Friday, June 30, 2017

June ends; Here comes July!

It is weird the way my ministry opportunities seem to come and go.

I know that it doesn't seem to be the normal thing for the majority of churches to plan far into the future. Half way through May and the only thing on my summer schedule was a day camp on June 3rd, two days of Bible Stories with Pastor John on the 6th & 7th, and an overnight camp on 16th and 17th.
That was it ... for the summer!

Then came a job for both children's camp and youth camp (two shows) in Northern Missouri last Tuesday night (the 27th with travel home on the 28th), a different children's camp (same location) next Thursday night (with a Friday morning breakfast meeting with a different church pastor about a fall event before heading home), and Sunday morning preaching at a local church on the 2nd and 9th!


Honestly, I'm grateful for the opportunities that come my way -- especially the preaching opportunities. I actually had to turn down a church because I was already booked this Sunday!
So now June ends and July is only scheduled through the 9th. I'm kind of wondering what the second half of the month will hold and if I'll be getting any back to school gigs for August. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

In any case, I'll be making the challenge to share the Good News:

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Giving Thanks, Camps and other stuff...

It has been way too long since I have done a Thursdays are for Thanksgiving post so I thought that today would be a good day to get back in the habit!

Today I am thankful that God uses me in spite of myself!
When I examine John with a critical eye, I don't think I find the kind of guy that I would send several hours away or to multiple camps each summer to tell kids and young people about the love of a great and magnificent God.
And for the life of me, I can't understand why He does!
I don't even really like kids. (Here's a post from 11 years ago that talks about that!)

In over 15+ years I've been in too many children's camp to remember. I've done preschool day camps, 1st and 2nd graders in overnight camps, family camps, boys' camps, girls' camps, large camps and small camps. I've been to camps where I know almost all of the kids and I've been to camps where I haven't known anyone. I've been to camps where the joyous spirit of God's love permeates everything and I've been to camps where there were so many kids that really needed someone to love them that it broke even my hard heart.

I honestly don't get it.
How (or why) God uses a curmudgeonly, old guy to speak to sometimes tender, sometimes bratty little kids is beyond me. I don't get how a large group of young kids will sit quietly on a hard concrete floor and pay close attention to every word I'm saying and yet be unable to stay focused while others are speaking.

When it's not my time to speak or perform, I often retreat to my room or else force myself to be present with the kids. Truthfully, kids make me a bit uncomfortable.

It seems weird to be thankful for something that I would choose not to do.
I know that I could say "no" when churches call, but at some point I fear I would have to explain my refusal to serve to God. I'm afraid I already have enough 'splainin' to do and don't want to have to add this to the list!

Besides, there have been many blessings along the way.
I marvel at the adults that are blessed with the capacity to truly love kids!
I am constantly amazed by young people (youth kids and young adults) that pitch in and make these camps successful events. Over the years, I have been blessed to witness kids grow in their faith and become young adults that choose to live for Jesus.

And so I am thankful for the ministry that I have been given.
I often wish that I could travel with our church's mission teams, but those summer mission trips usually fall during camp season. Next week will find me at my fifth different camp of the summer.
From camp pastor to storyteller to entertainer...
This is my mission field.
And I am thankful.

John <><

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Social Media Friends vs Real Friends

I ran into an old friend at the grocery store yesterday.
It was I guy that I had shared ministry with at a children's camp many years ago. He now pastors a small church in a nearby community.

It was nice catching up with him.

He is one of the hundreds of Facebook friends that I dropped at some time in the past. Perhaps we'll reconnect on social media. I still follow his church page, so I get to see a little of what is happening in the ministry part of his life.

I'm really happy not having people that I see on a regular basis as Facebook friends. I think that we should have normal conversations and relationships OFF of our phones and computers whenever we can. I like using social media to keep in touch with family and friends that I don't get to converse with or relate to on a more natural level.

In a sense, that's opposite of what you might expect from a self-proclaimed introvert. I don't think that real relationships are a problem and I don't really mind exposing myself (so to speak) to people that I know well and am interested in knowing better.

Let's face it--for the most part, social media relationships are not real relationships. Most of the people I follow on Instagram and Twitter I have never met (and probably never will meet) in person. For many of them, I am just a fan of their work or craft and somehow benefit from their posts or just enjoy their pictures and comments. Sure, there are many that I would like to meet and it would be cool to have a famous friend or two, but that isn't really the introverted John that you all have come to know through this blog and social media.

I'm actually more interested in meeting the people that read this blog and write their own personal blogs more than I am in meeting many of the people that follow on various forms of social media. I've been using Facebook much less than I used to and may find that trend to continue. In fact, I may find myself using all forms of social media less and just trying to work and being more social on a personal level.

Wait! Did I just write what I think I wrote?
It made more sense in my head than what it looks like and sounds like when I read it out loud.
This is going to take some effort!

I'd write more but the day awaits and I guess I'll have to interact with a few people along the way.
I'll try to be nice.

John <><

Friday, June 23, 2017

Heading to Northern Missouri

Sometimes it's just a little weird the way things happen.

This past spring I was thinking that it has been a few years since I've been to Grand Oaks Assembly for a camp. Then a month or so ago I got an email inquiring about my availability for a camp at the end of June. I'll be there next Tuesday (6/27) night to share The Message in Magic with both their children's camp and their youth camp.

Then yesterday I received a second call (from a different association's children's camp) about coming up for a night for their camp on July 6.

From not being up there for more than four years to being there twice in just nine days!

Now to figure out how to pack my magic show on to the motorcycle for the 4 hour ride!

John <><

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Not-so Handyman

It's been about a week since my last post and life goes on. I skipped the road trip to KC for yesterday's ballgame and took care of mowing an overgrown lawn instead. I'm sure I'll make the trip before the summer is over.

I think that I've previously mentioned that I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer, handyman kind of guy. When it comes to physically working on things around the home or car (and now, motorcycle), 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!

That said, I did decide to undertake the job of replacing some of the vinyl siding on the north side of our house that had been damaged by a leaf fire that got out of control. The damage wasn't enough to be covered by insurance (we carry too high of a deductible) and I figured that I could manage a few pieces of siding.

Naturally, it turned into a much bigger job than expected. The double-4 siding that is on the house wasn't an exact match to the replacement siding and it became necessary to replace each entire row rather than just the damaged pieces. The color is a spot on match but the part where the siding bends to make the 4/4 lap was a little off and left a bit of a gap where two different pieces met. That meant having to order more siding and leaving the job half finished until the order came in.
No problem for an easy going retired guy, right?

Well, it wouldn't have been a problem if that was the only problem. The overall width of the new pieces was also just a little bit off -- not enough to really notice in one row, but fifteen rows later it was an inch and a half or so difference (two story side of the house)!
So again, the project remains unfinished. It isn't very noticeable, but there is an entire row of siding that isn't locked into the row beneath it. I'll have to wait until I can get an extension ladder and then move each remaining row up so that it interlocks with the row beneath it and then trim the top row.
Did I mention that I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer, handyman kind of guy?

Ah well...
life goes on and my minuscule problems go unnoticed by the rest of the world.

On the bright side --
Summer has officially arrived!
I don't suppose that is a really significant thing. The summer solstice is just another day for most people, but I generally take notice of such celestial events. I'm not sure why other than I think it's cool that there is a precise order to the universe. It's almost as if it was designed that way!

I hope that you have an enjoyable summer!

John <><

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Baseball Blessing

It turns out that the one game the Cardinals won in their four game series with the Brewers was the game that I attended!

It was a warm day (95f, 35c), but a beautiful day for baseball and a long ride on the motorcycle.
I picked up a good seat via Stub Hub and was in the 11th row near the left field foul pole. (Why is it called the foul pole when it's in fair territory?)

I enjoyed my pregame meal of a ballpark dog with sauerkraut, grilled onions and mustard and settled in for the game. (The 'kraut and mustard are under the dog)

There was a young man seated behind me that reminded me of my son, Aaron. He was very up on the Cardinals' farm system, 40-man roster, player stats, etc. It reminded me of going to ball games with Aaron. We talked for several innings before I needed to get up and walk around a bit. I was sitting in the hot sun and wearing black, heavy denim jeans (for the motorcycle ride) and was starting to bake a bit.

The game wasn't well attended as it was a midweek day game that was added to the schedule to make up for a previous rain out. Still, there were many families with young kids at the park and the ice cream and cotton candy vendors were probably doing nearly as well as the beer vendors.
I made my way around the stadium, pausing to watch the game as standing room in shaded areas allowed. By the time I made it back to my seat, the shadows were hitting the top row of my section so I decided to park it there and wait an inning for the shade to cover me.

I'm glad that I got to see a winner.
The team pretty much stunk in the remaining games of the series.

I made my way back to my motorcycle. Because of construction, I couldn't get back on the Interstate where I normally do and decided to take the city streets to meet Mike at Ted Drewe's. We had a nice visit while enjoying frozen custard along the iconic Old Route 66.

I have to say that I really like the coolness of the Kevlar mesh riding shirt over the vented textile motorcycle jacket. The Draggin' shirt is like a big sweater and is plenty warm when you're not moving, but allows great airflow when riding.
At 95 degrees, it's going to be hot no matter what. You're on a hot concrete slab and sitting on top of a hot engine. There's nothing about moving through 95 degree wind that is going to really cool you off. I like having the long sleeves to keep the direct sun off my arms and I ordered the yellow shirt because I figured it would be cooler and more visible than the black one.

It was a good day!
I stop more often when it's that hot and try to stay hydrated. It was an hour past sunset when I got home and my helmet and goggles were covered with small bugs.

I've noticed the Royals have a midweek day game against the Red Sox on the 21st.
Might be time for another road trip!

John <><

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Brutal Life of a Retired Guy

Today is cleaning day.
Not for me, for the lady that comes to clean our house.

I know. I'm retired and should clean my own house. Unfortunately (or maybe not so unfortunately), Chris isn't satisfied with my overall cleaning skills, so prefers to have somebody else come in every couple of weeks to get the big clean. 

I vacate the house during cleaning hours so I am currently enjoying a coffee at Starbucks and using their free wi-fi. I have my phone, earbuds, and Chromebook so I'm good for as long as necessary. The morning rains have passed on to the east and I will probably skip the wi-fi after a short bit and hit the road on the motorcycle for a couple of hours. 
I wonder where I'll stop for lunch ... ?
I grabbed a cigar before I left the house. I may find a quiet place to stop and enjoy a leisurely smoke.

I'll need to get home in time to have dinner on before Chris gets home, but that will be easy. 
We have a couple of grilled bbq pork chops that I took out of the freezer. I think I'll make a little glaze with honey and fresh pineapple and heat them up in a cast iron skillet. And I'm thinking sliced sweet potatoes, skillet fried with bacon, spinach (from the garden) and touch of honey (or maybe brown sugar) and some sea salt.

I still need to write about kids' camp and my road trip to St Louis, but I suppose that can wait for another day. I should have some moments to write Friday night and Saturday. I'll be at Intro to Camping on Baptist Hill. Although I'll be at the camp overnight, I expect the kids will be in their cabins long before I'm ready to call it a night. I'll be able to watch the end of the baseball game, read, or write. I also expect some free time on Saturday, but will have to wait and see what is going on. 

In any case, you can see that the retired life is pretty taxing. I don't have as much time to just sit and read as I thought I was going to have. I have several books on the Kindle app on my phone, but rarely make the time to read. I generally have my Chromebook within easy reach, but rarely make the time to write. 
It could be that I'm just lazy ... nah.

Well, maybe...

John <><

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Morning notes

Just a quick post before hitting the road this morning.
I'll be riding the highways this 13th day of June. As I type, I'm coming up to the minute when I was born 57 years ago today. On most days, I don't feel 57. And I won't feel old today as I am cruising on my Vulcan.

I'm treating myself to a day game in St. Louis. It's a make up game from an earlier rain out so I scored a good seat at a decent price. I'm pretty sure the day will include a hot dog with grilled onions and kraut and I plan to meet fellow blogger, Mike, for Ted Drewe's after the game.

It looks like the day is going to be plenty warm so I am happy to have my new Kevlar shirt to wear. If you're out and about today, look out for motorcycles.

Be well
John <><

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Keeping My Cool on the Highway (summer road trip!)

Summer is nearly upon us and the northern hemisphere is heating up. Missouri is expecting temps in the 90s (mid 30s Celsius) next week. Of course, it's mid June.

I got an early birthday present for riding during hot weather -- a kevlar mesh, long sleeved overshirt. Even though my textile jacket is vented and not too uncomfortable while riding in the 90s, it is black and hot is hot. I don't think about it too much when riding on the highway, but it becomes instantly hot when coming to a stop!
Think about it -- mid 90s, black jacket, on asphalt or concrete, and sitting on top of a hot running engine! I get sweaty just thinking about it!

I wore the kevlar shirt this past week and it is a little weird riding without the jacket. I feel a little exposed. It does have double material in the elbows and shoulders, but no padding like the jacket. I suppose that wearing the protective shirt rather than a full jacket puts me on the outside of the All The Gear, All The Time (ATTATG) philosophy, but I think that I'm going to give it a go during days when the temperature gets close to 90 or above.

I am planning a day trip to St Louis for an afternoon ballgame on Tuesday the 13th. Although a post-game stop at Ted Drewe's is tempting, it'll put me into heavier traffic until I clear the metropolitan area and I really don't care for riding in heavy, fast moving traffic. I'll play it by ear and see how it looks. Realistically speaking, it will probably depend more on how badly I want to indulge in Ted Drewe's than it will on what the traffic looks like!

I'll leave early enough that I'll have time for lunch downtown before the game and I should be able to get a few miles of walking in after riding for about 250 miles.
It also looks like the Royals have a day game against the Red Sox the following week, so I may have to consider making another all day trip. After all, is there really such a thing as too much baseball or too much motorcycle riding?

Watch out for us bikers out there! I had a truck pull out right in front of me this past week. Fortunately, I was watching him and just had a feeling that he was going to start across in front of me without looking so I was prepared to stop hard.
I got the eyes wide I'm sorry look, but that wouldn't have helped much in a couple of feet!

John <><

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Jesus is my friend

Jesus is my friend is the theme for Day camp at Baptist Hill. Day camp is for our youngest campers. They are preschool age.

During this morning's "Meet the staff" portion of the day, the Camp Manager and summer staff introduced themselves to the kids and parents and told a little about what they would be doing for the day.

Typically, the summer staff doesn't do a lot of the daily activities for camps that come here. The summer staff is the worker group for the camp grounds, not for the individual groups that come to camp. Day Camp and Intro to Camping are the two exceptions where they are the leaders for Bible study, music, and crafts.

When it was my turn to introduce myself and tell a little bit about my part at Baptist Hill, I wanted the kids to know that this is a place where they can come for many years. For these little ones, this is their first exposure to Baptist Hill. I told them that I have been coming to kids camps long enough that I have now done weddings for some of the kids that came to camp as children!

"That means he's really old!" was what I heard from one of the summer staff!

Yeah, some days that's how I feel.
But not today!

I sat in on the first session of Bible story time, but decided against visiting the craft and music sessions. I am enjoying sitting in the sun, sipping a soda, and listening to the sounds of nature as I share these thoughts with you and get ready for our worship time. Looking at the little kids and their parents makes me realize that I am probably older than some of their grandparents. I suppose that from their perspectives, I am really old.
I guess I can live with that.

I had a nice ride out to camp this morning -- 50 rural miles on the motorcycle with classic rock on my helmet radio. That's a pretty good way to start any day and just what I needed to prepare myself for a day with a bunch of kids. I'll probably need a longer ride to help me get my mind right afterwards!
Some days it takes a lot of curves to get my mind straightened out. This might be one of them!

Jesus is my friend
Something for adults to be reminded of, as well!

John <><

Friday, June 02, 2017

Camp Time!

It is that time of year!
Tomorrow will find me at Baptist Hill Assembly camp grounds for the annual Day Camp!
Day camp is a one day event for the youngest campers of the season. These youngsters are way too little for most children's camps and are too young to overnight without their parents, but have this day to begin their experiences at Baptist Hill.

In a couple of weeks (June 16-17), I'll be back to Baptist Hill for Intro to Camping. Intro to Camping is an overnight (Fri-Sat) camp for kids that are just one or two years away from the week long children's camp. They get a little more of the camp experience (including a night in the cabins) before coming for a week long camp.

Monday morning I have a magic show planned for our church's daycare, Wee Hope. While I'm performing for the kids of Wee Hope, our kids from 3rd -8th grade will be getting ready to leave for Tricounty Baptist Association Children and Jr High camps. I'll be dropping in on them next Wednesday and Thursday for Bible Stories with Pastor John.
As an added bonus to the coming camp days, I get to preach at a small church on Sunday morning!

It's just under 50 miles (one way) to the camp grounds and just over 50 miles (round trip) to the church where I'll preaching, so I'll get the added bonus of getting to ride a few hundred miles on the motorcycle in the coming week.
Funny thing about motorcycle mileage -- it always seems to be farther coming home. Sometimes it takes me an hour longer on the way home! (especially when there are rural roads to ride!)

Today will be a nice day and I may get a few miles in before finding a place to watch the Cards/Cubs afternoon baseball game. Both teams have been playing below their talent level recently. Hopefully the rivalry will inspire better play over the weekend.

Time to get busy!
Have a great weekend,

John <><

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Meeting Cousins from Down Under

Thanks to the technology of Facebook and the internet, I have been able to connect with several of my cousins that live in Australia. Like my mother's family (my family), my Tita Elsa'a (Aunt Elsa, mom's sister) family is rather large by today's standards. I don't know if all of the cousins are on Facebook as I have only connected with a few of them. Melanie, the oldest of the second cousins, popped into Messenger yesterday and we had a nice chat. She has offered to help me sort out who belongs to whom in my Aussie family.
I'm so glad that she reached out via Messenger. The brief chat really made my day!

I've been trying to make more connections through the "people you may know" section of Facebook as I see familiar names from my Down Under family, but I don't want to appear as the creepy old uncle making unwanted contacts with younger cousins, particularly the young women of the family. As a rule, I don't make friend request to younger people -- family or not. I have some family members in the States that I am not friends with on social media simply because they have not asked.

Last week, I did connect with one of the 2nd cousins, Carmen. We chatted for a bit and I performed a little long distance magic for her via Messenger. It was fun.

My two sisters have made trips to the Philippines or to Australia and have been able to meet cousins from my mom's side of the family. That is still on my list.

I suppose I need to use the available technology more often to keep in touch with family, both foreign and here at home. There really isn't a good excuse for not doing so. I send more text messages back and forth to my youngest brother than to the other siblings. I need to check in on the others more often than I have been doing.

My encouragement for the day is that you make a connection with someone you love. Drop a note via text or say hello via some form of social media.

Be well,
John <><