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Over a period of time I was talking to a friend about her need of Jesus. During this time I had a loved one who was sick, bills were piling up, responsibilities seemed endless and overwhelming. One day in the presence of my friend I opened up about my fears and difficulties. On the one hand I guess it made me seem like a more real person, but the next time the subject of Jesus came up I quite honestly said, “I am asking you to trust Jesus when I sometimes struggle to trust Him myself.” She was quite understanding about my struggles, but I had a moment of deep conviction. If we are going to point a skeptical and dying world to the Savior, we must learn ourselves to react in faith rather than fear.

Just as “courage”, according to a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, “is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear,” so faith is not the lack of fear, discouragement, loneliness, temptation, confusion, or any other difficulty, but the firm conviction that God is greater and able and willing to give us peace and patience in the midst of the difficulty and regardless of the physical outcome.

I had a moment of fear the other day as I crawled into a tight crawl space to jack up a floor supported by rotten floor joists, which I needed to replace. It was so tight that I could not turn on my side until later when I dug out a space for my hips and shoulders. The fear was momentarily paralyzing, but then I took a deep breath and prayed that God would give me calmness. A peace washed over me in seconds. I had to pray again later when it happened again. I ended up working in this situation for eight hours, only crawling the 20 feet to the tight exit when I needed to cut a board or get an additional tool.

Many fears and difficulties are not so obvious as these two examples I have given. Because of their subtlety, many fears and doubts can creep up on us almost unbeknownst to us. We are tied up in a web of fear we never saw being wrapped around us. We learned it as a child. We think it the natural reaction of any sane person. We hardly give it heed, but are nonetheless confined by its stifling cords.

And that thought directs my mind immediately to Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The great antidote for fear encumbrance is “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. It was the same for us at salvation when the fiery serpent of sin had bitten us and we were destined for death. “And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9) Looking was equivalent to believing and had an immediate positive effect for John 3:14-15 says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” So, salvation was just a look, or glance, trusting God in Christ to overcome temptation, including fears; faith walk is a “fixing” of our gaze on Jesus. Every moment we are tempted to fear or go our own way, we must fix our gaze on Jesus. The result is that “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is willing, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will give you the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) And when you are tempted to have a worrying fear, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known unto God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Hebrews passage begins with “Therefore”, which points you back to the “chapter of faith”, Hebrews 11. This “great cloud of witnesses” fortifies our gaze on Jesus. We are not in this alone. Others have had worse difficulties and still fixed their eyes on Jesus. As the Holy Spirit enabled them to overcome Satan, temptation, and death by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11), so we are encouraged to do the same. Practicing this “fixing” brings endurance and the realization that Jesus suffered far more and had a victorious end.

I want to react in faith, not fear. It is a more peaceful way to live and a strong testimony for the truth of God being in my life. The realization that garden variety fear was stifling my walk and my witness has brought focus to my reaction in the last few weeks. I hope it is a focus that causes me to more frequently fix my eyes on Jesus in faith rather the circumstances in fear.

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Following is the fourth in a series of Scriptural Science Segues. You can find the others at “GUT”, “Sustainer”, and “Made of”.

Human Designed Information System.
Computers operate off of a binary (base 2) number system which we designate as 0 and 1. The actual workings within the computer chip are tiny transistor junctions (switches) that are either on, 1, or off, 0. This one piece of information is called a bit. Eight bits constitute a byte which is the amount of information used to code for numbers, letters, and symbols on the keyboard (example: 00111010 = Z). The computer binary system is a simple information system that can control complex operations. This information system and functioning code requires much intelligence to design.

Biological Information.
The biological world has a more complex quaternary (base 4) information system of four molecules within the large molecule, DNA. We designate these four options for coding by the first letter of the molecules’ names: A, T, G, and C. Any combination of three of these letters constitute a triplet which codes for an amino acid. In the human body, specific combinations of anywhere from 234 up to 34,350 amino acids in very specific orders make up the thousands of functioning proteins which do the work of the cell. The DNA molecule stores information, is copied, read, and self-correcting for the purpose of directing all biological processes. The biochemical mechanisms within the cell that accomplish all of these functions are more complicated than a computer and frequently likened to the workings of a large city, though far more complex.

Intelligence Is Behind Information.
Since a computer needs an intelligent designer to program it and maintain it, the far more complex biological systems must also have had an Intelligent Designer. We know of no information system that exists that does not have its origin in intelligence. That God is the Intelligent Designer is not only a reasonable scientific hypothesis, it is the only idea that fits the evidence.

Continuity of Information.
David said about his own origin, “For You created my innermost parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully formed in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my formless substance; and in Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16) God had already created the DNA code system from which He formed David and all living things. “God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; and it was so” [day 3], “God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind” [day 5], and “God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind” [day 6] (Genesis 1:11,21,25). Take note of the fact that these did not progress from one to another in any evolutionary scenario. God created them within their kind to then reproduce according to the DNA code of their kind.

Derived from the Source.
“Who has put wisdom in the innermost being or given understanding to the mind?” (Job 38:36) Our systems of information are all derived from existing systems. We did not create binary code or language, but discovered and used them. They are gifts of God from “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3) Language came from the fact of “God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). There must be an intelligent source of information, making it hard to logically deny that He is the Source of all things.

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My daughter’s youngest child turned 3 years old on August 2nd. We were not able to get to their house until the 3rd because of a doctor’s appointment, but any excuse to see the grandchildren will do. We arrived 1/2 hour before dark after 5 hours at the doctor’s office and a total of 4 1/2 hours of driving. We so want to build relationships with the grandchildren, but distance, health, responsibilities, and flexibility conspire against us. I decided to use the smartphone app for this purpose and am reading the Chronicles of Narnia 2 or 3 evenings a week to my grand-daughter. Even then other activities cause rescheduling, but here flexibility is my friend. We are on the third book, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.

We picked blackberries at the neighbor’s house across the road, because they asked my daughter to since they were away. As we picked my daughter reflected on why she did not want to move from their present house. “We have the best neighbors. And no one else can build here because the soil percolates so poorly that septic drain fields are expensive and difficult” with the new regulations. It is a very beautiful spot and the neighbors are helpful and friendly. The neighbor behind them allows my daughter’s family to walk on the trails in their woods on about 40 acres. The next night the grandchildren, their father, and I walked to this neighbor’s house down their long driveway. The man who lives there was glad for someone to talk to and allowed the children to watch the Koi while he told how much old Koi can cost and his plans to add a deeper pond for overwintering.

The morning of the next day, the grandchildren and I were dropped off at a playground park while my wife and daughter went shopping. We tried out the various slides and swings and crawled up onto the old caboose. I think that the little ones liked the trail that I found across the creek best. They had to take their mother and mamaw to see it when they returned from gathering sale items. Every once in a while you get a good picture of several people together. What most usually prevents it is the movement and moods of the subjects. I got two good shots in a few minutes. Check here to see the pictures.

I am so thankful to God that my wife was feeling strong enough to make this trip and that we had time with this part of the family. It seems to get harder to have family time as time and distance increase.

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Some of you will probably say so, but we are proceeding with adequate care, and more so as we learn the plausible situations.

Last weekend my youngest son, climbing partner, and I started at the Sitting Bear parking area, hiked to Hawksbill, climbed the two easier pitches of Lost in Space and Star Trekin, hiked to Devil’s Cellar at Table Rock, climbed again on Helmet Buttress, and walked down to the Table Rock parking area. See the pictures at HB and TR.

That was the overview. We are continuing our training for the Linville Crusher. We are most slowed down by transitions: butterfly wrapping rope, organizing protection gear, changing shoes, putting harness on and off. These preparation outings are good to see where the slowdowns are. At Hawksbill we talked to a man who had done the Crusher. I asked him how long it took them. He was reluctant to say but I insisted since I wanted to have an idea what I am getting into. He admitted that it took them over 16 hours. I was shocked. The descriptions on Mountain Project say you should aim for 10 hours and expect 12. Something isn’t adding up here. So, hiking will take the longest time and be the second least efficient part I figure, while transitions have the potential to zap our time. My partner says we have to hope for the best and plan for the worst. If it gets light at 6 AM in late August and dark at 8 PM, that means we will need to start hiking to Sitting Bear before light to prevent climbing in the dark at Shortoff. It would be way cooler if we were driving home at supper time, but “plan for the worst.”

August would not be my chosen time to do this adventure given the heat, but we are balancing two limitations: 1) climbing closures for Falcon nesting until August 15, and 2) length of daylight hours. We even have to wait to do several preparation climbs until after August 15.

The hike from Sitting Bear to Hawksbill is the second shortest and definitely the easiest. We may even jog part of that. The Hawksbill climb is the hardest technically, but we both did it clean, and that was my first try on it. The hike from Hawksbill to Table Rock is not the longest, but it is definitely hardest. Getting around Hawksbill, we missed a turn because the trail is vague at places. Hopefully, we know the route now. There is a steep uphill section going up to the base of cliffs at Table Rock. I will be glad for a rest at the belay station. We will be doing the easiest climb of the trip at TR, North Ridge.

This day we decided to do something else rather than North Ridge. My wife had mentioned that FB friends were reporting encounters with bees in the mountains. I alerted my son who is allergic but I forgot to stock my first-aid kit with Benadryl. I was so thankful that my son went up through Devil’s Cellar to hang out on top while we climbed. Soon after passing North Ridge, on a steep downhill, I walked over a Yellowjacket’s nest. At first I thought it was the buzzing of flies and was about to tell my partner that there must be something dead about because of the flies. Before the words left my mouth, I received the first of five stings. I yelled and started running. My partner ran back to see what my cry of pain meant and received a sting. He turned and ran, too, but was there just long enough to break my fall on the steep terrain. I made a mad rush downhill, swatting and grabbing for tree trunks. We recovered at the base of our chosen climb. After starting it we backed off and decided on an easier climb for carrying packs, Helmet Buttress, which with My Route above, is 5 pitches. We reduced it to 3. Still my son waited two and a half hours for us rather than an hour or less. Oops on several levels. Thankfully we can do North Ridge in one pitch with a 70 m rope.

All of this causes me to reflect on the planning and moxie needed to pull off a major expedition. We are just planning a day trip. I am thankful to God for the safety and health we have experienced during this preparation time. Even the bee sting swelling diminished when I sweated and climbed some more. It seems like a worthy challenge and adventure for this old guy, but I want to continue to increase the safety factor. Also, I decided that if I want to see a bear, I should hike with my son. We saw two this day when I hadn’t seen one on the trail in over a year. Several weeks ago he was in the Gorge with a friend and saw a Bobcat and a mother bear with two cubs in a standoff- a once in a lifetime view, I’d guess.

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We are made of stardust. It is a hugely popular saying in our culture. In one form or another it has been repeated numerous times in recent years by such people as singer Joni Mitchell (August, 1969), Carl Sagan (book, 1973; “Cosmos”, 1980), and most recently and sophisticatedly by physicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson (2017). It is not a new idea, showing up in an ancient Serbian Proverb and probably being first stated in modern times in a speech by Albert Durrant Watson, then president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: “Our bodies are made of star stuff.”

What are we to make of it?
As Christians we evaluate all truth claims in the light of Scripture. The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and not until day four that “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens’” (1:14). Since “the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground” (2:7), the dust out of which man was made existed before the stars were created. It is reasonable that we have many of the same elements as we measure to be present in stars through spectral light analysis. Those elements were present in both the heavens and earth formed in the beginning. But a straightforward reading of the text gives no indication that earth was derived from this substance and there were certainly no stars. Therefore, we are not made of stardust.

The Substance behind the Material.
Earth, and therefore people, derived from stardust is a construct to fit Big Bang cosmology, and it fits well with our self-importance in God-denying Humanism. As Bible believing Christians, we must be very careful not to be drawn in by seemingly innocuous ideas that are false and dangerous.


The Real Source.
Our real value and source is not derived from “stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out” (Tyson), but from God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (2:7) Man is impressed by the dust because it is self-glorifying, but the believer is impressed by the breath of life because it and the dust are God-glorifying. Our value comes from being made in God’s image. (1:27)

Implications.
This greater value of man means capital punishment is right(Genesis 9:6) and abortion is wrong (Exodus 21:22-25), children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3-5), and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, Romans 13:9).

And we have known this value and source of mankind since ancient times as well: ““The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4) These ideas are not just about theological or scientific perspectives. It is about who receives glory and praise and allegiance:

“Thus says God the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it
And spirit to those who walk in it,
“I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you,
And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” Isaiah 42:5-9

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Many a parent will recognize the title of this blog as a title of a children’s book. I think that I should write one titled “Real, Pretend, Alive, and Inanimate”. Yeah, I know, I would have to say “Not Alive” for a children’s book title, but the idea is that young, concrete-thinking children have difficulty differentiating these concepts, and I’m not really sure I could help them, so it’s just an idea. That is not t he purpose of my entry, so I regress.

While my daughter and family were in town one weekend recently, all of us were in the kitchen at one moment. This little family gathering got turned upside down when a critter that belongs outside came inside. I was talking to my wife while we stood at the counter when she shrieked and said that a critter, possibly a possum had just run past her and under the hutch. Now she reminded me that a few moments later that I should not doubt my wife, but I was as surprised by the idea as she was by the critter. I bent down and peered under the hutch to see a baby o’possum frightened and then running over under the dining table. I ran downstairs for a container, and thankfully for the purposes of observation, grabbed a clear bowl. The next time that I saw it moving I clamped the bowl over it. Everyone was fascinated for a look and curious how in the world it got into the house. A few days later while in the basement, I observed that the dryer vent line was knocked off of the exit point through the external wall. I went outside to find the plastic grating over the end of the vent pipe fallen off. Evidently, the little varmit had run into the pipe and somehow dislodged the pipe from the wall, probably when he fell the down the ~7 vertical feet of the pipe. He was happy to be outside, inside his own habitat, right-side up.

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Still in training for a late summer climbing bonanza, my partner and I headed out on Friday to do a few of the routes on Shortoff in Linville Gorge. The hike up from the parking area is about a mile and a half through recovering forest after forest fires about a dozen or so years ago. There is some shade beginning to form, but most of it today was the partly cloudy haze out of a super-humid July day. When you reach the top there are breathtaking views of Gorge and Foothills region. The difficulty of access to these climbs is the topography, the whole reason we are here of course. You have to drop down a very steep gully about 150′ vertical and then rappel another 100′ to the bottom. Getting to the rappel station was the scariest part of the whole day.

When I lead The Nose at Looking Glass Rock, it was the first 4 pitch, trad route I had ever done. But it felt pretty chill because the belay stations were bolted and the overall climb is in the neighborhood of 75 degrees positive (15 degrees off of vertical if you prefer), so there was no exposure and you couldn’t see the base after 50′ or so. The first climb at Shortoff, Dopey Duck, was different. On the second pitch it has sustained 5.9 climbing with little rest. I thought I was going to flame out until a reached a rest just below a small roof. I told my partner that I was glad he lead because I would not have had enough endurance to place protection and climb. It is, in fact, a little past vertical. I read a quote online afterwards by longtime climber in the area who said, “If it was any more 5.9, it would be 5.11.” That is an intended exaggeration, I’m sure, but the point is that it gets tiring. My partner, having a 70 meter rope, decided we should do the 3 pitches in one. In order to do that we would have to simul-climb for a short distance. Both tied in with numerous pieces of pro between you, you both climb together. He reminded me, “don’t climb into the slack”, just before he left the ground, so a fall would not drop us far. It turned out that we only did this for about 20′ before he reached the top and set up a belay- a day of firsts for me.

Next, I lead an easier route, Maginot Line, 5.7. I am sometimes amazed at the knowledge base of climbers naming some of these climbs. They weren’t just laying out of class to go climbing. You trot up a juggy corner almost the whole way. At one point there were some chock blocks you have to navigate around which got me out on the face and a hanging belay for one pitch. Over all it was 250′ of pretty mellow climbing. If you would like to see a few pictures of the process, click on “Dopey and Maginot“.* Even humid, sticky July days can be glorious with a little breeze and occasional shade and a good challenge. I try to get out climbing 2 or 3 times a month, though it doesn’t always happen. I am so thankful to God for the health and opportunity to try new things and enjoy nature.

*Until I figure out a good alternative, most of my pictures will be loaded onto another site.

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Following is the second in a series of Scriptural Science Segues. It highlights God’s infinite ability to design and care for Creation:

Biosphere 2.
In the 1972 movie, “Silent Running” a spacecraft carries the last ecosystems from Earth in biochambers, which sustain life with no outside input but sunlight. Scientists have attempted a terrarium on Earth in which people lived called Biosphere 2. The experiment was run twice, once for two years and two months beginning in 1991, and then again for seven months in 1994. The sealed enclosures included sophisticated designs for self-sufficient living. Filters, recyclers, and energy manipulators of every sort were necessary. The design closely copied many things we know about nutrient, waste and energy cycles of Biosphere 1, that is, Earth. For all of the inputs of design, energy, and monthly corrective supplies, the experiment was shut down because cockroaches proliferated, soil bacteria robbed the air of oxygen, which had to be supplied, and birds and bees died so that there were no longer any pollinators.

Biosphere 1.
God’s design for the self-sustaining life zone of Earth is wonderful by comparison. It has cycled nutrients (food, gases, and water), wastes, and energy for centuries without failure. When catastrophes occur in various locales, it regenerates to a steady state of tremendous diversity, multi-function, and beauty. Even when poisoned by our pollution, it isolates and purifies the pollutants and adjusts. It may have limits which we seem determined to push, but its ability to renew is phenomenal and without parallel.

He Is Able.
When God answers Job’s challenge to His justice in Job’s suffering, God asks Job a series of questions to test Job’s knowledge of Creation. God is pointing Job to His superior and infinite knowledge and power so that Job can know that his suffering has not slipped by God’s notice nor overcome His control. God is an Intelligent and Powerful Designer, Creator far beyond anything we may hope to know or do. As it says in Romans 1:20, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

The Downfall of Our Understanding.
Herein is a danger of modern science. God has enabled us to understand many things about His Creation. We certainly know the gestational period of the Mountain Goat and Deer (Job 39:1-2) and many of the laws governing the heavens (38:33). But we cannot command the morning (38:12) and were certainly not present when God created it all (38:4). There is much we still do not know, cannot control, and were not present to observe. In the case of many modern scientists, it is similar to the plight of Edom who felt secure in their rock refuges: “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you.” Obadiah 1:3

Humility, Acknowledgement, Praise.
We cannot even copy what God has done in nature to set-up a self-sustaining biosphere, let alone explain how God brought it into existence and sustains it on any meaningful level. We need to be humble in our knowledge. Believe God’s Word; He knows but we do not. And we should render praise and be forever fascinated by God’s creative and sustaining ability. He provides seed and bread (2 Corinthians 9:10), food for the birds (Luke 12:24) and beasts (Psalm 147:9), grass and trees (Psalms 104:14,16), refuge for animals (104:17,18,21), the Moon for marking seasons and the Sun for day and night (104:19), and so much more.
“Oh Lord, how many are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all;
The earth is full of Your possessions.”
Psalm 104:24

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“I am sitting at the Yellow Mountain Gap Shelter [a barn long ago converted for this purpose], having come up the Overmountain Victory Trail along Hampton Creek [on the Tennessee side]. It is my [son’s] 31st birthday… Two deer, probably just having lost their spots recently, hopped around in the meadow above me. Five or six varieties of birds sing and insects buzz beneath a low overcast with a slight breeze carrying occasional sprinkles of rain. Despite the clouds, it is fairly bright, and a profusion of summer wildflowers surround the mowed clearing and adorn the seeps of the forest. The grass is indeed a yellowish green on Yellow Mountain before me and every direction speaks of summer lushness and humidity. I want to praise His holy name and forget none of His benefits, as Psalm 103 says, but I am in need just now of His joy and His guidance. I desire to want Him more than His benefits,” I wrote at the picnic table after a strenuous hike up the ridge for about 3 1/2 miles. I had need of going over the mountain by road to get some things and decided to make use of the outing to get out into the mountains.

This way of getting to Yellow Mountain Gap did not exist 25 years ago when I was asking permission to cross private property, which I was allowed to do on two occasions back then.

If you don’t know the history of this game changer of the American Revolution, then you should check it out. Backwoodsmen streamed across the mountains in search of Major Patrick Ferguson who had threatened them. They caught up with him at King’s Mountain, SC. Reenactors make the trek yearly, stopping at key points to explain the significance of the battle to school children and anyone who will listen. I used to live near Sycamore Shoals and now live near Quaker Meadows, two significant staging and meeting points for the pioneer combatants.

A little more recent cultural icon of the mountain draw, the decaying clapboard house.

The fields get narrower and steeper as you climb up the draw and the gates keep in the wondering cattle on the hillsides.

Multiple tractor tracks, cattle ruts, and trails made the little symbols a guidance comfort for this first time hiker on this particular trail.

It is the season for sweet treats along the trail of which I availed myself.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.) is said to be an invasive, but it is definitely useful to dry up runny sinuses, using the leaf or the flower. I just learned that the reason it is usually found along highways, which are frequently sprayed with herbicides preventing me from collecting it there, is because it needs bare ground for the seeds to germinate.

Though I paralleled Hampton Creek and Left Prong of Hampton Creek, I saw the creek very few times. I was in the fields but it was in the woods in a narrow draw most of the time. I knew it was there because I heard it for all but the last 1/2 mile before the gap.

Further up and further in:

Woods and shade at last:

Literally at field’s edge and overlooking the barbed wire, I saw this beautiful stretch of creek.

There were many beautiful wildflowers, some of which you can see at Hampton Creek Reserve Wildflowers. I did not see one other person in the five hours of hiking. I enjoy conversing with people, even strangers, but I also enjoy time for reflection, prayer, observation, and praise. Frequently I find that strenuous exercise keeps my body occupied so that when I take a few moments of rest my mind and spirit can converse with God better. The surroundings were certainly beautiful in the big and the small. And I was enabled to visit a spot I had not been to for more than 15 years.

You can see Yellow Mountain behind me.

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When I reveal that I am a retired teacher, many folks will begin a discussion about the challenges of being a teacher and the problems with education. After 28 years in the classroom, I could profundicate and philosophize all the day long on the subject. A few days ago the subject came up and several well worn paths were traversed until the other party referred to a story I told about students really learning as “incidental learning”. That got me fired up because the term means that the learning was “accidental / indirect / additional / unplanned”. (1) The learning that I described was quite intentional, direct, central, and planned. What was actually different about it was that it was intended to solicit interest and passion for the learning process and the subject matter. I referred to these lessons as Affective Biology.

I will not be able to pronounce the solution for all educational woes in this short article, and many of them are moral rather than educational anyway, but one thing that my experience assures me of is that students only learn well what they are interested in. Teach them what they want to learn about, what they are curious about. Teach them concepts relevant to their life and useful to their pursuits. Entice them to learn about things they don’t think they are interested in by showing them the need of it to understand and do they things they are interested in.

Now those who develop and command curriculum will wring their hands at this point because “the student needs a well rounded education” and besides, they don’t know what they are interested in. Both of these ideas are true, but “because I said so” or “it looks good on your college resume” or “we want you to be a well rounded individual” do not cut it with the blissfully or belligerently ignorant.

Instead, explore and promote curiosity. Answer seemingly random questions and facilitate research of interests and unexplored rabbit trails. Go deep enough that the students have to want the seemingly “boring” rote learning to have the tools to understand. Make deals with them so that they can explore while agreeing to give you full attention on developing tools for their tool box that they don’t think they even need. Be honest enough to tell the student that not every moment or concept of learning is exciting, but much is needful to understand the real interests of the learner.

Be a passionate learner yourself and your students will catch the fire of passionate learning. Tell them stories of how you learned and what interests you have and how learning deepens their experience of life as it has deepened yours.

By the way, none of this will work with straight jacket curriculum and mind numbing standard testing. I’m done. I’ll put that back in the box. I’m a retired teacher. (2)

  1. Incidental learning – EduTech Wiki (unige.ch)
  2. But I would love to hear what other teachers have to say about it.

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Rarely do I complete a deck repair in one day, but this job was that small. There were two decks, the main 12 x 12, and smaller 4 1/2 x 10. The larger one had three boards with developing rot, a quick fix. I also replaced three balusters there.

The smaller one had an end rail that was fencing (??), almost an afterthought put up shabbily. Because of the position the back post and the proximity of the tree, I had to put the balusters on the inside.

The lower deck was also made with 2 x 6 joists. I would not use those on anything more than four foot spans. So, I installed a post in the middle to strengthen the span.

Off to one side of the smaller deck was an eroding flower garden. I installed a little barrier and back filled it to preserve the level space.

Small jobs are good. I get the satisfaction of quick completion. Also, most companies won’t mess with a job this small, but a day’s work is a day’s work. God has continued to provide work right along to pay our accelerated bills. I am constantly reminded that I can and should trust Him and must continue to do so, and that this demonstration of His faithfulness and provision means that I can trust in other areas as well. My faith has moments of faltering, but I have not seen Him unable or unwilling to provide as I am diligent to ask and walk into the opportunities which He provides.

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Unity of All Knowledge.
There is no dichotomy between Christianity and true science. Truth is truth wherever you meet it, and God’s Word is the root of all truth. This unity of knowledge extends to all things spiritual and physical. It is my intention to communicate the unity of knowledge through examples of where Science meets Scripture. I will call these short essays Scriptural Science Segues.

Four Fundamental Forces.
In our present understanding there are four fundamental forces that hold the universe together. In order from strongest to weakest these are 1) Strong Nuclear, 2) Electromagnetic, 3) Weak Nuclear, and 4) Gravitational. The Strong Nuclear force is attractive, holding protons and neutrons together in the nucleus and the Weak Nuclear Force is repulsive and causes radioactive decay. Both work over distances of a fraction of an atomic nucleus. The Electromagnetic Force is attractive and repulsive, working over distances of up to a few miles. It controls interactions of static and flow electricity, magnetism, chemical bonding, as well as clinging interactions like cohesion, adhesion, and friction.

The Outlier.
Scientists have come close to unifying the first three forces through one explanation, but gravity resists explanation. The first three forces can be explained by force particles that travel between interacting bodies. The theoretical particle for gravity, the graviton, has never been observed. Gravity is one septillion (1 x 1024) times weaker than the Weak Nuclear Force, but operates over distances the size of the universe. How would a graviton work anyway? What particle could travel across the universe fast enough to prevent stars from drifting apart?
We know in great detail what gravity does to the extent that we can send space probes across the solar system for decades and they will arrive exactly when and where we calculated. However, we still cannot explain why gravity works. It continues to be the force that prevents scientists from formulating a Grand Unified Theory (GUT), one explanation for all interactions in the universe.

The Fundamental Force.
The Scripture supplies an explanation of the one force that holds everything together, the very GUT of the matter. Colossians 1:16-17 says, “All things have been created through Him…He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” There is the fundamental force in the universe, as it says in Hebrews 1:3, “He… upholds all things by the word of His power.”

The Skeptics’ Reply.
At this point the proponents of Naturalism, that religion of science which attributes all that exists to physical phenomena alone to the exclusion of any spiritual source, will say, “You are explaining what we do not yet understand by your superstitions about God just like medieval man did in his ignorance about disease.”

A Christian Answer.
We disagree because we know of God’s interaction with His Creation through His Word, through our salvation and life in Him which includes answered prayer and provision, through fellowship with believers, and through the world around us that testifies to His power and attributes. As it says in Psalm 33:8-9, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood fast. Specifically, the fundamental force holding the world together is His Word.

Retraction of His Sustaining Word.
In the future “by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire.” (2 Peter 3:7) When He speaks again concerning the created order “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense hear, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

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Sound like a title straight out of a Prohibition movie? Actually today it was a pair of climbs my partner and I did on Table Rock. I trad lead (1) White Lightning. My partner has a 70 meter rope so I did the first two pitches as one. First you go straight up a crack to an overhang and then traverse right to the anchors of another climb. We rappelled down from there and then did North Ridge to the top in one pitch. On this second climb, we climbed with our packs on so that we could walk off the top.

My partner realized just after we left the parking lot that he had forgotten his climbing shoes. So while he went back, I had a few moments to reflect on the surroundings. Sourwood bark has character and so much “scope for imagination”, as Anne of Green Gables would say. The furrows and ridges could be dragon skin or climbing holds or tire tread. What does it remind you of?

And the surrounding woods were lush but open, and even pleasant on this otherwise sultry, July morning.

The first climb that I led was a challenge for me, but the belay station was a big enough ledge for a comfortable look about. It was indeed hazy this day, calling for afternoon thundershowers. The clouds obscured the sun just sufficiently to preclude sunburn or copious sweating.

The view north was the best, straight upstream on Linville Gorge. You can see the river down below and Hawksbill on the right.

Just beyond the anchors this block sits precariously on the ledge. How did it get there? Why hadn’t it tumbled to the ridge below? Why does it continue perched on this slopped ledge? The shadowed left surface seen in the picture seems to be a mirror image of the small roof above. Is it possible that it could have detached from there, fallen about 3 feet and just sat?

It appears as though there is an arch at the left. I leaned out (2) to see, discovering that it is detached from the wall, and therefore, a spire. I may have to climb that one day. You can see here that the cliff line of the opposite side of the Gorge. The next valley behind that is Paddie’s Creek, its far ridge being another place that I like to climb.

My wildman partner smiles for the camera as he belays me to look around. The end of this climb ends at the anchors for the second climb we did, North Ridge. It is definitely on the turning edge of Table Rock’s north end. From where he stands to where I stand allowed me to see around the corner to the southeast pictured in the last scene.

I’m just a tourist taking in the beauty of God’s green earth.

There are two weird effects in the next photo. The blue band is just that, a blue band, that holds my camera around my neck and gets in the way sometimes. The other is the appearance of my partner trotting up the wall as if hardly touching it. I guess the moves were so easy that he did not have to keep three points on.

On the drive out I saw two picture worthy organisms. The first was butterfly weed.

The second was a Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus). The other common rattlesnake in these parts is the Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Both suggest a wide berth.

All in all, it was a good day enjoying God’s creation, challenging ourselves in the process, and having good conversation about everything from an upcoming wedding to unsolved math problems and analema- so much scope for imagination.

  1. Trad (traditional) climbing is using gears like nuts and cams to climb from the ground up. Lead climbing is the first person up the pitch (length of a rope) who places gear and climbs above the protection to set the next piece.
  2. tied in, of course

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At first the owner just wanted the decking replaced, but I noticed that the center of the deck was several inches higher than around it. I went to look underneath and discovered the problem. As I began removing decking boards, I paused to record the deterioration that caused the owner to contact me.

The old stain reminded me of weather worn whitewash on a New England coastal style house.

The pattern of boards was interesting but probably contributed to the deterioration and would certainly take more wood and more cost to replace.

Here was the real problem with the deck, a hidden hazard that I declared, “If you had had a party with 30 people on this deck, there may have been many of them in the hospital.” You see, the cracked 2 x 12 is bolted to the side of the post and expected to hold the weight of eight 2 x 8 joists. The 1/2 carriage bolts held, but the board did not. Notice the 2 x 8 at the right has dropped down with the settling 2 x 12. This is where the rise occurred on the decking boards, which must have been taking much of the weight as well.

The different perspective of the problem reveals more of the near failure of the joists.

I cleaned it all out except for the facing boards attached to the walls that had been under the overhangs with no deterioration.

The center post of the deck held a larger percentage of the total weight, so I increased the post from 4 x 4 to 6 x 6.

I did have to replace one facing board that was not holding well to the wall. I used numerous concrete screws and increased strength of the joist ends with joist hangers.

Take note that the joists now sit on top of the post, a much stronger configuration.

The part of the deck that you don’t normally see is the most important part that supports the weight, the part that takes the most energy to construct and get right, and the part many casually observers think shows little progress when being constructed.

In order to reduce leaf litter and deterioration, I caulked between brick and face plate.

And the decking begins!

The joints are not obvious and the area has a clean and spacious look.

The requested steps, near copies of the old ones were complex. I quit early this day for rain.

Getting standard stringers to fit the rise and run of available space is a significant challenge.

The lady of the house wanted the deck to have symmetry, so the landing and stairs running two ways.

Concrete for some reason that I don’t understand causes quicker deterioration of treated wood than straight clay. So I have taken to putting tar on posts to lengthen the their life.

Wow! It’s finished. All that I need to do is stain it. I finish it off with a belt sander on the railing especially and any other place that looks rough.

And there it is in its light gray stain, all matching the brick and trim and gray, wicker deck furniture and white, metal furniture that we moved onto the deck a few days later. Another good challenge for Decks and Such completed.

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Some of what I say here is trivial and mundane. Other things are substantive and worthy of record for posterity. Since 2007 this blog site has been a journal of sorts* for what I was doing and learning and thinking. And I know that some few people have read old blog entries because the metrics reveal that they have. In fact, two different people read through many of my old entries recently because every time I would get on the site the “Stats” would reveal one view of 3 to 6 entries, frequently in chronological order. I have a desire to share my thoughts, even if it is only with myself, but I have a greater desire for someone to understand the Gospel of Jesus through what I share here.

So, why the title, “What’s Next?” If you read my last entry, then you will know that I cut it short because some photos would not upload. It turns out that I have reached the 3 GB storage of the site. Now there are several simple solutions. One is to upgrade, but that is more than double of what I pay now. It is a reasonable price, but not one I feel settled about paying with all of the bills right now. A second option is to stop blogging, too much time on electronic media and all that, but this is certainly not mindless surfing the web. In fact, it might even be a good therapy for an aging brain to stay engaged. And there is the fact that I enjoy it. The content must not be too exciting because I get few comments, but I hope it makes some people think about and dwell on what “is true… honorable… right… pure… lovely… of good repute… any excellence… worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). Thirdly, I could delete earlier entries to make room for new ones. This is a bitter sweet option for me. I do go back and read entries occasionally, especially to prepare for new ones. But even more so, when talking to someone, I will refer them to a previous entry for more context or further thought. And this may be just the thing that I do. But what do I delete? Do I pick a category, say “Poems” for example, and wipe the blog of all poems? Or do I pick and choose less “useful” or “striking” entries? Or perhaps I just trim off entries as space for the next one requires.

As I said, I don’t get many comments, but I’m going to ask anyway. What do you think? Which option should I go with? If I trim the entries, which and how should I go about it? What do you think? Really, I’d like to know. I have a silly little entry waiting in drafts, but because it would include one picture, I can’t upload it. And I will run out space for words soon…………..

*I feel like a “real” journal would include the good with the bad. I have shared some struggles, but for the most part people don’t really want to hear what you are struggling with, but what you are excited about and learning about. As I commented to a friend on FB recently, “Life is good because God is good, but it is difficult at times.” As the subtitle of this blog reminds me, “Pointing to One who… sustains me.” He has done that and blessed me in good times and difficult times. He is good.

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Our daughter and her family visited this weekend. I thought that we should plan at least one activity of interest. I remember meeting the CEO of the Hart Square Museum at my local climbing wall. She invited me to come see the Museum that her grandfather and grandmother put together over many decades. Since it was between my family members and myself, it would break up their trip a little and get us outside. I was concerned about our tour schedule time being at noon, because of the heat of June, but I was pleasantly surprised that 90% of the tour was in the woods under shade. The CEO met us in their brand new event facility that has been in the works for 5 years from fund raising to near completion. Already events are being scheduled there. I think that this new facility will be a big drawing card and help to fund the museum for many years into the future.

It pretty well dazzles the moment you enter the hall, and there is a kitchen, bathrooms, and dressing rooms in one wing and offices and conference rooms in the other wing. Here you see a birthday party being set up.

The young and energetic CEO passed us off to the young, talkative, and knowledgeable tour guide. He has lived on the premises as son to the caretaker for ten years and has been involved in deconstructing, moving, and reassembling several of the historic structures as well as repairing and upgrading others constantly. Here he is (on the right) in an upstairs bedroom of one of the larger log cabins describing the set-up to my son-in-law. Very few of the pieces of furniture were original with the cabins they are in, but they are all very much period pieces.

Our tour guide (from here on XS) said that there are now 103 and historic log structures on site, approximately 80 of which were log cabin homes. The structures range in construction date from 1792 to the 1870’s (the latter number being an observation of mine and not definite). Most were bought by the late Dr. Hart. XS said the property was originally intended to be a personal preserve for the good doctor but shifted purpose when a friend suggested a log cabin be purchased and moved to the edge of the pond and then a barn. Two of the most fascinating and used structures are the log churches. You might well imagine that some couples would want to be married in these rustic and romantic houses of worship.

The old 19 century pump organ is functional and used in weddings and gatherings.

With a tour guide along and care taken, this is largely a hands on museum. My son-in-law and two grandchildren confirmed that the organ worked. I ran up the scale, impressed with good sound. I only found one white note that had a reduced, though in tune, sound, I suspect because of a dirty or jammed stop.

The people that I met at the museum are not shy about their faith, so it made the whole presentation seem all the more real. Amazingly this structure was an apartment with siding on it when Dr. Hart found it. It cleaned up quite nicely, as we say.

The other church is smaller and has a circuit rider’s portable pump organ that could be folded and strapped behind the saddle of the traveling preacher. My grand-daughter pretends to be the organist on this day. I found an old hymnbook on the podium and began leafing though it. I think myself somewhat knowledgeable in Christian hymnody, but I had gone 50 hymns before I found one I knew. I sang the first verse. It seems an apt response to being in a structure constructed and dedicated to the worship of God.

XS says this is perhaps the best view on the site and a drawing point for small weddings.

I didn’t think to ask at the time, but I wonder if this glass above the window was original. It doesn’t seem likely to me since a “St. Mark” glass should be grouped with the other three Gospel glasses.

The cabins, many and varied, are furnished in even more varied ways. Some, to be sure, are furnished as the homes they originally were and similarly to their actual use according to interviews with former occupants. But others were furnished as workshops and businesses which they were not. This increases the interest in their contents and plays into the one day reenacting festival every Fall.

Most, the following one not included, had original rock chimneys along with the mostly original logs and timber.

This one was decorated as if Christmas was soon to arrive.

The cookstove was impressive.

Except for the cobwebs, which XS says they are constantly clearing, the cabins are furnished to appear occupied in the present.

Given the number of bedrooms, however, I can assure you that this pantry should be better stocked. Check out the blue Mason jars with the zinc lids.

If you included the four poster at right, this bedroom alone could have housed seven youngin’s. It was adjacent to another room with two double beds.

There are also several modern, old design structures on site like this covered bridge…

…and cotton press for making bales. The cotton gin in the barn like structure is one of only two period gins in the country that is still functioning.

There is also a functioning grist mill fed by one of the ponds.

My family members loved combing every inch of what we had time for and asking many questions. Sometimes I think XS was talking as much to himself as to us. He had plenty to say and good, interesting information, too.

I observed that a modern leather belt replacement might be quite expensive and XS added, less durable.

My grandson is positioned just right to be grabbed up by the millstone hoist.

The passage between living quarters and the kitchen is called a dogtrot. The design helped with heat management by avoiding the heat of the kitchen in summer and providing a shady, breezy passage. I think a quick way to get out of the rain without tracking mud into the house would be nice, too.

There are clay and brick ovens and kilns here and there for the festival reenactors to make anything from bread to pottery, pewter, and more.

Can you guess what we saw inside of this cabin?

Bear on the wall, buffalo on the bed, and deer on the foot board, I’m told.

The large, iron rich, mica schist blocks on this chimney were fascinating.

The Holstein hide bed coverlet drew my attention as well.

There were museum pieces at every turn. You should see what was inside the shed.

There is a centrally located picnic pavilion where my grandchildren were attempting to call up anyone with ears to hear.

My son-in-law caught a little wildlife for his daughter to play with.

There is not enough time to go into all 103 structures on a given tour, but you may request that anyone be opened to inspect. I was interested in the pottery cabin. It was full of labeled historic pots. Some were from a well known local potter and his business from the 19th century. This was definitely a no touch zone.

My daughter observed that the Indian glazes had a more smooth appearance and I would add a more matte finish as well.

The last cabin that we went into was furnished as a doctor’s abode. It had matching horn “silverware” and a grand Lazy Susan at table.

I had a few more pictures, but I seem to have arrived at the limit of the blog entry. That is fine, because you need to go see for yourself. Even with every picture I took, you would not have seen the half of it. Go check it out. They seem quite flexible in scheduling tours and there is some real history hear. Or plan an event there. Yes, I’m advertising, but not because I get anything out of it other than the satisfaction of knowing that I pointed some people to a profitable tour for mind and body and helped out a worthy museum. Check out their tours at Hart Square | A Common Past, Uncommonly Preserved. It is located just south of Hickory, NC, near Vale, NC. I was going to add a map, but I have maxed out the storage, evidently. You’re smart, so check it out and go see it this summer.

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If you have followed this blog for awhile, then you know that I was a high school science teacher for many years. Monitoring a test back in the day, a poem about science came to me (see “The Way of Science“). After the test I wrote the poem on the overhead projector transparency (1) for the students to read. We both were surprised by my poem. Over the ensuing years of teaching I wrote somewhat more than 80 poems about science, nature, theology, and relationships.

About a year ago I retired from teaching science, but before I did I started a poem about Newton’s Laws of Motion. As happened many times, the first verse came almost without effort. The version you are about to read has been modified slightly in order to increase clarity and rhythm. Sorting through a pile of papers to file, recycle, or deal with, this verse of a poem begged to be completed. I obliged with spare moments of concentration over several days. The last verse is my attempt to frame these laws in their historical and scientific context.

Isaac Newton’s laws are three
Explaining well how things come and go
Motion not from forces free
Impulses felt that are fast or slow

Motion continues the same
Inertia seems boring at first blush
Masses are stable and tame
Remain in a state of rest or rush

Force and motion change are tied
Acceleration only may be
When a net force is applied
Start, stop, deform, speed up, slow down, see

All forces occur in pairs
Most equal and opposite are they
Each a different object bears
So Laws One and Two are still in play

Newtonian Physics ruled
The basis of Mechanics you see
At atomic size was schooled
By Quantum and Relativity

(1) Some of youin’s mayhap need to Google that one.

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Last weekend my wife and I went to Knoxville for a one our daughter-in-law’s surprise birthday party, my wife’s family reunion, and other visits. What makes this so amazing is that my wife had had health problems that prevented her from significant travel or visiting- she was in much pain and it simply wore her out. About 3 weeks ago the symptoms suddenly began to go away after almost two years of intensifying. She has been to many doctors, but mostly they could not pinpoint the problems, which are not all solved but she feels like she has a life again. She decided that the birthday party with many people would be too much for her, so I dropped her off at her sister’s house to have a quiet visit while I was at the party.

Her husband is very patient to talk to my wife at the slower pace of someone with aphasia.

I missed the surprise moment of the daughter-in-law’s arrival, but there was plenty of visiting all around.

Visiting with my six grandchildren by my oldest son and his wife was enjoyable.

My oldest son is listening to a story by his pastor. We went to church with them the next morning. You can see my sister-in-law in the pink pants getting to know one of my grandchildren.

The pastor is also a near neighbor, so the grandchildren feel comfortable with him and his wife.

I said that there were six grandchildren. The one in the green cap holding his mother’s hand in an earlier picture didn’t stand still long enough for me to get a picture. My oldest brother is a retired pastor and quite the UT fan.

My sister-in-law is quite the story teller. You can about see her spinning a yarn here to my youngest son: “Ye…eeep! It was a real humdinger.” The daughter-in-law’s brother is listening to another story with pleasure.

My third son has that “are you taking my picture” look, but his wife just smiles.

The family gathered for the reunion at Cumberland Mountain State Park on Sunday afternoon after church. Eating and talking is what you do at a reunion. Most of the participants are past playing games.

Mother and son.

Who looks more mischievous, uncle or nephew?

Brothers.

Their spouses.

The eight siblings of my wife’s family and all but one of their spouses are still alive even though the siblings range from 63 to 86 years old. They didn’t get to have a reunion last year and everyone feels like this can’t keep happening from now on, but they are blessed to still be alive and still enjoy getting together to catch up on what has happened in the last year or two. Could you point them out in order by age?

My two oldest grandsons and their father rode with us to the reunion. The others stayed back for a much needed nap. We had gone on a hike together previously, so they wanted to go again. We went down the road a short distance to the dam where we found a trail down by the creek.

The bridge over the dam is the most picturesque feature in the park.

Besides painted dots to mark trails, the park has these special trail markers, this one on Black Oak bark.

I am trying to keep up on the march in the woods.

This is fun, grandpa, but the creek water is only cool and not cold as we expected.

It floats but will it support any weight?

I had the boys in their cowboy hats and boots stand by a healthy Eastern White Pine.

After returning to my son’s home we visited for awhile before departing to my oldest brother’s house for the evening. I was focusing in on my grand-daughter, who is the first second daughter in four generations among the male progenitors. Speaking of whom, the party, reunion, hike, and visit after a week of laboring has rendered him tired. We were all ready for some rest, but content with time we had to visit.

Indeed the years are passing, and we become more desirous of renewing family ties as time goes along. God has been good to our families according to His mercy. We should love those around us and build relationships while we can, because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, though we can guess what many tomorrows will. Life is short so we best be about knowing God and knowing people while we have the opportunity, because eternity is coming. I am so thankful for the young ones coming along, and I pray regularly for their salvation, health, relationships, and knowledge base. May they know Him and give Him glory. Life is good, because God is good.

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I usually like to keep my titles short and leave the depth for the text and images. I’m reversing that today. I frequently have ambitions upon arising in the morning of gettin’er done. I have learned, however, to better go with the flow, be patient with the process, and pray through it.* I only had limited time, needing to do other things in the afternoon and having every expectation of eventual rain. I finished the railing on the deck. Then I realized that I needed another load of lumber. Of course, I’m not blind, but frequently I can keep working until the need for a certain piece of lumber or hardware arises, without which I cannot do the next step. It was two hours before lunch. I can hand pick the lumber at the lumberyard, pay for it, load it with the help of guys at the store, haul it, and unload it before lunch I thought. And I was on track, lumber in the the truck, ready to go.

I hopped in the cab, stuck the key in and turned it, “Claaaack, claaaack, claaaaack, claaaaaaaaack.” How did my battery go dead? After a minute of consideration, two guys in a diesel, company truck pulled up beside me and kept their engine running. I asked the driver across our window openings if they could jump me off. “Sure.” The solenoid clacked faster, but no start. We charged it a minute, but no start. The other guy tapped the starter with a hammer while I tried to start it, but no start. We forgot to put it in gear and rock it, but I know it would not have started. We concluded that the starter was bad. They went along and I was left wondering if we were right and how to get to the an auto parts place. I called my youngest son who is a mechanic. He said the boss was out and the work was slow so he would come and check on it and take me to the parts place. He did essentially the same as we did, but no start. He took me to the parts place, I purchased the the starter, and he dropped me off and went back to work. Have you ever changed out a starter in the Lowe’s parking lot? It was warm, gravelly, and very awkward to get while the truck was sitting on the ground. And to further the suffering, there were three bolts rather than the usually two holding it on and the small wire for the solenoid magnet had a different connector so that I had to cut, strip, and crimp the old wire into the new one. The best part was that it immediately and strongly started once I had hooked up the battery cables and turned the key. I arrived home two and half hours late for lunch. Afterward, I hurried to unload the lumber because I could sense rain coming. The moment I completed unloading and stepped into the truck, the rain poured. I returned the starter core for a refund and arrived at home as the rain began to subside.

The timing of no vehicle breakdown is ever convenient, but I have no complaint. Two random guys offered to help. My son could come, confirm the diagnosis, and take me to get the part. A cashier saw me at work during her break and brought me a water bottle. I didn’t get soaked either replacing the starter or unloading the wood. It started immediately. Though there were moments of frustration trying to reach bolts in seemingly unreachable positions that I could not see, I think I passed the patience test and even chuckled a bit over the process and prayed a considerable amount. And, hey, the starter was original equipment, serving the old truck for 24 years.

You can see the case rust and easy position of the first bolt. The third one was next to the bracket above about 170 degrees counterclockwise to the first.

It seems very odd to me that the paint and label had not come off during those many before I removed the starter.

I always compare parts before installation, usually at the parts store but that was impractical this time.

I hope to finish the deck soon and show you the results, but It will get done when it gets done with whatever situational bumps appear in the road. For all the difficulty, God was kind to allow the details to work out so well. I have certainly seen worse.

*Except when I don’t because I’m still being sanctified.

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I have been building decks as work arises for just over a year now, but before that when I was full time teacher, I would do projects in the summer and sometimes on weekends. The following deck was built in the summer of 2013 and turns 8 years old this month. Unlike another one that I built that had no maintenance in the ensuing years, this one has been taken good care of. I cannot find pictures of building the deck though I remember taking some. My two youngest sons helped me with the project which included replacing the front steps, installing a thermostatically controlled vent in the front porch shed roof, trimming two trees overhanging the house, reshaping the the contour of the ground above the house to direct water away from the house, and building the deck which replaced a similar one that had not been maintenanced properly. Besides being re-stained regularly since it was new, there have been improvements like the skirt underneath and the concrete pads at the base of the steps and underneath. The wall below the deck was there but has been landscaped along with other areas around the steps. Decks are certainly not permanent structures, but when taken care of properly may last and look good for more than 30 years.

Though you may take care of your deck and it may rot anyway because of circumstances of the wood quality or environment of the deck*, it is much more likely to last in good shape when you do some maintenance.

This idea of maintenance applies to all things that you own, but also applies to your body and relationships. Make time for taking care of yourself. Make time to get to know better those you love and those with whom you are acquainted. You will be happy with the result and the benefits will be long term.

*Things very detrimental to decks include intense solar radiation (south facing or reflection off of glass or radiation from brick or asphalt), residing under trees where there is much litter accumulated and constant moisture that promotes algae and mold growth.

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"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

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Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains