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 <><