Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Art of Misdirection

For my final post of November, I'm going to regress for a moment and offer a brief observation on the political front.
If you've had enough of politics or if you are a big fan of President Elect Trump, you might want to just move along. Nothing ugly here, just an observation.

If DJT were a magician (he would no doubt proclaim himself to be the greatest magician with the best tricks, better than any other magician's tricks), there would always be people in the audience that would heckle him with "I saw that!"
(He would have them thrown out or beat up)

Oh sure, he would fool a great number of people that just came to be entertained, but for the people that scrutinize magic -- not so much.
The same can be said for his politics.

I'm not following too closely everything that is going on with his transition team and cabinet appointments. I am following closely enough to be disturbed by most of his choices. And I've learned that every time something really outrageous appears on his Twitter account, something even more outrageous is about to go barely noticed on the political front. Magicians know that a big action covers a little action.

While liberal media jumps on the fact that he is tweeting based on fake news stories, he bottom deals a card that gets little attention. The more conservative news outlets jump on the liberal side for jumping on their candidate and hardly anybody pays attention to the real news. It would be interesting to see just how outrageous and inflammatory his tweets would get if people stopped giving them any attention.

I have to say that I have been pretty disappointed in the media over the past year. DJT has played them like a cheap magician at a 5 year old's birthday party.
...And they don't appear to have learned anything along the way.


Well, that does it for National Blog Posting Month!
Yay for me!
I managed to post daily for a whole month!

John <><

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ugh! The Struggle Continues...

In the year and a half prior to my retirement, I managed to lose 60 pounds.
I was eating well and getting daily exercise.
In the year and a half since my retirement, I've managed to put most of the 60 pounds back on!

Several times in the past year I've said that I'm getting back to healthy eating and exercise only to fail after a relatively short period of time. Then I see pictures or video and decide that this time I'm really going to stick to it -- only to fail after a relatively short time.

So today is the day.
I did weigh myself, but I'm not going to focus on weight.
My focus will be on good health.
I'm going to start walking again -- every day.
We have no plans for traveling during the holidays so that won't interfere with a goal of 100 miles by the end of the year. I get all 31 days of December plus 2 bonus days left in November -- 33 days of just over 3 miles/day. I realize that on some days I may have to find an alternative to walking due to weather, but will make daily exercise a priority.

I don't know that I want to go back to counting calories. I might, but really don't want to do that. I would rather just pay closer attention to everything that I am consuming. If I watch what I'm eating, cut out the crap, and keep portion sizes reasonable, I should be okay. Typically, December wouldn't be a great time to start on a diet, but we are not big into the holiday baking and I'm not at work where people are bringing that stuff in. I do plan on boosting my protein intake and keeping an eye on the grains. We're going to do more daily shopping for fresh produce and try to throw away less than we have been in the past.

There is plenty of activity for today -- laundry, getting Christmas stuff down from the attic, dinner prep, and that long walk.
Better get busy.

John <><
Note: this will also appear on the Unhealthy Guy's blog.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth ... The Circle of Life

Life has it's way.
There are good days and bad days; days marked for celebrating and days for mourning.
Most days are pretty ordinary; some are extraordinary.

Some lives end quickly, others linger for more than a century.

Death, a very real part of life, is never far away.
We see it in people we know.
We read about it in people we don't know.

We have learned much through science and have managed to extend life for some.
But all of us come to the same eventual end.
This life -- the one housed in our human bodies -- always comes to an end.

It is not my plan to have a depressing, morbid post today.
It is my hope that you will take a few moments to consider what might be at the end of this journey.

Is there life beyond death?
Is there a judgment for the current life?
Do we recycle through again with an opportunity to do better?
Or does this life's judgment determine our future in another world? In heaven? In hell?

I think that with the certainty of death, it is worth the time and effort to examine what might be next and how we might prepare for it.

I really believe that there is more than the big dirt nap at the end.
How about you?
Is there more to life than death?
And if so -- What?

John <><

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Decorations and Ebenezer Scrooge

Christmas decorations have been up in stores and at shopping centers for a little while.
Now they are popping up around the neighborhoods of our community.

This afternoon (late afternoon) I drove over to my daughter's and son in law's home to bring the ladder and help (a little) get the outdoor lights up. Daniel worked on the outdoor lights while Hannah decorated the tree on the inside. It was nice to visit with them for a little bit before returning to our unadorned home.

We've never been big on the Christmas decorations, but I suppose I will find myself in the attic sometime during the coming week and some simple decorations will be put up.

Bah! Humbug!

Call me Scrooge.
Maybe it's that Christmas is pretty quiet with the kids gone;
Maybe it's that Christmas is just too commercial;
Maybe it's that the people that say they celebrate the birth of Christ are just as commercial as everyone else, but with a holier-than-thou bit of self righteous indignation added in for good measure;
Maybe it's that I really am a grumpy, old curmudgeon;
But I can do without a month of Christmas music on every stinkin' radio station.
I can do without get togethers with people that don't really like each other the rest of the year.
I'm okay with celebrating Christmas for the sake of giving gifts and gathering with families.

But when the Church of Jesus -- the Bride of Jesus -- is disheveled and unkempt, can we really convince unbelievers that our celebration is any different than theirs?
How is our celebration of Christmas holy while theirs is secular and unholy?
Does the little nativity scene make the difference?
What about the big yard nativity with lighted life size figures of Joseph and Mary?
If we have a yard sign proclaiming "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" can we say that all of the commercial stuff is now holy?

I say...
Decorate your homes.
Give your gifts.
Go to your parties.
I will do the same.

Enjoy time with your family and friends. Giving gifts as an expression of caring is a good thing, right? The joy and fellowship of the season are worthwhile things to celebrate, but let us not pretend that they are holy. Let us not deceive ourselves into believing that these things are to the glory of God.

I would, however, urge you to make some time during the holiday season to honor God by remembering and sharing the Christmas story.
God became man and lived among us.
He took on our flesh so that He could die in our place.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

Merry Christmas,
Ebenezer Scrooge

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Christmas is Coming ... so is Jesus!

It's getting late and I have yet to post today. I'll be happy when this posting everyday for a month thing ends.

Tomorrow morning I'll be preaching at a church about 60 miles from home. It looks like rain is in the forecast, so I'm planning on driving.
It is the beginning of Advent -- the preparation for the coming of the Christ.

At some point, as a kid I thought it was weird that we did the Advent thing every year.
I mean -- Didn't Jesus come like two thousand years ago?

Today, I look at the season as a reminder that we are to be preparing for the Second Coming of Our Lord. It's a little strange that we always see Christmas as a gift received and Easter as a sacrifice made.
I wrote this post five years ago and it will be the basis for my pre-Christmas message for tomorrow morning.

I hope that you are doing more than preparing for the holiday of Christmas and are making daily preparations for the return of Jesus.

John <><

Friday, November 25, 2016

Traveling On...

The hospital where Chris works uses contract surgical techs on a regular basis. These contract workers get paid a salary plus a per diem and are contracted for a set period of time. (I guess that's supposed to be cheaper than hiring them and paying them wages and benefits.) They are refered to as "travelers" since they are not local employees.

Two if them came to join us for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. I hope they enjoyed the day as much as we enjoyed having them. I imagine that it is difficult to be away from home and your family and friends. I hope that we were a suitable stand in for the day.

Now it is the morning after the long, festive day and while others are fighting crowds for great sale prices on highly coveted items, I am enjoying my coffee in my quiet home and blogging away. It is another reason to give thanks!

Black Friday.
Back before Black Friday was a real thing and stores were just beginning to advertise great door buster deals for the early morning shopper on the day after Thanksgiving, I waited with a small group of people for doors to open at 5AM to buy hand held Gameboys for the kids. I was in, out and back in bed by 5:30.

Another year I got a leather bomber jacket for Chris. When I got to the part of the store with the jackets, a lady had just grabbed an armload of them and was sorting through them for the size she needed.
"Got a small?" I asked.
She looked down, grabbed one and handed it to me.
Again, I was back home in no time.

This year, we are skipping the Christmas shopping and simplifying Christmas -- sort of.
I say sort of because shopping might be more simple than making stuff. I think that Chris has been enjoying the crafting part of this season. We never really want the kids to spend much on us anyway, so this is nice for them, too.
I'm happy enough to have them home for the holidays.

It's pretty cool today, so I don't know if I'll go riding. It is supposed be 60F (15.5C) tomorrow. I've debated (with myself) about putting the windscreen back on for the winter. For now, it'll stay off. When it gets colder, we'll see if I keep it off and tough it out, keep it off and ride less, or just breakdown and put it back on. Since I doubt that I'll be taking any long trips, my guess is that I'll leave it off and keep riding.

I hope that you are one of the fortunate ones that get to enjoy the Friday after Thanksgiving as you please -- whether that is fighting crowds, enjoying nature or just relaxing.
Whatever the case (even if you're working), be thankful!

John <><

Thursday, November 24, 2016


There are so many things for which I am thankful!

I hope that my gratitude is expressed regularly and not saved up for a day of thanksgiving. I suppose that Thanksgiving is a good holiday to have right before we get into the Christmas shopping season. It is a bit ironic that the masses gather to fight over the Black Friday deals and even the early deals on Thanksgiving day right after giving thanks for their many blessings.

For some reason, this morning I don't really feel like writing about my many blessings.
I am happy to just feel thankful for them.
Sometimes, writing is a good way to express ourselves. I find that it helps to organize my thoughts and feelings in a way that helps others to understand this pea-brained mind of mine.
But I also believe that self reflection and random thinking is a good way to process my thoughts if it is only for me. I don't need to organize the thoughts and feelings this morning for others to understand me. I am grateful for many people and things, but I am most grateful to God for blessing me as He has.
...And I think that He understands me.

Be grateful.

John <><

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Day of Preparation

It is the day before Thanksgiving and so it will be a day of cleaning and preparing for a big meal and for a few guests that will join us for our traditional Thanksgiving feast.

This year we have a huuuuuge monster bird!
Fortunately, we know the folks that raised it and know that there were no growth hormones or any other kind of crap pumped into this turkey prior to its execution and delivery to our freezer a few weeks back. These people moved into their country home early in the year and decided to raise Thanksgiving turkeys for a few friends. We were one of the lucky families.

Well there is cleaning to be done in the house, a little yard work to be done outside of the house and I still need to enjoy a couple more cups of coffee.
Hey, a guy has to have priorities!

Be thankful!

John <><

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Think I'd Make a Good Atheist

Yeah, I really do.
I just finished reading a book Save Me: An Atheist's Letter to the Christian Church by Barney Adler.

It's a good read. It is filled with the questions that every Christian should be asking about their faith. In the end, I think that the author truly wants to believe in God, but simply chooses not to. It really isn't that difficult.

Although there is ample evidence for the existence of a Supreme Being, there is also no hard proof. Proving that there isn't a God is just as difficult as proving that there is. From my perspective (as a skeptical Christian) the evidence that there is a God overwhelms the thought that there isn't a God.

And before you get all crazy about me calling myself a skeptical Christian, I say that because I believe that we should all be skeptics. We should all ask tough questions about the things that we choose to believe. Skeptics aren't people that doubt. They are people that question.

I once made the comment (in a Sunday School class) that I am a man of little faith. The pastor's wife turned to me and said, "John Hill! You are a Southern Baptist evangelist! How can you say that you are a man of little faith?"

I say that because the answers I've found to the questions I've asked lead me to the logical conclusion that my faith is believable and true. It is not a blind faith. It is a faith based on knowledge.
But even with that knowledge, if I choose to not believe in God I know that I could make a good presentation for why I made that decision. I also understand that Christianity goes beyond believing in God. It defines the character of God as a loving and just ruler that is willing to go to great lengths to provide for his creation and yet remain true to His holy nature.

Maybe I wouldn't make such a great atheist, after all. I'd probably a lot like this author and would end up missing this God that I no longer believe in.

My advise to you is -- question everything.
Carefully examine the evidence.
Choose well.
Choose truth.

John <><

Monday, November 21, 2016

Where it all began...

Yesterday a man began the church service with a song about a mama that prayed every night for her family. It made me think about my own parents that faithfully pray for their (our) own family.
They have their individual prayer times, the time set aside to pray together and time set aside to read the Bible -- every day!

I am truly blessed to have them as parents.

Today is their 59th anniversary.
They have raised a pretty cool family.
I have written about our family diversity in the past. Sometimes I think that we are so different that I wonder how we can even be related!

It is too difficult to find words to adequately express how I feel about my family, so I'm not even going to try. I'm just going to say that I am so thankful for a family that loves one another. Great distance has not diminished that love, nor has extremely diverse political views. Our kids are turning out to be wonderful adults that get along very well in spite of not seeing each other very often.
I think that my parents are proud of the people that are their people and make up their family.
They should be.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.
Thank you for the years that you have devoted to each other and to all of us that make up your family.
Thank you for your daily prayers and unending love.
Thank you for giving us the tools to make it on our own and mold our own loving families.
Thank you.

John <><

Sunday, November 20, 2016

There's frost on the pumpkin!

And everywhere else in the Ozarks this morning!

I took the time to zip the liner into my motorcycle jacket this morning. With daytime highs only reaching 60 one day for as far as the extended forecast goes, I figured it's time.

In a little bit (after I finish my coffee and blogging) I'll be getting ready to preach at Fremont Hills Baptist Church. It is hunting season so that means it's time for Pastor Art to take a few weekends to hunt. Maybe I should ask for my pay in venison!
I'll be back for the evening service, as well.

The next three weeks will find me back at Orla Baptist. I was there last month for a Revival and am looking forward to helping them out while they search for a new pastor.

God has been good to me this fall. I have been staying pretty busy on Sunday mornings. I hope that it continues into the winter (although I'd rather be preaching at a Mexican beach resort through the winter!).

I hope that you are warm and richly blessed on this mid-November Sunday.
Tell someone -- God loves you. Jesus died for you.

John <><

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Flame On!

With the first overnight into freezing temperatures, we decided to fire up the furnace yesterday evening. Today is forecast to be sunny with highs in the upper 40's (around 7C) and tonight will be a little colder than last night.

Looking ahead, daytime highs might make it to 60 (15C) next week, so I guess it will remain on for a little while. I expect that we will still have an occasional warm day and we will turn it off and open the windows, but those days will be fewer as winter draws closer.

Our part of southwest Missouri has pretty mild winters. We will get an occasional heavy snow, but it is nothing compared to having lived in northern Illinois or Iowa, and the temperatures generally make it above freezing on most days. I plan to ride the motorcycle throughout the winter, only leaving it parked when there is snow or ice on the roads or in extreme cold. I have suitable dress for cold weather and don't plan on any long trips. Of course if we get a few days in the 70's, I may have to make another lunch run to St. Louis (about 450 miles, round trip)!

I think I need a warm, sunny beach and a larger bank account!

Stay warm, my friends!

John <><

Friday, November 18, 2016

Red Cross

This morning finds me at the Springfield platelet donation center of the American Red Cross.
It's been over a year since I've been able to make a donation due to travel deferrals.

I've posted before about the need for blood products. Platelets have a very short shelf life (about 5 days) so the need is constant. Red cells and plasma are also in constant need and often in short supply. If you've never donated, you should consider it. Tell them you are a first time donor and they will take the time to explain the process and let you know what to expect.

The needle stick has never been an issue for me. I've even let first time phlebotomists stick me. One trainer said I'm what they call an encourager!
Another one said you could throw darts from across the room and hit that garden hose!
In any case, if it's your first time, just let them know. If you've had a bad experience, go back and try again. Tell them about your experience and give them another chance. Somebody's life may depend on it.
And if it has just been awhile, consider scheduling an appointment.

I'm going to keep this short since I'm on the apheresis machine and having to type with my left hand only.

Be well,
John <><

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Helpless; not hopeless

I've been putting off writing today, but don't really want to blow the whole posting every day for a month thing after having made it through the first half of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). The thing is that writing today is difficult. What weighs on my mind is far from my usual posts and I'm not sure how to share in this forum. I guess, I'll just tell it like it is and leave it at that.

A year ago (summer 2015), one of my brothers had a kidney transplant. He had been dealing with declining kidney function for many years and was to the point of needing a donor kidney. My sister was the donor. As you can imagine, the week of the transplant surgery was stressful, especially for our parents that had two children undergoing pretty major surgery on the same day. Mike's wife was unable to be there because she was at a different hospital with one of their four boys that was dealing with his own health issues.
At the end of the day, both surgeries were declared a success and both patients, donor and recipient, were on the road to recovery.

For the most part, things went well. My brother had some nagging pains and some indications that not everything was as it should be. After many months, it was discovered that a virus was doing some pretty severe damage. It is a virus (I don't recall the name) that most adults carry but our bodies do a great job of managing it. The virus only multiplies and causes problems when the immune system is compromised. Organ transplant recipients fall into the high risk category.

The doctors began treatment for the virus and things seemed to be going well. He was finally getting around to a good recovery. Then a brief bout with pneumonia changed all of that. The drug treatment for the virus started damaging his new kidney.
Today was his second session of dialysis. The new kidney is damaged beyond recovery. There is a tumor in one of his old non-functioning kidneys that will need to be dealt with once the virus is under control and regular dialysis is underway. In addition to the stresses of being in the hospital while your wife carries the load of four active teen boys, there are the additional stresses of finances and feelings of frustration and helplessness. Not knowing what is ahead is the toughest thing right now.

I think that we all feel helpless as we watch from the distance that separates us.
Even as I say that, even as I feel that -- we are far from hopeless.
Family and friends have put out calls for prayers, positive thoughts and calls to whatever universal powers people cry out to in times of need. I'm not sure what all of that does for my brother and his family other than to know that people are thinking of them.

If you have been reading this blog for very long, you already know that I am a follower of Jesus and proclaimer of the Gospel of Salvation through His death and resurrection. I do believe in God and I do believe he hears our prayers, but when I am honest with myself I have to wonder if the voice of one as insignificant as myself will sway the mighty God of the universe.
I truly believe that God loves us and wants the best for us.
But I also believe the His best for us is on a whole different level than the finite world we live in. I cannot begin to imagine eternity, much less understand it. I cannot imagine life without time and space. While I believe in our eternal souls, I can't begin to understand nor to explain the existence of souls without bodies and living without physical boundaries.

And even though I don't know if my cries to God make a difference or not, I pray.
I pray because sometimes there isn't anything else I can do.
I pray because I want God to know that I am trusting Him to take care of my family.
I pray because the Jesus that I believe in tells me to pray.
So, I pray.

Yeah, I pray for good health for my brother and his family. I pray that the doctors would use good wisdom in treating his condition and for the other health issues that his family deals with.
But mostly, I pray for peace and comfort. I pray that God will let them know that He hasn't forgotten them, that He will see that their needs are met and that He will give them the strength to endure.

As I reread that, it really sounds like a pretty lousy prayer.
If you've got a better way to pray, I invite you to share it with me.
Or better yet, I'd ask you to get on your knees and offer your own prayers for my brother and his family. You will have our eternal thanks and the blessings of a grateful big brother.

John <><

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Random Post Election Thoughts

I left Ozark after voting last week and didn't get home until Monday night.
In the week that I was gone, I watched very little TV news and had fairly limited time to be on social media networks. From what I can see, that was a good thing.

There is much being said about the formation of President-elect Trump's transition team and the selections to cabinet positions and other appointed staff. There seems to be as much surprise among traditional Republicans as there is shock and outrage from traditional Democrats.
To both, it doesn't appear that there will be the draining of the swamp that was anticipated.
The days leading up to the inauguration will be interesting.

For my own mental health, I think that I will continue to limit my social media time and refrain from commenting on most political stuff. While I do believe that we will see some difficult times ahead, I don't think that it is the end of the US or our way of government. I recognize that I will have a much lesser impact on my life than many other citizens. Yes, folks -- white privilege is real. I also recognize that this white privilege thing also bears a responsibility to point out injustices as they happen and to readily stand with those that are being ridiculed and deeply affected by some of the changes that are already taking place.

I'm not going to be wearing any safety pins, but I will be more observant and watchful for people that are worried about the future and will try advocate for those that need a voice.

Which ever side of the election you were on, know that there are lots of worried and scared people right now. Have a little empathy. Show a little love. Be a good neighbor and a good citizen.

John <><

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Home, Sweet Home

Oh, it is so good to be home!
A night's sleep in my own bed,
A shower in my own shower,
Just to be around my own stuff!

You know the feeling.
It was a good trip. There were some unexpected happenings, to be sure, but all in all, a good trip.
I ate some good tasting foods (even if not so good for you foods), and enjoyed my visits with family. I have to say that I did miss riding my motorcycle on the beautiful November days, even in Northern Illinois! My outbound trip was in rain for most of the way, so the cycle was out for the journey. And with the daylight hours being as limited as they are and the wildlife of the rural areas, it was probably a good idea to leave it at home.

But --
I am riding today!

I am meeting a minister friend for lunch and getting ready to get back on the healthy eating thing. Since I'm doing most of the cooking at home (and the grocery shopping, too), I should have as much control over what we eat as is necessary to eat well. I chose a good salad/sandwich place for our lunch meeting, so -- here goes!

I also need to get back to daily exercise (which I have started again) and be as disciplined about it as I once was.
Eat for weight management.
Exercise for good health.

Veggie sandwich and a salad for lunch.
Tonight I'm thinking bacon wrapped chicken breasts stuffed with mozzarella cheese and spinach, with baked potatoes and a salad. We'll see how it turns out. Maybe a little cream cheese added to the stuffing...No recipe, just an experiment.
After all, isn't life basically an experiment?

Be well,
John <><

Monday, November 14, 2016


This isn't a call for help. It is a shout out to those that always seem to make themselves available to help people that are in need.
Some of you are helpers.
I am not.

It's not that I am opposed to helping people. Nor is it that I am unavailable to help people. I think that I am just mostly unaware when people are in need. I should probably make myself more available to people. I suppose that there are people that need help but don't want to ask for it.

I should mention that this post is inspired by the people that always seem to be there for my folks when they have needs. The closest of my siblings is a couple of hours away. Most of us are much farther. Several of my cousins live close by and are great at going out of their way to be of service to Mom and Dad. My parents also have a network of helping friends, but many of their friends are also aging and less available to help than they once were.

I feel bad that most of the family care has to come from a brother and sister that are closest in distance to them, for they are also the ones that are busiest with the needs of their own families.

I'm thinking that maybe I can substitute serve.
I know that just as time and distance separate me from my parents, there are probably people near me that don't have family nearby because their own kids live far away. Perhaps I need to volunteer to drive cancer patients to treatment (somebody did that for my dad) or something like that. I've let my world get pretty small in the past couple of years. Personally, I like it that way. But from a community standpoint, it seems pretty selfish.

Guess I'm going to have to put on my big boy pants and do what benefits somebody else rather than just looking out for my own preferences and interests.

Thanks to all of you helpers for the inspiration!

...I think.

John <><

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Chicago's Riverwalk

After a late brunch at Chicago's Haymarket Pub, we (Aaron, Jenny and I) took a nice stroll along Chicago's Riverwalk. The shops are closed for the season, but it is still well attended by individuals and families for a day out along the river.
I am happy that The Haymarket is one of Jenny's favorite places for Sunday brunch because it is also my favorite. I had my standard Morning Riot -- and loved it!

Then we drove to lower Wacker where Jenny has access to C-DOT parking where they access the bridges that cross the Chicago River. I got a nice lesson on the area development, the inspection and maintenance of the bridges and the history of some of the downtown buildings.

We went from there to a lazy afternoon in the condo and will be heading out to evening church shortly.

Nice, easy Sunday.
Life is good!

John <><

Saturday, November 12, 2016


I was thinking about Cheers, the bar where everybody knows your name.  It's funny how people of different backgrounds can come together for a common cause or purpose.

People in a bar gather together to drink and socialize. Some bars cater to neighborhoods, some have professional careers in common, some are there because of the menu. Some are there to meet people.

I was at my brother's house yesterday. In his neighborhood are many different nationalities and races -- Polish, Mexican, Asian, African American -- they live together in community.

Churches have people from all different backgrounds that share a common faith.

Maybe, as a nation we have become so attached to our smaller communities that we have forgotten that we are also a part of a greater community. We seem to focus on the needs of our own community and the differences between our smaller groups, with little regard for the needs of our greater community.

If meeting the needs of our local community hurts another community, so be it.
If meeting the needs of our local community has a negative impact on the rest of the country -- not our problem.

We rely on our national government to look out for our national interest. We need to remember that we are citizens and members of a community that is larger and greater than our local groups. I think that we sometimes forget that we do have common interests.

I think hating other groups is easy when we don't really know them. I mean it is easy for a white guy that lives in the Bible belt that has never met a Muslim to generalize and hate them all. If you knew Muslims that live and work in neighborhoods across the country and worry about taxes, health care, saving to put their kids through college, balancing work and school activities, all of the same things you worry about -- it becomes harder to hate them.

As much as we want to be known, we should want to know others.

John <><

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day

It is late evening on Veteran's Day and I have sent some thank yous via text message and posted a family military pic on social networks.
But it is worth mentioning that I am very thankful to all that are serving and have served in our nation's military service.

We enjoy a great freedom in the US that is kept secure by the efforts of our military forces. Freedom isn't free. It often comes at great cost. Our service men and women are the front line of defense in protecting and defending those freedoms.

Thank you.

I'll share this because I think it's worth sharing on this day. My brother posted it on his Facebook feed. He said it was written by a friend, colleague and Marine.
Thank a Vet.

Will Kanteres
6 hrs
I vividly remember the first time I was thanked for my service. It was not on Veteran's Day, nor at any time during my first or second enlistment. It happened on 3 Jun, 2003, my mom's birthday. I was a SSgt with 10years in service. I was wearing desert utilities in the Baltimore airport, clearing customs on my way home to CA from Iraq. Every person that passed us said thank you that day, many with tears in their eyes. As scores of us lined up for our first over priced Starbucks coffee in months, the $5 & $10 bills collected on the counter as civilians who saw us were not about to let us spend our own money. The verbal gestures and unnecessary free coffee surely seemed small and insignificant to them. To me it was overwhelming and disorienting. I didn't see us as they did. I had never considered our service uniquely selfless or worthy of thanks from those I did not know.
Since 2003 it has become culturally common for civilians and veterans to go out of their way to verbally and sincerely thank those serving. Every time it happens I recall 3 Jun 2003, and relive those emotions in that moment. When you meet a veteran or service member, feel free to thank them. Don't feel obligated. If the moment isn't right for you, that's okay. We don't serve with expectations of thanks. But if you are so inclined, don't be afraid of the awkward moment that follows your thanks. For me it's hard to respond. Usually I'll give you a smile and bow my head, or just say thank you and try to maintain eye contact. The awkwardness is simply me being humbled by your gesture, because it is not insignificant. It is as appreciated as you are appreciative.

John <><

Thursday, November 10, 2016


It's a Thursday in November and a good day to get back to posting about things for which I am thankful.

Today's thankfulness is for my family and extended family.

Chris and I continue to work through life together and through life's changing phases. It's a little ironic that she is typically the more liberal one and so you might expect her to be more open to change. But when it comes to family life, she has always been the steady one and is a little more conservative and less likely to make big changes.
She is still working, so our shift into retirement is gradual. I think that is working well. I've taken over most of the kitchen chores, so she has to endure my sometimes experimental meals. It seems to be a fair trade for not having to cook and clean up afterwards. Though she sometimes laments time spent in the kitchen preparing meals, she insists on traditional holiday meals and will still spend all day preparing them.
I still have plenty of time to myself (which I enjoy) and am already looking forward to spring and some nice motorcycle rides.

This past summer, we added a fine young man to the family ranks when Hannah and Daniel got married. I am very happy for them and they are off to a great start in their life together. With them living close by, we do get to see them for an occasional dinner. But they are young, busy, and we want to give them room to be on their own without feeling obliged to respond to frequent invitations from the parents.
Aaron and Jenny are enjoying their city living. I look forward to the few trips to Chicago and really like spending time in the city. I'll be there this weekend to attend an event with Aaron. I left the motorcycle at home this time, figuring that mid-November in Chicago may be a bit of a stretch for a long bike ride.

I have written about my parents and siblings before. I don't know that I can add much to what I have already written. They are simply the best. They are and have been good parents and are raising and have raised some pretty great kids, too!
The adult nieces and nephews are great young men and women and it is exciting to watch how they meet life's challenges. It is hard to believe how quickly they grow.

I also have great cousins. Though time and distance have separated us, Facebook has allowed us to keep in touch. I've noticed that some of them are getting pretty old. Since my dad was the baby of his family, we are generally the younger cousins. As one of the older siblings in my family, I do have a few younger cousins, but most of them are older; some -- much older!
And to my cousins on my mother's side -- I'm looking forward to an extended trip to the Philippines and Australia once Chris is also retired!

I hope that your families are also wonderful people and that you all get along well. So many families do not get along and have great stresses at gatherings or they do not ever see each other.
My mom recently shared that several of the grandkids have been asking when we're having another reunion. That's a good thing!

John <><

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Post-election Observations and Thoughts

I am blogging this morning from the waiting area at OSF Hospital in Peoria IL where my dad is scheduled for an out patient surgery.

After voting yesterday morning, I made the 400 mile drive to be here this morning. I watched the national returns on the local news and kept up with Missouri's results via the internet.
This morning (and last night) I've been reading posts from across the country and around the world about the election.

As I stated on a social media post of my own, most of the international posts are in shock at the Trump victory (including this humorous meme posted by a Canadian friend).

The domestic posts and comments are divided between those celebrating (along with some gloating) and those grieving (along with some very disparaging remarks).

I don't think that the world is going turn upside down overnight (or ever). I am not saying that there won't be some tough changes and negative consequences, but there would have been some changes regardless of the outcome of the election.

While the state of the ACA (Obamacare for those that only recognize it by that name) is in jeopardy, it is worth noting that the minority Senate of the past six years was able to keep Congress from repealing it in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I do expect the GOP that strongly criticized President Obama for his use of Executive Orders will far exceed the relatively few ExOs that he issued.

The Senate Democrats will take on the role of obstructionists and hope to keep things status quo by using the filibuster rule. It will be interesting to see what happens in the House leadership. I expect that Ryan will be out as Speaker and replaced by a Trump supporter. Upcoming budgets and annual deficits will be interesting. Many that raise concerns over the mounting National Debt will be paying close attention to this economic savior. I'll be interested to see how quickly they raise the debt ceiling when it comes up next spring.

Because we are a global community, markets and economies around the world will react to the news of the election for a brief time, and to the decisions made by the new administration as they happen.

My greatest regrets and concerns with the results of the election are the tacit approval given to those that choose to rule and intimidate by bullying, name calling, physical assault and threatening comments and gestures. Our First Lady Elect's stance on anti-bullying will be interesting to watch unfold.
I am also concerned about the perception that non-Christian believers will have on Christianity as a whole and on Jesus in particular. One evangelical leader has warned us by saying -- When you mix religion and politics you get politics. This cycle's evangelical right has made a mockery of religion by its support of a candidate that quite literally stood for many of the things Jesus opposed.

I think that a lot can be known about the character of both sides in how we (as individuals and collectively) act in response to the election results. Winners and losers need to be graceful and kind in their celebrations and grieving. While I think that the coming four years will be challenging, I refuse to be negative about my country. We have endured through wars and economic depression. We have responded to terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic. Democrats survived Bush. Republicans survived Obama. Americans have survived one administration after another, one Congress after another. We will survive and probably prosper in the next four years.

My optimism my be misplaced, but We Are the United States of America.
Go about your day. Be your best. This experimental government has been working for 240 years. It will work for another four.

John <><

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election Day!

The polls are about to close in the Mid-west.
I voted this morning and then made a 400 mile drive to Central Illinois.
I am thankful that we are able vote for our government representatives. I do think that we may all be better off if we somehow managed to shorten the campaign season and made it a little less divisive.

I do not like the political labels that are assigned to voters. I get Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, etc. But the assignment of liberal and conservative don't always fit very well. I consider that I am theologically conservative, fiscally moderate, and socially liberal.
I would say that I am a small government Democrat (even though I am still registered as a Republican). I do recognize the need for government service and there are social programs that need to be taken care of.

I don't understand the GOP that on one hand says they want less governmental regulation and then on the other hand, they push for more regulation on LGBT rights, religious rights, health and reproductive care, etc. What are you standing for -- less government or more regulation? I think it comes down to less regulation over our stuff and more regulation on your stuff.

I can identify with some of the issues that are considered conservative but am rarely considered to be conservative. And I am opposed to some of the issues that are considered to be liberal issues.
There was a time when politicians were able to look at issues rather than party lines. Crossing party lines for issues that benefited your district of state was common. Today, the party disciplines members by withholding funding or committee assignments for crossing the leadership. When you get a candidate from a certain party, you can expect them to hold to the party line.

Given the divide within the major parties, I anticipate more former Independent candidates (like Sen Sanders) running in party primaries in the future.

Whatever your party, whatever your label -- we are all Americans.
Let's act like it.
It will be OUR president that gets elected.
It will be OUR congress that gets elected.

Let's be grateful for our government and our voice in how it is administered.

John <><

Monday, November 07, 2016

Gentle, Overnight Rain

I awoke this morning to the sound of a nice gentle rain shower.
I like the sound of a nighttime rain.
And I'm a big fan of night rain showers.

During summertime droughts, I often hear people say that they're praying for rain. I ask them to pray for it to rain at night!
Hey! Why not?
I figure you might as well ask for what you want, right?
If it rains at night, we get the moisture the dry land needs and we can still have an enjoyable day outside. Win. Win.

Today, I am thankful for the gentle rains that replenish the water supply, and provide for nature.
This weather system looks like it will be with us for the day. I don't think we are expecting much more rain, just overcast skies, cooler temps and maybe, an occasional shower.

I hope that your week is off to a good start.
It's Monday. but I'm retired so I don't mind a bit!

John <><

Sunday, November 06, 2016

On Mission

When I was a kid, I always thought that missionaries were people that went to far away places to tell people about God and to do good works for the people of far away lands.
If we listen to what Paul writes, we (Christians) are all just travelers in a foreign land and this place is not our home, so I guess we all could be missionaries.

I say "could be" because -- let's face it, we are not all telling people about God and doing good works for the people we encounter.
There are quite a few that are happy to talk about God, but fail to show the character of God in their actions.
And there are many that do good works but never teach or talk about God.
As followers of Jesus, we are to do both.

I get it.
I know that it is sometimes difficult to be that person -- the one that always lives life as a follower of Jesus. I don't think that we always have to bring every conversation, every interaction with others back to Jesus.
But being a Christian isn't supposed to be what we are and following Jesus isn't what we do.
Being a follower of Jesus should be who we are.
We should be becoming more like Him. It is the natural progression of following Him. I know that there are some that will cringe at my saying it, but we should be evolving into a person like Jesus.

This morning I get to go and share this simple message with others at a church in Blue Eye MO. It's kind of cool that God let's me do this. I don't think that going to preach really counts for sharing the gospel in a personal way. I think that preaching in churches is more about encouraging and instructing others to share the gospel in personal relationships.

I am thankful that I get to do this.
Truthfully, I think that is fun.
I get a lot of enjoyment from encouraging people to take the simple message "God loves you and Jesus died for you" to the people they do life with.

And it is a message that I want to share with you today.
It's true!
God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

John <><

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Healing comes in strange ways

I'm cheating today.
I'm not really going to write a post.
I'm going to share what somebody else posted. His story -- their story -- is far more touching than anything I could post and I think it should be shared.

Yesterday the city of Chicago had a parade for the Cubs. There were MILLIONS of people that celebrated the team's first Championship in more than a century. While they celebrated their win, Anthony Castrovince shared his story of how baseball helped to heal his family's broken heart.

You can read it here.

Because ... baseball.

John <><

Friday, November 04, 2016


When it comes to physical flexibility, I am not at all flexible.
I'm working on it, but progress is slow

I find that yoga is a more than just a physical exercise to improve flexibility and strength. It also helps to calm the mild and quiet the soul. The paced breathing, the physical stretching, the muscular exertion -- all require a concentration that focuses the mind as it exercises the body.

Working to increase physical flexibility requires some commitment and persistence. It also requires a willingness to work at it; a desire to push the physical limits of ability to increase in strength and flexibility.
When I first began with yoga, I found the terms confusing, but interesting. Although I still have trouble with many of them, the simple phrase of "opening the (whatever joint/body part)" is one that I've come to understand.

I wonder if it is as difficult to increase our mental strength and flexibility as it is our physical abilities. Does it take a desire to want to change? Is the desire alone insufficient to bring about a change in our attitudes and our way of thinking? Does it take work; mental exercise that pushes the limits of our attitudes and way of thinking?

If opening our minds requires as much effort as opening our joints, I can see why so many people choose to remain closed minded. Change can be uncomfortable.
Of course, remaining the same is sometimes just a hazardous condition that we have grown used to, and the comfort of remaining the same seems easier than the discomfort of change.

I don't think that everyone needs to change their mind.
I do think that we all need to open our minds.
And even that takes some commitment and work.

John <><

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Final Week of the Election Season

Yeah, we're all thankful that it is the final week of the 2016 election season.
But I have to say that more than being thankful that the election season is finally coming to an end, I am thankful that we get vote for our governmental officials.

Oh, I have certainly had enough of the campaign ads, the inflated news stories, the ignorant posts on social media -- all of it. I think the presidential race has been conducted like a high school student council election where the school bully is running against the popular girl. There have been too many rude and hateful comments on Facebook and Twitter. Although I have tried to be good about that, I have failed from time to time.

I think that our system is a little bit broken.
Actually, I think the system is fine, but the people running it have forgotten the people they represent. Or maybe they have decided they represent the money rather than the voters. Both of the major parties are going to need to make some changes. I think that changes will come more easily for the Dems than for the GOP. After all, progressives are about change and conservatives are about not changing.
After the 2012 cycle, the GOP assessed their party and came up with what would be necessary to attract different voting demographics ... and then failed to follow their own recommendations!
The Dems can learn from them or they may find themselves looking at the same kind of party divide in the mid-terms or in the 2020 cycle.

I know that many people have already voted.
Missouri doesn't have early voting, but you can vote by absentee ballot. Chris has already voted by absentee ballot since she is scheduled to work on election day and is on call until 7. I'll vote early on election day and then make my way to Central Illinois to see my folks on my way to Chicago.

I hope that people in the US are thankful for our system of government and will cast their votes next Tuesday. And I encourage you to hold our representatives accountable to the people they are supposed to represent. If you have been unhappy with our Congress (that has the lowest approval rating ever), then why send the same people back to DC for another term?

Still proud to be from the USA,
John <><

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Baseball: World Series, Game 7

I'm going to break from the thanksgiving theme today to talk about baseball.
Yeah, I know it's only the 2nd, but that's just the way the timing worked out and my main goal is to write every day. And besides, I am thankful for the distraction and entertainment that baseball provides.

Tonight is Game 7 of the World Series!
A game 7 in any championship is the ultimate in excitement for the fans of the sport. Neither of the teams that are in this year's Series have won a championship for quite some time -- almost 70 years for the Indians and more than 100 for the Cubs. I just saw that tickets are going for as much as $19,000 dollars for tonight's game!

Even though my team isn't playing in this year's Fall Classic, I watch because I am a fan of the game. I am not a Cub hater as many Cardinal fans are and will be happy for the many long suffering Cub fans should their beloved Cubbies manage a win tonight. There is a hometown product on the Indians and I know that there are many Cub fans that that are torn a bit when he is in the game.

I remember back in '04 when the Cardinals made it to the Series. Aaron was so excited! He said it was the first time in his life that his team was in the World Series! He was 15.
Imagine how Cub fans must feel when it is the first time in more than 70 years since they have even been to the World Series. Cardinal fans have a difficult time relating to that kind of excitement. In the previous 10 years, the Cardinals have played in the Series four times and won it twice.

The Indians lost the Series in both 1995 and 1997, so most of their fans have experienced the excitement of World Series play as well as the bitterness of a World Series loss.
The Cubs haven't played in a Series since 1945 when they lost Game 7 (and the Series) to the Tigers.

To the winners of tonight's game -- Congratulations on being the World Series Champions!
To the other team (kind of hate to call them losers) -- Congrats on a great season and thanks for giving baseball fans an exciting Series.

And to all of the fans of the game -- Opening Day is just 5 months from today!

John <><

Tuesday, November 01, 2016


Several weeks ago I was traveling with three other preachers to the Missouri State Fair. One of them (about my age) asked me how one should go about planning for retirement.
My answer was that by the time you are in your early thirties you need to find a good career with a good union pension and a 401K or similar plan.

I don't think that was the answer he was hoping for!

I bring up retirement today because it is the first of November and I am going to take up the writing challenge of posting daily; most days will be about something for which I am thankful.

I never would have imagined that I would be retired in my mid fifties. We are far from wealthy and Chris is still working, but we are comfortable and I am enjoying life. I have a freedom that allows me to do things and make choices that working would prohibit.

A year ago I was able to be in there when my siblings had transplant surgery.
I have been able to take my parents to Chicago for an event they wanted to attend.
Last month, I took my mom to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game.
Without a work schedule, I have been free to take more ministry jobs and was a part of six different kids and youth camps this past summer.
Traveling with Chris only requires one of us to get time off work which makes scheduling so much easier.
I have been able to ride my motorcycle as often as I like and have made several long rides of 300 to 500 miles/day.
I don't get the exercise that I need to be getting, but that isn't because I don't have the time for it. It's just because I've been lazy.
And there have been many. many more great benefits.

All-in-all, it's a pretty cool thing.

And that kicks off my 30 days of posting for the month of November.
I'll try to mix in a few other posts, but figure that if I have a theme of thankfulness I will most definitely have something to write about every day!

John <><