Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Not A Saint

If Christians are considered “saints”, then why don’t I feel it?
A Saint I ain’t?
Just a sinner, a man, nothing more.
Trying to hold on to the belief that Christ bore all for me.

Unworthy.

When confusion's my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
When I'm caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company

I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
I'll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You're right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders. (Shoulders, by King & Country)

Bless those who've caught the vision,
Realized the blessing, found their mission.
As for me, still searching.
Some days better than others. But I’ll continue.
Finding, lending strength with my brothers.

24 hrs later - I realize this story is kind of dark.  Forgive me please, I am what I am; but I also know we're all SO blessed.  We deal with our past, but there is a bright side.  Know there is.  Hang in there if you've felt similar.  Find a good friend to talk to. Say a little prayer.

- gus

Photo Credit: Saint Andrew the Apostle by Yoan from Gabrovo, 19th century.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Bright Is Your Fire?

I am so excited that tonight is the first night of the season for our monthly Men's Group Campfire Meeting!

It is almost fall in Florida.  The days are under 90 and nights in the 60's - one of the cheapest months for utility billing and I like that!  But most importantly, our Men's Campfire group is starting again where we get together for an hour or so, and talk about our life as workers, husbands, dads, and men of the community.  Once a month, and that's it.  Below is the message I prepared, a great story by Zoe Weil.

This is one of my Top 100 Blog Stories that made a difference in my life.  As I read it over and over, I ask myself, How bright is that ember burning in my soul for my calling, my family, my children and all that I hold dear?  Do I need to stoke the fire, or is everything okay?  It is an accountability moment for me.  Here is the story...

Be the Campfire, Not the Forest Fire (click link for the whole story)
by Zoe Weil, November 17, 2010

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at
The Institute for Humane Education Blog.

There's a metaphor I like to use when talking to fellow activists. I ask them to imagine two fires. The first is a campfire in an opening in the woods. The fire is warm and bright and draws people toward it. They are eager to find a place around the fire, and their beautiful faces glow in the reflected light. They feel good. There is nowhere they'd rather be. The second is a forest fire. It blazes hot and out of control, everyone - people and animals alike - flee.

Each of us has a fire inside of us. It is the fire of our passions and our beliefs, and all of us who are activists know it well. It is the fire that spurs us to learn about what is happening on our planet - to people, animals, and the environment - and it is the fire that spurs us to action to solve the crises we face and challenge the atrocities that still pervade our world. It is often a blazing hot fire. And sometimes, when we have burned out, it is a barely glowing ember. (There is a reason for the term "burned out" after all.)

As change agents, we have a choice about what sort of fire we will be. Will we be the warm campfire that draws people towards us so that we can share what we know and inspire others to make a difference, or will we be the forest fire that rages too hot, causing people to run from us? This is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves because the fire we cultivate makes an enormous difference in our effectiveness as change makers.

But as we know, fire is not static, so whatever fire you have been or are today is subject to change. Fires die out if we don't add fuel, and the sparks that fly off of them can ignite infernos if we add too much fuel too quickly. As change agents, we must seek that perfect balance, adding enough fuel in the form of knowledge and resources to burn just hot enough to ignite change without igniting a conflagration. We will know if our fire needs more fuel if we are not doing the work that must be done and aren't inspiring others to join us, and we will know if we need to let up on the fuel if people avoid us. If we've been activists for a long time, we may have noticed that our fiery youth has diminished too much. If we are new to change-making, we may need to take great care in cultivating our fire so it doesn't burn too hot.

Tend your fire carefully. The world needs you to burn just right.

Zoe Weil, author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Thy Will Be Done". A Hope or a Prayer?

This is going to be a short note, as it hit me at 6:20 am this morning on my way out of the driveway. Here is the scripture I am talking about, that most people know...The Lord's Prayer...as it occurs in Matthew 6:9–13

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

We always pray "Thy will be done."

When someone is on their deathbed or tragically injured, or at the end of their rope, we sometimes pray for their (or our) recovery, but in the end we'll say, "thy will be done".  This final phrase is an escape clause, to tell God that if the person must die, or whatever tragedy, it will be God's will and we'll be okay with it,

Do we say this out of habit or do we really mean it?

I just missed out on an opportunity, and I've been praying this prayer.  When I realized things were not going MY way, I realized I was NOT okay with it, and was very disappointed. I felt abandoned and neglected by God. Then I suddenly realized I was not praying for God's will, but mine under the guise of His.  It was a true ah-ha moment for me that made me sad and happy at the same time.  Sad that I may have lost an opportunity, and happy that I learned a valuable "God lesson".

I hope when we pray this prayer, we'll say it with sincerity and realize God's will may not be ours. Bless you in your walk.

gus

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Simon Says, Listen To The Holy Spirit

It seems for the past several weeks, my thoughts have been focused around the Holy Spirit.  I'm not a theologian, so bear with me.

See image credit below.
The Holy Spirit has other names (I listed some at the end) but in any case, in my world the Comforter is the third, less spoken of Member or Being of what some religions refer to as the God-Head, deity or divine nature of God. Some people see God as the Trinity, some do not.  I'm not going to discuss that part here.

I found this verse that I've been contemplating for weeks - Isaiah 30:21 -  Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to teach the Children’s Moment at church, and we played the old game Simon Says.  Remember that?  “Touch your nose!” or sometimes the leader would say, “Simon says, touch your nose.”  The point of the game, is having the players to respond to an action queue only when the leader says, “Simon says something.  With the children I likened that game to following the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  Sometimes we’re called to action by a divine voice.  What if we heard a voice that said, “The Holy Spirit says, reach out to your neighbor!” or “Forgive that family member for doing you wrong.” or "Donate more money." or "Say good morning to that stranger."  Would you follow those calls to action?

Sometimes we're called to action by our own voice too, which doesn't always lead us in a positive direction.  When that happens the Voice of Truth can lead us, steer our path and get us back in the groove of a happy, positive, purposeful and meaningful life - if we listen and follow that call.

When we pray, we should thank God for our blessings (show gratitude), and ask our Father In Heaven for guidance of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of our lives.  We can ask for help with specific circumstances and/or in our general walk across this planet.  There have been times in my life where I needed divine guidance in making big decisions.  Most of the time however, I wish to be lead by the Spirit when I don't have time to say a prayer, like when I was a young father making what seemed like hundreds of decisions weekly about my kids; and now my situation at the prison, working with hundreds of inmates where safety and life counseling are what I am concerned with daily.  In both situations I want to be lead by the Spirit of the Most High when I make those decisions, because if I do it my way, there's a good chance I'll just mess things up!

I think I'll call the Holy Spirit, The Great Fixer from Heaven Who Helps Me When I Blow It! - No, that's too long. I think you know what I mean.

-gus

Image credit: Used with permission, this image is of Radiant Divine Light, by Angelica Sotiriou-Rausch, acrylic on canvas, 6'x6', 2009. www.angelicasotiriou.com, Making art is like touching the hem of God's garment. - Angelica Sotiriou-Rausch.  Thank you Angelica for letting me use this image.  I searched high and low for an image that represented the Holy Spirit to me, and this is the one.

A list of some of the other names of the Holy Ghost found in the Bible. For more, just Google it, or check the Reference Section in your own scriptures...

Breath of The Almighty - Job 33:4
Comforter - John 14:16, 26; 15:26
Comforter / Counselor / Advocate - Isaiah 11:2; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7
Convicter of Sin - John 16:7-11
Deposit / Seal / Earnest - 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14
Eternal Spirit - Hebrews 9:14
Free Spirit - Psalms 51:12
God - Acts 5:3-4
Good Spirit - Nehemiah 9:20; Psalms 143:10
Guide - John 16:13
Helper - - John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
Holy Spirit - Psalm 51:11; Luke 11:13; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30
Indweller of Believers - Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 6:19
Intercessor - Romans 8:26
Lord, The - 1 Thessalonians 3:5
Power of The Highest - Luke 1:35
Revealer / Spirit of Truth - John 14:17; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16
Seven Spirits of God - Revelation 1:4
Spirit of Adoption - Romans 8:15
Spirit of Burning - Isaiah 4:4
Spirit of Christ - Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11
Spirit of Counsel - Isaiah 11:2
Spirit of Glory - 1 Peter 4:14
Spirit of God - Genesis 1:2 ; 1 Corinthians 2:11 ; Job 33:4
Spirit of God / The Lord / Christ - Matthew 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Peter 1:11
Spirit of Grace - Zechariah 12:10 ; Hebrews 10:29
Spirit of Holiness - Romans 1:4
Spirit of Judgment - Isaiah 4:4 ; 28:6
Spirit of Knowledge - Isaiah 11:2
Spirit of Life - Romans 8:2; Revelation 11:11
Spirit of Might - Isaiah 11:2
Spirit of Prophecy - Revelation 19:10
Spirit of Revelation - Ephesians 1:17
Spirit of The Father - Matthew 10:20
Spirit of The Fear Of The Lord - Isaiah 11:2
Spirit of The Lord - Isaiah 11:2; Acts 5:9
Spirit of The Lord God - Isaiah 61:1
Spirit of The Son - Galatians 4:6
Spirit of Truth - John 14:17; 15:26
Spirit of Understanding - Isaiah 11:2
Spirit of Wisdom - Isaiah 11:2; Ephesians 1:17
Spirit, The - Matthew 4:1 ; John 3:6 ; 1 Timothy 4:1
Teacher - John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13
Witness - Romans 8:16; Hebrews 2:4; 10:15

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dads and Their Sons, a Snapshot from 1972

We go through life learning from our parents. In the best of circumstances they teach you how to become a whole human being. In the worst of circumstances, they can also teach you what not to do. - actor Bryan Cranston,

From the TLC show, Who Do You Think You Are, sponsored by Ancestry.com: aired Aug. 2015.

I remember when I was a young boy I had a mixed relationship with my father. (I am speaking of Karl L. Koerner 1918 to 2000.)  I highly respected my dad yet part of me was afraid of him. He most always seemed distant and out of reach, but there were times when he was very supportive and kind and fun to be around. As I look back, the overall memory I have of my dad is a good one.  He was a good example of a man to follow who kept family and professional life balanced and who supported my mother and tried to do the best for us kids. Me being the last of six kids, I think he mellowed somewhat, or he just ran out of energy. Either way I understand how that can be.

My dad had a temper and when he would get angry you did not want to be in the room, but he also had a sense of humor, and could tell a corny joke and laugh at one like the rest of us. That part of me remains from his DNA.

As part of my job at the prison, I have the opportunity to counsel inmates.  Twice this past week, I spoke with incarcerated dads, trying to rekindle relationships with their sons.  After the conversation I thought about my relationship with my dad and sons. I ask myself what did I do right? What could I have done better with?  How can I improve?

Recently I found a notebook in the garage with my Dad's notes from our trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in July of 1972. In this particular slide (left), my dad is commenting on me and Chuck hanging our camp food between trees for the night to keep the bears from getting it.

Some quotes from his notes: July 5, 1972 - Gus and Chuck (Jaecks) putting up a Bear Pack something like this. I imagine if the Bears saw them do these things they would die laughing. I'm sure if they were hungry or they would get it down.

Notes like these from our parents are precious to family history.  I urge all my readers to keep them safe.

So how is this going to make me a better father?  I'm going to keep loving my kids, just how they are and supporting them in the paths their on.  If they want my advice I'll give it to them, otherwise I'll continue to urge them to do their best, stay close to God and honor their spouses and children.  I hope my kids can take my good qualities and emulate them, and my less desirable traits and be careful not to follow them.  Either way, in that way a dad can have a positive influence on his children.

- gus

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Meaning Through Being

About two months ago I had the opportunity to spend some time in the waiting room of the doctor's office. So rather than go complete nuts with boredom,  I jotted down the thoughts that were going through my head. Most of the time my they come out in sentence form, but this time graphically. I didn’t know what it was about at the time, and just being scribbled on some scratch paper, I didn’t know what to do with it. Today I found the page folded up in my lunch box, stained with water, potato salad and crinkled, so I decided to finish and post it. For what it’s worth, here it is (see pic, click to enlarge)

The circles are not necessarily prioritized or strategic in size or location. They just fell where they did, and I’ll let some future psychologist tell me why.

What does the title mean and what do I wish to say? My point is, that I get meaning in life by being the person I am - nerd and all, sinner and saint, old but young, suburbanite and staunch independent leaning conservative.  I am blessed daily by doing what I do, being a husband, a dad far from his adult children, working a 9-5 job in a prison, making the mortgage payment and attending the neighborhood church on Sunday. Need there be more?

And yes, the racism in our nation makes me sad.  All lives matter.

The quote at the bottom of the picture reads, As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Jung, 1962.

- gus


Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Song That Knocked My Socks Off, Way Back When

As some of my readers know, I teach at a state prison. I was talking to one of my best Inmate Teaching Assistants today who is an excellent and published writer. He's been incarcerated for 30 plus years with a life sentence to go, so he's not real tech savvy. Our inmates have zero access to email or internet.

Today he asked me what a blog is, and why people write them. To make a long story short, I told him people write blogs with different themes, thoughts, purposes and passions; but I write mine so someday my children and their children (and beyond) will know what their Papa Gus was like. I have my own Papa Gus, whom I know nothing about. He passed away shortly before I was born.

This song popped up for me this week from out of nowhere, and I just had to mention it. The first time I heard it, it knocked my socks off - significant for me, therefore I write about it. My son Chris introduced this to me back in (like) 2003 and it rocked my spiritual world. It still does with the memory of me being far from God back then, and this brought me to my knees in surrender. If you know it, you'll agree.  If its new to you, I think you'll like it.  The lyrics are still profound to me, so I included them below, and of course linked associated sources.  The genre is Christian Ska.

Here it is...

World Without End (YouTube) A Must See!
by Five Iron Frenzy
Album (wiki-link): The End Is Near, 2003.

For all the deepest thought compiled, philosophy
to laws of physics,
no one's ever heard or seen,
a more beautiful thing,
than this love that saved us.

[Chorus:]
In the soundless awe and wonder,
words fall short to hope again.
How beautiful,
how vast your love is,
new forever,
world without an end.

The very spark that burns the stars,
drew near to me today,
the God of everything that is,
whispered in my ear that His love is boundless.

This last verse of the song reminds me of what I experienced in, Return To Escalante, Moments of Solitude. "The very spark that burns the stars, drew near to me today, the God of everything that is, whispered in my ear that His love is boundless." Boundless as the stars in the heavens.

If you like this, I'm glad.  Please share it with your friends and join me on Twitter @guskoerner




Thursday, July 30, 2015

Return to Escalante, Moments of Solitude

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. Henry David Thoreau

It has been almost thirty-seven years since I sat alone on the banks of the Escalante River in southern Utah. I was on my 31 day survival course called BYU Youth Leadership 480, still on-going yet privately run by Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS). I need to describe the solo portion of our trip that we had the last week of the course.

The last seven days of the class I was completely alone, not seeing another person the entire time. I had no books to read or journal to write in. I had in my possession a bow and drill tool I made for starting fires, a woolen blanket, pocket knife, a coffee can I found in the desert for carrying water and cooking, a pound of wheat (seed), and a few honey packs I traded for with my pals earlier on the trip. My days consisted of keeping my #10 coffee can scrubbed clean by the sand in the river and filled with water by my small fire which never went out. For food I'd grind the wheat to make ash cakes and drink tea made from the native Brigham tea plants. What could have been boredom to some people, the seemingly endless hours of solitude, caused me to become acutely aware of my soul and the southern Utah sky.

Images: (above) I call my solo location Solace Overlook, which is located at N 37.774437 W 111.423868 (DD). On the state map, the red star roughly shows about where I was located on a larger scale.(right)

You can see the rocky overhang I slept under and sought shade with. At night cliff served as a heat reflector for my fire and faced in the perfect direction so I could watch Polaris throughout the night.

Returning to moments of contemplation of ourselves in this universe can center our inner beings and bring peace. It can ground us in the fact that our role in the world is much larger and more significant than we sometimes realize. Solitude can provide us with that opportunity, if we let it.

I’m reminded of a movie I saw that made a deep impression on me. My Dinner With André, 1981, is a conversation between Andre Gregory and Wally Shawn, both of whom were active in New York theater. One of the primary themes that got my attention was that sometimes we get lulled into daily routines and take for granted mundane things that bring us comfort and joy. This quote from Andre’ to Wally:

What does it do to us living in an environment where something as massive as the seasons or winter or cold, don't in any way affect us? I mean, we’re animals after all. What does that mean? I think it means that instead of living under the sun and the moon and the sky and the stars, we're living in a fantasy world of our own making… [And] comfort can lull us into a dangerous tranquility.

Solitude can cause one to look inward to realize not only their smallness, but the potential of their greatness and the greatness of our God in the universe. I like the way philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich addresses this by saying, Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth… Psalm 46:9 (NIV)

For more insight on this, see the story Stillness and Silent Prayer by Debbi Geller, from Krista Tippett's OnBeing.org,  OnBeing is one of my favorite websites ever, and I'm glad I found Debbi's work. Thank you Krista and Debbi.

I hope you get to enjoy your own version of stillness and solitude. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me of your experiences in solitude or follow me on Twitter @guskoerner.

- gus

Post Script. What I didn't mention in this story but wanted to...1. How I got my fire started. 2. The rattlesnake that kept me from getting my tea leaves. 3. The fellow student that went home early because he cheated. 4. How beautiful the Big Dipper is when it rotates around the North Star. 5. The 13 mile run-in from the Escalante River to Boulder, UT. Perhaps another time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

If I Were a Goat

I like to leave Sandy a note in the morning.  This is what I wrote today, some of my more thoughtful, contemplative work.

Dear Sandy,  If I were a boat, I'd float you a note.
Regarding this acquaintance of mine,
named Gus the goat, who has a crush on you.
He's baaa-shful :)

I love you Sweetheart.  Have a good Monday.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Thank you for Tomorrow

It's been a while since I posted last, and I try to remind myself of the primary purpose of this blog. This is my journal that I share with others.  Although sometimes my ego gets the best of me and revels in the fact that a particular article may get a few hundred "reads", this journal is to record my thoughts and feelings.  If others can relate to what I write, or find some comfort in my words that is all the better.

The following poem is on the dark side, but don't get confused with my words - I'm filled with joy.   Sometimes I just have days of contemplation where I wonder of could or could have done something different to reach my full potential.  I put my faith in God and my best to do the next right thing.  I look back on my past as a text book to learn from, not making the same mistakes again, and repeating behaviors that bring joy to me, my family and others.

The Man I Could Have Been (Thank you for tomorrow)

Father, help me to be true to myself, to others.
Help me to follow in Your ways and not look back,
Help me to see and tend to the needs of my brother.
Help me to love another as You loved me.

The man I could have been,
The man I should have been.
If I only could have met my potential
For the things that were essential.

Been the son that was always there,
The brother to my flesh,
The friend of those who befriended me,
A loyal man to prove the test.

The man I could have been,
The man I should have been.
If I only could have met my potential
For the things that were essential.

If I could have worked harder on being a good father.
Studied more for the degrees that keep the score.
If only I could have been the man who loved my wife,
Like Christ loved the Church more than His life.

The man I could have been,
The man I should have been.
If I only could have met my potential
For the things that were essential.

Thank you for tomorrow.

Gus Koerner, July 7, 2015.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May is a Time for Florida Hurricane Preparedness

It has been a quiet past few years as far as hurricanes go in Florida.  June 1 is the start of Hurricane Season in Florida.  Now is the time to prepare.

We can never let our guard down however, or think it will never happen to us.

I will be writing more later, but attached are a few resources and my plan to help us be prepared.  It appears I am writing this for others, but it is actually a to-do list for me!  I hope you get something out of it as well. :)

This link from NOAA is to a very good document on how you can keep your family safe.

The University of Florida Disaster Handbook is a great resource.

The Florida Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards is also very good.

This is what I'm going to do...10 Easy Steps!
  1. Get my paperwork together, insurance, home owners documentation.  If my neighborhood is declared off-limits by Emergency Management Services, they will not let me back in without proof of ownership.  Back up e-documents to "the cloud" for anywhere access.
  2. Fill my cars up with gas, get ready to evacuate if necessary.
  3. Work - Keep in touch with my employer.  I don't want to return home, and find out I was fired for not reporting to work.
  4. Housing...Locate my nearest shelter.  Protect my house.  Stash a key in the yard somewhere for a neighbor if necessary.  Know how to turn off home utilities if necessary.
  5. Have PRINTED in my files family and friends contact information. Don't rely on e-information.  Google or web services may be disabled.
  6. Get 7 days of emergency food ready that will keep NOT refrigerated.  Prepare drinking water, 1 gallon per person per day, and flushing / washing water (prepare to fill the canoe with the hose.)
  7. Get my Go-Files ready.  The most important financial files in a grab box ready to go.  Keep my most precious documents and photos secure and ready to grab.
  8. Stuff...Get some cash on hand.  $500 to $1000 will cover most emergency expenses for 72 hours. Any cash is better than no cash.  Have books or games ready to keep you occupied for endless hours of shelter time.  Have 30 days of prescriptions on hand for all in your family.
  9. Shelter - Pre-arrange for an out-of-state (or harms way) place to stay.  Humm, Who are my friends in Georgia and Alabama?  Your nearest safe-house could be within a few hours drive.
  10. Communication - Keep in constant contact with my neighborhood loved ones, keep connected with my church family.  Exchange numbers.  Do they need assistance?  This is a time to connect with our fellow community members.  Keep an emergency radio handy for local information.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sandy Poem Number 27

Sandy Poem Number 27

A day isn't a day without you by my side,
I thank the Lord every day you chose to be my bride.

I love the way you make me feel, I love the way you smell.
I love the way my heart chimes on, because you are my Belle.

I love the way you treat me,
With patience and respect.
You help me and encourage me,
Ne’er do you neglect.

You’re the model of kindness,
With those you interact.
Giving, caring and gentle,
Is not for you a special act.

Sure you’re not perfect,
No one is of course.
But when it counts, when trouble mounts,
You are a Light source.

A woman of God, thank you.

I love you Sweetheart.

- gus

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Testing of Our New Rocket Stove

Back in January I was introduced to the Rocket Stove.  It is a hand made, economical, very efficient cooking and heating tool. The principles were described by Dr. Larry Winiarski from Aprovecho in 1982 and stoves based on this design won Ashden Awards in both 2005 and 2006. Interest in rocket stoves has led to the development of rocket mass heaters and other innovations. Source and photo (left) by Wikipedia, Rocket Stove.  They are available to purchase, but can easily be built with local materials at a fraction of the cost. I don't want to under emphasize the value of how little wood this stove uses.  It has allowed people in remote African and South American countries to use small sticks, leaves and grass to cook and heat for their families and not have to wander into dangerous remote areas to collect large amounts of firewood.

I built mine with materials purchased a the local home center, some scrap 4 inch PVC pipe, cut at a 45 degree angle and an old 5 gallon bucket.  I spent about $30, for materials enough to build two stoves. I followed the instructions from Gene Lonergan on YouTube when I made the stove. I mixed my Cement/Perlite mixture at 8:1 by volume using an empty coffee can and a wheel barrow. If I did it again, I would use 6:1, decreasing its thermal conductivity a bit and increasing its mass and structural stability.  As is, the weight of my stove is about 6 lbs, and as you can see from the photo (right), is light enough to sit on a glass table without worrying about breakage.  Also notice that it is the shape of a 5 gallon bucket.

Cooking with the stove.  For free, I was able to get gas stove grates from the local scrap yard to place on top of the stove, and underneath the cooking surface to allow for adequate air flow.  With the handful of dried sticks shown, Sandy and I were able to cook a meal of Blackend fish in the cast iron skillet.

One thing I need to add is this is not a coal burning fire!  Just the opposite.  It is a voracious wood burner, but in very small amounts.  It is best to use longer sticks than the ones I used, so as to be able to feed them into the fire.  We kept stoking the fire to provide a continual hot fire throughout the cooking process, and when the meal was done we stopped the wood feed.  After that, the fire was virtually out in 10 minutes.  At no time did the table or sides of the Rocket Stove come even close to warm to the touch.  The insulating properties of the volcanic Perlite responded as predicted.

For survivalists, naturalists and those interested in inexpensive sustainable energy tools and resources, the Rocket Stove is a Top 10 innovation in my opinion!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

More Limericks

This is a continuation, Part II if you will, of my original story Limericks on March 30 of this year... I can tell you right now, there will probably be several follow-ups to this!  What can I say?  I'm a nerd.

Why I Love Limericks
I love limericks no ending.
They rhyme 'round a tree's always bending.
They're short and so sweet.
But longer than Tweets!
My thoughts and my feelings extending.

This was 157 characters w/spacing.  I need to create the Tweet-able  > 140 character limerick!

The Family Bookkeeper
She used to use the name Swift.
She's a master to the definition of thrift.
She saves us the nickels,
So there's always a pickle.
And we're never a ship that's adrift.

Thank you honey for watching our family finances.  I love you.

I Miss My Kids
In Florida there are tall, bushy trees,
And some that are short to your knees.
I miss my kids bad.
Because I'm their Dad.
In they're activities I'm always so pleased. :)

I know the transition here is weird, but I live in sunny Florida and my kids live across the globe in China, California, Florida, Texas and Utah. Texts, calls, Skype and Facebook are how we communicate - the 21st Century Family!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Tribute To Harley

Harley was our adopted son and little brother from June 2002 to April 8, 2015. We're all going to miss him.

I talk to him when I'm lonesome like;
And I'm sure he understands.
When he looks at me so attentively,
And gently licks my hands;
Then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes,
But I never say naught thereat.
For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes,
But never a friend like that.


If my dog is barred by the heavenly guard
We'll both of us brave the heat! Both poems by W. Dayton Wedgefarth

And This Poem...

The Dachshund's affectionate
He wants to wed with you:
Lie down to sleep,
And he's in bed with you.
Sit in a chair,
He's there.
Depart,
You break his heart.

by E.B. White

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Working With Prison Inmates

I've been working for Florida Department of Corrections since October 2012, in Transition, Security and now Education. Following, are some thoughts on what I have experienced. My writing may seem to soften or humanize the inmates in the prison setting, but I am looking at the big picture as I write this. Some of the inmates have done some truly horrific things, all of them some really bad things, or they wouldn't be in prison!   Just last week, one of my best Inmate Teaching Assistants put himself into Protective Management because he got beat up and his watch stolen. This past weekend three inmates from my institution went to the hospital due to stabbing related incidents.  This isn't secret news I'm sharing, it was on the front page of the Daytona papers.

Also be sure, I intend no disrespect to the officers, or administration in this post.  They do the best that they can to protect all inmates, security, civilian staff and the public. The image above is from California (see photo credit below, used with permission), but it is a likeness of my institution.

Working With Prison Inmates
Working in the prison system has caused me to realize
the value of the individual in God’s eyes.
The rough exterior of the inmates is usually a facade,
to mask the guilt, pain and shame of crimes they've committed.
If one looks beyond the sea of blue clothing
and into the eyes of the individuals,
you’ll see they may have been acquitted as criminals by God,
but not by the state and usually not by themselves.

Re-Entry, transition and betterment are the clichés of the system,
but it does not address the needs of the victims;
not excluding the scars left on the families of those incarcerated,
when their sons attempt to become exonerated, by fulfilling their obligation to the courts.

It is our job as corrections staff to uphold safety and order,
while at the same time maintain a border of impartiality and professionalism.
Care, but not too much. Custody, but doing so humanely. Control, but not degrading.
All the time crusading, for maintaining the dignity of the individual,
the organization we represent, and the One who called us to this important position.

Photo Credit Link Many thanks to the CA Department of Corrections.. 

This post is written only from my opinion and experience.  In no way does it express the policies, procedures and management policies of the Florida Department of Corrections or the State of Florida.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Review

I cannot let this Easter day pass by without writing what it meant to me.  After all, it is the day our Lord was resurrected, arose from the dead after three days in the tomb.  He is risen!

This had been one of my most memorable Easter seasons in my life, starting with Ash Wednesday.  On Ash Wednesday, we attended a service at church and departed with a charcoal cross on our foreheads, having made a Lenten sacrifice i.e, "giving up something" for Lent.  I gave up nothing.  Instead I took on a daily devotion to the process and leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

This has been a 40 days of inner reflection and thoughts of the future and the past.  I've asked questions such as why has God called me to teach in prison?  How can I have a positive impact on my students, in not only attaining their G.E.D., but on the rest of their lives? Is this a calling or just a job?  Are my Mom and Dad proud of me and are they watching over me?  Or are they just dead?

How am I supposed to serve in the ministry?  Should I just keep serving as a Lay person or become ordained as a Methodist minister?  How can I have a positive impact on my children when they live so far away?

Does every Dad and person contemplate these deep questions or similar?  I don't know.

As Easter comes and goes, soon it will be summer and the clock keeps ticking, and the calendar turns over day by day I will continue to reflect.
How do I make the Easter season of 2015 come alive for me? Where am I supposed to go with it, and what can I do to share the love of Jesus Christ to my neighbor next door and the prison inmate closed in behind razor wire?

Side bar - there were two inmates stabbed at my workplace today according to the news.  I don't know the story behind it, but it has affected my Easter Sunday in a way that few can understand.

Keep following along with me and experience my journey with me.  I'd like that.

Photo Credit: My wife Sandy from the Max Brewer bridge in Titusville, FL.  Used with permission.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Just Before the Last Supper

As Good Friday approaches I contemplate the last days of Jesus Christ before he was crucified.  In particular this year, I have compassion for Judas, yes the Betrayer of our Lord.  If he had not given Jesus up to His pursuers, someone else would have and then we would be blaming them.  Was Judas a necessary part of the eternal plan?  I don't know.  How did he feel afterwards?  (I'd love to read your comments on this.)

The Gospel of John 13:1-2 (NRSV)
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.  Shortly after this, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and broke bread with them, knowing in advance of the betrayal.

I wrote this poem, considering the plight of Judas Iscariot, and the guilt he must have felt.

"Cinder blocks tied to my ankles, ropes bind my hands.
I sink below the surface, feet down to the sand.
I stretch to reach the light above.
Gasping, but not enough air.
God help me up and free me, out of this despair."

I'd also like to share some of the words of this song How Can It Be, By Lauren Daigle which is popular right now on Christian radio.

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I've done, what I've become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You brake my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I cannot leave this story on a guilt laden note of sorrow, because it does not end there!  The story continues in John 13:31 to verse 35 and gives us The New Commandment...Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Jesus shows His disciples, even Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter who betrayed Him that His love was greater than the price of their betrayal.  Shouldn't we do the same?  Can I do that?  God please help me, not for my sake, but to follow you and be a Christ example to someone who does not know Him.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Limericks

I've been obsessed with limericks lately, starting with The Pelican, which I think I found on NPR, and it became the impetus of my sudden rhyming enthusiasm.  This jewel was written by Dixon Lanier Merritt, in 1910, and it moves me so in such a funny way, it causes me to think in rhyme, all the time!  After The Pelican are my own which I came up with in the last two days inspired by events in my life. I think I'm finished now.

First this...

The Pelican
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week.
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

Now here are mine...

The Fid (a tool for rope work and knot tying)
My Fid has been missing for weeks,
I found it tonight with much glee.
It was right where I laid it.
I'm glad cuz I made it.
I use it for knots that I keep.

My husband he lost his best Fid,
Then blamed everyone and the kids.
His mind he's a losin',
For simply not choosin',
To remember the things that he did!

Pillow Thief
I now have a wife who's a thief!
She never causes much grief.
My pillow she'll take, Before I awake.
She denies it in great disbelief!

Covered Dish
Oh the joy of community eatery!
Enjoying each other so leisurely.
The dishes diverse,
We sit and converse.
Getting to know one another so easily.

Slumber
My sweet wife is sound asleep.
She lies in a slumber so deep.
But soon she'll awake, and coffee partake.
She's a blessing to all whom she meets.

Misbehaving Students
In prison they come to my school.
They can stay if they don’t act the fool.
If bridges their burnin’ they don’t get no learnin’
That is the primary ground rule.

Mean Ramona
There once was a man from Daytona,
That married a bike chick Ramona.
He rode on the back, but she cut him no slack,
And dumped him on this side of Pamona.

Old Mr. Forte’
I wonder how old Mr. Forte’ has been?
Since ‘76 he’s been in the pen.
The sweetest man you've met in your life
39 years now for killing his wife.

Squirrel Chaser
Harley chases with fleas on his knees.
All of the squirrels plum up the trees.
All he wants to is play, but he never will say,
The squirrel language version of 'please'.




Sunday, March 29, 2015

Unleavened Passover Bread

2 cups White Flour, unbleached all purpose
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup Water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Mix well all ingredients in a medium size bowl by hand or with an electric mixer until a stiff dough forms. Remove the dough to a lightly floured countertop, kneading until a smooth consistentcy.   Bake for 8 minutes, flip the bread over on the pan, bake for about 8 more minutes.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Now Teaching Family Classes in Firearms Safety

Photo Credit: Michigan State University 4-H Shooting Sports
I am now teaching Family Firearms Safety for donations only.  A typical class of this quality and quantity of information by a Certified Instructor is about $75 per person.

If you have firearms in your home, and don't know much about them, this class is for you! If you cannot afford a class?  No worries.  I can assist you with no charge or agreeable terms.

If you're interested, get a hold of me.  My email address is guskoerner@gmail.com.  I also teach by distance learning (Skype). Typically I will come to your home, or you to mine and talk about family firearms safety.  I have youth appropriate DVD's as well. This class is centered on age appropriate, hands-on materials for the children of your home AND satisfies the Florida requirement for the Concealed Weapons Permit.

This is how it works.  When firearms are in the classroom, they are always locked, or otherwise inoperable, and there is NEVER any ammunition present; the cardinal rule of firearms instruction.  I am successfully security screened by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Corrections and Brevard Public Schools and can show credentials upon introduction.  I am a former 4-H Youth Development Agent and Instructor for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (Game) Commission.

This course description below is typical, but I also teach rifle, black powder firearms and non-certified archery and shotgun.  Below is a description of one of the courses I teach.

NRA First Steps Pistol Course Description, 3 hours (1.5 hrs class + 1.5 hrs range)

FIRST stands for “Firearm Instruction, Responsibility, and Safety Training”, a program the NRA developed to meet the need for a firearms orientation program for new gun purchasers. This FIRST Steps program is a basic courses abbreviated to the most fundamental shooting skills, and the specifics of a particular model of pistol.

This course, because of its narrow focus, can be completed as quickly as three hours. Students will get quick practical lessons on the safe use, cleaning, and storage of their pistol. The practical exercise covers a single pistol shooting position.

Course Goal
“To provide beginning shooters with an introduction to the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to own and use a specific pistol model safely.”

NRA FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation Lesson Plans
1.Introduction to Pistol Safety, Parts, and Operation
2.Introduction to Ammunition and the Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting
3.Introduction to Pistol Shooting from the Benchrest Position
4.Introduction to Pistol Cleaning, Storage, and Training Opportunities

Prerequisites
The are no prerequisites for taking this course, and the material is accessible to appropriately supervised mature children.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Keeping Tract of our Family Homes

The absolute primary reason for this blog is so that my children and theirs can know something about me.  Not that I am or was the best person to know, but looking back to my own parents and grandparents, I would love to know every detail of their life.  This is important to me not just from an historical / genealogical perspective, but I would like to know their emotions, thoughts, struggles and accomplishments to compare with my own.

Haven't any of you wanted to go back to see your birth home, or that favorite neighborhood you lived in growing up?  If so, can you remember right where it is?  I cannot, therefore I have gone back and recorded the exact location of each.  This isn't a complete list, and it will grow as time goes on.  How did I do it?  In some cases I used a Garmin GPS handheld trail receiver, in other cases I used my smart phone, and the longer distance places away I used Google Earth.

Places I've Lived
Coordinates listed are Decimal Degrees, Basemap WGS84 when possible.

Date: Coordinates by Longitude and Latitude and the general location, i.e., city, state, zip, country

1959: Bountiful, UT, My birth house. N 40.873518, W 111.881625, 29 West 1600 South, Bountiful, UT
1960: Minnesota
1963: Fort Worth, TX
1977: N 32.720033 W 097.462495, 76116, Bangor Drive, Fort Worth, TX
1979: N 55.569115 E 009.742989, Fredercia, DK **
1980: N 55.640800 E 012.583717, Amager, DK **
1981: N 41.765329 W 111.804760, Little White House, 84341 N. Logan, UT
1983: N 41.879454 W 111.989905, Dairy, Newton, UT
1987: N 41.767727 W 111.802645, 84341, Salisburys, N. Logan, UT
1989: N 41.731343 W 111.843606, 84321, Center Street, Logan, UT
1990: N 41.711697 W 111.853128, 84321, Park Avenue, Logan, UT
1998: N 28.647644 W 080.866294, 32796, Caper Court, Titusville, FL
2002: N 28.575609 W 080.806277, 32780, LaCita, Titusville, FL
2004: N 28.555872 W 080.805495, 32780, Sisson Road,Titusville, FL
2005: N 28.641823 W 080.853132, 32796, Saratoga Drive, Titusville, FL
2014: N 28.647644 W 080.866294, 32796, Caper Court, Titusville, FL

* Recorded 2014
** General Area

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Story of the Wayward Son Has Daily Implications

It seems almost daily I am impressed with the message of this story.  I've written about it before, but this time is different. See this story from 2012.

Recently I offended someone I dearly love.  They snapped back in response, and then I was offended by what they said to me.  This is life, and humanness at its finest!

My paraphrased version the story in Luke 15 is about a young man who wasted his inheritance on extravagant living, then came home with nothing.  He was judged harshly by his brother, but forgiven and loved by his Dad.  It raises the question to me of who was more at fault, the wasteful or the judgmental brother.  Implicitly the story points us to the example we need to follow is that of the father.  All of us will at some time do foolish things, and we will also judge those who do the same.   Sometimes the only consequence comes to the ‘lawbreaker’, but those who cannot mentally or emotionally place themselves in the other’s position, risk self-righteousness which is unjustified in any case from an eternal perspective. Who am I to cast the first stone?  The one we should be trying to emulate is the father in this story; loving and forgiving those who err in spite of their actions.  That is what the message Christ bids us to follow. (see image credit below)

In the dictionary, the word prodigal is characterized by profuse spending, so much so that it could be described as wasteful.  In this story all three characters go to prodigal extremes in their behaviors.  Which person best describes your actions and behavior lately?

Read this story again from the point of view of a person you have offended or been offended by…

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother, from Luke 15:11-32 (NRSV)

11. Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18. I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20. So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22. But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24. for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25. “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28. Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31. Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Image credit - this image is by the Japanese artist Soichi Watanabe, titled “The Prodigal Son Returns which was on display at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, 2009.  More on this artist.
The photo originally on this post was removed due to copyright infringement.  Mr. Watanabe will be paid a fee prior to me posting it again.  In the meantime, please see the link above.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Call To Serve

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.

I was raised by loving Christian parents in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas.

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.

Because of family religious pressure, my passion to become a minister soon became discouragement.

Years later that I realized that no matter what my situation or profession was, I could still be a minister of 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 His love with others.

I realize my Heavenly Father has woven a tapestry with my life, giving me opportunities to use these gifts for His kingdom, among my brothers and sisters.