Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Solstice

Seasons change; life goes on.
At a little past 5am in the US Midwest, the sun reached its northern most point as the Earth makes its orbit around it -- 23 degrees, 26 minutes above the equator, touching the imaginary line we call the Tropic of Cancer.

Around the world, few people will take notice of the annual event.
Most people in the US are on their way to work or have already begun their work day. West coasters may still be sleeping or snoozing their alarm clocks for a few more precious minutes of rest..

It is said that light overcomes darkness as good overcomes evil.
Perhaps this will be the day

For thousands of children, the longest day will turn into a longer and lonelier night -- a night that will not end. Their summer begins in a room separated from their parents or anyone they know. Although they are with a multitude of other separated children, they are alone.
Some are infants.
Some are toddlers.
Some are preschool or elementary school age.
Some are young teens.
All are too young to have been torn from their families.

The longest day and the longer nights will also be experienced by the parents that have had their children taken from them. Parents seeking safety from the violence and turmoil of their native land have traveled thousands of treacherous miles to reach the uncaring and evil border of the USA.
They came with hope.
They were met with evil.

I am ashamed of my country.
I am ashamed of so many of the associations I have with people that have supported an Administration that has taken such heinous actions on innocent people.
I am ashamed of the willful ignorance and the political bias that keeps people from seeing the truth.
I am ashamed that people make comparisons like summer camps or playgrounds or ball fields.
I am ashamed that we have listened to that and not removed them from office or from their career positions.
I am ashamed of myself for not having done enough to prevent this from happening.
I am ashamed that I feel so powerless to do anything to undo the evil that has been done.

Today will be a long day.
Tonight will be a long night.

May God have mercy on me
And on my country,

John <><




Monday, June 18, 2018

The Silence is Deafening

I'm waiting....



Still waiting...


When are the evangelical leaders going to stand against the immoral acts of a government that is deliberately separating young children from their parents?
When are the president's religious advisers going to say, "This is wrong."
Is there no one with character and integrity left to stand against policies that are evil?
And while leaders should be certainly speaking up, what about the rank and file christians (lower case intentional)? When are they going to admit that the guy they put in the White House is a monster for imposing such heinous policies?

Are our elected GOP Senators and Congresspersons so blinded by party politics and dark money that they can no longer see evil as evil?

Though uneducated, I have never really thought of myself as a stupid man.
But I cannot come to an understanding of how any person thinks that these policies of this Administration are anything but evil.
If holding kids hostage to get leverage for legislation isn't official government human trafficking, then nothing is.

Speak up!
Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them to put an end to this.
The US Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
They will connect you with your Senators and House Representative.

Tweet them.
Publicly demand that they take action.
This is not something that can wait until November.
Do it now.

John <><

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Working Weekend

Ha ha!
It's not really working.
I'm serving as camp pastor for Baptist Hill's Intro to Camping weekend.

This year that's about 75 kids and 30 adults. Since it's only around 50 miles to camp, I choose to ride home to sleep in my own bed and then get up early enough to make it to camp for breakfast.
One of the parents and the camp's assistant administrator are expecting me to bring some good coffee with me this morning. I have that kind of reputation since on the occasions when I have stayed at camp, I bring my own coffee.

We have been blessed with a gorgeous weekend on the weather front -- sunny and hot! It will be perfect for the early morning motorcycle ride.

Have a grand weekend!

John <><


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another Trip Around the Sun

Today I begin my fifty ninth trip around the sun.
I don't know what the next 365 days will hold and I don't really need to know.

I'll probably get a haircut today, maybe go out to eat tonight (or this afternoon), and I'll probably manage a few miles on the bike. I think I'll give myself a birthday break and postpone mowing until tomorrow.

I hope to have a more mindful existence in the coming year.
I hope to be more aware of what's going on around me and how my life impacts others and the environment in which we live.

Here are a few simple things that I'd like to do on this next trip around the sun:

Reduce waste
I've already started reducing plastic waste by using refillable cups instead of buying bottled soda or water whenever I can. I'm also going to go back to using bar soap rather than bottled liquid soap in the shower.
We already buy more fresh produce than frozen, but I hope to increase the amount.
I want to see plastic and avoid it whenever I can.

I also think I'm going to start doing more recycling.
This area hasn't been very progressive about recycling and it actually can cost consumers that want to participate. I'm going to start on this at the personal level and maybe encourage others along the way.

Volunteer
I like that the church we've started attending is into service to the community. It will help provide a place for me to serve.
I think that I will also contact the Cancer Treatment center to see if they have a way of connecting patients that need transportation with people willing to drive them. My own parents have needed rides to and from treatment and for other health needs. Many people have helped them get to where they needed to go. My payback can be to help others.

Live simply
I want to get rid of the stuff we've accumulated over time and work on living a simple, but satisfying life. I know that we can live with less -- less stuff, less technology, less trying to impress others, less costly entertainment -- less.

Be healthy
It is an ongoing battle, but I'm really getting to the point of thinking of it as a necessary part of life. Although I've never really thought of myself as an unhealthy person, I know that I am and don't want to continue down this road as if everything is okay.

I know it's not much, but I think of it as attitude shaping and hope that these simple philosophies will spill over into other areas of life.
Perhaps, our paths will cross on this next trip around the sun. If so, we can shake hands or hug and share a moment of our day with one another. And if not, then I wish you well on your journey.

John <><



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Thoughts from the Highway...

I spent a little time on the road last week and the highway can provide some good head clearing time.
While riding a motorcycle never really provides you with "down" time, it can give you time to ponder certain situations in life or think about absolutely nothing at all. The 1100 miles gave me plenty of time to do both when I wasn't in traffic or dodging raindrops.

I was thinking about some of the lessons that I've learned recently and how I wish I had learned them earlier. While I have never been a big worrier nor one to live in the past, neither have I been one to live in the moment. And by that, I mean that I rarely stopped to appreciate the moment or be fully aware of life as it is happening.

According to the wisdom of Ferris Bueller -- "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Maybe life has slowed down in retirement, or it could be that I'm learning to look around more often.
In any case, life is moving along and there are some pretty good things happening.

And that brings me to another thought from a post a few days ago -- depression and suicide.
Did you read those demographic indicators?

Men are much more likely to commit suicide than women (every age demographic). Check
Whites are more likely than any other race. (Although I'm mixed, I'm generally identified as white) Check
And LGBTQ persons are more likely than cisgender persons.
People with strong community ties are less likely to commit suicide, making loneliness a contributing factor. (pretty much a loner) Check
Retired and unemployed persons are more likely to commit suicide than working people, Check
and childless or empty nesters are more likely than those with children living at home. Check
Women that are suicidal are more likely to seek help than men and often exhibit signs and have failed attempts. Oftentimes, men show few signs and their deaths come as a complete surprise to the people that know them.
According to the World Health Organization, globally, someone dies of suicide every 40 seconds.
Unfortunately, teen suicides sometimes spike after a celebrity suicide and the media coverage that follows.
Russia and the former Soviet Bloc countries have the highest rates of suicide, while the Caribbean islands have the lowest rates.

Geez!
I'm not depressed nor suicidal, but looking at these demographics one can't help but wonder -- What little thing might shift the balance? Maybe I should start building those community ties or at the very least, move to the Caribbean! 

To be fair, I am working on the community thing a little bit, but it is a slow and unnatural process for me. I'm pretty much in the middle of my comfort zone when I am alone -- even when I am with people! At the UFC fights last Saturday, we were in the sold out United Center. Sitting next to me was a guy that had come to the fights by himself. I didn't think it was weird. I thought -- "That could be me." 
Although I have never gone to a UFC event by myself, I'm a regular at attending baseball games alone. Tonight I'll try to make some new friends as I go to a Springfield Cardinals' game with a bunch of people I don't know from a new church we've been attending. 
sigh
I'll need to remember that when people go to a game as a group, it's generally more about the group thing than about watching the game -- a trait I normally find annoying.
It should be interesting. 

It looks like the morning showers have passed through the Ozarks and it will be another hot, humid day. Maybe I'll spend it looking for a tropical beach home -- you know, just to be safe!

John <><


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Chicago Trip: the food

It's a rainy Sunday morning in the Windy City. The kids' softball is a rain out, but I was already up and showered so I have some morning quiet time while they catch up on some sleep.
The time to visit always seems so short.

I did manage to try a couple of new places to eat. Thursday morning I took a walk to Dona Torta Mexican Restaurant for some huevos rancheros. There are plenty of good, authentic Mexican restaurants and food carts in the area around the kids' home. There is a market right across the street from the restaurant, so I picked up a few things and made dinner before the kids got home from work.

Friday I had a Chicago staple at a little tavern/grill -- The Billy Goat. I had the "combo" which is Italian sausage and beef with peppers on a hoagie. It was what I expected and I enjoyed the old, familiar flavors.
Friday night we went to one of the kids new favorites -- Masa Azul.
Oh. My. Goodness! We shared an assortment of tacos and they were all delicious!

Saturday was a return to a familiar favorite -- brunch at Haymarket.
My only real decision was choosing between the Riot sandwich or the Morning Riot on the brunch menu. I went with the Morning Riot.
Saturday's evening meal was from the United Center's concession stands as Aaron and I were there for UFC 225.
I've gotta tell you -- Chicago knows their hotdogs! As much as I love the all beef dogs at Busch Stadium with grilled onions, 'kraut, and mustard, it is tough to beat a well made Chicago style hot dog!
Did you know that Chicago has more hotdog stands than it has McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's restaurants combined?

I'm not sure what I'll have to eat today before I start homeward. I'll only ride to Metamora IL today and spend the night with my parents. After a brief visit and a short errand with Dad tomorrow morning, I'll be on the road to Ozark.

Church group night at the Springfield Cardinals on Tuesday night (dollar dog night),
Weekend camp at Baptist Hill on Friday and Saturday (15th and 16th),
Preaching locally on the 24th,
And an overnight trip to Grand Oaks Assembly for a children's camp on the 28th and 29th.
Life is good.

John <><

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Suicide

Suicide.

Another famous person has ended their own life and now many people are posting about suicide. Some posts are to express grief or extend condolences. Some are to encourage people that might be considering suicide to seek help. Some are to condemn or exploit the death to share personal religious beliefs.

And some remind us that every day there are people -- ordinary people -- that choose to end their life, and very few people notice or care.

The suicide rate for US military veterans is twice the rate of the general population.
According to the Veteran's Administration (VA) from 1979 through 2014, an average of 20 vets per day surrendered their lives to suicide. From 1999 through 2010, it was 22 per day -- almost one every hour. And in 2012 there were more military veterans that died by suicide than there were military combat deaths.

Men are much more likely to commit suicide than women (every age demographic).
Whites are more likely than any other race.
And LGBTQ persons are more likely than cisgender persons.
People with strong community ties are less likely to commit suicide, making loneliness a contributing factor.
Retired and unemployed persons are more likely to commit suicide than working people,
and childless or empty nesters are more likely than those with children living at home.
Women that are suicidal are more likely to seek help than men and often exhibit signs and have failed attempts. Oftentimes, men show few signs and their deaths come as a complete surprise to the people that know them.
According to the World Health Organization, globally, someone dies of suicide every 40 seconds.
Unfortunately, teen suicides sometimes spike after a celebrity suicide and the media coverage that follows.
Russia and the former Soviet Bloc countries have the highest rates of suicide, while the Caribbean islands have the lowest rates.

Don't let this post bring you down.
Open your eyes.
Broaden your community.
And just to be safe, I think I'll start looking for a home in the Caribbean!

John <><

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255

Friday, June 08, 2018

UFC Weight Cuts

I'm aggravated.
If you are not a fight fan, you can move along. This is a UFC rant.

The main event for tomorrow night's UFC 225 card is no longer a Championship fight due to one of the fighters missing weight. This year, fighters that have missed weight and gone on to fight are 7-1.
While missing weight isn't a clear indicator of a fighter's fighting ability, it does say plenty about their professionalism and their attitude towards the sport, the fans, and their opponent.

To be honest, I've never really understood why the weigh-ins aren't just hours before a fight. Why is a fighter allowed to fight at a weight far above the class? If every fighter cuts weight and then adds 10% body weight before the fight, how do they gain an advantage?

Fighters have a contracted amount of money (show money) to show up for the fight and a separate purse for winning. Contestants that fail to make weight, often have give a percentage of their show money to their opponent and are not eligible for any performance bonuses. I'm beginning to think they should be penalized their entire show money purse. After all, they failed to show up for the fight on weight. It is obvious that the current penalties are not enough.

There are still good fights on the card and I know that I will enjoy the evening out with Aaron.
But the UFC is going to need to address the weight cutting issues. I'm not alone in being aggravated.

John <><

Friday, June 01, 2018

It's June!

It is June!
And tomorrow is the the first of several kids' camps that I will be attending this summer.
If you take a look at the Coming Events portion of the right column (web version), you'll see that June is going to be a busy month. The only open week isn't really open, but booked for some personal travel and to see UFC 225 in Chicago.

I'm looking forward to the summer and to the ministry as well as to the time on the motorcycle traveling to and from each event.

The theme for tomorrow's day camp is "Gladly serve the Lord" from Psalm 100:2.
I think service to God by serving others is going to be the theme I'll be sharing throughout the summer. I think it's the most overlooked of the simple commands that Jesus gave to us.
Okay, so maybe it's not so much overlooked as it is just ignored.

I'm working on the often ignored commands of Jesus.
Making disciples is a biggie.
The Southern Baptists that I've been exposed to are much more concerned about making converts, even though we were never given the command to do so. Even those churches that claim to focus on discipling others, do so only after they have become believers. Certainly, new followers need to be taught more about how Jesus lived and what he commands, but how does a person make a decision to follow Jesus unless they are first taught what he taught?

I'm also setting aside simply telling people "God loves you" and working on showing them God's love. If you'd care to join me in this work, be warned -- it's much more difficult that just saying, "God loves you."

Anyway...
I've got work to do today and I need to prepare for day camp tomorrow.
Be kind. Show God's love to someone that really needs it.

John <><

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Aging

I have a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks. I'll be 58.
More and more I'm noticing the physical signs of aging. I notice it in the decreasing physical strength, flexibility and stamina. The things that were once easy, now seem to be more of a task. I need to rest more often and now I feel the effects of exertion the following day.

Mentally, I still feel young, but do have occasional moments when I can't find the right word or moments when I lose a thought.

As frustrating as these things are, they are teaching me patience.
I know I am a young retiree. One of the consequences of this is that I often find myself at the store or other places with much older people; people that seem completely unaware of their surroundings and that seem to move in slow motion. It would be easy to become frustrated and annoyed by them (I sometimes do), but I've come to accept that this is their time in the store and I am the interloper.
If they are much older than me, I think that they could easily be my parents and try to treat them with respect and grace.

And as much as it pains me to think about it, I realize in a few years I may be the old guy standing in the middle of the aisle trying to remember what I'm supposed to be getting.
sigh

Even though we all realize that aging is a part of life, I think we often fail to think about it as it will affect us, personally. It's easy to say, "That will never be me," but then it happens and we are the old person moving slowly through the store and through life.

It's been said that we have no idea of the battles others are facing and so we should be kind to everyone.
Today, I choose to practice kindness and patience.
Truthfully, I need practice at both of them. I'm getting better, but still need the practice.

Growing old takes way more character than a young man realizes.

John <><

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Weekend notes

We are taking advantage of the holiday weekend to get away for a few days. We left shortly after Chris got home from work on Friday and are just going to spend a few days in nearby St. Louis.
I'm sitting in a downtown Starbucks and am a little surprised they are opened on the weekends.

We don't have any big plans. We started our weekend with a late night pizza (10:30ish) at Calico's downtown bar and grill. We'll probably enjoy a few of the St. Louis tourist things -- maybe the zoo or botanical gardens, and find a downtown place for dinner and some music. At some point we'll meet Chris' sister and we plan to detour on the way home Monday to see her dad, too.

I may post some pics from the weekend (I may not), but I expect that my internet exposure will be greatly reduced. I've been posting less often on Facebook and actually following fewer people. I may go back to linking my Twitter account to Facebook and just scrolling through my FB feed occasionally.

I've slowly been making my way through a book on my phone (Kindle app). I'm going to read more often so I can finish it and get started on my new project -- Ulysses!
James Joyce's Ulysses is one of those books that makes top spots in every must read list and every hardest to read list! A friend mentioned that he is trying (again) to get through it and was seeking input or encouragement that might help him in his struggles. The only thing I could offer in the way of encouragement was to commit to reading it myself.
Although it seems somewhat sacrilegious to read a book like Ulysses in digital format, it is downloaded to my phone and ready to read when I finish my current book. I do find the Kindle app a convenient tool for carrying books and being able to read whenever I find myself waiting or something. I sometimes have to remind myself that reading might be a better option than scrolling through social media feeds or playing another game of Scrabble.
I'll have to spend more time in my new backyard reading room -- a shaded hammock with mosquito netting!



Although it is doubtful that anyone will really notice, I'll be seeing less of you on social media and perhaps, you'll be seeing less of me.
I'm not being anti-social. I am being selectively social.

Enjoy your weekend.
Read a book.

John <><


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Baseball, BBQ and Bikes

I've opted out of today's ride to see the Cardinals and Royals in St Louis in favor of riding to Memphis next week for the day game between the Memphis Redbirds and the Oklahoma City Dodgers, AAA affiliates of their respective teams. Maybe I'll find some Memphis BBQ to enjoy instead of a ballpark dog!
I suppose I could ride to both games and I most certainly wouldn't mind seeing both games; it's just that I still have a need to watch the spending thing. Although I get good mileage, there's still the cost of gas, tickets, concessions at the game and snacks or meals on the road. Since I've already been to a couple of the big bird's games this year, I thought I'd ride for one of the last mid-week day games in Memphis.
It's only about 50 miles farther to Memphis (than to St Louis) but will take a couple of hours longer to ride since there is much less Interstate and much more rural highway.

Speaking of rural highways...
Yesterday's ride on the Twisted Lady route through northwest Arkansas was great! The scenery was magnificent, the ride was enjoyable and the weather was beautiful! As expected, I didn't stop for any pictures. For the most part, there just isn't a safe place to pull over and take pictures along the rural highways, and even if there were, pictures really fail to capture the real feel of the spectacular views. At some point, I'm going to need to get a Go Pro or other camera to mount to my helmet or bike so that I can share some of what I see on a ride.

When you encounter several signs that say "Crooked and steep roads next __ miles," you know it's going to be a good ride! Because I'm able to do these rides mid-week instead of on the weekends, there is very little traffic and that suits me fine. The My Tracks app on my phone says it was a 206 mile ride. I stopped once for fuel, once for a soda and restroom break, and ended at my neighbor's bar for a pork tenderloin sandwich for a late lunch. I was home in plenty of time to relax and have dinner ready for Chris when she got home from work!

All cooked on the grill -- BBQd spicy Italian sausage, asparagus w/olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, sweet potato w/butter and cinnamon.



I'll let you know about the baseball and BBQ ride next week.

John <><

Monday, May 21, 2018

Ride Day

I skipped the Springfield Cardinals day game today (Monday) to do a little yard work. I need to be out for a few hours tomorrow and want to try to make the big league Cardinals' day game on Wednesday. I figured to get the work finished today and then be able to ride guilt free for the next couple of days.

Tomorrow's ride (today, if you're reading on Tuesday) will take me to the south into Arkansas. I may pause for a little coffee in Branson, or I may just fuel up at home before leaving. It's a 60 mile ride from home to Harrison AR where I'll pick up the route for the Twisted Lady.
126 miles, 517 curves plus the 120 miles to and from Harrison will make for a nice ride. I may try to stop and take a few pictures along the way ... or I may just enjoy the ride and not worry about stopping.

If the weather allows on Wednesday (I may have to dodge an afternoon thunderstorm) I hope to ride to St Louis for the final game of the I-70 series. Maybe I'll have a couple of interesting people interactions to share with you later this week.

Keep an eye out for us old guys on motorcycles.

John <><

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Be the Church Day

Today is the day that The Venues dismisses its regular church services so that those who attend church can be the church. The annual event is called Venuespalooza and the church partners with a couple dozen local agencies to serve the community in various projects.
Chris and I will be working with a group to clean the public area at the Crighton Access to the James River.

There will be several hundred people of all ages working together to share God's love with our community.
Pretty cool, huh?

Even though the event is a once a year deal, being the Church is a regular part of The Venues as it has several regular projects where its people serve others in the community.

The two slogans you'll see on the website are:
Following Jesus. Asking Questions. Loving People.
and
A world where every life is driven by love.

These aren't just catchy sayings that are repeated to sound good. They are statements that identify this gathering of believers as genuine followers of Jesus. They gather together to worship and celebrate, but they also disperse to be the hands, feet, and heart of God as they feed the poor and serve the homeless. It is a gathering of followers that is very different from the "country club" churches that I've grown accustomed to -- the churches more interested in serving its members than reaching out to the community.

For today, don't just tell someone that God loves them. Why not take it a step further and show them God's love?

Be the Church!

John <><

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Loving the unlovable

In the past several days I've had a few conversations with people that have felt unloved by the very people that are supposed to love them the most. We all know people like this; it may be that we are a person that has experienced the same thing.

There are kids that have been abandoned by parents, spouses that have been left for other mates, LGBTQ persons that have been abandoned by family and friends. And perhaps the worst of all -- people that have been judged and left behind by the church and the friends that claim to follow Jesus.

Perhaps it is the judgment of the church (or at least some of its leaders) that has brought me to the place of being more sensitive to others that have experienced such judgment and shunning.
Perhaps it is exposure to other followers of Jesus that truly practice love that helps me see the need to love and to really hear the command of Jesus to love.

Jesus makes it pretty simple -- Love God. Love people.

That's not -- Love the people that are like you.
And it's not -- Love the  people you like.
It's not -- Love some people.
It's love your neighbors and your enemies. (I know -- sometimes they're the same people!)

And it's not saying that you love them. I've been told "I love you" by the same people that feel fit to judge and shun me. If you want people to know they are loved --  show them love!
Hurting people need to feel loved.

Jesus commands us to love others and I really believe that God is counting on us to show his love. The metaphors of the Bible aren't always the best for demonstrating God's love, so he asks us to be his love.
What I mean is --

The Bible often calls God our father. If your experience with a father is of one that has abandoned you our abused you, why would you want a relationship with a father as powerful as God -- especially when the people that follow him are just as abusive as your father was?

The Bible portrays Jesus as the groom and the Church as his bride. If you have been cheated on by a spouse or abandoned by a spouse or beaten by a spouse, would you want to be in another spousal relationship with someone that says he loves you but his followers don't show love?

It is so sad to see so many people that have abandoned pursuing God because of the hateful judgment and condemnation from people that claim to be following Him and say they are speaking for Him.
When you hear hate -- it is not from God.
When you see hate -- it is not from God.
When you feel hate -- it is not from God.

And if you really believe that there are people that are unlovable -- then you need to check on your relationship with God. In the end, the only one that is truly unlovable is me -- and God has chosen to love me anyway!

Show love.

John <><

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Trumpster Fire -- smh

Wait!
What?

The President's nominee to head the new Counterintelligence and Security Center believes that the Chinese company ZTE (yeah, the one the US is going to help create Chinese jobs) is a national security threat.
How is this a thing?

Oh yeah! There's that deal they made that benefits Trump's personal finances!
When will the GOP led Congress finally say, "Enough is enough!"
Is there a Trump supporter that can explain this to me?
Or can explain why you would support this kind of exploitation of the presidency?

smh
John

links
ZTE threat
the deal

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Ride Interactions

I took a little different route than I normally do on my road trip yesterday. And I made an unscheduled stop or two along the way.

Because the day was forecast to be warm, I opted for my Kevlar sweater rather than my textile motorcycle jacket. I figured it may be a little cool starting out, but it was cooler that I expected. Since I was going to stop to change into my jacket, I decided to have a quick breakfast and a cup of coffee as well. It was only about 45 minutes into my ride, but I wasn't in a hurry.

My next unscheduled stop was interesting.
My helmet started feeling a little tight at the temples and was starting to bother me so I stopped to adjust it. I was riding through a rural area and pulled off into a small church parking lot. A pickup truck that was going by stopped to check on me. It was an older couple that had switched from two wheels to a Can-Am Spyder when they could no longer manage balancing the weight of their motorcycle.
It's a part of the biker code to stop and lend assistance to another biker and they were doing that. They were also members of the Christian Motorcycle Association so they were quick to share their faith and offer me a New Testament. I thanked them, but told them I already had a couple in my saddlebags and was also a follower of Jesus. They prayed for my safe travels and we parted ways.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful (except for the lady that almost ran into me while merging onto I-270 N).

I changed back into the sweater when I stopped for lunch and gas at St James.
I tried to listen to the ballgame on my headphones but there was too much wind noise. No worries, the Cardinals didn't do well yesterday and I'm good with riding without the distraction.

All-in-all, a good day on the road.
Keep watching for us old guys on motorcycles!

John  <><

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Healthy Living

I'll be posting on my other blog more in the coming days.
You can find today's post here.

John <><

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Rockin' the retired life!

Yesterday I spent a few hours moving 1.25 tons of gravel. It's only about 1/4th or 1/5th of what we'll end up getting but what the small trailer we borrowed can safely haul. We'll get another load this morning and I'll be listening to the Cardinal's day game on the radio this afternoon as I move another ton+ into the flower beds.
I tried to talk Chris into going to St. Louis to watch the game, but she doesn't have the same enthusiasm for baseball that I have. I even promised her a stop at Ted Drewe's and White Castle!
I guess she'd rather get her flower beds filled.
No worries. The Cardinals have another day game next week! (Actually, I'm thinking Springfield Cardinals' day game on Monday, followed by a nice motorcycle ride and a St. Louis Cardinals' day game on Tuesday!)

I was going to begin (again) a new regular exercise routine for May, but I'm giving myself a pass on the days I move rock. Although moving a ton of rock isn't a killer workout, it is more than I have been doing and gets me some good physical work for the day.

More on rockin' the retired life...
I received my latest order from Amazon yesterday -- two hammocks for the backyard!
After moving rock today, I'll be looking for a good place to hang them and then I'll be able to enjoy summer afternoons rocking in my hammock after my daily exercise ... or before my exercise ... or while thinking about exercising.

Retirement is brutal!

John <><

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday Night Reflections

It's Sunday evening and I'm just thinking about the day, the month past, and what I have to do in the coming days.

I've been on the road some this past month (about 2000 miles on the bike, a few hundred in the car). I was able to spend time with my folks and also got to see my kids in Chicago. Chris and I also had dinner with Hannah and Daniel on a couple of occasions here in the Ozarks. And I managed to make my way to a couple of Cardinal baseball games -- one in Chicago and one in St. Louis.
I had the evangelism conference at the beginning of the month and the revival that followed, so it has been a pretty busy month. I think I'll wrap it up by taking in a day game tomorrow as the Springfield Cardinals are in town and it's supposed to be another beautiful day in the Ozarks!

In thinking about this morning's church service and my continuing assessment of my role in the Kingdom, I was thinking -- If I didn't tell people that I am a follower of Jesus, would they know (or even suspect) that I am?
I don't have any problems talking about my beliefs. I even talked about it with the people sitting next to me in the bleachers at the game last Thursday. It turned out they were the staff from a church in St. Charles MO on a day out.

But what if I couldn't use words?
What if people judged my relationship with Jesus based on what I do?
Because I'm pretty sure that they do!

sigh
I'm afraid I still have a long way to go.
I think I'll step up the challenge (at least for me) from telling people -- "God loves you," to showing them that God loves them!

John <><

Question:
I know that tomorrow is April 30th, but if I get my bike inspected in the morning and get my plates renewed before going to the ballgame, can I say that I didn't really wait until the last minute to take care of it?
Just curious.



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Not Your Typical Biker -- Or am I?

I still don't think of myself as a biker.

Part of the reason is that I still think of myself as a new rider. I've only had my motorcycle endorsement for 25 months. I'm nearly 58 and just started riding. I almost always ride alone. My bike is pretty simple -- no fairing or windscreen, no throttle lock or cruise control, no aftermarket seat, no radio or bluetooth sound system.
When I first got my bike, I rode often -- just to ride. Now I seldom ride just to ride, but I do use my bike as my primary means of transportation. If I'm going somewhere, I'm probably going on the bike.

I don't know anything about the biker life. I've been to one "Bike night" at a bar (not really my thing, but the free burgers and brats were a draw!) and to zero bike rallies. I've never participated in a Poker Run nor any other biker events. I don't belong to any biker clubs or groups, but I am on a few social media biker forums. I've only ridden with another rider a couple of times.

On the forums, I've noticed a few things.
It seems that most people (not all) use their bikes primarily for recreation.
Since recreation is the main use, they usually ride with others.
When you spend a lot of time with other people and other bikes, competition for looks and accessories is a natural thing -- even if it's only on a social media platform.
You can spend a LOT of money on your bike!

I have learned some good stuff from the bikers on the forums and I will continue to use them for the knowledge and info they provide. But I think I'll also continue as a lone wolf kind of rider. I enjoy the solitude and freedom that comes with going it alone and not having to consider another's plans or preferences.

In some ways, my ignorance of riding has been a blessing.
I didn't know that riding is purely recreational for most people -- so I rode for transportation as well as for fun.
I didn't know that a stock seat was supposed to hurt your back and butt after a couple of hours -- so I rode all day with the factory seat.
I didn't know that you can't take a long trip or ride in cold or rainy weather without a windshield -- so I took it off and rode on long trips and in all kinds of weather.
I didn't know that motorcycles have a "riding season" -- so I rode year 'round and just dressed for the weather.

I've ridden 500 miles round trip to have lunch with a friend and 600 miles round trip to watch a AAA baseball game. This summer I'l be making an 1100 mile round trip for a UFC fight in Chicago and I think I'll ride to St Louis on Thursday (500 miles rt) to watch a Cardinal's day game against the Mets.

When it comes to stereotypes, I'm not much of a biker.
I just ride.

John <><

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Thoughts from the Highway (WARNING! I'm going to preach a bit)

It's a rainy Sunday morning in the Ozarks and a two coffee pot kind of day.
For my first indulgence of the day I went with a variation of the Thai coffee recipe in Hannah's Coffee Concoctions book and for the second, a variation of the Mexican coffee recipe. I'm just starting on the first cup of the second pot.

I have to say that I'm looking forward to the calmness that a gentle rain brings. The past two weeks have been pretty busy. From the 7th through the 10th was the Pulaski Baptist Association's annual evangelism conference. I followed that by staying for a revival at Faith Baptist Church in Waynesville from the 11th through the 15th.
I managed to get my bike in for servicing on the 16th and was on the road for 400+ miles on the 17th.
The 18th was spent with my folks and I accompanied them on a couple of doctor appointments followed by a nice dinner out. Thursday was an early ride to Chicago (130 miles), an afternoon baseball game with Aaron and dinner at Lagunita's. Friday I made the 535 mile ride home and yesterday we spent the afternoon working in the yard.

I plan on spending the afternoon sitting in my garage with a cigar in hand, the ballgame on my computer, and the rain falling gently outside past the open garage door.

A thousand miles on the highway with no radio gives a man plenty of time to think. I spent some of that time processing the evangelism conference, the revival, and my own role in the Kingdom. I get the feeling that my personal walk and call to preach is changing as I realize that there is so much more to the gospel story than how to get to heaven. If getting to heaven was the purpose in life, then we would better off dying the moment that purpose was fulfilled rather than having to endure the maladies of aging and the grind of living in a corrupt and violent world.

The lessons of the gospel are more about how to live our lives as our relationships with others reflect our relationship with God. Yes, eternity in heaven is the reward for living with Jesus as our Lord and Savior; but modern evangelicalism is teaching about the afterlife and forgetting about life on earth.
We've made collecting souls a sport. We tally our numbers and flaunt our buildings, buses and programs, but we miss out on teaching the Jesus way of life and offering the grace that God grants us to others.
We have made sin (the sin of others) our focus rather than the mercy and grace of God. God doesn't need us to judge others about their worthiness or unworthiness of salvation. We are all unworthy!
No, God's desire is for us to make his love and grace known to those that we encounter each and every day; to live a life like his son Jesus commands us to live.
For a quick look at some of Jesus' teachings, you can read The Sermon on the Mount. It will only take you about 10 minutes to read but much longer (like a lifetime) to learn and teach to others.

As a self-proclaimed Disciple of Jesus or Follower of the Way, I have to ask myself -- "How can I be more like Jesus -- today?"
If you are also a follower of Jesus, perhaps that question will be good for you, also.

And if you are not -- click on the above link and read The Sermon on the Mount. If that interests you, I'd recommend reading the Gospel of John. If you would like your own New Testament, drop me a note or leave a comment. I'd be pleased to send you one.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><



Friday, April 20, 2018

Homeward Bound

It's a few degrees above freezing in Chicago this morning and I'll be starting for home in just a little bit. I expect I'll be shedding layers somewhere along the journey home as the day warms and I get further south. It was a quick visit, but the kids have busy lives to live and daily jobs and all of the stuff that goes with being young married kids living in a big city. I was just happy to be close enough to make an unscheduled visit and see a baseball game with Aaron.

I got to enjoy a Doug's Dog (I think it's Hot Doug's) at the ballpark. I'm glad they have them there since I understand they have closed the store front operation they used to have. Although we talked about going someplace else for dinner, we ended up at the default selection -- Lagunita's Taproom, which is just fine with me. It's hard to pass up a chance for a Hogunitas sandwich -- layers of bacon, ham and pulled pork! Yum! If I lived as close to Lag's as the kids do, I'd weigh a ton!

This morning I plan to ride out of the Chicago metropolitan area before stopping for some breakfast and coffee, then it will be back on the road for another 170 miles or so before stopping for gas and lunch. I should be home in time to have dinner with Chris.

All-in-all, not a bad little trip.

*****

I am about an hour into my morning ride and stopped at Dwight for gas and a cup of coffee. Traffic out of the city was moving nicely this morning. I had planned a little more scenic route for the trip home from my parents' place, but with the added miles and time from Chicago, I think I'll just stick to the Interstates and get home today. I'm sure there will be another trip for a scenic route.
It's sunny and the temperature is already at 41f (5c) so it should be a pretty pleasant day on the highway. I haven't seen any other bikes on the road (yesterday, nor today), but expect to see a few before I make it to Ozark later this afternoon.

Time to get back on the road.
Be careful out there
...and watch for us old guys on motorcycles!

John <><

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Baseball in Chicago Spring (?)

So this happened:
I noticed a missed call from my son and called him back. He and Jenny had tickets to Wednesday's Cards/Cub game at Wrigley which is postponed to Thursday. Jenny can't go on Thursday and I'm only a few (about 3) hours away. Can I go?

Of course this will mean riding in 37-40 degree temps for a few hours tomorrow morning and bundling up like we were going to Soldier Field to watch the Bears play football in December, but what's a dad to do?

Another day on the road, a few hundred more miles on the bike -- all for Cardinal/Cub baseball with my boy!

Keep an eye out for crazy old retired guys on motorcycles!

John <><

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On the road again...

Just a quick post as I get ready to head out for a quick little trip to Central Illinois. Today will be a relatively cool ride. Although the temperature in the Ozarks is forecast to reach 70f (21c) by mid afternoon, it'll be more like 50 (10c) where I'll be on the ride. Looking at the forecast for the route, I may see some 60s (15c) around St Louis, but will plan for a cool day and dress accordingly. I plan on taking my time this morning and starting a little later to take advantage of slightly warmer hours.

I'll be heading back home on Thursday and am thinking about an alternate route that will take me off of the interstate highway for most of the trip. It will add a few miles and about an hour of time, but the variety might be nice.

Hours of highway time is nice for clearing the head of all the junk that seems to accumulate there. If it's not too windy, I can listen to my headset radio or some tunes from my phone via bluetooth. Most of the time, I just listen to the wind and enjoy the quiet.

I spent the past week+ at an evangelism conference and a revival in the Waynesville/St Robert area. I need to share some thoughts on that but it will have to wait until I get back. We recently changed our cell carrier and I no longer have tethering or hotspot capability without paying extra. Creating a wifi hotspot was generally how I connected my laptop when traveling.
Fwiw, we switched from AT&T to Cricket Mobile. Cricket is owned by AT&T and uses their towers. Our coverage is the same and our cost is about 2/3 of what it was. I could add the hotspot feature and still be way under what we were paying, but I don't really use it that often. I kept my old phone and Chris upgraded to a new one.

I know it's still pretty cool and there aren't a lot of motorcycles on the road just yet, but do keep an eye out for old guys on bikes. Some of us aren't smart enough to wait for warmer weather!

John <><




Thursday, April 12, 2018

Following Jesus is more difficult than you'd think...

It's been several nights since I've been at home and able to sleep in my own bed.
Whew! It was nice.

Last weekend was the annual Pulaski Association Evangelism Conference in St Robert, MO. I was unable to attend last year due to Chris' chemo treatments, so it was good to be back this year.
I really think that this was the best year!

I've been in a bit of a spiritual funk lately and having to work on messages to preach and lessons to teach with magic has helped me to get focused on how I am to be serving in God's kingdom. Listening to others preach about kingdom work has also helped me to get some good direction.

For the next several days I'll be preaching at Faith Baptist Church in Waynesville, MO and sharing some of what I've learned. Services are at 7 each night (Thu, Fri, Sat) and on Sunday morning (I should probably find out the time!).
Tonight we will be addressing what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

In Baptist church language, we're having a Revival.
The purpose of a revival is pretty much what you would expect -- to revive a body of believers, to bring them back to life (or at least back to being active in the kingdom). The Bible teaches that it is the Holy Spirit of God that gives us our spiritual life. It is also the Holy Spirit that will inspire and equip us to continue in the work of the church to make known the simple truths that I always preach: God loves you and Jesus died for you!

Once again, I've made the challenge to the church to share this message with somebody.
And once again, I've included myself in the challenge.
And once again, I'm going to have to get out of my house and interact with somebody if I am going to fulfill my part of the challenge.

I'm also going to give the graduate course part of the challenge.
In the letter of James (the brother of Jesus), James says that if someone is in need of food or clothes and you tell them to go in peace and be blessed, but you haven't provided for their needs, what good is that?
The next challenge is to go back to the person that you told "God loves you," and actually show them the love of God!

Hmmm...
This following Jesus thing is harder than you'd think.
Maybe that's why so few actually do...

John <><

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Unlearning can be More Difficult than Learning

Several months ago I wrote about the need to break bad habits being as difficult as setting good habits. I think that the same is true when it comes to unlearning the false things we've been taught and learning the truth.

Unlearning old truths that are no longer valid (and probably never were) is even more difficult because it means that we have to admit that we were wrong. Often our misguided opinions are based on things we learned from misinformed people, but sometimes it's just because we are ignorant of the real facts. Nobody likes to admit their ignorance, nor their having come to the wrong conclusion about something or someone.

Right now I find myself in the process of re-learning a lot about God.
I'm unlearning about the god of the church and learning about the true character of God from the Bible. I'm finding the Jesus of the Bible to be a very different sort of God than the Jesus that I've learned about from the church.
I see the church trying to gain attention and relevance in today's world, and I see Jesus humbly going about the Father's work.
I see the church pointing accusatory fingers, and I see Jesus offering a helping hand.
I see the church more interested in gaining voters, and I see Jesus seeking souls.
I see the church providing comfort for its members, and I see Jesus leaving the flock to find the lost ones.
I see the church taking the easy way and talking about persecution, and I see Jesus taking the narrow and difficult way and calling for followers.

Next weekend I'll be at an evangelism conference followed by a church revival. I wonder if they'll really want to hear about the Jesus of the Bible. He may be a little bit different from the Jesus of their church.

John <><

Monday, April 02, 2018

Red vs Blue

This isn't really a political post. It's more of an anti-political post. It's a post about celebrating what we hold in common rather than focusing on what divides us. It's a post that encourages us to embrace our differences and utilize each other's strengths rather than exploiting each other's weaknesses.

We can do this.
We do it all the time.

We come together -- people from very diverse backgrounds -- for common causes every day.
In our communities -- we gather together to support our local school teams.  We cheer for all of the kids on the teams, not just the ones we like. They succeed as a team, so we cheer for them as a team.
Even though rivalries exist, we still come together as communities -- winners and losers -- to continue with life in our communities.

We do it in our churches. Look around you the next time you're in church. There will be plenty of people there that you would never hang around with other than for the common purpose of worshiping together. Somehow, we are able to set aside differences in order to worship as one body of believers worshiping the same God. You may be sitting in church next to the people that were across the gym cheering against you at the previous night's basketball game.

Missouri is a Red state.
And I'm not talking about politics.
It's a red state when it comes to baseball.
Oh sure, there are a few blue followers (Royals) and even fewer National League blue fans (Cubs), but it is definitely more red (St. Louis Cardinals) than blue during baseball season. And yet I still have friends and family on the other side that I manage to get along with in spite of their misguided baseball loyalties.

It is unfortunate (and unhealthy) that we have made politics into a winner take all sport in the USA.
It isn't a game. It isn't a contest to be won or lost.
I used to believe that our elected representatives shared a common purpose in looking out for the citizens of the nation but with different perspectives on how it should be done. I don't believe that anymore. Today I believe that they only represent the people that pay them the most -- and that isn't the American tax payer.
We have become more focused on the things that divide us, rather than remembering the things we have in common. We truly are a nation divided. More than being divided into red followers and blue followers, we are being divided into rich vs poor; people with power vs people without.

Wouldn't it be grand if we had a leader (or leaders) that realized we are not in a contest against one another; that government isn't a sport -- it's how we do life?
Just something to consider the next time you vote.

John <><








Wednesday, March 28, 2018

It's Baseball Season!

It is actually Baseball Season Eve as I write this.
It's a little embarrassing to admit that I'm a little bit like a kid on Christmas Eve. I mean I'm cooler than that because the jittery excitement is all on the inside and it's a long season rather than a single day, but I am excited, just the same.

To celebrate the beginning of baseball season and to share a little bit from The Good Book, here is an old favorite for your listening pleasure.
Play Ball!



John <><

Easter Cookies -- again!

I first posted this recipe in 2009 and re-ran it a couple of years ago.

Here it is again.
https://outofmyhat.blogspot.com/2009/04/easter-cookies.html

John <><

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Using my 1st Amendment Rights

I have to admit that I am more than a little confused by many Americans' stance on protecting constitutional rights. Moral arguments aside, it seems that we are only interested in guarding our constitutional rights and are pretty vocal and petty about the rights of others.

The NRA and many that oppose any kind of gun control have demonized the teens (and adults) for marching to support gun control. How is it that your 2nd amendment rights outweigh their 1st amendment rights? People seem pretty big on their own free speech as they hurl insults and degrading comments, but ignore the the right to peaceful assembly and protest.
Neither do opponents of any gun control seem to realize that an unabated right to bear arms is already non-existent. There are already prohibitions against owning many weapons of war. Adding some newer military style weapons wouldn't be a new thing.

I get that everybody is entitled to their opinion, but sometimes the things people say and do are so one sided that it's difficult to consider anything else they have to say as meaningful.

Every freedom has a cost, -- and we surrender freedom on a daily basis. We give up the right to speed down neighborhood streets because we value our lives and don't want others speeding down our street. We obey traffic lights and stop signs or accept the consequences of being ticketed when we violate those laws. In essence, every law that we have is an infringement on our freedom. We accept this because we are a society and we watch out for one another. When we agree to these society imposed infringements to our freedom, we can all drive, shop, be entertained, or go to school in relative safety. When that safety is repeatedly compromised in a similar way, it seems reasonable to look to new laws that will restore it.

But there will be a cost.
As a society, we just need to figure out if we're willing to pay it.

John <><

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What Would Jesus Do?

WWJD?

It used to be a thing.
You used to see it everywhere -- t-shirts, caps, bracelets, bumper stickers.

It isn't as much of a thing now -- not as a slogan, not in wearable merchandise, and certainly not in a way of practicing the Christian life.
Nope. We're pretty much back to doing what we want to do, hating whom we want to hate, making excuses for whomever we choose and then using our profession of Christian faith to justify our un-Christlike actions.

I often wonder how Christians in the US have become so fearful. I've read numerous articles on how the American Christian is being persecuted and is a dying breed. I really don't see the persecution and can't say that I've experienced any. I'm not saying that it's easy, nor am I saying that it is without its trials and objections. I am saying that I've been pretty free about being able to worship the god of my choosing, to worship God as I choose, and to be able to do so without infringement by those that worship a different god or no god at all.

When I see our religious leaders choosing political sides, promoting fear, and being divisive; I always wonder about their faith, first (since we are not given a spirit of fear) and their motives, second.
And I ask myself, "What would Jesus do?"

Somehow, I don't see Jesus as the kind of guy that would endorse a political party.
I can't even see him as a religious adviser to an elected official.
I don't imagine that he would ever be giving the inaugural invocation or speaking at a National Day of Prayer breakfast event.

I think we would find Jesus doing what Jesus did -- giving hope to the hopeless.
We would be more likely to find Jesus with the homeless than at a political fundraiser.
He would be ministering to the sick rather than stumping for or against a party's healthcare plan.
He would be with society's castaways -- the poor, the orphaned, the abandoned spouse, the refugee, the immigrant, etc. -- not with the elite deal makers and politicians.
And yes, I believe Jesus would admonish those that use their religious positions to advocate for a political party rather than to spread the message of God's love for all of humankind.

In truth, I haven't been very good about either -- not about being politically active as a US citizen, nor about being active as an ambassador of Jesus. As a matter of fact, I've begun to question my role as follower of Jesus. What, exactly, have I been peddling? Am I selling people a religion -- complete with all of its man made rules and regulations, or am I giving them hope in Jesus? Am I doing what Jesus would do or am I saying and doing what a religion says I should say and do?

I think I have been given a time to pause and consider these things so that I can better serve my God and Savior. I am torn. Part of me is still drawn to parts of the religion thing, but the rest of me despises what religion has become. Within the religious family it's all hugs and family like, but from the outside it's like an impenetrable private club where only the chosen few can be members. I feel like the rebellious child that wants everyone to know the love I've known and is being disciplined for wanting undesirables to join the club.

And so I have to ask myself --
What would Jesus do?

I'll let you know if I figure it out.

John <><

Monday, March 19, 2018

Political Apologetics

At the risk of great criticism, I'm going to combine religion and politics -- sort of.
My religious beliefs have already come under fire due to my political beliefs, so I have already had to endure some of that baloney sauce (bs). What I'm talking about here is using the same methods for talking about my religious views with people of differing beliefs in talking to people with differing political views.

I have to say that it takes great patience and I'm not sure if it will work well since politics seems to be a much more volatile subject than religion.

What I've found to work well in sharing my faith is to ask questions about their beliefs.
I don't criticize or object to their beliefs and I don't listen to respond with my own counter beliefs. I ask questions and listen. I may ask them why they believe a certain way or what the basis or source for a belief might be. I may even ask for a book or source so that I can better understand why they believe what they believe. As a rule, unless asked, I do not share my beliefs with them in an initial conversation.
I generally end an initial conversation by asking for some time to think about what they've said and permission to get back to them to discuss it further.

I don't know if that will work well discussing politics or if I'll be able to keep from pointing out a false source of information or debating the validity of the basis of their conclusions. As I said, politics seems to be more volatile. I guess we seem to agree that we can have differing religious beliefs because of the 1st Amendment, but it doesn't say anything about differing political beliefs! You can have different religious beliefs and still be American, but if you have different political beliefs you must be a traitor!

Condemning someone to eternal hell has never seemed to work well for me in expecting them to be open to listening to my religious beliefs. I don't think it works well in politics, either.
As a matter of fact, it's because we think that we are so far apart that we have nothing to discuss that we've gotten to the political polarity where we now find ourselves. A political party internally driven by extremists will no longer work with others. We are no longer fellow Americans with differing opinions on solving our problems. Political opponents are now un-American and we need to guard against them or take our country back from them.

I fear that we are nearing the point that we either begin meaningful conversations and work together for the good of all or we go all the way to the extremes and endure civil war or authoritarian rule.

In spiritual belief conversations, I generally want to know:

What do you believe?
Why do you believe it?
What if you're wrong?
and...
Can I show you another possible way?

We should also ask ourselves these questions -- about religion and about politics.

John <><

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Be Nice Day -- 2nd effort

So yesterday was kind of a bust on the be nice day.
I did manage to make it out of the house yesterday and had a couple of friendly encounters with strangers as well as one with a neighbor. I don't think that I should count that as doing anything kind or nice for anyone.

In a few minutes I'll be heading in to the American Red Cross to make another platelet donation, so I'm hoping that I can count that as a kind act and make up for yesterday's inactivity.

What's your kind act for the day?
Or were you successful yesterday?
Tell me about it.

John <><

Monday, March 12, 2018

Be Nice Day

Another Monday.

The calendar shows Monday as the second day of the week, but I think that most of us would agree that it is the really the first day -- at least the first day that really counts. It is the day used to mark the beginning of the work week, the school week, a new project or goal, etc. It is the day we use to create a fresh start on an old goal or project.

Last night I was at a small Baptist church with a small group of retired people. We talked about our walk with Jesus and the struggles that we face. We talked about the things that cause us to worry and the the things that bring stress into life. We talked about how getting away from Jesus can lead us to more worry and how staying close to him can bring us more peace.

It's funny how some people worry more as they age and others worry less. Some people seem to fear aging and the trials it brings and others embrace it and its privileges -- like napping whenever you want.

As a retired person and a follower of Jesus, my greatest challenge remains my self-imposed isolation. It's pretty hard to be faithful in sharing God's love with others when you never really interact with others. On most days, this writing/blogging thing is as close as I come to interacting with others and sharing some thoughts...and most of those are some pretty incoherent and random thoughts that have nothing to do with life, death and eternity.
We talked about our life's legacy and how we will be remembered. I'm pretty sure that nobody wants to be remembered as the person that was always worrying about the future or feeling guilty about the past. It would be nice to be remembered in the positive ways that people remember Rev. Billy Graham or the friend I wrote about last week. But that takes a daily commitment to living a life worthy of such memories.

I don't know what people might remember about me. Probably something like ...
"I think he just rode he just rode his motorcycle and wrote on that stupid blog of his after he retired."
"Nobody ever really saw him after a while."
"I quit following him because he was always so opinionated."

Maybe I should care more about those things.
It would be cool if people remembered me for introducing them to Jesus or helping them through some tough times. I don't really care if anyone thinks of me as a great preacher or amazing magician, but it would be nice if something I said or did along the way had a positive impact on one or two people. Over the years, I'd say that I've probably offended more people than anyone has a right to offend and I doubt that I can make up for that. These days, I seem to do that more naturally and without even trying. Disagreeing doesn't have to be the same as being offensive but that seems to be the shift in our current social climate.

I'm giving myself a simple task for the day; a one item To Do list...

Be nice.

Not "be nice" to one person.
Not do something nice.
But nice as in don't be not-nice
...all day!

Being alone is not being nice. It's just being alone.
Be nice implies doing.
Okay, so maybe it's not such a simple task, but it's doable.
I think.

Anyone want to join me?
It's just one day.
One Monday in March when we decide to be nice.
Let's do it!

John <><


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Quote

One worth sharing:

"Just know this: if God has all the same opinions your political party does, you’re probably not worshipping God. --Carey Nieuwhof



John <><

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Haiku -- Jesus, on the cost of discipleship

If you follow me
The cost of discipleship
Is all that you have

John <><


Facebook Groups and social networks

The other day I realized that my Facebook time has decreased quite a bit. I now follow fewer individuals but belong to more Facebook groups. Individuals are mostly relatives, some old classmates, a few air traffic controllers (mostly retired), and an small assortment of others.

The Facebook groups that I belong to are:
1 fitness group
1 diet group
1 writer's group
1 photography group
3 retired FAA or retired ATC groups
6 motorcycle groups (4 are specific to Kawasaki Vulcans)
I follow a number of other pages along with these closed groups. Between those pages and these groups, most of my feed is dominated by these and a few relatives and friends that post often.

On Twitter, I follow more fitness, diet and sporting sites. I think it's a little funny when fitness or health sites follow me back because I rarely post anything fitness or health related. I guess it's for the possibility that I might retweet something of their's.
Most of my Twitter feed is centered around sports (baseball, MMA, hockey), fitness and health, and news feeds. I don't follow as many personal friends on Twitter, but do follow more celebrities (mostly athletes and a few actors), some religious leaders (mostly Christian, but some Muslim and Eastern philosophies), several writers/authors, and a few politicians.
All in all, it's a pretty diverse group.

The blogs I now read fall into a similar group, many of them come from the people I follow on Twitter and the pages I "like" on Facebook.

What kind of groups do you join or follow and from where do you get your news and info?
Just curious...

John <><

Friday, March 09, 2018

Haiku -- on life

Life begins; life ends.
Our days are numbered by God.
Make the most of yours.

John <><

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

More on Legacy Living

Life has a funny way of bringing situations together. I'm not a big fan of coincidence as an explanation for those happenings. One church I visit occasionally defines coincidence as a happening in which God chooses to remain anonymous.

In any case...
Yesterday I wrote on Living a Legacy. I was still sitting with my computer and reading when I got a phone call. The number was a 314 area code which I recognized as the St Louis area. I don't usually answer calls from numbers I don't recognize, letting them go to voice mail. For some reason, I answered this call.
It was a voice from the past, an old friend calling to tell me that his mom had died. I wrote about his dad ten years ago in a post I entitled One of My Favorite People. Three years later, I linked to that post in something I wrote about Unsung Heroes, and again about three and a half years after that when I shared my Testimony.
Now here it is, three years later and I'm sharing it again.

I read each of those posts yesterday and spent some time remembering my friend and his family. We have seen Glenda (his mom) a few times in the past several years. Gene and Glenda sort of adopted me and Chris when we first moved to St Louis, so we spent plenty of time with their family for the few years we were in the area. I spent much of yesterday afternoon remembering those times.
Later this week, I'll make the trip to St Louis to pay my respects and honor the life of a woman that simply lived a life that honored God and set an example for those that wish to live a life that will be remembered by others as a life well lived.

John <><

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Living a Legacy

I hope you noticed that the post isn't titled Living Legacy, but Living a Legacy.

Last week's death and burial of Billy Graham and all of the things said about his life got me wondering about how we might be remembered when it's our turn to go. The Reverend Graham appears to have lived the life he preached about. From those closest to him to those that had casual contact, all seem to testify that he was indeed, a man of God.

I'm reminded that we will be remembered by the way we have lived. If you want to be remembered as a kind and loving person, you need to live as a kind and loving person. If you are living life as a grumpy, negative person, chances are good that you will be remembered as a grumpy and negative person.

For some people, I believe they would rather be remembered in a negative way than not be remembered at all. It's sad, but they'll probably get their wish.

There's a saying that says --
If your absence doesn't affect them, your presence never mattered.

Other than being remembered as a nice guy by some or a jerk by a few more, I think that this humbling little sentiment applies to most of us.
Sure, we'd like to think that we have some grand worth or value, but mostly we go through life and exist for the moment until the moment is gone. The people we interact with every day will miss our presence for a time, but time goes on and they will develop a new normal without us. The people that we only interact with occasionally, will barely notice that those occasional interactions never occur anymore.

I'm pretty sure that the people I used to work with, the people I used to go to church with, the people I used to (fill in the blank) with -- rarely, if ever, think about John.
There's always the hope that my presence mattered to a few people. I doubt that will mean that absence will have a great effect; it will just be nice to be remembered fondly by a few people.

Maybe we all need to be more concerned with how people feel about our presence while we are
...well, present.
Are we the kind of person that brings life and energy to a room, or the kind of person that makes other look for an excuse to leave?
Does our presence add to others, or are we a taker; sucking the life and energy out of people?
Is each moment about us, or do we make others feel important?

I've been thinking about a couple of old friends lately. I think I'll make a contact -- just to let them know that they made an impact; that their presence mattered.

John <><


Sunday, March 04, 2018

Baseball Haiku

Baseball season's near.
It's always riding season.
Baseball and biking!

John <><


Biking and Baseball

This morning I've been checking baseball schedules for weekday, daytime baseball games.
During April and May, the Springfield Cardinals (the big league team's AA club) have several games that begin at 11:10am. They are often attended by busloads of school kids. I have been to several of these games in previous years and the park does a pretty good job hosting enough games to accommodate the many school districts of Southwest MO.

On weeks when the Baby Birds (Sgf Cards) are away, I can ride to Tulsa OK (420 mile round trip) or Springdale AR (230 mile round trip) and watch them play at their opponents' parks. It will make for a nice ride to and from the ballpark.
The St. Louis Cardinals also have several "businessmen's specials" (weekday daytime games) in the spring part of the regular season. I've marked the dates on my calendar and am looking forward to taking in a few games. (460 miles rt)
I've also noticed that the Royals (375 miles rt) have a couple of early season day games, and I still need to check out the Cardinals' AAA team in Memphis (600 miles rt).

Is there a better way to spend a day than a few hundred miles of riding my motorcycle and few hours at the ballpark?
It all begins in about a month!

John <><

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Reading Haiku

Today's post on books
What are you reading today?
Fiction? Non-fiction?

John <><

Reading

How many books do you read...
...at a time?

I've been working on reading more books. I read plenty of articles from magazines and news outlets on the internet, but I've been getting back to reading books. I'm finding myself in the old habit of having two or three different books going at a time. They are generally very different types of books; usually only one of them is fiction and the others are educational in some way.

My wife reads way more than I do (where books are concerned), but generally reads a book, finishes it, then begins another.

So I was just wondering -- How many of you read multiple books at a time?
Are you like me where one might be for entertainment and the others for information or education?
Or are you more like my wife that reads one to completion before starting another?

Just wondering...

John <><

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Bonus Haiku

No poem today
Nope, that's not gonna happen
Haiku month's over!

John <><

Thoughts from the Highway

It is March 1st and another beautiful day in the Ozarks.
I am spending much of the day out on the motorcycle.

I didn't have any particular destination or route in mind when I started out today. I just filled up the tank and headed west on State Hwy 14. Near the small community of Boaz, I saw a sign for a rural baptist church that I just heard about yesterday and decided to turn off and ride by it. I ended up on rural county highways and rode past several small churches, numerous horse or cattle farms, many hay fields, rivers, forested hills, and over Table Rock Lake several times. I live in a beautiful area of the country!

I checked the odometer before starting out today, 49,500 miles. That's exactly 15,000 miles since March 1st of 2017. It's also 700 fewer miles than I rode in my first year of riding. I think that I rode on fewer days last year. My first year of riding, I rode nearly every day -- sometimes only a few miles, sometimes more. This past year, there were a lot of days that I didn't ride.
I imagine that this coming year will be the same, but I do hope to make several long trips.



Currently, I am stopped for lunch at a Pizza Hut in Shell Knob. I've been riding rural roads for about two hours and am ready for lunch and a little break. I suppose I'll end up at around 200 miles for the day and the first day of year three of owning this bike.

Last week I spoke with a couple of local bikers when I stopped for coffee in Branson. It's an interesting fellowship that bikers feel towards one another. People would rarely stop to talk to a stranger because they are driving a car, even if it's the same make they drive. Bikers will talk to each other no matter what kind of motorcycle they ride. These particular bikers rode HD Road Kings and had Christian patches on their jackets.
We talked for 10-15 minutes before they got back on their bikes and on the road while I enjoyed my coffee in the sun.

No conversations today -- just some quiet to go along with my pizza and diet soda.
Be safe out there and keep an eye out for retired guys on motorcycles!

John <><

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Haiku 27-2018

Good morning, my friends!
Another beautiful day!
Life in the Ozarks!

John <><

Monday, February 26, 2018

Purpose

I've been reading a few articles and watching some TED Talks that deal with people, their relationships with others, and their sense of purpose. Pretty much all of the data indicates that people that have strong community ties and a feeling of purpose in life live longer and happier lives.

Damn!
I guess the good news for me would be that I won't have to bear this miserable existence for very much longer!

I read or watch articles like these and think I need to become more involved with people. Then I get around people and think, "I don't need this crap!"
I want to live a long, happy life, but I wonder how often there are exceptions to the studies that show happy, old folks that don't have large communities and only purpose is to enjoy their time alone.

I enjoy reading and gathering information. I even enjoy sharing what I've learned. But do I really have to interact with people to do that? No. Not really.

I think I'll spend the remainder of the Lenten season trying to find purpose for my life. Lately, I'm coming around to the understanding that it is probably more important for me to live a life according to the teachings of Jesus than to try to convince others to do the same. While I'm all for sharing what I believe, I'm less likely to try to convince someone that I have all the answers and coerce them to my way of thinking than I once was. There is the issue that living by Jesus' teachings will make living apart from people difficult -- he had a way of always interacting with people and lifting up the lowly while managing to irritate the high and mighty. I seem to have a pretty good handle on the irritating people part. Now if I could only master the loving others part.

It's been said that Jesus makes it easier for us by telling us that we are to love our neighbors and our enemies -- since they're often the same people. Figuring out whom to love isn't the hard part (the answer is everyone), the actual loving people is where things get difficult.

If anyone ever told you that following Jesus would be easy -- they lied. 
Maybe that's not fair. Maybe it is easier for some to give control of their will over to the spiritual part of their being. I tend to struggle with hanging on to the human will. The voice of Ugly John is often more persuasive and more persistent than I care to admit.

So...
Where do you find purpose for your life?
In your family?
In your work?
In your faith?

I'm in need of some information to help me find my own sense of purpose.
...Or maybe becoming that crazy old man that is happy and doesn't know why isn't such a bad thing.

John <><

Haiku 26-2018

Watching baseball films,
Bull Durham and Moneyball.
Ready for baseball!

John <><

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Haiku 25-2018

It's Sunday -- church day.
Or should I call it Son-day?
See what I did there?

John <><

Saturday, February 24, 2018

When did our neighbors become our enemies?


Note to my foreign readers: This post is to the citizens of the USA. You are free to read it and comment, perhaps even see your own country in some part of it, but it is to my fellow Americans.

How did we get to the political place where anyone that disagrees with our politics becomes our enemy?
How did we let politicians drive the public to the place of the smack talking sports world?
Government is supposed to be a cooperative effort, not a winner take all contest or game of chance.

When we move government into the arena of competition where the winners look out for the winners and their supporters only and the losers are punished and targeted to keep them losers, then we have lost our way of life and lost our democracy.  Conservatives are not the enemies of liberals and liberals are not the enemies of conservatives -- no matter what the party leaders tell us. We are all a part of the same community -- The United States of America!

Perhaps the biggest problem with the winner take all attitude of government (or anything else, for that matter) is the things that we will do to keep from losing. We begin to look on the enemies of my enemy as my friend and engage in some pretty questionable relationships. Making deals with the devil never really works out well for anyone but the devil.
In 2016, many Republicans and many evangelical Christians (pardon the redundancy) decided to sacrifice moral standing in favor of a candidate they thought could win and would appoint Supreme Court Justices more in line with their political views. In the year since #45 took office, many of them are beginning to understand the true cost of that decision.

#45's cabinet appointments have been in direct opposition to the departments they are supposed to lead -- an education secretary that opposes public education, an interior secretary that wants to sell off protected lands, a labor secretary that opposes worker's rights, etc., etc.
He continues to use his office for personal gain and bills the US for trips to his resorts and the party of fiscal conservatives say nothing because they hope to make political gains from him being in office. Although many leading conservatives have started to rethink their loyalties and distance themselves from #45, they are still not too willing to admit they made a mistake and oppose him.

My greatest complaint with this Administration and our current congressional leaders is they continue to divide America into those they are for and those they are against rather than governing for all of us.

We are The United States of America!
And it's time our elected representatives were reminded of that.
Govern or go!
Work for all of us or lose in the next primary or general election.

I am not the enemy;
Neither is my neighbor,
Nor is the person in the next city,
Nor is the person in the next state.
We are not red states and blue states.
We are The United States.

Let's start acting like it.
And let's start holding our elected officials accountable to act like it.

End rant (for now).

John <><

Haiku 24-2018

Rain, rain, go away!
But don't send snow, send sunshine!
I'm ready for spring!

John <><

Friday, February 23, 2018

Haiku 23-2018

Platelet donation
The American Red Cross
Give blood, save a life.

John <><

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Haiku 22-2018

A short truth today
Just wanna say -- God loves you,
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Poetry as a platform

If you've been following along at Out of My Hat, you know that I've been posting a haiku each day in February as a part of the National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo) challenge. Most have been pretty simple, but meaningless poems.

I've decided that maybe I've been wasting my time.
Not because the haiku is a waste of time, but because I could have been using these simple poems to express an important point of view or simple message. It may be a bit more of a challenge to do that for the remaining seven days of February, but I'm going to go for it.

Here is a bonus haiku for today:

Schools are for learning.
One dead, two dead, three dead, more...
It is time to talk.

John <><

Haiku 21-2018

This daily posting
Is not what I like to do
Is it over yet?

John <><

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Inked

I have no tattoos, nor do I really have a desire for any. However, I really do like seeing good ink work on others. I think the skill and creativity to create full sleeves or complete back or chest tattoos is to be admired.

Often, tattoos tell a story or hold some significance for the wearer. I sometimes wonder if it is rude to ask a complete stranger about their ink or if it might make them feel awkward to share a personal story with a complete stranger. I suppose it could be that they wear their art with the thought that they will have opportunities to share the story behind the art.

Tattoos certainly say something about the wearer. Some indicate that the people are family people with pictures of their loved ones. Others are pet lovers, motorcycle riders, musicians, religious, patriotic, gang members or any other type of passionate person.
They appear on arms and shoulders, hips and legs, hands and feet, backs, chests, breasts, butts, and even faces, necks, and skulls. Some tattoos look like they must have been extremely painful to endure and some must have taken hours or even days to complete. Some are colorful and some appear to be 3D.

How do you feel about tattoos?
Do stereotypes come to mind when you see tats?
What ink do you have and where?
How do you feel about strangers commenting on or asking about your ink?
Asking for a friend...

John <><

Haiku 20-2018

2/20/18
Eight more days in Haiku month.
Can't wait for the end!

John <><

Monday, February 19, 2018

Haiku 19-2018

Ten days until March
I am so ready for spring
and baseball season!

John <><

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Haiku 18-2018

Winter, spring, winter
Freezing, seventies, freezing
Life in the Ozarks

John <><

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Haiku 17-2018

February's long
Or at least it seems to be
Haiku month is dumb

John <><

Coffee Conversations and Getting Organized

It's Saturday morning and I've been up for a couple of hours. I woke up around 4:30 and was still awake 30 minutes later so I decided to get up and get the day started. I've read a couple of blogs I follow, had a light breakfast, finished a game of Scrabble on a phone app (I won), and am indulging in my morning coffee.

I decided to go with one of the recipes in my Christmas Coffee Concoctions notebook -- Thai Coffee. As I read through the simple ingredients I thought that I'd have to substitute heavy cream and stevia for the sweetened condensed milk, but Hannah (and Daniel) were all over that and included a can in the gift bag of spices!
It's simple and tasty--coffee with a little cardamom and a little sweetened condensed milk. It has a flavor like a chai tea latte. And since I'm using the Christmas mug from Jenny (and Aaron) it's kind of like having Christmas in February!

--While relaxing on the beach last week, I was reading a book about Louis L'Amour and his daily writing habits.

--One of the guys in our small group is a writer/musician. Over coffee one morning, I asked about his daily routine.

--I was also asked to do some magic, but really wasn't prepared for that. Two things play into that -- I don't normally perform close-up magic and so I rarely practice it, and close-up magic takes a lot of practice.

The result of these things is that I've decided that perhaps I need a little structure in my routine.
Although I have been more intent on writing this year, I haven't set a time or daily writing goal. I need to do that. I'm going to have to evaluate just what I want to accomplish in writing so that it can have some purpose or goal. I also need to set aside a time to read. I've been doing a little more reading and am enjoying it. I need to be more purposeful about setting aside time to read and to write.

I also want to work on some close-up magic regularly. I felt bad about not being prepared to perform a few effects for friends, but hate to perform badly worse than I hate to let people down. I tend to think of myself as a stand-up magician -- meaning small stage performance with no large props. However, when people hear "magician" -- they just want to see a trick. If I'm going to be around people, I need to be prepared for that. (Or I could avoid being around people.)

I also want to work on my Spanish. I have a "listen and learn" course on my phone and have transferred it to my Google drive so that it is also available on my laptop. I want to spent a little time listening (and learning) on a regular basis as well as using some flash cards to increase my vocabulary.

When you throw in exercising, motorcycle riding, and household chores it sounds like an awful lot of stuff -- too much to do without being organized. I think I'll work on a weekly schedule with some things done on a daily basis and others done less frequently.

Since I'm not a very organized guy, I'm asking for your help.
How do you get things done?
How structured is your routine? Daily? Weekly?
Do you use lists?
What inspires you to do what you do?

Help a brother out, would you?

John <><

Friday, February 16, 2018

Haiku 16-2018

Damp and dreary day,
But baseball is on its way!
I'm ready for spring!

John <><

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Haiku 15-2018

Seventies today
Snow forecast Saturday night
Life in the Ozarks

John <><

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Haiku 14-2018

Oh! A good night's rest
Sleeping in my comfy bed
It's good to be home!

John <><

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Haiku 13-2018

All my bags are packed
I am NOT ready to go!
We are heading home.

John

Monday, February 12, 2018

Vacay -- last full day

It is our last full day in Cancun and this has been a little different trip than we have experienced in the past. I think that Chris and I have spent less time together than on previous travels. We only took one long walk on the beach and haven't ventured off of the resort for a trip into the market or to take any excursions. This is not to say that it's been a bad thing -- just different.

This resort is our first "Adults Only" resort. I will say that there are things that I really like about this resort as well as things that I don't. Not having kids splashing around the pool is a plus for an old guy that just wants to relax, but traveling during the school year pretty much limits that anyway. Individual service has been less than we have been accustomed to for all inclusive resorts, but it's not that big of a deal.

Let me be clear -- I've had a great time and can't say that I'm ready to leave. It's just been a little different.

This is only the second time we have traveled with another couple. And it is the first time to travel with two other couples. I do have to say that I have enjoyed the dynamics of our differences. Our travel companions are just four of the many Canadians that populate the resort. Most of them seem to be from Quebec and French is spoken as much as English is around the pool. Chris and I are the oldest of our small group, with the youngest being alive for fewer years than we've been married.
sigh

Tomorrow we will have breakfast, check out and board the shuttle bus to the airport.
Another easy day in the life of John.

John <><