Friday, September 28, 2018

Director of Changing the World

Several months ago my brother made the big move from his lake front cottage in rural Vermont across the vast expanse of the US to his new job in California. The job was created for him and came with the job title "Director of Changing the World."

My brother is a pretty cool guy. He is intelligent, articulate, humble and unassuming, and he can be pretty goofy, too. He genuinely cares about humanity in general and individual people, too. Personally, I can't think of a person better suited for the job of Director of Changing the World.
God knows we need some changes!

But I am wondering...
If the task of directing change in the world was left to you (or to me), how would we go about it and what would our priorities be?

When I look around me today -- the news, social media, the church, politics -- the thing that I find most disturbing is the amount of fear that we have. I know that much of it is hyped and spread by those that wish to control the fearful by promising control over the ones they fear, but the consequences are real and quite destructive. I don't know how to go about combating the machine that spews hate and causes fear other than to educate the masses to the truth.
Education, exposure, and experience are the greatest weapons against fear. Unfortunately, many choose to remain willfully ignorant because fearing is easier than education and education may mean finding out that we have been wrong all along.

What would happen if we each began to examine our critical beliefs with the idea that we may have it wrong? What if we stopped looking at generalities -- Republican, Democrat, black, white, Christian, Muslim, atheist, straight, gay, etc. -- and looked at individuals and based our judgments solely on their merits?
What if we were to examine the teaching of our god against the teaching of another god?
What if we examined the purpose of government and found that large blocks of citizens were being forgotten or actively oppressed by the political party we've supported?

Would we be willing to change our way of thinking and speak up about our new found truth?
In today's environment, many people are more afraid of the consequences of speaking to the truth they are of being wrong. They would rather continue in their ignorance than find out they need to make a change.

I'm afraid that changing the world would be far too difficult a task for me. I struggle with the changes that I need to make in my own heart and mind. Through education, exposure, and experience, I am finding that I have been wrong about a lot of things and a lot of people.

Maybe I need to hire my brother to be Director of Changing John.
It wouldn't make a great impact on changing the world, but it would be a start.

John <><

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Happiness Whores

How much would you pay somebody to make you happy -- even for just a little while?
How much could you charge if somebody paid you to make them happy -- even for just a little while?

I saw a Twitter post the other day that listed several categories of celebrities (athletes, movie producers, top actors, etc.) that earn lots of money but have little influence on the education and care of our society. That list was compared to the salaries of teachers, social workers, public servants, etc.

I realize there are some athletes and actors that work their butts off to scrape by on their way up the ladder in their chosen field. I also get that art and athleticism are worthy of compensation.
But the grand disconnect between the millions of dollars paid to some celebrities vs the salaries paid to teachers and others is astounding! And we support this system every time we pay 50 bucks (or lots more) to go to a ballgame or 20 bucks to go to a movie.

Have our lives become so bad that we are willing to work long hours and pay huge chunks of our income to find an escape from the daily routine?
How much of our phone, internet, and cable or satellite TV bills is to keep us entertained?
Has finding ways to escape from life become our way of life?

Don't get me wrong.
I love being entertained!
I've even had the pleasure of being the entertainer from time to time (though not with the huge $$).
I'm just trying to find some perspective in my relatively small world. Truthfully, I find as much joy in riding my motorcycle to and from a St. Louis Cardinal's game (about 500 miles round trip) as I do from watching the game. And I'm more comfortable watching from home, but I do miss that deliciously unhealthy ballpark dog!
The same can be said for the UFC Fights or any other form of giving my money to somebody else so that I can be "happy" for a short period of time. Most of the time I do these things without really thinking about it.

But, is it worth it?

I don't know.
When I think about paying somebody else to make me happy it does make pause and ask, "Why?"
And now, I'm also going to be asking, "Is it worth it?"
"Does this person/company/organization deserve this much of my money to bring this amount of happiness/escape/adventure into my life?"

Hmmm...

John <><

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Community

I've been thinking (and writing) more about community lately. It might have to do with my (slowly) changing community or it might just be a recognition that I've not really had much of a community and we all need to have (at least) a core of people that we feel comfortable being with.

There are things that unite us -- interests, beliefs, politics, race, culture, economic status, etc.
Those things are often the same things that divide us.

Since southwest Missouri is largely a Republican stronghold and in the middle of the Bible belt, I am often confronted with political differences in any subset community. Since politics has become the divisive topic that it is, even once solid relationships have become strained when there are political differences and new relationships are difficult forge. My world is a constant reminder that I am a blue dot in a red sea. Even with my small core of politically centrist friends it feels like a tiny island in the deeply red sea.

Neither is this area racially nor culturally diverse. Any subset group -- church, biker, writer, sporting, etc. -- is made up of white, middle class, working people or small business owners that have spent most of their lives within a hundred miles or so of their Ozarks Christian (or pseudo-christian) home. Finding diverse ideas and beliefs (or acceptance of diverse ideas and beliefs) is quite the challenge in a non-diverse society.
I feel like Democrats need a secret handshake or Democrat friendly churches and businesses need a secret symbol to identify themselves as such. It may sound strange to say that churches are unfriendly to differing political views, but as a person that has been ridiculed for political beliefs and basically shunned by a church, I can assure you it is true.

I could be that my community is starting to grow because I'm finding more people like myself.
Not that we all look alike, act alike or believe the same things; but that we are willing to accept and talk about the differences.
I still spend most of my time alone and I'm okay with that.
But I'm starting to enjoy being with some people -- some of the time.
And I'm okay with that, too.

John <><

Friday, September 21, 2018

American Christianity: a lack of evolution

It's a stunning title -- don't you think?
Combining Christianity and evolution in a title is sure to get some attention even if I'm not talking about the evolution of humans, but rather the evolution of American Christianity.

Earlier this year I was preaching at a small church and said that it isn't enough that we believe in Jesus, but that we are to behave like Jesus. I don't believe that our evangelical churches are doing a very good job of teaching this.
For the most part, we seem to be satisfied in gaining a believer and never teach the evolution of following the behavior of Jesus. Once we've pointed out their egregious sins and properly condemned them to an eternity of hellfire and misery, we point the way to salvation through faith in Jesus.
We proclaim victory and leave them to struggle through their new belief as we move on in search of our next victim of religious malpractice.

Salvation and Christianity were never meant to be a moment in time.
Following Jesus is supposed to be a way of life. Sometimes it's simple; sometimes it's not.
Looking at Jesus' life back in the 30s (and I'm not talking about the 1930s or even the 1630s or 1030s. I'm talking about THE 30s!) can make it difficult to follow him in 2018.

How do I follow him as a husband when he wasn't married?
How do I follow him as a father when he didn't have kids?
How do I follow him as a worker when the Bible never addresses him as an employee (or a business owner)?

The answer is to study the life and character of Jesus so that we can become like Jesus.
Even if you don't believe that he is the Son of God, you've got to admit that living according to his teachings would make for a pretty respectable human life!

I think it's time for us to grow up as Christians -- to evolve as followers of Jesus.
I think it's time for us to stop focusing on what we believe and what we think others should believe.
I think it's time for us to behave like Jesus.

James, the brother of Jesus, warned about having faith without demonstrating it by our behavior. It's a little creepy that he could be accurately talking to us through the centuries
...and it's pretty sad.
Two thousand years later and we still haven't evolved past what we believe into how we behave.

sigh
smh

John <><

Thursday, September 20, 2018

End of Life

Due to poor planning on my part, this morning finds me at a Springfield MO Starbucks.
I'll be enjoying a quad shot, grande Americano and using their wifi before buying some beans for future home use. The grande vs venti is simply because my personal cup is 16oz and I'm trying to be more aware of avoiding single use products like cups and bottles. I'm sure I'll opt in for a coffee refill before leaving.

My recent cell phone crash has me thinking about end of life stuff.
Weird, huh?
When I took my phone in to see about repairing it, "end of life" phone was how they described it.
It means that they no longer make this model. In fact, it has been quite some time since they have. The current model is five generations beyond my old phone and I am currently using a phone that is a generation older than that.

I thought that the term "end of life phone" sounded like one that you would give to a person that is dying and started thinking about the features that such a phone would have.

* speed dial for all of your loved ones so you could call and say "I love you" one last time
* pictures and videos of your fondest memories
* contact info of old friends that you owe an apology for a long forgotten misunderstanding
* a delete function to remove all of that embarrassing history at the moment of the "end of life"
* a playlist of music that reminds you of the good times or prepares you for the coming end

What features would your "end of life" phone include?

Unfortunately, most smart phones mark the end of life for their owners. It is the end of meaningful social interaction, the end of outdoor activity for many kids, and a certain distraction for people that need to be paying attention to spouses, kids, friends, or the task at hand -- like driving.
While smart phones have many features that can help us to connect with others, they also seem to tragically bring about both a figurative and sometimes literal end of life.
I think we can do better.

Yes, I'll end up with a new phone soon, but it will be the cheapest one that offers what I need. And that isn't much. Tops on the list for me is long battery life. Today's phones only have rechargeable batteries, not replaceable ones. I've been carrying extra charged batteries and replacing a spent battery until I can recharge them.
I don't need a great camera, so the camera on any phone is good enough.
I'd like to put my Kindle app on it so I have books available when needed and maybe a game or two.
And I do need to be able to use it for navigation and would like to be able to stream videos or watch online programs, but that isn't a priority. That's about it. I'm trying to be less dependent on technology and more about living life -- not ending it.

John <><

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Time to break the silence

It's seems like it has been quite some time since I've posted here at Out of My Hat. It's actually only been two weeks, but much has happened and is happening.

In the US there are mid-term elections just over a month away and now the Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's ruling regarding the disclosure of previously called dark money contributions. This is the time when things start to get ugly.
There is also the ongoing hearing for the confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice that is causing much political posturing and controversy. (This one has been ugly from the start.)

There is the aftermath of severe storms on the US east coast as well in the South Pacific and southeast Asia.
There continues to be racial incidents between law enforcement and citizens of color in the US and Nike has weighed in on the issue with its new ad campaign.

I have to admit that part of not posting has been from trying not to be negative and adding to the noise of the internet. (And by noise I mean the stuff that is out there and consumes our time but doesn't seem to educate nor change peoples minds.)
Of course, there is always the part of just being too lazy to write.

Out of My Hat is a personal blog and I sometimes wonder why I write.
It certainly isn't to make money nor as part of some kind of job or promotion.
It isn't because I feel like my thoughts and ideas are really worth considering as others make up their own minds on how to think about various topics.
As expected, my thoughts and rants have often drawn as much criticism as affirmation (although most of the critics have ceased following me some time ago).

Currently, my posting silence has also been a part of a personal effort to listen more and to speak (or express) less. Even when alone and in relative silence, I am trying to listen more carefully. Listening to nature is teaching me that I can listen to hear without the need to respond. I am hoping to advance this skill and apply it to people -- listening to hear without the need to respond.

Today I want to encourage you to find a quiet place and just listen. You might be surprised at what you can hear in the silence.

John <><

Thursday, September 06, 2018

This date in history...

Okay, I'm not talking about the distant past or world history. One year ago today I set out on my epic motorcycle trip. It touched 21 states, two Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia. I rode through some beautiful country, some mountain roads, and rush hour traffic in Chicago, Boston, and DC. I met with friends and family along the way and met some new friends, as well.

This year I haven't ridden as much nor as often as in the past two years. Although the motorcycle is still my transportation of choice, I've done considerably less pleasure riding this year. Perhaps, I'll start riding more often again this fall.
I'm replacing the existing saddlebags with locking bags. That will be nice for day trips to ballgames and such.
I need to plan another long trip and check off some more states -- maybe a Route 66 trip all the way to the ocean.

Be careful out there. Watch for us old, retired guys on motorcycles!

John <><

Monday, September 03, 2018

No Days Off

When I retired, one of my older cousins warned me -- There are no days off in retirement!

He's right! There are no more paid sick days, no more paid holidays, no more paid vacation days.
Every day you are simply retired.
So while the rest of you are enjoying the long holiday weekend, it's just another regular Monday for those of us that are retired.

That is not to say that I don't celebrate Labor Day.
It is because of organized labor and the many battles that were fought and won that I am able to enjoy my retirement with a decent pension and an adequate Thrift Savings Plan (the government 401K type plan).
I'm pretty sure that I'll be spending my Monday working in the yard. I'll wait until tomorrow (when the rest of you are at work) to get out and ride the rural highways or enjoy Lake Springfield on a kayak.

If you get to enjoy a long holiday weekend today -- thank organized labor!
For us retired guys -- it's just another day.

John <><

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Blog writing and social media

Wow!
I just checked and my blog posting frequency has really dropped off in the past few months.
Part of that is a decision to be less negative and just putting the keyboard aside when I feel the need to rant. Another part is a conscious effort to disconnect from social media a bit more and unfortunately that has also included my blog and some of the other blogs I read.
Now, rather than reading them daily, I seem to read them a few times per week and catch several days at once.

There are an abundance of studies that show how community and personal relationships add years to life and make those years more enjoyable. Social media and technology have had great impacts on the amount of personal relationships we have and it seems that we (at least in the US) are becoming more isolated, more lonely, and more poorly equipped to actually interact with other human beings.

I have to admit that I don't interact with very many people on a regular basis. There are many days when the only person I talk to is Chris. I can't say that I feel lonely or depressed or anything. In fact, I rather enjoy my solitude.
Having said that, I probably should work on building some relationships and surrounding myself with a community of sorts -- even if it's primarily to help others that do feel lonely.

I'm going to continue to work on limiting my social media time. I don't know if social media relationships count for anything towards the community building necessary for long happy lives or not. I do enjoy interacting with people that I only know through social media and sometimes wonder just how well we would get along in real life. I've met a few of those people and it's been pleasant enough that I would like to continue to meet others.
And I'm not quitting social media; just continuing to monitor and reduce my dependency on social media as a substitute for actual face to face relationships with people.

I'm also going to work on finding something positive to share on this blog and try writing more often. I know there aren't many people that continue to read out Out of My Hat, but the blog began as a place for me to just write and share some thoughts and maybe needs to get back to that.

It's the weekend!
Go out and interact with someone!
Build a new relationship or nurture an existing one.
Or...
...if you need it, enjoy some solitude!

John <><


Monday, August 13, 2018

Another cancelled ride

Ugh!
I'm going to cancel the ride for today. I actually believe that today would be a good day to ride, but I would have to ride home through thunderstorms on Wednesday. I suppose I could reschedule a Thursday doctor appointment and stay a day longer to avoid the rain, but the simple solution is to just drive the car.

Between necessary repairs, rain outs, and scheduling, I've done very little riding this summer.
Such is life.

I'll be able to listen to the radio, enjoy a drink, and stay cool and dry in the car, so it's not all bad. It's just not as nice as a day-long ride. I'll have to plan that for another time.

I know that while I'm driving today, my social media feeds will be filling up with more of the latest political circus and other stupid things. I want to give you an opportunity to bless me and my friends (both of them) with some good news today.
How about sharing a good news story?
You can comment here or on the feed where you normally link to my posts.
Tell me something good so that I'll have plenty of good things to read when I break along the way or at the end of the day.

John <><

Friday, August 10, 2018

Labels: When they work ... and when they don't.

I've been thinking about labels -- how they can collectively define us and how they can be used to divide us. I've come to the conclusion that we use them far too often to divide us and far too seldom to unite us.

Here in the United States, we are Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, whites and non-whites, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian.
When did we stop just being Americans?
We worry more about what divides us than about the things that unite us. It's no wonder there is so much hate and fear in our country.

Unfortunately, the good people (Where's the sarcasm font when you need it?) of the church are no better and set a poor example for the rest of us. Evangelicals have labeled all democrats as baby killers so no true christian (lower case intentional) would ever vote for one. Nor should christians support the rights of the LGBTQ+ community because -- well, labels. And they're not us, right?
Christians have so many different ideas on how to follow God that we have hundreds of different denominations of Christianity. Some are so different that they are called cults by other denominations!

When the purpose of the church is to guard its territory/community/membership rather than share the love of God, it's easy to be afraid of what other sinners might bring to the table. When we are all interested in the things that divide us rather than the grace of God, we tend to point out the specks in the eyes of others rather than removing the beam in our own eyes and just sharing the love of God.
When the purpose of the church is to gain political power or influence then all heavenly bets are off and it is nothing more than a special interest lobby group.

Labels aren't always bad. Labels can be used to show the diversity of an organization, church or political party. They can show how much or how little it reflects the community around it or the people it represents.
Recently, I realized that I have been so very guilty of using labels to divide rather than to unite.

I was thinking about some of the people that we've been sharing life with lately -- people we've been worshiping with, serving with, socializing with. A year ago, these people would not have been in my social circle and certainly not in my church community. I caught myself thinking of them with the old, divisive labels -- a couple of same gender couples, a single gay man, a lesbian woman, a recovering alcoholic. While those label might fit, the simple truth is we are all just people that are trying to navigate life and follow the simple teachings of Jesus to love God and love one another.
In spite of the common ground of desiring to follow Jesus, I have a feeling that most of my old circle of friends would not approve of my new friends.

I'm going to make an effort to be more careful about using labels. I'm also going to try to remember that labels are a pretty poor way to define people. I think that most people would label me as a liberal, but that doesn't really work for me.
I'd say that I am fiscally conservative, morally conservative, politically moderate, and socially liberal. Though I tend to vote democratic (now), I don't generally agree with the extreme left and can often find good with moderate republican ideas (although moderates from either side are a rare find).

Please forgive me when I mess up. I tend to be a slow learner.

John <><

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On the road ... again!

This morning I am preparing for another mini road trip; a brief 155 mile (according to Google Maps) ride to share an evening program at Enon Baptist Church near Holden MO. After the 7:00PM program, I pack up and make the return ride home.

I haven't spent a lot of time on the bike at night and hope to have an easy ride. On the few occasions that I have ridden at night, I tend to find a car or truck traveling at the same speed to follow. I can use their headlights to extend my sight range. I can also hope that they'll scare off potential wildlife ahead of me.

It's kid's night at the church's revival and I get to come in and share a message through magic. I'm looking forward to the 5+ hours on the bike as much as I'm looking forward to the 40 minutes of the actual program!
I really do enjoy the opportunity to perform a little magic and share the simple message that God loves you and Jesus died for you. When people respond to that message there is an energy that fills me up and drives me until I get the chance to do it again.
Currently, my August calendar is open. I am preaching in September, have a revival gig in October, and a youth conference in November.
Off of the ministry calendar, I have a road trip to central Illinois in August and (hopefully) another Chicago trip in November. I haven't been riding quite as much this year and only covered around 6,500 miles so far. Maybe I need to work on that!

Since tonight's event will wrap up my summer kid program schedule, I plan to write a little summary of the interactions I've had along the way and the things that I've shared through the programs, the planning, and the travel to and from the various programs. In spite of the negative stuff that we hear and see in the news and on social media forums, there are some incredibly good and kind people out there. They go about their days being kind because that's who they are. They come in all shapes and sizes and from all different walks of life. They're just good people.

I'll share more about them soon.
For now, I've a show to pack and a highway to travel.
Be safe and watch for old, retired guys on motorcycles!

John <><

Sunday, July 22, 2018

What's in your cup?

Recently I read a modern day version of an old story. I remember it as an old man and his grandson watching people in the marketplace. They observe a man leaving a shop with a cup of tea in his hands. He is bumped by another person and spills some of his tea.
The old man asks the grandson, "Why did the man spill his tea?"
The boy replied, "Because the person bumped into him."
"No," replied the grandfather. "He spilled tea because that's what he was carrying in his cup. If he had water in the cup, he would have spilled water."

The lesson is that we are always going to experience bumps along the way. What spills out is what we carry with us. If we carry anger, then we will respond with anger. If we hold on to frustration, then frustration is what will spill out.
We've probably all heard the saying that hurting people hurt people. Maybe it doesn't have to be that way.
What if we take the time and make the effort to fill our cups with love and joy?
What if we are filled with peace?
What if we refuse to carry anger, fear and hatred?
How would our response to life's sudden bumps change?

I wish that I could tell you that it's going to be easy, but today's life can be full of frustration and anger. We need to find a way to set that aside so that we can react to life's bumps with kindness and love.

What's in your cup?

John <><

Monday, July 16, 2018

Acts of Kindness Shouldn't be Random

Wow!
It has been nearly three weeks since I've posted here!

I know that there have been several days that I started to write but then decided against adding to the steady stream of negative garbage that floods the internet these days. I'm not swearing off of the political or religious bandwagons but I am going to let you get most of that news from other sources.

Much has happened in the past few weeks -- a couple of kids's camps, a broken down motorcycle, serving breakfast to homeless people, an outing with church friends and one with old work friends, a day at the lake, and a few days of doing nothing, as well.

I'll get to the kids' camps after I've had time to put a little distance between the camps and writing. They can be a little tough sometimes and it helps me if I give them some time. I also need to let some of the adult drama and church politics settle a bit.

The motorcycle breakdown happened on the way to a camp and it was truly amazing at the amount of help that people were willing to provide. People took time to get me (and my bike) to and from a shop (that was unable to repair it until the following week). Daniel took the afternoon off from work to drive four hours to pick me up and tow the bike home. And strangers on the way helped us when Daniel's alternator on the truck went out.
In the end we had to have the truck towed the last 40 miles home and the trailer with the bike towed separately.

I am grateful for the kindness we received along the way and am paying it forward by serving with a group of people from The Venues. Every Friday morning, a group from the church provides the food and serves breakfast to about 150 homeless people at the the Veteran's Center in Springfield. It is just one of the ways that The Venues acts out the teaching of Jesus by caring for others. I plan to be a regular at this service event since retirement gives me the time to do it.

I've also arranged a night (next month) for our small group (also from The Venues) to prepare and serve dinner at The Ronald McDonald House in Springfield.
I'm finding it to be a great pleasure to be associated with followers of Jesus that are actively working to share his love by taking care of people in the community -- not once in a while, but as a regular part of who they (we) are. It's amazing how much you can learn about love from people that have been hurt by the traditional churches in the area or by other so called Christians.
Certainly, not everyone at The Venues has suffered church trauma, but it is a very different gathering of Jesus followers.

In any case, I wish you a grand week and I'll be back with more to share.
Show somebody that they are loved!

John <><

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hot on the Highway!

Yeah, boy!
It is going to be a hot day for riding!
The temperatures for today and tomorrow are forecast to be in the upper 90s in the Midwest US. That's 36-37 for my Celsius friends.

Today I'll be riding to Grand Oaks Assembly campgrounds for a magic show at a kids' camp tonight. Tomorrow I'll make the return trip home. It's 225 miles (362 km) from my house to the camp.
In case you were wondering, riding in hot weather isn't cooler on a motorcycle. There is a point at which riding on hot asphalt (or concrete) through hot air while sitting on a hot engine is just plain... well, hot.
Here's a motorcycle wind chart to show what I'm talking about.


I'll be comfortable enough and it's worth the exchange of riding the motorcycle vs being stuck in a cage (car).

I need to get a walk in before I hit the road.
Watch for old, retired guys on motorcycles.

John <><

Monday, June 25, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

The Gospel of Luke -- according to John (that's me).
If you were at church with me on Sunday morning or if we were having a simple conversation, I would probably use the more familiar title of Story-time with Pastor John.
As it is, I'll try to lay this simple story out the way I would tell it in preaching or in conversation. It's a story that most people have heard in some form or fashion. If you'd rather read it for yourself, you'll find it in the tenth chapter of the Gospel According to Luke.

Jesus is doing his thing and teaching about how we should live and a lawyer (probably a Pharisee since they were the ones that were all about living by the 613 laws of the Torah) asks the simple question, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered, "You're a lawyer. What does the Law say?"
The lawyer responds with an answer that Jesus has given, "Love God with everything you've got and love your neighbor as yourself."
Bingo!
Jesus says, "That's right! Do it and you'll live!"

Although the answer seems simple enough, the lawyer asks for some clarity. I mean if we're talking about eternal life, we need to make sure of the details, right?
So the lawyer asks, "Who is my neighbor?"

That's when Jesus tells his story:
There was a man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. While on the way, he fell among thieves that beat him, took his clothes and all of his belongings, and left him badly beaten and bloodied at the side of the road. A priest passed by but saw the man and passed by without stopping. Later, a servant of the temple passed by, looked at the man and then crossed over to the other side of the road and continued on.
Finally, a man of Samaria passed by and took care of the beaten man. He cleaned and bound his wounds, and transported him to a nearby town. He left him in the care of a local townsman and paid for his care. He also promised to return to pay for any additional charges.
Then Jesus asked, "Which man was the neighbor to the man that had been robbed?"
It's a no brainer, but even the lawyer's answer reveals something about the story. He said, "The man that showed mercy."
And Jesus said, "Yep! You be that guy!"

It's pretty easy to read that, glean a simple lesson about being kind to strangers and move on.
But there is much more to the command "You be that guy!" than just be kind to others.

The Samaritans were a people of mixed race and despised by the Jews.
To understand why this was so, one needs to go back to the divided kingdoms and the rebuilding of the southern kingdom at Jerusalem. Those Jews felt that they had kept their race pure while the northern kingdom (Samaria) had lived with their captors, intermarried with them, and corrupted the Jewish way of life. The Samaritans were considered to be unclean, unholy, and a people to be avoided and despised.
When Jesus asked, "Who was the neighbor?" the lawyer didn't even acknowledge the man's race. He simply said, "The man that showed mercy." It's like he purposely avoided saying the Samaritan was the good guy.

And the command of Jesus wasn't to show mercy to people you don't like. It was to show mercy, even to people that don't like you!

This Samaritan traveler stopped to care for a man that would likely have left him to die if their positions were reversed. Even the priest and Levite (servant of the temple) wouldn't stop to help one of their own. A person's dislike for us is no excuse for our treating them poorly.

There are many people that are applauding the actions of a DC restaurant owner that asked the White House press secretary to leave based on the poor morals of the current Administration.
Some say that they (the White House staff) deserve it.
Many say that if a baker can refuse to bake a cake based on moral differences, a restaurant owner should be able to refuse service based on moral differences.

I think that Jesus would hold us to a higher standard. I'm pretty sure that he would tell us to love those that hate us, to be kind to those that are unkind to us, and to show mercy to those that disagree with us.

I wonder how different things would be if the owner of the restaurant had taken Ms. Sanders aside and said, "Listen, I want you to know that I really disagree with what is being done by your boss. I honestly don't know how you can work for him and do the things you do. Having said that, I want to thank you for choosing to eat in my restaurant and I hope that you and your party enjoy your meal and choose to comeback in the future."

Martin Luther put it this way --
"The Christian shoemaker does his duty, not by putting little crosses on shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship"

How we treat others shouldn't have anything to do with how they treat us.
Ms Sanders comment about the owner's actions saying more about the owner than about her were spot on.

It's funny how easy it is to see the right and wrong of the actions of others and how difficult it is to see our own misdeeds.

Who is my neighbor?
You are.
You are even if we disagree ...
on religion
on politics
on social issues
on civil rights
on economy.
You are my neighbor based on my choice to follow Jesus.
You are my neighbor even if you don't consider me to be your neighbor.

sigh
This following Jesus thing can be difficult.
Please be patient with me.

John <><

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 <><