Friday, January 30, 2009

Prayer Request

Levi, brother of two dear friends (MamaLion and Lori ) passed away very suddenly on Thursday morning at the early age of 32yo.

For more information, check here .

Please pray for MamaLion, Lori, and their families during this very difficult time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where Were You ?

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the doomed Space Shuttle Challenger mission. Before the eyes of the nation, and the world, the space shuttle exploded.

Above 1: The United States Space Shuttle CHALLENGER just seconds after its explosive destruction on January 28, 1986. The accident, which occurred a little more than a minute after liftoff, killed the orbiter’s seven-person crew, including the first teacher to be launched into space. -NASA-
Above 2: The Crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
President Ronald Regan addressed the Nation that evening, but instead of giving The State Of The Union speech as had been planned, he spoke to all Americans about the tragic Challenger accident.
You can hear or read his speech here:
As for me, I was a freshman in highschool. My daily Biology I class had just begun. We were ahead of schedule and so planned (the day before) to watch the Space Shuttle Challenger launch on television during our 60 minute class time. But within moments of tuning in, we instead watched as it exploded -- a terrible tragedy ! Classes merged with classes in every area of the school with a television. The student body, teachers, and faculty members sat and watched -- and then, the next thing we knew, the daily dismissal tones sounded. I had been "in" Biology for almost the entire day.
It is certainly a day I will never forget !

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Somethings

From in the school room one day last week, we could hear "something" ... lots and lots of "somethings" actually.
At first, we were busy working on our lessons as the "somethings" got louder and softer. Then, the waves of sound from the "somethings" kept getting louder and louder and louder.
Our minds kept wandering outside, wondering what was going on out there. And the sound ... WOW ... it was very loud, and was getting progressively louder.Finally, in order to satisfy our curiousity, we decided to venture out to the front porch for a moment to see what was happening.
(And we spent more than a moment in awe of it all !)
In the sky was what resembled a tremendous swarm of "somethings", flying this way and that, moving much like a swarm of bee's traveling as a unified body ... there were absolutely MANY "somethings" ... but the "somethings" were much too large to be bees or insects.
Next we noticed that there were also many other smaller "swarms" crowded together up above, sounding off from nearly every tree top.
Apparently convinced that we were not going to harm them, the swarms of "somethings" began to descend to the ground, a few at a time.
It was then we knew for sure ... the swarms ... the "somethings" ... were actually Flocks of Robins .... many many many MANY Robin RedBreasts.

We watched as they descended and began hopping (have you ever noticed their characteristic "hopping" ?) all over the yard, chirping and pecking. It seemed as if they were greeting one another over a meal (a buffet, obviously) after a long period of separation, genuinely pleased to see one another. Or perhaps they were greeting those who also survived the long dangerous journey just completed ?!?! Their behavior reminded us of so many "spring greetings" described so well in Thornton Burgess's Bird Book stories. ( )
We did not count them, but it definately seemed that there were hundreds and hundreds of Robins in our yard (and in the sky directly above it).
It was quite a sight to behold, indeed !

Several days have passed since the "somethings" arrived. The Robins are still here, or many of them at least, and so it seems safe to say that we have officially witnessed one of the first signs ...
Spring Is Coming .... soon !
** We tried taking many photos of the Robins here at Beck's Bounty, but our photos were all very blurry and fuzzy. We obviously have not yet gotten proficient with the new camera. And so, we borrowed the above photos from other more-gifted photographers, found with a Goggle image search. **

Friday, January 23, 2009

Big Brother To The Rescue

Cherub 5 had considerable difficulty learning
to read. But, she finally got the hang of it.
Every day she would read her
McGuffey's Reader, making good progress.
But when she sat with a chosen
library book or some other story,
she would freeze.
Frustration would set in ...
and she would NOT read ...
she could NOT read ...
even if the words were exactly
the same as those just read
from her McGuffey's Reader ...
she was simply unable to read them.
So, we have been at this "stalling point"
since well before the holidays ...
not wanting to push her too hard,
but trying to encourage her ...
yet this impasse continued to block her way.
She really truly very-much
WANTS to read books by herself ....
library books, books from our collection,
magazines like her Ranger Rick ....
yet, she has been simply unable to read them.
And I have waited ... and waited ...
encouraging but not pushing ...
all without progress.
I have to say that I do not believe
this issue is behavioral, that she WILL NOT,
but rather it is a CANNOT because of a
mental block she has put up,
hindering her progression.
Cherub 1 once had this exact problem,
though not as severely.
Thankfully, he remembers it !
He wanted to read "any book" with all his heart,
but reading did not come easily to him.
(unlike Cherub 2 and Cherub 3),
So, it took a lot of work and considerable time.
He says now that he was AFRAID
of those other books --
wanting to read them,
yet very much intimidated by them.
Very strange, yes.
But, true, he insists.
But that was longggg ago ....
and these days he reads everything
and anything without so much as a stumble.
He LOVES to read !
So, it began a few weeks ago ...
unplanned by DadToCherubs or myself ...
(I never would have asked THIS impatient child
to help our other MORE impatient child !)
Cherub 1 began sitting with Cherub 5
several times each day to read.
Cherub 1 said he had to coax her to try it at first,
but that now she drops what she is doing when he
calls her to read for a while. That's progress !!
This first-born ... generally VERY short on patience ...
whose idea of offering praise and encouragement
is simply silence and witholding criticism ...
is helping someone else, with nothing to gain for himself.
He is simply being kind ... and loving ...
and apparently patient !
I stood unseen a few times,
watching and biting my nails,
when these "readings" first began.
It appears that THIS is different, for both Cherubs.
Their strong character traits are put aside, for a time.
And together, they forge this relationship ...
and they make progress.
They sit together in a quiet corner,
unseen by most family members,
and they read ANY book of Cherub 5's choice.
Sometimes they read from start to finish,
and sometimes it's just a few lines
or pages per sitting.
This takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes at a time,
for a total of an hour or more
spread throughout each day.
Cherub 1 says they read until
Cherub 5 starts showing "stress".
(The stress he remembers feeling himself, long ago.)
Then, they close the book, agreeing to work
on it some more later.
I have tried this exact method
with utter failure.
Perhaps the "magic" is the
"Big Brother" ingredient ??And what do you know ...

Cherub 5 is progressing ...

inch by inch,

word by word ...

page by page.



Cherub 1 is genuinely enjoying a bit of
special time with his youngest sister.
And Cherub 5 is benefitting from the
wisdom and experience of her oldest brother,
who has almost a stronger personality than she ...
so much so that they generally avoid one another.
What is even harder to believe is that these
"help sessions" were completely Cherub 1's idea !!
He has read about pandas, elephants,
ballerinas, Frog & Toad,
Little Bear, and other
"very-youth-geared" characters.
(Although, Little Bear was HIS favorite, longggg ago.)
He has listened to story books, fairy tales,
"girly" books, and magazine articles.
He has succeeded in helping Cherub 5 read them all,
usually with a smile.
He has even given some PRAISE ....
but don't tell him I overheard it. (HA !)
Awwww - Cherub 1 is growing up !
And Cherub 5's "fears" and "frustrations"
are rapidly disappearing.
Isn't homeschooling grand ?!?!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nature Study Group

On Monday, a few families came to join us
for a time of Nature Study.
It was blowing and snowing outside
but we persevered.
And we shared a most enjoyable time.
We'll have to do this again soon ...
perhaps with the spring wildflowers ?
** Photos are out of order. Sorry. ** Above & Below: Working on Nature Journal Entries.

Observing and discussing the "finds"
Some turtle egg shell fragments,
scattered beside the pond, between what
appeared to be a "nest" (hole) with
an intact egg and the water's edge.
These are probably from Snapping Turtles,
as we have plenty of those.
But that is a "guess".
We have not been able to identify this plant yet.
Any ideas ??

The catails are starting to sprout
in the sunny spots alongside the pond.
An eggsack belonging to a
Golden Orb Weaver Spider.
Isn't it awesome ?!?!
This was a mass of very fine "web" material
intertwined with leaves and other plant debris.
No identifications yet - any ideas ??
A male Cardinal sitting on a RedBud branch,
while snow is falling all around.

Here is what was supposed to be the first photo ~
The "group" setting off toward the pond in
search of specimens and samples, and in
high hopes of finding something inspiring.
(all the while, it was snowing and blowing, and COLD !)

America's Best Baked Potato Soup

Serving Size : 12
5 Medium baking potatoes
8 Slices bacon (we use turkey bacon, however pork bacon gives more bacon flavor)
1 Cup sweet onions -- chopped
2/3 Cup all-purpose flour
6 Cups chicken broth
2 Cups half and half
1/4 Cup fresh parsley -- chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoons garlic -- minced
1 1/2 Teaspoons dried basil
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 Teaspoon hot sauce
1 3/4 Cups shredded cheddar cheese -- divided
1 Cup green onions, sliced -- divided
1/4 Cup fresh parsley -- chopped

Cooking Instructions:
Wash potatoes; prick several times with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until done; let cool. Peel potatoes, and slice crosswise.
Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, reserving drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside.

Cook onion in drippings, stirring constantly, until tender; add flour, stirring well. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add chicken broth; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in potato, half-and-half, and next 6 ingredients. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes (do not boil). Stir in 1 cup cheese and 1/4 cup green onions. Cook until cheese melts, stirring often. Again freeze at this point.

Ladle soup into individual soup bowls. Top evenly with crumbled bacon. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 3/4 cup cheese, 3/4 cup green onions, and parsley.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We Humbly Pray ...

DadToCherubs and I cast our votes on Election Day, and were overruled by our fellow countrymen.
And today, as we watched the Inauguration, our whole family humbly prayed together ....
* Photos taken from various online news websites *

... that God grant President Obama and Vice-President Biden the much needed wisdom, courage, and integrity they will need during the days to come ... that Our Lord guide our nation and our elected leaders to every appropriate step of this journey, throughout this challenging period in our history ... that Our Father protect and guide President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and their families, along with those persons which President Obama selected to serve our great nation beside him.

* * *
Today we are once again blessed to be citizens of the United States of America. We lift our new government leaders into God Almighty's Hands. Above all, we know that God is in control, and it is that knowledge that gives us hope !

We sat this morning to watch (live via television) as our 44th President was sworn in ... a peaceful process unique to our nation, steeped so deeply in history and tradition, and yet ground-breaking today especially.

* * *
We thank God for President Obama's willing commitment to serve our great nation during these difficult hours ... and we commit to covering this administration in prayer throughout their terms of office. We commit our President to Our Heavenly Father.
* * *
We ask that you join us in praying for our nation,
and for all of our new government officials.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Midnight Sleigh Ride

Well, it was closer to 8 o'clock (pm) .... And they rode toboggans, rather than sleighs ....

DadToCherubs, lighting the way .... he shines the car
headlights over the hill .... because we HAVE to snow-play
in the dark .... this is the south, where the sun rises and
melts all of the flakes much too quickly.
Please forgive the photography. It is difficult to take
snow photos in the dark of night, while auto headlights shine brightly ...
all while the "subjects" are zipping down the hill around you. HA !
After sledding, we donned warm PJs and sipped hot chocolate ...
and then nearly everyone headed off to bed early ...
exhausted from their snow play ...
chock-full of snowflakes and hot chocolate.
Many prayers were offered ...
Thank you Lord for sending this little
bit of white snow to us today !!

Let It Snow !

The house being "dusted" with fluffy white snow today.
I loved the way the snow weas sticking
to the bark on the upper branches.

Snowing hard -- looking to the east
of our house toward the little church.

Snow falling on the pond,
and steam rising from the water.

Looking down the front yard toward the pond --
the snow was falling pretty hard.

A Work In Progress

Someone special turned 13yo yesterday.
Can you guess who it is ?
Cherub 2, of course.
With a very heavy school week, some company coming, and lots going on, I am running a bit behind with the Birthday Blog Post. I will try to get it ready by the end of the week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Burrrrrrrrr !!

According to The Weather Channel and our outdoor thermometer, it is currently 9 degrees ....


.... and with the windchill (according to TWC), it feels like 3 degrees.


Today's high is supposed to be 20 degrees (before the windchill, of course) .... with a 9 degree low again tonight.


But tomorrow .... ahhhh tomorrow .... is supposed to be balmy at 40 degrees. We just might need some shorts, and to get the pool up and going, to survive the heat wave. HA !


The woodstove is burning on high, as is the fireplace. And thanks to all of our hard work last fall, (winterizing, caulking, and weather-stripping) the house is quite toasty ! And thanks to the Beck Men, we have plenty of firewood.


So today we are just going to hang out inside after we finish with school. It'll be another great day to try out some more of the new board games we received at Christmas.


Think warm thoughts !!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Recommending A Challenge

Granny offered up a Reading Challenge to read ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand.

Atlas Shrugged can be purchased from Amazon or can likely be borrowed from your local library.

There are also lots of study guides available free online such as Cliff Notes , Spark Notes , and Yahoo Education .

The Wall Street Journal wrote a great review of Atlas Shrugged that might inspire you to get this book and read it. It is a BIG book, and not the easiest to read, but is well worth the effort given the current state of things, and the promises and plans being made for our future.

To quote the article just a bit ... "the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism." The article says so much more than this, but I do not want to give away the whole book before you've had a chance to read it.

I read this book in my early 20's at the recommendation of my father, and intend to read it again this winter with my oldest children (they are going to be using study guides of course for help) . It definately made me think .... and impacted my own political "thoughts" regarding all things government for ever after.

I only wish it were required reading for all government officials .... it might be "just the thing" given the current state of things and the plans being formulated. These are difficult times indeed ....

DISCLAIMER: Ms. Rand is not the type of person that I would consider a "role model", nor do I subscribe to all of her "ideas". Personally, I am able to overlook those issues, and focus instead on the contribution she made in the writing of this particular book. You may be able to do the same ... or not. I recommend some research first to decide.

Of Interest To All Parents

Washington Times Op-ed—
U.N. Treaty Might Weaken Families
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President
One of the issues American families could face this year is the ramifications from a treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

You may ask, "How could a treaty directly affect internal decision-making by American families?" We generally think of treaties as agreements affecting international relations between countries. The U.N., however, has initiated treaties that not only affect international relations, but also the domestic relations of member nations as well. These treaties, sometimes called "conventions," require member nations that ratify the treaty to implement the requirements as binding law or rules.

On Nov. 20, 1989, the U.N. adopted the CRC and submitted it for ratification to the member nations. It has been ratified by 193 nations—the United States is one of the few countries that has not ratified it.

The ratification process requires a two-thirds vote by the U.S. Senate. On Feb. 16, 1995, Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., signed the CRC on behalf of the United States. The CRC, however, has never been sent to the Senate for ratification because there is insufficient support to pass it.

Due to the recent election, however, there are rumblings from Capitol Hill that there will be an effort to seek ratification of the CRC during the next congressional cycle. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a strong supporter of the treaty, and as secretary of state, would have direct control over the submission of treaties to the Senate.

Why should passage of the CRC be of concern? It likely would have a negative impact on domestic law and practice in the United States. Article VI of our Constitution makes treaties—and remember, conventions are viewed as treaties—"the supreme law of the land." The CRC would be treated as superior to laws in every state regarding the parent-child relationship. This would include issues regarding education, health care, family discipline, the child's role in family decision-making, and a host of other subjects.

Article 43 of the CRC establishes an international committee on the rights of the child to examine compliance by member nations. This committee, which sits in Geneva, has final authority concerning interpretation of the language contained in the CRC.

Two central principles of the CRC clearly are contrary to current U.S. laws related to parent-child relationships. The CRC provides that in all matters relating to children, whether private or public, or in courts, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Additionally, nations should ensure that children are capable of expressing their views freely in all matters affecting them, giving due weight to the age and maturity of the child.

This is contrary to traditional American law, which provides that absent proof of harm, courts and social workers simply do not have the authority to intervene in parent-child relationships and decision-making. The importance of this tradition and practice is that the government may not substitute its judgment for that of the parent until there is proof of harm to the child sufficient to justify governmental intervention. It is clear that in two very important areas of the parent-child relationship, religion and education, there will be potential for tremendous conflict.
The international committee in Geneva, in reviewing the laws of practice of countries that have ratified the CRC, has expressed its concern that parents could homeschool without the view of the child being considered; that parents could remove their children from sex-education classes without the view of the child being considered; that parents were legally permitted to use corporal punishment; and that children didn't have access to reproductive health information without parental knowledge.

The bottom line is the CRC would drastically weaken the United States' sovereignty over family life, which would have a substantial impact on every American family. For more information on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, visit
Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to

Friday, January 09, 2009

Mid-Winter Garden Chores

Of course, garden chores are always easier with a BIG tractor. HA !
How to turn your compost pile with ease ..... use a tractor with a scooper. Our compost pile has been "building" for nearly 2 years now, and was in need of being turned. And in all of 2 seconds, it was stirred well and turned ... and we didn't even break a sweat. HA !
We spent on of our rare sunny afternoons (but chilly) weeding the garden. With all of the rain, the weeds were beginning to take hold, but thankfully the soil is soft (also from the rain) so weeding was really easy.
Later that same afternoon, the Dairyman who lives on the farm took Cherub 6 with him (a big treat to ride in the big John Deere - he was smiling the whole time !) while he hauled load after load of composted manure from the barns to our garden. He covered the whole garden with the composted manure (about 3-4" thick), and then scraped it all smooth. He also scooped up the huge piles of autumn leaves we had raked, and spread those on the garden.
In a few weeks, the dairyman will come back to "rough till" the garden (with the big tractor and plow), and then when planting time gets closer we will fine till it again (with our rear-tine tiller) until everything is well mixed, soft, and fluffy.
All residents of Beck's Bounty are "a-buzz" with the garden-bug .... we are getting more and more excited !
On Thursday we made a trip to the library for gardening books. When there is a stack of 20 gardening books, how can a person read them all in time for the actual gardening, much less remember all of the information ? Well, in our family, there are 6 "readers" on this project (myself and 5 "reading" Cherubs) .... so we each choose books to read, and then take notes to "share" with each other. Multi-tasking at it finest. HA !! It has been some time since we read any "new" gardening books, because we have been gardening off and on for years. But we have some new projects to try this year .... we are looking into how to start our own plants from seed this year (this will be the first time for us), and also are learning as much as we can about Heirloom seeds.
It won't be long now ..... we hope.

"Before" And "After"

Before Christmas we were on a roll. We finally felt inspired to get started ... to make this house "ours" after having lived here nearly 1 1/2 years (following our housefire). We were painting and patching and "decorating". It was exhausting, mostly because we were trying to get it all finished before company arrived and before the holidays ..... but it was sooooooooo worth it !
The Cherubs spent hours and hours (literally !) scraping the 1980's border from the walls of our family room with 1" putty knives. It was the only tool that worked ! This "quality" (in materials, not in "beauty") border was put up with INDUSTRIAL strength adhesive -- left untouched by sanding, steel wool, countless brands of wallpaper stripper, and steam. But finally .... the Cherubs won .... after experimenting and finding that Murphy's Oil Soap mixed with HOT water would soften the border edges just enough to get under them with the putty knives. So, they removed the whole border wall by wall, scraping it off bit by bit in this manner. Then, we spent many more hours applying spackle and then sanding ... and sanding .... and sanding.

Bottom border removed, and now onto the top border.

The awful border and a close up of the awful Country Blue walls (circa late 1980's).

After a lot of spackle and sanding (and tons of labor), we applied 2 heavy coats of Kilz primer to cover the stains and spackling, followed by three coats of paint .... TA DA !!
The family room is now a lovely color called CREAM IN YOUR COFFEE which matches beautifully with the tan woodwork that was already here (and works so well for our big family that we decided not to change it).
For Christmas, DadToCherubs bought new Family Room furniture for us .... finally being able to sit on the couch without fear of being poked by the broken boards is such a treat. HA ! In addition to the normal family room peices (couch, etc), he added a Game Table. The Game Table is a small matching dining set for the purpose of playing board games and assembling puzzles. This photo (above) is of the table set. The Game Table has gotten more use that any of the other pieces, by Cherubs playing board games and doing puzzles (which Santa brought a lot of this year !).

And this photo (above) is of the rest of the family room .... the Game Table would be in the bottom right of this photo if it were a wide-enough shot.
The family room turned out so well; better than we had hoped. It is bright and cheery, and also warm and cozy. And it is SIMPLE .... which seems to be our new favorite "style" .... earth tones and simple.
The last finishing touch will be the Art .... we ordered some prints that will hopefully arrive someday, which we will then frame and hang.
At last .... OUR family room ....
We also painted the dining room and the master bathroom during our holiday break, and will post photos of those projects soon.
Our next projects will be the school room, the sun porch (which will be our art studio / hobby space), and the master bedroom .... then it will be time to plant the garden again.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Barb, aka Harmony Art Mom, shared this fun 99 Outdoors Sorts of Things To Do meme on her Handbook of Nature Study blog .... and we decided it owuld be a lovely rainy day thing for us to do together ....

The ones we have already completed are pink, and our yet-to-do's are gold.

1. Identify 20 birds living near by; learn their habits.
2. Listen and identify 12 bird calls.
3. Measure the massive Oaks; approximate their age.
4. Mark out, by biblical measurements, the perimeter of Noah's Ark.
5. Do bark rubbings of trees.
6. Visit Bald River Falls.
7. Visit Indian Boundary.
8. Watch kayakers on the Ocoee River.
9. Swim at Fort Loudoun.
10. Attend an official "tour" of Fort Loudoun.
11. Climb the tallest tree on the farm; how high can you go ?
12. Visit a Ranger Station in the Smokies.
13. Drive on the Cherohala Skyway across the mountains into NC.
14. Pick wild blackberries.
15. Identify local butterflies and moths.
16. Pick strawberries.
17. Visit a local Organic Dairy farm.
18. Plant a vegetable garden.
19. Plant hummingbird and butterfly "friendly" gardens.
20. Grow birdhouse gourds to make birdhouses (drying now, then will make the houses)
21. Watch pond edges for baby turtles hatching.
22. Track muskrats habits around and in the pond.
23. Make a tree swing using a tire and some heavy rope.
24. Build bluebird houses and install.
25. Milk a cow "by hand".
26. Pick and identify wildflowers.
27. Hatch butterflies in captivity for release.
28. Raise tadpoles in an aquarium for release.
29. Hike to the big lake. (many times)
30. Identify "lizards" in the woodpile.
31. Have a bonfire (many times)
32. Make a compost pile.
33. Build a fort in a tree.
34. Build a fort around a tree base.
35. Go rock climbing.
36. Go white water rafting.
37. Go kayaking.
38. Camping.
39. Visit Cades Cove.
40. Visit Ruby Falls.
41. Ride the Incline Railway (almost went into labor early with Cherub 4 !)
42. Go to the Zoo.
43. Go on a dinner cruise on the River.
44. Go skiing.
45. Go sledding.
46. Have a snowball fight.
47. Build a snow fort.
48. Make a snow angel.
49. Go snow boarding.
50. Raise animals for food (we have raised chickens)
51. Butcher an animal for food (fiesty roosters)
52. Adopt a stray animal. (too many cats, and Daisy the golden)
53. Make maple syrup.
54. Go boating on Lake Oconee (GA).
55. Go jet skiing.
56. Play on an island at Lake Oconee.
57. Build sandcastles.
58. Visit the Atlantic Ocean.
59. Watch baby goslings (Canadian Geese) take their first swim.
60. Find and identify fossils.
61. Skip rocks.
62. Learn to fish.
63. Learn to clean and cook fresh fish.
64. See the sun rise in each of the 4 seasons.
65. Learn the major cloud formations.
66. Find 10 Constellations in the night sky.
67. Collect acorns.
68. Collect pecans; prepare them; bake with them.
69. Ride a horse.
70. See dolphins in the wild.
71. Go whale watching.
72. See seals in the wild.
73. See a moose in the wild.
74. Watch a spider spin a web.
75. Watch a spider for a full season (Orb Weaver).
76.See the Continental Divide.
77. Learn to canoe.
78. See the Grand Canyon.
79. Build a raft or boat to float on a river (and have it NOT sink).
80. Find a beaver's dam.
81. Catch lightening bugs.
82. Raise and release ducks.
83. Visit Yellowstone.
84. Follow a rainbow to the end. (many failed attempts)
85. Admire the Dogwoods in full bloom.
86. Visit Washington D.C. when the Cherry trees are in full bloom.
87. Peddle boat in the Baltimore Harbor.
88. Visit Mystic Seaport.
89. Witness the Northern Lights.
90. Visit Williamsburg, VA.
91. Walk on the Battlefield, Devil's Den, and other landmarks in Gettsyburg, PA.
92. Visit Jamestown, VA.
93. Visit a "real" Farmer's Market.
94. Try water-skiing, wake boarding, and knee boarding.
95. Go tubing on the lake.
96. Drive across the country, Atlantic to Pacific.
97. Hike 1/4 of the Appalachian Trail.
98. Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies.
99. Volunteer to help with tracking and identification in the Smokies.

Now it's your turn. be sure to leave a link in the comments when you post your "99 Outdoors Sorts Of Things" so we can add your link to our blog.

Have a great day !

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

From Vision Forum's, Doug Phillips


Three of the Most Important Things You Can Do As You Begin 2009

Dear Friends:

Life moves fast. If we don’t take the time to chronicle the providences of God, we forget them. If we don’t take the time to say thank you to those who have invested in our lives, we actually cultivate a spirit of ingratitude in our own hearts. If we don’t stop and make sure that we have a spirit of forgiveness toward others, we grow bitter, we lose the capacity to move victoriously into the future, and our prayers are hindered.

Here is a little practice that I was taught and would like to share with you. As you start a new year, I would encourage you to do the following things.

I. Outline and Chronicle the Many Providences of God
Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. (Hab. 2:2)
First, using simple bullet points, outline the key events for every week of every month of the year. Take the time to do the research which will help jog your memory and allow you to make an accurate record. I find that reviewing bills, blogs, journals, newspaper headlines, letters, and even organizing my photographs chronologically are enormously helpful tools. Those individuals who were faithful to journal or keep a diary will have little problem reconstructing key events. Give yourself a good week to reconstruct your own outline of the year. Also, by making this a family project, you will not only build your list with greater speed and precision, but (in the hands of a loving patriarch) the very act of chronicling the providences of God in your life is a blessed tool for family discipleship.

Every family will have a different set of priorities directing what they should record. In addition to recording the key events and providences of the year chronologically, I try to take the time with my family to record some of the following information on separate bullet lists:

Where did I/we travel?
What were the titles and key texts of sermons I preached?
What books/articles did I write?
What significant household projects did we accomplish in 2008?
What were the most important meetings of the year?
What special friendships were made this year?
Which children lost teeth, and how many?
Who grew in physical stature, and how much did they grow?
Who learned to read this year?
What diet and physical exercise regimen did I maintain to honor “my temple”?
What books did I read? Did we read as a family? Did my children read?
What Scriptures did my family memorize?
What loved ones died this year?
What were the great personal/ministry/national tragedies and losses of the year?
What were the great personal/ministry/national blessings of the year?
What were my most significant failures for the year 2008?
What unresolved conflicts am I bringing into 2008?
What significant spiritual and practical victories did I experience?
In what tangible ways did I communicate gratitude to those who have blessed me and invested in my life?
What are the top ten themes of 2008 for my family?

II. Say ‘Thank You’ to Those Who Have Invested in Your Life
[I] cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. (Eph. 1:16)
Whatever happened to the man who first opened to you the words of life from the Scripture? Where is the comrade, coach, or instructor who believed in you and helped you to accomplish a great goal? What about the Bible teacher whose careful handling of the Word opened up new vistas of understanding? Where is the friend who stood with you through thick and thin? Most importantly, what have you communicated to the mother who carried you in her womb, loved and nurtured you, or the father who labored to provide for and shepherd you?

When was the last time you responded to their investment in your life with gratitude, blessings, and even money? Jesus reminds us of those ungrateful recipients of blessing who simply went their way without demonstrating gratitude (Luke 17).

As a new year begins, make a list of two types of people:

The first list are the names of people whose life, ministry, or personal investment in you have deeply touched you and changed your life. (In my case, the list includes parents, pastors, and even some teachers from the early years of my Christian walk that I did not meet until much later in my life, but whose books and tapes were crucial to my personal discipleship as a young Christian.)

The second list should include those people who played the most significant role in your life in 2008.

Write a brief, meaningful letter to each of them. Be specific in your gratitude. Explain what they did for you and why it was important to you. Show them how they were God’s instrument of blessing in your own life. Pray over each letter, asking God to grant you rich insights on the character qualities of each individual and on the way those qualities changed your own life. Where appropriate, include a check or special token of appreciation that reflects your desire to show them, tangibly, that you recognize that you are in their debt. You cannot imagine the joy this will give to someone from your past who may think you have forgotten them. Give generously and without concern for getting a tax deduction. I strongly recommend sending money to your parents. Keep in mind that you will never be able to return their personal and financial investment in your life, except through your testimony of faithfulness, covenant keeping, and honor to the Lord.

Also, your children need to know the people who have blessed their parents. They need to see that Mom and Dad are grateful and generous. Share your letters with them. In our household, we ask our children to write to some of the people who have blessed Mommy and Daddy, because our children are the indirect recipients of these blessings on their parents.

This will take a day or two to complete. You may have twenty letters to write, but you will never regret saying “thank you.”

One last thought: One reason why Christians are often limited in vision, energy, and blessings is that, contrary to the Lord’s command, we are ungrateful, unforgiving, and bitter. Far too many who profess the name of Christ spend more time obsessing on those who have wronged them than rejoicing in those who have blessed them. Letters and tangible expressions of gratitude are not only pleasing to Christ, but an antidote to heart-sickness.

III. Forgive Those Who Have Wronged You
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

In the course of a year, it is possible to build up many offenses and personal grievances at others. Left unaddressed, these grievances fester and grow. They turn the heart black and the body weak. They foster a spirit of vengeance and misguided self-righteousness. The short of it is this: Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Bitterness curdles the mind and the spirit.

Fresh starts and new years should begin with forgiveness for others. Having a genuine spirit of forgiveness towards those who have wronged us is a mark of biblical Christianity. It is an evidence that we have been redeemed, and that we are praying lawfully: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Successful Christians are men and women who are free from bitterness. They have learned the principle modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ who, while suffering death at the hands of people he had never wronged, was able to say “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).

I have a dear preacher friend with a sterling reputation who was once grievously slandered. When asked about the wicked actions of the slanderers, he replied something to this effect:
Oh you don’t understand — I am far, far worse than my detractors realize. They may have gotten a lot of the specific facts wrong, but I am just thankful they don’t know how bad my heart truly is. God have mercy on me a sinner.

This man had victory over bitterness.

My father is another man who always appeared to have victory over bitterness. In fact, from my earliest days to the present, I have watched lesser men “twist the truths [he’s] spoken to make a trap for fools.”

Early in my life when I was still in government schools, I would listen to my own teachers criticize before my class the work my father was doing for the President to dismantle a government agency which was at war with the family. I read untruthful articles and saw derogatory comics on the pages of the Washington Post picturing him as a caveman for his “prehistoric” views. When my father was a leader in the Republican Party in Massachusetts, a gangster repeatedly threatened the life of his family. I remember being a boy and having my father shield me from homosexual picketers and protesters that would follow him and our family around at public locations.

Lets remember to ask the question: Why should any Christian be denied in their lives what past generations of Christians — and our Lord and Savior Himself — patiently endured—whether it is pain, sufferings or trials? To our shame, most of us have been on both sides of that coin. From a son’s perspective, however, it is highly instructive to watch a father act honorably in the midst of conflict. It has been a great blessing in my own life to observe my father nobly respond even in the face of barbs from former allies and friends, once loved and nurtured by him.
Eternally optimistic, Dad would always say: “Never be bitter. Life is too short. Thank God for your blessings. Press on!”

Bitterness comes from being unwilling to forgive. Bitter people are small people. They are unsuccessful people. They are people who cannot move forward. They are people who believe that the personal wrongs against them are so great that they — the offended — are entitled to do to their offenders what they pray the Lord Jesus Christ will never do to them: refuse to forgive.
Here is my recommendation: Think through every grief, minor and major, caused by others to you in the year 2008. Now add to the list any other personal offenses that continue to linger from past years. Write these down as bullets on a sheet of paper.

The first thing you will likely realize is just how many offenses are polluting your thought life and, probably, your spirit. This is a sign of latent bitterness. Bitterness will kill you. It renders you completely ineffective.

Now prayerfully walk through the list — bullet, by bullet. With each offense, remind yourself that the most despicable action taken against you by another utterly (and infinitely) pales in comparison to the least of your offenses against the Lord Jesus Christ.

And yet He has forgiven you.

Before 2008 begins, adopt a spirit of forgiveness towards your insensitive friends as well as your hateful enemies. Forgive your imperfect father for whatever it is you need to forgive him for (and pray to the Lord that your own children someday forgive you for your failures). Quit devoting untold precious hours to commiseration, mental replay of the wrongs done, and thoughts about just how badly you were wronged. Stop blaming everybody but you for your problems. Look to yourself. Once you start chronicling your own sinful attitudes and crimes against God and man, you simply won’t have time to worry about the wrongs done to you. You will stop being bitter, and you will start being thankful.

Wipe the slate clean. “Press on.” Forgive.

As 2008 concludes and 2009 begins, take time to remember and to say “thank you.” Take time to examine yourself for bitterness. Forgive others.

It is appropriate that we do so on the birth of a new year. Remember that God gave man the stars on Day Four in part so that he could order and structure his days based on a clock/calendar system of days, seasons, and years (Genesis 1). He tells us to “remember” acts and to “number” our days. In Scripture, the formal act of remembering providences of God in our life is linked to hope, honor, and generational success (e.g., Psalms 44, 78, etc.). By February 2009, the year 2008 will be a distant memory. Strike now while the iron is hot. The opportunity to remember and to say “thank you” may never come again. And can you afford even one more day in which your prayers are hindered — because you were holding on to offenses and refusing to forgive?

** Signed by the author, Doug Phillips **