Friday, December 15, 2017

Going for a ride...

Well, probably not today...
But I did go out for a nice ride earlier in the week.

I still haven't got into the habit of stopping along the way. The part that I enjoy about riding is the road and the solitude. When traveling, I generally stop every 150 miles or so and take 20-30 minutes to gas up, drink something and use the restroom. I rarely interact with others as I stop, unless to have a brief conversation with another biker that also happens to be stopped. I only rode around 120 miles earlier in the week, but need to stop for gas in the little town of Greenfield, MO.

The little gas station/convenience store had a hot food counter with fried foods like corn dogs, potato wedges, chicken tenders, etc., -- food counter but no place to sit and eat. I grabbed a couple of the chicken tenders and washed them down with a Coke Zero while standing next to the ATM and using it for a table top.
Hanging around the front of the convenience store was a cat. He obviously wasn't a stray because he was wearing a collar. Listening to conversations between the cashiers and customers, I found out that he lived somewhere across the highway but spent most days hanging around the store. The cat seemed pretty savvy around the cars and parking lot and was more than willing to let anyone pet him if they were so inclined.

As I was finishing my snack, I heard a lady ask if it was okay to feed the cat. The cashier responded by saying that people feed the cat all day! That was sufficient permission (not a deterrent) for the lady to add an additional chicken tender to her order so that she could have the pleasure of sitting and sharing with a furry friend.

I managed to sneak a picture as I was leaving.

John <><

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Everything is in Order

It's 3 AM and I've just come in from spending a few minutes looking at the sky. Tonight's meteor shower is a pretty good one. For the short time I was outside, I saw them "falling" at the rate of about 1 per minute. With the temperature just below freezing and meteor watching not being a very active kind of thing to do, I'm content to say I came, I saw, and I went back inside to enjoy my coffee and blog a bit!

The sky is clear and beautiful tonight. I had forgotten how magnificent the winter sky is!
Looking at the night sky and observing the movement of the stars and planets as the seasons change always reminds me of just how great Our Creator is. The regular annual events like meteor showers and the irregular (but predictable) events such as eclipses, demonstrate the order and design of the our solar system and the universe beyond our simple little sun.

I've always said that if you want to feel small, just look to the heavens and consider the vastness of God's creation.
If you want to feel valued, look to the heavens, consider the vastness of God's creation, and know that God knows you and loves you!

Comedian Mark Lowry used to say that people were silly for getting up early in the morning to pray because this is China's time with God. I hope that God was able to hear the prayers of this humble citizen of the USA while listening to the other side of globe so that He knows how much I enjoy the beauty and magnificence of the universe around me.

Everything is in order.

John <><

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Time for a shower -- A Meteor Shower!

Tonight is the night of the Geminid meteor shower.
More correctly, early tomorrow morning (between 2 and 4 AM) will be the best time for viewing.
The temperature in the Ozarks will be right around the freezing point, so it won't be terribly cold to be out scanning the skies for the shooting stars.

Typically, the Geminids are one of the better showers of the year. We're forecast to have a few clouds in the sky tonight but it is supposed to be mostly clear. Hopefully, any clouds will be away from the meteor field. By the way, look towards the constellation Gemini (hence the name) to see the show. If you have a little night sky knowledge but don't know where to find Gemini, face south and find Orion (it should be pretty much directly overhead around 1 AM). Gemini will be to the upper left of Orion.
If that doesn't help and you don't have an app with a star map, face north and look up.

I'll be out there for a little while. (And yes, I'd be out there even if I did have to go to work in the morning!) If you're up and watching, hit me up on Twitter. I'm @magicianary.
Whether you're into astronomy or just making your way through life -- Keep looking up!
Either way, it's good advice.

John <><

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A New Hope

If you are a Star Wars fan, you recognize A New Hope as the title to the first of the many Star Wars films to be released (It was episode IV). But this isn't a post about Star Wars. It is a post about hope. In a day that finds so much bad press and bad behavior about and from evangelical Christians in the US, I have been blessed to be exposed to some real, honest to goodness, followers of Jesus that want people to know that God loves them and Jesus died for them.

Most of Missouri is dotted with small rural churches that have fewer than 50 or so regular attendees. These churches have no big church pride. They have no big budget programs. They have simple means of worship, simple facilities, and simple rural lifestyles. There is a humility about them that is missing from larger churches (even moderately larger) that have started to look on their accomplishments as something to be proud of and held up as an achievement worthy of honor. The simple people of these small churches are incredibly generous. In fact, the biggest thing about these small churches is the size of their (collective) heart.

I have recently been to a couple of these churches. They have a real desire to share the hope we have in Jesus. They live out their faith and share Jesus with people they encounter. They give to meet the physical needs of others (like food and clothing) as well as tending to the spiritual needs.
This is the Jesus I know!

It has been more than a month since I posted my Weekend Rant that got me into trouble. I have gone back to re-read it several times and can't find anything in it that I would change. It generally just reinforces the idea that maybe it's time for me to step away from organized religion and simply follow Jesus and help others to do the same.

I know! I know!
That's what organized religion is supposed to be doing.
But it's not.

With many churches in decline, it seems that the evangelical answer isn't to be better at evangelizing, but to improve at politics and social warfare. I'm not sure if religion has hijacked a political party or if a political party has taken over a religion. Either way, the morphed creature is an ugly beast. It is a beast that is quick to devour its own or any that stand up to question its motives. It has become a beast that is motivated by followers of the organization or party rather than by teaching others to follow Jesus.
The beast divides us into two groups -- those that are with the beast and those that are not. We can join the club and be a winner that hates the losers, or we can be a loser and be subjected to abuse at the hands of the winners. The beast further divides us by crying abuse and persecution where there is none; creating enemies of people that are not its enemies.

I am here to tell you -- this creature does not represent Jesus.
Fortunately, there are good people that do represent Jesus.
They are more than generous with their money, they are generous with their time and with their lives. They make personal investments into the lives of people in need.
They are simple people that live by two simple rules -- Love God, love others.
They ignore the politics of religion and the organization of religion.
They don't care about your social status.
They care about your needs.
They love God.
They love others.
They give hope.

Now that's a religion I can get behind!

John <><

Monday, December 11, 2017

Summer is coming!

I know that winter isn't even here yet (at least not officially), but summer will be here before you know it!

Today is the kind of day that gets me thinking about summer. It is already above 50f (10c) degrees out and forecast to be above 60f (15.5c). I now it's not exactly balmy, but the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day for December in the Ozarks!

The "summer is coming!" warning is for those of you that plan summer kids' and youth camps. While many camp organizers don't get serious about their camp schedules until spring, some of you have already  started booking for camp pastors or additional events.

That's right!
I already have three camps on my schedule for summer 2018!
I look at it as more than 700 motorcycle miles!

In any case, if you are connected with a camp and are looking for a week long camp pastor or just a night of entertainment and the Message in Magic, now is the time to contact me. Most of the summer is still wide open. I look forward to serving with you and sharing the simple message -- God loves you. Jesus died for you.

John <><

Have message.
Have magic.
Have motorcycle.
Will travel.

Motorcycle Season -- No, it's not too cold to ride!

I know that most of my readers are not bikers, so I won't bore you all with a long motorcycle post.
Regular readers will know that I have really enjoyed riding in my retirement and probably know that I tend to ride more than most weekend bikers.
I didn't know that most guys only ride a few thousand miles each year and generally only need to change their oil once per year.

This was my odometer reading when I pulled into my garage on Saturday (it was right at freezing  when I started out in the morning).

I got my motorcycle endorsement on 2/27/2016. On the 28th, I bought my '06 Vulcan 900 Classic. It had 18,780 miles on it. It took me 21 months and 10 days to put 30,000 miles on her. I expect to have over 32,000 by the time 2/28/2018 rolls around.

Keep an eye out for old retired guys on motorcycles -- even during the winter!

John <><

Friday, December 08, 2017

Brain work

Many years ago I was at NATCA National HQ for a pre-convention Constitution Committee meeting. Coming back from a break, one of the members was working on a puzzle of some sort. I asked about it and she introduced me to Sudoku.

To be fair, she did warn me, telling me that I may end up hating her for it.
I have completed many puzzles since that day, and yes, I have cursed her more than once over the years. I have shared these devilish puzzles with others and have no doubt earned a few curses myself.
Recently, I have started solving these maddening little number puzzles once again. Some of the more difficult ones can really challenge the way you think and solve problems.

So what do you do for brain work?
Just wondering...

John <><

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Thursdays are for thanksgiving!

It is Thursday, right?
I actually had to check my phone to make sure. Yep! It's Thursday.

I had just settled down with my pot of coffee and was thinking how much I enjoy coffee and quiet time in the morning. The past couple of weeks have been weird and I have had several morning appointments or obligations that have robbed me of that quiet time. So this morning I was really looking forward to it.

When I checked my phone to see what day it was, I noticed a couple of messages.
Odd. I didn't notice them earlier when I took my phone off of the charger. Who could be texting me at 7 in the morning?

My baby sister wanting to know if I'm up. She's on the road for work and says I should call her!
Now that's a grand way to start the day! Coffee and conversation with my kid sister is a way better start to the day than just quiet time and a lifeless computer!
We managed to talk for a little while before she had a work call coming in and needed to go.
That was quite the unexpected treat.

It's funny how a few moments of conversation with a particular person can really lift your spirits. I still get my quiet time today, but it's different now. If you were able to see me, you wouldn't notice anything different about the day. I'm still sitting on the love seat with a cup of coffee on the end table next to me and my laptop on my lap (naturally), but I feel so much different. The early morning visit did more to wake me up and set a positive outlook for the day than coffee (even this really good Ethiopian coffee) could ever do.

Today's thanksgiving is for quiet time and for unexpected contact from someone very dear to me.
Thank you, baby sis. You have made my day!

Hey, reader! Maybe you could make someone's day with a simple text message or phone call.
If you're some guy's kid sister, give him a call. He will love it!

John <><

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Faces; Is anyone whom they seem to be?

I have mentioned (on many occasions) that I am a slow learner.

Take faces, for example.
We see faces and we identify people by the distinct features of their faces and how they look.
Sometimes, faces can tell us how people feel -- happy (smiling), sad (crying), angry (tense and red) -- but some people tend to hide emotions better than others. We wear our masks like a second skin and show ourselves to be what we think people want or expect us to be. Often times, we are nothing like the person we exhibit to others.

I guess that's okay.
I don't need to share my problems with everyone and I'm not really interested in knowing everyone's problems. But we all need people that we can be honest with.

As I've gotten older (ugh! I hate that phrase), I've started to see through the masks a little more often and realize that most of us are hiding something. Many have hurts and struggles that nobody else knows about -- not even the people closest to them.

Many years ago, I received a call early on a Sunday morning. It was a young man from my Sunday school class telling me that his wife was leaving him.
They were in church every Sunday. Their faces and dispositions didn't show any marital strife to the casual observer. They appeared to be like everyone else.
But I had to ask myself, "How did I miss this?"

The masks!
At some point it occurred to me -- they appeared to be like everyone else!
Was everyone wearing a mask and hiding their hurts?
Isn't church supposed to be a place where we can be free of judgment and open about our struggles?
How is it that church people feel alone, suffer alone, and add loneliness to their lists of hurts?

I had a recent conversation with a young man that spoke about the false relationships found in churches. One of his complaints about churches was that people seem to care, but you know that they really don't.

It has been said (and usually attributed to Plato), "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

A friend recently told me that I was the only one on a ministry team that ever called to ask, "How can I pray for you?"
I think I need to do that more often and for more people.
In life's battles, people need to know there are others that will stand with them for a while; that they are not alone. They need to know that there is a place of rest; a sanctuary -- even if only for a moment. And they don't have to share the details of their journey if they don't want to. I just want them to know they are not alone -- You are not alone.

My contact info is available.
You can send me a message via comment. I moderate comments so just mark it as personal or mention that you don't want it posted. I know I'm just a guy at a keyboard in a virtual world, but even so -- You are not alone!

John <><

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Religion and Politics

Over the years, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I don't know how anyone can call themselves a Christian and vote democrat!"
Most of the time, the basis for the statement has been a singular issue that gets put into the broader context of morality. I have, on numerous occasions, defended both my politics and my religion.

Even recently I have been accused of letting my politics influence my religious beliefs.
I can assure you that the opposite has always been true -- my religious beliefs influence my political views.
It has only been in the past couple of decades that I have shifted from a moderate republican to a moderate democrat. I'm really more of a moderate independent with libertarian leanings (but let's face it, that's a moderate democrat by anyone's standards). That shift has come from a growing compassion for others and economic responsibility based on my religious beliefs.

Now, turn about is fair play. It is time for Christians to explain how they use morality as a yardstick and vote for the morally repugnant people that are in office as republicans.

I'll wait.

John <><

Monday, December 04, 2017

How Does a Retired Guy Take a Day Off?

I was warned by an older cousin that there are no days off in retirement!
No sick days. No holidays. No vacation days.
You're retired.

I guess if I want a day off from retirement, I'll have to get a job!

Having said that, I did take a day off from posting yesterday. It was a good day for that.
But I'm back.

I've been doing pretty well on limiting my social media/computer time. Removing several apps or notifications from my phone has helped a lot. In fact, I sometimes go days without remembering to check my e-mail.
I still need to work on a way to interact with people more frequently. Maybe I'll take a spring class at the local JuCo. I wonder if I can plan a class schedule around the spring baseball schedules. I'd hate to miss class for a motorcycle ride and a ballgame on a regular basis! I could take an online class which would be fine for learning and something to do, but not so great on the interacting with people thing.
I guess going to school would count as a day off from retirement -- not that I need a day off.

I could hangout at the McDonald's with the morning coffee group or find another place for morning coffee and gossip. Or I could join a gym and maybe meet some people that way.
Any suggestions, friends?

It's December 4th and we're looking at another near 70f (21c) degree day in the Ozarks. After the front passes through later in the day, we'll be back to more seasonal temps with daytime highs in the mid 40s (7-8c).

I realize it is another brutal Monday, but I hope you manage to enjoy your day. I'll go through the daily ordeal of having to find something to do. This retirement thing with no days off is pretty painful!

John <><

Saturday, December 02, 2017


There is definitely a benefit to setting goals or facing a self imposed challenge. I wrote about an exercise goal a week or so ago and am still working on the daily habit.
Yesterday we were out much later than I was expecting and didn't get home until a little before 11pm. I had been my plan to get some cycle time in while watching the TUF Finale. The fights were still on when we got home, so I changed into some shorts and finished my daily commitment at around 11:30.

I have noticed that I am walking much slower than I used to walk. I think there are two major things that contribute to this.
First -- I am much heavier than I was before.
At my last go at healthy weight loss, I actually lost about 25 pounds by just eating better before I even started regular walking. That means I was quite a bit lighter when I started walking last time.
Second -- By the time I quit regular daily walks, not only was I 50 pounds lighter than I am now, I was in pretty good shape. I had been mixing a little running and walking and covering 4-5 miles daily. I was generally close to a 4 mph pace, which is stepping out nicely for walking. Today, I'm lucky to make 3 mph for a two mile walk.

Simple steps.
That's what I told myself then.
That's what I'm telling myself now.
Diet for weight management.
Exercise for health.

Be well,
John <><

Friday, December 01, 2017

Welcome to December!

I, for one, am happy to put November in the history heap!
Let's move on!

I have been informed that today will be a day of putting up Christmas decorations. I've never been a Clark Griswold kind of guy when it comes to decorating. I suppose this year's Christmas decorations will be similar to recent years with some simple indoor stuff and a wreath on the door.
Truthfully, Chris does most of the decorating. my job is hauling the boxes from the attic and taking care of the heavy lifting.

I suppose it is time to get into the holiday spirit.
I'm not really a Scrooge about the holidays, but neither am I an all about Christmas kind of guy. I'll be listening to classic rock instead of Christmas music right up until Christmas Eve or so. I'll not be wishing for a white Christmas, even though a little winter weather isn't going to make it difficult to get to work on time.

I am looking forward to getting together with the kids for a holiday visit the week after Christmas.
And I'm looking forward to 2018! What will the coming year hold for us?

It's December!
Let's do this!

John <><

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Nov 30th! NaBloPoMo Success!

I'm cheating a little bit by writing this post on the evening of Nov 29.
The Blues are getting ready to take the ice against the Ducks and I'll move over to the exercise cycle to get my daily exercise in.  I'll post it in the morning.

In getting back to Thursdays are for thanksgiving, I am thankful that November is over and I have met the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) challenge of posting everyday. I'm probably not the only one that's thankful that I probably won't be posting every day.
I am also thankful that I have had the opportunity to share my faith with many students (and their parents, too) over the years and have earned their trust to the point that they still call me with occasional questions or just to check in and let me know how they are doing.

The reason I'm writing tonight is that I will be on the road tomorrow shortly after the sun rises. It should be around 45F (7.2C) when I start out and upper 50s (14C) by the time I get home in the mid afternoon.
I got a text last night from a college student with some questions on faith and I figured a face to face discussion would be better than on the phone, so I made plans to get a nice ride in and take advantage of a beautiful late November day. I should end up with around 375 miles or so for the day.

It was kind of nice hearing from a former student with questions of faith. Over the years, I've been blessed to have been contacted by several students that are away from home or home on a break. There is no doubt that the contact came at a good time for me. A little divine affirmation was just what I needed.

So I am looking forward to a nice morning ride and a late breakfast/early lunch meeting. I'll probably take a slightly different route home when time is less critical and spend less time on the interstate.
If you're out on the highways today, watch for retired guys on motorcycles.
And if you're the praying kind, ask for God to send a little wisdom my way as I share with a searching young man.

John <><

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Nov 29th; Misery Loves Company... but nobody loves misery.

I don't know if misery truly loves company or not. I do believe that hurting people often need other people to surround them and encourage them. It seems that it is often people that have gone through similar struggles and dealt with similar misery that are the ones that can best empathize and encourage us in our current struggles.
It may be that the day is coming when our current misery will put us in a position to comfort and encourage someone else as they go through a time of trial. 

You have probably had that type of experience of your own -- either you were able to help somebody through a tough time similar to something you've been through, or somebody was able to come along beside you and offer their encouragement. Often times it is enough just knowing that others have gone through a similar trial and survived or even come out of it much stronger and better for the experience.

As other people have come forward to share experiences of being hurt by churches or fellow Christians, I realize how poorly equipped I have been to offer empathy and meaningful encouragement to others. In fact, I'm beginning to think that my non-help may have made their experience even worse.

I suppose this may come across as another negative post. That is not my intent. I've had my negative rants (and resulting consequences) and it is time to move on and begin to look for the silver lining in the otherwise darkened clouds.
Last month I wrote about Unorganized Religion and many people's opposition to organized religion. In comments, conversations and experiences since then, it seems to me that the greatest obstacle to growing the church today is the church, itself. It could be that my current experiences will better equip me to deal with others that have been hurt by or felt isolated by a church or by church people.

Maybe your experience has been dealing with legalism in the church and so you have decided that following Jesus isn't for you. Maybe you feel that Christians are all hypocrites and you don't like nor trust us. It could be that you know that following Jesus would mean you'll have to make some changes that you are unwilling to make. We should talk about that.
It may end up that I will have more opportunities to share my faith across a lunch table or over a cup of coffee than I have ever had from a stage or from a pulpit -- and that would be okay with me.

Misery may love company, but most people would rather be with a joyful person that is having fun and enjoying life. If you are a sour, burdened, legalistic Christian -- lighten up! Jesus said that he came that we would have joy, and have lots of it!
If you are looking for more than a good time; if you are looking for a good life, full of purpose and full of joy -- we should talk.

John <><

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nov 28th; Nothing to be Alarmed About

At the same time I retired (almost 3 years ago), my primary care physician also retired. It wasn't a case of getting handed off to another doctor in the practice since the other doctor happened to be his wife, who was also retiring. Since then, I haven't had a primary care doctor, although I've occasionally thought  about it.

I guess it's a good thing that I'm in relatively good health and haven't needed one.
But, I suppose the best time to look for such a thing is before you actually need one and so I now have a new primary care physician.

Naturally, the first thing is to schedule all of the aging man kinds of tests that have been put off for several years. The first is a fasting blood draw. So I get to have black coffee (that's the way I drink it anyway) and water this morning, but breakfast will have to wait until after the blood draw. It is a rare day that I have to set my alarm and the truth is I woke up a few minutes before it went off.

No worries. It looks like it is going to be another beautiful day in the Ozarks!

In other health news, I have managed some activity in each of the last 5 days on my way to finishing out 2017 with some type of exercise everyday. We've also cut out the sweets and junk food from the diet to get ourselves beach ready for our winter trip to the tropics.

Time to get going!
I hope you have a great, needle free day!

John <><

Monday, November 27, 2017

Nov 27th; quick post

I should have had this pic to go with yesterday's post, but didn't see it until last night.

John  <><

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nov 26th; I AM WHO I AM

How is your god doing these days?

I use "little g" god because I think that most of the time we worship a god of our own making. Even among Christians, the Christ we follow is often some kind of personal adaptation of the Jesus of the Bible. I imagine that the same is true for Muslims and Allah and their prophet Muhammad, or Jews as they follow the same God as the Christians, minus the Jesus as Messiah part.

When it comes to "big G" God, I don't think he needs our help in shaping his image. He doesn't need us to give him a more loving image, nor does he need us to give him a more judgmental and vindictive image. I know that we often think that he needs some kind of PR agent and so we decide what kind of god (little g) we want to promote (and worship ourselves) and build that god in our heads and hearts.
We surround ourselves with people that share a similar image of our god and even our jesus (little j to emphasize our jesus is not the Jesus) and call that a church. Down the road is another church with similar beliefs, but different enough that they have their own people gathering and teach a slightly different way of following their god, their jesus and their rules for getting to eternity in heaven.

Back in the Book of Exodus, Moses asked God for his name.
God responded by saying, "I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM sends you."

I think that God still says to us that HE IS WHO HE IS and he doesn't need our help in defining him. If we truly worship God, he only wants us to obey and follow him.
God doesn't need me (or you) to save others from hell -- which is good because I can't.
Neither does God need me (or you) to help condemn others to hell -- which is also good because I can't really do that either.

I do believe that God took on flesh and came to earth as Jesus to show us his character in a way that we can follow. I believe that Jesus' death was to fulfill the necessary punishment for sin and that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are given eternal life. I believe that when Jesus told us that we are to love God and love others and that all of The Law is based on those two, he was making it easy for us to understand. I don't know why we insist on making it harder than that.

I truly want others to know God.
I want you to know that God loves you.
I want you to know that Jesus died for you.
And I want you to know that I will do anything I can to help you figure that out.

But I have to say that I am glad that I don't have a kingdom or personal fiefdom to protect where heaven is concerned. There is no gatekeeper where my simple sharing of faith is concerned. You can choose if you want to listen, read, discuss, learn -- or move on. You can choose to come back for more or you can choose to reject my faith and continue your search for truth elsewhere. I am blessed with not having to make the decision about who is welcome and who is not.

I think God (my God) is doing well.
He wants you to know that he loves you.
And God would like it if you would love him, too.

John <><

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nov 25th; Every Day It's Something Stupid

The President of the United States posts (on Twitter, of course) that he deliberately passed on Time magazine's Person of the Year award for this year.

Unfortunately, Time says it doesn't quite work that way.
Undoubtedly, many of his faithful supporters will say that Time is lying (more fake news) to cover themselves for not naming him, and many others will shrug off another narcissistic lie as an insignificant alternative fact rather than a serious character flaw.

Oh! And I'll get told that I'm being hateful for posting this.
I should make up my own Time magazine cover with my face on it. Then people will think I'm important and believe me!


John <><

Friday, November 24, 2017

Nov 24th; Exercise

One of my brothers is on a personal goal of purposeful exercise every day through Jan 1.
He offered it as a challenge of sorts to see if anyone would like to join him. I know that my days of exercise/activity will be nothing like his, but figured it's something that I need to do, too.

Yesterday was a brief 15 minutes on the exercise bike. I had planned on getting on it again later in the day, but our Thanksgiving day outing went later than I expected. Fifteen minutes shouldn't really count for daily exercise, but I suppose one has to start somewhere. Some time (either today or tomorrow) my exercise for the day will be a couple of hours of raking leaves.

Maybe I need a December walking goal. It has been a long time since I was in the habit of daily walking. My walks or pedaling while watching TV (the Blues are skating tonight) are pretty light work compared to the running, cycling and weight lifting that others do, but I do believe that regular exercise is something that I really need to get back to doing. This will be a good way to get back in the habit.

Well, I've had my coffee and written for my blog. I guess it's time to get some exercise.

John <><

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nov 23rd; Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States.
You will see and hear many things for which people are thankful.
While it is good to have such a day set aside, we should give thanks on a much more regular basis. Some time ago, I started a post label -- Thursdays are for thanksgiving. I think I'll try to get back to that.

In the mean time...
It was the day before Thanksgiving last year when we got the results of Chris' biopsy.
Breast cancer.
It has been quite the year since.
Surgery the week before Christmas. Long recovery. Chemo. Recovery. Reconstruction. Recovery.

Almost a year later and she is cancer free.
And we are thankful.
Life is a little different. And in some ways, it will always be.
But we are thankful.

It's funny how little things like a dinner out or a funny comment can become a great moment. It's too bad it took cancer to help me see the value of everyday moments. I hope you're not waiting such a thing to be thankful for the simple things of life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

John <><

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nov 22nd; Adult Kids

It is almost 9am and the sun is shining in the Ozarks
...but it is still freezing out! It is 25f (-4c) and only warming very slowly.

I'm enjoying my morning coffee and waiting for the temp to reach the freezing mark before hopping on the motorcycle to take care of my daughter's cats while the kids are away for the holidays. It's only about 15 miles (24km) one way and I suppose I could drive my car, but the sun is shining and even a short ride in the cold makes for a good day.

Our kids are both elsewhere for the Thanksgiving holiday and so we will be dining with friends tomorrow. Aaron and Jenny are on the beach in Puerto Vallarta (where it is currently 72f (22c) and supposed to make it to the mid 80s) and Hannah and Daniel are off to dinner with his family.

I have to admit, I kind of like it when I'm able to help the kids in any way, even something as simple as feeding the pets. I really enjoy being with our adult kids and their spouses and wish we could all get together more often. Even though we do manage a gathering around the holidays, it is a little sad spending Thanksgiving without them. However, I am very thankful for them and that they have grown to be some fine people!

Our house will be full of good smells later today as Chris bakes some pies for tomorrow's feast.
I hope that you are all feeling thankful for life and will be able to spend the day with someone you love.

John <><

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Nov 21st; Somethings never change...

I recently re-read an old story. It's a story that generates some controversy between what is possible and what is not. There are many Christians that will tell you that the story is merely an analogy. However, as a believer in miracles and because Jesus makes reference to the miracle in the story, I choose to believe it as a story with a miraculous event.

The crazy part is that the miracle isn't even the main part of the story. It is essential to the prophetic nature of the story and gives us an insight to the character of God, but the main point of the story is about the great mercy and grace of God.
It also reminds us of our own failings as humans.

If you haven't guessed where you can find this little gem of a story yet, it is found among the minor prophets of the Old Testament. It is the Book of Jonah and it takes place some 800 years or so before the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

It goes something like this:
The people of the city of Nineveh were so evil that their wickedness caught the attention of God. God chose his prophet Jonah to go to tell them they had been judged for their evil and would be destroyed.
Nineveh was the stronghold of the Assyrians and the army there was mighty. The Assyrians had no love for the Hebrews (nor anyone else, for that matter) and the Hebrews hated the Assyrians.There was no way Jonah wanted to go to Nineveh -- especially not to tell them they were evil -- and so he flees from God by running away and booking passage on a ship going far from Nineveh.

God causes a great storm at sea and the ship is tossed about and is in danger of sinking. The crew begins to toss its cargo overboard to give the ship more buoyancy and a fighting chance against the storm. Each crewman prays to his god in hopes that one of them will save them from perishing at sea.
While unloading cargo, they find Jonah asleep. (Apparently, running from God is exhausting work!) They wake him and tell him to pray to his god so that they might be spared.

That's when the story comes out that Jonah is running from God -- his God that created the land and the seas. Jonah tells them that to save themselves, they'll have to cast him into the sea. They're not ready to do that -- yet, and continue to fight the storm. But finally, they relent. They offer a prayer to God asking for mercy and toss Jonah overboard. The sea swallows Jonah and the wind and waves cease.

Here comes the miracle part.
God appoints a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah lives in the belly of the fish for three days! That gives Jonah plenty of time to think about the futility of running from God and reflect on the greatness and goodness of God. Jonah cries out to God and God directs the great fish to barf Jonah out and onto land.

And the word of God comes to Jonah and he still has to go to Nineveh with the Lord's message.
This time Jonah enters the city and preaches his doomsday message -- In forty days God will destroy the city because of its great evil.
The people of Nineveh heard the word of God and believed it! They turned from their wicked ways and put on sackcloth and they fasted while crying out for God's mercy. Even the king took off his robes and wore sackcloth and fasted. He issued a proclamation instructing the whole nation to put away their evil ways and to cry out to God for mercy. God heard their cries, saw the change of heart and relented from the judgment he had planned.
In the meanwhile, Jonah has found a spot from which he can observe the destruction of the city. As the day warms up and the sun begins to beat down on Jonah, God sends forth a plant to grow up and provide some shade so that Jonah can be comfortable while he waits.

Overnight, God appoints a worm to eat away at the plant. By the following day the plant wilts and no longer provides Jonah relief from the blistering sun.
And Jonah gets mad!
Jonah is mad at God because he didn't destroy the Ninevites. And he's mad that a worm has destroyed the plant that was providing shade for him.
"I knew it!" he yells at God.
"I knew that you wouldn't do it. I know that you are slow to anger and full of mercy. Why don't you just destroy them? They deserve it."

God speaks to Jonah and says, "Jonah, really? You're more concerned about the plant that wasn't even here until yesterday. Should I destroy the whole city of people? Have you no concern for them? You pity a plant for which you have done nothing. Shouldn't I have pity on Nineveh?"

It's kind of weird that the story just ends there with God explaining his mercy to Jonah and chastising Jonah for a lack of mercy.

I wonder what he would say to us today.
Are we like Jonah, waiting for people to get what they deserve from God?
Do our human prejudices get in our way of desiring mercy for others?
Are we more concerned with our own comfort than we are with the salvation of others?
Is our message meant as a warning to bring about repentance or do we deliver the message hoping to sit back and see the judgment?

I'm afraid that we are often more like Jonah than we would care to admit.
We would never openly admit that we want to see others condemned, but our actions often betray the true feelings in our hearts. What is our message to the world?
Is it a harsh "Turn or burn" or "God's going to get you" or is it perhaps, the simple, truthful message that God loves you and Jesus died for you?

John <><

Monday, November 20, 2017

Nov 20th; Baseball Blues

I have have managed to post every day for the first two thirds of the month and only have ten posts left to complete the challenge of daily posting for the month of November. For each November that I've tried this National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) challenge, I gain respect for the daily bloggers that do it year 'round.

As the days grow shorter and night falls earlier, I find myself missing baseball season. I'm not much of a TV watcher -- unless it's baseball season. Honestly, I don't know how football fans can get by with only getting to watch your favorite team play for just 16 games per year. No wonder there is so much hype for every single game!

Fortunately, there are MMA fights nearly every weekend and the Blues skate a couple of times per week, as well. Baseball has it's winter talks and off-season deals to follow, but it isn't the same as watching a game. I haven't bothered to start a countdown clock to Opening Day or to Spring Training. Maybe I should. I could add to the anticipation by using an image of a loaded ballpark hotdog as the background for the countdown clock!
I have checked the spring schedules for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Kansas City Royals, and the Springfield Cardinals (the AA affiliate of the big team) so I can plan a few motorcycle ride/baseball outings. I'm looking at day games where I can make the round trip in daylight and not have to eat too many bugs on a night ride home.

Today is supposed to top 60f degrees (16c) and I think I'll treat myself to nice ride of a hundred miles or so.
Keep an eye out for us retired guys on motorcycles.

Be well,
John <><

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Nov 19th; Sunday

It looks like another beautiful day in the Ozarks!
The sun is shining brightly and the day is warming into what will be a grand fall day.

I am preparing for a morning of sharing one of my favorite Bible stories at a growing little church in our area. After speaking with the pastor about the church's current growth spurt, I am even more excited than usual to get to preach there. Recently, they've added a second service directed to the youth of the church and the pastor has asked if I could do some magic for the that service.

I'll also be back for an evening service, so it's going to be a long day. It will be far from the typical lazy Sunday that I'm used to. I am going to enjoy this day.

I hope that you get to enjoy your Sunday, too.
And I hope that you have a place to worship God with other believers.

John <><

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Nov 18th; My Circles

How diverse are your relationships?

In Southwest Missouri, there is not a lot of room for racial diversity as it is a predominantly white community. In my small sub-division, I probably qualify as the only "person of color" with my half Asian heritage.

Politically, I am at odds with most people from my local area. Sure, there are other left of center folks around, but it seems to be a secret society to guard against the verbal abuse and eventual shunning that will take place. Although I consider myself to be more of a moderate, that's the same as a flaming liberal in this far right, deeply red community. You've heard the "blue dot in a red sea" analogy? That's me.
Part of the largely Republican dominated philosophy is a strong anti-union sentiment. I served my union locally and on a couple of different national committees over my career

Religiously, this is the middle of the Bible Belt.
Oddly enough, there are a whole lot of people that are of no religion whatsoever (I'd guess the majority of people). It's pretty safe to assume that if somebody goes to church, they go to a Christian denomination church. Some are ultra conservative, some more progressive. And there are several other belief systems represented, as well. I consider atheists to be a part of a belief system and there are also a significant number of them in the area -- far more than most evangelicals would like to believe.

It's like my acquaintances are from very different tribes that seldom connect in any way.
In the end, I have very few contacts from minority races.
Most of my contacts are hard core republicans with a few that lean libertarian and the ever hopeful few democrats. Surprisingly, a number of my union acquaintances are also pretty staunch republicans.
Religion-wise, the majority are affiliated with a Christian church of some kind. I also know a fair amount of unchurched or non-religious Christians and non-believers.

And of course, there are my readers that come from all over the place and have many backgrounds and stories. It could be that you are my favorite people to visit with. I read your stories and can agree or disagree freely. I can choose to comment or not. I can skip a post and not feel bad about it. I can smile when I receive your comments or see that a certain post is getting a lot of views.
I don't think of blogging as being anti-social. We have our own little society. Some of you are here daily, and others are less frequent members of the community.
I have only met a few of you in person. It would be nice to meet more of you. Perhaps on another ride.

John <><

Friday, November 17, 2017

Nov 17; The War on Christmas

It's hard for me to believe that Christmas is only a little more than five weeks away.
I've never been the kind of person that begins the early Christmas preparations or shops in July or gets excited about Christmas too early.

I've already seen several Facebook memes about "It's Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays" and other similar sentiments. I even saw an SUV with the back window filled with text about "Christ"mas being about the birth of Christ and how Jesus is the "reason for the season" and how we should all say Merry Christmas.

If you've been following Out of My Hat for very long, you already know that I am a Jesus follower. You also know that I celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus (God incarnate) and the fulfillment of the Promised Messiah (The Christ). You probably also know that I recognize that much of my holiday celebration is completely secular and I am willing to own it.

I doubt that I have many hard line "It's Merry Christmas" folks left as regular readers (I know there are a few of you lurking in the shadows), but I was wondering what good it does to insist on wishing someone a Merry Christmas if they are a nonbeliever and only celebrate the holiday for the gifts, the giving, and the spending of time with family.
If Christmas to them is Santa and reindeer, the giving of gifts, etc., does saying Merry Christmas make either of you more holy? Does that, of itself, make the moment a moment of sharing the Christ story?

I do believe that the season offers followers of Jesus wonderful opportunities to tell the story of God's great love for us. I don't think that saying Happy Holidays* has to be considered a missed opportunity or a blasphemous utterance.
There will be plenty of opportunities to ask people about their ways of celebrating the season and sharing your own. There will be opportunities to invite them to church concerts or programs that do celebrate the birth of our Savior. There will be even more opportunities to be gracious and Christ-like as we go about our holiday shopping and our everyday lives over the next several weeks.

Because I often see irony where others don't, I find it extremely amusing to see someone with a cartload of wreaths, lights, candy canes, and other holiday decorations insist on saying an emphatic "Merry Christmas" to the checkout clerk that just wished them a Happy Holidays.

There is no war on Christmas
...until we decide to fight about it.

Be kind.
Share your story.
Share His story.

John <><

*the plural "holidays" can and usually does include Christmas

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nov 16th; When Religion Gets Ugly

I think that religion can be ugly enough on its own and I don't particularly want to add to that ugliness, but I've a story that I think needs to be told. There will certainly be people that will take great offense to my rambling. I am okay with that because it is an offensive story.

Last month, my home church of Hopedale voted to adopt The Nashville Statement as a part of our church constitution. I was opposed to its adoption for a number of reasons and spoke against it (for my allotted two minutes at the business meeting) and was one of two votes opposing it (the other vote was my wife).
Although I was disappointed, frustrated and even angry with the results of the vote, I have grown accustomed to being on the outside when it comes to religion and politics in Southwest Missouri. I should point out that my frustration goes much further than Hopedale and includes being cast in the general group of evangelicals that want more to do with legislating morality and engineering a religious based government than sharing God's grace.
It was with all of this in mind that I wrote my Weekend Rant of a few weeks ago.

Although Hopedale wasn't mentioned specifically in the post, my pastor read it and took it as a personal attack on him and the church. The following day I received a voice mail to call him later in the afternoon. I was busy at that time and when I was ready to call him there was a text telling me that the magic at the next night's Trunk or Treat had been cancelled and we'll talk later.
I called him on Tuesday morning and was informed that we (both me and my wife) would no longer be able to teach, serve on any committees, nor serve in any leadership roles at Hopedale. I guess that also included doing magic at a community event.

All of that from one post!
I feel like I should mention that I've been blogging for more than eleven years. If you were to find the search bar (upper left in the web version) and type in Hopedale, you will find these posts. I've re-read those posts and think that I've painted a pretty rosy picture of Hopedale.
It was after Tuesday's phone conversation that I wrote Wednesday's post, Heretic.

Now I'm more sad than angry as I feel like I am a man without a church. I'm more sad for Chris as she has far many more ties and friendships than I do.
And I'm thinking that there are quite a number of people to whom I owe apologies. Over the years, many have left Hopedale and shared parts of their stories or indicated that they no longer felt welcomed there -- and I always defended Hopedale and our its pastor. Now I wonder if they found themselves victims of the same type of non-biblical church discipline.

We have reached an ugly point in our human history. In today's world, differences of opinions create enmity. I am so thankful for my faithful friends that have greatly different opinions on some topics and yet choose to remain my friend because of the core things that we have in common.
We have also reached an ugly point in christianity (little c intentional). In today's world we have decided that it is our place to pass judgement and condemnation rather than simply share that God's grace is enough.
It is enough to cover my sin.
It is enough to cover yours, too.

I'm not going to pretend that I have all the answers. In fact, the only answer I have is that God loves you and Jesus died for you.
I think I'll leave it to Him to figure out the rest.

John <><

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nov 15; To Bob or Not to Bob?

I am not really mechanically inclined. When it comes to working on motorized vehicles or fixing things around the house that need fixing, my philosophy has always been -- They paid me well to do the job I knew how to do. I should be willing to pay someone else well to do the job they know how to do.

Having said that, I've been toying with the idea of doing some modifications to an old motorcycle that I have. It's an '82 Honda CM450. I'm thinking of turning it into a little bobber. I'm not exactly sure what that will take, but since I'm not riding it now, it won't really matter if it takes me a long time to get it done.
I imagine I'll be able to find some You Tube videos or online help from some motorcycle forums. I'll need to find a single saddle and either remove or cut down the rear fender. I'll also have to move the rear brake light and turn signals. The front windscreen will also come off.
As an older 450, it can currently make it to 70 mph with my big ol' butt on it, but I doubt it would go much faster and certainly won't hold that speed uphill. Stripping it back a bit (especially removing the windscreen) might help, but it will be more for fun or to sell than to actually ride on the highway.
Maybe a winter project to keep the old retired guy off social media and my blog, thereby keeping me out of trouble.

I'll get back to my un-organized religion posts soon (that will aggravate some of the self righteous religious people), but I've come to realize that most everything sensible offends them anyway. I have reached the point of not really caring about people that find offense where none was intended. If you want to be a victim -- you're a victim.
But I digress ...

John <><

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Nov 14; mini rant

A rainy fall day in the Ozarks may keep me from getting any riding in today. That's okay. The bike could use a good cleaning after my weekend ride and a day of riding in the rain.
On the bright side, it will also keep me from having to rake leaves today...and tomorrow. Maybe by the weekend it will be dry enough to get them up.

Most of you know that I am not a winter fan. After a weekend trip to Chicago where there was a bit of snow on the ground, I am already looking forward to spring.
And it's not even Thanksgiving yet!
We have already booked a February vacation to Cancun and I will be projecting my thoughts and enjoying the beach in my head for the next 12 weeks. Some good cigars arrived yesterday and I'll be saving a few of them for the trip. I'll be looking through my humidor and selecting some others for the days lounging on the beach.

In the mean time I'll have to occupy myself with other winter distracting activities.
If I had the time, I could spend forever on the computer pointing out all of the really fake news and lies that are published on social media sites. This comes from both sides and far too many people read, believe, and share false information without checking sources. It is unfortunate that we allow ourselves to become the means for spin artists and politically motivated liars to spread their lies.
Such a task would confine me to my computer indefinitely.

Maybe we all need to be less quick to retweet or share things we haven't checked out. Maybe we should check stories out and call the bs when we see it. I know that most people will not remove posts that have been called out as lies, but at least others that read the comments will know that it is untrue.

It is unfortunately true that I have been guilty of reposting false stories.
I give you permission -- even encourage you -- to call me out for such stories.
If we all become more deliberate in checking out stories before sharing information, perhaps we can prevent ourselves from being the dumbest, most misinformed generation of all time.

I think I'll look for a different distraction.

John <><

Monday, November 13, 2017

Nov 13th; Cold Weather Ride

It is the Monday morning after my first long, cold weather ride.

Thursday I rode about 400 miles from Ozark MO to Metamora IL. It was just above freezing when I left home and upper 30s (3-4C) when I arrived. It did make it into the mid 40s (7C) in southern IL.
Friday afternoon I rode from Metamora to Chicago when temperatures were in the mid 30 range.
For the 500+ mile ride on Sunday, I got the added bonus of light rain for about 3 hours! It was a little warmer with most of the day in the 40s.

My overall assessment of the long cold ride is that it wasn't much different from any other long ride. Although my "cold weather" gear is pretty inexpensive and not really motorcycle cold weather riding gear, I was comfortable. The multiple layers is a little binding when moving around at stops and a pain when you need to pee, but did the job of keeping me warm and dry.

I wore heavy denim jeans, a long sleeved shirt and sweater, and insulated bib overalls. Over that I wore my lined textile jacket and covered it all with my Joe Rocket rain gear. I had waterproof motoryles gloves with an additional liner and waterproof winter boots with heavy socks. I also used the chemical hand and feet warmers for parts of the ride. I used a face and neck fleece with my modular helmet.
All-in-all, it wasn't bad. The rain gear served as a nice windproof layer when it wasn't raining and I wore it all the time.

If I decide that I'll be taking more long winter rides, I may have to invest in some actual motorcycle cold weather gear. For now, what I have is what I'll work with.
I'll continue to ride when the road conditions are suitable throughout the winter months. If it's just a local ride, I won't bother with any more gear than is necessary for a short time out.
If you are an all weather biker and have some tips, I would be grateful for your input. I've been riding for less than two years, so I am still learning. While on this trip, I did pass the 29.000 mile mark in the 20+ months since I got my motorcycle endorsement and bought my '06 Vulcan 900 Classic.

Be safe out there.
And if your driving, continue to watch for old retired guys on motorcycles. Not all of us put them away for the winter!

John <><

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Nov 12th; Chicago

I'm typing late on the 11th and will post this for the 12th.
Chris and I spent the day in Chicago with Aaron and Jenny. We slept in and then headed over to Haymarket for brunch. Jenny knows that I'm always good for a Morning Riot.

Our afternoon activity was a mani/pedi day. I skipped the pedicure part, but did get a manicure. The hand and forearm massage felt pretty good after a couple of days of cold weather riding.

Dinner was pizza at Lou Malnati's.
Then it was off to see the Chicago Wolves hockey game. This season, the St Louis Blues have their minor league skaters on two different teams -- that played last night. The Blues skaters on both teams did well.

I'll be spending most of my Sunday on the road as I make my way home.
Be well, my friends.

John <><

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Nov 11th; Veterans' Day

Happy Veterans' Day to all of you that have served our country in the military!
Thank you for your service!

This morning's post comes from the frigid region of Chicago IL.
I arrived yesterday afternoon on my motorcycle to find snow on the ground! It wasn't on the streets, but the sidewalks and grass areas still held the morning snow ... and it was cold! It will be a little warmer today and tomorrow, but still cold.

I'm going to say that a winter ride of several hundred miles might not have been my best idea, but on the other hand, it wasn't too bad. Even with the cold, I enjoyed the ride.
However, if I'm going to continue with long winter rides, I may have to invest in some better gear -- especially in good winter foot gear. It was never far below freezing and I was never really uncomfortable. All in all, the long, cold ride was no big deal.

I am looking forward to spending time with the kids today. Tomorrow's ride will be a long, cold, and possibly wet day. Eh, we'll see.

I'm having some issues with posting pictures to my blog. If I can get it figured out, I'll add one. Otherwise I'll just post my black and white to my social media sites.

John <><

Friday, November 10, 2017

Nov 10

Just a quick note before getting on the road.
I went to a Veterans Day tribute at the elementary school in my Dad's hometown of Princeville IL.
They did a really great job of honoring the Vets and encouraging kids to service.

John <><

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Nov 9th; Up before the sun

It isn't often that I am up before the sun now that I sleep until I'm finished.
Today is one of those days since I need to get on the road and make use of the available daylight.
I'll be traveling north today and so the day will be even shorter. Did you know that Chicago IL has 26 fewer minutes of daylight than Ozark MO today? The sun rises a little earlier but sets much earlier.
I was surprised by the difference.

I think I'm going to shorten today's ride and stop in Metamora for the night. I still need to check with the folks about dropping in on them, but will do that from the road.
Right now I'm enjoying the necessary go juice (coffee) before bundling up and getting started.
Despite the cold temperatures, I'm looking forward to the ride. That may change once I'm out for a bit. This will be my first long cold weather ride -- and it's a doozy!

Here are a couple of books I'm currently re-reading.

In case you can't tell, the solid black book is my Bible.
I know the challenge says no explanation, but since I've changed the terms of the challenge, well...

Have a grand day!

John <><

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Road Ready

I suppose it is always good to be prepared for the unexpected little hiccup in your plans.
In the past few weeks there have been three times when I couldn't start my motorcycle with the electronic start and had to push-start it (like popping the clutch on a stick shift car).
Today was the third time ... and tomorrow I'm supposed to be taking a trip!

I called the guy that services my bike, described what's happening and he confirmed what I hoped was the problem -- probably just an old battery that no longer had the power to turn the starter fast enough to engage the engine.

(Btw, if you are in the Ozark area and need a motorcycle mechanic, I highly recommend Spokes Garage. Anthony has been a great help to me as a new motorcycle owner and has been servicing his bikes and his friends' bikes long before he opened his shop.)

When I brought the old battery into the parts place, the guy at the counter said that it had lasted longer than most (3 1/2) years and asked if I used a trickle charger. (Anthony asked the same thing.)
I don't, but it rarely sits more than a day or two without being ridden.

In any case, I have a new battery, I've checked the oil, the tire pressure, and fluid levels, and I am ready to hit the road. November doesn't sound like the ideal time for a motorcycle trip to Chicago, but I think I'll be okay. Tomorrow should be a good day to ride. Sunday -- not so much. There's a 50% chance of light rain and high temps in the mid 40s (that's around 7 for you Celsius folks). I've got rain gear and cold weather gear and some new waterproof gloves, so I think I'll be okay. If it's raining too hard, I'll find a place to stop for awhile.

So, in keeping with my daily black and white photo...
Here she is, all ready to hit the road.

(Definitely not as pretty in b&w)

It's right at 525 miles from driveway to driveway, so I'll be using all of the available daylight.
If you're out on the highways, watch for crazy retired guys that continue to ride their bikes even in mid November!

John <><

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Nov 7th; Not everything is black and white

If you are on Facebook like most people, then you have seen the black and white photo challenge. I have been tagged by my new least favorite cousin. *

Seven days. Seven black & white photos of my life. No people. No explanations. Challenge someone new daily.

Now, I am big boy and rarely do things that I really don't want to do, so taking on the challenge of posting one b&w photo for each of the next seven days is on me. Because I'm not a big fan of such challenges, I'm not going to tag someone on each day.

I am also planning to post my daily picture here on Out of My Hat.
Since I link to the blog on Facebook, that's how it will get posted there.
No people -- that's easy, I don't do people.
No explanation -- that may not happen here. We'll see.

I saw the challenge first thing in the morning so this was the obvious place to begin with photos of my life.

John <><

*Kathy, you're not really my least favorite cousin -- but you're getting closer!

Monday, November 06, 2017

Nov 6; The Good Life

It is late in the day (almost 2PM) and I'm just now sitting down to take care of my National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) obligation.
I have also neglected my novel writing so far today.

However, it has been a fairly productive day, none the less.
I started the day meeting an old friend for breakfast. He is a fellow evangelist with more pastoral leanings than I have. I always enjoy getting together with him and have often been blessed by both his wit and wisdom.

I took the long way home from the restaurant (a common occurrence for motorcycle riders) but made it home in time to rake the front and south side yard before the rain was coming down too hard. After my gourmet lunch (two peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, one with blackberry jelly and one with strawberry) and getting started on my laundry, I am now ready to blog.

Not long ago, I was thinking about some of the people that have made their way into and out of my life; the ones that made a positive impact on my life and will forever be considered to be a friend. It doesn't take a long time to actually name or number them. There just aren't that many. But I am reminded of how blessed I am to have known them.
Because life has separated us, we rarely interact anymore. There may be an occasional text or a social media contact, but the truth is that life often just moves on and we move along with it.

I can't say that it really makes me sad, nostalgic maybe, but not sad. It is just the way of things.
If I was participating in the daily thankfulness theme (I'm not), I would say I am thankful for the people that have helped shaped me into the guy that always confuses people with both conservative and progressive values. I am thankful that some of those people have very different ideas on religion, politics, and social issues, yet still call me their friend.

I have a good life.
I don't have a lot of friends, but I have a few and they are enough.
I hope you have enough friends.
It's said, "If you want to have friends, be a friend."
I may have just found the problem!

John <><

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Nov 5th; Standard Time

It is the first day of our return to standard time.
I may have to make an adjustment in my waking hours to fully take advantage of the available daylight. I do hate the shorter days and early sunsets. I took advantage of the extra hour last night and stayed up late watching some of the post fight shows from UFC 217.

It was a good card with some brutal knock outs and three new Champions were named!
I still get some odd looks from people when they find out I am a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight fan, but I really do enjoy watching and following certain fighters. There is a December Bellator fight that isn't too far from me, but I have a hard time justifying the additional cost of an overnight stay and tickets for the fight when I can watch it for free on TV.


This morning I'll be preaching at a little country church that is only a few miles from my home. The church is currently without a pastor as theirs recently retired. So far they have been filling their pulpit on a weekly basis. I don't know if that will continue to be their practice while the look for a new pastor or if they will seek an interim pastor. In either case, I am there for the morning and evening services today.
I'll be in Chicago next weekend to visit with the kids, and will be preaching at another local church the following weekend.

I think I will be doing some more posts on what I believe during the coming weeks. I'm finding that to be a little more difficult than I expected. In the past, such discussions have been driven more by dialogue and by what others say they believe in or by questions they may ask. Trying to follow an organized pattern of thought on my own is more difficult than just sitting and typing away. Maybe order is not as important as I think it is. After all, it is about unorganized religion, right?

I hope that you find time to praise God today. Whether you do that by gathering with other believers or by spending alone time with God, I hope that you will acknowledge the many blessings of life and praise Him for his goodness.

Blessings, my friends.

John <><

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Nov 4th, Wedding Day

It's a dreary day in the Ozarks -- overcast and foggy this morning.
The fog will clear shortly, but the skies are forecast to remain overcast throughout the day. There is no rain in the forecast and that's a good thing since the wedding I'm officiating in the early afternoon is outdoors.

As I was leaving the rehearsal last night, the groom asked me if I had any suggestions for nausea. He has seemed pretty calm so I asked him if he was starting to get nervous. He said even the rehearsal was giving him a little feeling of nausea.
My advice -- Don't eat breakfast!

I doubt that's what he was hoping for.

I'm going to enjoy my coffee and my quiet and prepare myself for spending an afternoon with people I don't know. Should be fun. Not.

Enjoy your weekend.

John <><

Friday, November 03, 2017

November 3rd

It's getting late in the morning and I still haven't written anything for this blog (apparently good news for some), nor have I added to the couple of pages of my novel in progress.

I will have some people interactions tonight and tomorrow as I will be officiating a small wedding ceremony. I've met briefly with the couple on two occasions. Tonight is rehearsal and tomorrow -- the BIG day!

I also have some friends that are having a 65th Anniversary open house tomorrow. I hope to be able to stop by after the wedding. That's kind of a neat transition -- two kids just starting out to a couple of friends that have been faithfully married for 65 years!

I am looking forward to dinner with my daughter tonight.
And I'll be preaching and teaching at a small local church on Sunday.
Wow! That's a lot of people time!

I will cherish the alone time to watch the Bellator 186 fights later tonight and then UFC 217 on Saturday night. I may have to log some solo motorcycle time on Sunday afternoon. It looks like it will be a pretty busy weekend. It's a good thing I have Mondays off!
...and Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, ...

I hope that you have some great people moments this weekend. Maybe you'll have the opportunity to share this truth with somebody:  God loves you. Jesus died for you.

John <><

Thursday, November 02, 2017

A Man on a Mission

Like many followers of Jesus, I haven't always done a good job of representing the King as an ambassador, nor have I always done a good job of sharing the simple message that God loves you and Jesus died for you.

It's true that I have had "professional" opportunities that many don't get (i.e. preaching from the pulpit or performing magic that delivers that message), but my personal, one on one witnessing has been lacking. Much of that is because I just don't talk to many people. I really need to work on that.

I guess I could join a club or something. Maybe take a class, join a gym, or hang out at McDonalds with the other old people that go there to drink coffee and socialize.
It's getting to be the time of year when neighbors tend to spend more time indoors so talking with neighbors will have fewer opportunities for several months.

I am turning to my readers and social media followers to help me in my search for ways to connect with people.
Should I -- dare I say it -- get a job?
Find a coffee shop where I can hang out?
Take a class? And if so, what kind of class?
Join a gym?
What are your suggestions?

I should mention that I'm not just looking for people so that I can share the gospel. I'm looking for people to make a connection. Asking about church, beliefs, etc., is just a part of that.

So ...
How does an old introvert meet people?
Help a guy out, please!

John <><

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


I should have decided to wear a costume for Halloween yesterday. I could have been Martin Luther and dressed up as a 16th century monk with a heretical thesis to nail to a church door.
Although I would have had to come up with the costume, it appears that I have the heresy part down.

Actually, I doubt that it's the first time I've been considered to be a heretic, but opinions only matter when you have power and can wield your power like a club to keep the opposition in line.
I'm probably still too frustrated to write sensibly about it, so I'll let it reduce to a simmer before I take to sharing that story. I think I've already been threatened. At least I perceive the "I think you're heading down a path that will end badly for you," as an encouragement to drop the subject and write about it no more, or else...

In any case, I am comfortable in my beliefs and stance and hope that others will judge me by my words and actions. I have always been faithful to preach and teach the gospel of God's grace and salvation in Jesus alone.
There will always be people that feel threatened by differing opinions and there will always be those that use their power (or perceived power) to silence their opposition.

Fortunately, there are few (if any) people that hold such power over me. I am not on staff with any organization, nor reliant on anyone else for my income. I tend to navigate life with few close companions and have no fear of isolation.
The few people whom I trust and those few who trust me know that I will stand firm in my beliefs, but will admit it if I find that I have been wrong.

Maybe I'll just leave it at this. It may also be considered heretical to follow the advice of a Democrat in a Republican dominated religious denomination, but former First Lady Michelle Obama's "When they go low, we go high," might be the best approach.

We'll see...
John  <><

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Novel Approach...

November is National Novel Writing Month.

Many writers' clubs and groups encourage setting a daily word goal in order to write a novel (at least a rough draft) during the coming month. I don't think that I'm going to hammer out a novel in the the next thirty days, but I do plan on writing a little bit every day.

During the many miles on the highway while on my long ride this past summer, a couple of ideas went through my head and managed to find a place to settle in. They are rough and undeveloped, but will serve as a place to begin. If nothing else, I'll end up with an unfinished tale and several hours that I managed to stay out of trouble. If we have some decent weather days, I'll probably manage to burn a few cigars as I write.

November has also been the traditional month for bloggers to post every day. I've done that in the past and will try to find something interesting to post on a daily basis during the coming thirty days. One Facebook theme is to post something for which I am thankful every day. That probably works better for Facebook than on a blog. There are 30 writing prompt lists that are available, but I think I can manage without a daily prompt.

I can't say that I'm much of a goal setting kind of guy, but I do look at numbers and things and occasionally get in a personal record contest with my past self.
For example: This is my 138th post of the year. Last year (2016) was my record year with 181 posts. I will need to step up my posting for the remaining 61 days of 2017 if I am going to have another record posting year. Writing every day in November would surely help.

It sounds as if I'll be spending considerable time with my keyboard in the coming days...

John <><

Monday, October 30, 2017

I might need to ride ...

I took a short ride to run an errand yesterday and noticed that I'm only about 150 mile shy of putting on 28,000 miles since I bought my motorcycle. I'll have owned it 20 months tomorrow.
Not bad for a rookie rider!

It is starting to get colder, and so I've put the liner back into my jacket and switched to my winter gloves. It doesn't get too cold here and so most days are still okay to ride. The biggest detriment to winter riding is road condition. For the most part, as long as the roads are clear and dry, I'm good to go!

The pastor of the church where I was Saturday night is a biker. He and his wife put a lot of miles on their bikes and we talked about our experiences quite a bit during the evening. Perhaps we will meet for lunch sometime. It was around 90 miles (one way) to the church, so there are plenty of places that we could meet and both get a good ride as a part of the day.

Well, the sun is shining and it's supposed to make it to 50 today!
I know it's getting cooler and there aren't as many of us still on the road, but watch for us old biker guys as you go about your daily driving!

John <><

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Weekend Rant

I suppose that today's rant in going to offend some people.

By now, most of you know that I lean left of center where politics is concerned and yet have a pretty conservative core where religion and Christianity are in play. You also know that I have little tolerance for politics in churches and I certainly don't look to politicians to be religious leaders.
I have no problems with individuals (Christians or non-Christians) banding together to take a social stance, but I do not care for those that do so "in the name of God" when it is really just their pet prejudice or pet project.

I am particularly distressed when churches feel the need to take on the cultural war as if it is their mission to safeguard the church community from the evils of  ---- (feel free to insert whatever social evil you hate most).

When we choose to stand against the LGBTQ+ community (I know we really love them, but just not their way of life, right? Where's the sarcasm font when you need it?) as a church, we are engaging in a battle that we are not called to fight.
As citizens, we have the right to fight to change laws that make abortion a legal option for women. When we take on that battle as a mission of the church, we disengage from the spiritual battle that we are called to fight and engage the enemy (that's the devil for those that don't speak christianese) on his turf and in a battle of his making.
You can choose whatever social evil you want to go to war against, but when you do so as the church or as an agent of God, you are missing the point.

In the Book of Ephesians, Paul writes that we are not warring against the things of this world, but that our fight is in the spiritual realm. We are to contend for souls. We are to share the Gospel, make disciples and let God worry about the part of changing hearts and lives.
Making abortion illegal doesn't win souls to the kingdom.
Keeping LGBTQ+ peoples out of our churches doesn't win souls to the kingdom.
Guarding our heritage, nationalism, property, ideals, personal beliefs, etc., doesn't win souls to the kingdom.
Building bigger buildings, buying bigger buses, inviting famous politicians, have laser lights and loud bands; none of that stuff adds souls to the kingdom.

For the most part, the kingdom still grows one soul at a time -- when one believer shares the love of God with one non-believer in such a way that the non-believer comes to know the grace of God and follows God's teachings and ways.

Psalm 34:18 says,
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Lately, I've seen too many of "his people" that are all about crushing the spirits of the brokenhearted rather than lifting them up and loving them.

Although I am an evangelical Christian, I am so ready to shed the label and just be about the business of sharing the simple message that God loves you and Jesus died for you.
Why do we choose to make following Jesus so difficult?

John <><

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Trick or Treat!

Happy Halloween!

It's that time of year when Christian churches across the US debate over whether or not to celebrate the holiday or how to counter the celebration of the holiday.
Many will have "Fall" celebrations or "Harvest" festivals. Both will look like Halloween parties with kids in costumes and lots of candy and treats to be given away.
I guess calling it by another name is supposed to make us feel a little better about ourselves as we can hold our self-righteous heads high and say that we don't celebrate Halloween.

There are others that just embrace the weekend and offer a safe place for parents and kids.
Tonight I'll be traveling to Northwest Arkansas to share a little Gospel magic at such an event.

I'm looking forward to this trip. As is usually the case, I'll spend many more hours traveling to and from the venue than I'll actually spend performing, but I get to share in ministry with some old friends.
The woman that called me is originally from a church in my local area. Many years ago, I was there for an event. When her family moved to a church in Mt. Home, AR, she called me and I went there for a few Easter celebrations. Now they are in Pea Ridge, AR and I get to minister with them once more.

Tuesday night (Halloween) I'll be at Hopedale doing the same thing.
If you're in the area for either event, stop in and say hi -- or Trick or Treat.

John <><

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

More on Believing in God

I just wanted to add a little bit to my simplistic reasoning in favor of believing in God.

In nature, nothing moves from chaos to an organized structure.  The opposite happens -- things that are organized become corrupted. Everything about the natural world around has has such a specific, and often complicated design. This design can't happen by random coincidence.

An argument that is as old as the Cosmological Argument is the Teleological Argument in favor of an Intelligent Designer. It simply says that anything with a design, must have a designer. The universe has design. Therefore, the universe must have a designer.

Again, it's a pretty simple view, but it makes good sense to me.
The Bible says that God has shown himself to man in the things he has created (Rom 1:20).

I should also say that simply believing there is a Creator or Intelligent Designer doesn't mean that there is a moral god or that this supernatural being cares about what happens to the works that have been created. That's an issue yet to be addressed.

At one time, the common thought was that the universe was eternal; that it has always been.
That would eliminate the Cosmological Argument since it deals with things that have a beginning. Science tells us that the universe did have a beginning; a singular moment in time when it began to exist!

I find it pleasing and completely natural that the very laws of nature would point us to something supernatural to explain its beginning!
I am also amused by people that refuse to look outside of science or nature to explain creation, but rather choose to say they simply don't know what could have been before that singular moment or what could have possibly caused it.
I truly believe that it takes way more faith to say the universe began, but we don't know how, than to believe in a Supreme Being that acted to create it.

Just rambling a bit this morning.
Have a grand day.

John <><

Sunday, October 22, 2017

On the Outside, Looking In

A week ago I posted about organized religion and promised future posts that distilled my own beliefs down to a pretty simple, but un-organized set of beliefs.

I currently belong to a relatively small Southern Baptist church in southwest Missouri. That church belongs to an association of about sixty other Southern Baptists churches. Together we belong to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and to the larger international Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  Although each individual church is autonomous, you can see that we band together and are indeed a part of organized religion.

I didn't grow up in a Southern Baptist church and am still not a dyed in the wool Southern Baptist kind of guy. That will sound odd to many. I am an evangelist in the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelists and I serve on the Administrative Team for our local association. There are many Christians that seem to hold their denominational standing in pretty high regard as if being (place your denomination or church name here) makes you a better standard of Jesus follower.

I have to say that I truly struggle in my own efforts to follow Jesus and would probably detract from anyone's standing if I were to associate myself with them or wave their banner in claiming to be a Christian. I often feel so far removed from the organizational standard that I sense I am on the outside, looking in.
Because my focus has been on walking with Jesus, I haven't learned how to be a good Southern Baptist yet. I'm still trying to figure out how to be more like Jesus.

But I'm rambling and out of order.
I really want to begin by saying that I am a theist -- I believe in God.
I do not believe in many gods. I believe in just The One God.
I believe that God is The Creator of all things.

Why I believe in God is a pretty simple matter.
It's way easier than believing in no god.

The Cosmological Argument for God is an old one.
It basically says that every thing that has a beginning, has a cause. The universe has a beginning. Therefore, the universe has a cause -- something or someone outside of the universe had to act to create it.
Science says the universe has a beginning.
There was nothing; then there was the universe.
There has to be a cause. And it has to be outside of the universe that didn't exist in the moment before it did exist. As crazy as it sounds, a supernatural being is just way easier to believe than everything coming from nothing!

That's probably not the deep theological reasoning you were hoping for, but it's all I have.

Maybe you have a better argument for why you do believe or don't believe in God.
...or why you believe in multiple gods.
...or why you believe that everything is god (may the Force be with you).

Re-reading that sounds pretty lame.
I sure hope my future posts explaining my beliefs are better. I may have to stick to the organized propaganda that is put out by the organized religious people...

John <><

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Un-organized Religion

I have a patch on my motorcycle jacket that says, "Sure I love Jesus. It's his fan club that bothers me."

I'm often surprised at the comments it generates. There were several toll booth operators that commented about it when I was on my trip -- all believers, btw.
Just recently, a young man at a fast food restaurant asked me about it. I think he was a young believer and was ready to defend his belief. I included myself in my answer saying something like -- I think that we, as believers, often give Jesus a bad name by the way we behave. He just nodded his head as he walked away and said, "Yeah, I get that."

Lately, I have become more and more concerned with the way that Evangelical Christians have become more of a cultural (or anti-cultural) organization with a political agenda than a group of people dedicated to sharing the Gospel of salvation by the grace of God.

I often feel like an outsider when with other Christians. I differ from many of them on politics and on many cultural issues. I despise that we have allowed religion to become a political tool.
Understand that I have nothing against Christians being politically active (I'm actually in favor of that), but to leverage religion as a tool or to wave it about like a club and then to back someone that stands in direct opposition to those beliefs is a detriment to those beliefs and to Jesus, himself.

It is my personal opinion that the church (little c intentional) in the US is nothing like the Church that Jesus leads. In my years as an evangelist, I can't begin to recount the number of times that I've been told that someone believes in God but is opposed to organized religion.
I believe I have mentioned that I'm a slow learner. I am beginning to understand their perspective.

I know that the readers of this blog come from a variety of religious beliefs and backgrounds. At one time there were a few atheists. I'm not sure if that's still true or not. I do know that many have stopped following me for a wide variety of reasons. If I haven't ye offended you, consider yourself fortunate. If I have and you're still here, thanks.

I'm thinking about adding a weekly post that shares something of my personal beliefs -- a sermon like message about what I believe and why.
I'm not looking at starting an online church or anything like that.
I'm not looking for debate about my beliefs (although, I do expect some).
I'm not sure that I'm even looking to make converts to my way of thinking or to my beliefs.
I'm just thinking of sharing my faith on a regular basis through this forum -- a kind of un-organized religion.
It might help me to keep what remains of my sanity.

John <><

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Wonderful weekend

Last Wednesday was Chris' birthday.
A couple of weeks ago, Aaron called and wanted to meet this weekend in St Louis to celebrate her birthday.

We arrived at the hotel downtown St Louis on Friday night. The kids didn't get in from Chicago until late. We went out to get a little late night snack when they arrived and then called it a day.
I was up before everyone else on Saturday and walked a couple of blocks to a nearby Starbucks where I enjoyed a little coffee and managed a quick post.

By the time I made it back to the hotel, Aaron was up and wanted to make a run to Blueprint Coffee Roasters in U-City. We went back to pick up our girls and began our Saturday birthday celebration. We started with a trip to The Hill for lunch at Zia's.

Oh my! It was so good and reasonably priced. We sat outside and didn't let the few sprinkles bother us. We were mostly under cover of the awning and I think I was the only one catching a few drops on my arm.

After lunch, we went to the St Louis Art Museum at Forest Park. We spent most of the rainy afternoon inside the Museum and enjoyed walking through the many exhibits. By the time we decided to leave, the rain had moved on and the sun was shining. There was a wedding in the park and they had set up for the reception dinner in the main entrance of the Art Museum.

(Thanks to Jenny for the artfully done pics. See what I did, there?)

We had already decided on Iron Barley for dinner and journeyed out to High Ridge to their new location. I don't know why they moved from their south city location to a place out in the boonies, but it was certainly worth the drive. It was only the third night at the new place and it was a little chaotic, but I have to say it was well worth the wait.
My ribs were superb!
Aaron called them contest ribs. Well done, but not the falling off the bone ribs you often find at restaurants. They had a great crusty sear on the outside and a subtle smoked flavor throughout. The meat separated from the bone easily enough, but you had to do it. It wasn't like picking up the bone and the meat falling away. Easily the best restaurant ribs I've ever had.

We finished the day at an oyster bar downtown, listening to some live music.
All-in-all, it's been a pretty wonderful weekend. We'll have a late breakfast or lunch with the kids before we separate and each travel to our homes. It's really satisfying knowing that your kids have grown into some pretty decent adults, chosen great spouses, and are the kinds of people that are great to do life with.

Life is pretty grand!

John <><