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.

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,

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.


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.