Monday, August 31, 2009

Military Working Dogs

This project was started by Starline Nunley, who's son is currently stationed in Iraq. Starline said “I can’t physically protect my son, and all the other sons and daughters in Iraq. But I can help the dogs who do. These dedicated dogs do this service selflessly and with great courage. Whatever we can do to help them do their job easier is helping to protect our sons and daughters.”

The Military Working Dogs in Iraq's extreme conditions protect and serve our Soldiers. Consider that:

1. Temperatures can reach as high as 145 degrees. The Cooling Vests offer much needed relief for the dogs.

2. The "Doggles" protect the dogs eyes from blowing sand, offering much needed relief and comfort.

3. The "MuttLucks" are booties that protect the dogs feet and pads from hot sand and melting asphalt.

Starline has a website where you can get more information about the project.
Another way to serve our military dogs is by adoption from Military Working Dog Foundation.

10 Ways To Keep Home Cool

Summer is here and the air is full of the the sound of whining air conditioners, all seriously sucking kilowatts. Yet much of that air conditioning load could be reduced or the air conditioning season shortened if we did simple things, many of them common before air conditioning was common in North America. Here are some low-tech tips for keeping cool.

The best ideas are those that keep the heat out of your home in the first place, rather than paying to pump it out after it gets in. Read them!

Birdbath Ideas

From Sialis

A birdbath or mister can be a great way to help birds beat the heat. Birds enjoy birdbaths or shallow ponds. Birdbaths should be no more than 3" deep, with gently sloping sides, and a rough surface to provide good footing.

Remember to change the water every few days to keep it fresh. A birdbath may be placed on the ground or on a pedestal. It should be 15 feet away from shrubs or trees where cats may hide, but provide a perch nearby. Any creek, springs or wetlands on your property should be preserved for wildlife.

A heated birdbath will provide water all through the winter, but expect an increase in your electric bill. You can also use a heated dog food bowl (less expensive than a heated birdbath) with pebbles in the bottom to keep it shallow. Visit the website for more info.

I love the heated dog food bowl idea! Makes heated birdbaths a bit more affordable.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thumps of Life

From The Word For You Today.

Max Lucado writes, "When a potter bakes a pot he checks its solidity by pulling it out of the furnace and thumping it. If it 'sings,' it's ready. If it thuds,' it's put back in. Character is also checked by thumping ... Late night phone calls ... grouchy teachers ... burnt meals ... flat tires ... you've-got-to-be-kidding deadlines.

Thumps trigger the worst in us ... They aren't big enough to be a crisis, but if you get enough of them, watch out. Traffic jams ... long lines ... empty mailboxes ... dirty clothes on the floor ... Thump, Thump, Thump. How do you respond? Do you sing or do you thud?

Jesus said, 'People speak the things that are in their hearts' (Lk 6:45), and there's nothing like a good thump to reveal the true nature of a heart ... it's not in momentary heroics, but in the thump-packed humdrum of day-to-day living. If you've a tendency to 'thud' more than you 'sing,' take heart. There's hope for us "thudders."

Begin by thanking God ... not a half-hearted thank you ... but a rejoicing, jumping-for-joy, thank you from the bottom of your heart. James says, 'Count it all joy when you fall into various trials ... the testing of your faith produces patience.' God's doing the thumping ... for your own good ... You're going to be tested ... you might as well learn from the thumps. See it as an opportunity to develop patience and persistence.

Each thump helps or hurts you, depending on how you use it, Be aware of 'thump-slumps' ... For all of us there are times during the week when we can anticipate an unusual amount of thumping. Handle them head on ... bolster yourself with extra prayer ... don't give up ... and remember no thump is disastrous. All thumps work together for good when you love and obey God."

Company Uses Onion Juice For Electricity

Onions make you cry, add flavor to food and are touted for their medicinal benefits. Now the vegetable has another use -- powering up green energy.

A new system debuts on Friday that converts onion juice into electricity at Gills Onions, the largest fresh onion processor in the United States.

The Oxnard, California-based company expects its new onion-fuelled power to reduce its electric bill by $700,000 (429,000 pounds) a year and cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30,000 tons.

The happy ending to this green energy tale, however, started with another question: how to get rid of onion waste." Read the entire article.

Natural Termite Control

Termites can be extremely destructive, but before busting out the toxic pesticides, consider that the residues can last for a long time, contaminating soil and wood. There are less poisonous methods of control and prevention becoming more widely available.

As with many problems, the best solution is generally prevention. Don't let wood on the outside of your house touch any other sources of wood, such as logs or wood chips. You also don't want wood touching soil directly. Beef up your defenses in trouble areas with sand barriers or metal shields, which can be installed by a qualified specialist.

If you do find that you're sharing your home with unwanted guests, hire a greener exterminator. A number of regions are now served by those who advertise the service specifically, but you also may be able to encourage a conventional exterminator to try some less-toxic approaches. Common treatments now include use of nematodes (microscopic worms) that kill termites, for instance." Read the entire article.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Sacred Gift - A MUST Read

by Donna L. Watkins

We are privileged to be part of Target Earth, an organization that serves the poor and the earth, because they are so closely tied together. You can't destroy the earth without affecting the poorest who live on it, because they have no means to fight the destruction. Too often Christianity turns a blind eye to environmental issues, but God did command us to steward the earth. Read God: The First Environmentalist.

Gordon Aeschliman is the president of Target Earth and we have been receiving his inspiring letters monthly for a very long time. They make me reflect and take root in what's important in my life. I want to share most of the recent one we've received. In a time when our nation is wrapped up in the "bad economy" we can find joy, blessings and gratefulness for our many advantages here in America.

From Gordon in South Africa:

This week I was handed three cups of rice that had been carried by a woman on a bus journey across four countries. A thank you gift to me for helping her reunite with Robert, her husband who lives in a shack a couple miles from my home. They have lived apart for several years, pushed away by poverty across borders. Robert has been working with me part time to earn enough for her bus fare so they can live together again.

How does one receive such an extravagant thank you? I keep delaying the boiling of that rice in the hopes of discovering an appropriate way to eat the sacred gift. I'll probably end up storing half of it permanently in reach of my eyes - Life for my calcified heart. A rich white man kept on his knees by the lessons of a poor black woman. In a world of so much grabbing, consuming, violence and opulence, a woman clarifies with a handful of rice.

As a child I used to belt out the song, "Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more!" How can one WANT after such a substantial meal: grains of rice offered up in a faded recycled plastic bag? I know the lyricist of the hymn was calling us toward Christ in a doctrinal way, but Jesus himself said we find our way to Him through the "least of these." This woman's deed of gratitude is a plumb line to my consuming ways, my desire for more.

For the past ten days we have hosted university students in an intensive program in the most stunningly beautiful parts of Cape Town, South Africa ... Tomorrow we take the students to Khayelitsha where for two weeks they will live with those who know the value of a cup of rice. The wealthy will eat at the tables of those who live on the margins, with those who point the way to Jesus through their empty purses and full hearts. I am continually shocked by the generosity of those who have nothing, by the purity of those who love from the place of barren shelves ....

Our hope of course is that they will find a kind of Life that could be lived into a different future, a life that is friendly to the earth and the poor ....

That's the kind of life I desire to live. We don't have the up close and personal daily reminders that Gordon gets while living in areas that have the poorest of the poor, but we can be reminded of the reality of our world with a global perspective. At the very least it should cause us to stop griping and focus on the many blessings that surround us, even though we tend to ungratefully ignore them.

There are great promises of God regarding the poor. This is my favorite:

"Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness." Psalm 41:1-3

Visit the Target Earth website. Get involved. Do you want to be out of debt? Get a focus beyond yourself and God will get you out of debt faster than you can imagine. He did it for us back in the early 90's, mortgage and all .. He can do it for you. Go beyond the need for stuff and buy into the real reason we're here on earth.

Have you seen the video, The Story of Stuff? It's entertaining and enlightening. It can be your first step to living debt-free.

Read some incredibly inspiring stories of people who are taking up the challenge to live more simply: Fabulously Frugal - Living The Simple Life. And that doesn't mean living in a cave with meals cooked on a campfire. One couple spends several months a year in France.

Pet Treats Should Be Healthy

Treat Worthy of a Tail-wag Salute
Packed with ingredients handpicked by Dr. Jane Bicks, Healthy Pet Net’s Antioxidant Health Bars have always been a fantastic way to nutritiously reward our lovable four-footers. But now, there’s even more reason to celebrate this formula for better health.
In the new Oatmeal & Apple Recipe formula, our good doctor added hefty helpings of vitamin E, C and beta-carotene for a serious jolt of antioxidants to help support and maintain their immune systems.
Dogs find this new recipe utterly irresistible. These delicious snacks have the tempting taste of apples, peanut butter and honey – flavors that come from those actual ingredients, not from artificial chemicals.

Just like the previous formulation, the new Antioxidant Health Bars feature a whole host of wholesome ingredients, including oatmeal, brown rice, ground flaxseed, rolled oats, dried whole eggs, cranberries and carrots, all of which help to round out this satisfying and healthy treat for a sublime taste sensation. You might even find yourself tempted to take a bite yourself!

The Best Way to Pamper Your Kitty
When it comes to treats, cats are frequently passed over by many pet food companies. At HealthyPetNet, we believe that your furry feline deserves the occasional reward of a tasty treat, just as much as do dogs.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of giving your sweet kitty the nutritional delight of Life’s Abundance Gourmet Cat Treats for Healthy Skin and Coat, you won’t believe the level of feline joy these kibbles can evoke. Your cat’s mouth will water in anticipation of these tasty indulgences, which feature chicken, herring, flaxseed and eggs.
As we have noted in the past, Dr. Jane believes that a stronger coat will lead to less hair being swallowed during grooming. To that end, these gourmet treats contain the superior-quality proteins crucial to the growth and maintenance of a strong coat.

To further support your cat’s health, these yummy nuggets feature a full range of nutrients to address the needs of the skin, which is the body’s largest organ. Dr. Jane included omega-3 fatty acids to help keep the skin hydrated and pliable. And vitamin E further helps to maintain skin elasticity. Additionally, there’s added vitamin C, to promote the production of collagen, the major component of skin.

Isn’t it time your cat enjoyed a little extra support, disguised as a tasty morsel?

For Dogs:
Life’s Abundance Antioxidant Health Bars - Oatmeal and Apple
For Cats:
Life’s Abundance Gourmet Cat Treats for Healthy Skin and Coat

Planting American Chestnut Trees

Trees are some of the most useful creatures on the planet. They can be used to sequester carbon. The average tree removes 2,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere during its lifetime. Trees curb erosion and can clean over 2,000 gallons of water in a year. Trees can also be used for energy-saving purposes. Shading an air conditioner can save you a little under 5% on your cooling bills. If you planted 20 trees per year, you would offset carbon enough to basically be carbon neutral.

There is a North American tree that stands head and shoulders above the rest in height and carbon offset potential: the American chestnut tree. The American chestnut tree grows faster and larger than other hardwood trees. Because the chestnut grows so fast and so large, it can sequester more carbon is a shorter period of time.

Chestnut wood is less porous and therefore more durable. It is a popular pick when crafting high-quality furniture and serves as a handy building material. Read the entire article and get more tree-planting ideas. View photo gallery of Chestnut Restoration Guided Walk.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wrens Nest In Garage

My neighbor, Ken Bushell, has a wren's nest in his garage inside a plastic tool carrier.

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Young Wren Now Out Of The Nest Waiting To Be Fed

I do a website with wildlife information relating to our community and have posted his pictures and "the story" there.

Ken's very diligent about tracking things when he finds something going on in his wildlife habitat.

It's fun to have neighbors that enjoy wildlife and add to the extended habitat of our own yard. Ken and Yvonne are a couple of great folks to have nearby.

View the wren photo story on Wild Lake Monticello.

What Is Your Purpose or Calling?

by Donna L. Watkins

We are born into this earth to seek fellowship with God and follow His direction. The world has become a speedy and noisy place. There is still enough wilderness and parks and gardens and oceans and places that turn our hearts and soul back to God, the Creator of it all. Those are the places we can truly feel the ebb and flow our the Holy Spirit and more clearly hear the voice of God.

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Randal in Our Garden, My Gentle Gardener

It will take more than a dropping by for an hour, hoping to gather up the volumes of information God has wanted to pour into your Spirit for a long time. It takes a commitment of priorities. Making God first in your life doesn't come easy, but it comes with great reward when you do.

Smith Wigglesworth says, "I have been speaking to this end: that you may see the calling that Paul was speaking about - humility of mind, meekness of spirit, knowing that God is in you and through you, knowing that the power of the Spirit is mightily bringing you to the place where not only the gifts of the Spirit, but also the gifts of Christ have been given to you, making you eligible for the great work you have to do."

Our heart's desire should be to obey the greatest commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

We spend our time in many ways ... and it's not that the Lord doesn't want us to have recreation, and He commands us to work ... so we're not talking about becoming a fixture in a chapel. But we can load our days up with many things trying to seek fulfillment from doing and accomplishing and accumulating, that we don't have time for the one thing that will give us the very fulfillment we were created for. Without God filling that "secret place" of your heart and soul, nothing else is going to satisfy.

Wigglesworth says, "Oh, to be alone with God, to get His mind, His thoughts, and His impression and revelation of the need of the people." Randal and I just finished reading the book, "George Washington Carver, The Man Who Overcame," and it was such an inspiration to me.

Carver said, "I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." He faithfully met with God at 4 AM every morning in the woods. There he received all the inspiration for the many scientific discoveries he made. He stayed focused on his calling. He wanted to help his people (the freed negroes of his day) to be able to survive on their own, and he did it through farming.

Rising from slavery to become one of the world's most respected and honored men, he devoted his life to understanding nature and the many uses for the simplest of plant life. He is best known for developing crop-rotation methods and discovering hundreds of new uses for crops. The amount of things he accomplished in a day is beyond what can be imagined. He had the ability to focus and was not at all enamored with fame or fortune, although presidents and kings around the world sought his help.

Carver's question when he met daily with God was always, "what do you want me to do today?" He didn't rattle off his own troubles and prayer requests, he met with God to get his daily agenda for what He wanted to do through Carver's mind and hands, and Carver certainly made the world a better place through all of it.

What could we accomplish if we gave God an hour a day to speak to us. How many hours and days would it take for us to learn to shut down the chatter from the left side of our brains where all the details, lists, records and agendas of our mind reside? Until we can turn off our own thoughts, we can't tune into God's thoughts, which will always be beyond ours because in the Bible He says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord" (Is. 55:8). So we must discipline ourselves to listen. "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10).

I believe we don't take time to meet and listen to God because we don't know how. I didn't think that last year, but since Randal and I are going through the workbook, "How To Hear God's Voice," I realize how much time I spent every morning in my "quiet time" adding more and more knowledge without wisdom on how to use it.

This workbook is very detailed for the logical brain to understand why it's more important not to rely on our own thoughts. It instructs how to tune into God's voice and journal what He is saying to you. You can read or listen to the four keys to hearing God's voice on the author's ministry website. "

Randal is very left-brained and analytical and sequential and a step-by-step person. He has received so much wisdom since he's learned the techniques to hear God more clearly. I'm very excited also since we are both getting clearer direction and timing on the things that matter most to us. It has also increased our faith because through it all, your love for God is strengthened because He shows His love to us when He speaks to us in words of endearment.

In John 7:38 Jesus tells us, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to bring us revelation and understanding of things. Obviously all things are not in the Bible. Many families send their children to Sunday School and many of us accepted Christ into our hearts in Sunday School, but Sunday School is not mentioned in the Bible. Neither is sending your children to public school. And what about the Trinity? It's not mentioned one time, but our faith is based on it.

Jesus told us in John 16:12-14, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come."

Knowing The Word is crucial because we have to line up what we hear with the Word and also with mentors we choose to confirm our journaling. We can easily get off into writing from our own brains and not from what God is telling us, so there needs to always be a check and balance.

If you aren't living your life with the passion and purpose that God has you here for, pause! Consider your days and whether you are satisfied with the relationship you have with our Father. There is always more because there is no end to what God can pour into us if we are willing, as George Washington Carver was.

Related Article: Hearing God's Voice

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Dog Keeps Escaping

From Cheryl Falkenburry, Animal Behavior Coach

My dog is the great Houdini and can escape from any enclosure. Is there anyway to keep him from getting out of the backyard while I’m at work?

Dogs are so stimulated by sounds, smells, and sights outside of their own yard that it is often difficult to keep them at home, especially if left unattended for very long. Most of the time when a dog escapes from their backyard, it’s due to boredom. Now, a lot of people will tell me that they give their dog more than enough things to do, but putting a bunch of toys in the backyard is not enough.

Do you walk your dog on a regular basis? Do you play with your dog every day? Do you train your dog to stimulate his mind? Do you let him come inside and be with the family? Depending on the breed, keeping a dog entertained can be a lot of work — even for those that stay home all day.

Some breeds, like Border Collies and Jack Russell Terriers, need to be given a job and worked with every day to keep them out of trouble. These are also dogs that can rarely be left alone unattended in a yard for very long before they decide to challenge themselves with finding a way out.

Dogs escape from yards several ways — under, over, through, or dashing out the gate. If your dog is digging out of the yard, you can redesign the fenced area with rocks all along it to make it less comfortable to dig. You can also line the fenced area along the ground with chicken wire and put bricks, rocks, or dirt on top. You may also want to give a digger a digging box. This is an area where there are lots of fun toys buried and you encourage him to dig. By giving him something fun to do, he may be less likely to dig his way out of the yard.

If the dog is going over the fence, he’s either jumping it or climbing it. If he’s jumping, you can scatter rocks or bricks on the ground where the dog takes off for his jump making jumping more difficult. The other thing you can do is attach a very taut wire around the fence right in the dog’s flight path. By either attaching the wire to battens sticking out from the fence or posts in the ground, you cause an interruption to the dog’s flight over the fence.

If the dog is climbing out, you need to put some deer fencing or wire fencing at a 95 degree angle out from the top of the fence to prevent the dog from scaling up and over the fence.

If the dog is chewing through the fence, you have a bigger problem. Most dogs will go to a new spot and chew a new hole when you repair it. Nine gauge chain link fencing works, but it’s not inexpensive.

If the dog is dashing out gates when people come through, you need to teach the dog to wait before opening any gates and doors. A dog training class would be a good idea for you both to learn some skills, have some challenges, and bond together. If you already have good control over your dog, then you may want to consider getting him out to a dog park for some off leash exercise and socialization with other dogs.

Bottom-line is dogs should not be left outside for long periods of time. They get bored, they bark, they chew things up, they escape. It’s annoying to you, the neighbors, and most of all, the dog.

For many canine escapologists the only solution is keeping them inside when you are gone. A strong crate is often needed in order to prevent them from destroying the home. If you are gone for long periods of time, a pet sitter to walk the dog mid-day is a great idea.

I recently had a client who had to have some surgery that prevented her from watching T.V. or reading a book. She had to stay home all day and there was nothing that she could do. It drove her nuts. She wanted to run away, to get out, but her husband was at work, and she couldn’t go out alone. The sheer boredom and frustration made her angry to the point she grabbed a pillow and screamed into it and then bit the pillow and pulled on the fabric with her teeth.

Her dog sat next her with his head cocked and a puzzled look as he had been chastised for doing just that only months before when he joined their family. She saw his blurry image sitting there and laughed and hugged her dog. They played ball and relieved the stress they both were feeling. Dogs are social creatures just like humans. We have dogs for the companionship — to love us unconditionally. Be sure you give them the same in return so they will want to stay home and be with their beloved humans.

Cheryl Falkenburry, Animal Behavior Coach, helps make sense of mind-boggling animal behavior. Visit her website for other behavior tips. Set up a private session to work directly on your pet's problem.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Controlling or Self-Controlled

From The Word For You Today.

There are two kinds of people: the controller and the self-controlled. Which one are you? Let's find out:

The controller believes that "the Devil does it to them," or people, or circumstances, so they respond by blaming, resenting or projecting frustration. They keep trying to manipulate people and circumstances to their advantage. But people and circumstances usually don't submit to our control, so their attempts only intensify their pain and turn their relationships into power struggles. The more they try to control the worse they feel; the worse they feel the more they try to control. Refuse to live that way.

The self-controlled understand that the Devil can do nothing to them without their cooperation, and that they don't have to give it. They understand that people and circumstances aren't their problem either - how they deal with them is. So they respond by reminding themselves of three things:

(1) The person I need to control is me.

(2) Sometimes I must turn the people and circumstances in my life over to God and allow Him to deal with them.

(3) I must draw daily on the Holy Spirit's power in order to control my reactions and follow the "sound mind" principles of Scripture for staying in charge of my life (See 2 Tim. 1:7).

As a result they avoid engaging in blame-games, self-inflicted pain, and turning relationships into war zones. Knowing that "the fruit of the spirit is ... self-control," they understand that the Spirit won't control them, or help them control others and manipulate circumstances, but He will empower them to control themselves.

Spirit-empowered people are freed from being part of the problem, and become part of the solution God is bringing about!

Peaches, Blue Ridge Views and Rail Trails

Randal's favorite fruit is peaches and we have loved a variety called Red Haven from Saunders Brothers Orchard in Piney River, VA.

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Randal With Favorite Red Haven Peaches
For weeks he's been wanting to head out for a bushel but my memory said mid-July. When we arrived it was the day after that they had posted for Red Haven peaches to be harvested. Just in time .... I love it when intuition (Holy Spirit) works better than anything.

Saunders has a lot of antique tools and historical photographs in their sale shed and there was gospel music playing. I lingered around awhile letting my mind drift to simpler times. Well, maybe they weren't simpler as in easy ways of getting work done ... but simpler in that the expectations weren't so high and people took time for people and community. I just wanted to soak some of it up.

My grandfather was born near the Blue Ridge Mountains and I know it's in my blood because I am awestruck every time I get to view them. The views from the orchard and the feel of the rural stillness was overwhelming. As Randal loaded the car with the peaches, I wandered down the driveway and off to the hill for a better view of the mountains. I hadn't gone far before I was watering the gravel with my tears.

Have you ever been to a "place" that you know is calling your life to it? There's such a strong knowing inside when I'm in that area. It's like the courtyard of the Lord --- the entrance to the Temple. Hundreds of years of life and rural living seemed to pass through my mind like the soft breeze that made this July day so cool.

Somewhere inside there's still a dream alive and kicking ... to live in a "place" that has such power to draw me right into the presence of God in such a way that the air itself seemed to be His very breath against my cheek. One day ... a place in the woods will also be a place for people to come for spiritual refreshment. A retreat discipleship center for people to pull their lives back together again with Biblical principles and a personal application of Ephesians 3:15-19:

"... that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Rail Trail Tunnel - Lynchburg, VA
I had read about a rail trail in Lynchburg, VA, that went across a footbridge to Percival Island which sat in the middle of the James River, preserved for wildlife. In the other direction the trail entered a 502 foot railroad tunnel through the mountain that was 10 feet wide. The enticing article made us add this to our day trip since it was only 15 minutes further along the highway.

It was a great day ... but then any time I'm in the woods, it's a great day.

View Lynchburg, VA photos.

More Information on Rail Trails

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., whose mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.

Before they formed in 1986 there were fewer than 200 known rail-trails. Today, there are 100,000 members and supporters and more than 1,500 preserved pathways that form the backbone of a growing trail system.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy remains dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of trails and is committed to enhancing the health of America's environment, transportation, economy, neighborhoods and people, ensuring a better future made possible by trails and the connections they inspire. is a free service from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy that allows you to search for a trail near you. They also provide maps and photos. Check out

Walmart's Sustainability Index Begins

By Joel Makower

"Walmart has just unveiled its new Sustainability Index, a project that's been in the works for more than a year, but which is -- finally, after much anticipation and more than a little handwringing by industry, activists, and others -- part of the public discourse. The advance stories over the past few days have been amped up to the point of breathlessness, involving adjectives like 'huge' (perhaps) and 'audacious' (probably), with one story suggesting the Index will 'shake the world' (um, no comment). Such hyperbole is understandable: any green commitment that Walmart makes is potentially a big deal. But now that reality has hit, it's time to take a more sober assessment of what's really going on here.

I've been watching the Index unfold over the past year. I've seen early iterations, talked to some of the many suppliers, nonprofits, academics, and consultants that Walmart has engaged in this effort, and viewed the final product.

My assessment: Like so many things related to both Walmart and sustainability, there is both more and less going on here than meets the eye." Read the entire article.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

White Clover For Lush Lawns

Once upon a time, before the advent of synthetic weed killers for the lawn in the late 1940s, most American lawns contained white clover. Because no formulation of weed control could be developed that left both grass and clover, but killed everything else, clover was then lumped in with the weeds in subsequent marketing campaigns.

The scientist who developed 2,4-D, the most common synthetic herbicide, was publicly apologetic because his new product had the unfortunate side effect of eliminating clover. 'The thought of white Dutch clover as a lawn weed will come as a distinct shock to old-time gardeners,' wrote Dr. R. Milton Carleton in his book, A New Way to Kill Weeds in 1957. “I can remember the day when lawn mixtures were judged for quality by the percentage of clover seed they contained. The higher this figure, the better the mixture.”

Today’s newfound emphasis on natural lawn care has folks taking a second look at clover as a primary lawn plant. The benefits are numerous: Six Good Reasons White Clover Is Not a Weed.

Advantages of Clover

Clover lawns have many advantages over traditional bluegrass or bermuda grass lawns.

  • Clover stays green all summer with little or no watering in most regions of the US. Clover is relatively drought-tolerant and it greens up early in spring and remains green until the first frost. In the South, it may remain green all winter.
  • Clover requires little or no mowing. White clover grows just 2-8 inches tall and requires little or no mowing to keep it orderly. However, some homeowners may prefer to mow in midsummer in order to deadhead old blooms and neaten the appearance of the lawn, or to prevent blooming.
  • Clover never needs fertilizer. Clover is a nitrogen-fixing legume, a plant that essentially creates its own fertilizer... and fertilizes nearby plants as well! Grass that is intermixed with clover will be healthier and greener with less effort than grass planted alone.
  • Clover never needs herbicides. In fact, most herbicides kill clover. Fortunately...
  • Clover out-competes other weeds. Anyone who has struggled to eradicate clover from a grass lawn can tell you how persistent it can be. Clover easily out-competes most other weeds and reduces the need for weeding or expensive herbicides.
  • Clover grows well in poor soil. Clover tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions, including the poor-quality subsoil common around many new homes.
  • Clover feels great on bare feet. Soft, lush, and cool, walking barefoot on a clover lawn is a luxurious treat. Clover's leaves and blossoms also have a mild, pleasant smell.
  • Clover is immune to "dog patches." The urine of female dogs discolors lawn grasses. Clovers stays as green and lush as ever.
  • Clover is inexpensive. Clover seed is extremely inexpensive. Average cost is about $4 per 4000 square feet. Homeowners who have been fighting clover as a weed get it for free, if they decide to stop fighting and let it grow.
Source of Advantages: Clover Lawns

Friday, August 14, 2009

Don't Tell Me No

by Donna L. Watkins

I've been journaling a lot lately. For so many years I had mostly a one-way conversation going with the Lord ... me rambling on about what I wanted in my life and the lives of others I pray for.

It's like waiting in line to order a meal. You get to THE person and rattle off your list of what you want to be served. Then you wait for it to be presented on a tray to take away and enjoy.

That's not how our relationship with Christ is supposed to be. It's to be two-way communication. God has desired this from the beginning, but we, His people, have rejected hearing God's voice.

Remember when God called all of Israel to the mountain because He wanted to speak to them, and they were so afraid after hearing His voice, that they told Moses to talk to Him and then tell them what God wanted them to know and do. They did not want to hear God's voice. God said, 'Okay,' but He has never stopped wanting to communicate with us as He did with Adam in the Garden of Eden.

He sent Jesus and He told us we would be able to hear from God through the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 says, "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

The book, "How To Hear God's Voice" has been very enlightening on how God wants to communicate with us, along with how to be able to hear His voice and journal what He says so we can refer back to it. You can read or listen to the four keys to hearing God's voice on the Virkler's ministry website. "

Now that God's voice has become even clearer than before, I find that there's questions I don't want to ask Him. I'm not too sure that I want to hear the answer He may have, because there's some questions that I don't want to be told "No" about. I'd like to continue in my "not too sure what God wants" realm of the mind and not get the specifics on some subjects.

Of course, that doesn't last for long. Once you know you're avoiding God's direction on something, the Holy Spirit will pursue you until you surrender and ask, and then it's our choice whether to follow His will for our lives or not. The 'not' doesn't work too well, since God never grows tired or weary of wanting to make our lives better.

We live in a culture where we're used to having things our way. We're given a multitude of options in so many areas of living. WikiAnswers says there are approximately 150 different boxed cereals. Isn't that amazing? To have cereal for breakfast we have 150 options of what to put in the bowl.

Hearing "No" isn't easy. We're used to having so many things that we don't even need because we have based our purchases on wants, not needs. Take clothes for an example. Who really needs more clothing? In the U.S. $250 billion a year is spent on clothing. According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey of 2007, says the average household spends $1604 a year on shoes and clothing. That would go far in paying off mortgages a lot earlier by applying that money to the principle.

Randal and I have a personal budget of $45 a month from which we purchase our clothes, shoes, gadgets, haircuts, perms, makeup, shaver blades, etc. Anything that's for personal use or enjoyment. It's worked well for many years and has given us a better perspective of how many clothes we really want. We use only one side of our closet for our clothes and don't need to swap out seasonal items to other storage. I love it! It's much easier to see your choices on "what to wear."

We all have areas that are more of a challenge when it comes to the budget ... but then that's why we have budgets ... to limit our spending and especially in our weak areas. Debt is a heavy burden, so asking God about purchases will make a big difference in your spending habits.

We've been disciplined spenders for a very long time ... so what my concern is on asking God is more in the realm of how to spend my day ... what He wants me to do. He's been speaking the word "Surrender" to me for weeks now. I've been the type who can figure out a solution and handle it. God wants us to depend on Him and use His strength ... and with rheumatoid issues, I like the sound of it. But we must humble ourselves and come to Him empty handed so He can fill us up. I want to be busy doing, like Martha, but God says, "Sit at my feet," like Mary.

Surrender ... it's a word that applies to all of us in one way or another. Proverbs 3:7 has been on a Scripture card I've been focusing on as I do my rebounder bouncing. Maybe it's one that will cause you to pause and ponder:

"Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil."

What area of your life is God calling you to surrender in today? Are you tired of making it on your own? Only pride keeps us from giving in. His way truly is the best way. Let's surrender together!

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The Wonder of Cicadas and Christ

by Donna L. Watkins

While in Costa Rica, I noticed a nymph stage of what I thought to be a cicada in the process of emerging from a nymph stage to adulthood.

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Cicada In Process - La Selva, Costa Rica
Cicadas spend most of their lives one to nine feet underground as nymphs. They feed on roots of trees and grass.

Spiritually speaking, do you ever feel like you've spent most of your life in a hole underground? Sometimes life is rather challenging and wounds make us want to bury ourselves away.

After from 2, 13 or 17 years below the ground, in May or early June the mature nymphs bore through to the surface, and climb onto nearby vegetation or any vertical surface.

They then begin the arduous process of molting into winged adults. The outer skin of this cicada is already splitting. When the cicada emerges and climbs away, the exoskeleton can frequently be found still attached to post, twigs or tree trunks. The emergence of the nymphs is generally synchronized with a large mass of them appearing within a few days.

That sounds like the process of accepting Christ and becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Discipleship is an arduous process, but it certainly pays off with the promises of God. We will become more and more like Him and find ways to deal with life that He's had waiting for us. In the shelter of His wings, we'll find refuge and peace from the storm.

After the adult emerges from its "shell" it will fly off to a tree with the males calling for a female and the females being silent. So that loud sounds of cicadas singing is always a totally male chorus. After mating, females split open the bark of hardwood twigs and insert eggs, using their saw-like ovipositor to split the bark and to insert the eggs into the bark. They will lay up to 500 eggs in about 50 sites. The eggs remain for 6-10 week until they hatch.

After the eggs hatch, tiny ant-like first-stage nymphs drop to the soil to borrow in 6 to 18 inches underground to feed for the next 2 or more years. Periodical cicadas develop for a thirteen to seventeen years cycle.

Somebody has captured the entire process of emergence with excellent photographs of the process: A Cicada Passage From Nymph To Adult.

Dog Training From a Dog's Perspective

Ever wonder why your dog seems so stubborn? Does it seem like your dog is just doing things to upset you? Your dog’s behavior may be mind-boggling, but have you ever stopped to think how your behavior looks to your dog? Animal Behavior Consultant, Cheryl Falkenburry, takes you on a journey into dog training from the dog’s perspective. Through the eyes of her canine colleague, Delilah, you will learn how human behavior appears to dogs and how you can change the way you interact with your furry friend in order to close the communication gap between people and dogs.

In Delilah’s Eyes shows how to enhance the human-animal bond by teaching skills to your canine companion which are useful in the human world. By using positive simple training steps, you can teach your dog how to become a good canine citizen in your household and the community. Visit Cheryl's website and order your book now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Missy Bullfrog

by Donna L. Watkins

We built a small pond in our backyard for the purpose of attracting frogs. Since it's not very large, we've had mostly Green Frogs in residence with other toads and tree frogs using it for mating. But this year I took some photos and didn't know we had a Bullfrog until I looked at the photos on the computer.

Green Frogs and Bullfrogs look very similar. The way to tell them apart is by the dorsal ridges that go down the Green Frog's back. In Bullfrogs they are not present. Bullfrogs have a ridge that goes around the tympanum (the circle area behind the eye) instead of down the back. Compare the Bullfrog photo here with the Green Frog photo below.

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Bullfrog at Our Small Backyard Pond
Back in Alabama we had a bit larger pond and did attract a Bullfrog for a few years. They take dominance over a pond, so we didn't see much else those years.

The Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) is the largest Virginia native frog measuring from 3-1/3 inches to almost 8 inches long not including the legs which can be from 7-10 inches long. They are also the largest frog in North America. They are a drab brownish-green color on top with a yellowish white coloring below. The large circles behind the eyes are their eardrums with the females being about the size of the eye and males being considerably larger than the eye.

Territories are emphatically established with calls, postures, chasing, jumping and fighting if necessary. Their distinctive call is said to sound like a distant roar or bellow of a bull.

Bullfrogs will eat almost anything living that it can at least partially swallow. They are voracious predators, feeding on any small animal they can catch, including big and small insects, crayfish, other frogs and bullfrogs, fish, worms, turtles and even small snakes.
© 2005 Donna L. Watkins - Male Green Frog in Backyard Pond
There are records of Bullfrogs feeding on birds and baby alligators. They have teeth on the roof of their mouth and a tongue capable of flipping prey into their mouth. Bullfrogs can leap up to 6 feet in distance. They help to keep down mosquito populations but they can also have a negative effect on other species of frogs since they don't really have any natural predators.

They can secrete nasty toxic substances from their poison glands (called paratoid glands) that can poison a dog if it tries to eat one.

This frog species prefers larger bodies of water, but will take the territory of a small backyard pond. Warm, calm, shallow waters are their favorite places. They can be found at lakes, ponds, rivers, or bogs.

They breed from May to August in Virginia. During breeding season the throat of the male Bullfrog is yellow, and the female's is white. Male bullfrogs chorus at breeding ponds and females give aggressive calls responding to the breeding calls of the males. The females are attracted to males with territories that provide the most food.

Fertilization is external, with females depositing up to 20,000 eggs in quiet and protected water. The egg mass is a large floating mat with a foamy film up to a yard wide. Fertilization is then accomplished usually by one male.

Tadpoles emerge about four days after fertilization and tadpoles may remain in the tadpole stage for almost 3 years before transforming into frogs. The longer the better for the frog since they will be bigger and have a better chance of survival. Adults reach sexual maturity after 3 to 5 years and have been recorded to live up to 7 years.

I don't know if our Bullfrog will stay around since the "neighborhood" may not be suitable for the female Bullfrog, but it's nice to know that our backyard habitat brought one by even if it's just for a visit.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dance In The Rain

Sarah Breathnach said it best...

"When we choose not to focus on what's missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present... we experience heaven on earth."

Vivian Greene said, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass ... it's about learning to dance in the rain."

Sit back, relax and turn up your speakers to enjoy Mac Anderson's new 2 minute inspirational movie, Learning To Dance In The Rain. The words, the photographs and the music are beautiful!

Paper Shredders Risks and Dogs

Here's an article by the owner of Shelby, a lab/pit mix that got her tongue stuck in a paper shredder. Take heed to the issues and use the recommended precautions. Dr. Emo, Shelby's vet, also wrote an article about what happened and how she treated Shelby. A link is at the bottom of the article by Shelby's owners.

Pass this information on to others. You don't want this to happen in your home.

Outdoor Kids Crafts

When the weather is nice, it can be a welcome change to create crafts that make use of ingredients from Mother Nature -- and ones that are meant to be enjoyed in the great outdoors.

Create a new Bird Feeder for the winged neighborhood. Use nature from the yard to create an artistic collage. Let the sun help you create lasting Sun Print memories. Or craft a Bug Box and Windsock. Get instructions here.

Friday, August 7, 2009


by Donna L. Watkins

It took God twenty-one years to get Jacob to a place of humility with a contrite heart and a broken spirit. He was very strong-willed and a schemer. Jacob's name means "deceiver" and when he finally turned himself over to God, God changed his name to Israel, which means "God rules" or "God’s fighter."

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Cold Winter Day Blue Jay

It's good to have staying power. In our culture it's hard to find strong character that can endure hardships and persevere. Many folks have a hard time with self-control and delayed gratification. Advertising has retrained the American mind quite effectively to become consumers and seekers of pleasure in the marketplace. Whether it's clothes, spa days, eating, gadgets or electronics, what our treasures are will reveal where our heart is (Matthew 6:21). Our focus has become more about 'stuff' rather than making a lasting difference in the world.

I was born with good German and English roots and a strong work ethic being raised by grandparents in the 50's. My personality was very strong-willed as a child and I was certainly a "handful" while growing up. I don't think I lost any of that as I entered into single life, married life or motherhood. I only added to my own strength as troubles came and went, I bore up under pressure and stayed the course. Stubbornness proved a good companion along with enough pride to never say die.

When my stressed lifestyle began creating health issues, I only stuck my chin up higher and weathered the storms. With each tossing wave I would dive into it with the determination of getting victory. Oh yes, there were also waves of despair and grief and self-pity to deal with, but like a surfer focused on rising above it all, I kept getting back on board.

God wants us to fight evil in our lives and desires for us to be victorious and not be a whiner or wallow in self-pity, but through it all, He also wants us to turn to Him and use His strength, rather than our own. I didn't see that balance. I didn't realize it, but I kept plugging away in my own strength and determination, although my prayers and thoughts were convinced I was asking God to handle it and give me streength. My mind was always busy with the details of "making it through this day."

A large part of making it was meditating on Scripture. A good thing and part of the process, but Smith Wigglesworth says, "It is when we are empty and undone, when we come to God in our nothingness and helplessness, that He picks us up." 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."

I always read that with my strong-headed thoughts and set out to beat the adversary before he devoured me. But I see now that most of my life I operated in my own strength. Wigglesworth says this about being sober: "It means to have a clear knowledge that we are powerless to manage, but also to have a rest of faith. The Adversary's opportunity is when we think that we are something and try to open our own door. Our thoughts, words, and deeds must all be in the power of the Holy Spirit ... We need not only to be filled with the Spirit but also to have a "go forth" in us, a knowledge that God's holy presence is with us."

"Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).

We don't have to do it alone. Although I've always felt I was going into the battle with the Lord, God has shown me that in my pride and stubbornness I never really submitted to letting go. "Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress" (Psalm 107:6).

God wants to help and guide us. Far too often I have prayed for guidance but stood on my known ways of dealing with things. It's pride of life - pride of being able to handle what life throws at us. We want to be strong in all situations, but God wants us to be helpless so He can make us strong.

Aren't we much like that with our children? We know there's better ways of doing things. We've had the experience. You have some children who are willing to be guided and others that just don't neck-rein well. They lurch head forward into situations and have to learn by experience. That's me! Thinking I can handle it all and figure it out. Our Papa wants the best for us, as all parents want for their children.

As Christians we are covered by the blood of Jesus and need to put on our armor daily, but Wigglesworth says, "as we yield and yield, we find ourselves in possession of another mind, even the mind of Christ, which causes us to understand the perfection of His will."

Every moment is an opportunity to be with Jesus. We can be sober, and yet vigilant. Always keeping in mind that God is with us, and God is for us, and "if God is for us, who can stand against us" (Romans 8:31). We can stand against ourselves by taking on burdens we were never meant to bear.

Sit back and think about it. Have you really been letting God be your strength? Have you totally surrendered your troubles to Him? Have you laid it on the altar and not returned to pick it up with another bright idea you've not yet tried?

Surrender is what God's been speaking to me for the past month ... is He speaking it to you also?

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website:
© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from
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More Interest In Simpler Life

"Perhaps the silver lining (of the recession) is that people are coming to realize they can live with less and their lives are richer for it," says Michael Maniates, professor of political and environmental science at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.

A third, 32%, say they have been spending less and intend to make that their "new, normal" pattern; 27% say they are saving more and plan to continue, according to a Gallup Poll in April.

Nearly half of consumers, 47%, say they already have what they need, up from 34% in November 2006, according to the 2009 MetLife Study of the American Dream.

"People are feeling forced and inspired to get back to what is core to them," says Julie Morgenstern, author of Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life. She says they're valuing objects less and experiences and people more. Read the entire article.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Replaced Electronics Take-Back

E-waste is the fastest growing part of today's municipal garbage. And since electronics are loaded with toxics, it is also the most hazardous. According to the EPA, in the US alone, our old computers and TVs are generating over 3 million tons of toxic trash every year and barely 14% of that is collected for recycling. The rest of it ends up in landfills -- where electronics can seep toxic chemicals into groundwater -- or worse, incinerators -- where their burning plastic can release dioxin into the air.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Electronics designers and producers could make their gadgets to be less toxic, more durable, and easier to recycle or upgrade. Our friends at Electronics Take-Back Coalition are helping to rewrite the story, doing groundbreaking work to promote extended manufacturer responsibility, clean design and environmentally friendly recycling and disposal. Visit Electronics Take-Back Coalition for more information and to find a list of responsible recyclers in your area for electronics.

Read the New York Times story, A Green Way to Dump Low-Tech Electronics.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

God's Economy

From The Word For You Today.

A big credit card company has a TV commercial with the slogan, "You can have it all now!" Sound familiar? Not much has changed. Satan said to Adam and Eve, "If you want that apple, take it."

Leave payday till "some day." Go ahead; put it on your credit card. Better yet, get this new low-interest card and pay nothing for one year. That's right, folks, no interest and no payments for one full year."

If you're the typical overextended family carrying a per capita credit card debt of $10,000-20,000, don't take the bait. It's time for getting out of debt, not deeper into it. If you want help, try using these four Bible principles:

(1) "Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry" (Col. 3:5). Stop craving things you don't need. Instead, try enjoying what you've got.

(2) If you're not tithing, start now! You'll be switching from the world's faltering economy to God's fail-safe economy. When you tithe He promises to protect your interests and send blessings "there shall not be room enough to receive" (Mal. 3:8-12).

(3) "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it" (Ps. 24:1) and He guarantees to "supply all your need" (Php. 4:19). So before you go shopping, try praying! Ask god for what you need then wait for Him to respond.

(4) Begin giving away some of what you've got. "It is possible to give away and become richer ... [and] to hold on too tightly and lose everything ... the liberal man shall be rich" (Prov. 11:24-25).

Go ahead, do it! Obey God, be patient, and watch what happens.

Heatstroke in Dogs

There are simple ways to prevent heat stroke in a dog. Never keep your dog in a car, even with the windows cracked or while the weather is cool. The thermal properties of glass make a car heat up very quickly. HSUS says, "During warm weather, the inside of your car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even if you're parked in the shade."

Always make sure outdoor dogs have fresh water and shade that they can reach, preferably a dog house. Don't exercise your dog on very sunny hot days, keeping a watch anytime you are exercising the dog. Keep a watch on the weight of your dog, obese dogs get hotter faster. Preventing heat stroke in a dog is pivotal to protecting it from serious damage and remember, heat stroke can kill.

Heatstroke occurs when normal body mechanisms cannot keep the body's temperature in a safe range. Animals do not have efficient cooling systems (like humans who sweat) and get overheated easily.

A dog with moderate heatstroke (body temperature from 104º to 106ºF) can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid and veterinary care (normal body temperature is 100-102.5°F). Severe heatstroke (body temperature over 106ºF) can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.

A dog suffering from heatstroke will display several signs:

* Rapid panting
* Bright red tongue
* Red or pale gums
* Thick, sticky saliva
* Depression
* Weakness
* Dizziness
* Vomiting - sometimes with blood
* Diarrhea
* Shock
* Coma

Read the entire article to know what to do.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Intelligence of Animals

In many of our Creation Moments programs we have shown that animal intelligence is not a result of evolution but God’s gift to His creatures. While animals are limited to a much smaller area of specialty, some can perform feats of intelligence that even man cannot accomplish.

For example, at the Japanese Deer Park in California, pigeons have been trained to sort electrical parts. They can do this with greater efficiency and accuracy than humans. People usually quickly become bored with such work and lose their concentration.

But then there is the mystery of migration. The Golden Plover bird migrates between Alaska and Hawaii. Yet the parents never teach their youngsters the route. When migration time comes, the young are usually old enough to fend for themselves, but too young to fly the thousands of miles, non-stop, required by the route. So the parents leave them in Alaska and head for Hawaii. A little later when they are stronger, the young plovers follow the same route without error, even though they have no guide.

Intelligence is not the result of mindless natural forces, for how could mindlessness produce intelligence or even genius? Christians should not be surprised, as evolutionists are, to find many examples of intelligence in the animal world because intelligence is the gift of God, the Creator, to His creatures.

Visit Creation Moments.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Global Warming - Fact or Fiction

A Christian Perspective and a Call to Action
By Senior Pastor Tri Robinson

One of the greatest debates today deals with the issues that surround global warming. Volatile discussions on this subject have been added to a long list of world crisis topics and have polarized people into opposing camps. For the Christian that desires to be informed on global concerns, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to join forces with one side or the other.

When the Lord first prompted me to develop an environmental ministry at the Vineyard of Boise, I had a strong conviction to keep it free from political bias. This has been a great challenge due to the fact that the environment is a topic that is so politically charged. As Christians, we have got to remain rational and view the world’s problems as they truly are, weighing them against Biblical truth in logical ways rather than joining in extreme social reaction.

The truth is - the globe is warming – the facts are rapidly becoming indisputable. The temperature of the sea is rising, glacial ice is receding, and the world’s climate is changing. This warming trend is not only affecting ecosystems but also clearly increasing hurricane activity and intensity. There has been an increase of over 100 Category 4 & 5 hurricanes across the earth in the past 15 years. The focus of the global warming debate isn’t so much centered on whether the earth’s oceans and atmosphere are warming but rather why the phenomenon is taking place now.

Is it something caused by human influence or simply the result of natural weather cycles? One camp emphatically claims that global warming has occurred due to the misuse and overuse of fossil fuels that have been creating a greenhouse effect - trapping warm air beneath the earth’s atmosphere.

The other camp denies this accusation, claiming that what is alleged to be scientific fact is mere hypothesis. They also cite historical weather records and trends to prove that the earth has always gone through climatic cycles and the present warming trend is just one of those cycles. Either way you look at it, global warming is a very real concern.

For the Christian who cares about the earth and humanity, it is essential that we don’t put our head in the sand on this very crucial phenomenon. No matter what has caused the earth’s temperature to elevate, the result is hurting creation and devastating people’s lives. For those of us who spent time helping in the clean up of the destructive Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005, the reality of the matter became very evident. In our nation’s history, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have caused humanitarian disaster only to be equaled with the Great Depression.

The manifestation of the warming of the ocean has made many Christians aware of the need, causing them to prepare to meet new and increasing demands of humanitarian aid in order to minister in compassion and mercy. Like never before in recent history, the Church must rise to the occasion for humanitarian service. It is not an hour for the Church to remain lethargic or silent.

Global warming may be a direct result of natural climatic cycles and changes, or it may be human caused. Regardless of global warming, the growing international demand and negligent use of gas and fossil fuels are becoming a great concern. For any of us who care deeply for creation we must examine the facts and search for solutions to the problem.

Editor's Note:
An alternative view about global warming.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hearing God's Voice

by Donna L. Watkins

Any time you choose to walk by faith and believe for something you know as Truth in the Bible, a voice inside you whispers, "You must be crazy. You're not capable of making this happen. What you've seen work before was simply luck. Now you're in over your head."

© 2009 Donna L. Watkins - Squirrels on Front Porch - "Are You Listening?"

Don't you know our rational mind will haunt us with practicalities, but God tells us to walk by the Spirit, not by our minds.

Those voices that come out of fear will waken you in the middle of the night, haunt you while you work, and scream louder as you quiet yourself down to relax. BUT! There's another voice that speaks from the heart. God says, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).

Tune your ears to God's voice which comes from the heart, not the mind. It doesn't mean problems fly away, nor does the other voice disappear. You will always have to discern the voice of God from your own rational mind. Focus on what God says. Line it up with the Word. God will speak to you through Scripture, through a friend, or through some instantaneous thought out of nowhere. The reason we often attribute those instantaneous thoughts to the devil is because they do not rationally make sense, so we logically want to dismiss them. But God's ways are not our ways, so we must tune in. His promise is that "Your ears will hear a voice ... saying, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21).

One word from God can change your entire outlook on a situation. Don't let doubtful others keep you from hearing God's voice. Some will tell you that God does not speak to us today. We often don't know what direction to take or how to get something done. We need wisdom and God tells us that "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and without reproach; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).

Isaiah 58:11 says, "The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." There's an unfailing supply of wisdom and direction from the Lord. You just have to turn off those doubts and beliefs that you can't hear from our Father. Papa says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you" (Psalm 32:8).

Hearing God's voice is what most Christians long for and God is ever ready to speak to us. The book that has taught me so much about listening and hearing is Mark Virkler's workbook called, "How To Hear God's Voice." You can read or listen to the four keys to hearing God's voice on the Virkler's ministry website. Imagine what life would be like for you to always have God's guidance with you each day. It is possible and it's what He desires.

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