Category Archives: Adventure

Who I am – my personal testimony

Recently one Sunday morning at church I was asked by a friend to give my testimony that night during our evening service.  I am always glad to share the assurance I have in Jesus and how God is working in my life, so of course I agreed.  I also had a few other things on my mind that I wanted to share with the church, so I asked our pastor what direction I should go with my talk.  He said to just tell why you are the way you are.  Well I think I know what he meant, but it really got me to thinking how I got to be the way I am.  Those who know me know that I am a bit different.  But then again – so is everybody else I know!

So how did I get to be the way I am?  The accounts that follow will provide some insight…

John collage2

I was raised in a Christian home, and my family was in church on a regular basis.  I grew up in a Methodist church, went through the Confirmation class at 12 years old, and at the end of the class we prayed to receive Christ into our hearts.  Was I saved at that time – I am not certain.  But I do know that when I was 18 years old  I went to FCA Camp in Maryville, TN and I knew God was working in my heart that weekend.  I also knew I could not give a certain answer of where I would go if I was to die that day of May 5th of 1984.  Through the message given by Rev. Jerry Upton, the Holy Spirit convicted  me that I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus, and I responded by coming forward during one of the services and knelt down at the altar to asked Jesus into my heart.  I knew then in my heart for certain that I had: repented of my sins, told Jesus I believed He died on a cross and was raised on the third day as a sacrifice to cover my sins, I asked Him to save me, and told Jesus I would follow Him with my life.

I have in no way lived a perfect or sinless life since then, but know in my heart that I can always ask God for forgiveness and it is granted.  And I know that because that night I received salvation, and by the assurance in His Word, that I will be forgiven of things I do (sin) that disappoint Him.

Now it was not long after I accepted Jesus into my heart that I realized satan was really tempting me in a lot of different ways that I had not experienced before.  I went to college and the US Army facing attacks from satan, and I hate to say it but he won a lot of those battles.  I remember carrying my little green Gideon Bible in my cargo pants every day I was in the Army uniform, but I did not make reading it a part of my daily life.  I was a worldly Christian giving way to Jesus and the world at the same time.  So of course I experienced failures and disappointments as I tried to follow Jesus.

My wife was the catalyst to bring me to a closer walk with Jesus.  I knew in my heart that Jesus connected us for her to be my mate and to bring me closer to Him.  I saw in her something I wanted more of in my life – an active growing personal relationship with Jesus.  I am delighted to say that since our wedding I have been on a slow path of growing closer to Him!

As I grow older my faith increases through the trials I continually face and how I am able to handle them.  You have to know that satan will not leave you alone if you are trying to live for Jesus.  I am slowly becoming more obedient to Jesus by daily denying satan and the attacks he sends.  I am not always successful, but slowly getting better as I grow in my faith.  I know I will never live a sinless life until I leave this body in the grave and enter into my eternal home in Heaven!

I am amazed and humbled by the way God has used me over the years.  I have enjoyed serving Him in many leadership roles such as a youth minister and Sunday School director.  He has molded me through the daily trials as a leader, husband and father.  I have been fortunate to lead individuals to receive Jesus as their Savior  in Guatemala, during camps and Bible Schools, even by phone with my cousin in Ohio.

Jesus has led me on so many adventures, and they all started with a single step of obedience of saying yes  –    I will follow You and I will go where You send!

Free Book: 90-Day devotion

I was fortunate to be asked to participate as a contributing author of a new Bible devotional book called All Time Verses: 90-Day Scripture Journey by the student ministers at First Baptist Woodstock.  I submitted two devotions for the project.

All Time Verses book

Since this is the first time I have been included in a book publication I wanted to celebrate by giving a copy away to one my blog readers.  So I thought I would have a little contest.

I will select one person to receive a free book who #1_will read the devotion and #2_tells me the most unique place they will read this devotion.   (yes – points added for creativity)

Simply fill out the information below to be considered.  You do not have to be a follower of my blog, but will be entered by submitting the form from this page.  Only one entry per person.  I will not give or sale your information to anyone – just using it as a reference.

Contest begins  NOW and will end at noon on Sunday, February 16th.  You must be a valid reader of the English language and the declared winner will need to provide a physical mailing address upon request.

Congratulations!

Terri Brooks is the winner of the free book contest!  Terri said she would read the devotion the first thing in the morning in her sun room.

You can find out more about Terri at http://facebook.com/theimprintdoctor

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest.

If you would like to buy your own personal copy of the book it is available on Amazon at All Time Verses: 90-Day Scripture Journey

A Great Defensive Driving Course for Teenagers: B.R.A.K.E.S. (updated)

B.R.A.K.E.S. — Dedicated to Saving Young Lives

This past Saturday I took my 15-year-old son to a BRAKES defensive driving school at Bristol Motor Speedway.  We really were not sure what to expect, but the experience proved to be fun and educational for both of us.

Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway

B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) is a 501(c)3 organization which provides advanced driver’s education in a program entitled the Teen Pro-Active Driving Course.  Over 5,000 teenagers lose their lives each year across the country in traffic accidents.  While conventional driver’s education is important and valuable, the Teen Pro-Active Driving Course goes beyond that level of training by addressing driving situations responsible for many traffic accidents involving teens.  The course is for teenagers 15-19 who have a learner’s permit or driver’s license with at least 30 hours of driving experience.

BRAKESWe arrived a Bristol Motor Speedway with apprehension and anticipation.   Neither of us knew exactly what to expect, but my son is about to get his drivers license and I felt he needed this kind of training.

We started the four hour course with a video and some classroom instruction.  I have to admit that we both learned something from the classroom instruction.

Then they took us out to the parking lot where a driving course had been designed.  Each of the students were assigned to a group with a leader for every three students.  The instructors even let each parent take a turn on the course.

BRAKES course video 1

The course consisted of five different real world situations: accident avoidance, a distraction exercise, drop wheel recovery, car control and recovery, and panic stop (anti lock braking).  At each exercise the students were shown my their instructor how to properly navigate the exercise, then took turns behind the wheel applying and practicing each technique themselves.  The amount of behind the wheel time was so valuable and allowed each student to try these accident avoidance techniques in a controlled environment with professional feedback.

BRAKES course video 2

If you are a parent with a new teenage driver, I highly suggest going with them to this course.  Look online for the next class near you. Continue reading A Great Defensive Driving Course for Teenagers: B.R.A.K.E.S. (updated)

Favorite videos from 2013

Here are a few videos that I have enjoyed in 2013.

My son went with me to Guatemala this past summer.  It was such a treat for me to see him ministering to kids in a foreign country.  This short video shows him playing basketball in the middle of their free-for-all recess time.

Basketball in Guatemala

While in Guatemala I found a unique place to enjoy my quiet time in the morning:

Quiet Time in Guatemala

A review of our 2013 mission trip to Guatemala is set to Audio Adrenaline’s “Kings and Queens”.

2013 Guatemala Mission Trip Review

In our community several churches volunteer together for a sports camp in the summer.  We call it Cross Train Sports Camp, and kids from kindergarten up to 8th grade come to learn more about Jesus and get specialized training on their favorite sport.  This video was my daily favorite from the week:

2013 Cross Train Sports Camp: Tuesday review

At work a friend of mine works in an office that used to have three people, but recently one left the company and one works from home.  So this left Roger in the office by himself.  The problem is that he now calls our office to chit-chat and bounce ideas.  SO, we all chipped in and bought him something to talk to.  We call her Polly:

Polly

A Bar Harbor Adventure

If I were to ask you to set out on an adventure today – what kind of ideas would come to your mind?      What ideas, places, settings and time make up an adventure to you?

Adventure is defined as:
a) an undertaking involving danger and unknown risks
b) a new, remarkable, exciting or unusual experience
I would add that adventures can be expected or unexpected.

I look forward to taking an expected adventure.  The anticipation is great, and fun to organize.  Some look forward to an exciting adventure such as riding a roller coaster, going to an amusement park, hiking to scenic views, preparing for an exercise event or participating in a mission trip.

I like to look for small adventures during ordinary events.  On a recent business trip to Maine I found many opportunities for an adventure.  Some I set out to do, and others found by just pursuing the day.

I travel to Maine regularly to meet with customers.  As a Tennessee fella I really enjoy Maine in lots of ways.  I enjoy their pace of life and the lack of big city hustle and bustle I usually see during a work day.  I also enjoy the diversity of the landscape in the state.  From the rugged coastline to the central state mountains, Maine is very diverse and beautiful.

On this trip to Bangor I had made time to visit Bar Harbor for a few hours.  Traveling by myself I am pretty flexible in when I go and how long I stay, but this day only afforded me about 3 hours to seek adventure before sundown.

I knew of a mission house in Bar Harbor that I wanted to see, and I really wanted to get some pictures of the coast.  So I was going to hurry to find this house my brother-in-law told me about and then wanted to get into Acadia National Park before the sun went down.  So I parked in an out of the way public lot and according to my GPS it was not far from this particular house.

Bar Harbor mission house - ocean view
Bar Harbor mission house – ocean view

I knew what this house looked like from Tim’s description so I set out on foot to find it.  The trail from the parking lot led directly toward the ocean, so I figured I could access the house from this trail.  As I started down the trail toward the house I realized this trail was not just any trail, but a Bar Harbor city walking trail that went along the ocean.  Wow – what a discovery!  And what a relief.  Now instead of having to find this house then jet over to Acadia – I could take my time finding the house and take pictures on this new trail I found.  I was just so tickled with my new discovery!

This was as close as I got to the house
This was as close as I got to the house

Luckily the house was only a few yards from the parking lot – in city terms it was about 2 blocks away.  I was able to find it and take some pictures of the house/mansion from the trail.  However, I was not allowed on the the property.  I did flag down and talk to the grounds keeper, but he was not at all amused by my enthusiasm for the house or relationship to my brother-in-law who had been there before.  Neither of my persuading arguments would warm him up enough to invite me in for a closer look.

So now with the house part of my adventure abruptly complete, I had plenty of time to take pictures of the ocean.

The ocean views in Bar Harbor are just spectacular.  The harbor is surrounded by several smaller islands, and the coast is a wash of colorful jagged rocks.  On this particular day and time I was virtually alone on the trail so I took advantage by getting lots of pictures and climbing around on the rocks like a school boy.  I was having such a grand time!

City trail by the ocean
City trail by the ocean
Unique rock sitting by the ocean edge
Unique rock sitting by the ocean edge
Ocean view from the trail
Ocean view from the trail

The only thing to dampen my spirits that evening was the setting of the sun.  It brought my picture taking adventure to an end.  But I had experience a great time with the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean.

The only thing left to do now in Bar Harbor was to eat.  But where to eat this time?!  I thought why not try something new?  Yep – the beginning of a new eating adventure for me!

Mount LeConte – view #2

2013 LeConte Group

Well after reading last week’s post on my hike to Mount LeConte I hope you did not get the feeling I was disappointed in our hike.  I did have a lot of pain and it was foggy where we had no view, but I really did enjoy the hike.

This week I want to share some of the positive details about the hike, and my experience of llamas, a bear, cabins, food, friends and the views.

Llamas

Mount LeConte is accessible only by trail –  hiking trail that is.  There are no roads to access the mountain top.  So to get provisions to LeConte Lodge, they employ llamas to deliver the goods.  Three times a week eight llamas will deliver about 70 pounds each of perishable food, clean linens and mail to the Lodge.  They take about 4 hours to hike to the top, where they will eat lunch, and then hike back down Trillium Gap trail to the parking lot.

We had the pleasure of passing the llama parade on our way to the top of the mountain.  I found the llamas to be a pleasant animal who enjoyed their routine hiking.

Llama close up
Llama close up
Llama parade
Llama parade

Bear

There had been an uninvited guest at Mount LeConte a couple weeks before and leading up to our stay.  A bear had found a liking to the availability of food as it prepared for a long winter’s nap.  The staff at the Lodge had been trying to discourage the bear with a variety of methods, but nothing was deterring the hungry intruder.

We saw lots of signs, but did not actually see the bear – which I did not have a problem with.  During the night I had to get up to go to the bathroom of course, and my stroll to the bathroom down the trail was on high alert.

Bear activity
Bear activity

Cabins

We stayed in a three bedroom log cabin.  A bedroom consists of a room big enough for a bed.  Actually they are bunk beds and queen size at that.  There is no electricity in the cabins, so an oil lamp is the only option for light unless you bring your own flashlight.  There is a gas heater in each room as well.  In spite of the drafty walls, the gas heaters do a pretty good job heating the cabin over night.

Cabin fireplace
Cabin fireplace
LeConte cabins
LeConte cabins

The food

Once you get to the top of the mountain the first thing you have available is the much talked about hot chocolate.  I had a cup of it, as soon as I could.  As far as hot chocolate goes it was ok, but something hot on a cold wet day was super welcome.

I have to tell you I think just about any meal prepared for me would have tasted great.  But having a nutritious meal to feed my hunger and restore energy was just what I needed.  With your overnight stay supper and breakfast are included.  For supper we had potato soup, beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, stewed apples, peach half and chocolate chip cookies.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, biscuits, pancakes, grits, coffee and Tang.

Again there is no electricity, so meals are by candle light.  The staff prepare food and deliver to each table with a reliable routine.  The meals are the same each day, but they have figured out a way to prepare hearty delicious family-styled meal that is nutritious and fun to eat.

Supper table
Supper table

Friends

We had a few friends who hiked with us of course, but in such a small place LeConte Lodge is a great place to meet new friends.  The office has a large common area where hikers gather to play board games, share stories, and get to know each other.  With one heater in the room and only a few lanterns, the rich ambiance takes you back to a more refreshing simple time.

Common heater in the office
Common heater in the office
Office area
Office area

The views

The only disappointment is that I cannot show you any views from the top.  I will share a few of the other beautiful scenery we were able to enjoy.

Log bridge
Log bridge
Mountain view
Mountain view
Grotto falls
Grotto falls
creek
creek

I am so thankful that I finally got to hike to Mount LeConte.  I hope to do it again – in much better shape the next time!

Mount LeConte – view #1

Foggy view of LeConte Lodge
Foggy view of LeConte Lodge

In November my daughter, myself and a few friends hiked to Mount LeConte and stayed the night at the LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I had never hiked to Mt LeConte and had wanted to hike it for as long as I could remember.  Our friends who hike it every year posted they had a couple of openings in one of their cabins and asked if anyone wanted to go on short notice.  I jumped at the chance as that was a rare free weekend for me.

So there are a few facts I need to let you in on to put this story in perspective.  First you need to know that I agreed to go one week before the weekend trip.  Yep – one week to prepare for a long hike and overnight stay.  Like I said before, I have wanted to hike and stay at LeConte for a very long time, so I eagerly jumped at a chance to go.   Secondly I lead a sedentary lifestyle.  Exercise to me was a big part of my life at one time, but is not currently something I do regularly.  ……..Work, home, eat, sleep and repeat is pretty much my routine.

Also know that I am a former member of the 10th Mountain Division in the US Army.  I was a commando Infantry light fighter, which meant more than anything we walked just about everywhere we deployed.  My job required me to carry a 75 pound rucksack full of food, water, clothes, and mortar gear when we were on maneuvers.  We were stationed in the flat lands but were trained mostly to navigate mountains (hence the name 10th Mountain Division).  Our unit was designed to go to and fight in places that the normal Army units could not access.  We were trained to go no matter how I felt, or how bad the weather was.  So I know how to hike and take care of myself.

The Hike

Trillium trail 1
Trillium Gap Trail

Now given the fact that I was not physically in the best of shape I thought to choose the most gradual incline of the five trails that lead to Mt LeConte.  Trillium Gap Trail is a 6.5 mile trail and gains 3,300ft in elevation.  From what I had read it gained the least in elevation, so I thought it would be the best on my knees and body.

There was twelve of us that hiked together that Friday morning.  Before I lost sight of the parking lot I was already winded, and I knew this was going to be a long day.  So I kept a pace that was steady, but not really as fast as the others.  The first part of the hike was not too bad, but by the time we stopped at the half way point for a snack my knees were already hurting.

It wasn’t long after we started the second half that my left knee gave out.  So to compensate I used more of the right leg, but I also noticed that I was falling further behind the rest of the gang.  By now the weather was also turning colder with rain becoming more steady, but the mountain trail was beautiful.Trillium cross roads

Then if that were not bad enough I started getting a Charley horse in my calf – actually both calves!  I was in pain!  Apparently I had not drunk enough water at the beginning of the hike, and it was now showing in these muscle cramps.  I could not go 10 minutes until one calf or the other was convulsing in a Charley horse.  All I could do was wait for the pain to go away and try to keep slowly hiking.

Danielle stayed with me to encourage me to keep me going – she was a trooper.  But it was not long until she was getting frustrated with my misery and offered to carry my backpack.  Not only are my legs hurting really bad, now my pride is hurting because this 40 something year old man is needing his 20 something year old daughter to carry his pack.  But I did concede and let her carry it for a few minutes because I was in so much pain.

I look up and the rest of the gang is long gone by now, but our group leader Keenan came back to check on us.  He saw the pain I was in and offered to hike on to the top, drop his pack, and come back to help me.  I was in no shape to deny the help, so he took off while Danielle and I kept on moving slowly.  I tried to keep a positive attitude because I was enjoying the scenery, smells and adventure.  I was also thankful that Danielle was keeping such a good attitude through all my trials.

I am not sure how long he was gone, but about a half mile out from the top he met us again with a couple of guys with him to help me out.  I was about in tears because I needed the help, and these guys had come to assist me.  I was totally humbled at that point and glad to let Keenan carry my pack the rest of the way to the cabin.

LeConte cabins
LeConte cabins

Once we got to the top we met the rest of the hikers along with another group that came up another trail.  One of them was a friend Mike who saw what kind of shape I was in and helped me to our cabin.  Mike also went to get me some warm hot chocolate from the kitchen to warm me up (LeConte Lodge is famous for their hot chocolate!).  Over the next hour as I sat in the cabin resting and trying to figure out just how I was going to walk around on the top of this mountain the rest of the night, Mike would come by every so often to check on me offering anything I would need.

Of course, the next morning would be a hike down the mountain with another set of pains to endure.  But as I sat there before supper reflecting on the day’s events I was overcome with gratitude and humility.

I am so Thankful

I was totally humbled by my lack of physical ability to hike to the top of the mountain like I thought I could.  Thinking back on my experienced days with the 10th Mountain I realized they were close to 25 years ago.  My mind was strong, but my body had become weak.

I was also overcome with such gratitude for those who helped me especially Danielle, Keenan and Mike.  They gave so sacrificially and graciously to my aid that I just could not thank them enough.

It reminded me of Joshua fighting in Exodus 17.  While Joshua and Israel fought Amalek and his people, Moses would hold up his hands.  When his hands were raised Joshua would win, but as soon as he let them down Amalek would win.  So Moses had Aaron and Hur help hold his hands up so Joshua and the Israelites could win the battle.  Those three helped me win the battle of Mt LeConte against my body.  I did victoriously see the mountain top!

Maine Trippin

My daughter and I took a trip to Maine in July of 2013.  I went because of work, but took some extra time so we could explore the state.  We posted tweets on the trip with #mainetrippin, so I thought to follow suite and name this post the same.  The following is a pictorial essay of our visit.

Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound
Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound

A trip to Maine is never complete till you eat a good lobster.  Usually getting a lobster is my first stop once in Maine.  And by good lobster I mean a cooked lobster!  And that is exactly what you get at the Trenton Bridge Lobster pound.  It has been one of my favorite places to visit for years.

Bar Harbor

Danielle in Bar Harbor
Danielle in Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor is just a beautiful place.  It is a stop for several cruise ships during the summer months.  There are plenty of treats, eats and shopping are within walking distance.  And the pace is just a bit slower – the way I like it.

Lobster
My favorite Maine meal!
Sunset in Bar Harbor
Sunset in Bar Harbor
Downtown Bar Harbor
Downtown Bar Harbor
John and Danielle in Bar Harbor
John and Danielle in Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park

Rugged Maine coast line
Rugged Maine coast line

Acadia National Park is just minutes from downtown Bar Harbor.  It is a beautiful place to drive and take pictures.  Hearing the ocean, feeling the breeze and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation is all this national park is about!  (but that is plenty enough!)

Long Pond in Acadia National Park
Long Pond in Acadia National Park
Maine Coastline
Maine Coastline
Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole
Maine coastline
Maine coastline
View from the top
View from the top

Western Maine

Wire bridge in New Portland, ME
Wire bridge in New Portland, ME

WireBridge

Carrabassett River
Carrabassett River

My work usually takes me to central and western Maine.  There are lots of great rivers and mountains to explore here!  I never get enough time to take all the pictures I would like, but here are a few samples.

Sandy River
Sandy River
Sandy River water falls
Sandy River water falls
Herbert Hotel
Herbert Hotel
Kingfield, Maine Carrabassett river
Kingfield, Maine
Carrabassett river

Downtown Kingfield has a few shops and is the home of the Herbert Grand Hotel.  A really unique hotel that still uses a real key for your room door, and the front door of the hotel (only needed if you want to get back into the hotel after 9:00).

Orange Cat Cafe

Orange Cat Cafe
Orange Cat Cafe

One of my favorite restaurants in the world – Orange Cat Cafe in Kingfield, ME.  Very laid back atmosphere with wholesome food.         And a cat.

Moose pit
Moose pit

Well, you can’t see a moose here – because I did not see any!    But this is the place to find one…  It is called the moose pit because of the water, vegetation, and salt content.  This used to be where the state kept salt for the roads, so moose frequent here.

Further down the coast

Portland Lighthouse
Portland Lighthouse

The Portland lighthouse is one of the more photographed lighthouses on the East coast.

The Lobster Shack
The Lobster Shack

The Lobster Shack is another of my favorite restaurants.  For 2 reasons … the lobster and the view!

Portland Lighthouse
Portland Lighthouse
Nubble Lighthouse
Nubble Lighthouse
Old Orchard beach amusement park
Old Orchard beach amusement park

Anticipation

Image

My son planned a cookout and bond fire at our home this past Friday night.  He contacted his friends and made food plans with his mom.  Then he and I prepared the yard and fire pit for the evening.

A couple of his buddies came over early to help us finish off the last details of moving cinder blocks and gathering wood.  Each of them were giddy and willing to do just about anything I asked them to do as we prepared.  Why?  Anticipation

They each anticipated who would show up for the event.  What conversations they would have. Maybe a new friendship would develop.  For sure, somebody was going to do something so funny that the whole school would be talking about it Monday morning!  That’s the beauty of anticipation – it is hoping for something great that is unseen and uncompleted.

Their anticipation reminded me of two great anticipations that I have on my mind:

1st – I am anticipating the new acquaintances, friendships and adventures I will have as a result of writing and maturing this blog.  The ability to purposefully share my thoughts and adventures makes me just giddy!  God is giving me wisdom as I journey, and I am so glad to share with anyone who will listen.

2nd – I am also anticipating the glorious meeting I will have in Heaven with my Savior!  I know in Heaven there will be a great reward for the things I do for the glory of God here on earth.  Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  I have never seen Heaven, but I sure do have faith that it will be a wonderful place to be for the rest of eternity!

_____________________________________________________________

My son and his buddies did not know for sure who was coming to the cookout or what kind of fun it would be.  But they anticipated a really good time.

This blog and eventual book journey are certainly uncharted for me, and I know will include many highs and lows.  But I do anticipate how it will change me and my future.

My personal journey toward Heaven will be tough at times, but will also include many mountain top experiences.  Best of all I anticipate the final reward when I meet Jesus face to face!!!

So how about you?  What are you giddy about or greatly anticipating in your life?