Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

What a wonderful time of year it is!  Family over, an incredible meal on its way, the Macy's Parade on TV and later, Detroit vs. Chicago football.  I think it's my favorite holiday of the year. I know, however, to stay out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving.  I love to cook, but in our home the ladies own the kitchen today, and are working harder and faster than a NASCAR pit crew on race day!

Most of all we need to remember, that it's a day for gratitude.  In the United States, no matter what our economic lot, we all have blessings afforded to us by the grace of God and through our Constitution. We can worship God as we please, we can peacefully protest, our children receive a good education. Can we complain that our freedoms aren't "free enough" or how our education system could be better?  Of course.

A few years ago my salary was twice what is now, and I took it for granted.  I felt like I deserved more, yet I had a hard time controlling my spending.  I still feel like I deserve more and still have a hard time controlling my finances.  My situation is not uncommon, as a matter of fact its the norm of America, and some things will never change.  As Americans, individually and as a government, we need to work on that.  But if you're reading this story right now, chances are you are not homeless and went to the public library to read it on their free internet enabled computers.  You're more than likely reading it from your home computer or mobile device.  You are blessed.

I work in a prison, mostly in the hospital hospice unit, and I am inspired every day by inmates that are thankful that things aren't worse for them.  They appreciate the chapel volunteers who come visit them, the coffee cake for breakfast on Tuesday, the annual piece of processed sliced turkey once a year on Thanksgiving, and the warm sunshine on their face out on the recreation yard. Some inmates are mean spirited and bitter of course, but many whom I see and talk to express feelings of gratitude for the simple privileges that they have been granted.  Everyday one particular inmate says hello to me, and when I ask how he is, he cheerfully responds, "I'm blessed by the Best". He's serving a life sentence.  That's when I start counting my blessings.  See my story All Things Good, if you need help in counting your blessings.

Last Sunday we had our annual Thanksgiving dinner after church.  That reminded me to count my blessings of community, good friends who care and the solidarity of fellow Christian believers.

I provided below my Dutch Oven Potatoes recipe at the pot-luck dinner as I promised on Twitter, @guskoerner.

Tools, ingredients and instructions:
1 - 10-12 inch cast iron Dutch Oven or camp stove oven
2 - big spoons, 1 regular, 1 strainer
1 - heat source to 350 degrees F. (range or campfire)
Cooking time 1 hour.
Prep. time 1 hour.
----------
5 pounds of potatoes. Whatever is on sale. Cleaned and chopped into uniform cubes 1/2 to 3/4 inches.
1 pound of bacon
1 large onion, chopped to 1/2 inch pieces, not too fine or course.  Kids hate large onion pieces.
12 fl. oz. of liquid such as 1 can of lemon/lime soda, or beer or water
1 stick of butter (1/4 pound)
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

I prepared my meal indoors using the stove and oven, but could have also used hot coals outside. Here's how to make it...In the dutch oven on the stove, medium heat, cut up and fry all the bacon.  I use scissors to cut up the whole pack at once into 1/2 inch lengths across the grain into the hot pot.

When the bacon is done, strain them off into a bowl and fry the chopped onion until browned and translucent. When the onions are done, spoon the onions and bacon fat out and combine with the fried bacon already set aside.

In the hot dutch oven, use all the liquid to de-glaze the bottom.  Scrape gently with a spoon to get all that yummy bacon and onion unstuck from the bottom, being careful not to nick the seasoned cast iron.

Warning  - a dutch oven full of potatoes can easily weigh over 10 pounds, and combined with the heat and awkwardness of putting it in and out of the oven is a potential burn hazard.  Please use good, oven mitts and be very careful.  You may need assistance.

Preheat your oven now to 350 degrees.  Add 1/2 of the cubed potatoes to the oven, salt and pepper liberally, add 1/2 of the bacon/onion mixture spread across the top.  Add the remaining potatoes, salt and pepper liberally, and the spread out the remaining bacon/onion mixture.  Put on the lid and bake the dutch over for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven, stir the entire pot and add the butter evenly over the top in 1/4 inch slices.  Bake for 30 more minutes.  Remove the dutch oven from the oven/heat, stir the pot well one more time, add the cheese evenly across the top, put the lid back on. It will stay warm, for at least 2 hours.  Let it rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and we miss our dear friends and family.  God bless our troops!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Family Prayer

Every family has challenges great and small, but if they come together in faith, the hardships become more manageable and the bond can be made stronger. Even in major hardships such as death and divorce, we need to seek help from our Father in heaven to minimize the hardship and pain, and have faith and hope for a better day ahead. In my poem you'll see how I mention the perfect example Jesus gave to us, how we are all human and need to forgive ourselves and others. That is what I wish to express. I hope you get something from it. - gus

Precious Savior, dear Redeemer,
Please bless our family now.
Relieve us from our humanness,
The ties that hold us down.

As nature reflects Your goodness, love,
Let us see Your loving face.
Upon our needs and deep desires,
Let us feel and share Your grace.

Giving and forgiving is your example shown.
Selfless love for all to receive,
Shown by Your life, and on the cross,
A gift for all who need relief.

And Father one more thing.  Please bless us and our washing machine. It doesn't agitate, but we do. Thank you. Amen

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Knots for Malaria No More

Yesterday on Twitter @guskoerner, I announced that I would be selling all my paracord wares with 70% going to Malaria No More, but I didn't have room or time to explain the details.

A CHILD DIES EVERY MINUTE FROM MALARIA - Malaria claims the lives of 483,000 children per year—90% of those in Africa. That’s 1,300 kids who lose their lives to a mosquito bite every day.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a corporation, Bill Gates type or big NGO.  I'm just a normal guy, trying to make a difference.  Please be a bit patient with the outlay of this, as it will improve daily.

Point 1, Malaria - Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by parasitic protozoans. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma or death.These symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten. In those who have not been appropriately treated disease may recur months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, re-infection typically causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if there is no ongoing exposure to malaria.  See the whole Wiki article on Malaria.

Point 2, I'm a knot tyer, which is an art I am perfecting.  I use the finest US made products, do each piece of jewelry by hand and my best to satisfy my customers.

Point 3, I am donating all my labor and just charging for the basic materials and shipping, with the balance going to Malaria No More.  That's it.

Complications that may concern you.

  • My prices may change slightly. - Response,  I've never done this before, and I have to set a price point that's not too low or too high, and deal with shipping near and far.
  • Lag time.  I am only one guy right now making these items, expect 2 to 4 weeks for delivery.
  • Web presence - I'm not a web master, just a guy who operates a blog.  I'll do my best.
  • Sales.  All sales will be through PayPal, Square, Cash or Money Order.  1 bad check could wipe out needed money for Malaria from bank fees.
  • My guarantee.  You'll be satisfied with the product.  It will be at a competitive price. The money will go where I say it will.  At the end of the project I'll publish a summary of expenses and donations.
  • My cut.  I have to pay for things that cost me, so if you do the math and take the total price of an item like a key ring for example, $4 plus $2 shipping, know the item cost me about a $1 to build.  That actually works out to 75%.  Discounts will be given in shipping for multiple items to the same location.
That's all I can say for today.  Keep checking this site for more pictures and information, and God bless you for caring enough to check it out.

Questions?  Leave a comment below.

-gus



Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Tribute To My Girls, In My Daughter’s Eyes

Last weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to have front row seats at the local Martina McBride concert.  One of the songs she sang was, In My Daughter’s Eyes, which I've heard a thousand times and loved ever since it came out, back in 2003.  For your enjoyment I linked a video here* and posted the lyrics at the end of this story.

As many times as I've heard it, I've always thought of it as a mother-daughter song, until the last time when I suddenly realized it was a daddy-daughter song as well. When that thought hit me, I lost it. In that moment, all the love for my little girls came flooding to the surface. My little girls aren't so little anymore, plus the two I started out with was increased when I remarried and gained two wonderful step-daughters, and when my boys married, two more beautiful daughters-in-law joined our family.

There’s something special about the relationship a father has with his daughters that’s different than with sons. Even though my girls were “sugar and spice…” growing up, they were kind of tomboy too, but in a good way - balanced. I’ll never forget the time Melissa and I went 4-wheeling across the pasture in our old Jeep for her first driving lesson or how beautiful she was on her wedding day at Cocoa Beach when we were all dressed in white. Then there’s my Em.  She and I spent hundreds of hours together on the archery range, and she’s grown into a beautiful young woman who’s intelligent, compassionate and kind.

I’m still getting to know my bonus girls – Amber, Savannah, Jessie and Melissa, but what I've learned so far is they are beautiful, hardworking, intelligent and dedicated women who do the best at what they have been called to do right now as wives, moms, students and breadwinners.  They’re daughters of God, and I treasure each of them.

Dads out there, I encourage each of you to appreciate the daughters and young ladies of your life.  Treasure them, tell them you love them, and appreciate the stage they’re in right now.  They need to hear and feel it from you today, and when they do both of your lives will be blessed.  Someday I’ll be writing another story dedicated to my great sons and my beautiful grand kids, but this I had to share with my girls today.  So proud to be your Dad, Step-dad and Father-In-Law. - gus

Here are the lyrics...

In My Daughter’s Eyes
In my daughter's eyes,
I am a hero,
I am strong and wise,
And I know no fear,
But the truth is plain to see,
She was sent to rescue me,
I see who I want to be,
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes,
Everyone is equal,
Darkness turns to light,
And the world is at peace,
This miracle God gave to me,
Gives me strength when I am weak,
I find reason to believe,
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand around my finger,
How it puts a smile in my heart,
Everything becomes a little clearer,
I realize what life is all about,
It's hanging on when your heart has had enough,
It's giving more when you feel like giving up,
I've seen the light,
It's in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes,
I can see the future,
A reflection of who I am and what will be,
And though she'll grow and someday leave,
Maybe raise a family,
When i'm gone I hope you see,
How happy she made me,
For i'll be there,
In my daughter's eyes

The song was written by James T. Slater, produced by Martina McBride and Paul Worley.  The song features accompaniment from pianist Jim Medlin and string arrangement by Don Hart.  It was published by RCA Records Nashville on the Martina album, November 2003.

*Video - Live performance at the CMA Awards 2003. In that CMA edition, Martina won her third Best Female Vocalist of the Year.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why Everyone Should Blog (Journal), and How To Do It. #201

For post #201, I needed to write this, to promote blogging and journaling...

I've been blogging from 2008 under the premise of communicating with my distant children, recording events for posterity, historical value, blah, blah, blah.  That is all true, however, I have to admit though, when I get 800 readers in one day and 20 new Twitter followers it bolsters my ego.  Hey, I'm human.  What else can I say!

In reality though, its way more important than that.

I recently read my sister's blog who lives in a far away state from me, and she was relating the story about the birth of my next older brother.  To hear about the day he came home from the hospital and how she loved on him, pampered him and watched over him like a mother duck means the world to me to read about.  Someday I'll post a link to that story.

I've heard all my life about the therapeutic value of journaling, to record our emotions and events, so we can read back, prevent future mistakes and recall blessings and learning events from the past.  Taken from Alan Henry of LifeHacker, March 2014, a popular blogger who wrote a good story about why to journal.  He wrote...

Anne Frank's diary
Some of the most influential people in history kept detailed journals of their lives.  Those journals served two purposes: a permanent record for posterity, and cathartic (emotional) release for the people writing them. Even if you don't think you need either, keeping a journal has great benefits you can enjoy immediately...  the rest of the story...

Let me say a bit about hard copy journaling verses blogging...

Journal
- Completely private.
- Already in print, your hand writing
- Nobody sees it until you die
- 1 copy

Blog
- Private, Semi-private or Public
- Electronically vulnerable, but very secure and completely printable
- Available to others when you want it to be
- Available to as many people as you want, wherever they are in the world.

This is how I do it...

1) Sometimes I blog here directly, and here's how...Google (verb) "how to blog".  220,000 results will come back.  WordPress and BlogSpot are the major hosts.  If you contact me I will (of course) help you get started.  I use BlogSpot or Blogger (the same), because that is the way I started and it's Google friendly.

2) Sometimes, especially at the prison where I work and I cannot have electronics, I keep a little 4 x 6 inch notepad to jot down an idea or thought to later develop.

3) I use my smart phone to record notes and later transpose to paper or this blog.  Lately I am using voice-to-text apps to transpose my thoughts to paper automatically.

I hope you get started writing your own journal, online or otherwise.

A personal note to my children... Melissa, what was it like to adopt a little boy?  Amber sweetie, how are you doing?  Chris, I want to hear all about your experiences in business and with your little ones.  Cam, what is is like to serve in the Marine Corps in the Persian Gulf?  Savannah, how are things going and are you enjoying college?  Ember, tell me about your high school experiences.  I am so anxious to hear!

Finally, I hope you, the reader knows your family cares the same about you.  Let them know what you're up to and that you love them.  You'll never regret that.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Letter of Request for the Ministry

United Methodist Church
FL Atlantic Central Conference
9015 Americana Road, Suite 4
Vero Beach, Florida 32966-6668

Dear Reverend (Name withheld)

Over the last several months I have been working with my Pastor, Reverend C. in the ministry inquiry process, reading, completing assignments and discussing with him the books, The Christian As Minister, and Understanding God’s Call – A Ministry Inquiry Process.  I have also done extensive reading, writing, serving and reflecting on my own, including responding to the Spirit in my online journal MrGus.net, a public website to share my reflections.

A common thread that has run through my life is the profound love of God and ability to work with people, and organizations that serve our community.  When I was a young man I had no idea what a calling was, not to mention what mine was to be.  At the age of 16, I gave my life to Christ, and approached my pastor with the desire to go into the ministry.  I felt love and unity from fellow Christians and the blessings of service. I was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and because of religious pressure, my passion to become a minister soon became discouragement.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized that no matter what my situation or profession was I could still be a minister of Jesus Christ and family pressures would not impede me.  I can now see I was being called, even from an early age to serve God.  It wasn't until I started working with at-risk children, challenged youth and prison inmates that I felt strongly about using my profession to serve God and share Jesus Christ with others.  I realize God has woven a tapestry with my life, giving me opportunities to use these gifts for His kingdom, among my brothers and sisters.

At this time I would like to officially commit myself to the service of God, by serving His children formally as a Pastor and Chaplain.  I respectfully request you consider my application for candidacy for ministry within the United Methodist Church.

Respectfully,
G.A. Koerner

Friday, October 10, 2014

What is your North Star?

This story is about acknowledging the positive aspects of our lives, and finding a reliable "compass" or way to guide us.  For those who believe in God, it is about surrender and discipleship.  For non-believers, it is about finding positive role models and life attributes to follow and look toward.

Sometimes when life becomes challenging for us, we need to look beyond our current situations and try to envision the “big picture”  or overall life perspective of the situation, detach ourselves from the anxieties of now and look to a power greater than us to give us strength and direction.

My journal entry from September 29, 2014, 9:00 PM at the prison where I work.

I’m on Outside Perimeter Post tonight at the prison, driving in circles around the outside fence making sure everything is secure.  It’s a rainy night, and it has been drizzling all day long, kind of melancholy, and in a moment of contemplation I wrote this:

What is your North Star?

Lately I've been thinking a lot at night about the stars in the sky.  Spending most of my time in the city nowadays, it’s been a long time since I've seen a clear starry night.  I can’t even remember the last time I went outside and searched for Polaris, the North Star.

For centuries explorers and navigators on both land and sea have used the stars to guide them.  The 16th century explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the first person to circumnavigate the globe, traveled over 37,000 miles.  He primarily used celestial bodies, such as Polaris and seasonal winds to find his way and lead other countless travelers to do the same.  This accomplishment established trade routes that helped civilization develop and grow that we still use today.

In the absence of these guiding lights in the sky, how would he have done this?  He possibly could have done it without these navigational aids, but chances are he would have spent countless weeks or months wandering about not knowing where he was or which direction he was going.

We don’t navigate by stars anymore, at least us city dwellers.  We have roads, maps, and speaking GPS navigators on our phones and at our fingertips, taking us to our destination literally turn by turn.  But metaphorically, what are we using as our Polaris to lead us through life?  Some of us are driven in a certain direction by career, family, money, ambition, education or similar; some of us by religion or politics.  Ultimately all of these drivers are just temporary guides that change.  They are proven to be inconsistent, flawed, of less significant value and can potentially misdirect us.

The North Star doesn't move.  It’s in the north sky and is, and always will be a reliable guide.  I think of God this way.  When my life gets misdirected and my priorities get misaligned it’s because I've taken my eyes off God, the North Star of the Universe and replaced it with something less reliable (usually worry).

Here is a Bible verse in John, chapter 14 that hit me like a rock!  1. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me (Jesus)… 5. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. 

So if your life is lacking direction or if your compass has become misaligned, consider switching to the Great Navigator, God to provide direction and see how that works for you.  May you be blessed in your journey. - gus

PS. If you like this, comment below and share it with a friend.  Meet me on Twitter @guskoerner


Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Brighter Day

This is actually a personal journal entry, but our lives are enriched when we share them with others.  Here it is from the other night...

I wonder if I can write anything tonight.  It’s been kind of a rough day, not of labor or stress, but one of over rest and over indulgence.  After working nearly a year these twelve hour night shifts at the prison, they still mess up my schedule.  I’m anxious right now, but don’t know about what.

I don’t feel very much like a Christian today, but my faith tells me different.  I am feeling my human side in a strong way.  Seems funny and ironic, after all I am human.  Shouldn't I feel anything but?  Has anyone else ever felt this way I wonder.

I realize however, God never promised us life would be easy and without challenges.  Struggles of health, career, relationships or inadequacies, etc. have always been part of the human condition.

So what do we do when we feel this way?  We can wallow in our misery or we can rely on faith and stand on the promises of God.  We take one step forward in obedience and walk toward and into the light of Christ.  We thank Him for all things good and count our blessings. This down time we’re in will pass, and soon again we will feel the embrace of His Spirit that moves us to a brighter day.  We step out in obedience to His word, with faith in His healing.

I hope people realize this experience of mine is applicable to the non-believer as well.  It is about acknowledging the positive aspects of our life which are many, if we think about it.  To the Christian, it’s particularly important because it represents one important aspect of discipleship, namely surrender.  We need to abandon attachments and anxieties of this world for faith in a power greater than ourselves to sustain us and which gives us strength.

References:
Hymn, I Need Thee Every Hour, Annie S. Hawks, 1872 and Matt Maher - Lord, I Need You

Hebrews 4:16 - Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Psalm 143:1 - Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness,

Gus
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September 24th, 2014, 12:35 am

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On My Honor

When I was 11 years old the only thing I knew of or cared about God was the word itself.  I knew He was important, “God” was a big deal, but had no inkling of more.  I was 11!  In Boy Scouts we sang a song that would later have a profound effect on my life.  I can still sing it to this day – verbatim.

Back Row: Karl and Gus Koerner
Front Row: Charles Buck and David Sturdivant
about 1975
My life priorities in 1970 were 1) being acceptably popular, staying unnoticed at age 11 is a good thing.  2) girls – especially Lisa  from a distance, 3) football, and 4) Boy Scouts.  I loved Scouts.  We did cool things, and I had a Dad that participated with me (a little too much in my opinion).  To his credit I think he tried to keep a distance and tried to let me have a parent-less experience.  We camped, went on canoe trips, hiked in the woods, caught snakes, started fires and shot guns.  What more could a kid want?

In Scouting at the time, they weren't ashamed to say the word God.  After all, it’s still part of our nation isn't it? - In God We Trust and all.  It was the 1970’s and things were different then.  Mentioning God was acceptable in public.

At the weekend campfires which I either participated in or lead we always sang this song at closing, which I would now call a hymn.  It’s called On my Honor, and here it is…

On My Honor
by Harry Bartelt 
On my honor, I'll do my best, to do my duty to God.
On my honor, I'll do my best, to serve my country as I may.
On my honor, I'll do my best, to do my good turn each day,
To keep my body strengthened and keep my mind awakened.
To follow paths of righteousness.
On my honor, I'll do my best.

When I now think of the song I can see plainly it contains the principles of Commitment, Discipleship, Patriotism, Service to Humanity, Personal Physical and Mental Health responsibility.  I’m sure a person could also attach other attributes, but I won’t here.  These are enough.  To this day, even though I may not live this song to its fullest, I certainly know and own the values of the song and do my best to uphold them.  I hope it is continuing in the Boy Scout program.

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. Proverbs 22:6

The photo above is when we went as a troop to Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base for three weeks.  I'm not quite 11 years old there, but we were still singing the Scout Hymn, "On My Honor".  I'd like to give a special tribute to David Sturdivant who was my best friend and passed away a few years ago.

I hope you'll share this with a friend.

-gus


Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Word on Grace and Nature

I've been thinking about this story for quite some time, but something came together the other night out on post at the prison that forced me to put my thoughts down on paper.

It wasn't until I was 41 years old that I knew, or at least begin to understand the meaning of the word Grace, in a religious or spiritual context.  At the time I had been attending a local Catholic church and noticed that the word was being used frequently.  So one day I asked a friend specifically what Grace means, and I’ll never forget her words and simple definition.  She said, “Grace is everything good that comes from God!”

Fourteen years later I frequently still think about that simple, yet profound definition.  I've realized and learned though, that with grace comes responsibility.  For example, God blessed me with beautiful children, but I have a great responsibility to care for them.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship beautifully describes grace and refers to “cheap grace” and “costly grace”.  Simply put, when we abuse grace of any kind, we demean its value to us.  When we knowing and willingly "sin" like there’s no tomorrow, we devalue grace in our lives (cheap grace).  When we acknowledge and appreciate grace in our lives, take it seriously with gratitude and share it with others we heighten or raise its value toward what God meant it to be, acknowledging "costly" grace.

The other night while out on post duty at the prison (patrolling the perimeter) I came within two feet of an Armadillo rooting in the grass for grubs.  I just watched it for a while, appreciating how its armor can protect it. I saw a Raccoon scavenge for food and climbed a tree when I approached.  I was able to witness for some time a deer family feed.  The Papa was so close I could count his four young antler points in the darkness, and on the fawn I could see it’s faint spots on its hind leg.  Mama was there too.

“This is grace!”, I thought, and suddenly realized the “cost of grace” in this situation.  If we take our environment for granted, we lessen its value.  If we appreciate nature and practice sound conservation, we will be able to share this “grace” with our children and future generations.  This is what stewardship is all about, taking care of the little bits and pieces of grace we encounter daily, and share them with others.  In this way we show our gratitude to God, and bless our own lives and others.

So the next time you see a child, a squirrel, butterfly, sunset or other beautiful thing take the time to appreciate it and thank God who provided it, then say, "Hey Look!"

See my related story All Things Good, (21 Aug 14).  If you like this, share it with a friend. - gus

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Cliche Saved My Life

Most people dislike cliches because of their nature; trite, over used words and phrases. But one for me stands out, which is “go with the flow”. Stay with me, because that phrase literally and figuratively have saved my life. Throughout my career employers have used this phrase or its related forms, such as “adapt”, “embrace the change” and “this is the new normal” to express major changes in an organization, usually due to management turnover or budget cuts.

I gotta tell you a story about how this “adaptation” literally saved my life. My buddy Jim (pictured right) taught me how to fly fish. So once I felt pretty confident in my gear and skills, I took off to a part of the Little Bear River in southern Idaho to catch some fish. I think it was late June, when the water is still frigid cold, but the mountain run off has slowed down enough to see the rocks in the shallow places and near shore.

I got my gear together the night before, tackle, waders, cooler, etc. and the next morning I stopped by Burger King and picked up two 99 cent whoppers, one for lunch and one for on the way home and tucked them under the seat of my car. I arrived at the rivers edge about 11am and the call of the river beckoned me to hurry, yet I was enjoying the view of the mountains and greenery of my surroundings.

As usual, one hardly ever gets a bite on their first cast so I tried and tried, moving up and down the shoreline, moving out into the deeper water current as I went. Then suddenly I took one step too far into a drop-off that went over my head. My waders instantly filled with ice cold water and I found myself being sucked in deeper and faster! It was at that instant that I thought “go with the flow”. Thinking back, I consider it now one of those “God moments” when panic left me and was replaced by peace and rational thought. So instead of fighting the ice cold current, I raised my rod over my head and let the river push me downstream which naturally led me to a shallow bend where I was able to walk out and compose myself.

If I had fought the current and tried to immediately get to high ground I might have perished. But, instead I was willing to go a bit out of my way following the flow for a hundred feet or so and come out just fine.

So what’s the moral of the story? #1, don’t fish alone in the wilderness where nobody knows your whereabouts, and #2, the longer way, or new, different way than you insist upon may be a better way for you to go. Counsel with family, friends, those wiser, and especially God before we make up our mind on how things have to be, “God’s ways are not our ways…” and situations may turn out better than we expected.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  - Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)




Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back at the range.

Jim Bridger about 1830
Back in 2012 I was an active instructor at the gun range teaching black powder muzzle loading rifles to the 4-H kids twice a month.  My equipment was all together and organized, lesson plans memorized verbatim and I was ready for any unexpected question or situation that had to do with shooting those old smoke poles. What fun we had!

Then I left the 4h program and the classes stopped. My new job and work schedule just would not permit it longer. So I put it all away, let some of my instructor credentials expire, and just dropped it all until a few weeks ago.

An old friend of mine, Don Richards called me to see if I could and would teach a muzzle loading instructor course.  I cautiously agreed, knowing I would have to do a lot of polishing of my skills and equipment if wanted the class to be a success.  So I did.

In the class that weekend I had six adult students ranging from rookie to veteran, all black powder enthusiasts.   We shot flintlocks, percussion cap locks, shotguns and pistols.  We shot replica guns of Lewis and Clark, Jim Bridger and Buffalo Bill Cody.  We had some misfires and malfunctions, got a little dirty, killed some paper, and all came home safe and sound with smiles from an enjoyable weekend.   We had a ball, and six brand new NMLRA instructors were qualified!

Weeks later, it caused me to reflect upon God and how even though we may leave Him for a while, He never leaves us.  Even though our life’s direction might have taken us from Him for a while, and our Christianity has become a little rusty, we can come back to Him and His open arms.  We can pick up from where we left off.  We can reflect upon our lessons learned, and use those experiences away from Him as a teaching tool for ourselves and others.  Wisdom comes from experience, and experience comes from our successes as well as our failures.

In the 1st Book of John, chapter 1, verse 9 it reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Also, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7-8 (NIV).  I like that last line, “riches of God’s grace”!

No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord, rookie or veteran, sinner or saint, know that He loves you no matter what, and He’ll always welcome you back with open arms.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Angel Friends

Count your blessings though you don't see how.  See the goodness that you have right now.

Angels watching over us when we lose our way. Who're there in the form of friends and family and listen to every word we say.

Angels watching over us when we think all's lost.  Showing the loving arms of our Savior who paid the final cost.

Angels watching over us when that loved one says goodbye.  Who encourages us to keep going when we don't want to try.

Angels showing us daily in the form of children and friends, wrapping their arms around us, as we begin to mend.

Count your blessings though you don't see how. See the goodness that you have all right now.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What is your calling?

Calling, noun – 1. a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence; 2. the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages.  - Merriam-Webster

When I was a younger man I had no idea what a calling was, not to mention what my own was or was to be.  All I know was what I enjoyed doing, and later realized that some of the things I enjoyed, I was actually good at!  It wasn't until just a few years ago that I took these two parameters: 1. things I enjoy, and 2. things I was good at that, and added a third - things that I have a passion for.

The thing I loved most as a child through today is making friends and building relationships.  I am of people person.  As a 6 year old, I would sit on the curb and wave at cars passing by, hoping they would wave back.  As I grew older I naturally fell into the education field, and found I was particularly good at training and partnership building.

It wasn't until I started working with at risk kids, unfocused youth and prison inmates that I had an Ah-Ha moment of how important my job was.  I realized God had woven a tapestry with my life, giving me opportunities to use these gifts to help others.  Mine has not been a career of sharing God’s Word or the gospel message because I can’t.  I've worked for the government for the past some-odd 30 years.  But what I can do in my work and daily life is share the love of Christ as I can, as He and others have shown me.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (KJV)

I hope this will help you to look deep into your own life to find your natural skills and abilities, so as to narrow down what your calling may be sooner rather than later – and then act upon it!  As parents, we need to help our children find theirs.  As much as we may want to give them a calling, we can’t.  Each of us must find our own by divine help.  When we’re doing what we love, and what we’re good at – when ability, skill and passion all come together we can find happiness and fulfillment in our work, and which may be our calling.

I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go
It may not be on the mountain’s height, or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls to paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
I’ll go where You want me to go. -  Mary Houghton Brown (1856-1918), Song History

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Counselor and Friend

Over the past few months I've had the opportunity to meet with my pastor, one on one for counseling.  Our discussions are centered on my desire to serve in some type of ministry for the church.  We discuss my strengths and weaknesses, my education, professional, volunteer and family background and how these areas might help me discern what part of the ministry I am being call to.

During the discussions he listens intently, offers advice, gives feedback, asks thought provoking questions and often shares scripture or stories that relate.  His demeanor is always calm and comments positive.  It's not always serious talk, sometimes our discussions drift into sports related stories or even a joke now and then.

I realized not long after our last meeting that this is what my prayer life should be like.  When I approach my Father in Heaven in prayer, I can be myself without fear or intimidation. I can talk to Him as my friend and counselor and acknowledge my own strengths and weaknesses. I can ask for help and guidance.  He will speak back to me through the Holy Spirit and scripture and give me insight and wisdom, without judgment or condemnation.  As a husband, father, employee or any of the other roles I play, issues arise and I can always use some counseling or good advice.

In the New Testament, Book of James 1:5 it tells us: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (NIV)

I hope we can all consider our Heavenly Father, as our counselor and friend whom we will go to without hesitation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

All Things Good

Sometimes we just need to count our blessings.  A few years ago someone gave me a Catholic Rosary.  I held it and it brought me comfort when I was sad.  I didn't know how to "pray the Rosary" like Catholics do, so I just went around each bead and named a blessing of mine, then another and another.  One for each bead.  I named each of my children, my legs, my home, my truck, etc, simple things and complex things.  I named things that made my life better, comfortable; things that if I didn't have my life would be a little "less good".  In the end, I found myself going around the rosary three or four times naming all good things in my life.  So in this story I am counting my blessings.

My definition of All Things Good: Words that describe good things, words that transcend race, religion, economic status, geographic location and gender; things that make the world a better place.  If a specific person, place or thing is mentioned, it must be of significant influence to have changed the life of millions of people, such as Gandhi, or Christmas.  Yes, I am a Christian, but this isn't a christian list.  I want it to go beyond one belief system - so words like Jesus, a flower and physics can all be together, because they all make our world better.

Yesterday the world learned of Journalist James Foley being killed by terrorists, so I added the word Journalists.  When you consider what they do, they bring the public news, the truth of what's going on in the world, and we should be thankful for that.  Each word below can be thoughtfully considered in that manner. This list is in response to all things bad going on right now.  We need to count our blessings.

All Things Good is an ongoing project, and my initial goal is 365 words or one to ponder each day of the year.  All contributors will be mentioned when it's complete.  Thank you for your assistance.  So far 25 people are contributing to this list, worldwide. 

Note to Editors and Contributors. - Please leave your comments in the comments section under the post, or email me directly guskoerner@gmail.com.

All Things Good
347 listed, as of 29 September 2014
_____________
A Job
A Kiss
Accomplishing A Goal
Advocacy
Air Conditioning
Airplanes
Anniversaries
Annual Leave
Antibiotics
Antiseptic
Apologies
Appreciation
Art
Assembly Lines
Assistants
Awards
Awareness
Bacon And Eggs
Bacon Cooking Smell
Beauty
Beds
Being Yourself
Berries
Bible, The
Big Trucks
Birthday Cakes
Blessings
Blue
Boats
Boots
Brand New Babies
Bravery
Brotherhood
Bubble Bath
Butterflies
Buy One, Get One Free
Campfires
Candle Light
Cardinals
Cast Iron Cookware
Chairs
Character
Chastity
Cheap Gas
Cheerfulness
Children
Christmas Day
Christmas Eve
Church
Civil Rights
Clean Sheets
Cleanliness
Coffee Smell
Colleagues
College Football
Cologne/Perfume
Comfort
Communion
Community
Compassion
Computers
Confidence
Conservation
Consolation
Conversion
Conviction
Cool Water
Counseling
County Fair
Courage
Courtesy
Cows
Creativity
Crisp Apples
Croaking Frogs
Cushy Carpet
Cushy Chairs
Dad, Fathers
Dawn/Sunrise
Deliverance
Demilitarization
Deodorant
Determination
Dignity
Diligence
Discernment
Discovery
Disposable Diapers
Doctors
Dusk/Sunset
Earth
Earth Worms
Easter Baskets
Einstein
Electricity
Encouragement
Engineering Marvels
Faith
Fall Leaves
Family
Fast Cars
Favorite Songs
Fern Plants
Fertile Soil
Finishing A Book
Finishing A Project
Fire Extinguishers
Fire Flies
First Day Of School
Fishing
Fitness
Flowers
Food
Forgiveness
Found Money
Freedom
Friendliness
Friendly Debate
Friends
Friendship
Front Porch Swing
Fruitfulness
Fruits
Full Moon
Games
Gandhi, Mahatma
Gardening
Giving
God
Good Books
Good Ideas
Grace
Graduation
Grandkids
Grandma
Grandpa
Grass
Gratitude
Growing
Hands
Health
Health Insurance
Heart
Helpfulness
Holiday Lights
Holiday Songs
Holy Spirit
Honest Conversation
Honesty
Honey
Honor
Hot Chocolate
Hot Shower
Hotdogs
Humanitarianism
Husbands
Ingenuity
Innovation
Insight
Intercession
Intuition
Jesus Christ
Jokes
Journalists
June Bugs
Jubilation
Justice
Kids
Kindergarten
Kindness
Kittens
Koran or Qur'an, The
Labor Day Holiday
Life
Light Houses
Light Rain
Listening
Little League
Locks
Long Talks
Long Walks
Love
Love Notes
Loyalty
Mac And Cheese
Maps
Mathematics
Mechanics
Medicine
Meditation
Ministry
Mom, Mothers
Moon
Moonlight
Mosquito Repellant
Motivation
Mouse Traps
Music
Naps
NASCAR
National Public Radio
NBA Playoffs
New Car Smell
New Pencils
New Snow
New Socks
New Year's Eve
News
Nice Bosses
Nurses
Oak Trees
Obedience
Old Friends
Olympics, The
Open Doors
Optimism
Orange Blossoms
Our Flag
Pain Relievers
Paper
Parenting
Partners
Passing away of someone in pain
Pastors
Patriotism
Pay Day
Pay Raise
Peace
Peace Talks
People
Personal Letter Received
Pets
Phones
Pizza
Policemen and Women
Popcorn
Positive Role Models
Prayer
Progress
Promises Kept
Protection
Protectors
Puppies
Puzzles
Quiet Time
Radio
Rain On A Tin Roof, The Sound
Rainbows
Reasoning
Receiving
Reconciliation
Recycling
Relief
Resolve
Respect
Responsibility
Rest/Sleep
Reunions
Reverence
Road Trips
Roads
Sacrifice
Salvation
Saving
Science
Seat Belts
Second Chances
Secrets Kept
Serenity
Service
Shelter
Sick Leave
Sight
Singing out loud without reserve
Sisterhood
Skinny Jeans That Fit
Sleeping Children
Small Business
Smart Phones
Smell
Smiles
S'mores
Snow Days
Snow Men
Sobriety
Soldiers, including all branches
Solidarity
Song Birds
Sound
Spare Change
Spices
Sprinklers
Stars
Stewardship
Success
Summer Vacation
Sunday Dinner
Sunrise
Sunset
Super Bowl
Talking
Tall Tales
Taste
Tears Of Joy
Testimony
Thank You Cards
Thanksgiving Dinner
The Beach
The Red Cross
The Word "Please"
The Words "Thank You"
Theme Parks
Thinking
Thrift
Toilet Paper
Toilets
Touch
Traditions
Trees
Trust
Truth
Unity
Vaccines
Valor
Vegetables
Veterans
Volunteering
Vows
Waffles
Walking
Warm Sand
Warm Soup
Warning
Washing Machines
Water
Water Fountains
Water Parks
Watermelon
Wealth
Wedding Rings
Weekends
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Wildlife Spotted In The Outdoors
Wives
World Cup Soccer
Worship

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Sun On The Horizon

New Sun On The Horizon

A couple has formed, their relationship new, where nothing can go wrong for the sweethearts two. A few years pass, and suddenly what was cute is now not so much.  The cuddling at night is now barely a touch.

Harsh words are spoken, sweet gestures gone. One thing leads to another and they wonder what went wrong. Trust is broken, hearts saddened, love dwindled, yet they both hope it can be rekindled.

So they come together with a hope to mend something that was never meant to end. The strife between a husband and wife can pull the joy right out of life.

But when the two strive to be one, a new beginning has begun and they can start to see the rays of the sun.

Gus Koerner August 13, 2014, 11:40 pm

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Favorite Prison Songs

This started with a tweet, and the list is growing. The title of this story is kinda off, because these aren't really my favorite songs, it's more like prison songs are in my top favorite genre's.  So what's yours? Comment here or tweet me @guskoerner #prisonsongs

Here's the list...

Blake Shelton - Ol' Red
Merle Haggard - Mama Tried
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
Johnny Cash - San Quentin
Jimmy Page - Prison Blues
David Allan Coe- If That Ain't Country


A Frugal Family Recipe - Laundry Soap

I am posting this recipe of course for everyone, but especially to my children, my friends at Financial Peace University and for me and my wife.  We love this recipe for Home Made Laundry Soap!

I first learned of it from a University of Florida Extension Symposium, but have since found it at multiple Cooperative Extension sites like my Alma-mater Utah State University, at the Borax site and on some frugal living blogs such as MamaEconomics.  They're all slightly different but commonly they use 1) a hard soap grated and dissolved, 2) Borax and, 3) Soda Wash combined with water.  I can get all three ingredients at my local Wal-Mart or funny enough, Ace Hardware.  Most grocery stores will have at least one of the ingredients.

The Recipe I used most recently: 

2 quarts near-boiling water
2 c. or 1 Bar Soap grated (Ivory, ZOTE, Fels-Naptha)*
1 c. Borax
1 c. Washing Soda
  • Add finely grated bar soap to the hot water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low, heat until soap is melted.
  • Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax & Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved. 
  • Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
  • Cover pail and use 1/4 cup per load of laundry. Stir the soap each time before you use it (will gel)
  • We keep the laundry soap in left-over water or laundry soap containers.  Shake, use, works well.
* depending upon preference, availability, cost, and allergy considerations use one of the three.  For example, our daughter is allergic to Ivory Soap, so we use Fels-Naptha.

Economics of the project:
I am working on this part.  I requested the information published with the University of Florida, but at Dollar General I found these prices today (09/29/2014)

Arm and Hammer Laundry Soap, 75 oz., 50 loads, $5, 10 cents per load
Gain Laundry Soap, 50 oz., 32 loads, $6,  19 cents per load
Tide Laundry Soap, 75 oz., 48 loads, $10, 21 cents per load
Xtra Laundry Soap, 75 oz., 50 loads, $5.  10 cents per load


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Beautiful Soul

I wrote this, not to one of my children, but in response to what one of my kids is going through.  After seeing the movie Les Miserables, the 2012 version, the character Fantine (Anne Hathaway) sings the song, I Dreamed A Dream, which is I think, the saddest song I've ever heard in my life.  No kidding.  After reading the lyrics privately, I realized that even though I've had struggles, its nothing to compare with what challenges some people face.

I've had some dark days in my life but, by the grace of God made it through them.  Each day gets better, but we have to try, if not for ourselves for our loved ones.  We are so blessed if we only realize it. Here it is.

Beautiful Soul

There’s a light within my eyes, a day of hope a day of giving.
The feeling of despair is gone, and suddenly feel life’s worth living.
Let us praise the God on high. Let us thank Him for the beauty.
Of our soul that needs Him most, to share the grace that's our duty.

So if you’re lost and torn with fear, know there’s one who holds you dear.
Just close your eyes and ask for help, and He will hear your prayer sincere.
Let us praise the God on high. Let us thank Him for our beauty.
Our souls are crafted after His, He shares His grace by love not by duty.

For my children, nieces and nephews, and anyone who seeks healing.
Inspired by the song from Les Miserables, “I Dreamed A Dream.

By G. Koerner, July 26, 2014, 10:35 PM

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Navigate The Storm

Click to enlarge.
Oh Lord, the waters are so great and my boat is so small. -1

Sometimes life gets turbulent, uncontrollable, yet there's one who's there all the time; invisible, but present none the less.

He holds out his hand to rescue us, to keep us from drowning in our own ocean of anxiety and despair.

Our gasps of desperation will call Him forth.  But why do we wait so long?  Let us call Him now, before the gales come, to help us navigate the storm until the waters calm.

Gus Koerner
July 22, 2014
-------------------
-1 This line is based upon the quote by an unknown author, Breton Fisherman's Prayer.  Accompanying image, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt, year 1633. Photo credit Wikipedia.  Scripture Reference Luke 8:22-25.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Meditation on Forgiveness

Father in heaven, thou art great.
Creation beacons us to see
Wonders of your glory.

Father in heaven, thou art kind,
Mercy endless to abound,
Free to those who seek it.

Father in heaven, I have sinned.
Lord Jesus cleanse me with your blood,
Let me be your vessel.

Loving is my Father dear,
Forgiving all who stray away,
From your most wise precepts.

Father in heaven, I am blessed,
Beyond what man can comprehend
Help me bless my brother.

By G. Koerner
July 21, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Using GPS in Genealogy, A Marvelous Tool, Part 1

As a young man I began my love of the outdoors and everything about it. I was always kind of concerned about getting lost, so I took it upon myself to become an expert in navigation of all forms, including map and compass, celestial bodies, and yes, which side of the tree the moss grew on (environmental clues). Later in life, but not much though, only about ten or twelve years, I was introduced to the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Photo by USGS
About the same time I remember my mother talking to me about her Mom and Dad, and my Dad’s parents and how they emigrated from Europe to the United States. I was immediately interested in their stories of what it was like in the “old country”.

In 1995 I bought my first Magellan GPS receiver, and I was amazed that it had the capabilities to direct me to a point (or pinpoint one) to plus or minus a hundred yards! 2000 was an important year for navigators, professional and amateur. That was when selective availability was removed by the U.S. government, which improved GPS accuracy tenfold! Then about 2005 came the W.A.A.S. system, which improved accuracy again. So in a relatively short period, less than ten years, GPS went from football field to about car size accuracy. The cost of having this navigation capability for a person has always been about $100. The GPS satellite service is free.

In 2001 the game of geocaching started to grow. What some people call high tech treasure hunting, geocaching combines the internet with a handheld GPS receiver which lead the player to local and global “treasures”. I often told my 4-H kids that if they could master geocaching, which isn't hard because I've seen ten year old kids become experts in a week; then they would have navigation skills sufficient to guide them to any spot on the globe, like the early explorers did.

Simply stated, GPS allows us to pinpoint places on the globe, and find for that matter, locations that are foreign to us, near or far away, the size of a mountain to as small as a dime. For example, my grandfather, G.A. Johnson originally from Sweden got into an argument with his dad and left his countryside farmstead when he was eighteen (as the story goes). Today as far as I know, my third cousins still live there.  But where did he live EXACTLY before coming to America, and if I have distant cousins out there, where are they now?  You know if I could only find their house, in person or on Google Earth, I could pinpoint where my Grandpa, Papa Gus grew up.  If I only knew.  GPS and genealogy can help me here.

In a few days, in my next story I'm getting into the specifics about finding, marking and recording these locations so they can be found by current family members and future generations.  Until then, please follow some of the hyper-linked words above and consider how and why you would like to know where certain things are.  As always, please feel free to leave your comments and follow me on Twitter @guskoerner.

-gus

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Journal Entry - I Am. (Who are you?)

This entry was originally written June 14, 2014. Warning - Journal entries are less consistent and are more just thoughts on a page, but I want to include them, pointing out an overall theme.  

The theme below answers the question, "Who am I?"  

They aren't  just random words, or descriptive words with their opposites.  I own each and every one of them in some way, or have at some point in the past.  Some of the words are dark, some encouraging.  As you read them, ask yourself, Is that me?  I encourage my readers to make their own list.  Who are you?  Really?  (Family and friends, don't freak out when the words get dark.  I'm really okay.)

Journal, June 14, 2014, 1:45 AM - I have been deeply considering who I actually am. First, I would like to start with my Creation Statement I developed back in 1992 while on a self-knowledge retreat.  I may phrase it differently today, but it is what it is...  I am a warm, inspiring, beautiful man.  But I am, or have been depressed, encouraged, hopeful, anxious, worried, sad, shameful, 24601, brave, nervous, suicidal, obligated, a father, a husband, a brother, a son, addict, recovering, giving up, carrying on, strong, faithful, consistent, determined, selfish, aware, present, grateful, jealous, forgiving, begrudging, willing, hoping, doubtful, dedicated, loyal, trustworthy, untrustworthy, reverent, trusting, weak, conscientious, tired, cynical, impatient, annoyed, grateful, blessed.

Random thought -  I want to write a book, Sacred Earth.

Back to I Am...  I am woodsman, outdoorsman, navigator, mapper, sleep deprived, friend, lethargic, swimmer, dog daddy, teacher, instructor, shooter, archer, napper, facilitator, counselor, friend, lawn mower, tree trimmer, confidant, manipulator, honest, liar, unworthy, worthy, Mormon, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, contemplative, helpful, courteous, kind, unclean, officer, writer, reader, thirsty for knowledge, web surfer, caring, cooperative, learner, leader, follower, homesick, moody, sad, faker.  I am Jean Valjean.  Comedian, silly, kidder, over analyzer, lonely, law abiding, distressed, Javert, Younger brother, Older brother (Luke 15), mortal, repentant, forthright, bigot, accepting, forgiving, deceiving, nature lover, non-enduring, fatalistic, deaf, winner, loser, nerd, old, sneaky, sexist, gay friendly, homophobic, racist, slothful, hardworking, sacrificing, complaining, pessimist, optimist, sailor, knot tyer, dipper, stargazer, humble, arrogant, demanding, self serving, bald, overweight, can-doer, drop out, forgetful, pro-choice, republican.

Human.

Obsessive, compulsive, limitless, limited, shortsighted, visionary, spiritual, religious, anti-authoritarian, superficial, deep rooted, moderate, conservative, moderately conservative, risk taker, health aware, over-indulgent, sinner, redeemed, forgiven.

Who are you?  Who do I want to be?  With this knowledge we can change the outcome.

End Note: My wife shared with me this week what they teach the kids in vacation Bible school.  They have the kids look in the mirror and say to themselves, "You are God's Masterpiece because of Jesus."  I like that.  We need to remember we're all God's children, and he don't make no junk!

Feel free to add your comments, share with your friends and follow me on Twitter @guskoerner or @VOTMinistry.  I'm not too good with Facebook.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What Code Do You Live By?

Almost from birth we're instilled with words of wisdom to live by, and eventually they become the foundation and building blocks for our lives.  Some children are raised with parents who teach them to be kind and respectful, as in "Be nice to others, be honest, tell the truth, work hard." To others that is less of a priority.  Some parents teach this with loving kindness, others teach it with brute force, as in "Do what I say!"  What ever the situation, our foundation of behavior, either learned by word or example by our caregivers is established in the early, formative years of our lives.

In elementary through high school we said the Unites States Pledge of Allegiance every day as part of our routine.  This became a code for me, and perhaps a lot of kids from my generation.  When I was a scout, about age 14, I had a respected youth leader once say, "Fake it til you make it." this stuck with me and I so I often put on an air of cheerfulness even when I am not feeling it.  When I was nearing the end of my Corrections Academy I held up my right hand, and pledged to uphold, support and protect my fellow citizens and do my duty as an officer.  These are some of my codes.

The code or codes that we live by establish the people we become and are the formative grounds for our overall character.  We either do our best or we don't.  We're honest, or we're not.  We follow the teachings and philosophies of some people or others. We're the only ones who truly know what our own codes of conduct are, and if they are in alignment with the betterment of society and our fellow man or not.

I say I follow Jesus.  But do I?  Martin Luther King, Jr. inspires me, but do I treat others, especially those of different races with the same respect Dr. King preached about?  This is an area of self examination and reflection for me on a regular basis, as it should be for all of us.  The code that I hold most dear and reflect upon often is from the New Testament, the words of Jesus, the foundation of my faith.  Let me include it here, from the book of Mark, Chapter 12: 28-34. (NRSV)

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘...you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Source: BibleGateway.com

I challenge all my readers, especially family members and my kids to look inward and think about the codes of life you were raised with, taught and adopted.  Are those codes in alignment with your core beliefs?  If not, make new choices to live a life that reflects your core beliefs and that uplifts others.

So what codes do you live by?

Coming next Thursday in a related story, I will write who I am, and will ask you the same question.  Please feel free to leave your comments, and share this with a friend. - Mr. Gus

Monday, June 30, 2014

Grumpy Gus, an original poem

What's up with me getting grumpy through the years?

-There was a time when I was the happiest kid I knew; but over the years the Gus I knew started seeing life in shades of blue.

-The pressures of adulthood began to mount; one kid, two kids, three kids, four - not to mention the time I divorced.

-The strain of a job, and growing demands, brought on a period of reprimand (that I'm not quite through), but with a growing faith, I'll be young Gus again by God's sweet grace.

-With my precious partner by my side, to encourage patience and to take things in stride. To appreciate my kids, and the foibles of youth, to be a loving father and witness of truth.

-A dad they'll remember as loving and kind, fond memories they'll carry as they go through time. An example, though human who tended his errs, because what matters most is they know that you care.

-This is the man that I want to be, and how I want them to remember me. Melissa, Amber, Chris, Cameron, Savannah and Ember, I love you all so much and am proud to be your (step) dad.

Dad (Gus)

-end

by Gus Koerner, June 29, 2014, 1:50am
edited by E. Koerner

Your Plan, an original poem

1) What is your plan, oh Lord? Why have you put me here? What am I supposed to do now?
Sometimes I feel so lost, relationships have primarily been the cost of my searching for a better way.

2) What is your plan for me, oh Lord? What is my purpose, and what should I do now?
The closer I try to get to you, the harder you are to reach. I slip back into yesterday’s man, someone I don’t want to be.

3) Whatever your plan for me is, oh Lord, I’ll keep searching and seeking to follow your way. I’ll respond to the stranger as if they were my brother, showing compassion and care, putting discouragement and bias in your hands so they don’t interfere.

Help me know your plan, oh Lord, is my sincerest prayer.

-end

by Gus Koerner, June 28, 2014, 12:59am
edited by E. Koerner

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How To Clean Books

Once again I had too much stuff in storage that got neglected and damaged.  Books this time, some of them treasured books such as school yearbooks and beloved childhood books.  This happened to me once before when my basement flooded.  Since its an issue I had to deal with more than once, I'm posting an article here.

The basics of book cleaning include:
  • Wiping down with 10-20 percent bleach water for mildew stains.  Have a blow dryer handy to immediately dry the page. I'd like to try Clorox wipes.
  • High concentration (90+ %)  isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle will also sanitize.  Some people use baby-wipes.
  • Sealed with baking soda will remove odors.
  • Sealed and freezing will kill living, existing bugs and larve.
  • What if you placed the book in a zip locking bag with a moth ball, then in a baking soda bag? Leaving the books in each treatment for 1 week would probably work.  I'd use a sealed plastic tote box, so as to treat batches of books at one time.
  • Blowing through the book with compressed air or vacuuming will remove trace, unwanted remainders of dirt and bugs. 
A list of some of the resources I found: 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Music That Moves Me

Sometimes we hear words so profound we remember them for a lifetime, and occasionally we can recall the exact time, circumstance and location of when we heard a particular quote.  Indeed, sometimes those words can have a profound affect upon our life.  Like Kennedy's challenge to go to the moon and beyond when he said, "...We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..." (9/12/62).  This speech didn't move me so much, as it moved our nation to step-up together to build our space program.  That is the most inspiring result of that quote to me.  It's been a long time since our nation has been moved in a positive, peaceful direction in that way.

About seven years ago at 4-H Camp I asked a ten year old little country boy about a particular song, I think we were talking about rap music, Britney Spears or some pop music topic, and he said, "The music moves me, but it moves me ugly."  I laughed and laughed.  I'll remember that for a lifetime, especially the way he said it, in a shy, kicking the dirt reaction.

Music has always been a huge part of my life, and I've never been bound by a particular genre.  Like Kennedy's or Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches or so many other great people, art and literature in any form can touch our soul and raise us to greater heights or soothe our broken hearts.  Music is art and literature in a combined form, and it can give us hope and motivate us to go on when we may otherwise not be able to.  Music can be something we can relate to, knowing that the artist is speaking of an experience we're living out or have been through.

Below is my current, but not complete list of songs that move me or have played a significant part of my life.  Even though the first iteration of this list is May 2014, I'll be updating it over time.  After the top five, the rest of the listed alphabetically by song name.  I'd love to hear some of your comments about my particular choices!

1) Night Riders Lament, Jerry Jeff Walker
2) Wild Montana Sky, John Denver, Emmylou Harris
3) Voice of Truth, Casting Crowns
4) Testify To Love, Avalon
5) It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio G. Spafford
6) Mary's Boy Child, Boney M

Battle Hymn of the Republic, esp. verse 5, Mormon Tabernacle Choir and others
Blackland Farmer, Frankie Miller sung by Elizabeth Cook
Broken Beautiful, Ellie Holcomb
Cajun Moon, Ricky Scaggs
Cherokee Maiden, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
Christ Has Risen, Matt Maher
Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, Toby Keith
Doxology/Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, Ken Thomas 1674
Guacamole, Texas Tornados
Here I Am, Downhere
Hey Baby (Que Paso?), Texas Tornados
High Hopes, Frank Sinatra, 1959
I Dreamed A Dream, Anne Hathaway ver., Les Misérables 2012
If I Could Only Win Your Love, Emmylou Harris
I'll Do It All Over Again, Crystal Gayle, 2008
In My Daughter's Eyes, Martina McBride, 2003
In The Garden, C. Austin Miles  / Alan Jackson
It's a Great Day To Be Alive, Travis Tritt
King of the Road, Roger Miller
K-K-K Katey, Billy Murray
Knee Deep, Zac Brown Band
Lead Me, Sanctus Real
Little People, Les Miserables Original Cast
London Homesick Blues, Gary P. Nunn w/Jerry Jeff Walker
Meet Me In Montana, Marie Osmond and Dan Seals, 1985.
Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens
My Favorite Things, Sound of Music, Original Soundtrack
Old Hippie, The Bellamy Brothers
On My Honor (Boy Scout hymn) by Harry Bartelt
Overcome, Jeremy Camp
San Antonio Rose, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
Some People Change, Montgomery Gentry
Stuck Like Glue, Sugarland
Telephone, Lady Gaga (PG-13 video)
That's Right You're Not From Texas, Lyle Lovett
The Auctioneer, Leroy Van Dyke
The Battle of New Orleans, Johnny Horton
The Likes of You Again, Flogging Molly
When I Get Where I'm Going, Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton
Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning, Alan Jackson
You Are My Sunshine, Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, 1939
You Never Even Called Me By My Name, David Allen Coe

47 songs above, last edited October 18, 2014.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Used To Hate Christian Music

There was a time in my life that Christian music turned me off.  If it came on the radio, it would immediately get changed, to more than likely country or NPR.  Then one day, one of my best friends Gayle, a University of Florida County Extension Agent was going on and on about this group Avalon, and how they were playing in Orlando.  As I recall, it was about October 2005, and I think she even got out of a work detail to go see them.  Because of that interaction with Gayle, it made an impression causing me to to think, "hey, if she thinks they're this good, I'll give it a listen."

When I finally heard the song Testify to Love, it made such a deep impression that I'll never forget.  The song means to me, the very crutch of what it means to be a Christian.  For Mr. Gus, being a minister of the Lord, a Christian, an evangelist, a pastor or chaplain or a good neighbor (in the biblical sense) means simply that I testify to love, showing Christ's example in everything I do.  It's not about living within the confines and structure or a particular religion, but following the example of the world's ultimate example of love. Since that time I have grown to love Christian music for what it represents, namely nurturing a relationship with God, showing gratitude for all things including challenges and taking care of what matters most which is our relationships with others, especially family.

Thank you Gayle for your witness to Christ by publicly sharing your passion for music with your colleagues at work.  I'm forever grateful that you testified to love.  Below are the lyrics, credits and how you can buy the song.

Testify to Love
by Avalon

All the colors of the rainbow
All the voices of the wind
Every dream that reaches out
That reaches out to find where love begins
Every word of every story
Every star in every sky
Every corner of creation
Lives to testify

Chorus
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
I'll be a witness in the silences
When words are not enough
With every breath I take
I will give thanks to God above
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love

From the mountains to the valleys
From the rivers to the sea
Every hand that reaches out
Every hand that reaches out to offer peace
Every simple act of mercy
Every step to kingdom come
All the hope in every heart will
Speak what love has done

Chorus 3 times

Writer(s): Henk Pool, Ralph van Manen, Robert T. Riekerk
Copyright: Universal/Mca Music Holland B.V.
Album: A Maze Of Grace, available on iTunes, Play Store or your favorite music vendor.  Google the song, and it will pop up on YouTube to hear it for free.  Like this link.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Journal Entry, May 19, 2014, Part 2 of 2, Obsession With Life in the Desert

I'm obsessed with learning more about the Spanish explorers who lived, explored, traveled and mapped the southwestern United States, in the Utah, Colorado, New Mexico region; specifically the southern Utah desert.  (Why do Franciscan monks always come up for me??)  The Escalente' Expedition were dedicated Christians and Catholic Franciscan monks, (Wiki photo, left) who tried to convert native Americans, but had the outdoor and mapping skills comparable to Lewis and Clark, but came before him in the 1770's.  The flintlock gun era.  I must research their journals!!  Someday I shall return to my most memorable place on Earth, which I call Solace Overhang.  It is located on the banks of the Escalente River at N 37.77445, W 111.42385.  Dead or alive, I shall return to that spot where I spent seven days alone in September of 1979, with nothing but a wool blanket, a coffee can, a pound of mixed wheat and corn flour and a half-dozen honey packs.  It was by far, the most influential time in my life where the only thing I could do was survive and reflect upon my life.  The only friend I had to speak to was my own conscious and God.  Occasionally I would explore and see a rabbit or a rattlesnake, but most of my time was appreciating the rocks, stars and cool stream a hundred yards away.  I would reflect upon my life thus far, and what the future may bring.  I was a naive nineteen year old with my life in front of me.  It was at that point, where I crossed from being a boy to a man, and the first time in my life seriously acknowledged God's grace in my life.  I also realized that the universe was much larger than I had imagined, and that spiritual life was more than a religious upbringing, or a church and didn't necessarily have to do with any particular religion or dogma.

I'll never ever forget laying on the ground under my overhang, covered by my woolen blanket next to my personal fire.  Even though I could feel warmth from the flames, I was still very very cold.  I would just lay there and wait for sunrise.  My body was facing North, and I had a clear view of the North Star, and the Big Dipper just beside.  Through the embers of the firelight, I would lay there and watch the fixed Polaris, with Ursa Major pivoting around it, completing a near full circle.  As the Big Dipper came close to the horizon, I knew that dawn was eminent, and I would soon feel the warm sun rays.  At dawn, I'd walk down to the Escalente River and fill my coffee can.  On the way back up the hill, I would collect some sprigs of Brigham Tea, Ephedra viridis, and then prepare a breakfast of ashcakes and warm tea to start my day.  For the first four days I had a little honey to put on my cakes.  At 37-111 (lat/lon) were my first experiences of heaven.

I thank God for that wonderful experience, parents who encouraged me and help make this happen, and for the people who ran the program, specifically Larry Dean Olson, author of Outdoor Survival Skills, foreward by Robert Redford, ISBN 13: 978-1556523236, the founder of BYU's Youth Leadership 480 program, and my class D-12.  I would also like to thank my program director Doug Nelson and my local Fort Worth buddy Bobbie Baird.  I also have to thank my father,Karl L. Koerner who was a course graduate in 1976.  This program is still ongoing, but under the direction of Boulder Outdoor Survival School, or B.O.S.S.