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.

John <><

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Using my 1st Amendment Rights

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What Would Jesus Do?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

Monday, March 19, 2018

Political Apologetics

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

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

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

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

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

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

In spiritual belief conversations, I generally want to know:

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

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

John <><

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Be Nice Day -- 2nd effort

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

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

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

John <><

Monday, March 12, 2018

Be Nice Day

Another Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be nice.

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

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

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

John <><

Sunday, March 11, 2018


One worth sharing:

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

John <><

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Haiku -- Jesus, on the cost of discipleship

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

John <><

Facebook Groups and social networks

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

Friday, March 09, 2018

Haiku -- on life

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

John <><

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

More on Legacy Living

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

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

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

John <><

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Living a Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Baseball Haiku

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

John <><

Biking and Baseball

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

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

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

John <><

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Reading Haiku

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

John <><


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

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

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

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

Just wondering...

John <><

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Bonus Haiku

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

John <><

Thoughts from the Highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

John <><