Monday, December 31, 2018

Going back to The Gospel According to John

Quite some time ago I went through a daily reading of The Gospel according to John and posted my thoughts on this blog. Beginning next Sunday (Jan 6), I'll be doing it again; this time with our Venues' high school students. We'll do one chapter per day for 21 days.

I haven't yet worked out the format of my daily summaries.
I'm thinking something along the lines of:
     an overall summary of the chapter
     something that caught my attention
     my favorite verse or part of the chapter
     and a question or challenge inspired by the day's reading

I also haven't decided if I'll look back at my old posts. While that might be helpful, I'm also thinking that looking at each chapter with a fresh approach might serve the students in a better fashion.

I want to invite you to join us.
If you already read your Bible on a daily basis, perhaps you'd consider adding a chapter a day.
If you don't read the Bible regularly, this will be a relatively simple way to begin to look at the life of Jesus and what he teaches us.

For non-Christians or non-Bible readers, I generally read the ESV (English Standard Version).
The Contemporary English Version (CEV) and The Message (MSG) are also good for nontraditional readers. or are a couple of sites where you can choose your translation of choice for reading. Both have apps you can download to your phones.

Perhaps 2019 will be a year that we can each draw closer to God. As we each grow closer to God, we also grow closer to one another.

John <><

Friday, December 28, 2018

Opinionated, but not unkind.

My goal for 2019 will be to share my thoughts and opinions in a way that is not unkind.

I know that has often not been the case in the past, and I'm sure that it will be challenging in the future. But we do need to be able to share differing opinions without alienating everyone that thinks differently than we do.

One of the things I'll be doing is asking more questions:
How did you arrive at that opinion?
Where did you hear that? or What is your source?
Have you considered that (an opposing view) might also be valid?
If you had new information, would you be open to changing your mind?

I want discussions rather than arguments. I want us to be less influenced by what people say and more informed by knowing the facts. I want for us to be motivated by knowledge rather than intimidated by fear.

I know that we all bring our own biases to the table and are often more interested in information that confirms our position rather than information that challenges our beliefs. Admitting that we have been wrong, misinformed, or that there may be a better way is difficult, but necessary if we are to evolve as a society and solve the common problems that we face.

I'm asking you to join me in this cause -- at least in your comments or responses to this blog or on my other social forums. I'm also encouraging you to do so on your social forums, including personal interactions (real conversations with people). We are better than the hateful examples often being set by politicians and the media.

I am not going to be silent, nor am I asking you to be silent.
I am expecting us to be kind.
And I am giving you permission to call me out when I cross the line.

Let's make 2019 a year of kindness.

John <><

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Warning! Warning! Warning! Political rant ahead!

I know. I'm supposed to be taking a break from political posts and things that divide us.
But dammit, this government shutdown is bullpoop!

The toddler tantrums have got to stop!
POTUS is like the bratty kid throwing a fit in the Walmart toy section because somebody responsible is saying, "No!"

"I want my wall! I want my wall!"

"We can't afford a wall right now. Maybe next time."

"But I want it! I'm not going anywhere until I get it!"
And the tantrum goes on...
...and on
...and on.


As a former federal employee that was considered an essential service -- that means you worked without pay -- this is no fun.
I've read many ignorant comments (I can say that because these people don't know what the #*@! they're talking about) that mention they'll get paid later. That is true, especially since the senate passed a resolution to that effect, but it's not that simple and it is not pain free.

Does it make any fiscal sense to say, "Just come in and do your job for free. We'll pay you eventually."
Or even worse -- "We're going to pay you later. Go home, do nothing that benefits the government, and when we've decided that we can budget the money we will pay you as if you were actually working."

For those that say it's no big deal, they're going to get their money -- try buying groceries or paying bills with that kind of reasoning. You can't.

Another thing that most people don't realize (even many federal employees) -- there is no approved leave for essential employees during a shutdown. (This was the case when I worked. I doubt that it's changed.)
You took Christmas Day off to be with your family? -- Sorry. Leave is cancelled. Now you get to work!
Planned a family vacation during the kids' Christmas break? -- All vacation plans are canceled. Too bad if you can't get your money back!
Sick today? Winter flu? Puking and diarrhea? -- Sorry, no sick leave.

Yep, the leave you've earned and scheduled is unavailable during a shutdown.

And this is only about the hundreds of thousands of federal employees!
What about the millions of people that rely on the services that will no longer be available?

Back to the toddler tantrum...
If a congressperson proposed spending $5 billion for education, or infrastructure, or any other new spending, they would be asked to show where that money is going to come from. Why isn't anybody asking where the money for this ridiculous wall is going to come from?
We've reduced our income (tax cut), kept up our spending, and now we're going to spend more money that we don't have for a wall that experts say isn't a very good way to address immigration issues and does little to obstruct drug trafficking.

"But I want it! I want it!"

What happened to the fiscal conservatives?
Why aren't they opposing this stupid wall?
Why are they afraid to tell the toddler NO?
When will some leader (do we have any?) in the Republican party realize that this is not normal and do something about it?
The White House has a rotating staff with several key positions vacant.
The POTUS is getting foreign policy advice from foreign governments and criticizing his own advisers.
The POTUS is criticizing the very law enforcement agencies that he is in charge of.

This post has nothing to do with criminal investigations, ethics violations, poor morals or the fact that I do not like Trump.
This is about poor government and the people that are leading the way.

I'd better stop now.
Before I get ugly.


Friday, December 21, 2018


At 4:23PM CST the sun will reach the Tropic of Capricorn and slowly begin it's journey back towards the northern Tropic of Cancer.
Winter will officially arrive in the northern hemisphere; summer for my family and friends on the southern half of the globe. Our short days and long nights will begin to turn around and those that suffer from enduring the seasonal darkness can begin to hope for brighter (and longer) days.

Here at home, it's beginning to feel like Christmas. We are getting together with the kids tonight for our family Christmas gift exchange and I am really looking forward to it. We will have our Christmas family meal on Sunday. Monday the kids will disperse to home and other family and Chris and I will be home alone for Christmas Day.
I think I like the idea of Christmas with the family before Christmas Day rather than after. In the past few years we've had our family exchange over the New Year's holiday. I feel like I'm looking forward to the peacefulness of Christmas morning and the restfulness that will come with knowing the celebration is finished.

We will celebrate Christmas with our Venues community on Christmas Eve. We'll attend one service and volunteer to help out during the other.
I'm kind of liking the smaller Christmas of this year. I can't really say why; I just am.

I expect to post again before the season is over, but if I don't (or if you don't stop by for a few days), I do want to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas. May your days be filled with peace and hope and love.

John <><

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

I don't want (nor need) another family

You are not my family.
And maybe you don't want to be.

First I should say that I am blessed with a great family.
With one exception (my wife), I didn't get to choose any of them.
You don't get to choose family.

While I have been blessed with a family that is very loving and gets along well, not everyone feels the same about their family. I know many people that despise their siblings, have been abandoned by parents, or just hate being around certain relatives. For them, there are no fun holiday gatherings or enjoyable family reunions. In fact, such get togethers can be the most stressful times of the year and avoiding them can be just as stressful from the guilt and shame that comes from such decisions.

I tend to think of my other people clusters as communities.
And it may be true that I don't get to choose each member of those communities, but I get to choose my involvement with each group, or within each group.

Because I have a wonderful family, I don't need another "family."
If I had a poor family experience, I probably wouldn't want another "family."

I place great value on those that I have chosen to be my friends and a part of my community.
And I am honored to be chosen to be a part of the communities of others.
I don't usually tell people that say "We're like family" or something similar, "No, we're not."
I get what they mean and let it go (sort of). In my head, I might be thinking, "No, we're not."

I think it's weird we assume that everyone else identifies with things in the same way we do.
We talk of a family as if every family is a loving and healthy unit. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?
We refer to God as Father. But what about the person that was beaten or sexually abused by their father? Maybe that image of God doesn't work for them.
I know that people can get upset with political correctness and think that others are too sensitive about the way things are said, but if we want others to really hear and understand our message, isn't it our responsibility to choose words and imagery that they can relate to in a positive way?

Just a thought.

John <><

Monday, December 17, 2018

My Community

I'm starting to feel more a part of the community at The Venues Church. It feels like we've been attending and serving at The Venues for longer than a year, but I think last Christmas Eve was only the third or fourth time we went there.

Last Thursday was The Venues Christmas party.
Friday night we were out with two other couples from The Venues to listen to another Venues friend sing at a local place.
Sunday was church.
Today (Monday) I had breakfast with The Venues' student coordinator.
Tomorrow our small group meets for dinner, study, and visiting (fellowship, if you want to be churchy about it).
I don't know if we'll be going to the Blue Christmas service on Wednesday, but I will be back at The Downtown Venues on Thursday night and serving at the Breakfast Venues on Friday morning.

I am getting to know more people and we greet each other by name and with handshakes or hugs.
I find myself wanting to be around Venues people and am always inspired and motivated by their drive to serve others.

Sunday morning, this graphic was displayed during the worship service.

If you can't read it, it says that so far this year we have helped 48,611 people, worked 13,942 service hours, and worked 170 different service events!

One of the things that strikes me about these numbers is how specific they are. It didn't say we've helped nearly 50,000 people (to sound better) or generalize it to more than 48,000. But it counts each person and gives value to each life we impact and relationship we try to build.
Loving and serving individual people is what we do and what we encourage all followers of Jesus to do.
Each life -- every life -- is of value.

If you've ever felt like you don't fit in, like you have no community, or if you just feel like you've been set aside and forgotten, you would do well to spend some time listening to Pastor Phillip's message from yesterday. You can find it here.

YOU are of value!

John <><

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Life Coach

I may have found a second career!

I saw an advertisement on my Facebook feed about becoming a Life Coach. Hmmm...
Actually, I don't think I'd be a very good Life Coach  -- unless you're looking to become an overweight, out of shape, grumpy, almost 60 year old person that likes to be left alone.
I could help you with that!

I'm not even sure what a life coach does or why anyone would pay for another person to advise them on how to live. I probably have a poor concept on what a life coach actually does. I think of each of us with three main components -- physical health, mental health, and spiritual health. And it seems to me that each of those components needs its own expert. The closest thing that comes to mind would be a good yogi. While I do believe that most people can harvest mental gains and meditative peace from yoga, I would still say it is not a good substitute for a psychologist nor a substitute for seeking God.

If I really looked into it, I'd probably find that not only am I extremely unqualified to be a life coach, but I would benefit greatly from having one, myself. Personally, I'd rather just have an honest friend that gives good advice. Maybe that's what a life coach is -- someone you pay to be an honest friend that gives good advice. Apparently the free kind are in short supply.

Maybe I should check into it and see if anyone wants to pay me to be their friend!

John <><

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas songs that don't suck!

There are several radio stations that have banned a certain Christmas song and much written about such decisions and the controversial message of the song.
This post isn't about that.

The Venues Church is going through a sermon series entitled Christmas Songs That Don't Suck.
You might think that the series would focus on Christmas hymns and the message that they bring to this Christmas season, but you would be wrong.
Yesterday the Rev Dev brought a message from the Christmas classic Frosty, the Snowman.
Frosty doesn't seem like the person you would turn to for any life lessons, much less for something of a spiritual nature.

I invite you to take the time to join us for his message.
If you want to skip the opening worship music (pease don't), go to the 23 minute mark and it will bring you in at the song just before Rev Dev comes in with his message.
You can also follow the link to past messages in the series -- Santa Clause is Coming to Town and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

John <><

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Hakuna Matata

I'm enjoying a new Ethiopian coffee today...
Hakuna Ma Latte

I think it means -- No worries, I have my coffee!

Have a great Sunday!
John <><

Friday, December 07, 2018

Recess Time!

Tonight is another night of rEcess at The Venues!
It is a night for parents of kids with special needs to be able to have some much needed time for themselves.

I was pretty impressed last month at my first rEcess event.
The kids with special needs get one on one or even two on one attention for the entire night. There is an area and activities for siblings, as well.

It's a challenge to do magic for young children as many of them are really too young to appreciate magic.
Think about it:
Everything is new and amazing to a young child. A ball that vanishes from one hand and appears in the other is unexpected, but it isn't magical because they don't know that it isn't supposed to be possible. And because young kids are very tactile, the want to touch everything. It's how they learn.
One on one that isn't so bad. In a group (even a small group) it isn't very practical.

I'm working on a few things for the individual kind of magic and also a little show for the siblings. I'll see how it goes tonight. In any case, every day I am more impressed by the love and service shown by the people of The Venues. I think they are making me into a better person.

John <><

Thursday, December 06, 2018


In the past few days, much has been said of the humility of our 41st president.
His "kinder, gentler nation" didn't always sit well with those that use power, fear, and intimidation to control others, and yet he is remembered as a diplomat and respected for his foreign policies.

Naturally, I thought of that today when I read this quote from Mother Teresa:

Perhaps wishes of peace during the holiday season are futile if they are not accompanied by true humility.

John <><

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Blue Christmas

I had never heard of "Blue Christmas" in any reference other than the song ... until last year.

Most people know that the holiday season can be a very depressing time of year for some and that those that are missing loved ones can have a particularly difficult time when it comes to the family holiday traditions.
On Wednesday, Dec 19th, The Venues Church will have its Blue Christmas service. The Venues realizes that not everyone feels joy during the holidays and this service is to remind them they are not alone. It is  special service for those that are having a difficult time with the season, and for those that want to support them.

If you are in the Springfield MO area and know of someone that struggles through the holidays, why not pick them up and bring them to The Venues for this special service.

John <><

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Unhealthy Guy's Blog

No post here today other than to let Out of My Hat followers know that I've been posting over at Healthy Living (by an unhealthy guy) lately.
Feel free to follow me there, as well.

John <><

Monday, December 03, 2018

Moving from "Bah! Humbug!" to "Merry Christmas!"

Christmas Eve is just three weeks away and I can't say that I am "in the Christmas spirit" yet.
In truth, I'm more the bah humbug sort of guy.

I am amused by Christians that make such a big deal of Christmas being about the birth of Jesus while fully immersing themselves in the secular aspects of the holiday. I am frustrated that we don't do more to talk about God's love during the other eleven months of the year and act like Jesus was really born on December 25th and so it's a big deal. I'm not sure that I really get the whole idea of needing a special day to celebrate His birth.

Don't misunderstand me. I rejoice that Jesus was born; that God became man.
I am thrilled that God loves me and that Jesus died for me.
But how much can we really gain from this infant Jesus if we fail to learn the lessons of the man Jesus?

Did I mention I'm more the bah humbug sort of guy?

In any case, I went looking back at some Christmas posts from years ago in hopes that the Spirit of Christmas Past (see what I did there, with the bah, humbug/Spirit of Christmas Past?) would inspire a more Christmas-y attitude in me.

Here's one from eight years ago today.
It's not very festive, but it does make you wonder...

Merry Christmas
John <><

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Yep! It's December!

The weather forecast for the Ozarks shows the nighttime lows dipping below the freeze line for the coming week and the daytime highs in the mid to upper 30s with a couple of breaks into the 40s.
Fortunately, the only precipitation will come in the form of rain on one of those warmer days.

It's a cloudy Sunday morning as I enjoy my coffee and quiet time. I don't usually get as much morning time on Sunday, but it looks as though Chris has decided to sleep later today and we'll end up at late church.

I'm in a good place on the church front; back to really looking forward to Sunday mornings and any time I'm with people from The Venues.
There's a saying that says a rising tide lifts all ships. That's how I feel at The Venues. I feel like I'm a better person because I'm with better people. If I hang around with them, I get to benefit from their reputation as a loving community. Hopefully I'll learn enough about how to be like them before they realize what a jerk I can be.

I'll try to keep Ugly John locked away for the time being and continue to refrain from posting bad stuff on my social media. It's a little scary living with such a beast inside -- especially when you decide on additional restrictions (like no negative posts). That anger seems to always find a way out.
I'd say that yoga and peaceful meditation would help, but I've recently learned that's of the devil, so...

Have a grand December!
John <><

Saturday, December 01, 2018


It is December 1st and I made it through November with a post every day!
Yeah, big deal.

Even though I managed a daily post, I didn't work on a novel -- at all. But the daily exercise of writing is a good thing and perhaps the novel idea will eventually come to fruition.

I do believe that I made a couple of positive personal gains in November--
     I found another way to minister to others through The Venues ReCess night.
     I am working more on an attitude of gratefulness and being grateful daily (still haven't done a journal)
     Two areas that are difficult are active kindness and making friends; but I'm working on them.
     And I've started playing with a little card magic again.

It's not much, but along with getting back to reading books, I'm calling it a successful month.

Now for December...
The two big things on the December list are to continue with the gratitude and active kindness things and to get some daily exercise. Sadly, as much as I know I need the exercise, my head just hasn't been into it lately. I added a step counter app to my phone since my replacement phone didn't come with one and I hadn't added one. I know that seeing my step count was an encouragement to walk or be more active in the past. I expect that I'll be using the indoor cycle more than in the past, but we'll see.

I also want to continue reading books.
It has been some time since I've enjoyed reading and I'm finding the time to be relaxing, especially on the days when I can sit outside and enjoy a cigar while reading.

There is a pretty good chance that I'll have no outside contact today, so my active kindness might be limited. I'm grateful that I enjoy my quiet time and I'll make sure to get some exercise (maybe cycling while watching the fights tonight).

Here's to a pleasant and positive December!

John <><

Friday, November 30, 2018

Nov 30: Service interruption

On the last day of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) I'm hit with a service interruption on my internet!
It's in its seventh hour and is expected to be another 3-4 hours.


Since we use SlingTV for our TV service, it's kind of like being in the technology dark ages. We do have an unlimited data plan and decent coverage on our phones, so I guess we're not really in the dark ages. I have the Sling app on my phone so I'll still be able to watch the fights tonight, but this thumb tappy blogging on my phone is definitely a pain.

Talk about your First World problems!
On the bright side, I did get a little reading in today. I'll comment more on my current read in another post.

I had hoped to recap November with some of the things I've learned and some simple progress I've made, but I'll save that for tomorrow since I really don't like this phone posting.
A somewhat anticlimactic end to this year's NaBloPoMo.

John <><

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Nov 29: Quiet time

It's late afternoon and I'm just getting around to posting today. My morning coffee and quiet time was pleasantly interrupted by a text message from my daughter wanting to know if I wanted to meet her for coffee. I had slept in today (I'm retired, so...) and it was almost 10:30, but I was just on my first cup of coffee.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy having coffee with my baby.  It really is a thrill that she still wants to spend time with her dad. We enjoyed our coffee and conversation for about an hour and then I came home to work in the yard for a couple of hours.

It almost made it to 60f (15c) in the Ozarks today, so it was a good day to be out.
I knocked off early so that I could sit and enjoy a cigar while relaxing in the afternoon sun.
I call this Nicaraguan the best cheap cigar you'll ever smoke!

One of my blogging friends posted this blog about silence today.
Personally, I don't think I'd have a problem with it. I'm more comfortable with quiet than with noise. I realize that total silence may be different, but I still don't think it would be a problem.
How about you?
Would total silence drive you crazy?

Just wondering...

John <><

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Nov 28: Active kindness

One of the things that I really like about The Venues Church is the universal encouragement to actively love our neighbors. The verbal "We love everyone" kind of church is far different from the demonstrative "We love everyone" kind of church.

We have always been a part of churches that were generous in giving and participated in giving programs. Somehow, this is different.

I can't really understand why it feels different.
I don't know if it has to do with motivation to do good vs loving and so good deeds follow, or if there is something else.
I've been blessed to know some incredibly generous people, and still -- this feels different.

Maybe it's just me.
Maybe the change is that I'm being more actively kind and loving.
Maybe the change is that I've decided against being a grumpy old guy and being someone that other people might actually like.
Maybe the change is that I've been the negative, judgmental person and am starting to see people the way God sees them.

For Christmas, our small group adopted a migrant family that was expecting a baby. I say "was expecting" because the baby came early and was born Monday! Yesterday, we all scrambled and were able to deliver diapers, diaper bag, clothing, gift cards, and other necessities to the church for delivery to the family. The scramble to get it done quickly was pretty cool. Group text messages got the word out and coordinated giving and collection of the goods and everyone was genuinely excited to be a part of it.

Active kindness.
It feels pretty good.
Maybe I need to try it more often.

John <><

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Nov 27: No more negative

It is just four weeks until Christmas.

For the next 28 days, I am going to challenge myself not to post or share anything negative or controversial on social media. Since most political news is pretty polarizing, that's pretty much out. And since most news seems to be tied to politics, well...

I have a feeling that I'll be removing several posts after I remember (or it's pointed out to me) my self-imposed restriction, but I'm going to be generous enough to allow myself a little learning time. I'll still allow myself to "like" articles that others have posted and those may show up in followers' feeds, but you'll have to deal with those in your personal settings.

Here's what I'm thinking:
Facebook and Twitter posts aren't going to change anybody's mind about any topic. We have all decided where we stand.
There is enough negative stuff already and you can read the same posts from somebody else's feed.
I'm weary of being a part of the negative and divisive culture of social media.
I still have my beliefs and opinions and may or may not share them. If I do share, it's so that you can know me, not so that I can criticize you or anyone else.

Maybe I'll get around to posting positive, helpful stuff. For now, it's one small step -- no more negative.

John <><

Monday, November 26, 2018

Nov 26: Magic

I've decided to start relearning some magic effects. Because I've never really had a venue for performing close up magic, I've never really worked on it. I still don't have the venue for it, but it has always fascinated me, so I think I'll start to try some new stuff.

I know that my hands are less conditioned for close up than they once were. A little arthritis in the thumbs and the drier skin that comes naturally with aging will present some challenges. Cards and coins are good places to start for close up stuff. A little mentalism also works in some situations. I have hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars in books and videos to work with. The real challenge will be to get good enough at each effect or discipline before moving on to something else.
I may have to work up a schedule of so much time for cards, some time for coins, time for reading, time for viewing, etc.

If you know me, give me some time. Eventually, I hope to always have something at hand. Perhaps that is unrealistic. I don't really know since I've never done much in the way of close up magic.
For now it's just something to do. Maybe it's something that I'll eventually be able to market, although I'm not starting out with that as a goal.

Play time!

John <><

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Nov 25: Inspired

I just finished reading one of the best books I've read in quite some time.
I've mentioned that I rarely read fiction any more, so it will come as no surprise that this isn't a work of fiction.
I have been following the author on Twitter for a while, and always enjoy her insights and seem to share many of her views and opinions.

I believe Inspired by Rachel Held Evans is a book that will help you to better understand the Bible or perhaps reconnect with your faith in God.

It is not without its controversy and I'm sure that it has many detractors that condemn some of the opinions of the author. This kind of approach to the Bible and its stories appeals to me. If you read my post What if we're wrong? from last month, you'll understand why. Skeptic that I am, I think it's fair to question everything.

If you are willing to read the Bible with an open mind and set aside some of the biases that you've been taught, I believe you will really enjoy Inspired and learn something about God and the great love he shows in Jesus. Even if it doesn't change your approach to the Bible, it will help you to understand how others may read the Bible.
If you have little room for questions or doubt in your faith, I'd recommend taking a pass on this one; it'll just make you angry.

In spite of all of my recent heresies, I'm still a fan of telling people --
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Nov 24: What day is it?

One of the difficult things in retirement is keeping track of what day of the week it is. For the most part, it's not a big deal. It's just a little frustrating at times. I generally have Chris' work schedule to help me, but she's off work for a few weeks due to foot surgery.
It's only been a week, but ...

Even though yesterday (Friday) felt like a Saturday, I'm pretty sure that today is Saturday. I guess it doesn't really matter. My phone alarm is set for weekly wake-ups on Sunday and Friday for church and serving breakfast (even though I don't serve every Friday). I might need a reminder for garbage day during the weeks Chris is off work. And for Thursday night bar church.

My social media feeds keep me up to date on hockey games and mma fights (both are on tonight, plus I need to watch the replay of the UFC Beijing fights since I didn't get up at 2:30 am to watch them live).

All in all, definitely a first world, retirement problem.
Enjoy the day -- whatever day it happens to be!

John <><

Friday, November 23, 2018

Nov 23: Unexpected friends

I've posted about friends on a few occasions. On reflecting on things for which I am thankful, there are a number of unexpected friendships that come to mind.

From the blogging world -- I've met Mike and Bill and would like to meet a few other bloggers that I've been following for quite some time. There are even a few bloggers from the past (that no longer blog) that I would still like to meet.

Blogging, Facebook, and NATCA have connected me to several people that I consider unlikely friends. One is an air traffic controller/preacher/blogger that I had the pleasure of meeting in Boston on my epic motorcycle trip last year.
Another retired controller/blogger is from MN and I look forward to meeting him in the future. We've experienced many of the same political and religious struggles over the years and I think we'd get along well.
One interesting person is someone that it seems I have very little in common with. He's a Buddhist that likes soccer! And yet, somehow I think we'd enjoy meeting and getting to know each other on a more personal level.
There are two women from NATCA that I consider as unexpected friendships. One of them served as Executive Vice President for a number of years and the other is the one that pretty much ran the National Office through all of the different executive boards throughout my career. Each of these women were kind of a big deal in the NATCA world. Although I did meet them and work on a couple of national committees, I was just a guy from a small facility in the Midwest and I am honestly a little surprised they even remember me. I got to visit with one of them on my motorcycle trip and meet her fiance (now husband). I'd also consider him to be an unexpected friend, even though they took me to a gas station for lunch! We talked about bikes, bourbon and exchanged cigars so I think we'd get along just fine.

There are a number of people that I'm meeting through our new church that I just would not have ever been exposed to a year or so ago. I am a little angry at finding out just how many people have been hurt by self-righteous Christians and churches that proclaim to worship Jesus (who commands us to love others). Many of them are a part of the LGBTQ community and are among the most caring, loving, and forgiving people I've ever met.
Others are family members that churches have tossed aside because they decided to choose loving their family over condemning them.
Why is it that the marginalized persons of our society seem to have a greater capacity of grace and mercy than the privileged?

I am blessed by these and many other friendships. In truth, most of my friendships are somewhat unexpected as I tend to guard myself from too much exposure.  I realize that not everyone that I consider to be my friend also considers me to be their friend. To those of you that do, I am honored and blessed.

John <><

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Nov 22, Thanksgiving: This is my time

It's my favorite part of the day.
It's morning.
The house is quiet.
I am alone.
I have my coffee.

Most mornings I have my laptop and am scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, blogs I read, etc. Sometimes I use my phone. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I just enjoy the quiet ... and my coffee.
Chris is usually at work or still in bed. Today, she is in bed.

I am thankful for this simple pleasure.
There are very few days that I don't get to start with this simple ritual of peacefulness.

In this quiet, I realize that I have way more stuff than I need. I have a garage full of stuff that is rarely (or never) used and should be sold.
I have a room full of magic props, books, and videos that I haven't used in quite some time and could be disposed of in some way.
Although we do use most of the space in our home, we could be comfortable with much less.
I have a humidor with enough cigars to last me several months, considering the time of year. (I don't smoke inside and it can be too cold to enjoy one outside.)
I am pretty simple and could certainly manage with much less than I have.

I hope that you have a quiet time; a time to just let the cares of the world slip away for a few moments. My quiet time is essential to my sanity and well being. It is a good thing.

To all of my American friends: Happy Thanksgiving! Pause and be thankful for your blessings.
To all of my international friends: Happy Thursday! Pause and be thankful for your blessings.

John <><

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Nov 21: Thanksgiving Eve

I know that Thanksgiving Eve isn't really a thing, but I'm wondering if we're waiting on tomorrow to be thankful for our stuff.
I know there will be some great gatherings of family and friends and there will be some incredible feasting taking place. Some will have traditional Thanksgiving fare and other will celebrate with family traditions that encompass heritage and personal preferences. 

Tomorrow will be a different kind of Thanksgiving for us. The kids have other plans and Chris just had surgery on her foot last Friday, so we're going out for our dinner. On the plus side there is no prep work and no clean up. On the minus side there are no leftovers.
It's not our first Thanksgiving at a restaurant. The first time was unplanned. It was thirty years ago and the plan was to go to some friends to celebrate the day with their large family. We were going to have to drive for a couple of hours to get there, but we were young and looking forward to the day. Chris baked a couple of apple pies for our contribution, but when Thursday came around she was very sick and we didn't make the drive. 
We also didn't have a plan B.

Late in the day (evening, actually) she said she felt well enough to venture out and see if we could find something to eat. We ended up at Shoney's. I remember the processed turkey loaf that was half dark meat and half white meat. Chris remembers the square of cranberry jelly! At least we had two whole apple pies waiting for us at home!

We've had so much to be thankful for over the years.
Even though I am spending my Thanksgiving Eve watching the Blues get beat and switching over to TUF now and then, I am doing better at being thankful on a daily basis. I haven't done that gratitude journal thing, but I am being more aware of the people and moments that bless me everyday.

Tomorrow is the official day, but there is no good reason not to be thankful everyday!

John <><

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Nov 20: TED Talks

I ran across this TED Talk recently and it really got me thinking about how much our biases affect how we respond to opposing information and opinions. Whether it's politics, religion, science, or our favorite sports team, we can be so biased that we refuse to accept new information that is contradictory to our firmly held beliefs.
At times, we are all guilty of listening to reply rather than listening to understand. Something we could all probably work on. It's difficult to learn and grow when we're only interested in defending our position.

John <><

Monday, November 19, 2018

Nov 19: The sun is shining!

The sun is making its first appearance in a couple of days!
It is always a welcome sight after cool, cloudy days -- especially in the fall and winter!

I'm going to keep today's post short and go take a walk!
I'm probably going to negate some of the healthful benefits by enjoying a nice cigar while I'm out.
Mondays are pretty nice days when you're retired!

I hope you get to see and feel a little sun today!

John <><

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Nov 18: Sunday before Thanksgiving

Yesterday (Saturday) was the day of the annual Christmas parade in our little town. I imagine that many communities had their Christmas parades this weekend. Many churches use the Sunday before Thanksgiving to have a church wide dinner and a service of gratitude.

I want to be a person that is more grateful and shows more gratitude in the coming years. I've been working on noticing more of the little things around me and am realizing just how good I've got it.
By society's economic standards, I'm pretty middle class. I know many people that have way more money and way more stuff, but I also know that there are many that would love to live my life with my simple stuff.

I don't think much about my 12 year old car with its warning lights on that will cost more to fix than I care to spend right now (nothing critical, just money to spend) until a guy at breakfast needs money for a bus pass so that he can make it to meet with his parole officer each week so he doesn't have to go back to jail.
My intermittently working furnace is a pain to deal with, but my home is well insulated and a couple of space heaters work well to keep us comfortable. Meanwhile, cold weather shelters are opening up for those that have nothing more than the clothes they carry with them for warmth.
Even though I spend most of my days alone, I am slowly becoming a part of this little community called The Venues Church. I was surprised this morning at the number of people that I'm getting to know by name.

And I am learning their stories.
People from The Venues come from a lot of different religious backgrounds. In one small group today there were people that came from Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, and Assemblies of God churches. The auditorium is filled with a diverse economic group, as well. There are those that are homeless and picked up by a van and there are doctors, surgeons, business owners, executives, and everything in between.
There are families with young children and there are older, retired couples.
There are broken families, blended families, same gender parent families.
There are those that are gregarious and social, and there are those that are alone.

I think the one thing that we have in common is that we are all looking to connect with the God that is bigger than the god of our past religious experiences.
At this time last year, we didn't have a church home. Even today, I'm not sure that I would say we have a church home. The Venues is really more of a community than any other church I've known. I would say that we belong to a community.

And it is not an exclusive community.
It is a very inclusive community; believing that everyone needs to be loved and encouraging everyone to be driven by love.
I am glad that our journey has led us to this place and these people.
And to the God that is bigger than the god of religion.

John <><

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Nov 17: Big boy toys

Today I get to play with a new toy!
To aid in the clean up of leaves dumped by two large oak trees, one pin oak, one maple and a couple of other leafy wonders, I bought a leaf blower/vacuum/mulcher.

I wouldn't normally refer to yard work as fun, but compared to raking leaves, this has got to be much better! The downside to looking at my leaf covered yard is that there are still more leaves still on the trees than they have dropped in my yard! Some of these trees will hold the dead leaves until the new growth of the spring forces the old leaves out.

For today, I'm going to remember all of the cooling shade these leaves provided during the summer and I'm going to be thankful for this new toy that will make the job both easier and quicker.
Time to get to work ... er, I mean play!

John <><

Friday, November 16, 2018

Nov 16: An Attitude of Gratitude

I really enjoy our midweek church services at The Venues Downtown.
The venue is Ernie Biggs Piano Bar and is casually referred to as Bar Church.

You can come in and grab a free soft drink and snack (and leave a donation if you want) or purchase a drink from the bar, sit down and enjoy some music from a local talent, and then hear a good message from Rev. Dev! (The past few weeks, I've been bringing in a coffee from the Mudhouse across the street.) With Thanksgiving just around the corner and being in between message series, last night Devin presented a message on living with an attitude of gratitude.

In addition to the scripture texts on the benefits of gratitude and detriments of complaining, Devin used a number of secular studies that show just how much we gain from being gracious towards one another. Gratitude reduces stress and all of the stress related maladies, including weight gain! It benefits our physical well being, our emotional well being and our spiritual well being (Okay, the spiritual well being wasn't a part of the secular studies.)

I've never kept a gratitude journal, nor have I been purposeful about being thankful. Perhaps I need to begin. Nobody likes to be around a grumpy old man. Nobody likes to listen to other people complain. And nearly everyone likes being thanked for something they have done.

I don't know if I'll keep my gratitude journal on a social media forum or if I'll just keep it as a meditative quiet time sort of thing. I don't know if I'll begin my day with meditating on things for which I am thankful or if I'll choose to end my day that way. I don't even know if I'll set aside a regular time or practice for journaling.

I ended the evening get together by thanking the musicians that were there last night and spending a few moments getting to know them. I spoke with a few other people and I am truly grateful for the relationships we are building in our new community of believers.
I encourage you to find a few moments to pause and reflect on someone or something for which you are thankful. Maybe you'll want to call someone or send them a message of thanks for what they mean to you.

In being thankful, I think you'll find a moment of peace -- a moment of rest in an otherwise very hectic world.

John <><

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Nov 15: Is the USA a Christian Nation?

As the evangelical church continues its assault on government offices and uses the battle cry that we are a Christian Nation, founded by Christian men, and based on Christian principles -- I was wondering...

Weren't our founding father's rebelling against the government of England and isn't that opposed to the biblical teaching of submitting to the authority of the government?
Can we break the rules of the Bible and still claim a biblical foundation?
Is there an acceptable time and method to rebel against the government and still hold to the biblical teaching of respecting those that govern over you?

Just wondering,
...and waiting,
...and waiting.

John <><

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Nov 14: Blog fodder

I have a bookmark file on my computer labeled "Blog fodder."
It's a place where I store links to articles about subjects that I think (or thought) might make a good topic for a post. Some of the articles are several years old and outdated now. Although I have used this file a time or two, it's mostly a place where ideas go to die.

I rarely think to myself, "I should look in the blog fodder file and pick a topic to write about."
No, I just don't post anything -- sometimes for weeks!
I think I need to clean out the fodder folder and start over. Some of the old links may be worth keeping, but many are past their relevant time frame.
Most of them have a religious or political theme, a few are on education or jobs, and the rest are a variety of topics that must have piqued my interest at some point.

For today I'll just write about not having anything to write about and begin the search for tomorrow's subject.
Any thoughts?
Any questions you need answered?
...ideas you need explored?
...stories you need told?

John <><

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Nov 13: Friends for a season

We all have them, right?
People that we were once close to, but now we have no contact with them and nothing more than a few memories in common.
We may have been supportive of them in the past, or maybe they were the one that helped us. There was no catastrophic event that separated us. We have just grown apart. The things we used to share are no longer important to one or both of us, or maybe it is just time and distance that now separate us.

Old classmates, former co-workers, former church members, old neighbors, ...
All of these and many more.

Social media and the amazing World Wide Web have allowed us to stay in touch longer than we would have in the past, but does that really count as maintaining a friendship? I have greatly reduced the contacts from my social media friendships in recent years and I have been reducing my presence on some media even more. I find that less social media time is better for my mental health and overall outlook on life.
I have a number of social media "friends" that I have never met in person and sometimes wonder if I would like the real person as much as I enjoy the person I know from the internet. I also wonder how differently they might perceive me from my internet profile vs the actual me.

Back to this friends for a season theme.

How do you know when it's time to just let an old friendship go?
It's probably easier when you are the one moving on. You just move on and don't look back.
But what if they're the one moving on?
Do you keep making attempts at contact or do just hold on to the memories and let them go?
When do you decide that they have moved on and that it is okay ... for both of you.

Yesterday was yesterday and today is today.
Give yourself permission to leave the past behind you and live life today.
Our communities are constantly changing. Some people stay with us for a lifetime. Some are only here for a season. Some people we wish would stay longer. Some, we are happy to see go.

When I reverse that lens, I wonder how many people (or how few) would have liked for me to stick around a little longer and how many were (or would be) happy to see me go.
There is little we can do about the past. Perhaps we need to make a few apologies or say a few thank yous. There is plenty that we can do about today. Live it well!

John <><

Monday, November 12, 2018

Nov 12: Winter weather ... or not

It's a few degrees above freezing in the Ozarks and the temperature is forecast to drop, making the morning temperature our high for the day.
The Springfield area of the Ozarks is pretty much on the rain/snow line. The city of Ozark is a few miles south and a little east of Springfield so maybe we'll just get rain.

My plan is to wait and see what happens.
If it starts snowing, maybe I'll sit in the garage and enjoy a cigar while I watch the falling snow.
We didn't go out to stock up on milk and bread (we don't use much of eaither) and are not in danger of starvation should we get a few inches of snow or ice.

We are dealing with a temperamental furnace right now and using space heaters to keep warm, but that's really not too big of a deal.

I'm ready for spring!

John <><

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Nov 11: What do you know?

Not long ago I subscribed to TED Talks.
Most people have listened to one or two TED Talks on varying topics. I find most short posts to by fascinating and am often intrigued by the science behind the topics.

At some point, it occurred to me that I probably don't possess enough knowledge on any subject to be able to pull off a twelve to eighteen minute TED Talk. TED Talks are a way of sharing ideas and were birthed out of a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converge to share ideas and to make the world a better place.

Yes, I can preach, teach, or entertain for that period of time, but I don't think that qualifies me to share on any given topic. In fact, aging has taught me that I don't know near as much stuff as I once believed I did. I'm learning that much of what I once "knew" as truth, was not, and what I believed to be false has some credibility.

I'm beginning to get comfortable with the idea that I'm a pretty ignorant guy.

What about you?
What do you know?
What information would you pass along in a fifteen minute speech that would be of benefit to a small segment of society?

Just for kicks -- here's one of my all-time favorite TED Talks.

John <><

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Nov 10: Recess

What kid doesn't love recess?

At The Venues Church, rEcess is as much for parents as it is for the kids!
One of the ministries of the church provides a night out for parents of kids with some special needs. The church provides one on one (in most cases 2 to 1) care for the kids with special needs and more of a group care environment for their siblings.
Last night was my first exposure to Venues rEcess.

I didn't really know what to expect, so I loaded my pockets with a few magic effects and just walked around and shared a little magic with the kids and their caregivers. Next time I'll have a better idea of what I can do and will be better prepared. I may even be able to do a little show for the sibling group.
Truthfully, I don't do many shows for really young kids so I'll have to be a little creative in my planning. I have a month to work that out.

So I got to do a little morning ministry with the Breakfast Venues group and evening work with the kids. That's a lot of exposure to people for a guy that prefers to be alone. I did manage some one on one coffee time with my daughter after serving breakfast downtown and an afternoon alone to get ready for the evening, so it wasn't too bad.
Tomorrow morning I'll drop in on the new high school class for observation.

Although I have been out with people this week -- Downtown Venues, Breakfast Venues, a breakfast meeting about Sunday's high school class, and rEcess -- I'm still not doing a lot of real interaction with others. Small talk is pretty easy for this introvert; building relationships is still something I need to work on.

In a few hours I'll be at our monthly writers' group meeting -- more people, more small talk.
I long for a warm beach, a cold drink, a good cigar, and few friends to enjoy the serenity of it all.
Is it too much to ask for?

John <><

Friday, November 09, 2018

Nov 9: Changing the look of ministry

It's been a year since we left our old church. In the past year, most of my ministry opportunities were pretty much the same as they had been in previous years. I did a couple of kids' camps, preached a revival, and filled a few pulpits on Sunday mornings.

Having distanced myself from some of the organizational groups of my past, I expect that the ways and places of service are going to look different this year. When we left our previous church, I was teaching high school boys on Sunday mornings. It looks like I'm going to get to work with high school students, once again. I'm looking forward to helping students find their way as they check out the faith community and try to find their place in society. I've always felt that teaching the Bible helps keep me focused on the path -- the narrow way. I'm looking forward to it.

After I finish my morning coffee (an Ethiopian blend, this morning), I'll be off to Breakfast Venues to serve breakfast to some folks in our community. I've been thinking more and more about people in need lately. The thousands of people that are leaving everything behind to try to find a safe place to live have really grabbed my attention. I feel like I need to find a way to do something to help them or to help those that are living in the community around me.
Most days find me sitting comfortably in my modest home with nothing but a few first world problems to deal with -- an intermittently working furnace at the beginning of winter, wiring issues on my motorcycle, needing to wear a sweatshirt if I want to sit outside and enjoy a cigar, etc.

While I might struggle with what to fix for dinner, I never worry about whether or not I'll have something to eat. I have sweatshirts, jackets, and coats for just about any weather condition that the season might bring and a comfortable home for when it gets too cold to be out. Our modest home is filled with stuff -- more stuff than we need and most of it is stuff that is of little use to most people.
Maybe it is time to do some serious downsizing or house cleaning. Some of the stuff can be sold, some can be donated, some can be throw away.
I think that attachment to stuff is getting in the way of my service to people.

Do you face the same struggles with material things?
How do you keep from accumulating things over the years?
Does stuff keep you from helping others or do you find a way to use it to help others?

Time for me to face the day.

Be well,
John <><

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Nov 8: National Adoption Awareness Month

Did you know that November is National Adoption Awareness Month?
I know several wonderful people that have expanded their families and enriched their lives by opening their hearts and homes to children that needed families. I am honored to know them.

One friend recently posted this saying with pictures of her kids.

Image result for a child born to another woman calls me mommy

When I think of adoption and the great need to belong to something greater than ourselves, I usually think of this song by Chris Rice.

John <><

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Nov 7

It is a day past the US midterm elections and feelings are mixed.
The Democrats took control of the House, but lost some seats in the Senate. A few states managed to switch party leadership in their Governors races, as well. Overall, I wouldn't call it a blue wave -- more like a shifting of the tides.

For most of us, day to day life goes on.

I am both encouraged and discouraged by the results of the elections. I am not surprised by them. I would hope that the division of power in Congress would lead to more working together, but I expect it to lead to gridlock, instead.
Locally, Missouri stays deeply Republican. That was expected.

Not much else to say about election day other than I am glad it's over -- until next time.

John <><

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Monday, November 05, 2018

Nov 5: Thinking about tomorrow

I'm sipping my Monday morning coffee and thinking about tomorrow.
I'd like to say that I'm hopeful, but I guess I'm a little too cynical to have great expectations at this point in our political cycle. In fact, I'm pretty certain that a great number of eligible voters will NOT be voting this election.
I hope that I am wrong.

One of the things that I like about midterm elections is that a vote is a vote and the candidate that gets the most votes wins -- period. There is no Electoral College that redistributes votes according to states population. In many ways, congressional elections can be a more accurate picture of the voting demographic of our country. Both congressional houses are pretty evenly split. It is unfortunate that our parties see even a small majority as a license to overrun the other party and forego the idea of cooperation or collaboration of any kind.

The St. Louis Blues will be skating tomorrow night against the Hurricanes. I'm pretty sure that I'll be watching them rather than stressing over incoming election results. I know that I'll be checking the news on my laptop or phone during the game and between periods, but I've learned not to allow things that are out of my control to cause me much stress.
I'll do what I can do -- I'll vote.
I hope you will, too.

John <><

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Sweet Temptations

After church today, we went over to our daughter's for chili, chips, and cider -- a pretty good autumn lunch. After lunch, Hannah brought out a big bowl of leftover Halloween candy as an offering for dessert. It was filled with a variety of treats, including a couple of my favorites.

I don't really know what all the bowl contained since I pretty much stayed with the small boxes of Milk Duds and the little packets of Whoppers. I'm not sure how much I ate, but I do know that I retrieved the bowl after Chris put it up so that she wouldn't have any more candy.

It's kind of weird that I would really like Milk Duds. They aren't made with good chocolate nor good caramel. Maybe it's just the taste that reminds me of something I really enjoyed from childhood.

What are your favorite candies or Halloween treats?
It's a judgment free post so let's hear it!

John <><

Saturday, November 03, 2018


I've recently gone back to wearing a beard.
I shaved it off years ago after a comment about how much white it contained.

While I don't have a problem embracing my age, neither do I want to look older than I am.
So... a survey!

Keep it or not?
I've include two pics, one without glasses (which is where I look most of the time) and one with them (because Chris says they make me look smart).
(Btw, I hate taking selfies)


Friday, November 02, 2018

Nov 2; Midterms

It's past midday in the Ozarks and I'm finally able to sit at the keyboard and type out a few words for my daily post. Temps are mild today (around 50, 10 for you Celcius folks) and I have a Dominican cigar and a glass of cider as I blog from my deck.

I know that many of my US friends have already cast their ballots in the midterm elections. I have not. I actually went with Chris when she cast her ballot since she'll be working on election day, but I decided that I'll join the majority (?) of Americans and cast my vote on election day.

For some time, I have been increasingly disgusted with the tone of politics in the US. There have been no positive "vote for me because..." kinds of ads; only negative, dark, and demeaning ads.

And there have been plenty of them!
I don't watch a lot of TV, but I know that they fill the airwaves. They find their way to social media feeds, are shown and analyzed on cable news channels, and television and radio organizations are making millions from airing ads from opposing candidates. The amount of money spent on political ads is obscene!
There ought to be a law that states for every dollar spent on campaign advertising, a matching dollar needs to be spent to feed the hungry, house the homeless, educate our kids, or provide healthcare to our nation's impoverished.

I would like to vote for candidates that are truly interested in solving our nation's problems rather than pointing fingers at who caused them or using them to manipulate the system for profit for themselves and their backers. Today's news feeds are filled with distractions from the issues rather than the issues themselves.
I really believe that these elections will define to the world who we are as Americans. Will we cast a vote that approves of daily lies, fear and hate, or will we say that was a mistake and we are going to fix it. I am glad there are a few Republicans that are willing to oppose the party leadership and leave the party. But it is unfortunate that there are so few.

If you have already voted -- Great!
If you haven't, I'll see you at the polls on Tuesday.

John <><

Thursday, November 01, 2018

National Blog Posting Month #NaBloPoMo

Traditionally, November has been National Blog Posting Month and challenges irregular bloggers (like me) to blog daily for the entire month. Although I haven't seen anything supporting that activity this year, I'm going to break out of my current non-posting funk and work on a daily post. I may share a few posts over at my other blog from time to time, but will post a link here when I do.

In a typically sadistic fashion (writers can be brutal in their writing habits), November is also NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month.
It comes with the challenge of writing a novel in a month (or at least working on one daily during the month). I have a start to two books in my files, but haven't even looked at them for quite some time. One is fiction; one is not.

I don't really think of myself as fiction writer. I'm not sure that I have the creative imagination necessary for such an undertaking. I haven't even done a lot of fiction reading over the past several years. Most of my reading has been about learning rather than reading for pleasure or entertainment. Maybe it's time to do a little fiction reading again.

A recent cell phone crash has left me without my Books to read list.
If you have a favorite novel or author that I should put on my list, consider this your opportunity to share it with me.
And while you're at it, why not share a topic that you would like to see covered in a blog post this month. The internet offers several lists of daily blog topics, but I'm sure that the few readers I still have would be able to come up with some great ones, as well.

November 1
Maybe I'll take a look at those long forgotten books I started in a past life.
or maybe I'll delete them and come up with some current passion or thought.

Have a great November!
John <><

Sunday, October 28, 2018

What if we're wrong?

I've been wondering a lot about religious things lately (by lately I mean over the past several years). Or more specifically, what do we need to be right about in order for our faith to remain intact?
As a follower of Jesus, this post will deal with some of the things I've been taught as basic beliefs of today's Christian faith. If you have other beliefs, I leave you to challenge them on your own.

Where to begin?

How about this --
Is the Bible the inerrant and infallible Word of God?
And if so, which Bible?

The Bible that most Protestant religions use today is a little different from the Bible that Catholics use. Both have evolved over the 2000+ years of the Church Age.
And these aren't the only two variants of the Bible; just the most popular ones. Within the many versions there are thousands of translations, each with its own interpretation.

Did the Holy Spirit inspire and guide the writings of all of these books so that they meet the inerrant and infallible criteria, as well as guiding those that have interpreted their writings over the centuries?
Truthfully, I am one of those heretics that does not believe in a young Earth creation story. While I can present justification for why I believe in an old Earth, that kind of puts me out of the inerrant camp and we're only in the first couple of chapters of Genesis.

It helps to know that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is a relatively new thing. It's only come to be in vogue in the past fifty or so years. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy  wasn't published until 1978, forty years ago this weekend. While I respect those with more education than I have (which is pretty much everyone), I am not willing to let them think nor speak for me. Having read The Statement, I find some of the affirmations and denials a bit disturbing.

I've said it before -- I am a born skeptic. I tend to question everything.
Two hundred theologians put together a statement (in three days) that says believe this or else...
You better believe I'm going to challenge them. The very idea that men would be so arrogant to say we know the truth and you disagree with us at your own peril is absurd!

So if I disagree on the biblical story of a literal six day creation, am I a heretic?
Does this one disagreement nullify everything else I believe?

What about the flood?
What if I believe it be a local phenomena instead of a whole earth deluge?

What critical parts of your beliefs can be dismantled and still have your faith intact?
What if Old Testament writers wrote about God from the perspective of their ancient culture and believe God to be warrior god that destroys the women and children of his enemies (like their enemies believed of their gods)?
Are they so different from today's religious leaders that believe in politics or might makes right as a religious weapon?
Am I willing to dismiss science (which is the study of God's creation) in order to believe something that lacks scientific evidence but is told as a factual story that has been handed down from generation to generation?
How does man decide which ancient writings are "holy" and "The Word of God" and which ones are just written by some guy with a pen and paper?
Could it be that ultimately "The Word" is just Jesus and what he said? (John 1)

These are just a few of the many questions I have about the things I have been told are unquestionable truths. I don't think that my questions or doubts make me a heretic. I'm just a simple guy trying to find some truth in a world full of deceit. While many people seem to respond to fear as a motivator to change beliefs and behavior, I tend to be skeptical of those that use fear to bring people over to their side. I don't think that sermons should scare the hell out of you, nor do I think that fear should be used to convince you to eat a certain way, live a certain lifestyle, or vote for a particular candidate.
Fear is effective but it is also a destructive way to live.
Wouldn't you rather live with love and hope rather than fear and dread?

If you want to use the Bible, how about this verse ...

...for God gave us not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self control.
2 Tim 1:7

I think I'll be sharing some more of the questions that challenge the things I've been taught.
I know that just asking some of these questions will ensure that I get fewer opportunities to preach in many churches and camps. It's kind of sad, but I understand it is the way of the fearful.

It's a little early for a Christmas song, but I am reminded of a favorite from Jackson Browne so I'll just leave this here.

John <><

Monday, October 22, 2018

Oh, Canada!

It's been crazy weekend!
We began our weekend with a Friday night trip to Festus MO and spent the night visiting with Chris' dad and his wife. On Saturday morning, we continued the weekend by driving into St. Louis and meeting some Canadian friends at the airport. That's when the craziness began!

I should probably back up here and refer you to a post from seven years ago. The two women we picked up at the airport were friends we met on this trip in June of 2011.

After picking them up at the airport, we went to Russell's on Macklind for lunch. This was a return trip to Russell's for Chris and me. I'm certain that we will be back again. It might just be a new favorite St. Louis restaurant of ours!
We loaded our slightly heavier selves back into the car and spent the rest of the afternoon at scenic Grant's Farm.

After checking into our downtown hotel, we opted for a late dinner within walking distance. We continued to enjoy visiting over dinner and then in the hotel bar before calling it a relatively early night (11ish) since our Canadian friends had started their day at 3am EDT.

Sunday turned out to be a long day, in spite of sleeping in.
We slept in, checked out of the hotel and made our way to the Landing for lunch at The Morgan Street Brewery. Even though we passed on dessert, we all left full or at least, well satisfied. We walked the Arch grounds and then started our journey home.
At a stop for gas, there was a Krispy Creme nearby and our friends wanted a Krispy Creme (apparently not widely available in Canada). And because we were still full from lunch, we decided to introduce them to White Castle!
We took a break about halfway home (a couple of hours into our 3 1/2 hour ride) at a little tourist stop -- Uranaus, MO.

"The best fudge comes from Uranus!"

We finally arrived at home, had a little dinner and then girls headed to a friend's home for a girls' night in the hot tub. It was after 1am when I got the call to come pick them up!

It's now Monday morning and the girls are still sleeping.
It's quiet as I enjoy my coffee and prepare myself for the next few days.
It should be an experience!

John <><

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 <><