Friday, July 19, 2019

A History Of Campers Love-Hate Relationship With Electronics

Since William H. H. Murray, the father of modern camping, first set off the camping movement in 1869, campers have been discussing, debating, and arguing over what gear to take. Perhaps no category of gear embroils more passion than that of electronics. By electronics I mean electrically powered gadgets such as music/media devices, games, cameras, as well as electronic navigation and communication tools. While electronic gadgets were not available in portable, wireless forms in the early days of the camping movement, it didn’t take long for that to change. 

‘Edison’s music box’ the phonograph, was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. But being delicate, expensive, and bulky they were not frequently taken camping prior to the 20th century expect perhaps by the wealthy. With the advent of the automobile, suddenly campers could more easily carry heavy luxury items like a music player into the outdoors. And with their arrival on the camping scene came the never-ending debate about whether electronics belong in the campground or if they run antithetical to the spirit of ‘roughing it’ that lies at the center of camping out. 

Probably the very first mention of an artificial music player and the outdoors in the same quote came from William HH Murray himself. Ironically, it had nothing to do the debate that would later ensue over whether they belong on a camping trip. Murray instead compares camping sounds to a phonograph. "Not only is [camping] a word for the eye, but it is equally a word for the ear. For in it are the sighing of zephyrs, the soft intoning of slow-moving night winds, the roaring of strong gales, the moaning of tempests, and the sobbings of storms among the wet trees. The loon's call, the splash of leaping fish, the panther's cry, the pitiful summons of the lost hound, the slashing of deer wading among the lily pads, and the soft dripping of odorous gums falling gently on the pine stems, listening to which in silence and sweet content, we, who were lying under the fragrant trees, like happy and weary children, have fallen gently asleep, — all these sounds live in the word as music lives forever in the air of heaven, being a part of it. And in it too are human voices, songs, laughter, and all the happy noises of merriment and frolic. No other phonograph is like to it."1

Radio’s also quickly found their way into the campground as they became small and portable enough to fit into a car.2 Phonographs and radios brought loud, artificial music and entertainment into wild places. Many found it enjoyable while others thought it annoying or irreverent. Those who found it annoying often did so because it could easily be played all night long. Before electronic music players, a person had to provide live music. Eventually, they grew tired of playing or went to bed. However, a phonograph or radio could be played continuously. Here are some of the earliest examples from both sides of the debate. 

An article in American Motorist in 1922 lauded the conveniences and enjoyment potential of a mobile car radio for camping. Interestingly, the author discouraged consumers from purchasing a speaker for their system in favor of headphones. In those days radio systems were so large they were sold in individual pieces. One of his biggest arguments against speakers for a camping radio set is that it is “not designed to entertain the universe.” He argued headphones were more desirable to speakers when camping. He goes on to point out that headphones usually give a better personal listening experience “with the least amount of effort and with the messages as distinct as possible.” He concludes that “the advantages of the head phones are, therefore, apparent....”3 In contrast to this article, one ad in a different magazine claimed, “Nobody wants to wear head phones during hot, stuffy weather. A small efficient Loud Speaker ruggedly built will be welcome in any camp outfit. The AUDIOPHONE JR. is just the thing.”4b

A different 1923 ad, for a compact radio antenna called the Warren Radio Loop, began with the bold headline, "Make your set portable for camping and vacation." This was ideal in a time when many radio antennas were dozens of feet long and required large rigging to set up. It promised continued enjoyment of radio programs wherever you camped or vacationed. It neglected to inform consumers of the sparse coverage of radio signal in rural places or that continued enjoyment might annoy others.4 The July 1923 issue of Popular Radio included instructions on how to install a radio and antenna unit in a canoe. One picture shows a massive eight-foot spiral antenna array mounted on a canoe. The article contended that a radio, despite the necessity of a large antenna array would, “be suitable for a canoe trip.”4a One Eveready Battery ad in 1924 took the concept of portable radio one step further when it emphasized their radio batteries light-weight enough "to take camping or on hikes"5 (emphasis added).

Numerous articles encouraged people to take a radio or music player with them outdoors in the early days of car camping. One author advised in a 1922 article, “On an auto tour, a camping trip, or merely a day’s picnic this summer, a wireless receiver will bring you endless entertainment.”5a The large volume of ads, how-to guides, and articles discussing the use of radios while camping or vacationing indicates it was highly popular in this era. Many campers enthusiastically embraced the technology in order to stay connected and be entertained. Few seem to have imagined that anyone might be annoyed by this mass noise intrusion. 

One of the earliest records of a camper complaining about another camper's electronics was written by Charles E.S. Wood in his published diary from 1928. He observed during his 9-month auto camping tour in 1928 that phonographs were "the noise and games of the city" and did not belong in "quiet nature."6 Early electronics taken camping were primarily for entertainment purposes. It seems from my research that most campers had no qualms about taking music and electronic forms of entertainment camping. Many saw it as the height of technological achievement that added to their camping trip, not detracted from it. However, when some played their music without thought for others during sleep hours it annoyed some as seen in the quotes above.

In later decades as more portable and greater varieties of electronic gadgets came on the market, a sentiment would grow against their presence in the campground. Purists would argue that the goal of camping was to live primitively, away from modern convenience and technology. After all, why are you taking the trouble to go camping if not to leave behind modern conveniences and urbanization for a short time? Of course, others would argue they wanted to enjoy modern entertainment while also enjoying the scenery and environment provided by camping.  

In 1954 The Handbook of Auto Camping advised taking a portable radio for entertainment especially during rainy weather. But the author also warned, “If you do take a battery radio with you, you will be popular in campgrounds only if you confine its playing to daytime, or to low volume.”6a In 1959, the Michigan Department of Conservation laid out rules to help conserve natural areas. They included normal rules such as speed limits and bans against destroying natural flora. They also made it illegal, “To use a loud speaker or public address system without a written permit….”6b This is an early example of regulation of noise in outdoor spaces that would eventually become ubiquitous.

One of the 20th Centuries most prolific writers of summer camp instruction manuals and how-to guides was Lloyd Mattson. With 31 books and multiple articles to his name about how to go camping and how to run a summer camp, he could be considered somewhat of an expert on the subject. He advised in 1970 that one of the goals of being in the wilderness is "to discover that life is possible apart from gadgets.”7 Although written over 50 years ago, perhaps there is some wisdom in this old advice.

In 1972 the U.S. Congress passed the Noise Pollution and Abatement Act. This is a bit surprising as there was not much organized effort in the public sphere to regulate noise. It was primarily passed to fund research on what levels of noise were harmful to workers in various industries and to the general public and to regulate these based on the research. It seems this Act brought noise regulation to the attention of other Federal agencies. In 1975 the U.S. Forest Service included a sign in its official lineup for campgrounds that established a quiet time. It read "Music Lovers Quiet 10 p.m. - 6 a.m.” Whether this is the first time a unified quiet time policy was established by the U.S. Forest Service is hard to tell. The history of campground regulations is not well chronicled. It seems unlikely based on the widespread availabilities of portable radios going back to the 1920's. What is certain is that most campgrounds eventually adopted a quiet time policy. Many adopted the same timeframe as the U.S. Forest Service as this is a reasonable window for sleeping.8

Some guidebooks have recommended taking certain electronics for practical reasons rather than entertainment. The Family Camping Guidebook (1975) advised its readers to take a transistor radio camping to stay apprised of foul weather.9 In another instruction book for campers, the author complained of losing sleep because of "some idiot listening to a transistor radio". His solution was to pack earplugs. This is perhaps good advice because no matter how many rules, signs, or guidebooks promote keeping music volume to reasonable levels and times of day, there will inevitably be some who ignore it.10 In 1985 a camping how-to guide titled Camping Basics showed a reasonable approach to electronics in the campground. In a packing list, the author includes "radio or cassette player" and immediately follows it up with, "but don't annoy other campers with it."11 In other words, bring it for your own personal entertainment if you want, but be cognizant of others trying to enjoy some peace and quiet. 

While guidebooks and administrators have tried to regulate misuse of music gadgets outdoors, manufacturers of portable electronic gadgets have continued to advertise to campers. Reminiscent of those radio component ads from the 1920's, Sony specifically marketed their Walkman Sport cassette player to campers in a 1988 ad in Spin magazine. It started off by bragging about the extreme places users had taken it. "Only the Walkman is built so rugged, auidophiles have been known to take it sailing to Cape Horn, bushwaking the Amazon, and climbing Mount Fuji." The ad also touted its rugged construction including being "splash-proof". 12 It seems for most campers; musical entertainment is a necessary luxury. Afterall, manufacturers wouldn’t continue to advertise to this demographic if it were not lucrative! It is also doubtful so many campers would risk damage to their sensitive equipment if they did not highly value having music in the great outdoors.

Campers have annoyed other campers as long as there have been electronic music players with speakers. Wireless, rugged speakers have amplified this problem of inconsiderate noise in the 21st century. Previously, loudspeakers were usually limited to the campground because of their bulk. But portable, powerful, wireless speakers have enabled people to blare music while on the move in the backcountry. A mountain biker shared her frustrating experience in which a peaceful ride through some remote single-track was tainted by another biker who passed her blasting a loud beat from a wireless speaker. As the offending biker passed, she yelled, “Have you ever heard of headphones?!”12a

Of course, music players have not been the only form of electronic gadgets to grace the backwoods. Electronic games have also been common in the campground as long as they have existed. Other portable gadgets to find their way into the campground and trail include communication devices and electronic navigation aids. CB and other two-way radios were perhaps the earliest forms of backcountry communication devices used by recreation campers. By the early 1970's there were so many electronic gadgets for camping one camping magazine had a regular column dedicated to the topic.13 When cellphones became available, they inevitably found their way outdoors. Electronic navigation aids include GPS devices, digital compasses and altimeters and others have become common in the 21st century. 

Communication devices and electronic navigation aids may seem indispensable. How could anyone argue against taking them camping? These devices do provide much utility but can also cause inconvenience and even harm if used improperly. A story was reported in 2001 about a hiker who called search and rescue on his cellphone from the backwoods of Olympic National Park in Washington State. The caller had been hiking and was now requesting a helicopter. When pressed for details about his situation, the caller revealed that he had no injuries and even knew exactly where he was. He was not out of food or in any immediate danger. Upon further questioning, he revealed he did not have time to hike back out in order to be at a scheduled meeting in Seattle. He wanted search and rescue to dispatch a helicopter to get him back in time. Needless to say, one was not dispatched, despite the caller's offer to pay all expenses incurred.14

In 2014, Trever Lee pled guilty to 5 misdemeanors for crimes committed in various National Parks. His crimes included climbing endangered trees, camping in areas where camping was banned, and having campfires where they were banned due to a high risk of forest fires. How did his crimes get discovered? He posted pictures of all these activities on his Instagram account and they were found by Park officials.15 Why did he commit these crimes? To increase the number of followers on his Instagram account. His is not an isolated incident. Many articles have reported major damage to remote, delicate areas in National Parks and other locations due to graffiti, forest fires and the increased traffic that resulted from trending posts. 

Someone visits a beautiful alpine lake and posts pictures or video to their social media account. The post gets thousands or hundreds of thousands of likes and views. Suddenly, thousands of people decide they want to visit the same site. The problem is, some places like alpine lakes, caves, and other delicate ecosystems can be destroyed if visited by too many people in a short time period. Social media sites like Instagram and YouTube have made previously unknown "secret" locations common public knowledge. It is possible to love a place to death. The drive to post unique and awesome content can cause people to do things they wouldn't otherwise do. People have died or been injured trying to get the perfect selfie. In fact, some have called it an epidemic. Between 2011 and 2017 at least 259 people reportedly died taking selfies.16

Electronic gadgets have their place in the backcountry. As more and more of our camping tools become electronic, it becomes increasingly impossible to leave all electronics at home. The debate over this topic is certainly not over and perhaps never will be. There are very valid reasons to take certain electronics outdoors. Navigation aids such as GPS and map devices are very helpful. But they cannot replace skills with an old school map and compass. Electronic devices can break or fail. In 2013 a woman died while hiking the Appalachian Trail. She was only 200 miles from completing her through-hike in Maine. One would think after hiking nearly 800 miles successfully, she would be quite competent with navigation. She accidentally left her GPS in the last hotel she stayed in. As a result, she got lost along the trail. Eventually, her remains were found after what was reported to be the biggest search and rescue effort in Maine's history. Surprisingly, a compass was found with her remains. Interviews with her friends and family revealed she did not know how to use it. This tragic end could have been avoided if she did not depend solely on her electronic navigation tools.17

Tim Smith, a registered Master Maine Guide and the founder of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School summarized the problem of dependency on electronics this way. "One of the worst trends we’ve seen in the past 20 years is the proliferation of cell phones and technology in the backcountry. It gives people a false sense of security."18 We should not completely depend on our electronic gadgets in the backcountry. We need to have competency with traditional navigation tools and carry them. We need solid survival skills in case the unthinkable happens. Cellphones, satellite phones, radios, GPS devices, avalanche beacons, all these are extremely helpful tools that increase our safety in the backcountry. But they were never designed to replace traditional methods and tools. 

Music devices, digital readers, portable gaming units, cameras, with these devices it is more of a personal choice if you enjoy taking them camping. Some may feel they do not belong there. But I think it depends on what you are doing. When living on the trail for weeks or months such as during a long through-hike, or during a difficult activity like trail running, you may desire some modern entertainment to keep your spirits up. Also, it’s fun to capture your achievements with photos, GPS tracks, etc. The key is to not annoy other campers or users with it. Never do something illegal or dangerous because of your electronic devices either. If you are not a purist and do frequently take electronic gadgets camping, I challenge you to forego these occasionally. One of the goals of getting back to nature is to get away from modern technology and unplug. Whatever side of the debate you fall on, sometimes it's nice to watch and listen, uninterrupted, to the beauty of nature. No phonograph, or other electronic gadget is like it.

Learn more about this topic at these links:
At this link you can learn all about using electronics in the backcountry safely and ethically with Leave No Trace principals. Learn how to use a traditional print map and analog compass in this video series or this article.

Written by David F. Garner

Photo credit:
Top: Popular Science Monthly, June 1922, pg. 70, photographer unknown.
Middle: American Motorist, August 1922, pg. 9, photographer unknown.
Bottom: Edwin Levick, Popular Radio, July 1923, pg. 7.

1. William H.H. Murray, Cones for the Campfire (Boston: De Wolfe Fiske & Co., 1891): 96-97, Print.

2. “This Summer Has Shown That Radio Is Not Seasonal,” Radio World Vol III, No. 25, Whole No. 77 (September, 15 1923): 2, accessed July 18, 2019 from  

3. Gilland Mason, “So Far and Yet So Near,” American Motorist Vol XIV No. 8 (August 1922): 8, accessed July 18, 2019 from

4. V-De-Co Radio Manufacturing, “Warren Radio Loop.” Popular Radio Vol IV, No. 5 (November, 1923): 72, accessed July 18, 2019 from

4a. William F. Crosby, “How to Install Your Radio Set On Your Boat,” Popular Radio Vol IV No. 1 (July, 1923): 3, accessed July 18, 2019 from

4b. The Bristol Company, “Audiophone Jr,” Popular Radio Vol IV No. 1 (July 1923): 35,

5. National Carbon Company, “More Power For Summer Radio,” Boys Life Vol XIV No. 6 (June 1924): 3, accessed July 18, 2019 from 

5a. Armstrong Perry, “How Radio Adds to the Joys of My Vacation,” The Popular Science Monthly Vol 100, No. 6 (June 1922): 68, accessed July 18, 2019 from

6. Terence Young, Heading Out: A History Of American Camping, (Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 2017): 46, Ebook.

6a. George Stevens Wells, Iris Wells, The Handbook of Auto Camping and Motorist's Guide to Public Campgrounds, (Harper: New York, 1954): 59, Print.

6b. Michigan. Dept. of Conservation, “Conservation of Natural Resources,” Proceedings of Conservation Commission, Volume 39, (1959): 117, Print.

7. Lloyd D. Mattson, The Wilderness Way, (Board of Christian Education: Evanston, 1970): 16, Print.

8. United States Forest Service, “Forest Service poster and small metal sign catalog 1975,” February 1975, United States Forest Service, accessed July 18, 2019 from  

9. Jerome J. Knap, Alyson Knap, The family camping handbook: a complete guide to camping in North America, 1975, (Pagurian Press Ltd: Ontario,1975): 117, Print.

10. Andrew J. Carra, Camping: a complete guide to why, how, and where, (Stein and Day: New York, 1978): 31, Print. 

11. Wayne Armstrong, Camping Basics, (Prentice-Hall: Upper Saddle River, 1985): 35, Print. 

12. Sony, “Camping, sunbathing, or on safari: one Sony plays on,” Spin, Vol 4 No. 4 (July 1988): 77, Print. 

12a. Megan Michelson, “HOW TO UNPLUG: ETIQUETTE FOR ELECTRONICS IN THE OUTDOORS,” Outside online, (2015), accessed July 18, 2019 from

13. Henry Groskinsky, “Roughing It Soft,” Life Vol 71 No. 10, (September 3, 1971): 45, Ebook.  

14. James Gorman, “The Call in the Wild: Cell Phones Hit the Trail,” New York Times online, August 30, 2001, accessed June 17, 2019 from

15. Will Egensteiner, “Yosemite Instagrammer Pleads Guilty in Federal Court,” Outside online, Oct 29, 2014, accessed July, 18, 2019 from

16. Kathryn Miles, "Cause of Death: Selfie,” Outside online, Apr 16, 2019, accessed July 17, 2019 from

17. Lauren Abbate, “Hiker who died on Appalachian Trail didn’t know how to use compass,” Portland Press Herald online, May 26, 2016, accessed July 18, 2019 from

18. J.R. Sullivan, “Our Reliance on Technology Makes the Backcountry More Dangerous,” Outside online, Mar 16, 2016, accessed July 18, 2019 from

Friday, July 12, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 104: Renewed By Water

Key Text

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16 (KJV)


The blue mahoe tree (Hibiscus elatus*), also known as the majagua, is the national tree of Jamaica. This beautiful tropical tree has wide, round-shaped leaves and flowers that resemble a hibiscus. They come in lovely orange-red and yellow-orange shades. The bark is coarse and thick. It grows from 60 to 80 feet (18-25 m) tall. Because of its wide leaves this mighty tree provides ample shade from the hot tropical sun. It has a straight trunk and thick wide branches that are fantastic for climbing. This tree is indigenous to Cuba and Jamaica. The blue mahoe is popular as an ornamental tree because of its beauty and shade. It is also popular for its resources. The sub-layer of the bark is strong and fibrous for making rope. The wood is the most sought after part. The outer wood is light similar to pine. The inner section, known as the heartwood, is a grey-blue and contrasts sharply with the outer wood.

The beautiful colors of the wood make it a popular choice for building cabinets and furniture. The grain of the wood is very straight which makes it ideal for tool handles. It is very durable and resists moister damage and fungus growth.1 This makes it a perfect choice for axe handles. In Cuba it is also a popular wood for making baseball bats. Craftsmen are experts at selecting various woods for specific applications based on its properties. That is why they often use the blue mahoe for axe handles and baseball bats.2 It is strong enough to withstand the stresses of repeated impacts.

Any wood, no matter how strong, will deteriorate over time. Wood that is used as a tool handle will be treated very roughly. It will be used and abused. It may be left in the sun and rain. Over time it will dry and crack especially if it is not taken care of. It will get covered with dirt and grime so thick it may be hard to determine what type of wood it is. A good craftsman knows how to restore an old and battered tool handle. It does not matter how rough the surface or how many cracks, a true craftsman can restore a tool handle to its original beauty. There is a special process that must be followed.

The first step is to remove all the dirt and grime. Water and a little soap are used to wash away the hardened dirt and grime that has built up over years of use and abuse. Next, a course sandpaper is used to smooth out any damage or surface cracks. Then the deeper cracks are repaired with special filler putty and the whole thing is sanded with a fine sandpaper until it is as smooth and bright as when brand new. Finally, a sealer is applied to defend the wood against dirt and grime and to keep it from cracking.

This process of renewal is similar to the spiritual renewal Jesus offers. When you were created in the womb, God, the Great Craftsman, formed you for a special purpose. He gave you specific traits and talents suited to the plan he had for your life. Just like the blue mahoe is suited for axe handles because of its properties, you were suited to the plan God has for your life because of the properties he gave you. But at birth you entered a world filled with sin. You have been used and abused. You are filled with cracks and covered with dirt and grime. You no longer have a new shiny finish. But the Great Craftsman can restore you.

First, he will wash away all the old dirt and grime. This process happens inside the mind of each person that accepts him as Savior. He asks us to be publicly baptized by submersion in water as a symbol of the washing that is taking place on the inside. Then he will sand away the cracks and defects in our character. He will fill and repair any damage we have. This happens over a lifetime. Finally, he will seal his work so that no dirt or grime can mar his beautiful masterpiece.


Do you feel like you have been used and abused in this rough life?

Do you think there is something in your life that cannot be fixed?

Are you ready to ask God to begin this process in your life right now and then get baptized?

If you have already been baptized will you ask God to continue fixing the cracks and defects in your life until you are his masterpiece?


1.  Julissa Rohas-Sandoval, "Hibiscus Elantus (Blue Mahoe)", Invasive Species Compendium online, (September 27, 2018), accessed July 3, 2019 from

2.  Expert wood craftsman in interview with the author, June 26, 2019, Majagua Cuba.

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: David F. Garner (taken in Majagua, Cuba, 2019)

SDA Belief Series #15

Friday, July 5, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 103: Train For God

Key Text

Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainty. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (WEB)


Trail running is one of the more elite forms of running sports. It requires a high level of fitness and nimbleness. In fact, any form of running requires a high level of fitness compared with many other sports and recreation activities. Some of the longest and most grueling foot races in the world involve trail running. The Barkley Marathon held in Tennessee, USA is only 100 miles long but one of the hardest races in the world. Participants climb approximately 54000 feet of elevation, just less than twice the height of Mt. Everest. Since it began, over 800 people have attempted the race and only 15 have ever finished in the required time limit. Another, The Dragons Back Race takes place in Wales along the spine of a mountain range. It is about 186 miles long and includes 51000 feet of elevation gain throughout the five-day race. The fastest racers run for 18 hours a day.

One unofficial foot race is to complete the Appalachian Trail fastest. The AT is one of the longest trails anywhere in the world. From time to time people attempt to break the standing fastest known time. At 2189 miles long, this is one of the longest trail runs anywhere in the world. It also includes more elevation gain than the Continental Divide Trail through the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast of the USA which are both longer.2 Currently the fastest record on the AT is 41 days, 7 hours and 39 seconds held by Karel Sabbe.3 Completing this trail at a run is certainly a feat.

Trail running requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. It requires constant training and a willingness to keep going, no matter how you feel. It requires endurance, fortitude, and tenacity. To be good at trail running, it must be more than a leisure pursuit, it must be a lifestyle. You will never succeed at winning, or even finishing any of the races mentioned above if you only run once in a while. The lifestyle of a trail runner is all-encompassing. Every aspect of your life impacts your performance including what you eat, how much you sleep, how often you train, how you train, and what you wear. What you listen to and read also affect your performance. The best trail runners and athletes in the world know that what you listen too and read affects your thoughts and your thoughts greatly impact your performance.

This is why Paul compared our spiritual life to that of a runner. Trail runners understand his metaphor perhaps even better than the rest of us. Of course, anyone, athlete or not can understand what Paul is trying to illustrate. But trail runners experience each of the parallels made to running intimately. They practice the self-control Paul talks about in every area of life.

Pauls main point is that we need to live our spiritual lives like just like trail runners. Our entire lives must be centered around our one goal --heaven. Our spiritual lives should be as disciplined as that of a trail runner. Every single thing we do impacts our performance. What we eat and drink spiritually, whether we rest completely in God, even what we think about all affect our performance.

Salvation is a gift of God. Nothing we do can will earn us salvation. But, once we accept that salvation, we are called to live to a higher standard (Romans 12:2). Jesus says in another place, we must daily take up our cross (Luke 9:23 NET). And in another, Paul admonishes us to put on the full armor of Christ (Ephesians 6:10-20). Accepting Jesus means you are entering a struggle. Jesus will give you every single thing you need to win. He is your trainer, your coach. But you must be faithful in following him and everything he says to do. When you fail, go back to Jesus your coach, admit your fault, and get back on your training schedule. That is the only way to win the race of life and win the incorruptible crown.


Do you enjoy running or think it is an evil form of torture?

How does what we think about affect our performance spiritually?

Does what we eat and drink affect physically our performance spiritually? (The answer is yes, think 7 deadly sins)

What will you do to improve our spiritual training today?


1. Merrill, "The 10 Longest Races in the World," Sports Management Degree Hub, (January 5, 2017), assessed June 11, 2019 from

2. Tee Corley, "5 Reasons the AT Will Be Harder than the PCT,", (March 17, 2015), accessed June 11, 2019 from

3. Adam Ruggiero, "Karel Sabbe Smashes Appalachian Trail Record By 4 Days,", (August 29, 2018), accessed June 11, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: Free-Photos via

Friday, June 28, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 102: Everyone, Hearts and All

Glass Frog

Key Text

"Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually." 1 Corinthians 12:27


Frogs are unique and amazing creatures. Most people tend to think frogs are cute, especially compared to their rough-skinned cousins, toads. Frogs live all over the world and include over 6000 species. They can get as big as the Goliath frog which can weight up to 6.6 pounds (3 kg) and be over 13 inches (30 cm) long. They can be as small as the gold frog which is about the size of a dime at about 0.39 inches (1 cm) long and weighing only 7 oz (200 g). There is even a species known as the glass frog which has transparent skin through which you can see its blood flowing and food digesting! Frogs will eat just about anything they can swallow but they generally prefer bugs and insects.1 If you watch a frog swallow you may notice that it blinks when it does so. This is because it uses its eyeballs to help push the food down its through.2

Frogs can live in all sorts of habitats from the edges of deserts to up in trees. But they must live near water in order to reproduce. Frogs tend to live in groups known as an army. During mating season, the males croak loudly to attract females. She lays her eggs in the water for the male to fertilize. When the eggs hatch the babies are called tadpoles and look more like fish than frogs. They will eventually grow legs and proceed out of the water to live on land.1 Frogs are amphibians which means they are cold-blooded. Their body stays the temperature of the air or water around them. They do not have the ability to warm themselves so they must sit in the sun to warm up.
Frogs have an interesting circulatory system to pump their blood. They have multiple hearts (including several lymph hearts) in order to keep their circulation flowing. The main heart pumps blood through its body. Some of the fluid from the blood flows into tissues to profuse them. That fluid is gathered by the lymph system and pumped back into the blood vessels by the lymph hearts.3 The frog requires these various hearts to stay alive. But what if some of its other organs and body parts became jealous of the hearts, and decided they wanted to be hearts too? How do you think that would work out?

Probably not well. For a frog's body to function properly, it needs all of its organs to do their job. They cannot try to be a different organ because then which organ would do their job? Just like you and me, a frog needs its hearts, but it also needs its stomach, mouth, nose, tongue, ears, and every other part. Each one is different but they all work together to make up the frog. Paul compared the church to the body of Christ. He said in 1 Cor 12:27 that we are each individual members, but we make up the complete body of Christ. What he meant is that we all have different abilities, we do things differently. These differences are not optional, they are necessary. If we all tried to be singers, who would preach? God has given you and me unique talents that we can use in the work of spreading the Gospel. He expects us to rely on Him to show us how to use them. You may not know exactly how God wants to use you yet, but you can be a f.r.o.g. which stands for Fully Relying On God. He will show you how to contribute to his body.


Do you like to catch frogs or just look at them from a distance?

Do you know what talents God has given to you? If not, ask someone else what talents they think God has given you.

Is diversity important in the church? What kind of diversity?

How do we find out how God wants us to use our talents for him?

1. Alina Bradford, "Facts About Frogs & Toads,", (May 1, 2015), accessed June 6, 2019 from
2. Julie Mianecki, "14 Fun Facts About Frogs," Smithsonian Institute online, (June 20, 2011), accessed June 6, 2019 from
3. Muller, John. "On the Existence of Four Distinct Hearts, Having Regular Pulsations, Connected with the Lymphatic System, in Certain Amphibious Animals." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 123 (1833): 89-94.

Written by David F. Garner
Photo source: Geoff Gallice via under a CC 2.0 license

Friday, June 21, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 101: Galactic Significance

Key Text

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you think of him? What is the son of man, that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4 (WEB)


We live in a vast universe that makes us feel quite small. Have you ever looked up at the night sky and tried to count all the stars? It would be very hard because as you were counting the stars would move across the sky due to our planet spinning. When you look up at the night sky on an extra clear night, you can see a line of stars that is extra concentrated. This is known as the Milky Way. It is the galaxy we live in. Our own Milky Way galaxy is one quintillion km across or one followed by 18 zeros! That is equivalent to about 100,000 light years. When you look up at the river of stars in the sky that make up the Milky Way, you are looking at the center of it. Our planet is located in one of the outer arms.1

In pictures of the Milky Way our planet is too small to be seen, only the light from our sun is visible (see above). Our sun is just one of the many stars that make up the Milky Way. Scientists estimate that there are at least 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone.2 The most mind boggling part is that our galaxy is just one of millions we can see in space. Doesn’t that give you chills? A few years ago, scientists led by astronomer Bob Williams  pointed the Hubble Telescope at a dark spot in the sky. They wanted to see if it could see anything other telescopes could not. After being focused on one point for a few days, the scientists got a surprising picture. Instead of getting a black photo they got one covered in tiny points of light that at first glance might look like stars. It looked similar to a picture of any part of the night sky seen with the naked eye. As they analyzed the image, they realized those tiny points of light were actually other galaxies similar to our own Milky Way.

The implications are staggering! To get that image, the Hubble Telescope was looking at a fraction of the night sky. If you held one finger up at arms length and blocked a bit of the sky you would be blocking a bigger portion then the Hubble was looking at. In that one photo 3000 galaxies could be seen that no human had ever seen before! Each one of those galaxies holds dozens of stars like ours and perhaps hundreds of planets! Scientists everywhere were shocked by this discovery. It meant they had to increase the number of galaxies in the universe was much more than anyone thought. Indeed there are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there in the universe and many times more planets!3

Does that make you feel small? It sure makes me feel microscopic! It also makes me think about how big our God is. He created and sustains all those billions of galaxies spread out so far apart that we could barely understand the distance. Yet, he chose to send his one and only son, Jesus to this little planet to die for us. God could have started over after we sinned by creating life on another planet. He had plenty of options! But he chose the hard path of redeeming us. He did so because that is his nature. He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. He wants us to have the chance to explore all those distant galaxies. He wants you and me to remember that even though we are tiny and live on one of billions of planets, he chose to forgive our sins and save us.


Will you except Jesus’ invitation?

Do you think other beings live in any of those other galaxies?

How would it affect your faith if we discover aliens on another planet?

Why do you think God chose to save us instead of just creating a new race of beings?

1: Nola Taylor Redd, “Milky Way Galaxy: Facts About Our Galactic Home,”, (November 14, 2017), accessed June 2, 2019 from
2: Elizabeth, Howell, “How Many Stars Are In The Milky Way,”, (March 30, 2018), accessed June 2, 2019 from
3. Nadia Drake, “When Hubble Stared at Nothing for 100 Hours,” National Geographic online, (April 24, 2015), accessed June 2, 2019 from

Written  by David F. Garner
Photo credit: Nick Risinger via

Friday, June 14, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 100: Worth of An Earthworm

Key Text

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?... But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.” Psalms‬ ‭22:1,6 (‬WEB‬‬)


Do you like earthworms? They seem kind of plain and ordinary. They are probably not the first animal you would choose to keep as a pet. They don’t play with you. They are not especially cute or cuddly. In fact, you might even think they are gross and slimy. To most people, worms are not very important. They are at the bottom of the food chain. Birds eat them for food and humans use them as fish bait. What does an earthworm eat? Just dirt.1 In the Bible, worms represent the lowest order. They are the most insignificant and least important.

We see this in the Key Text where King David says he feels like a worm. He feels insignificant and worthless. He feels like he does not matter. He feels depressed. Have you ever felt doubt or depression? You have probably been teased or felt bad about yourself like King David. You may have even thought you were worthless. Depression is a real concern. It can affect children as young as preschool age.2 Depression is more than just sadness. It is a constant feeling that you don’t matter and that you are less valuable than other people. It can even lead some people to harm themselves.

One of my youth group members named Sam once told me a story about a friend of his named James that experienced depression. Sam and James were both in middle school. James often said negative things about himself. Sam and their other friends sometimes teased James and made fun of him. One day they had been teasing him through most of recess. James kept dropping the basket ball during a game. Finally he was so mad at himself he went to the wall and started beating his head against it and calling himself stupid until his forehead was bleeding. The principal had to intervene. James was depressed and felt so worthless he felt like he needed to hurt and punish himself. Thankfully, he was able to get help from a counselor.

King David also felt depressed. He cried out to God and told him he didn’t even feel like a human anymore. He felt as worthless as a worm. But worms are actually not worthless. Earthworms are very important. As you may already know, earthworms help make soil good for growing plants. They are important in a garden because they turn compost into good fertilizer.1 They may be at the bottom of the food chain but they are still very important. King David took his feelings to God who answered his prayer. King David discovered that God loves us and values us more than anything. That’s why a few verses after the Key Text King David said, “ have answered me. I will declare your name to my brothers. Among the assembly, I will praise you.” Psalms‬ ‭22:21-22‬ ‭(WEB‬‬)

You may feel as low as a worm sometimes. But even worms are important. And God values you much more than any worm. After all he died for you. When you feel sadness, doubt, or depression, I encourage you to tell God. He understands. I also encourage you to tell a person. If you are not an adult yet tell a parent, teacher, or pastor. If you are grown, tell a close friend. Get help from a professional counselor no matter how old you are. Most importantly, talk to God about your feelings every day. He wants to hear so that he can answer your prayers. Then you can proclaim with David, “I will praise you.”


Have you ever felt like you don’t matter to God?

What types of things make you feel doubt about yourself?

Does feeling depressed just mean you have weak faith?

Is it ok to get help from a pastor or counselor when you feel doubt or depression? Is it ok to take medication for it? (The answer is yes, read this article for more info)

What are some strategies you can use to cope with feelings of doubt and depression?

1: National Geographic Society, “Common Earthworm,” National Geographic online, (2019), accessed June 2, 2019 from
2: Mary Elisabeth Dallas, “Depression can start as young as preschool, study finds,” CBS News online, (August 6, 2014) accessed June 2, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo source: Natfot via

Friday, June 7, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 99: Apples To Apples


"What was sown on the good ground, this is he who hears the word, and understands it, who most certainly bears fruit, and produces, some one hundred times as much, some sixty, some thirty." Matthew 13:23 (WEB)


Apples are an amazing fruit. They are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Part of the reason they are so popular is because there are so many varieties. Whether you prefer sweet or tart, soft or crisp, you are likely to find one you like. Many varieties that grow wild are not very tasty though. Wild apples tend to be very tart or bitter. Apple growers have a word to refer to these. They call them "spitters" because they taste so gross you want to spit them out. But there are also plenty of apples grown in orchards that taste wonderful.

An interesting fact about apples is that every new apple seed will produce a new variety. If you buy your favorite apple at the store, eat it, and then plant the seeds, the apples it grows will taste different. This effect is called extreme heterozygosity. The flowers of an apple tree must be pollinated by a different variety. This ensures that every apple tree will be a little bit different. It means that apple trees can adapt quickly and that is why they are able to grow all over the world in many different climates.1

Have you ever heard the expression, 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'? This expression is used to describe how a child is very similar to their parents. An apple falls to the ground right below the tree it grew from. So if you want to know what kind of apple tree is growing you can pick up an apple underneath and figure it out. When someone says this about a person, it is often negative. For example, if a child is caught being naughty, or has a short temper, someone might say, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" meaning that child is just like their parents.

It is true that we share a lot of similarities with our parents. We inherit their physical characteristics and their thought patterns and emotional characteristics as well. We usually pick up some of their good and bad habits too. We know from the Bible that we also inherit a tendency to sin from our parents. We cannot avoid it. It is true that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

But inside every apple is a seed that will grow into something different. It will produce a completely different and unique variety of apple that has never been seen before. It could be a bitter tasting apple or it could turn out sweet. It depends on what is in the seed. Did you know that you can decided what type of apples you will produce in your life? You decide if you will let your parents influence who you become. You can choose to change who you become. It is never too late, even if you are an adult. You can choose to produce bitter or sweet fruit.

In the Key Text, Jesus compares the love of God to a seed that was planted in the ground. It grows and produces much more fruit than was planted. It produces good fruit, the fruit of the spirit which include love, joy, and peace. When God's seed is planted inside us, we become sweet and nice. We are no longer bitter. It does not matter who our parents were. God's power, when planted in our hearts, can overcome and change us into something good.


What would you change about yourself if you could?

What habits or characteristics have you inherited from your parents that you don't like?

What do you want to become?

Will you ask Jesus to help you become the best version of yourself that you can be?

1. Rebecca Rupp, "The History of the "Forbidden" Fruit," National Geographic online, (JULY 22, 2014), accessed May 28, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit:  Kookay via