Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday Night Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Not Your Typical Biker -- Or am I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

Sunday, April 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Friday, April 20, 2018

Homeward Bound

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

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

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

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


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

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

John <><

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Baseball in Chicago Spring (?)

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

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

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

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

John <><

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On the road again...

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

Thursday, April 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John <><

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Unlearning can be More Difficult than Learning

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

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

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

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

John <><

Monday, April 02, 2018

Red vs Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John <><