Thursday, June 30, 2022

2022 1/2

The first half of the year comes to an end and the second half begins in the morning. If you thought 2022 was going to be a great improvement over last year you have probably been disappointed so far.

In an attempt to raise your expectations for the second half of the year I offer the following:

We've eaten salad and radishes from our garden and there is more produce to come.
The flowers are blooming in some of the beds and the front of the house looks pretty dang good!
I went to a local bike night tonight for the first time in two years.
It's been nearly two weeks since I've said or written something that's gotten me into trouble.

Maybe we are turning the corner!

For the second half of 2022 I am going to try to be kind. More importantly, I'm going to try not to be unkind. Sometimes we are just careless and that carelessness or apathy can be perceived as unkind. I'm going to work on doing less of that.

I'm going to write more.
I don't know if that means I'll publish more here. It means I want to write more. I kind of enjoyed my little Genesis piece. I haven't written more of that as I've been reading, but I think I will. 

There is always the exercise thing.
Damn, I really need that.
I am going to get the kayak out next week and try to make it a point to spend a day per week on the water somewhere along with something more regular like daily walking or something. 

Those are pretty simple plans for the second half of the year (except for the exercise thing). 
I'll continue reading daily and will keep up with the daily mindfulness practices of enjoying nature, simple meditation, and regular contemplation.

What are your personal plans for 2022 1/2 and beyond?
Anything>

John

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Thoughts from the Bible

 

I wrote this a few days ago. My thought was to read through the Bible and just write down what thoughts I have as I'm reading, maybe use them in a daily devotional at some point or something. It's not like I'm ever going to need them for sermon notes.

From recent activities and posts on Twitter and Facebook that have followed, it appears that a lot of people are struggling through some anger and dark times. Maybe this will help. Maybe not.

It's not really fleshed out. It's just what I wrote after reading the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. I have to admit--the Bible isn't the same book I once used to preach from. It no longer holds that "infallible, inerrant, Holy Spirit written Word of God" status that it once held. I view it more as the history, stories, and lessons learned and taught by a nation of people that lived several thousand years ago.

Some of the stories are real. Some are told to teach. Some are written as subversive and secret messages to an oppressed people. They are stories of how this people found a connection to God (religion), and how we can also find a connection to God through Jesus, his son.

I realize it ends kind of abruptly. Like I said, it's just something I wrote after reading. That said, I'm interested in your thoughts.

Here it is:

Genesis 1

Interesting observation that darkness wasn’t created. Light was created. God existed in darkness before creation--at least according to the Genesis story.
God created the Earth and the heavens in the dark. Then God created light, separated it from the darkness, named day (light) and night (darkness) and that was the first day.

It’s weird that God didn’t create light first. I wonder why.
I get that it’s not like God needed the light to see to start creating in the great cosmic workshop, but since the Bible is written as a story from the perspective of humankind--well, I would have turned on the lights first.

It probably doesn’t mean anything, but it is possible there is something for us in the simple order of this version of creation. Maybe it is important for us to know that God exists in the darkness.
The Earth was without form and existed in the darkness. And the Spirit of God was there, hovering in the darkness. Could it be that knowing that God exists in the darkness is an important thing for us to know? It may be that when we are in our darkest places, we can be comforted in knowing that yes, God is there, too.

If we were physically in a dark place, we would use our other senses to know what was around us. We’d listen. We might sniff the air. We would move slowly with outstretched arms. I wonder why we don’t do the same when we are spiritually or emotionally in a dark place. I believe we have more of a tendency to shut down and to fear the loneliness rather than to use our other senses to find God, to find love, to find anyone that can help us to realize we are not alone in the dark.

*****

I have to say that I like God’s work ethic. I can get behind doing a little bit in the morning and then knocking off for the rest of the day. It’s been my same approach to doing yardwork.
God does get after it as the week rolls on. By Day 3 (I wonder if God already used “Tuesday '' for the third day or if it was like being retired and it didn’t really matter what day it was) God is flat stepping out and creates all of the vegetation and fruit on the Earth. That’s a very productive day! (See what I did there?)

What lesson(s) do you find in this first account of creation?


John

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Does Nothing Well

I've never needed much practice at doing nothing and have occasionally excelled at just how well I am able to do it. It's been a while since I've managed a full day of doing nothing, but I think I'm up for the challenge.
It's been said that the difficult thing about doing nothing is knowing when you're finished. I guess you're finished when you start doing something, duh!

Of course, it is necessary to define nothing.
Is reading doing nothing?
I suppose if you have to read (like for school or something) then reading is doing something. If you are reading to avoid doing something, then reading is doing nothing.

We have to eat, so is fixing dinner doing something?
That's a little trickier. I think I'm out of range for Uber Eats or Door Dash, so it's either go out, fix something, or go hungry. I suppose doing something or nothing is a little subjective when it comes to eating--fixing a sandwich vs preparing a meal.

The newly planted flowerbeds will need watering and that is definitely doing something. 
Do I do something before I do nothing, after I do nothing, or sometime in the middle if I need to take a break from doing nothing?

Thursday is Barchurch day (although I'm not sure that barchurch really works anymore). 
The Venues at 425 has moved away from anything resembling church and seems to be more of a social gathering with some sort of community betterment or social justice kind of message. It's not a bad thing and topics are generally interesting and well presented. It's just a little false advertisement to continue calling it church. 
On the other hand, it seems that most churches today are little more than social clubs anyway, so...

There is a local Bike Night at a bar that is only a mile or so from the house. I could drop in there for a little bit, but I only know a couple of people there and hanging out at a bar really isn't my thing. Maybe I'll just stay home and do--well, nothing.

I think most people need practice at doing nothing.
How do you do nothing?
Do you do it well?
Or do you need more practice?

John

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Youthful Arrogance vs Old Man Wisdom

I saw this tweet posted on my cousin's Facebook page.



She didn't write it, but she's a pretty sarcastic person so she could have.
I found it especially funny because I was just commenting about how there are so many young people coming up with and sharing great pearls of wisdom on everything from raising children to just being a better more thoughtful and positive person.

I'm not saying they shouldn't share their wisdom with others, it just seems funny how sure they are that they have all the answers to life. My poor generation and all of the others that have gone before us were doomed to living life in our ignorant, and unenlightened state of existence. 
To be fair, I was pretty much the same when I was in my 20s and 30s. We all probably were. Fortunately, we didn't have the internet and social media (WE hadn't invented it yet) to showcase our unearned arrogance to the world. 

Honestly, I have a great deal of hope in the coming generation of young adults. I do hope they do a better job of living life than my generation. God knows we have messed things up. The earth, the political climate, the inequitable wealth distribution, the social injustices, --I could go on for a long time. 

I doubt that any of them want to hear from a grumpy old guy that spends his days smoking cigars and sipping 10 year old bourbon (yes, that's what I'm doing right now). Hell, most of my own peers probably don't care what I think. But wtf. Feel free to scroll on by.

Here's my wisdom for the day.
Maintain an attitude of gratitude. 

I am well aware of the privilege that allows me the freedom to sit and sweat on my deck (it's 92 in the shade), enjoying a good Nicaraguan cigar and sipping bourbon while spewing nonsense that only a few will read. 
I spent a couple of hours this morning working in the yard, and we went into town for lunch and got to chat with a couple of old neighbors. I pretty much get to choose what I do or don't do--every single day.
Yesterday I took a short motorcycle ride to meet Chris and some friends for dinner.
Today we'll have a good meal at home. I don't worry about having enough to eat. In fact, I have more than enough
...and I am grateful.

I do wish I was more kind.
I'm learning kindness (still).
I wish that filter thing between my brain and my mouth worked better than it does and wouldn't say stupid things (or type them out in social media comments) as often as I do.
Sometimes I wish it was easier to make friends, but then I think I'd have to be around people more often and realize how grateful I am that that isn't the case.
I am grateful that I'm not as arrogant as I once was and that I can make allowances for those that are still learning the difficult lessons of life.
I wish I had learned them earlier.

It's become easier to admit mistakes and learn lessons.
It's become easier to make allowances for others that are still struggling with knowing everything and having to deal with us old fools.
When it comes to people skills, I'm a bit of a slow learner.
When it comes to retirement, I'm doing okay.

John

Monday, June 20, 2022

Summer

This is the final day of Spring 2022. 
While this half of the globe sleeps tonight (4:13AM in the Central US), the sun will reach the imaginary line at 23.44 degrees north latitude known as the Tropic of Cancer and summer in the northern hemisphere will begin.
I'll finish out the spring by adding dirt, planting flowers (seeds) and completing my compass rose/sundial flower garden. Hopefully, I'll be seeing flowers blooming and plenty of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in the near future. 



Next up I'm thinking of a birdbath fountain and bird feeder. 
I have an old wheel barrow container that I'm thinking of using and want to use one of those solar powered fountains. I'll need to use rocks or something to build up the base so that birds can have a shallow area to land and bathe. 
I might add a few goldfish to the pool, but I haven't really researched to see if that would be a fair trade off between added work or not. 
Right now it's just a thought in my head and may be summer 2023 before it actually happens,

I have a maple sapling and several crepe myrtle saplings to plant. Those need to get into the ground soon. They are currently in pots. It's interesting that the potted crepe myrtles are doing much better than the ones I planted in the ground.
There is always something to do on the 5 acres we have. I would really like to till a larger area of the field and grow flowers. A bee hive is also in the future plans. 

It is still in the low 70s but will heat up quickly today. I'd better get to work.
Enjoy the final day of spring (or autumn for my Aussie family)!

John

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Quiet Life

I'm up a little earlier than usual this morning. I'll probably try to get a little work done as I continue to try to put together a new flower bed. It will be another hot day in the Ozarks of SWMO. I ripped out what I had started last year and the new project has turned out to be more than I expected it to be. 
It's a good thing I don't have any deadlines to meet.

This retirement gig and living in a rural setting is a pretty good life. There are many that might be bored or challenged by the relative isolation, but I'm doing okay with it. I should be more active and may try to go kayaking later in the week, but even that is a solo activity (at least for me). I need to see if the inflatable kayak will fit on the motorcycle. It may be too bulky to haul that way. That's not necessarily bad as kayaking and biking have very different dressing requirements.

I've been finding myself caught in the cycle of watching endless reels on Facebook and Instagram. Most of them are senseless, but seem to have enough of an entertainment factor to keep me moving to the next one. I think it's weird that people have made making and posting reels a thing that they do daily. I guess as long as there are morons like me that will watch them, they will keep doing it. 

I'm going to take a little break from the social media thing. It may be more of a reduced interaction than a complete shutdown. I'll keep up with my news feeds on Twitter, but try to skip the memes and reels of Facebook and Instagram. I may post a pic or two, but my plan is to try to be more productive than I have been. I've cleaned out my Instagram account by getting rid of several accounts that I once found interesting, but no longer need to follow. I also eliminated the followers that I don't really know or don't really share interests with.
I have become a pretty non-productive member of society. I'm not really a burden in any way as my retirement pension, savings, and Social Security are allowing us to live this leisurely, non-productive life. 
Our landscaping adds a little beauty to the neighborhood, and the flowers are good for the birds and the bees, but that's pretty much my contribution to the world around me.

I'm meeting a friend for lunch today. Other than a trip to the grocery store and to the garden center at Lowes, that will probably be my only actual personal interaction with anyone for the rest of the week. Keeping to myself may actually be the best thing I can do for the betterment of the world around me.

If you need me, I'll probably be on the deck with a little classic rock playing in the background, a cool drink next to me, and a book in hand.
Life is good.

John

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Pride Month and Random Thoughts

Last week I was talking with some friends about tattoos. I shared an artist whose work really impresses me. I mentioned that she is a good friend of my kids (son and dil). Somewhere in that conversation it came out that she is transgender. I mentioned that I sometimes wonder how my kids turned out to be so open-minded and inclusive growing up in the same environment as so many of their classmates that did not. The couple (two women that are married to each other) suggested it was from us, their parents. 

Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. 
Truthfully, I think I have learned more about acceptance and inclusiveness from my kids than they ever learned from me. It could be that I just had way more bigoted baggage to dump than they had, but still--it was more about their questions and openness to other ways that brought me about to seeing things from a different perspective.
I don't think I was ever a gay-basher or hater of the LGBTQ+ community, but neither did I recognize the outright oppression they face. I was privileged, unaware, and comfortably neutral on a social issue that is often devastatingly cruel to many people. Wrong thinking religion was a big part of that. 

Today I am in a different place than I was a decade or so ago. I'd like to think of myself as an ally, but I'm not sure that it's my place to make that claim. Perhaps it's best if the LGBTQ+ community decides who is and who isn't an ally.
I am now seeing people as my friends--not my queer friends and my straight friends.
However, if you were to separate my friends into queer and straight groups, they would probably be fairly even. Queer friends and their allies would far outnumber my just straight friends. It's kind of weird when I think about that. This old, former Southern Baptist evangelist has come a long way. Listening to younger voices has been a big part of that, so has questioning the things that I think I know. 
Mark Twain says it's the things you know that just ain't so that get us into trouble. That seems to be true about a lot of things, and a lot of people.

I'm still not as much of an advocate for social justice as I could be (or should be). The conservative part of me tends to move more slowly. Or maybe I'm just old, lazy, and too damn comfortable sitting on my deck and enjoying my privileged and unproductive life. 

John

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Moving again!

No, we're not moving from our Highlandville home.
I'm talking about physically moving my fat ass and getting some exercise.

The added activity of gardening and yard work alone isn't going to cut it. I am going to have to get back to walking, bicycling, or doing some form of exercise on a regular basis. I'm back at my fat weight, my blood pressure is slightly elevated, and I really don't want to be on regular medication to bring it down.

Monday I decided to push mow the yard around the house instead of using the riding mower. The nearly 3.5 miles of walking to do that pushed my daily step count over the 14,000 mark. 
Yesterday I took a short 2 mile walk and managed just over 12,000 steps total for the day.
There won't be any yard work or walking this morning as it is once again raining in the Ozarks. Watering the plants and tending to the gardens does add quite a few steps to my count. Today it looks like the exercise bike will get some use.

In truth, getting exercise is the easy part of getting back to a healthier me. Diet is where the real struggle is. I'm a firm believer in diet for weight control, exercise for better health, or you can't out exercise a bad diet. For the most part, I eat pretty well; it's just that I eat too damned much. 
So I'm back to watching what, when, and how much I'm consuming. Snacking too often is a downside to retirement. Just being around the stuff can be a temptation. Even keeping healthy snacks around isn't the answer if I'm eating too much. 

I've been pretty proud of being 60+ years old and not being on any regular medication, so the doctor's threat of lose some weight, lower the bp, or go on medications is a pretty strong motivation. It's just two weeks until my 62nd birthday. It's time to get moving again.

John

Monday, May 30, 2022

A Story for Memorial Day

More than a decade has passed since I heard this story. I was traveling from Springfield MO to Wichita KS with my boss. We were going to a labor/management meeting at our hub facility. I can honestly say that I have no recollection of the meeting, nor the rest of the trip. But this man's story is something I will never forget.

It was the 60s. Vietnam was in full swing. My boss, wanting to serve his country, lied about his age and joined the Marines at 17. He made it to Vietnam and was assigned as a machine gunner on a rescue helicopter. I heard incredible tales of the rescue missions they flew, being pinned down in combat zones and having to wait for offshore cover from battleships at sea. He told me of gun battles with the enemy as the helicopter flew in to evacuate the wounded and hearing the thwack as bullets hit and killed his buddies sitting right next to him. 

I don't remember how long he spoke. It was probably about an hour into the 5+ hour drive when he started and his story lasted most of the drive. I was driving and I remember looking over at him. He was looking straight ahead, but not really looking at anything. His voice was even and steady as he spoke. Although there was no emotion in his voice, I could see that his eyes were moist and I imagine it took great effort to keep the tears from spilling out. He'd pause occasionally to collect his thoughts or steel his emotions and then he'd continue--like this was something he had to do.

When he finished, he thanked me for listening and told me that he had never told this to anyone before.
He said, "John, I made a lot of promises to a lot of dying soldiers and marines. 'Tell my parents I love them.' 'Tell my wife I love her.' 'Promise me,' "
He told me that even as he made those promises, he knew he could never keep them. Even though more than 30 years had passed since he made those promises, he felt like it was time to do his best to fulfill them. He wanted to start telling his story--to men's groups, to churches, to anyone that would listen. He wanted the people that had lost sons or husbands to that long ago war to know that they were in the last thoughts of their dying loved one.

I was honored to be the first one he chose to tell his story. I had a pretty unique relationship with that boss. Once, when we were having a full facility evaluation, the evaluators interviewed us together. They were wanting to know what kind of relationship we had as Union rep and Manager. They asked my boss if he would characterize our relationship as a good one. His answer surprised even me.
He said, "John and I have a common belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Everything else flows out of that, so yes, we have a good relationship."

Today, if you have lost someone serving in the military I want you to hear this story and know that they were thinking of you. Today, as we remember them and honor them, I want you to know that they remembered you.

John

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Grand Funk (not the band, my mood)

Damn.
It's been a helluva couple weeks!

How are you doing?
Sometimes it seems pretty easy to move on in our comfortable, seemingly safe little bubbles of our lives, but it is getting to be more difficult as one comes to the conclusion that it's only a matter of time before a similar tragedy hits our own area.
Yesterday there was a fatal shooting on the square in the quiet little town of Ozark, MO.
Saturday afternoon,
on the quiet square,
in the peaceful town of Ozark.
Damn.

There isn't much in the way of details just yet, but the police say the shooter and victim knew each other and that it is an isolated incident. Yeah, well I don't take a lot of comfort in that. The reality is that there are a lot of people carrying guns in the Ozarks. 
Weird how that doesn't make me feel any safer. 

I ventured out this past week and went to our midweek church gathering at 425. I hadn't been to barchurch or Sunday church in person for a couple of weeks. Every time I go out in public, it turns out the public is there! I'm not convinced that seeing the few people that I enjoy seeing is worth the potential encounters with the rest of the public. 
I'll be doing church online this morning.

If you want me, you can probably find me sitting on the deck or working in the yard. I'd like to think this is my safe place, but I'm not entirely sure that it truly is.

John