How Not To Make Fire With A Magnesium Fire Starter

How Not To Make Fire With A Magnesium Fire Starter

I recently went camping with my Catching Creation team out in Iredell County, North Carolina and decided to try my hand at starting a fire using a magnesium fire starter tool.  I failed pretty miserably and realized that if our warmth and survival depended on my making a fire with this device that we may freeze to death on that cold low 20's night that we decided to camp on.  Alas, cooler (or should I say warmer) heads prevailed and Chance ended my failure at making fire by using a 2 dollar lighter to ignite the little tinder bundle I had merely thrown lazy sparks at.  The fire engulfed the tinder, the fire was started and all was right in the free world.  At least in our little corner of the woods.  Watch this VIDEO and see for yourself.

fire
fire

My New Sulcata Tortoise From CCSB Reptile Rescue

My New Sulcata Tortoise From CCSB Reptile Rescue

sulcata tortoise
sulcata tortoise

Last week I had the privilege to visit Chad Griffin of CCSB Reptile Rescue in order to purchase a rescued Sulcata tortoise from him.  While we were there Chad graciously agreed to let us interview him and film his operation.  I was like a kid in a candy store, around every corner there were amazing creatures happily looking on as I explored the expanse of Chad's basement where they were housed.  Chad's rescue, CCSB, serves as a place or refuge for animals that are often feared and misunderstood.  Many of the animals in his care were from coordinated raids by local and state law enforcement agencies.  Often people will take on animals that they are ill equipped to care for and whether they're injured, seized, or just surrendered to CCSBChad cares for them all.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 1.50.06 AM
Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 1.50.06 AM

We got to witness everything from harmless chameleons and boas to the potentially fatal cobras, vipers and crocodilians.  I just couldn't stop smiling.  As someone who shares a passion for animals I was also encouraged that Chad and I share a faith in Jesus Christ.  Chad considers himself a preacher first and his faith and integrity in this regard are unshakable.  We learned that CCSB offers certification classes to help address local and state laws regarding wildlife, animal first aid and treatment, as well as many other things.  This is definitely something worth checking into and I know I for one will be enrolling in one of his classes in the future.

 

I met Chad several years ago at a reptile show and I was encouraged that I wasn't the only weirdo on the block with a love for Jesus and these creepy crawly friends of mine.  I have been wanting to get a larger Sulcata (aka African Spur Thigh) tortoise for my Catching Creation programs for some time now and when I heard that Chad had a few in need of a new home I jumped at the opportunity.  This amazing creature is going to be a hit with kids and families this year in my programs.  I can't wait to share him with you all!  Did you see our last EPISODE about my Argentine Tegu "Bucky?"  Click HERE to check that out!  Have you seen our "Possum Catching 101" video and article yet?  Click HERE to check that out!

To check out Chad and all CCSB has to offer click HERE

Until Next Time,

Have a great adventure and remember Jesus Loves you!

Tegu Enclosure Build

Tegu Enclosure Build

IMG_1538
IMG_1538

What the heck is a Tegu?  I've had that question postulated to me several times over the last week or two as I posted progress reports and pictures on my Instagram while building a large enclosure for my tegu.  Basically a tegu is a large lizard similar in stature and behavior to a monitor lizard.  My specific tegu is an Argentinian black and white tegu or Tupinambis merianae if you're fancy.A good friend of mine and fellow Catching Creation team member, Thomas LaVine, decided around 6-8 months ago to get himself a tegu and while ordering one for himself Thomas decided to also get one for me.

Thomas donated "Bucky" the Argentine tegu to me for the purpose of using in my ministry.  Little did we know that our tegus would be so wild when we got them.  The tegus both came from a guy in south Florida who runs a reptile rescue of sorts for tegus.  Basically since they're running wild down in Florida several people have taken it upon themselves to offer a "service" of capturing these wily beasts and shipping them across the country to the pet trade.  It solves the problem of the tegu being a burden on the ecology of native wildlife and reptile enthusiasts like myself can get a normally expensive animal for a fraction of the cost.  That all seems well and good, the only catch is that you have to spend quite a bit of time taming these animals in order to be able to throughly enjoy them.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.28.50 AM
Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.28.50 AM

When I first got Bucky the tegu he was missing the last quarter of his tail, he was around 18 inches long and full of thrashing energy.  I fell in love with this little guy immediately.  Bucky hid for the first 10 days I had him.  I decided that in order to tame him I had to first build his trust so I left him alone, I didn't bother him and I just trusted that he was ok while inside of his hide for those first 10 days.  He would eventually start to peek his head out of the hide while I was in the room, but if we made eye contact he would dart back inside his dark hidey hole.  Eventually he got brave and would bask when I was in the room but if I made a motion towards his enclosure he would bolt back into his hide.  I would inch slowly towards his enclosure day after day until I built trust with him and I could get all the way to the side of his enclosure and he would stay.  This process went on for weeks and months.  I finally got where I could pet him while in his enclosure and most recently I've gotten where I can hold him with gloves for a minute or so before he starts to thrash wildly and wants to be let back into his cage.  Since we aren't on any sort of time table I'm comfortable letting him warm up to me at his own pace.

So with all of that back story and trust building you can see that I have a vested interest in this amazing creature.  I spent the last week building what most consider the appropriate sized enclosure for an Argentine tegu.  The total size of his new home is 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and 8 feet long.  He has an elevated basking post laid with tiles, a hide box under the second level of his enclosure and a ramp connecting both levels.  I placed the whole enclosure on a 2ft high stand so that when I open the doors to his enclosure Bucky will be at eye level.  The theory is that since I've made so much progress so far with him that being at eye level now when we interact will hopefully eliminate his fear of me.  He will no longer see me as a predator coming from above but as a friend coming at eye level.  I'm hoping that by spring I will be able to consistently handle Bucky and begin to use him in my programs by summer.  That would be a huge miracle and great testimony for this animal.

Tegus are incredibly intelligent and typically a very docile animal.  Since Bucky was wild collected in Florida he doesn't come with the good positive human interaction that a captive bred animal will have but since he is such a highly intelligent animal it is possible to tame him down.  I'm excited for this process and all the progress I've made with this wonderful animal.

If you've ever tried taming an animal, consider taming your tongue, check out this devotional from my book "Whispers In The Woods" here http://catchingcreation.com/can-tame-tongue/

DCIM100GOPRO
DCIM100GOPRO

My Jesus I Love Thee

My Jesus I Love Thee

Stephen LaVine -- My Jesus I Love Thee

I am constantly amazed at how breathing new life into something old can make it take on new life.  Think about your life prior to Jesus, aren't you glad God breathed that breath of redemptive grace in you through the Holy Spirit?  Aren't you glad for that transformation?  Often worship leaders, like my good friend and fellow Catching Creation team member, Stephen LaVine will take something old and make it new.  In this case, Stephen took the 19th century hymn "My Jesus I Love Thee" and put his own original acoustic spin on it.

Stephen's heart for worship and giftedness in both musicianship and vocal ability have constantly left my jaw on the floor.  "That boy can saaaang" as my country brethren from Stephen's neck of the woods would say.  I am honored and blessed to get to work with Stephen on Catching Creation videos as well as the occasional tag team for a ministry event but most of all I'm humbled to have this talented guy as one of my closest friends.  We will be featuring some of his music on the weekly Catching Creation episodes once we roll out the new format later this year.

Check out his amazing rendition of "My Jesus I Love Thee" below, share it with a friend, and subscribe to his youtube channel because you're not going to want to miss all that he has in store this upcoming fall!

Fueling The Faith Interview

Fueling The Faith Interview

Recently I had the opportunity to be on the "Fueling The Faith" broadcast on WKTE 1090 AM after a program I did in King North Carolina.  This interview was very well done, short and to the point and a very good example of what to expect with a Catching Creation program.

Have You Been Restored?

Have You Been Restored?

For the last few months I have been helping a friend remodel his 1890's era farmhouse to get it ready for sale.  It's been an exhausting and rewarding process restoring the house and updating things as we go to make it more attractive for potential home buyers. The process has reminded me of the work of discipleship in our lives.  Christ uses this process to refine us, discipline us, and make us more attractive to the father.  Sometimes old things have to be ripped out so the newer, better, updated versions can be installed.  Hebrews 12:11 says "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  
Have You Been Restored
What are some areas in your life that may need remodeling?  Are there areas in our live's that can be surrendered to the master carpenter, Jesus?  Although it's not a comfortable prayer, I encourage you to ask the Lord to reveal any areas in your life that may need some rough edges sanded off of and then allow Jesus to refine you so that you can produce that harvest of righteousness.  I know that's been my prayer lately, Jesus refine me, restore me, renew my heart and allow me to serve you better than ever before.  Our world is changing and we need to be as prepared as possible to meet it with the love of Christ!  

If you liked this devotional be sure to pick up a copy of "Whispers In The Woods" to have a collection of 52 similar devotionals for your spiritual growth and encouragement.  Click HERE to order a copy!

Catching Creation Interview

Recently I was fortunate enough to do a Google Hangout interview with author and blogger, Dave Hilgendorf.  Check it out at this link:  http://davehilgendorf.com/stan-lake-interview/  

Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 5.32.50 PM

 

“If God called you to it, no-one can call you away from it, even yourself” <Tweet That>

Burrrr It's Cold In Here!

Have you ever noticed that when everything in your home is working correctly you really don’t think about the little things like say, the heat pump, but when they’re broken you REALLY think about them.  Recently our heat pump decided it no longer wanted to do its job for my house and just quit, can you believe that?  The audacity of that instrument of my comfort, to just quit like that, and it didn’t even give us a 2-week notice!  Times got tough, temps got low and it just quit at the worst possible time. Have you ever felt like quitting on God, or the ministry He has called you to?  If you’re like me you probably have had seasons of doubt, distress and had the overwhelming urge to throw your hands up and just quit, but let me ask you something, who else would be affected if you gave up?

Our heat pump’s decision to stop working and providing the heat that it was designed to provide has not only effect it but everyone that enters this house.  There is a void now that its service has been taken away and the same is true for you.  YOU are the only one God created to be who you are and do what you do.  If you quit it will be felt by many.

Paul says in Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  This verse is a good reminder. If you feel like giving up and want to just stop doing what you were designed to do take a moment to pray, remember the hope Christ has given you, recalibrate and stay patient in the affliction because this too shall pass.

Romans 12:4-5 says For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  We are all one body and each of us has a specific thing to do for the kingdom of God.  My ministry may be drastically different than yours but neither of our specific callings is more important than the other.  We are called to function as a living organism and if you give up your absence will be felt.  Just like the looming cold in my house that is felt stronger now that our heat pump has quit working, your absence will be felt.  So take heart, have hope and let the warmth of your faith heat up a cold world!

spaceheater

Pure As The Driven Snow

The past few days have been a chilly reminder of winter’s very firm grip on my home state of North Carolina.  An “arctic blast” of cold air has swept across much of the country sending temperatures down well below freezing.  I honestly can’t remember a colder winter and yesterday it snowed. I watched the developing storm on the local news channel for days, hoping its trajectory would amble just a little further east so that we would get snow where I lived.  I mean if it's going to be cold it might as well snow right?  It seems that my prayers for frozen precipitation were answered and by lunchtime there was a thin dusting of snow covering the ground. Tiny bitter cold snowflakes fell for the next 12 hours or so as the temperature plunged lower and lower.  We ended up only getting around 1-2 inches of snow but it was enough to blanket my backyard in a sheet of white.

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning as the sun was rising over the trees in my backyard I had the thought that Jesus covers our sins like this snow covered my yard.  It’s not an original thought, I’ve heard that analogy for years and it's even in the scriptures, but today it struck me more than normal.  Just like a winter storm, conditions have to be perfect for us to accept and receive our salvation from Jesus.  We have to admit we are sinners, realize the need for salvation, and confess that Jesus is our Lord.  Without these elements all working together as a well timed storm we can’t receive our free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Isaiah 1:18 says “Come now, let us settle the matter”, says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  When we accept Jesus, our sins are covered, just like my backyard with the pure white snow.  Everything that was a blight, the holes, the dead grass and dog poop are all covered by a white covering.  To the eyes of the Father our sins look like Jesus' blood and in his righteousness and perfection we are now viewed by a loving father thanks to Jesus’ covering.  No matter what is underneath the snow, the new focal point is the purity and not the filth that lies beneath.  I’m thankful that God sees me through the lens of what Jesus did for me and not what my life looks like without Jesus.  How about you?  Are you pure as the driven snow?

backyard

Slowing Down Isn't Giving Up

Slowing Down Isn’t Giving Up I noticed while hiking recently that during to course of my briskly paced walk I startled more wildlife than I was able to adequately observe because I was in a hurry.  I wasn’t on a schedule and there wasn’t really a deadline for how long I was to be in the woods that day, so where was I going so fast?  How many times do we just move around at such a break neck speed that we fail to see the beauty that surrounds us?  Where are we going and does it really matter if we get there a few minutes earlier?  We often try so hard to get to the next thing that we miss the now.  Why are you in such a hurry?  What is it that you're trying to accomplish?

I love the way Eugene Peterson’s Message Bible translates Jeremiah 2:25 where it says Slow down. Take a deep breath. What's the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, 'I can't help it. I'm addicted to alien gods. I can't quit.”  We know that if we are running in the direction of the Lord then we can “run and not grow weary” as it says in Isaiah 40:31 but can you honestly say you’re running is for the Lord?  Sometimes our best motives and self-righteousness can appear Godly to outsiders looking in but at the end of the day we may just be trying to earn a salvation we already have.

Sometimes it seems easier to just go go go and not sit in the abiding presence of the Father.  We know that Jesus gives us rest and if we are chasing after His heart then we will be sustained no matter the pace of our walk.  When was the last time you just sat at the feet of Jesus?

Take the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, Mary was commended for taking the time to worship Jesus despite all the things that needed to be done and Martha was rebuked for not taking advantage of the present moment.  It says that Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…” and Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.”  Which are you doing?  Are you living in the present moment and recognizing not only the beauty that surrounds you but the author of all beauty, or are you wearing yourself out with tasks and distractions and completely missing the moment?

CAM13163

Complacency Kills

I remember riding with my upper torso exposed in my gun turret and reading the conveniently placed “Complacency Kills” signs all over the FOB (Forward Operating Base) that my convoy had stopped at for the day.  The image and location of these signs have been seared into my brain as a constant reminder of the need for hyper vigilance.  If we drop our guard in a moment of complacency we would be opened for attack. In the Army we trained for weeks and even months at a time prior to my deployment to hammer in the basics so when the time of testing occurred we wouldn’t think, we would react.  You learned and relearned things to the point of absurdity so that it became muscle memory.  Drills and scenarios in harsh conditions that pushed my body and mind to their limits helped me to know that I had what it took if the need would arise.  In a very short time I went from being a weekend warrior in the Army National Guard to a full time soldier in a combat zone.  Playtime was over.

The same has been true in my spiritual life.  Although I think I had a long reluctant courtship with Jesus prior to my full submission to His will, it seemed that in a very short period of time I went from being an interested observer to full time combatant in the Lord’s army equipped with the full armor of God.  The same principle was also true in regards to training.  I immersed myself immediately into intense study, prayer, learning the basics of my faith and was tried by fire by jumping headlong into ministry in every capacity available to me.  The lesson I learned while deployed in Iraq still rings true now, maybe truer.  Complacency kills.

How many times do you feel like giving up, or worst yet, how many times do you feel apathetic to the whole process of faith?  I’ll admit that I’ve been there and constantly have to remind myself to not let my guard down but more often than not in moments of weakness or laziness I drop my shield of faith and BOOM.  That’s when it happens.  When my defenses are low those spiritual roadside bombs seem to catch me when I least expect them.  We know what to do, we know God’s word is true, but in our pride we sometimes put our perceived needs in front of the mission God has called us to.  Like spoiled children we whine and cry if we don’t get our way or if God’s will doesn’t line up with what we thought it should be and instead of obedience we fall into rebellion.  Are we honoring Jesus with our lips but denying him with our hearts by our actions?  Titus addresses this in chapter 1 verse 16 of his epistle when he says They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” 

When we allow ourselves to become apathetic to the will of God we are “unfit for doing anything good.”  We have dropped our guard, become complacent and are completely unguarded from the coming attack.  I love how in Ephesians 6 Paul warns us to be prepared for battle and assures us that it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when the flaming arrows will fly in our direction.

If we are charging forward, fully trained and outfitted for the coming spiritual battle we may take fire from all directions but we are assured in our victory by the spiritual armor we have been given by the father.  If, however, we have become complacent and apathetic, we will most likely be taken down by the coming attack and ill prepared to defend ourselves when the moment of violence occurs.  Will you take up your sword of the spirit and shield of faith and fight the good fight?  Remember, complacency kills!

Screen shot 2014-01-27 at 12.47.01 AM

Adventure Is Calling! Will You Answer?

From the inception of my Catching Creation blog I’ve had the tagline of “Adventures In All Things Created.”  I guess I’ve never really needed to clarify what exactly that meant before now but the more I think about what it means to be on adventure the more I feel this little phrase of mine will need clarity.  It has always seemed to me that to be completely alive one must always be in the middle of, or in search of, an adventure.  I’ve been thinking about that philosophy for quite some time now.  Lately the adventure seems to be one pitted in the very center of my faith.  Adventures aren’t always easy and certainly in the moment they can often be uncomfortable, but an adventure is only as good as the bruises and scrapes you get along the way.  The hardship and bad weather seem to frame up the best adventures and overcoming some obstacle or adversity makes the stories worth telling. I think when we start looking at our faith journey as an adventure it helps to make those bumps in the road seem all the more worthwhile.  When things don’t work out and we’re left scratching our heads and asking God, sometimes even yelling, “which way do I go” or “what have I done wrong?”  We fail to realize the importance of the adventure at hand.  These are the moments that build faith, or so they tell me.  These are the times that we can look back and say that we were truly refined by hardship and we persevered.  We survived!  We lived to tell the story and wow, what a story it will be someday.  James, the half brother of Jesus, assures us that our trials will sharpen and polish us in his first epistle and if you’re feeling lost in the woods on this great adventure just let the words of James comfort you.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Our adventures can lead us to mountain highs and valley lows but beauty is always in the faithful and sometimes fearful walking with God in the dark nights of our souls.  In the stories of how God came through or how we learned that our compass may have been upside down and we got off course a bit.  Through His grace, God is there, listening to our complaints, laughing at our child like tantrums and all the while loving us through the process.  Where is your adventure leading you?  Have you gotten off course?  Trust Jesus, dust yourself off, and lean into the wind.  You’ve got an amazing journey ahead and one heck of a story to tell!

compass

Dude, Where's Your Faith?

For the last few months, maybe even as long as a year or so, I’ve been scrambling.  Just going through the motions trying to put on a good face and keep the faith but to be honest I’m just at a loss for where to go next.  I am trying to find the balance between doing the “will of God” and admitting that maybe I miscalculated a few faith leaps. I’m in a really interesting place right now where insecurity and uncertainty are the kings of the day and anxiety and anger seems to be the emotions of choice.  Before you tell me you’re going to pray for me and sheepishly conclude that I’m in error or somehow am no longer as spiritual as I ought to be, consider Abraham.

I imagine some of the same emotions and “feelings” plagued Abraham on the daily.  Think about it.  God calls Abraham to leave his homeland, family, religion and complete way of life to follow after an invisible God to whom Abraham had no prior knowledge or relationship.  Wow, sounds scarily familiar to my life.  When I try to get upset, impatient or discouraged I have to look at things in the context of reality.  I’ve only been walking in faith as a Christian for around 5 years or so.  I went headlong from a life of atheism into Christian ministry.  I went from disbelief to leading bible studies, from cursing Christians to evangelizing the name of Christ.

I’ve never been a status quo guy.  I’ve been a person after the truth my whole life and if somehow that disagreed with the elite in power then so be it.  The same seems to be true in my walk with Jesus.  I feel like the turmoil I often feel isn’t generated from God but more of an American commercialism version of Christianity.  My main qualms typically seem to surround the fact that despite my best efforts financially I can’t seem to consistently “provide” for my wife and I.  But the fact of the matter is, we aren’t in poverty, we have a house that we are able to pay for and our bills are paid and most of the time they’re on time.  So if I’m living by faith, like I am, and the Lord is my provider, like He is; then what’s the big deal?

My real quandary lately is why, despite my best efforts to faithfully do what I feel called to do, is everything seeming to “dry up.”  My ministry did fairly well and I stayed booked most of the year but it seems that I decided to jump into full time evangelistic ministry at the exact wrong time in our countries history.  Post economic bust America when churches aren’t as focused anymore, sadly, on evangelistic programs as much as they are about tickling the ears of the faithful few that are currently keeping the lights on and doors open to their cathedrals built to American opulence.  So in this environment how can I survive?

I understand that without faith it’s impossible to please God and before you lecture me on prayer, fasting and Bible reading let me interject that I understand the Christian “formula for success” and it just seems like I may be missing a piece of the equation.  My heart is to love God and his people but the bigger picture is that if something doesn’t change soon my ministry will just be another statistic of Christian ventures closing their doors.

I know what you’re thinking, “why is this guy complaining, he should just go out and get a ‘real’ job.”  I couldn’t agree more!  But here is the problem, you see despite the fact that I’m college educated, Army trained and look decent on paper I can’t seem to find a job that’s hiring.  I’ve spent the last couple months sending out resumes and applications and every time I doubt my calling, ministry and faith I resort to this.  I’m not above working.  I would love to find a job that would allow me to provide a stable income for my family and give us a sense of security that we have yet to have in our short marriage.  The problem is deeper maybe.  Perhaps I’m supposed to get over some residual pride I have from working for everything I’ve ever had, perhaps God is teaching me to truly trust him in this season of uncertainty.  Maybe He is calling me to a place where dependency on him is my only option, and honestly that’s where I am.  I just have a bad attitude about it right now.

How can we live in this land of in between and maintain our faith, sanity and composure even when all systems aren’t go.  How can we have faith when the reality of the situation seems to dictate more distress than faithfulness?  Here I stand at a crossroads of faith, do I stand firm and dig in deeper for one last hurrah in hopes that finally I can be successful?  Do I throw in the towel and relegate myself back to the “normal” workforce and pray to have a positive Christian impact where I go, do I do both?  Lord the simple prayer of “I need direction” is a wild understatement but that’s where I’m at.  So what would YOU do?

I_dont_know

I Love Nights Like These

Nights like these.

The wind was softly blowing ever so slightly, as if by dancing through trees only to remind me of its presence.  The water rippled with every careful step I made into the heart of the vernal pool and the fog wafted over the surface of the murk just enough to cause the refraction of my headlamp to push my light beam to and fro.  I love nights like these.

I decided to take a trip to my newly discovered hiking trail near the house Jess and I recently bought.  This was my first nocturnal adventure here and I have to say although I was delighted to be alone in the woods in a new place, I was a bit unnerved a few times just thinking about how close I was to people’s houses that may not initially understand that I was merely there for the amphibians and nothing more.  I have to admit that I almost screamed when I startled a rabbit and he tore off into the undergrowth after we locked eyes.

On my first visit to this piedmont NC paradise a few months back I saw in the topography of the land that it dipped almost to a valley and flattened out at the bottom.  On that inaugural visit I found the ephemeral wetland fully lit with late summer sun and it was a sight that I had been longing to see.  It was pristine habitat.  An ephemeral wetland is sometimes called a vernal pool, ephemeral pool, or wetland and it is usually temporary and routinely dries up thus not supporting fish but great for amphibians.

I don’t think anyone else had discovered my newly found haven and if they had I imagine it wouldn’t have been considered the treasure I thought it to be and likely would have been avoided.  To the untrained eye this area is just a swampy muddy mess but I see so much more.  On my first few visits spanning a few months I found a plethora of amphibians much to my surprise and delight.  I have found Chorus Frogs, Spring Peepers, Marbled Salamanders and Eastern Spotted Newts so far. Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 3.58.04 PM

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 10.26.24 PMThe reason for my trip tonight was to capitalize on the unseasonably warm few nights that we were having this week.  For the first week in December we are seeing daytime highs in the mid 70’s and nightly lows in the 60s.  This week has also been very rainy and overcast which creates the perfect storm for amphibian activity and gets my heart pumping.  The main motivation for tonight’s wet hike was to check on the vernal pool itself, to see if it had begun to fill with water and to also check on the marbled salamanders to determine if their eggs had hatched yet.

Tripping off the beaten path down to the muddy area where the pool is situated I was almost immediately met with water, lots of it.  The pool not only filled up but it’s actually much bigger than I imagined it would be.  So far in my observations the pool has ranged from depths of 6-12 inches on down to almost completely dry, so I wasn’t prepared to see the pool quite this full.  It was a welcomed surprise.

I didn’t have to go far to confirm the health of the pool because the first time my light struck the water I saw the leaf litter almost explode with newly hatched larval forms of marbled salamanders.  This made me very happy considering there were a few times over the last month or two that I questioned whether or not if the pool would even fill up and I feared for my little aquatic friends.  Thankfully nature’s much more resilient than I even give it credit and the marbled salamanders did exactly what they were designed to do, survive.  The best part of the entire night was the beautiful volleys of Spring Peeper calls.  There were even a few faint Chorus frogs calling as well but the night air was heavy with the calls and peeps of the tiny Spring Peeper above anything else.

 I decided once I discovered the depth of the pool was knee deep according to my soggy jeans that I would head in the direction of the frog calls and see if I could see one of these elusive nocturnal anurans.   After crossing over the pool stealthily and occasionally stopping, cutting my lights off and listening for the audible offender I made my way to the opposite shore and scanned with my headlamp and there he was.  The light of my headlamp glistened like diamonds on the crossed back of a Spring Peeper chest high on a small sapling next to the pool.  Success!  Even if it was almost by accident that I found the little guy I was pleased beyond belief.  I love these little frogs; they are one of the many native NC amphibians that truly give me joy. Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 10.26.09 PM

These guys defy the odds by being able to breed, thrive and survive when most other amphibians are nestled deep in the ground below the frost line.  They are designed with somewhat of a biological anti-freeze, glucose builds up in their cells and allows them not to freeze to death and allowing these petite frogs to occupy a niche other frogs are unprepared to inhabit.  After taking a few blurry pictures in SITU with my Iphone of my new froggy friend I started back up towards the trail and made my way to drier ground.  All in all tonight’s trip was short in duration but I don’t think it could have been much better.  I love nights like these!

Jesus Can't Be My Friend

Anxiety has been hitting me like waves.  Moments of overwhelming emotion keep crashing on the shores of my thought life.  Lately my faith has been tested and my worth as a man tried over and over again.  I know Christ overcame the world and my irrelevant fear of the unknown shouldn't sway me, but it does. Jesus can't be my friend.  Simply put, if Jesus is merely a fair weather pal then this crushing and often-oppressive anxiety will destroy me.  Jesus can't be my friend.  He has to be my anchor in the storm.  He has to be my sovereign Lord who is the author and FINISHER of my faith.  Jesus can't be my friend.  He has to be my savior if he is to be anything at all. waves

My relationship with Christ can't simply be one that relies on good times and warm feelings.  It has to be a real relationship that requires active participation on my part even when I don't "feel like it."  In order to walk out my faith in obedience I have to have the right view of Christ.  He is to be revered as the Son of God, honored as Lord of Lords, respected as a loving father, and served, worshipped and adored for His loving sacrifice on my behalf.  Jesus says in John 15:14 that we can be His friends but ONLY if we are following His commands.

Let's be honest, most of the time our feeble fist shaking at heaven has more to do with our own pride and less to do with anything that God has allowed to happen to us.  Even the most grim of circumstances can be endured by simply remembering who Jesus actually is and allowing our faith to restore the hope that’s been lost.  When we allow our situations to dictate our response we negate what Christ did on the cross.  When our circumstances seem insurmountable do we lessen the power of the almighty?  Has your pain, fear, sadness or etc become an idol that’s been placed above the Lordship of Christ?

If we view Jesus as merely a friend for when times are good, or a bail bondsmen when times are bad have we made him a liar?  If you are struggling to have faith and your pride seems to block your access to the father in heaven I encourage you to remember exactly who Jesus is.  Meditate on what he did for you and then ask yourself is Jesus my friend or my savior (hopefully both).  If he is your savior then He's bigger than your current turmoil and he's here to offer peace that you don't deserve and cant understand.  If Jesus is your friend are you holding up your end of the relationship?

 

You’ve Got To Loose Sight To Find Your Vision.

You’ve got to loose sight to find your vision.

 Can I be candid with you?  I’m in tears right now.  I’m emotionally overwhelmed and I’m not sure how this one seemingly menial interaction with a kid in a pet store has me in tears.  I mean I can’t stop crying.  The reality is, for quite some time now; I’ve been just going through the motions of Christian ministry.  I’ve been showing up more to do a job and less to minister.  I’ve been like a vagrant with no home traveling from town to town doing my form of transient ministry so long that I’ve lost sight of why I even do what I do.  Tonight it smacked me in the face.

I’ve been so caught up in trying desperately (and often failing) to provide for my wife and I that more and more ministry has been treated less like something out of the overflow of joy and more of something that I begrudgingly HAVE to do because there aren’t any other open doors for me.  It seems like in some ways I’ve lost sight of why I entered the ministry in the first place.  I remember being in Bible College and devouring scripture, praying feverishly, relying so heavily on my faith in Jesus that despite my circumstance I had a peace that surpassed my understanding.  I assumed that once I graduated I would somehow feel fulfilled and validated and would truly “arrive.”

Well it’s now two years post graduation and I’ve managed to start my own ministry and still feel lost.  When did following God get so hard?  What have I allowed to get in the way of my relationship with my Father in heaven that has made me bitter, spiteful, entitled, and angry?  I know the Christian formula of reading my Bible, praying, fasting and serving.  Yet when I add all of that together it seems more of a chore and less of something life giving.  Why has my heart been so heavy in all the wrong ways?

Tonight in that pet store I was reminded like a punch in the face WHY I entered the ministry.  While my wife and I were talking and looking for a bird box for our pet squirrel a little boy with a big smile asked what kind of bird I had.  I honestly can’t tell you why that hit me so hard but it did.  I responded that I was looking for a house for my squirrel and asked him what kind of bird he was shopping for.  He gleefully said that he was getting a Quaker parrot and after a few more short concluding sentences, as I felt tears welling up, I walked down the aisle out of sight from my wife and the boy.  My eyes pooled with that warm saline some call tears, wow; it’s been a while. quaker parrot

There I was in the middle of a pet store on the reptile supply aisle crying like a baby and somehow pretending I could disguise it like I had allergies or some dust got in my eyes.  My voice was shaking, my eyes were watering and my heart was hurting.  I realized in that moment that I had lost sight of everything I wanted to be.  You see that boy, the one with the aspiration of getting the parrot, he reminded me that my heart for ministry, my sole reason for wanting to serve, is wrapped up in loving kids (of any age) that need to feel nurtured and loved.  Jesus calls us to love the least of these and real ministry is offering of your-self with no hope of reward in return.  I have missed this.  I could tell, in that way that you just know, that my new friend in the bird supply section came from a home that didn’t have much to offer in the way of finances.  Yet he was full of joy just at the anticipation of getting a new feathery friend.  He was preparing by getting his supplies and eager to tell me about it.  When was the last time I was truly excited about anything?  When was the last time I was truly content.  WOW.  God I’m sorry for my allowing my hurt and pain to get in the way of the vision you have given me.

Don’t get me wrong; I love doing what I do.  I love Catching Creation with my whole heart and know it’s what God has called me to do, but in this short moment tonight it seems that by loosing sight of it I found my vision.  Catching Creation isn’t Stan Lake traveling all over the country doing animal shows, although it’s a part of it.  Catching Creation isn’t just about my web show and DVD series or even my books, although they are pieces of the puzzle.  What God has called me to do is minister to kids, youth and families in an urban setting.  Loving those that may never get a chance to go to a zoo, or feel welcomed in a church.  My heart is to minister and love people that feel unworthy of being loved.  People that our society seems to scoff at but people that Jesus desperately wants us to love in His name.

I have no idea how, moving forward, I will be able to support my family with this ministry.  I put in an application at that pet store even though they aren’t hiring and who knows, maybe God will position me there as a light in the darkness to minister.  Maybe there’s some other job on the horizon that I haven’t even fathomed yet which will allow me to truly love people in the name of Jesus.  Catching Creation is who I am and what I was designed to do, but it’s so much bigger than what I’ve been doing lately.  My prayer is that God will open doors so that I can minister and do outreach again.  God continue to break me, continue to remind me of your love and Lord thank you for your grace.  Lord send me, allow me to seek first the kingdom because I know you will provide for my family as we serve you.  Lord please be with that little boy tonight and bless him, thank you for allowing him to minister to me and I pray we can be reminded of why we all serve you.