Friday, October 28, 2016

Cruising along

I'm enjoying a little coffee before getting on the road. It shaping up to be a beautiful day for a ride.
Earlier in the week I was thinking about a restaurant/pub that I like but haven't been to in a few years and decided that today would be a good day to take a ride and visit there for lunch.

The Flat Branch Pub and Brewing in Columbia MO will be my destination today. I'm taking the long way there (about 200 miles) and will return via different route that is also longer than the direct route (normal route is about 175 miles). I'm expecting at a 400+ mile day and I am looking forward to it. I contacted a young couple that lives in Columbia and will meet them there for lunch.

It will be a good day, but I need to get rolling.
If you're driving today, watch for motorcycles. One of them might be me!

John <><

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spreading the Good News

I get a few weekends off from preaching from the pulpit of a church. This weekend I'll be sharing the Good News by performing magic at First Baptist Springfield's Harvest Festival. I am looking forward to it.

I've been doing quite a bit more pulpit preaching this fall.
I like that. But I'm also glad that I still get to do the magic thing once in awhile.

Next weekend is open, the following weekend I'll be making a visit to Chicago and then it's back to preaching up until Christmas in December, with one weekend for a Christmas magic program.

I guess it is a good thing that I get the opportunity to share the simple message -- God loves you. Jesus died for you. -- from the pulpit, because I rarely interact with people on a daily basis. My pulpit message usually centers on all of us that are followers of Jesus being the ones to share this message. Being a follower of Jesus is supposed to be who we are, not what we do. Our actions, our words, how we live and treat others -- should reflect that we are a follower of Jesus.

Unfortunately, I am often a poor example of my own preaching. It troubles me that there are people that may judge Jesus by my poor behavior or my careless words. Maybe that's why I'd rather be alone and away from people. I realize that people tend to encourage Ugly John and life as a decent guy is easier in isolation. Sitting on my deck or riding on my motorcycle seems to be a great way to spent my day, but it doesn't do much in the area of following the commands of my Lord and Savior about making disciples and teaching what He taught us.

Maybe I could just write more often; teach by writing rather than actually having to interact with people. Something tells me that isn't what God has in mind -- at least, not for me. Sure, maybe I should write more often (and I probably should), but I don't think that exempts me from sharing with people as I encounter them and build relationships.
That just makes me sigh with the dread of having to interact with people.
Really not my thing, but I hear this in my head, "Practice what you preach, preacher."


John <><

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Face to face with temptation!

This morning finds me face to face with a huge temptation!

I am waiting on my motorcycle to be serviced and sitting in the showroom at Ozark Mountain Indian Motorcycles!
Oh my! There are some beauties here!
Along with the Indian cycles are some awesome looking Victory motorcycles.
For now, all I can say is "some day!"

The Indian Scout 60 is their entry level cycle. It is much smaller in size and lighter than my Vulcan 900 Classic ... but has a little bit larger engine! The cruisers are more than twice the engine size of my bike and more engine than I would ever really need, but my oh my, they are great looking bikes. I'm not yet to the point that I want all of the bells and whistles that are available. I still like the looks of a bike without a windscreen or fairing. I haven't really missed having a radio when on long rides, but can see where that might be nice. A bluetooth headset would probably be enough for me. Cruise control is something that I will be looking for when it comes time to upgrade, as well as locking saddlebags. I doubt that I'll be looking for heated seats or handgrips (yes they are available!), nor will I need to have the electric windscreen that raises and lowers from the fairing, the GPS navigation, satellite radio or full sound system.
I'm pretty simple when it comes to riding.

I have to say that I have really enjoyed riding this year (13,000 miles from March through October). I hope that the thrill of riding or the adventure of riding doesn't wear off. I actually hope to do more riding next summer.

In the mean time, I'll dream a little from time to time. I'll go online and build my bike. I'll figure out a way to justify the purchase and maybe, just maybe, I'll eventually buy one.

...but not today.

John <><

Friday, October 21, 2016

Household hacks -- laundry

As the retired half of our household, a few more of the household chores have come my way. For several years, we have been making our own laundry soap. And when I say we -- I mean Chris has been making it and we have been using it. But the last few times that we have run out, making a new batch has fallen to me.

Just for something useful to write, I thought I'd share our laundry soap recipe.
We tried a few different recipes, including both dry and liquid. This one is modified a little from the original and works well for us. On occasion, we still add a little all fabric bleach and we still use bleach with some loads.

You will need:

1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap
1 cup of washing soda
1 cup Borax
5 gallon bucket or large container

Grate the bar of soap and add to a large sauce pan of hot water. Stir over low heat until the soap has completely melted and dissolved in the water. Fill your 5 gallon bucket to the halfway point with hot water. Add your melted soap and dry ingredients and stir until everything is dissolved. Fill the container the rest of the way with hot water.

The original recipe was for 10 gallons and called for 1 cup per load. We decided on 5 gallons and use 1/2 cup per load. We also fill an old detergent bottle to dispense from. The mixture will separate between uses, forming a thick layer on the top and will need to be shaken or stirred before each use.

We also make our own dryer sheets by soaking cloths in fabric softener, wringing them out and letting them dry. They will last for many loads. I suggest buying inexpensive wash cloths or shop rags. I make 5 at a time. They hang on a hook by the dryer and will last the two of us a season.

John <><

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cyber friends

Social networks and internet marketing have their pitfalls. 
The massive time suck that can quickly drain away your day probably tops the list, but there are other pitfalls, as well.
Predators lurk in the shadows and seek out vulnerable prey for money scams and other nefarious plots. Trolls seek to bully and mock people for their views. People are able to post nasty things about one another--often things they would never say face to face. People that are much more tech savvy than I use social networking as a way to stalk targets of prey. Potential employers and would be business contacts (even colleges and universities) scan social media to find out more about its users, and I'm sure that you could name a host of other negatives when it comes to how people use technology against others.

But there is a bright side, too.
I get a lot of news from the internet via Twitter feeds that I follow. You do have to be careful. There are a lot of poor news feeds as well as a plethora of fake sites. (I am greatly annoyed by people that post articles from satirical sites or fake news sites and represent them as true.)
I follow or have friended a number of people and have come to respect their opinions (though I don't always agree with them), and a number of people have followed or friended me.
I get some good health information and fitness motivation from sites, find new recipes, view some beautiful pictures, read creative writing, and see how other people live, love and learn.

Most of the people I follow are seen as good sources of information. There are a few that I would like to meet, although I realize it is highly unlikely that will ever happen. Most of the people that I would like to meet are fellow bloggers. Some of them are bloggers from the past that no longer write and I wonder what their writing would look like today. 
Some are air traffic controllers that I have never met, many of them are now retired. 
There are a few that I have no recollection of how we first connected but we have.
Of course, there are some athletes, reporters and celebrities that I follow and would like to meet, but it is probably even more unlikely that would happen (What's more unlikely than highly unlikely? Impossible?) and those are all a one sided following -- meaning none of them follow me.

What about you?
Do you have cyber friends that you would like to meet?

I didn't repost this when I saw it and I'm not sure that I would ever really hang with some of the people I mentioned (more like they might not want to hang with me), but I would like to meet them.

John <><

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A, B, C, ... D?

Once again I am faced with a difficult decision: choosing between watching the postseason baseball game or the final 2016 presidential debate.

I do suppose that I could choose to watch neither and find something more constructive to do, but that is unlikely.

A -- abstain
B -- baseball
C -- cigar
D -- debate

Some of the pros and cons of each:

Abstain -- In reality, it's probably not gonna happen. The only way I end up watching neither is if we decide to go out and do something else.

Baseball -- So far, all 3 three of the Cubs vs Dodgers games have been good games. Although the final score of the first game was lopsided, the game was close until the bottom of the 8th. Even though my team is no longer playing, baseball is still baseball and the build up to the Fall Classic and the Series itself is the ultimate in the game.

Cigar -- I get to choose to enjoy a good cigar if I decide on watching the game. I have to watch it on my phone via the Fox Sports Go app and sit outside, but B & C are options that can go together.

Debate -- I won't say that I am uninterested in the debate. I will say that I don't believe it will change my mind. I know that I will be seeing parts of it in clips for the next week or so and that I can watch it later or read the transcript.

It's looking like it will be a B and C kind of night.

What are your options for the evening and what will you be doing during the presidential debate?

John <><

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Up in the morning...

And by morning I mean the middle of the night!
Okay, so it's not the middle of the night, but it is well before the sun comes up!

This day gets started earlier than most as I was up with Chris so that I could catch a ride into Springfield as she goes to work. I'll have my morning coffee and internet time at Starbucks and then I'll get my morning walk going to Hannah and Daniel's to pick up my car that they borrowed for the weekend.

The sky was clear this morning and it is a little sad to see all of the winter constellations in the early morning sky. I love the starry winter sky, but I am no fan of winter! Ugh!
Not being a fan of the winter season, I also face fall with the dread of the coming cold.
I do realize that the Southwest Missouri winters are usually pretty mild in comparison to other places in the US. Still not a fan.

In other news --
Three weeks from today is election day in the US. It will be interesting to see how little life changes for most of us when all is said and done. Although day to day life will seem to go on without much difference, I think that I have made some significant changes of attitudes towards some individuals and some towards larger general groups of communities in the US.

I have really become disgusted with a large part of the evangelical movement that continues to excuse the behavior of Donald Trump and supports him as president. It isn't that they have a different opinion of him that bothers me. It is that they have used their conservative religious beliefs to defend their political choices in the past and have become so blinded by the party ties that religion and politics have become their idol and they have cast the rest of us in a very poor light.
I am grateful that there are a number of high profile evangelical leaders that have taken a moral stand against Trump. However, I think it is unfortunate that they have had to.

Certainly, I believe that personal morality guides my political decisions. I expect that it does for others, too. I do not believe that it is the place of religious leaders to guide the political decisions of those that seek their religious guidance. Using religious standing or position to push political ideas and agendas on their following is wrong and an abuse of influence.

I put political advice from James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, Jr. on the same level as political advice from Alec Baldwin or Scott Baio. (I suppose it would be fair to say that I can also say that I put getting religious advice from Dobson or Falwell on the same level as getting religious advice from Baldwin or Baio!)

At the end of this election season, I think it will be fair to say that the political influence of the Religious Right will be severely damaged and many that once followed blindly, will no longer do so. I'm going to say that's a good thing.

I'm hopeful that attitudes towards other groups will change, as well.
I'm hopeful that we can see that the United States isn't a nation that is defined by the labels that we use.
The United States is more than a union of 50 individual states.
It is a united nation of people from many national origins, cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, etc.
We are health nuts and couch potatoes, like heavy metal and country music, watch baseball and go to the theater.
We live in rural areas and metropolitan high rises.
Some hunt and fish, and some are vegan.
We are laborers, executives and entrepreneurs.
I get to decide how I live within society's laws and need to allow others that same freedom.

I am hopeful that we will carry on in the way that we have for more than 200 years; that the peaceful and orderly transfer of power in our legislative and executive branches of government will carry the day and life in the US will continue to provide its citizens with the freedoms that we enjoy and the responsibilities that we bear.

Until then...
Ugh! Three more weeks of political commercials and shameful news stories!

John <><

Saturday, October 15, 2016

God has not given us a spirit of fear...

What follows is a political post!

If you're tired of reading political posts, perhaps it would be best for you to move on. I will say that this isn't intended to be biased towards one side or the other, but rather a bit of a chastisement for both sides and an offer of hope to all.

I'm trying to remember when politics became about creating fears and then offering hope.
Has it always been this way?
I want to say that it hasn't, but my memory isn't really coming up with specifics of when it wasn't.
No matter...
I'm tired of it!

As I see it, most of the fear creation is based on lies or exaggerations of the truth.
In Missouri, there are ads that say that Clinton and Kandor (the democrat running for Senate) are going to take away your guns!
I remember the same kinds of ads eight years ago (and four years ago) that said Obama was going to take away our guns. (We still have them and there have been no attempts in MO to take them away.) I suppose this could just be a clever marketing strategy by weapons and ammunition manufacturers since guns sales and bullet sales went way up before the ban that never happened was to go into effect.
It is unfortunate that this ad still works and people still believe that the President has that desire and authority.
Fear and ignorance go hand-in-hand and campaigns count on the ignorance of people when they put out this kind of BS.

Last summer (and again yesterday) I heard that if Trump gets elected, liberals could stage protest riots and President Obama could declare Martial Law and NOT leave the White House!
Who comes up with this garbage and why are there people that believe it?

If Trump gets elected -- the economy is going to go into the toilet, the nation is going to go to war, we're going to have deportation forces going door to door and seizing people without proper documentation for living in the US, and the rich will get richer while the poor get poorer.

If Clinton gets elected -- the economy is going to go into the toilet, jobs will go overseas and to Mexico, the nation will be overrun by Mexicans and Muslims, Wall Street will be out of control, and the rich will get richer while the poor get poorer.

I find it a bit ironic that those that seem to be most motivated by fear are often the conservative Christians that believe that their God is sovereign an rules all. Many of them stand behind Trump (because Hillary is a baby killer) and say that God can use him to bring peace and prosperity to our country. I've heard that throughout the Bible, God used unlikely foreign kings and poor Hebrew rulers to accomplish His purposes among men.

So my question is -- If God is God and can use Trump to bring about His will, why couldn't He use Clinton to do the same?
Do you see where using that reasoning isn't necessarily your best argument?

In any case --
Democrats survived Bush.
Republicans have survived Obama.
And the US will survive which ever candidate gets elected in November.

Yes -- the toxic environments of both major parties have left us with less than desirable candidates.
And it is true that the fall out from the presidential campaigns may affect many Congressional races and I believe that is where the real power lies. Perhaps all of this will bring about some changes within the parties and there will we better communication with the people they represent -- or not.

I have to admit, there is a part of me that is a little bitter and wants to aggressively ask fellow Christians to defend their choice to support Trump and his non-Christian ways as they have asked me to defend my past choices of voting for democrats with their pro-choice platform. But the truth is there is no good reason and I'm not up for being entertained by the dance that is sure to follow.

The thing is this...
I do believe that God is still on the throne and in control.
I do believe that the citizens of the US will survive a presidency of either candidate.
I believe that there will be consequences for the choices we make and some may be difficult, but we will survive.
And I believe that we have to stop letting others play on our ignorance by being better informed and getting to know the people that we are supposed to be hating.

I don't know if any of this makes sense. It makes sense to me because I know the other stuff that is rolling around in my head and you don't. Maybe that's why we fail to understand one another -- because we don't know the experiences that give others their perspective.

Let's not be afraid of things we don't know; let's educate ourselves so that we know.
It's said that the phrase  "fear not" occurs 365 times in the Bible -- once for each day in a year.
If you are a believer, you have nothing to fear.
If you are not, we should talk.

John <><

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fall Schedule and talking about Jesus


A few weeks ago the only thing on my fall schedule was the revival at Orla Baptist Church that just ended. In the past few weeks, my schedule has filled up.
The remaining Sundays in October are full, half of the Sundays in November and all but Christmas for the Sundays in December!

I've even had to turn down a couple of events due to conflicts.

It still amazes me and humbles me that people call to have me come speak to them about how we can serve our God and influence our communities. I really believe that we know what we need to be doing; we just need to be encouraged to do it. Talking to people about what we believe and who we are isn't supposed to be difficult.

Sometimes I wonder if we aren't afraid to tell others about what we believe because of how we react when they tell us about their beliefs. If we immediately put them on the defensive by attacking their differing beliefs, then perhaps need to change our approach.

What if ... you build your relationships with people, you find an opportunity to ask them about their beliefs on God, afterlife, heaven and hell, good and evil, etc., and then you just listen?

...we ask questions to clarify what they believe rather than to contradict what they believe?
     How did you come to that belief?
     I'm not sure I understand that. Could you elaborate for me?
    Just to be clear, you're saying that ... ?

...we begin by finding out what others believe with no intention of telling them about our beliefs?

...our conversations are centered around them and their basic beliefs and philosophies of life?

...we ended the conversation by saying, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I always find it interesting to know what others believe and how they arrived at their beliefs."  ...and then left it at that?

Maybe this approach will make us better listeners. I think that when our goal is to share our beliefs we become so focused on what we want to say that we fail to hear what they are saying.
What if we waited to share our beliefs until they asked us to tell them what we believe?

1 Peter 3:15 says that we should always be ready to give an answer to anyone that asks us for the reason of the hope that is in us.
Be ready.
Give an answer.

You might be thinking, "But John, what if they never ask?"
Don't worry. I've got you covered.
At another time (maybe your next meeting, maybe later) you can say, "You know, I've been thinking about our conversation the other day and we have some differing beliefs. I was wondering if I might tell you about mine?"

On the off chance that they say "no," don't worry about it. They weren't going to listen anyway and you will have another opportunity at a later date. Until then, live out your life in such a way that it reflects your beliefs.

This isn't supposed to be difficult.

John <><

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stepping out of my comfort zone...

I've mentioned that I am an introvert.
There are very few people that I really enjoy being around and could manage quite nicely if I were to spend most of my time alone. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely.

It is difficult to function as an active follower of Jesus when you are committed to avoiding people.
I suppose that I could act as a cloistered monk and reach out only by writing and publishing books or posts here at Out of My Hat, but that would be an extremely limited sphere of influence and only a miniscule segment of the population would ever read anything I write.

If I were a better preacher (or at least more popular as a preacher) I might have more opportunities to get out and share Jesus through preaching at churches or church sponsored programs. (I've found that events like preaching, performing, and public speaking are not the same as far as interacting with people, so I am pretty comfortable in those settings.)

However, it seems that the most effective way of sharing God's love and His plan of salvation is through one-on-one personal contact with people. Perhaps, too many Jesus followers (myself included) have left the sharing part to the professional clergy and have glossed over the fact that people we know and care about are destined for an eternity of condemnation if they they do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
We seem to feel comfortable telling people about our favorite restaurants, our favorite sports teams, our latest vacation trips -- we'll talk about all kinds of things without ever having taken a class on how to do that.

But before we will tell people about Jesus, we think we need to take a class.
We don't.
We just need to build relationships with people and talk with them.

On Monday I stopped to introduce myself to a couple in my neighborhood. They moved in several months ago and I noticed several motorcycles in their garage. Although I have been by many times, I never saw anyone out and so I never stopped. As I walked past on Monday, I noticed a man and woman sitting in the garage and stopped to introduce myself.
That's all.
I didn't break out my Bible and start preaching to them about their sin and their need for a Savior.
I didn't ask them what they thought about heaven and hell.
I didn't invite them to church or ask if they attended anywhere.

I found that they moved here from a much larger home with a large workshop and are adapting to the downsize. He had 14 motorcycles (in varying conditions from parts to fully operational) and had sold or given away all but the Harley in the garage and a project bike in the shed. We talked about motorcycles and his kids (three boys, all grown). That was about it.
For now.

I'll be back and we'll talk some more.

It wasn't too bad. I wasn't nervous or uptight in any way. It was just a little unnatural for me.
Again, many of you that know me (or think you know me) may find this difficult to believe. Going out of my way to talk to people isn't easy for me. Even sitting and conversing with people I know has a fairly high level of discomfort.

As a believer and follower of Jesus, I guess it comes down to this:
Does the thought of people going to hell because they don't know Jesus make me more uncomfortable the thought of talking to them and sharing the Good News?

Just some random thoughts for the day...

John <><

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Writing about writing...

I know, I know...

It's been more than a week since my last post. Truthfully, I've been here several times in the past 11 days but just haven't forced myself to write anything.

I keep thinking about jumping into the political fray, but know that doing so is a risky proposition. The real problem is that there is so much spin and outright fabrication to most of the political stories that it is difficult to navigate the waters.

I know that I have probably shared some things via different social media outlets and have pointed out some false stories to their posting sources, but I am trying not to become a part of the much hated daily political posting scene. I think that most of you that know me also know where I stand and those of you that don't, probably don't care where I stand.

Our local writers' group is back to its monthly meetings (I missed last month's meeting) and so I am back to getting regular reminders to write and to write regularly. Perhaps I need to begin anew and define (or redefine) what I want Out of My Hat to look like. It certainly has changed since its early days.

Lately it has been more of a diary of sorts and less writing about issues, topics or personal viewpoints. I think that there are many lessons that can be shared through personal experiences, but don't know that I have been using my experiences to do that. If I am to continue to write of my personal activities, maybe I should include something of value as well as just sharing my day.
Or maybe I should stop writing about the things I do and share more of the things that I think and believe.
I don't know.

From the beginning, this has mostly been about me writing -- and that's all.
I did fall into the trap of competing with other bloggers about how often I post and blogging for hits rather than for fun. I'm pretty much over caring about how many people read or share my posts so I think that the quality of my writing has diminished as the caring about readership has diminished. Maybe if I just work on the quality of writing and pay attention to topics and sharing personal views, readership will take care of itself.

I've never laid any claims to being a wise person nor have I thought that I'm a person to seek out for advice or input on individual problems. I know there are people that have seen me in that way and am humbled and honor by the trust that they have in my thoughts and words.
In the next couple of months I'll see what becomes of the posts here at Out of My Hat. I will keep writing, but I will also look to be more consistent with the type of posts that you see. If it turns out that it becomes something that doesn't suit your type of reading, thanks for checking in with me over the past several years. If you think it is something worth sharing with your friends, please do!

In the end, it will still be something I do for me.

John <><