Monday, March 25, 2019

Retirement Mondays

Yeah, retirement still has its own kind of Mondays.
Sundays are different than other days because of church and other weekend stuff, so Mondays are still the first real days of the week and then there are all of the other days that are pretty much just other days.

This week's Monday gets a late start since it was after 1am when we got to bed last night. It wasn't a big deal; just a lazy Sunday that was in no hurry to end. It was almost 9 o'clock when I finished sleeping this morning and got up to make coffee.
This will be a little more purposeful week than most as I prepare for next week's Revival in Richland MO. I spent a few hours Saturday and Sunday doing some background reading. More reading and notes today and tomorrow and then the rest of the week will be putting things together.

I'll be preaching three services (Sunday morning, Monday and Tuesday evenings), doing a mix of magic and message on Sunday night, and a predominately magic night on Wednesday evening. I am looking forward to it.

While preaching opportunities offer the opportunity to be a venue for God, they come far too seldom to be the only time to serve as such a meeting place. Last week I had an additional meeting with a man from a church where I recently preached. He wanted to get together and share some thoughts on how he can teach the things of God to others. I was honored to talk to him about that.

Could it be that we (followers of Jesus) have given up on personal ministry and delegated sharing the Good News to the professional clergy?
Even when we do decide to personally engage others with the gospel, do we hang on to the idea of militant evangelism rather than going out as sheep among wolves?
Didn't Jesus send his disciples out as sheep among wolves?
Didn't he instruct them to preach where they were welcomed and to leave when they were not?
I don't recall Jesus ever telling us to threaten people with eternal damnation; only to love them and show them God's love, to tell them the Good News.

I'm going to need another pot of coffee to get through this retirement Monday and the reading that is ahead of me.

Here is my encouragement for you:
Plan to be a venue this week -- a place where God meets with somebody. Prepare your heart so that you can meet with God and then invite a friend to join you. Introduce them to the joy and the love that you have found in meeting with your Creator.
Be a venue!

John <><

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Life, Death, and in Between

Earlier this week I heard the news that one of my high school classmates had passed away. He went to bed at night and just never woke up. It's a little eerie when you think of someone your own age that just doesn't wake up in the morning.
I was friends with Mark in school. I haven't really kept up with any of my classmates over the past 40 years. Several are my social media friends, but I've really only seen or talked to a couple of them. One of them was very close to our classmate that died. In a message to me (and a few others), he wrote -- "He was my best friend. My best man. Godfather to my children and I to his."

I'm glad that some of my classmates have remained close friends. We (the others in the group message) shared some memories of the good times. I moved away from home right after high school. Back in the day, there was no Facebook, social media or other way to keep in close contact. It would be a decade before the world wide web came into existence and another decade or so before I had a cell phone. Time, distance, and life did their thing and we have become strangers with a few common memories of some good times in a distant past.

It's a little weird when I think about how I do life. Mostly, I do it alone.
Chris and I have been together for about 40 years. We enjoy traveling together, dining out, and being with our kids. We have a few common friends, mostly from church, but we also have pretty different tastes in entertainment and so we often watch TV in separate rooms, or do things apart from each other. When she goes out, it's with a friend or friends.When I go out, it's generally by myself.
I don't generally think much about it and I'm perfectly comfortable as a loner.

But this week has me thinking.

"He was my best friend."
A few years ago I wrote this post about friendship.
I still have few that I would call close friends... and like I said earlier, I'm perfectly comfortable with that.
I had lunch today with the Student Pastor at The Venues. I've only known him for a few months and we are developing a friendship. As I shared some of this with him, I mentioned that it might not be such a good thing that I have no one that would consider me to be their best friend.
His response was basically if you're comfortable with that ... so what. Many people aren't comfortable with themselves.
I'll have to think on that.

Last Sunday, Pastor Devin (Rev Dev) shared why we are called The Venues.
A venue is a meeting place or a place where an event happens. In the Old Testament, the venue where God met with humans was in the Holy of Holies. It was a very restricted place and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and only on a specific day. Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we are now the venue where God meets with humankind! He lives in us and through us.
Even if no one ever says of me, "He was my best friend," perhaps someone will say that they felt better for knowing me. Perhaps I can be a place where they felt kindness; where they felt love. Perhaps I can be a place where they can get a glimpse of Jesus.

Between life and death ...
Oh, that I might be a venue where God meets with people!

John <><

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ugh! Computers!

So my laptop/tablet/flexbook took some damage yesterday. I have a nice spiderweb in the lower left corner of my screen that has one line that crosses the entire screen and a few that make it to the top of the screen. It's looks like I'll be shopping for a new one.

This one still functions, but...
Because it has a touch screen and the screen is damaged, it gets some weird signals and jumps around on its own. Sometimes it only happens once in a while. Sometimes it happens constantly. It looks like I can disable the touch screen drivers, but I would have to do it every time I power up the device since they automatically reboot on start up.
I haven't checked yet, but I suspect that a new screen repair will cost as much as a new device.

This is an Insignia 11.6" Flexbook.
I like it, but will probably step down to the 10.1" version if I go with another Flexbook. I've been using the tablet function more frequently and the 11.6 version is a little big for that.
I'm also deciding between continuing with a laptop or going back to a Chromebook. Most of what I do is online and through Google Chrome anyway.

I'm such a technology dinosaur. Simple is good for me.

John <><

Friday, March 15, 2019

Speaking of safe places...

Last night I got to attend midweek church at The Venues Downtown. It was the first time connecting with my Venues community in a couple of weeks and I needed it. I met a few new people. One was new to The Venues and a couple of others were just people that I hadn't met yet.

This morning I saw this tweet screenshot posted on Instagram

This is what I love about The Venues.
For many people, it is their safe place.

Today I met with my Venues community and served breakfast to our homeless friends. When I left, I needed to stop for gas. Actually, I could have made it home to my neighborhood gas station, but stopped at a gas station not far from where we serve breakfast. There was no particular reason to stop there; I just did.

I pulled up to one of the pumps and was next to an old station wagon. A guy got out of the passenger side of the vehicle as I was getting out of my car.
"Excuse me, sir. We are out of gas and I just need enough to get my daughter to her doctor's appointment. Can you please help us with a couple of dollars?"

A quick look into the backseat and there was a child's car seat and a woman (mom?) next to it. A second man was in the driver's seat and I figured him to be the friend with a car, but no gas.
It shames me to say that the grumpy John of not too long ago might have offered an excuse or maybe a couple of bucks ... maybe.
Today, it was no problem. I swiped my credit card at their pump and told them to go ahead and fill it up, then I went about my business filling up my own car. The dad had the car owner stop the pump at around $15.00. They both looked at me and he said, "We'll just stop it here. Thank you."
I told the owner (he was pumping the gas) to go ahead and fill it up. He nodded, said, "Thanks," and filled it the rest of the way. He was nearly empty and the total was more than twice the $15 they had stopped at originally.

I had to chuckle at their contrasting expressions of gratitude. The driver said, "Man, thank you so much. God bless you -- a lot."
I said, "God bless you, too."

The dad, getting into the passenger seat, said, "Man, you are a badass dude. Thanks!"
I laughed and said, "You're welcome. Take care of your little girl."

That was my morning. That was pretty much my day.

A few months ago, I wrote that my eyesight is getting better. I think there is more to that than just the physical refraction of light and focus that is taking place in my eyeballs. In addition to seeing better, I am seeing more.
I am seeing how much people are hurting.
I am seeing how much I have missed because of being focused on my own life/stuff/problems/self.
I am seeing that my indifference adds to the hurt and isolation of others.
I am seeing that I can do simple things to show people that they have value as a person; that they are worthy of my time; that they are worthy of love.

Hanging around the people from The Venues has really helped me with this new vision. Everything about The Venues is to show and share the love of God; to love like Jesus loves; that every life be driven by love.
I've got a long way to go, but I'm in a community of great coaches and encouragers.

John <><

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Where is your safe place?

I've been thinking about this lately.

Social media is a fake place. People show their best -- their best photos, best food, best adventures. Sure, we all have those few friends that constantly post their trials and complain about things, but most of us tend to ignore them or unfollow them. We tell ourselves, "Nobody wants to hear their problems," and so we keep ours to ourselves. It would be a very rare occasion that the masses on any social media platform would come together to encourage or comfort someone in need. Keyboard anonymity has a way of bringing out the worst in us.

Churches aren't much better. We come together on a regular basis to meet with people that we probably wouldn't meet with for any other reason. We put on our "everything is great" faces and act like our marriages are fine (when they're not), our lives are great (even if we can barely keep it together), and pretend that we don't struggle with depression, anxiety, or some addiction.
We may share some health concerns or ask for a job search to be added to the church prayer list, but we keep the big secrets to ourselves.

Whether it's the judgment of social media, the judgment of well meaning church people, or just the judgment of a few friends -- we tend to avoid opening ourselves to that judgment by putting on the "everything is great" mask and pretending that it really is.

So where is your safe place?
Or who are your safe people?

A friend once told me that everyone needs to have a counselor/therapist -- somebody that they meet with on a regular basis and can freely vent about everything that is bothering them.
Is that what we've come to? Are we a society that has to pay a stranger to listen to our problems because we are too afraid to share them with people close to us? Are we that competitive that we use others weakness to make ourselves look better or feel better?

I used to have an anonymous blog that I would write whenever I just needed to freely vent. I abandoned it several years ago. Today I am better at just letting go of things or finding comfort and peace in solitude. I know that doesn't work for most people.

Is your safe place a person, a friend?
Is it a practice, like prayer, meditation, yoga, labyrinth walking, or going for a long motorcycle ride?
Or are you the rare person that doesn't really feel the need for a safe place because you are that comfortable with who you are and pay no attention to what others might think?

Just wondering...

John <><

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Mardi Gras, Lent, Pentecost

It's Mardi Gras!
It's the culmination of celebration before the sacrificial season of Lent.
I haven't really practiced any fasting or giving up anything for Lent since my Catholic days, which are now decades in my past. And some of you may have noticed that the title of this post went right from Lent to Pentecost and skipped over Easter. I did that on purpose. I'll try to explain why, but I'm not sure that it will make sense. Although I understand it in my head, I'm not sure that I can transfer that to words on a blog.

Here goes ...

It's roughly 90 days from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost Sunday -- 40 days of Lent, 50 days until Pentecost, plus those six Sundays that aren't counted during Lent -- just over three months.
Here's what I'm thinking. Pentecost is the day Christians recognize as the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is told in Acts 2.

The Bible says that the Apostles proclaimed the message that Jesus is risen and is the long awaited Messiah and that each person (though they came from many nations) heard them in their own language. We often emphasize this event as the giving of the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues (different languages or a spiritual language, depending on your beliefs).
But perhaps it is not so much a gift of tongues as it is a gift of understanding. Beginning at verse 14, it is only Peter that is speaking -- one voice, understood by all. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit allowed each person to understand his words, even though he may not have been speaking in their language.

For the next 90+ days -- through Lent and the seven weeks that follow -- I'm going to work to harness this gift of understanding. On Sunday, June 9 (Pentecost Sunday this year), I want it to be a celebration of understanding. My Lenten resolution is not to seek to be understood as much as it is to seek to understand.

John <><

Image result for prayer of st francis

Monday, March 04, 2019

Is Less Really More?

I need to get rid of stuff -- lots of stuff!
Being the technology dinosaur that I am, I have never used the internet or apps to sell anything. I've purchased a couple of things off eBay and found my motorcycle on Craig's list, but that's about it for buying and selling used items. Does StubHub count? I've done that, too.

I think I'm going to have to get familiar with Craig's list and/or Facebook marketplace so that I can sell some of this stuff and begin working my way towards a simpler, less cluttered life. We may have to do the dreaded spring garage sale, although I have to say that I really hate that idea. Maybe that will be my motivation to learn the art of selling via apps.

Just wondering -- is there still a classified section to sell personal items through a local newspaper?
Do people still do that?

In any case, I need to get rid of stuff.
Making a money would be cool. Donating to charity is certainly an option. Hauling stuff to the dump or waiting for the city-wide haul away your junk for free day is also an option, but I hate to trash usable stuff. Most of the stuff is still usable, we just no longer have a need for it.

What is your favorite way to sell your stuff?
Favorite app?
Favorite charity?
You know spring is only a couple of weeks away. Isn't getting rid off stuff a part of spring cleaning?

John <><

Friday, March 01, 2019

It's March

In like a lion.
March has finally arrived
Haiku month's ended!

Yeah, that was a weird haiku challenge that I made for myself. I'm glad it's over.
And judging from the response (or non-response), so is everyone else!
Now I'll be back to my irregular and sometimes irreverent posting.

I just finished a book called Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus really meant what he said? 
I think I'll read more of co-author, Shane Claiborne's books. It took me a while to get through it since reading has become less of a habit and it was one of three books that I was working through (that doesn't count the Bible and the daily devotional reading for the blog).
I'll finish the second of those three, Defiant, today. The third is a the only fiction book of the three, Bleak Harbor, which was a freebie on Amazon Prime and I'm just getting started on it. It's a little weird because I've long ago gotten out of the habit of reading fiction. There are several other fiction books queued up on the Kindle reader, so maybe it will become a thing again. It's every bit as entertaining and only slightly more fictional reading than scrolling Facebook. And since books are labeled as fiction rather than fake lives presented as real, it's less frustrating and more entertaining.

I'll probably look for another non-fiction read to work through as I continue with Bleak Harbor, and the fiction will pretty much take the backseat, relegated to late night reading or when I'm alone and waiting for something -- appointment, car maintenance, etc.


It's going to be a cold, wintry weekend in the Ozarks. I'm looking forward to preaching this Sunday and next Sunday.

I hope that March is a good month for you.
I hope that you are kind to the people you meet as you live out the month.
I hope that you have the opportunity to make somebody smile today.
I hope that someone makes you smile today.
I hope that today is a good day, and if it's not...
I hope that tomorrow is better.
I hope.

John <><