New Handcrafted Pen Giveaway

Enter to win a handcrafted pen

win a handcrafted pen
I just wanted to share that I’m holding another giveaway for a couple of handcrafted pens over on my craft blog. No purchase necessary to enter. Click here to learn more about how to enter the giveaway.

For those of you involved in Cub Scouts, I also recommend an article I recently wrote about Pinewood Derby tips: 18 Pinewood Derby Speed Tips. Feel free to share with other Cub Scouters in your life.

Good luck on the giveaway.

God bless!

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Learning About Learning – The 2015 Training Conference

Have you taught a class or given a presentation lately? Have you ever received training on teaching others?

This past week I attended the 2015 Training Conference & Expo, sponsored by Training Magazine. The conference was held here in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center. I learned tons of new things. More specifically, I learned a lot about learning. And I look forward to taking these ideas back to my training team and finding ways to apply them to our training curriculum. This post delivers a few thoughts, quotes, and resources I gleaned from the conference.

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You may not be a formal teacher or trainer, but let’s face it: we’re all teaching someone. And I believe we all want to be better learners.

Thoughts and Highlights

Telling isn’t training. Most people learn best when you show them, when they have an experience or make their own discovery during or after the learning session. So don’t think you can just verbally communicate a new idea or task during a short classroom session and they automatically get it and/or apply it.

Adult learning, or what I call learning in the workplace setting is very different from the traditional educational model we grew up with. And the big difference lies in our motivation. Hopefully, as we grow into adults our learning steers away from thoughts of rigid requirements or a mandatory “sentence” of 12 long years. Instead, we seek out learning experiences to improve our skills, increase our knowledge, save time, make a better living, get closer to God, etc.

Learning sticks better when you incorporate stories. This has been proven through various studies, but it’s probably intuitively obvious to many. So don’t barrage your audience with too many facts and statistics. As an alternative, share stories and case studies. That’s what people are going to remember most. And in those stories, embed the learning objectives you want them to take away. I can’t quote back to you many Bible verses, verbatim. But, boy I can remember Bible stories, the characters, and what God did through those people.

Every few minutes stop the lecture and interject an activity. Change the context of your training, and people will stay engaged. Think about the time you taught your son or daughter to ride a bike. Yes, you probably waxed eloquently on how to ride a bike. And they stared at you and yawned. You shared techniques, maybe a few of your own war stories. The frequency of yawns began to drop. Then you showed them. Their eyes opened wider. They’re thinking, “this is going to be good.” And finally—yes, finally—they got to do it on their own. Maybe they fell the first time or two, so you start over. Reflect back on what happened, remind them about the techniques, but get out of the way and let them keep trying.

Training is not about information dumps and impressing people with what you know. It’s about getting people to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable and empower them to become better parents, students, workers, citizens, leaders, and professionals.

More training is not always the solution. I can’t teach someone how to have a better attitude or a great work ethic. That comes from within, who we are–our character and spirit. We all have the responsibility to apply what we learn and govern our own behaviors. A person’s performance is shaped by many factors, and training may only play a small part.

Quotes

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin

“I can explain something to you, but I can’t understand it for you.” Anonymous

“Brain Rule # 4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.” John Medina

“Brain Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.” John Medina

“Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative and productive, which drives performance upward.” Shawn Achor

Book Recommendations

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

Telling Ain’t Training by Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Brain Rules by John Medina

Zap the Gaps by Ken Blanchard

I hope you enjoyed these few tidbits from the 2015 Training Conference. Please leave a comment and share your favorite teaching or learning tips and techniques.

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Doing What We Ought To Do

I recently heard some great messages on selected passages from the Book of James. One of them that stood out was James 4:17 NIV

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

In the past you may have heard preachers throwing around these two fancy, ecclesiastical phrases:

The sins of commission
The sins of ommission

It is helpful, however, to understand these two classifications of sin. The sins of commission are overt, sinful acts—idolatry, lying, stealing, murder.

The sins of omission are things we fail to do even though we know we should do them. This is what the James 4:17 passage speaks of.

So the question naturally arises: Which type of sin is greater or has more devastating consequences?

I think initially I sided with the sins of commission. Afterall, aren’t these the sins that will damn us? That may be true, but didn’t Christ come as the great substitution on our behalf so we might be forgiven for stealing, lying, or committing adultery?

Now I can see that the far greater sin falls on the omission side. Our ugly, obvious sins may very well damn us, but if we fail to do what we know we should—place our faith in Christ and surrender to Him—then we’ve missed the whole point of grace and His sanctifying work. We would be committing the greatest sin of all.

If you are like me, you may be focusing too much on your overt sins and focusing very little on areas often neglected—spiritual practices and disciplines. So here is a list of ideas I’ve compiled to help me focus on the things I ought to be doing. I admit, I’m not a perfect example, and I’m not consistent on all of these. I regret now that I didn’t do more of these things in the past. For 2015, my aim is to focus heavily on these things:

  • Read the Bible and meditate on it.
  • Worship and sing praises to God.
  • Continual prayer and thanksgiving.
  • Fast from food, TV, social media, etc.
  • Holding devotionals with my family.
  • Prioritizing and setting realistic goals.
  • Taking my family to church every Sunday.
  • Sharing my faith with others.
  • Quality family time each week.
  • Seeking peace with others.
  • Forgiving others and asking for forgiveness.
  • Spending quality time with my spouse.
  • Joining a small group or discipleship group.
  • Finding good mentors in my life.
  • Managing my finances.
  • Forgetting the above practices doesn’t seem as awful as looking at pornography, cursing, drinking excessively, or robbing a store, but, oh, the devastation that results if we neglect them. Not doing what we ought to do may be shackling us to the very sins we want to escape.

    Not saying that doing the above in a formulaic way will change your life. We have to do these things through faith and the power of God’s Spirit. Grace may not be based on “do’s” and “don’ts”, but make no mistake that our spiritual growth does depend on what we do and the choices we make. And oftentimes it can be under-minded by what we fail to do.

    What about you? Do you agree or disagree with what I said here? Also, do you have more spiritual practices to add to the list?

    Posted in Spiritual Growth Tips, Spiritual Journey | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

    Outdoor Adventures in the Southeast

    For those who are fairly new to my blog, I wanted to go back and list some of my past posts dedicated to outdoor adventures in the Southeast. The South is rich with places to see, trails to hike, lakes to fish, streams to kayak.

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    The outdoors has always brought me closer to my Creator and these trips tap the wells of creativity. I hope you enjoy these posts and will come visit our piece of the world. If you have questions about any of these places or other places you’d like to checkout, don’t hesitate to use the contact link above.

    Be sure to subscribe to my blog, as I will be adding future outdoor adventures, as well as reflections on God and spiritual growth.

    The Pine Mountain Trail

    Providence Canyon State Park

    Mount Cheaha State Park

    Eagles Weekend at Guntersville State Park

    Shooting the Hooch

    Cycling the Southeast

    Savannah Georgia

    Apalachicola and Saint George Island

    Chattahoochee Bend State Park

    George L. Smith State Park

    Chimney Rock State Park

    Raccoon Mountain Caverns

    North Georgia Kayaking and Fishing

    How about you? Have you visited any of the above places? Do you recommend other outdoor adventures in the South?

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    Ode by Joseph Addison

    The spacious firmament on high,
    With all the blue ethereal sky,
    And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
    Their great Original proclaim:
    The unwearied sun, from day to day,
    Does his Creator’s power display,
    And publishes to every land
    The work of an Almighty Hand.

    Soon as the evening shades prevail,
    The Moon takes up the wondrous tale,
    And nightly to the listening earth
    Repeats the story of her birth:
    Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
    And all the planets, in their turn,
    Confirm the tidings as they roll,
    And spread the truth from pole to pole.

    What though, in solemn silence, all
    Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
    What though no real voice or sound
    Amid their radiant orbs be found;
    In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
    And utter forth a glorious voice,
    For ever singing, as they shine,
    ‘The Hand that made us is divine.’

    I found this poem in a book called Song of Creation. I thought this was very clever and a great testament to our Heavenly Father. It was written by Joseph Addison (1672 – 1719), an English essayist and poet.

    Nature is a another lens, giving us a glimpse of things beyond.

    Thank you God for your magnificent creation!

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    Deo Volente

    Not that I’m actively looking for new latin phrases to add to my vocabulary, but I found this particular phrase–Deo Volente–intriguing. In the early 1900’s it was common for the English to end their personal letters with Deo Volente or D.V. It means God willing, and it’s thought that the phrase was pulled from James 4:13-15.

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    The James passage is what I want to focus on for this post, as it contains an important message for beginning a new year. James uses an illustration that’s timeless. A businessman plans a new venture to a city, to expand his business and make a profit. Perhaps it was a new line of robes or designer sandals, I don’t know. Maybe his marketing team had scoped out a particular town that held a certain demographic or the latest fashion trend. Anyway you looked at it, it sounded like a sure thing.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with a business person planning to increase his or her profits. We should all be making future plans for career progression, retirement, a family vacation, an aging car, or saving for our kid’s college education. The problem that James raises is that the businessman took the attitude of living his life without God’s input and guidance. This scripture passage describes the businessman’s presumption of success as arrogant boasting.

    Instead, James admonishes us to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

    I find myself guilty of making my own plans and then asking God to bless them, like I know better than God how to plan my life. I often take such a pragmatic approach to things. But my life is just a vapor—here today and gone tomorrow. I used to think I knew what success meant. I saw it as a future outcome—more money, more possesions, a better position in my job, a higher social status, etc.

    Now, though, I see success as more of an attitude or way of thinking:

  • Is my life pleasing to God?
  • Do I have less fear and more peace in my life?
  • Am I doing the things I know I should be doing?
  • Am I content with the things God has given me?
  • Do I love the people God has placed in my life?
  • Am I laying up eternal treasure in Heaven?

  • Listening to a sermon this past week, I learned another take on success and failure. The preacher said, “failure is being successful in the wrong thing.” Again, this goes back to how we define success. People can be perceived as being very successful, but some success may not have any eternal significance. And it may not be accompanied with the peace that passes understanding.

    Anyway, as you plan your 2015, I encourage you to reflect on the James 4:13-15 passage. I hope you find more of God’s peace, and that He will lead you to different ways of viewing success.

    May this post have the effect God intends for it to have. D.V.

    What is God teaching you about success? Feel free to comment in the field below.

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    So, What Did You Think About The Sermon?

    I recently read a post by Susan Barber called Hope for the Next Generation. Susan is a godly woman and teacher, and happens to be my kids favorite high school teacher. In her post, she said something that I think is very important. We, the older generation, often think of the younger generation as shallow and self-absorbed. As Susan said so well, “we choose to overload our kids with things and overlook being intentional about giving to a young person’s heart.”

    Her post encouraged me to share a little practice I’ve started in recent years, a practice I wish I’d started earlier in life. As a young couple starting out, Laura and I made an effort to find a great church, a great pastor, and, to attend services Sunday after Sunday. So our kids have grown up in a church environment all their lives. A few years ago, my wife and I started throwing out a simple question, almost every Sunday: So, what did you think about the sermon?

    Many times I would get silence. Sometimes a grunt or “where are we going to eat?” But I’ve also seen several wonderful discussions born out of this basic question. My kids have surprised me. I didn’t realize what deep thinkers they have become. They often bring up points and questions to which I don’t have a great answer. Some of their questions have even challenged my core, fundamental beliefs. But I never would have discovered these things about my kids, if it weren’t for the following two things:

  • We kept asking the question no matter the response (or lack of response).
  • Continue reading

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    The A.C.T.S. Acrostic

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    My pastor recently finished a series of sermons about God’s Word–how we originally got it, how it was translated from the past to the present, and how we get it from our heads and into our hearts.

    In the last sermon he describes God’s Word as the living Word. It’s living because God’s Spirit comes to our aid and helps us discern how to use the Word for our modern-day concerns and decision making.

    The Bible is not immune to the need for interpretation. I for one want to know how is what I’m reading relevant to my life and how is it relevant to what God is doing in the culture today. And so we need God’s help, either through the Spirit directly or Spirit-led leaders. Therefore, we should take Bible study seriously and be careful which leaders we listen to. Above all, think for yourself, and don’t let others do the thinking for you.

    My pastor ended his sermon by giving us a helpful acrostic as pictured above. This should be useful every time you read the Bible and expect God’s Spirit to direct you and speak into your life. This acrostic gives you a way to focus and actively read your Bible.

    Hopefully it goes without saying that we must approach God’s Word through prayer. Though not stated specifically in the acrostic, prayer does shape the first item–attitude.

    How about you? How do you keep your mind focused on God’s Word and actively read it, as apposed to passively?

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    A Couple of Writing Milestones

    This year I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of being published in a couple of places, outside of my own blog. Don’t get me wrong, I get tons of fulfillment from blogging and cherish everyone who reads my articles here on Trails of Life. I started this blog to promote a novel I self-published back in 2011. But the blog has become more than that, providing me another ministry outlet, built on a passion God has given me. Writing and blogging can now be an effective ministry for many of us. It can also help us hone our craft and learn how people respond to our writing.

    Technology has so transformed the writing community in our age. It has given us the ability to get our writing out there without having to wait eons to be selected.

    But still, it’s a great feeling to have other publications recognize our work. My blogging frequency has slowed down a great deal in recent months, but I continue to write short stories and articles for submission to magazines or contests. And I’m happy to say, it’s finally paid off.

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    One of my inspirational articles, God In My Boat, was recently published in a sportsman’s magazine called The Sixthday Sportsmen (pictured above). In exchange for giving them the article, they will provide me an annual subscription to the magazine.

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    Earlier in the year I entered The Story short-short story contest sponsored by Family Fiction Magazine. One of my stories placed in the top 50 stories. My story is called But It Worked For King Solomon, and it’s a retelling of Solomon’s story about the dispute between two women over a baby. My story takes place in the Appalachian Hills of North Georgia and the dispute is over a redbone puppy.

    I just want to say thanks to all my readers and a Merry Christmas! I know that many of you are writers, so I hope this post will be an encouragement. Don’t ever give up on sharing your gift with the world!

    Thanks for reading, and please share your own writing milestones in the comments field below.

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    Ghost Hunt – A Poem

    I’m having some fun this week writing poetry and blending this with one of my other passions, ghost hunting. Yes, ghost hunting, but see if you can figure out what kind of ghost I’m hunting.

    I know, Halloween has passed, but ghost hunting is alive and well through the month of November.

    I hope that my friends and fellow ghost hunters have a safe and bless Thanksgiving!

    Ghost Hunt

    Colors bleed, blanketing

    A beautiful, wilting forest.

    I peer through skeletons,

    Seeing deeper than before,

    Secrets uncovered.

    Unseen forces swirl,

    Carrying away the dead.

    Bare branches quiver, afraid,

    Ashamed of their nakedness.

    Startling, eery sounds

    Wail and creak in the distance,

    Giving my heart pause.

    The selfish, sinister Cold

    Grips me with

    His bone-chilling strength.

    Shhhhh. What is that

    Tiptoeing on tiny hooves?

    An apparition of sorts.

    The creature rises from the ground.

    Steeples point to sky,

    Hovering above gray

    And nervous thoughts.

    Deathly daggers they are,

    Penetrating mind and soul.

    The dark eyes threaten a spell.

    My chest contains the thuds.

    Time sputters and stumbles.

    The ghost turns slightly,

    Morphing back into woods.

    Poof.

    Vanished.

    Waiting, listening, watching.

    Come back.

    Please, come back.

    Haunt me one more time

    Posted in Outdoor Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

    Reading the works of Flannery O’Connor

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    Over the summer, I’ve been reading works by Flannery O’Conner. For those who don’t know, O’Conner was born in Savannah Georgia and is well known for her literary fiction. She wrote two novels Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960). And she published two books of short stories. In 1964, she died from lupus at the young age of 39.

    Back in March, I purchased The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor and particularly liked these stories:

    A Good Man is Hard to Find
    The Displaced Person
    Everything that Rises Must Converge
    The Life You Save May Be Your Own
    Good Country People
    You Can’t Be Any Poorer Than Dead
    The Enduring Chill
    A Late Encounter with the Enemy
    A Circle in the Fire
    Greenleaf
    The River

    Today much of our Christian fiction tends to be a bit sanitized, predictable, and sometimes on the preachy side. I suppose I’ve been guilty of that in my own attempts to write Christian fiction. Perhaps I can learn some things from O’Connor.

    O’Connor was a devout Catholic who lived in the “Bible Belt” South, a protestant-dominated world. Though her characters can be grotesque and the storylines shocking, I’ve grown to love her work. The themes of transformation and grace stream through her stories, and her characters are often transformed in violent or disturbing ways. I’m also drawn to the southern backdrop of her stories. The issue of race seems to play in the background, though I’m not sure she intended that it be a dominant theme.

    I know, her writing may not be for everyone, but I would recommend it, and I believe more Christians should read great literature. Also, the writers of today can benefit from the geniuses of the past. I’m not saying these works supplant the Bible, but we get to experience God and our humanity through minds deeply influenced by the Divine.

    In my opinion, reading good literature is a moral activity in itself. And—our imaginations are a lot like muscles that need to be stretched and limbered up every so often. We can grow and stretch our faith through God’s power and the power of story.

    How about you? What literary works have influenced you or have brought more meaning to your life?

    Posted in Outdoor Writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

    Think Differently

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    Saw the above quote this week and just had to share.

    Are some people born to be more creative than others?

    I don’t know, but maybe if we slow down and put more thought into what we see, hear, and feel, we might be surprised at the new ideas that materialize.

    In the end, isn’t creativity about seeing connections that others don’t take the time to look for?

    How about you? How do you think what others haven’t thought?

    Posted in Learning | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

    The Fork in the Road

    Last week I shared with you Psalm 104, how God is taking care of our world. No doubt He is active and concerned for his creation. And He’s concern for and active in His children’s lives.

    This week I listened to a sermon by Jim Cymbala called The Fork In the Road. I felt led to share some ideas from that sermon, and I encourage you to listen to the whole sermon here.

    Cymbala shared some verses from Acts 16 where Paul, by the Holy Spirit, was redirected to minister in Macedonia instead of Asia or Bithynia. Paul recognized a legitimate need in Asia, and yet the Holy Spirit was saying to Paul, “it’s not your time, and you’re not the man I’m sending to Asia.”

    Cutting to the chase, Cymbala’s sermon emphasizes how we need to maintain a closeness and intimacy with God’s Spirit so He can direct us and guide us. It’s not like God is pointing the way and saying, “go that way and be careful. Take care, okay.” No, He’s taking us by the hand, and saying, “let’s go this way together.”

    The Bible gives us several guidelines on making decisions, on choosing which fork in the road. Take choosing a spouse as an example. As a young twenty-five year old, I knew the Bible. I knew that I wanted to marry a christian who loved God. I wanted someone without baggage in their life. I wanted someone who took their walk with God seriously. Someone who wanted to start a godly family with me.

    The problem though—there were many young ladies out there who fit the bill. How do I know which one to pick? There wasn’t a verse telling me to go marry Jane Doe, her sister, Mary Doe or my eventual wife, Laura Smith.

    The point here is that the Bible can only take us so far. It places us in a great position to make some of life’s biggest decisions. But what gets us to the final and best decision. The answer—God’s Spirt, His guidance.

    This goes for all kinds of decisions: what job to take, where to minister, where to give our money, community volunteer work, etc.

    How do we know we have God’s Spirit and His guidance? Look at the following verse:

    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … Colossians 3:15

    That’s it. If you’re walking closely with God, He’s ultimately going to give you peace in the decisions you make. That doesn’t mean your life is going to be easy and you’re going to get rich and become prosperous. Peace is worth a lot more than all that. Peace means you know it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the right time to do it.

    Bottomline, we need God’s guidance everyday–that business deal, that financial decsion, new relationships and friendships, choices regarding our health.

    Anyway, thanks for reading this post. Again, I encourage you to take some time and watch Jim Cymbala’s sermon, The Fork in the Road.

    God bless!

    Posted in Spiritual Journey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

    God is Taking Care of the World

    During a recent quiet time, I came across Psalm 104. Oh, such a spectacular Psalm.

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    This Psalm just reminds me of how dependent I am on God for everything. The fact that I’m breathing right now and pecking on a keyboard is ultimately God’s doing. He makes everything possible. Not only does He care for us humans, He is taking care of the whole planet.

    I marvel at the balance we see in nature, the interdependence of everything. All the material things I possess come from God’s creation. The computer I’m typing on is a wonderful invention of man, but every single fragment came from what God originally provided.

    God is active in His creation. I tend to sometimes forget that.

    Thank you God for taking care of us. Thank you for the resources and abilities you grant us. Help us to use those resources and abilities wisely.

    1 Praise the Lord, my soul.
    Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
    2 The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
    He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
    4 He makes winds his messengers,[a]
    flames of fire his servants.
    5 He set the earth on its foundations;
    it can never be moved.
    6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
    7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
    8 they flowed over the mountains,
    they went down into the valleys,
    to the place you assigned for them.
    9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
    never again will they cover the earth.
    10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
    it flows between the mountains.
    11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
    12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
    13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
    14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:
    15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
    oil to make their faces shine,
    and bread that sustains their hearts.
    16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
    17 There the birds make their nests;
    the stork has its home in the junipers.
    18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
    the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
    19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to go down.
    20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
    and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
    21 The lions roar for their prey
    and seek their food from God.
    22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
    they return and lie down in their dens.
    23 Then people go out to their work,
    to their labor until evening.
    24 How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
    25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
    26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
    27 All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
    28 When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
    when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
    29 When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
    when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
    30 When you send your Spirit,
    they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.
    31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works—
    32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
    33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
    34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    as I rejoice in the Lord.
    35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
    and the wicked be no more.
    Praise the Lord, my soul.
    Praise the Lord.[b]

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    Sixthday Sportsmen Magazine

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    For my sportsmen (and women) friends who read this blog, I want to make you aware of a fairly new magazine—Sixthday Sportsmen.

    Recently I’ve become acquainted with the publisher, Dave Iverson. We’ve been exchanging emails, and I hope the magazine will carry one of my articles in the future.

    Sixthday Sportsmen covers many topics:

    Hunting and fishing
    Inspirational writing
    Christian sportsmen interviews
    Family matters
    Wildlife conservation and stewardship
    Wild game recipes
    Shooting sports
    Other outdoor pursuits

    The articles are well written and contain tons of practical how-to’s and inspiration. They are also looking for article submissions from writers and potential writers.

    You can visit the website and download a sample of the magazine for free.

    Here is the link: Sixthday Sportsmen

    Hope you enjoy this magazine. Now step out your backdoor and bask in God’s great outdoors!

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    Before and After

    A few years ago my wife introduced me to Bill Phillip’s book, Body for Life. I wish I could tell you I followed all the wisdom in that book, but I did read it and attempted to apply some of the principles. Had some results too.

    An interesting feature of the book are all the before and after pictures. You know what I’m talking about, because just about any diet commercial uses before and after pictures to show what happens when you follow their diet plan. Although Body for Life uses this approach also, Phillips honestly wants to make you a disciple of the fitness-oriented lifestyle. And most of us know that if we feed our body the right things and exercise, the body will naturally respond by becoming leaner and fitter. If you incorporate the right disciplines then you really can have a great body for most of your natural life.

    So I wondered if there might be a spiritual parallel here. Could we just as easily attain a spirit for life? And I say—of course! If we obey God and truly seek Him, then we grow leaner and fitter spiritually. Haven’t most of us experienced that in our own life? It’s hard work too, isn’t it?

    To me this kind of answers the age old question—how much does God change me versus how much do I change myself? Yes, my discipline changes me in both cases—body and spirit—but I can’t ever boast. You see, God created the body to respond to exercise, and He recreated our spirits to respond to obedience. As children of God we are new creations. We all start out flabby or chunky in the beginning, but we have the capability to grow and change into something spectacular.

    So according to Philippians 2:13,14, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but it’s only because God is doing (and has done) His work.

    To God be all the glory!

    Play along with me in the comments field. I know we can’t take before and after pictures of our spirits, but please share at least one thing that God has changed in your life. How have you become a little leaner and fitter in your spiritual life?

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    Giving Away A Handmade American Patriot Pen

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    If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that one of my passions is crafts, more specifically woodworking and turning handmade pens.

    In January, I launched another website/blog called Four Oaks Crafts. I created this new site to showcase some of my works, sell some handmade pens, and help others discover the joys of crafting. I don’t plan to quit my day job anytime soon, but who knows where this could lead me in the future.

    How did I arrive at the name? The “four” represents my four immediate family members. And the mighty oak tree represents strength. God has bless me with a godly and loving wife and two wonderful kids. Together, and with God’s help, they have strengthened me, helping me grow emotionally and spiritually.

    To thank you the reader and to give something back, I am holding a giveaway over at my new website:  Four Oaks Crafts .

    I am giving away one of my handmade American Patriot Pens, pictured above. The winner gets to pick one of the three pens.

    So go over to Four Oaks Crafts to learn how to enter the giveaway.

    Thanks again for reading and supporting this blog.  God bless you, and God bless America.

    Posted in Giveaways | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

    Animal Tracks ID Infographic

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    I found this great animal tracks ID infographic over at Hiking Michigan. For those who love nature and enjoy getting outdoors, I thought you might be able to use this guide.

    On the spiritual side, this infographic reminded me about my walk with God. As I look to my past, to my present, and to my future I continue to see the signs of God working in my life and the lives of others.

    I see the signs of forgiveness, signs of love, signs of relationships, signs of growth, and signs of the miraculous.

    How about you? Are you looking for God’s signs? What does that look like in your life?

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    The Lord is My Guide

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    Psalm 23 continues to be one of my favorite Psalms. I’m impressed by how David relates so personally to God. David could easily identify with shepherding, and he saw God as his great Shepherd. Of course, David was a shepherd once in his past life.

    Years ago someone introduced me to the idea of changing up the 23rd Psalm by substituting into it a different metaphor, one that I knew very well. I think back then I used “Engineer” in place of “Shepherd.”

    The point here is not to suggest that we can improve upon God’s divinely inspired word. I mean no disrespect toward God’s holy scriptures, and I don’t want to alter its original meaning. The intention of this exercise is to show that God’s word applies to each of us on a personal level. If we can’t see our own situations, our own struggles, or our relationship to God through scriptures, then we’re surely missing the mark. The Bible is more than a great history book or book on theology. It’s a love letter to each person, signed by God with His blood.

    This time I have substituted the metaphor of a Guide. Perhaps many of my outdoor brothers and sisters can identify with this. I hope you enjoy this, and drop me a line if you decide to join in with this fun exercise. Would love to hear your version.

    The Lord is my Guide, my all in all.

    He makes me lie down to listen and be still.

    He leads me across secrets of the deep. Through lush, evergreen forests.

    He refreshes my soul;

    He guides me along right trails for His name’s sake.

    Yea, though I walk through the long shadows,

    Or escape the treachery of claw and fang,

    I will move boldly and bravely;

    You behind me. Beside me. In front of me.

    Your wisdom and strength, they comfort me;

    I enjoy the savory meal you have prepared. Your campfire pushes back the dark and envious forces.

    Thy comforts delight my spirit. My coffee mug overflows

    Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me

    All the days of my glorious journey,

    And I will dwell in the Lord’s happy hunting grounds forever.

    Posted in Spiritual Journey | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

    Bible Fluency — The Challenges

    Being a believer now for many years, my respect for the Bible has grown and grown. But I can also understand why unbelievers, seekers, and those new to the faith often struggle with what the Bible has to say. So much of it is still a mystery, and we, as believers, place an unnecessary burden on ourselves to try an understand every aspect of it, and to interpret answers or create responses for every question society or culture delivers us.

    This morning I was reading from the BibleGateway Blog, and thought I would share an article called Ten Obstacles That Get In The Way Of Bible Fluency. This article spotlights Diane Jacobson who is professor of Old Testament and director of ELCA’s Book of Faith initiative.

    Jacobson offers the following ten obstacles that interfere with our Bible fluency. You might want to step back and read this because people you are ministering to in groups or individually are probably going through these struggles. I encourage you to go back and read this at the original source for a fuller explanation.

  • Shame
  • Busy-ness
  • Reading the Bible can be scary
  • The violence
  • Inconsistencies in the Bible
  • Bad history with the Bible
  • Perceived irrelavance
  • The assumption of literalism
  • Our secular culture of individualism and entertainment
  • The Bible is for the experts
  • Continue reading

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