such as walking or riding a bicycle. Ugh!
I may need to look into some roadside assistance on my insurance plan. Fortunately, I made it home this time and didn't notice the flat (and the offending nail) until I went out to ride yesterday.
It'll probably be mid-week before I get around to getting it fixed. I think it is supposed to be raining most of next week, anyways.

Enough with the bad news!
Last night Chris and I were heading in to Springfield to go to a Springfield Cardinals' baseball game when I received a text message from a former co-worker (soon to be fellow retiree). He said it had been a while since we'd been out together and wondered how we were doing. We decided to skip the ballgame and met them at a place on Commercial street that had a live band. We moved to a quieter place later and really enjoyed visiting with them for the night.

We did miss a winner at the ballpark but Chris and I will be in St Louis on Monday night as I cash in on my Christmas present from the kids and we take in the first Cardinal/Cub ballgame of the 2016 season. I can almost taste the ballpark dog!
I imagine that I'll be at more than just a few of the Springfield Cardinals games this season. After all, I am off on most days that they have home games! I'm also looking forward to a couple of St Louis day games. Don't kid yourself, this retired life is not easy!

Have a great weekend!
John <><

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

One Man's Trash ...

It is often said that one man's trash is another man's treasure. That saying comes to mind as I contemplate this morning's post.

Conferences like last week's often make me wonder about my calling to share God's Word as an evangelist. I know that all Christians are commanded to tell of God's redemptive love through His son, Jesus; but to be called as an evangelist and stand in the pulpits of His churches around the state -- that is often as much of a burden as it is a privilege.

"Why me?" often comes to mind.
It isn't about ability -- I realize that God has blessed me with being comfortable when standing before people. Stage fright about public speaking has never been an issue.
And it isn't about being unable to communicate effectively -- I seem to be able to connect with people of all ages (with or without the use of magic).

It's just that I often feel like God should have a better plan than to leave the spreading of His love and His story in the hands of somebody like me.

Maybe that's why I like the story of the woman at the well found in John's gospel.
You can read the story here.

Jesus and his disciples are traveling through the land of Samaria and find themselves at the well of a city of Samaria around midday. While the others go to look for food, Jesus hangs out by the well and meets with a woman of the town.
She has come to the well at midday to avoid the scorn of the other women that come earlier in the morning.
After a brief encounter with this woman of poor reputation, Jesus reveals that HE is the Messiah!

The woman tells the people of the town, "Come and see a man that told me all about myself. Could this be the messiah?"

The people come and later tell the woman, "We believe! But now we believe, not because of what you've said, but because we have seen and heard for ourselves!"

Jesus used a...
Samaritan (considered to be unclean and unworthy by the Jews)
woman (a second class citizen that other men would pay little attention to)
of poor reputation (even in her own town she was despised by men and women) bring an entire community to the saving knowledge that He is the Messiah!

I guess when it comes to using the lowly people of the world, God has been doing it for quite some time.

Low status among other humans is kind of a human thing.
We all seem to have a higher status in the eyes of our Maker.
We may have a low standing in the eyes of others (or even in our own eyes), but we are a treasure in the eyes of God.

If He would choose to use a sinful woman of an unclean people, why wouldn't He choose to use us?
Even if you have been discarded by society or disowned by family and shunned by friends, you are His treasure.

Life is short.
Eternity is long.
Be faithful.

John <><

Thursday, April 07, 2016

God Loves You. Jesus Died for You.

I've spent the last few days at the annual Pulaski Baptist Association Evangelism Conference.
As always, there is some great worship and exceptional preaching. The best part though (at least for me) is getting to visit with the other evangelists that are there.

The Pulaski Association is one of a very few associations that really promotes the use of evangelists in its churches.
With so few churches still having revivals or crusades, the role of the evangelist is changing ... or just fading out. Many small churches feel that they cannot afford to have an evangelist come and most large churches don't seem to feel that they want or need one.

I know that times have changed and that the methods of sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus have also changed.
I know that there are many that wield their Bibles as swords to slay the wicked rather than to share the grace and mercy of God.
I know that some Christians can be judgmental and harsh -- none of us is perfect.
And I know that many Christians are frustrated and feel guilty about how little we have been doing to glorify God...

...But we still have to share the message of salvation.

Vocational evangelists are gifted in different ways to help churches and church members spread the word. Sometimes a word of encouragement or sharing a simple method is all a church needs to get busy ministering to their community. Sometimes it's something more that is needed. I really believe that God has gifted us to be able to serve His people and to equip them to serve others.

Telling people what you believe about eternity isn't supposed to be hard. If you believe that everyone will stand before God in judgment, and if you believe that there is no other way to heaven than by belief in Jesus, then don't you owe it to people to share that with them?

I know that not every situation or conversation will be the right time to engage in a discussion about things as deep as life and life after death. But for people that we care about, shouldn't we find a way to make time to share the simple message that God loves you and Jesus died for you?
Shouldn't we feel good about inviting them to church or a church event?
What's so hard about a simple invitation?
Sure -- they may say "no" but so what? Invite anyway.
We are not tasked with making believers. We are only tasked with sharing the story.
So find a way to share the story -- God loves you. Jesus died for you.

Have a grand week!

John <><

Sunday, April 03, 2016

It Is Opening Day!

Today is the day that baseball fans have been waiting for!

It's said that at the beginning of every season:

Each team can expect to lose 50 games.
Each team can expect to win 50 games.
The remaining 62 games will separate 1st place from last.

I'm glad that the season is 162 games. It is longer than most sports season and I love that it is an everyday kind of game. I would be frustrated with a sport like football where you only get to watch your team one day a week and only for 16 games a season. I know that football fans are great fans, it's just that their season is so short and they have so few games to cheer for their team.

There are a lot of expectations for the coming six months. I know that some teams that are expected to do well will suffer injuries and setbacks and may not fare as well as the experts predict. Other teams will play well above their preseason expectations or make late season runs to make the postseason.

Although I am not the fan that many are, I plan to enjoy the coming six months and will waste many hours watching baseball. I don't participate in any fantasy leagues, but I'll manage to make a few ballgames in St. Louis and a few more AA games in Springfield. I may even make a trip to watch the Royals play in Kansas City. I'll eat a few dogs and bask in the sights and sounds of America's past time.

Life is good...

John <><

Friday, April 01, 2016

Silent Encouragement

About a year and a half ago -- it was a few months before I retired -- I was commenting that it was too late to be thinking about how I would be remembered at work. If you are concerned about how you will be remembered, the time to leave your mark is every day that you interact with people, not a few days before you leave.

A member of our writers' club said that she thought it might be a while before people realize the impact or influence that I may have had and they may or may not have the opportunity to tell me about it.

Most of the time, I think we fail badly when it comes to letting people know of the influence they've had on our lives. Since that conversation, I've tried to be better about sharing those things with people that have had an impact on my life.
And I've tried to be more purposeful about how I influence others.

I've become more aware that we often influence people -- without knowing it!
People see how we act (or react), overhear what we say, watch how we treat other people -- and make a judgment about us and maybe a decision about whether or not they should imitate our behavior and about what behavior is acceptable in our society.
As Christians -- we are judged by how Christians should act and all of Christianity is often judged on our behavior.

In the bible, Paul wrote that we are a spectacle to the world; that angels and men are watching us.
Just as it should bother you if I (known to be a follower of Jesus) do something that is contrary to what you would expect from a Christian, it bothers me when politicians and political candidates talk about their Christian faith on one hand and exhibit very un-Christian like behavior on the other.
We (all Christians) need to heed Paul's warning and realize that we are always being watched.


I actually started this post today because of a recent encounter with somebody that did share (some time ago) that I had a pretty big impact on his life -- and the life of his family. It wasn't anyone that I worked with, just a guy that has become a friend and I've had a chance to share a few conversations with.
The unfortunate truth is that he might not be welcomed in many Baptist churches -- he is welcome in the Kingdom of God, just not in some of his churches. Fortunately, he has found a church home and is attending regularly with his family. His wife and kids love it and all of them are learning what it means to follow Jesus. Now it is just pretty cool to hear of how going to church is helping them meet life's challenges.

I know that it is not much -- only one person -- but it is encouraging to see that something that I did or said in the past has had a positive impact on somebody. It kind of makes me want to find someone else to tell about Jesus.

I hope that someone has encouraged you, recently. Perhaps you would consider letting them know it.
Do it! It would make their day!

John <><