Thursday, October 24, 2013

New format

I'm starting a new format with this post. It seems my life just doesn't allow me to spend much time at a computer like I once was able to. So at least for a while, future posts will be from my mobile device, or on hand script, later made electronic.

My new job as a Correectional Officer is giving me the opportunity to associate with people in an intimate fashion which I never have before, law enforcement and prison inmates. What a blessing it has been.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Feedback On The 100-Hour Transition Program

This is a very unique program and I have enjoyed every minute of teaching and working with the inmates taking the class.  These are some of my observations and suggestions to the program.  When I refer to “students” I am speaking of the inmates:

It seems there’s a mandate that the students get exactly 100 hours of face-to-face instruction from the curriculum and approved DOC videos.  I think between facilitators, institution supervisors and administrators that could be defined differently.  There needs to be some flexibility there, in that some of the highest quality moments of instruction can come with one-to-one interviews with the instructor outside the formal classroom.  The institution as a whole can release (in my experience) up to a hundred inmates a month from all three units.  In cases such as this, a balance must be struck to get all these students trained and ready to leave.

The motion picture Antwone Fisher, 2002 with Denzel Washington needs to be on the approved video list.  It is riveting for the students, and it is a very good lead-in lesson to Anger Management, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Social Situations and Families.

I’d like to see a greater association with Chaplaincy services.  Perhaps some of the volunteers in that area could be trained to instruct parts of Transition, so as to free up time for the Facilitator to spend more time with individuals in and out of confinement.  I’d also like to see a Transition Volunteer program.  This would not only help his/her program, but could also serve the smaller work camps.

Facilitators need to become collaborators with the different learning areas of the institution.  This has been a true blessing to my program.  This can become necessary when students have special medical (physical and mental) needs or learning disabilities.  I had a hearing impaired (100% deaf) student who sat in my class for days not learning until I found some other inmates and staff who knew ASL (sign).  Is it possible to Close Caption our video series?

I want to encourage Facilitators to consider themselves Customer Service agents.  We serve the inmates.  Sure, the students are convicted felons, but in a very short time they will be “normal” citizens in our communities, shopping at Winn Dixie. Are we preparing them for that?  While in the Transition class, there needs to be a genuine attitude of transition, (i.e. a kind of metamorphosis) in that I don’t think there is harm in beginning to treat them as ladies and gentlemen with respect, honesty and candor that any person on the outside would expect and deserve.  Yes they’re inmates and some will still steal stapler springs, but we need to treat them with respect and let them know it is expected in return.

I have regularly used as a community information resource the University of Florida / IFAS Extension System, especially their Families and Consumer section, and their free publication through EDIS.  EDIS is the Electronic Data Information Source  of UF/IFAS Extension, a collection of information on topics relevant to consumers, especially Florida residents.    UFL/IFAS has an office in virtually every Florida county the students may visit for free or low cost information and services.

Is a graduate student somewhere surveying released felons on what helped or hindered their transition?

Should the Transition Facilitator take on part of the task of finding students leads for employment, identification, felon check-in locations and driver’s license issues?  I think the short answer is “no”, but with Classification and Release Officers being backed up with work, if Transition doesn’t assist, they will not get this information.  Learning the 14 Transition lessons is beneficial, but if an inmate can’t find necessary resources, it’s more probable he or she will return.  One small suggestion would be to verify possession of Social Security cards early in an inmate’s confinement.  Why wait until the end of a 10+ year sentence to apply for a SS card?

I have really appreciated the re-supply of classroom materials such as pencils, folders and paper.  Thank you.  I suggest an auto-resupply mechanism such as 1 new pencil for every pre/post test returned and 1 ream of paper for every 10 class evaluations, or something like that.  That is, if you’re having a hard time getting these critical documents returned.

I’d really like to see some interaction with other Transition Facilitators, even virtual such as a community blog, Skype or regular teleconference.  We need this for encouragement and idea and resource swapping.

Final note: I have thoroughly enjoyed this time as a facilitator of this program and working with you and the Classification staff.  Even though I am leaving for a different position with DOC, I hope our paths cross often.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

FL Hunter Safety Card Now Easier To Get

We had the best Hunter Safety class this past weekend in Titusville.  16 students enrolled with a good mix of gender, age and experience.  Unfortunatly, 16 students isn't very many when it comes to cranking heads through the class to be certified for the fall hunt.  I'd rather have 35 students regularly, verses 16 now and 70 later.

FWC has come up with a good solution for those who already have firearms training, to skip some of the steps and take advantage of training they've received earlier in life, or as part of their career. Photo Credit Pheasants Forever

For experienced, trained shooters such as but not limited to military and law enforcement  who may need Hunter Safety Education, I was recently reminded of this opportunity which would exempt certain students from taking a weekend class for their Hunter Safety card.

Those with previous firearm training experience can complete the hunter safety course by taking the online course, reading the current year hunting regulations and following the procedures outlined in the skills day exemption application. (from

Here's what you need...

Notice Link:
Free Online Course Link:
Regulations Link:
Exemption Application Link:

Be sure to let your friends know about this!

Mr. Gus

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How much does sin weigh?

This is going to take a couple of days to write, so please stay with me.  Recently I have been thinking about the cost of our sin(s) to others in real, measurable terms.  Can this be done?  Can we actually quantify our misdeeds?

I couple of scriptures come to mind on this topic:  
  • For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:30
  • The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death. - Proverbs 10:16 
  • For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23
I have a background in science, so I like to measure things.  When we want to know the temperature, weight, length or height of an object, there are tools to measure it.  And the tools we have to measure things can be compared to a standard set aside in some government office for reference at any moment.  Our economy runs on that principle.  You would never purchase gas at the pump or buy a bunch of bananas without having some way to measure what you want.  That just wouldn't be fair.

In moral terms its not that easy.  I realize that when we sin, err, mess-up or hurt someone else God will forgive us, he has promised us that.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9  If only other people were that easy to forgive.  When we sin against someone else it hurts them, sometime deeply.  But how deeply, how bad?  How serious of a sin was it?  For example, is a kick in the shin equal to verbal insult?  We'll examine that in the days to come.  I'd love to hear your comments.

April 26 -

After considering this topic carefully, I decided to stop at this point at least for now.  The thought process behind it was, "How can we take away someone else's pain that they're going through because we hurt them?"  God will forgive us, that's without question.  People can forgive us to, or at least they can do their best and try.  The trouble is people we hurt causes sometimes unforgettable pain, and even though they say they forgive the other person, memories creep back and thus comes the pain again.

I guess all we can do is our best, and pray that the other person may be relieved of their pain or sorrow.  Most important perhaps is that we learn a lesson from this, love the other person and pray for strength not to sin again.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Uniting People

A Christian is one who continues to communicate across all boundaries, a sign of hope for a convergence back to a kind of unity. Thomas Merton, from The Springs of Contemplation, pg. 31.

This is the quote I read last night that put several things into perspective for me.  First it immediately and definitively answered my question of whether or not I should send the letter I wrote the other day in my Are we hoarding grace? article.  My thought was "Just leave well enough alone." and not to send the letter. Now I will.  Second, it answers my questions about why I so badly want to bring together different groups to get to know each other and collaborate on events and projects.

I've always been this way.  For the past ten or twelve years it has been my professional calling card and knack to bring groups together who seemingly have not much in common to find and collaborate on projects where both groups benefit.  I'm good at it, and I've always considered it a gift.  On the other hand, it can also cause conflict.  Like the time I wanted to invite less-Christian (in some eyes) religions like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons to mainstream Christian functions.  That did not go over well, and it is more frustrating than angering, because we're all God's children, brothers and sisters - so why don't we try and love each other like we say we do??

I'm not going to get discouraged over this!  On the contrary, I feel more resolve to unite Catholics, Protestants, Mormons and Muslims than ever.  Until we do, let's all just keep praying for unity and realizing that our Father loves us all the same and wants us to come together for His glory.  Now I'm going to contact that nice Mennonite lady I saw last weekend on Home Joys.  Gina has some wonderful stories and home tips there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Are we hoarding grace?

Hoarding can be a compulsive disease that affects many of us.  Read more about this in any psychology journal such as (photo credit)  PsychCentral.

This week our Pastor spoke on extending grace to others as God extends it to us.  He read to us Luke chapter 5 as follows...

1. One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5. Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6. When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. (NIV)

The Pastor then asked us, "How are you holding back, or the hoarding the grace you've been given?"  We're not just supposed to give of ourselves, but give the BEST of ourselves.  Immediately I thought of the family of my daughter's ex-husband and how close our families once were.  We have not spoken in years.  I felt a strong sudden need to heal that relationship, and this is the letter I wrote to them.

Dear ...

I hope you and your family has been well. I remember way back when we were friends. I miss those days, and it has been on my heart to reach out to you and your wife.

First let me say that I deeply regret that our children divorced, but what’s done is done. My daughter is now happy and I hope your son is too. Please know that even though that event and what lead up to it is disappointing, I hold no ill feelings toward your son or family. Marriage is a partnership and both of our children were present in that relationship. I'm sure the lessons they learned will last a lifetime, and will allow them to be better spouses, parents and counselors to their own children someday. You are a dear family that tries to follow the teachings of the Lord, and you and your wife have done your very best to be good, caring, godly parents. You have fine children. As a man and parent I look back and there are things I regret doing and not doing, sins of omission and commission if you will. None of us are immune to that, as less-than-perfect individuals. The Lord has called us all however, to dig deep within ourselves, repent and realize that it is right and good to forgive ourselves and others as our Heavenly Father forgives us, make new choices and press on. God bless you all, and I look forward to seeing you again sometime.

Sincerely, and God bless you and your family.

My prayer is that we may all be givers and not hoarders of the blessings we've been given.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Making San Francisco Sourdough Bread, Using Linda Wilbourne's Recipe

I've devoted several days of my life now to create sourdough bread according to the recipe of Linda Wilbourne.  Make no mistake, this is her recipe, and its a great one, but for my sake and others, I've included my comments.  Here is the original link and recipe below.  Please go there and see all she has, and the bread making / kitchen gizmos...

My comments are italicized.  By default, this recipe isn't going to tun out like hers, because I didn't use Linda's Sourdough Starter.  I made my own.  About a week ago, I created my own with Fleischman's Yeast, flour, water and a little bit of sugar.  Next time I'll do it old school and grind some wheat seeds I have that the yeast spores naturally live on.  They say that about 13,000 spores live on 1 gram of wheat.  One thing I like about Linda and her guidance, is that she is thorough and frequently mentions Alton Brown, from the Food Network.  Alton is a hero of mine.

I feel a little bad about just copying and pasting her recipe into Mr. Gus Outdoors, but I really like the blog format, and I think others appreciate, as I, embedded links.  I also feel a little bad that my daughter Ember isn't here to do this with me.  She's doing teenage stuff I suppose.  Another thing that I feel kind of bad about is that this is the 3rd recipe in a row on Mr. Gus.  I want to do more outdoor stories, but this is where my heart is right now.  On the other hand, recipes like this were a staple of ancient cultures to the mountain men  and explorers like Lewis and Clark, and those who braved the Old West and the Yukon.  The fact that we carry them on today is a wonderful thing.  Betcha Preppers are doing it!

Follow Up After Baking... I learned so much from this exercise, but messed up along the way.  I think the salt added to the final recipe might have wrecked it, causing it not to rise properly.  The taste of the finished product however, turned out fine.  If you look on Linda's FAQ page, she discusses some optional additions such as milk, sugar and additional yeast.  I'm definitely going to try it!

The next morning I made Sourdough Pancakes, and they turned out perfect.  I will be posting that recipe.

Linda's Recipe...

You will have a much easier time of it—and lots more fun—if you will sit down and read through this little booklet two or three times before you touch an ingredient. Alton Brown says to do that with any new recipe you're going to follow—and this is a process—much more than just a recipe! I have underlined and bold the really crucial parts, so pay special attention to those. Then be sure to go through the entire bread making process the first couple of times step-by-step with this booklet. I love hearing from my bread makers, but before you email me with a question, please re-read these instructions once more. The answers to fully 99.9% of the email questions I receive can be found right here in this little booklet, but there's really way too much information to absorb in just one or two readings. Thanks! 

Also, please keep in mind that any bread making is a process of continuous adjusting and you can count that twice for sourdough. Many different variables contribute to the final results and I could never go into enough detail here to describe every combination of events that make your final loaf of bread the way it is. You are unique, your kitchen and oven are unique, and your baking techniques are also yours alone. For those reasons, not to mention different flours, waters, temperatures and humidity, bread making is always an adventure in learning. I am still learning and I’ve been baking bread since I was a teenager (which was a very very long time ago)! So, please be patient with yourself, your starter, and your bread. If your bread doesn’t turn out exactly like you want it, there are always adjustments you can make to get closer to perfection in your eyes. Remember that your perfect loaf of sourdough bread could well be totally different from that in another baker’s view.

I have tried to put answers to the most often asked questions on the FAQ page of my website. If you can’t find the answer to your question in this instruction booklet or on the website, then by all means, email me! Tech support is usually quick and always free. I really want you to be a successful sourdough bread maker, and you can!


NEVER add any commercial yeast—or ANYTHING other than flour and water—to your sourdough starter. In a medium mixing bowl, mix ½ cup of tap water with ½ cup of wheat flour—all-purpose, white, whole wheat or bread flour—doesn't matter. If your tap water is really cold, you can warm it to 75-85º F. To this mixture, add the contents of your San Francisco Sourdough Starter package and stir it up—lumps are OK. Cover the container with a tea towel. The important thing is to keep this mixture at the correct temperature—above 72° and not more than 90° while the wild yeast and the friendly bacteria come out of hibernation. If your normal room temperature is cooler than 72°, then the easiest way to achieve the temperature you need is to turn on the light in your oven and put your starter mixture in it. But be sure to put an accurate thermometer in the oven with your starter—you can use the Large Dial Easy-To-Read Instant-Read Thermometer that’s on my website—the same one you’ll use later for checking to see when your bread is done. Or, you can turn on your oven for a minute or so, turn it off and then use that warmth (check it with a thermometer) for activating. This is important!! You DO NOT want to expose your starter at any time to temperatures above 90°. Heat is just about the only way you can kill those little creatures that make our bread so good. (Well, you could starve them to death, but that's pretty hard to do. When they run out of food, they just act like little bears and hibernate.) 

Somewhere between 4 and 24 hours after you first mixed the starter with flour and water, you will start to see enough bubbles to know that the wild yeast is beginning to wake up. You'll probably have to stir the mixture to be able to see the first very tiny bubbles, so feel free to stir any time and as much as you want. Stirring is actually good for your starter at any time because it redistributes the critters and the food supply, giving all the babies a chance for another snack. Stirring also allows you to see what’s actually going on beneath the surface. You won't see many bubbles on top of your mixture, but when you stir it and look closely, you’ll see lots of extremely tiny bubbles throughout the mixture. When you see these minuscule bubbles, then feed your mixture, without reducing it just this one time, 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water. 

Continue to look at your growing friend often (about every 30 minutes) and soon you will see more and more bubbles; the consistency of the mixture will change—it will become thicker and more cohesive and viscous. When that happens and you can see lots of larger bubbles throughout the mixture, it’s time to feed again! This time, reduce the volume to ½ cup and feed it with 1 cup of 75°-80° water and 1 cup of flour. From now until the end of the approximately 72 hours of activation, you will need to feed your new pet regularly—whenever it reaches its peak! DO NOT feed on a time schedule! 

Your starter will let you know when it is ready to be reduced and fed—NOT the clock!!

How do I know when I need to feed? 

You'll know because the yeast and lactobacillus organisms will eat what you fed them, get busy and start metabolizing and multiplying, and you'll see the difference with a slight expansion of volume, a thickening or clotting of the texture and more bubbles—and larger bubbles—throughout the mixture and on top. If you leave it alone for a while longer, you’ll actually see some tiny ‘foam’–type bubbles on top. If your starter goes past this 'most active' stage, then the bubbles will decrease in size and number and the consistency will thin out. 

When your starter has reached its most active stage, stir it well and then pour out (yes, down the drain!) all but ½ cup of the starter and feed what's left with one cup each of flour and water. I know, I know, I really do hate waste too, but this step actually helps to avoid wasting flour and water. The more starter you're feeding, the more food you have to give, because larger quantities of starter contain much larger populations of hungry organisms which want much more flour and water to eat. 

You’ll want to keep watch on your starter as often as possible during the time that activation is going on. From your observations, you will learn what your San Francisco Sourdough Starter is supposed to look like at each stage of its activity. You’ll use this knowledge each time you bake. When you know what starter at or close to its peak looks like, you’ll be able to start your dough with sponge that is active enough to give your sourdough three good rises—one in the bowl, one after shaping and one in the oven (the third rise—called oven spring). 

Don’t get up in the middle of the night to feed your starter. Whenever you know that you won’t be around to check it and feed whenever it reaches the peak of activity, just give a double or triple feeding so that your sourdough babies won’t starve. (One-half cup of starter and two or three cups each of flour and water.) Lots of folks who work just use a container with a cover to transport their starter to work with them, then loosen the lid so that the critters can breathe, and check on it while they’re working. This is a great idea because it’s important to watch the activation in all of its different phases.

As your new pet goes through several activations, the density of the population of yeast and lactobacillus increases exponentially and that’s exactly what we want to happen. (If 18-24 hours after mixing the dry starter with the flour and water you can stir it and still see no tiny bubbles at all, then you should email me right away.) 

After a minimum of three full 24-hour days of regular feedings or as soon as you can clearly see the mixture get very active within an hour after a feeding, you'll know that the activation process is finished. This is the only time you’ll have to wait three days to bake. Now you can do one of two things: 

1. Put a cup or more of your starter into the fridge (this is your stash) until the day before you want to bake your first loaf of San Francisco Sourdough Bread. 

2. If and only if your starter is at its most active state—full of bubbles and thick and glutenous, then you're ready to go directly to The Dough on Page 6 and make your first loaf of San Francisco Sourdough Bread right away with the very active starter you've just finished activating! Don't forget to save at least ½ cup stash for next time!

Care and Feeding of Refrigerated Starter

When you first put your starter ‘stash’ into the fridge, leave the cover loose until the mixture is chilled throughout, or the pressure will cause it to explode—what a mess that could be! After about 36-48 hours, you can tighten down the lid. I keep mine in the one-liter glass wire-bail jar that’s on my website. It’s small enough not to take up too much valuable fridge room and large enough to take out and feed without having to transfer the starter to a different container. It has a tight-fitting top, so if it accidentally turns over, all my precious stash isn’t spilled. Plus, you can see clearly through the glass jar and watch what's going on with your new partner in bread making. 

About once every four to eight weeks, take your starter stash out of the fridge, stir it well, (with my Bamboo Starter Stirrer which is perfect for mixing your sticky starter as well as lots of other things) reduce the volume if necessary, give it a healthy feeding and let it come to room temperature. When you can see good activity beginning to happen, put it back into the fridge, without tightening down the lid, of course, until it is thoroughly cold and asleep. After it has been refrigerated for a couple of weeks or so, it’s entirely normal to see some beige or gray-colored liquid on the top. The old-timers called this ‘hooch’ because it contains alcohol and some people actually drank the stuff. I don’t recommend it. Just stir the hooch back into the starter mixture any time you take it out of the fridge to use it or to feed it. Or, if you’d rather, you may pour it off and then dilute what remains with plain water. Your choice! 

Making Bread--The Sponge

Sponge is the name that bakers use for the mixture that they allow to ferment or proof before mixing in enough flour to make a dough. The night before you want to bake, take your stash out of the refrigerator. If you want to bake on Saturday morning, take out about a half-cup of cold starter and put it in a bowl on Friday evening. 

Feed what is left in your “stash” container and put it back in the fridge. 
Feed the ½ cup that is in the bowl 3 cups each of water and flour, cover it with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and leave it at room temperature (between 65º and 85º F). Then on Saturday morning, you should have a very active sponge. It's always important to have a very active sponge to use to make your dough. If it hasn’t reached or has passed its most active point, you'll get very slow or no rises and you risk birthing a hockey puck (or a door stop) instead of a great loaf of bread.

The Dough--Classic San Francisco Sourdough Bread Recipe

Makes a 1½ pound loaf, two 12-ounce loaves or three or four ‘mini’ loaves 

2½ cups of very active starter (the sponge that you have allowed to ferment until peak activity is reached)
2-2½ cups of bread flour, or enough to make dough that’s still moist but not too sticky
2 teaspoons of salt, or more, up to 1-2 tablespoons if you like (I like a lot!)
½ teaspoon Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C pills crushed fine or Fruit Fresh added to the dough with the first flour—enhances the rise—sometimes it's already in your flour—look on the ingredient list.)

Other Stuff You’ll Need 

A hand spray bottle full of water
An oven-safe pan or other container that will fit on the floor (or lowest shelf) of your oven 
A baking sheet or loaf pan or whatever you want to bake on or in 
Some coarsely ground cornmeal—usually labeled stone ground
An egg and 1 Tablespoon of water for an egg wash
A pastry brush or clean bristled paint brush
A new, sharp single-edged razor blade or razor knife
Some oil and/or oil spray—like Pam 
A tea towel or plastic wrap or both

I like to use my KitchenAid stand mixer to mix the dough, but you can make and knead the dough in a bread machine if it will handle a fairly stiff dough and you can intervene during the rising cycles. A recipe for sourdough in the bread machine is on the website. Naturally, you can make it entirely by hand, just like the original bakers of sourdough did.

KitchenAid Mixers are the absolute best!

Put the 2½ cups of the sponge (very bubbly and very thick active starter) into your mixer with the paddle attachment, add about a cup and a half of the flour and the ascorbic acid and mix well. At this point, stop for 30-90 minutes before adding more flour. This resting period, called autolysis by the bread geeks, allows the flour time to absorb the liquid. 

Next add the salt and mix and add flour until the dough gets too heavy for the paddle attachment. Change to the dough hook and continue adding flour until you have a fairly stiff dough—still moist but not too sticky. You just can't use exact measurements in bread making. 

After your mixture has become dough and is a cohesive mass, knead with the dough hook for about five minutes or until it isn’t sticking to the sides of the bowl (it will probably be sticking to the bottom of the bowl). If you’re kneading by hand, ten minutes is probably the bare minimum time. I let my KitchenAid mixer do most of the kneading, but I usually finish with a minute or two by hand. Getting your hands on the dough is the only way to really gauge its exact condition. 

Now, oil (or spray with Pam) a straight-sided dough rising bucket like on my website, if you have one. You can put a rubber band or a piece of masking tape around the bucket so you'll be able to tell when the dough has almost doubled. Or you can use a large bowl. Place the dough into your well-oiled container then oil the top. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and put it somewhere that it’s not drafty and is between 70° and 85° F. Expect sourdoughs to rise much more slowly than breads made with commercial yeasts. The cooler range is fine—better in fact. It will take your dough longer to rise, but cooler rising temps also improve the flavor and texture of your bread. Remember—don’t go any warmer than 85-90° F. 

At this point, you can cover your unrisen dough securely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with Pam and put it into the refrigerator for one to about 14 hours. This can help when you run out of time or want hot bread on a schedule and will always enhance the flavor of your finished bread. When you’re ready to continue, just bring the dough to room temperature and allow it to finish its rise. You can refrigerate your dough for the first rise or for the second rise, after it has been shaped.

Look at your rising dough every 30 minutes or so and when it is about 1½ to 2 times its original size, you’re ready for the next step. Here's a good test: Push your finger into the dough about one-half to three-quarters of an inch. If you can see the dough spring back and fill the hole within a minute or so, then it isn't finished with its rise. If most of the indentation remains, you're ready to proceed to the next step.

The first time you do this recipe, plan nothing else except home bound activities.  By the time you read and re-read the recipe, mix, knead, wait, this and that - your day will be consumed.  And since there is no direct yeast involved, the rising time is much slower.  I am beginning to get impatient with this, but I'll hang in there.

Shaping and Baking 

Push your closed fist gently into the middle of the dough close to the bottom of the container, then gently push the outside parts of the dough into the hole you’ve just created in the middle. This is called ‘punching down’ the dough and serves to rearrange the gluten strands to encourage a proper second rise. Now dump the dough out of the bowl and on to the counter. If you've greased your container well, it will slide right out. Divide the dough (with the Dough Divider/Scraper on the website) into the portions you’ll use for your final shaping and ‘round’ each one, then let rest on the counter for about 15 minutes, covered to keep it from drying out.

Rounding is important and not many bread recipes discuss it. Here’s how it’s done: Pick up the piece of dough that will become a loaf of bread and gently pull the edges of the dough that were just cut underneath, making a round ball of dough so that you have sort of a ‘skin’ around the ball of dough and no cut edges are exposed. Pinch the bottom together. Then put the ‘round’ on a clean dry counter with the bottom side down and put your hands on the sides of it. Push the round from alternate sides so that it goes around and around on the counter. You’ll see the skin tightening as you do this. Do it gently so you don’t break the skin. Alton Brown and his cohort, Shirley Corriher, both of whom I admire greatly, taught me about rounding and its importance. 

While your dough is resting, prepare your baking sheet by sprinkling some coarsely ground corn meal where your loaf (or loaves) of bread will go. You can oil it with vegetable oil or spray the pan first with Pam if you like, but the cornmeal adds an artisan-like texture to the bottom of your loaf of bread, so don't leave out that step. There’s a good cornmeal shaker (only $2.99) on my website that I keep full of cornmeal all the time. Actually, I have several—one for cornmeal, one for flour, one for powdered sugar, one for freshly- and coarsely-ground black pepper and one for kosher salt. They’re very handy. 

If you want to bake your bread in loaf pans, now is the time to grease them well. You can also dust the bottoms with cornmeal. Be sure to check out the three bread pans on my website. The Commercial Heavy-Duty Non-Stick Bread Pan on my website is the best loaf pan I’ve ever used. It heats evenly and is a kitchen staple that you’ll never have to replace. The Rada Unglazed Stoneware Loaf Pan thinks it's a mini-brick oven and bakes a wonderful crusty loaf of bread. To make it even better, unlike other unglazed stoneware, you can wash this pan in the dishwasher with no worries. The Chicago Metallic Double French Bread Loaf Pan is great at shaping your sourdough bread into beautiful long baguettes without its rising out instead of up. I use all three of them all the time.

For the oven: If you have a baking stone, put it into the oven before you preheat the oven. (If you don’t have a stone, don’t worry—your bread will still turn out great!) Also before preheating place a shallow, oven-safe container on the floor of the oven full of water. If this won’t work, put a pan of water on the lowest shelf. Or, don’t use the pan of water and just spritz more with water while baking—whatever works for you and your oven! 

Preheat the oven to 400° F for a minimum of 45-60 minutes—so that your baking stone, water, and oven are all fully and evenly heated—before putting your bread into the oven.

Now that your dough has rested, it’s time to shape it. You can shape it any way you want. For a round or oval shape, pick up the dough and gently push the edges toward the underside until you get the shape you like. Then be sure to pinch the dough together firmly on the underside. If you’re making a round shape you can do the ‘rounding’ thing again. When you’re satisfied with the shape, place your dough on top of the cornmeal on your baking sheet or put it into the loaf pan. 

Cover your loaves with a tea towel or plastic wrap that has been sprayed with Pam. Now place your loaves in a warm (75°-85° F) non-drafty place again. This rising could take from 1½ to 3 hours—mine usually takes about two at my normal room temperatures in the low 80’s, but it depends on the temperature of your room and the character of your dough. Expect sourdoughs to rise much more slowly than breads made with commercial yeasts. And again, keep in mind that cooler temperatures and longer rising times contribute to flavor and texture. You can do the same finger indentation test on the second rise that you did on the first.

When your unbaked loaf has risen to about 1½ to 2 times its original size and passes the finger indentation test, it’s time to bake. Your oven has been preheated to 400° F. Beat an egg with a tablespoon of water and set it aside. Then, just before putting your bread into the oven, take a very sharp single-edged razor blade (like the razor knife on my website), dip the blade in water before each cut, and slowly and gently make cuts in the top of your loaf about ¼ to ½ inch deep. To keep from collapsing your risen loaf, be careful—sometimes I have to go over a cut two or three times rather than press down too hard and risk deflating the dough. Practice helps a lot! 

If your loaf is round, the traditional San Francisco way is to make two vertical slashes and two horizontal slashes in a tic-tac-toe pattern. If you have an oblong or oval, you can still slash it that way or just make one long cut lengthwise—be creative. Back in the days when there were no home ovens—just one big one in the middle of the town that everyone used, each baker would create an original slashing pattern so that he could identify his loaves after baking.

When the slashes are finished, gently brush your loaf of bread with the egg wash. I like the egg wash, but many bakers use a cornstarch and water glaze. Try that one too and see which one suits you better!

Now get your spray bottle of plain water and spray the loaves with a very fine mist. Put your pan into the oven directly on your baking stone. You already have a pan of water in the oven. As soon as you put your bread in the oven, put your hand sprayer on stream and spray the sides and floor of the oven with water. Do this three or four times during the first five or ten minutes of baking. Yeah, it’s high maintenance, but believe me, it’s worth it! (Don't spray the light bulb—it'll almost surely explode!)

Combined with the water evaporating from the pan, this spraying will reward you with a thick, chewy crust on your finished loaf of bread. The egg or cornstarch wash makes it look pretty by adding a nice shine and making it a brown nicely. If you want a thinner, less chewy crust, then leave off all the water in the oven. If you like a softer crust, brushing with oil or butter before and after baking will do the trick.

After 10 minutes of baking, turn your oven down to 375° F. Your bread will take about 30 to 60 minutes to bake, depending upon your oven and the size of the loaves you have made. The only way to really know when bread is done is to remove the bread from the oven, turn the loaf on its side or upside down, and insert an instant-read thermometer (like the one on my website) into the center—from the side or the bottom, of course, so the hole won’t mar the beauty of your bread. A reading of 200° to 210° F means your bread is done. Amazingly, an instant-read thermometer like the one on my website is about twice as fast to give you the temp as a ‘digital’ one that requires a battery. 

Put the loaf on a rack to cool and admire your creation. Try to resist cutting it right away. If you can, wait until it has cooled at least 30 minutes and always use a good sharp serrated knife to slice it. Check out the fabulous aluminum-handled bread knives on my website— they’re the best I’ve ever used and the prices are incredibly reasonable for the value you get. 

Other Stuff

After you have baked a few loaves of your own San Francisco Sourdough Bread, you may want to experiment. Feel free to double the recipe or replace some of the white flour with whole wheat or rye. And be sure to add cheese, roasted garlic, or your favorite nuts, grains, herbs or spices just for fun! 

Another thing I have tried is using plain all purpose unbleached flour instead of bread flour. I also use spelt, kamut, semolina and other ancient and exotic flours and whole grains and seeds and my family and I love the results. Be adventuresome and have fun with it! 

If I’m not serving or giving my bread on the day I bake it, as soon as it is perfectly cool, I wrap it in an air-tight package and freeze it. As long as there’s very little air in the package with your bread, you won’t be able to tell the difference when you thaw it and eat it. And yes, you can thaw and re-freeze—homemade sourdough is amazingly tolerant and has a long shelf-life because it’s naturally resistant to mold and mildew. 

If you like, slice it before you freeze it so you can take it out one or two slices at a time, or you can wait until you’re ready to serve. The heavy-duty long ‘bread-shaped’ plastic bags for baguettes and multiple loaves on my website are very affordable and perfect for storing on the counter or in the freezer. Users tell me they love them and reuse them. 

Sourdough is STICKY! Be sure to put all your tools in cold water straight away to soak. If you do, cleanup is a breeze later with just a vegetable brush.

If you want more sour flavor, leave your stash in the fridge, unfed, for at least three or four weeks. Then take it out and use it. Some bread makers keep two or three stash containers aging in the fridge because freshly fed starter just isn’t as sour.

If you want bigger holes in your bread, add more water or less flour to make a wetter dough and try using some all-purpose flour in place of part of the high protein bread flour. Longer, slower proofing helps make larger holes as well.

Remember that longer, slower, cooler proofings and risings (even overnight in the fridge!) are guaranteed to contribute heavily to that wonderful sourdough flavor. 

If you’re making sourdough in your bread machine, be sure to go to the recipes page on my website and read Joe Wagner’s Sourdough in the Bread Machine Research Project. It’s a fun read, but more important, it’s a fabulous ‘how-to’ for machines. There’s also a recipe page for the basic recipe for San Francisco Sourdough Bread in the Bread Machine. 

If you have a problem with your free-form loaves spreading out more than rising up, add more flour to the dough. If you have used A/P flour, substituting all or part with higher protein bread flour will help too. Also, you can use a bread form, like the Professional Loaf Pan or the Chicago Metallic double baguette form or the Rada Unglazed Stoneware Loaf Pan—you’ll find all three on the website.

To convert the US-centric measurements in this booklet to metric, go to Gourmet Sleuth, Conversions Section, —it will do all the work for you!

Happy Breadmaking!
© Linda C. Wilbourne 2012, Revised January 2012

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Enthusiasm for life!

One of the many sources of inspiration I receive is from The Daily Word.  I want to share this one with you because I was feeling a little down in the dumps today.  My daughter is moving out of state.  Instead of thinking about her going, I'll cherish the time we have together.

I am enthusiastic about life!

I love to watch a robin hop around in the fresh spring grass looking for worms, seeds and other delights. I enjoy seeing squirrels bounce excitedly from tree to tree or a young colt frisking in an open field. These shows of natural enthusiasm remind me of life’s simple joys.

Although I may have more concerns than a robin, squirrel or colt, I can still greet each day with enthusiasm and an eagerness to appreciate life in every way. I begin with a quick prayer of gratitude and open the door to a day filled with good.

I look forward to what each day holds, knowing I am not alone, that God and I are one, and that my joy will only increase. I am enthusiastic about the promise of today.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1.

Easy Mountain Man Breakfast

  • 1 lb pork sausage, or bacon or ham – cooked and crumbled
  • 1 bag (~2 lbs.) frozen shredded hash browns, or raw potatoes
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 lb shredded cheddar cheese

This recipe was adapted from Mountain Man Breakfast by ScouterMom and can be made indoors or out.

Prepare meat as necessary. Grease the bottoms and sides of a deep camp Dutch Oven or camp stove. Spread hash browns in the bottom of the oven. Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl and pour evenly over hash browns. Sprinkle with meat and bake, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese before serving. If using whole potatoes, wash and cube to one-half inch pieces, peeling is optional. Increase cooking time until the potatoes are tender.

Outdoor cooking instructions: Place about a dozen hot charcoal briquettes beneath the oven and about another eight on top. Cook until the eggs are set, about 20 – 30 minutes. Indoor cooking instructions: Bake in a 350 oven until eggs are set, about 20 - 30 minutes.
Serves 10 – 12
Skill level: Easy.  Any teen could make this one!
Photo: borrowed, original coming.

Estimated nutritional summary: Serving size about 1 cup, Calories 600, Fat 38 g, Carbohydrates 45 g, Protein 22 g

Acknowledgment - many thanks to people like ScouterMom who posted this recipe, and she has others like it!  When I was a Scout, we did cooking like this all the time because it was simple, fun and nutritional.  No-nonsense cooking.  Nowadays simple skills like this are being lost with our younger generations.  Next time you want to make something like this, grab a kid and let them help.  We can't all be Scouts, but we can enjoy some of the same things, and can still teach wholesome values. -  Mr. Gus.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sorry I missed you.

My apologies for being away.  I've been in the hospital with my daughter, who was admitted to the ER last week due to high ketones in her blood stream; a Type 1 Diabetes condition.  I appreciate all the prayers and well wishes you've sent.

She should be out of ICU today or tomorrow and hope to see her home by the end of the week.

The new transition home is progressing, and will have its own webpage.  When underway, I'll post a link here.

April 11 Update - Ember is home now, doing very well but not looking forward to all her make up work at school.  Juvenile Diabetes sucks, especially for a teenager.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Springtime is for renewal and rebirth.

With springtime being a season of renewal, I see it is fitting that I make this announcement today on this Easter Sunday.  The news is that my two blog sites will no longer stay completely seperate, but unite in theme to support the other.  Up until now they have been seperate in voice and audience; one not mentioning the other.

Since 2008 I have considered my stories, tales and thoughts worthy of being published through either of my blog sites Mr. Gus Outdoors or Voice of Truth Ministry.  Mr. Gus originated while I was a 4-H Extension Agent for the University of Florida where I felt a blog would be the best way to share how-to's of outdoor education with colleagues and families.  Voice of Truth Ministry came about in my personal life originally as a journal when I decided I had learned enough life lessons - some the hard way, and I want to share the devine strength and hope I received with others. 
The lessons I learned through my activities in the woods and wilderness, and in life general have been a blessing from God, so why not share it?  Perhaps an outcome of the projects will bring someone else enjoyment or spare them some hardship.  In doing so, I've been blessed and hope others have too.  I've been able to hone my writing skills, leave a partial record of my beliefs and priorites for my friends and family, and meet some very nice people.  So far I have a combined readership of over 15, 000 page views, and for that I am grateful.

As always, I don't consider this to be exclusively my site.  I always welcome others who have a story to tell that is in alignment with either of my blog sites.  By in alignment I mean thoughts and ideas that promote healthy living, the love of outdoors, the importance of families, teaching children or mutual respect of others.

May God bless you all this Easter season as we celebrate the passing of winter, the flight and scurry of young critters, and especially the resurrection of our Savior.  Thank you for your support and readership.

- gus

Friday, March 29, 2013

We're now publishing Transition information.

Voice of Truth Ministry blog (this site) has now made a new Transition page, if you notice to the top right.

The intent of this page is to publish resources for individuals who need help in the form of community resources to get back on their feet.  Daily I work with people who are looking for a place to live, help with coping or opportunities for employment after being removed from the workforce for an extended length of time; transitioning or moving back into the mainstream community.

Today this list is short, but watch it grow and feel free to send me comments on additional resources.  God bless you all.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

So what is the "truth" Voice of Truth Ministry is proclaiming?

This has been bugging me for days.  How do I dare have a website that has the word "truth" in the title, implying that what I am saying is the truth, when I am so disapprovingly adamant about dogmatic know-it-alls who think their truth is better (more true) than another?  The whole My Jesus is better than your Jesus attitude.  What makes me and my site different, and I like being different, is that with the exception of my faith in Christ, the principles I support and write about I consider to be universal in nature, and relativly void of any offensiveness to the common person of nearly every faith.  Am I trying to be politically correct?  No.  I just realize some people aren't Christian believers, and I respect that.

I started this blog, Voice of Truth Ministry in February 2012 with the first post The reason this ministry got started because I couldn't contain how I felt any more. I had to express at that time the following points, and it holds true today namely:
  • No matter where we are in life, God cares about us and we are part of His plan,  
  • Even though we may be in an uncomfortable situation, perhaps even hopeless, God can be our strength and our salvation if we only reach out to Him in prayer and through His Word,
  • Don't be afraid.  The #1 most stated commandment in the Bible is "Fear Not", mentioned 27 times.  Even when we have to face our demons, God will forgive and be with us if we only ask, and finally,
  • Do the next right thing. Make good, wholesome choices that support love, peace, forgiveness, understanding, healthy living, brotherhood and family.
In knowing and doing these four things we'll be blessed beyond measure.  These are virtually the only religious/spiritual truths I know, so that's what this blog will support and encourage.

My question is, am I writing this for others or for me?  I can see now that's it's for both reasons, because my points aren't intuitive to the average Joe or Jill, and they sure haven't been to me.  Most of us aren't raised knowing God loves us and actually cares about our situations.  Sometimes we're told, but that's not enough.  This is something we must hear from others who've been there, and learn on our own, in our own time.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are you contemplative?

Are you contemplative? Perhaps you should be.

To contemplate means to look at or view with continued attention; observe or study thoughtfully, consider thoroughly - making a quiet time for ourselves.  I've done this regularly for as long as I remember, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes not.

Recently I've been introduced to the writings of Therese Borchard who blogs Beyond Blue on  She is also the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Guide.  I absolutly love her work because her stories and humor draw me in like she's speaking only to me.

In one of her articles I just discovered, Be Still … No Really, Be Still: An Interview with Anne Simpkinson (full article), contemplation is addressed...
Therese: I just wrote a piece on vacations and came across some literature that said, as much as we talk about wanting to change our environments and chill out for a week or two, most of us are incapable of doing just that, and scared to, actually, because it creates a kind of uncomfortableness of sitting with silence and tapping the desires of our heart. Can you speak to that?

Anne: We are bombarded daily with noise, information and activity. So yes, in that environment, it’s difficult to listen deeply to our innermost selves. Quiet, contemplation and silence can make people uncomfortable because they are not used to it. And yet, silence is like a deep, refreshing well that can buoy you in difficult times, ignite your creativity, deepen your faith, give more meaning to your life.

The only thing I'd like to add is, what being still of mind can do for us spiritually.  When we consider things of life deeply, with an intent to do God's will and a desire to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, these times can be of great benefit to us and those near.  Often in my quiet times I will ask myself, What is God's will for me in this situation? or What can I do to improve myself? or Is there anything I need to make amends for or repent of? I hope you'll take the opportunity to get some quiet time, especially in regards to the meaning of Easter for you and your family this season, and how you can better fill the role God has called you to.

Final note: I would consider Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton one of our modern fathers of what contemplation is all about.  I've read some of his work, and intend to go to the library for more.

Monday, March 25, 2013

In All Things Give Praise, Doxology

When I was a sixteen year old young man standing in a non-Mormon church for the first time (which happened to be Presbyterian), I marveled at the beauty and simplicity of this song commonly known as The Doxology or The Common Doxology, written in 1674 by Thomas Ken. A doxology in general terms is a short hymn of praise to God used in various Christian worship services.  It goes...

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Most protestant churches sing this song, but we never did in the LDS church growing up, and they still don't to my knowledge.  This little hymn has all the things I like.  It talks about the flow of blessings in our life, which I've always, always felt.  It refers to us as creatures and could also imply that the creatures of the forest and streams also give praise, and lastly gives the praise specifically to the God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.  No matter how one pictures, interpretes or imagines the triune Godhead to be, this line of the song is general enough to encompass most religions.

One final note on this is that Thomas Ken was the brother-in-law to Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler, published in 1653 which is a celebration of the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse. Can't wait to find this book!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - The Conclusion, My Future

I am so blessed to have made it this far in life and I have so much to be thankful for. In 2005 I married Sandy, and she has faithfully stood by me even though I have given her reason not to. She knows my history, including my sins and loves me anyway. Most important though, she loves the Lord with all her heart, and does her best to follow the teachings of Christ. She loves my children like they are her own and serves her community with love and dedication. I love her so much.

I am also very grateful for my teachers, employers, siblings, extended family, my former wife Cindy, the mother of my children and her family. To anyone who loves, supports and nurtures my kids, how could I not be thankful?

What the Lord has planned for my future, I have no idea. As it unfolds I will continue to love and support my family and serve my community, seeking guidance from above. Thank you Father for leading me to this point, and let my life be one of showing gratitude to You for the sacrifice of Your Son and the blessings we’ve been given. Help me to be faithful.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Christianity and Alcoholics Anonymous

A few days ago I had a discussion with a fellow believer about their desire to be sober, and that how Alcoholics Anonymous wasn't a good option for them because it wasn't Christian enough.  The person said they only mentioned God in a vague sense, mostly referring to Him as a Higher Power.  Which is correct in my experience.  That saddened me to hear because when I first went to AA back in 2000 my faith in God was weak, and AA strengthened it.

If AA were any more "Christian" than it is now, there would be more feelings like this, that I found in a recovery forum written in 2009 - Are non-Christians really accepted at AA meetings? Are they welcome? I've heard there is such an importance placed on God at these meetings and I don't really believe in God. I'm 3 days sober and desperate to keep my sobriety...I'm ready to stop and do whatever it takes...I want to go to AA meetings to meet others like me but I'm just not sure if it will work because I'm not Christian and don't really believe in a God.

In the AA Preamble, which is read at every meeting it states, "A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety."

To the Christian wishing a more godly program, I have experienced individuals talking about how their Higher Power was Jesus Christ, with humility and confidence.

In my experience, Alcoholics Anonymous has the perfect level of spirituality in that it welcomes believers, and drives home the point to the non-believers that we cannot achieve sobriety by ourselves, but only with the help of a power greater than us.  There is such a power!  The program molds the alcoholic from the self-centered to the selfless, the "taker" to the giver, the antisocial to the prosocial while giving hope. I even recall some of my own ah-ha moments when I realized there were others more important than me and I needed to change.  About then was when I was able to recall what I had learned about God from my past, blend the teachings of the Bible with those of AA program, and have a Savior there waiting for me to offer forgiveness and grace.  It is a program that works, for those of any faith or lack thereof when they come in.

Other Links: AA Grapevine

If you have an opinion on this, I'd love to hear your comments.  Are you a blogger or wanna-be writer?  I'd love to share your uplifting story on any type of recovery here.  Just send me a comment to this post.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Not Your Typical Church Lady’s Bean Dip

Once in a while I have to stray away from outdoor topics when I have something significant to share.  This is one of those times.

I love any food Mexican, including bean dip. A few weeks ago I searched and scoured the web for a perfect seven layer bean dip, and hardly found one, much less a good one. So when the opportunity came up to provide a side dish at work, I decided to take it on as a challenge to create my own, with all the ingredients I like, but with a kick - like I like it. Here it is...

I call it Papa Gus' Not For The Faint of Heart, Seven Layer Frijoles Bonanza aka Not Your Typical Church Lady’s Bean Dip.  This recipe title is so long, it even has a comma!

1 16 ounce can traditional Refried Beans
1 packet Taco Seasoning
1 16 ounce tub Sour Cream
1 8 ounce can drained Original Rotel
1 8 ounce bunch fresh Cilantro
1 8 ounce pack of shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 medium Jalapeno

Here's how it goes...In a large bowl thoroughly blend the beans, taco seasoning and one-half to three-quarters of a cup of sour cream until its creamy and smooth like soft butter. Scrape the sides so as to get everything in and mixed well. Spread the bean mix in the pan, evenly layer on the drained Rotel, layer the remaining sour cream. Cover with most or all of the grated cheese depending on taste and looks, garnish with a light topping of chopped cilantro, then add sliced jalapeno disks cut slightly more than paper thin, seeds and all. You could garnish with firm chopped Roma tomatoes, but then that would be eight layers now, wouldn't it??  Feel free to raise or lower the heat by using hot or mild Rotel.  Cover with a lid, foil or plastic wrap, chill for a couple hours and serve with corn chips.

Mixing bowl and hand mixer or a Kitchen-Aid type mixer
9x13 inch pan
Spatula and large spoons
Pan covering
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Ideal time until serving: overnight or 2 hours to marry flavors.
Servings: Enough for a medium size group get-together or a family of four for 2 to 3 days.

Estimated Nutrition summary: Serving Size 1/2 Cup, Calories 95, Fat 7 g, Carbs 23g, Protein 8g.

Preliminary Evaluation - At the end of the lunch break the platter was clean, and that's a good sign.  Personally I prefer to take the heat up a notch, but not for the general population of folk in my area.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - Compass Alignments, Part 8

A compass is a navigational instrument that measures directions in a frame of reference that is stationary relative to the surface of the earth - but you knew that! Just as an explorer needs to check their bearing now and again, so do we. Things in life (other than God) that have kept me pointed in the right direction, with the greatest positive influence include the shared love of my family, music, service to others, children, interaction with people who have a bright, positive outlook on life, the outdoors and well behaved dogs. Conversely things that have caused my metaphorical compass to point me south include over indulgences of any kind, hints of immorality, thoughts of power, illusions of pride, inflated egos, and people who claim to be absolutely right about abstract concepts and matters of faith.

Our Father in Heaven is still shaping each of us, whether we accept it or not. The sooner we realize this; our life will become easier or at least more tolerable. For example, my temper will always flare if someone tells me their Jesus is better than someone else’s Jesus or when someone shows disrespect. In these shaping moments God has just put me in, I need to realign and realize that if I continue to be angry and judge, I will end up becoming like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story (Luke 15:28). I will, and experience has shown I have, meander away from the Lord and things will only become worse. This has been one of my most repeating life lessons.

Other significant alignments have come to me while in quiet time with God. I have frequently found peace in any building or place of worship and sometimes have created my own at a picnic table. When I take a drive in the car or walk down the road with my thoughts directly in prayer; that can help me beyond measure. I am finding more peace and wisdom in the Scriptures than ever before. At important times I have even heard God speak to me while I was praying. These times have been seldom, but none the less significant and real.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Enjoying the urban wilderness.

Working now in Orlando for the prison system puts me in the woods far less than my previous job as a 4-H Agent involved with youth shooting sports, but I'm hanging in there.  Do you know the saying, "You can take the boy out of the woods, but not the woods out of the boy."?  Well that's me, even if that saying goes completely different.

I started enjoying nature as a six year kid in old Fort Worth, Texas catching craw-dads in Mary's Creek by my house.  As a teen I worked and went to Scout camp for six summers in a row, and as a young man attended the BYU 30 day outdoor survival class now owned by B.O.S.S.  The woods, everything about the outdoors, and even the color camo brings me peace and comfort.  Can anyone who reads this relate?

Every day I look forward to going to work, not only for the challenges with my students but for the ride alone.  Driving to and from work along the Beachline Expressway, down four lanes of concrete I constantly spot wildlife and it makes my day.  Yesterday a raccoon blocked my walk way as I left the compound, driving home I spotted about 30 turkey, with one tough young Jake (young wild turkey) strutting his stuff, five miles later I saw a mama eagle sharing a fish with her two babies along the Saint John's River.  What a day!

I hope you have opportunity to enjoy nature and "the woods" in your area where ever you live, and if you're lucky enough to live in the country, count your luck stars and know that your envied by some, but have some kindred spirits among the rest of us.

Got a story to tell?  I'd love to hear them and see your pictures!  Comment below or send them to Mr. Gus via this email  I'll post them below in the comment section.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finding Youself, Finding Balance

More and more often I am having these magical days, such as today where I meet inspiring people and learn inspiring thoughts through sound and imagery.  This is completely because I am learning to let go of fear and preconceived thoughts of how I should act and what I should say and do.  I am learning to follow my heart and emulate others who do the same.

In my transition class today I taught about wellness, and what it takes to be of healthy mind and body.  We spoke of balance and how sometimes our lives get out of kilter, which literally means out of good health or condition1. We spoke of keeping things in perspective and not putting too much time or energy into any one thing, or keeping family, love and other important values higher on the priority list than things that just won't matter in the long term.  As a matter of fact, I was going to write more about this but my ideas took a turn when I met Nelson.

Nelson Guda, who's images I've use here, is a photographer, artist and author from Ohio who travels the globe in pursuit of his art.  As PhD Biologist he could be doing many different things, but if you see some of his work such as the Sensual Rainforest you may see the influence of living systems and how they have impacted his artistry.  I am looking forward to his newest work, The Enemies Project and how he captures conflict and examines the many sides of this issue.

May God bless us all to truly discover the gifts within, our true selves and use them to the benefit of our brothers and sisters.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - My Children, Part 7

To all my children, step-children and grandchildren - As I stated in the introduction, one of the primary reasons I wrote this story and declaration is to let you have something tangible of where I stand in my faith. As you were growing up I sent mixed and most likely confusing messages, with my actions not following my beliefs. At times I have been confused in priorities and a hypocrite, and now in some ways feel like a Prodigal Son. Please forgive me.  Become familiar with that story in Luke chapter 15, because we all fall at times. Some things I would do different if I could go back, but on the other hand I feel God has a purpose in everything. He works with the humanness within us to make our lives rich and unique.

I urge you to get to know God and build a relationship with Jesus Christ. In spite of what people do, realize that God is in control and all things work together for the good, no matter what. Use your life lessons and challenges as stepping stones on a path to wisdom. Most of all, I pray you will "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Be accepting of others, but do the next right thing. Ask for help when you need it, especially from your Heavenly Father. Be grateful for things large and small, even when you don’t want to. I want you to know that I believe in God, and Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I pray that my actions may follow my words, and we may lift each other up when one of us stumbles.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Spiritual Journey - My Declaration of Faith, Part 6

I wish to declare my faith in terms that others may relate with. With my LDS family members, I will use the Articles of Faith as published by the Mormon church as a reference point. I also use the Apostles Creed as a basis for my own. Neither of these statements below are verbatim to the originals. I used them only as a guide.

My Articles of Faith

  • I believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I believe that the first principles of the Gospel are found in Luke 10:27, where He answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself."
  • I believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved. Obedience to the commandments is our way of showing gratitude to our Father for the sacrifice of His Son, and in doing so we shall be blessed beyond measure.
  • I claim the privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of my own conscience, and allow all people the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
  • I believe that men will be punished for their own sins, but those sins may be forgiven through the process of repentance and washed away by baptism and the blood of Christ.
  • I believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and other miracles God may use to further His kingdom.
  • I believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; I also believe the word of God may be found in other sources, but must be compared with the teachings of the Bible.
  • I believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
  • It is my belief and prayer to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, I pray I may seek after these things.
  • I believe that we have a great obligation to serve, give and teach others about Christ and His principles, especially young people and those who may not be able to normally have access to His teachings.
  • I believe the key to happiness is gratitude for the blessings we’ve been given, great and small.

My Creed of Faith
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from when he shall come to judge all people. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holiness of the church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.