Friday, October 12, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 75: A Camel's Burden

Key Verse

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 (WEB)


What has four legs, a long neck, and a hump? If you guessed a camel than you are correct. Camels are instantly recognizable for their unique shape and iconic hump. They are truly amazing animals with features that allow them to survive and thrive in harsh, barren deserts. Camels are best known for their legendary ability to survive a long time without needing to drink water. Camels routinely go several days or more without drinking any water. Even more surprising is that they can go for several months without any food! How do they do that?

Many people mistakenly think camels store water in their humps. Rather, fat is stored in their humps and provides energy when they go without food. Camels do not have a large empty space in their body to store extra water like some internal water battle. Instead their body (specifically their cardiovascular system, kidneys, and other organs) is extremely efficient at retaining and managing water. God gave camels special tools to enable them to go without water for many days. This ability makes camels very important animals for people who live in desert places.

Camels are mentioned numerous times throughout the Old Testament as a means of transportation. Jesus would have been very familiar with camels. He may have even ridden one. Camels are still an important means of transportation in Israel and the Middle East today. They carry heavy burdens for their owners. But if you have ever seen a picture of a camel, then you may remember they have very long legs! Most camels are 5-7 feet (1.6-2 meters) high and are taller than many horses.1 So how does an owner put a camels burden on and take it off each day?

In the morning, the camel must kneel down so that its owner can load the days burden onto its back. A good owner knows just how much the camel can carry for the days journey. After being loaded the camel gets up again to carry his burden for the day. The camel then simply follows his owner who has the greater burden of leading the way safely through the desert. At the end of the day, the camel kneels down again so his owner can remove the burden and the camel can rest. This is exactly how it is when we follow Jesus. When Jesus is our owner he promises to bear our burdens (Psalm 68:19). In turn he asks us to bear his burdens. He will take responsibility for leading us through the desert of life. He says in the key text that when we take his burden that he will place them on us gently. He also promises to give us rest from our burdens, all we must do is simple kneel each night and let him remove them.


Have you ever seen a camel in real life? If so what did you think about it?

How do we kneel down and let Jesus remove our burdens?

What did Jesus mean in the key text (Matthew 11:29) when he said take my yoke upon you?

Do you think it is easier to bear the burden Jesus gives us?


1: “Camel,” San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants online, accessed October 7, 2018.

Written by David F. Garner

Photo credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969 via

Friday, September 7, 2018

Camping Courtesy Rules

For Kids and All New Campers

For someone who has never gone camping before it is a new and exciting experience. Just as with any other new experience, it is important to learn how to be considerate of others. When camping outdoors there are many differences from normal life. It can be easy to accidentally do things that others might find impolite. There are many points that could be mentioned, but here are 10 Rules that everyone agrees on. Teach these to your kids or anyone else who is new to camping. Some veterans of camping might benefit from a refresher also.

Some of these rules may seem extreme. But to someone who has spent many nights sleeping outdoors they are vital if you want to be a happy camper. Others may seem obvious, but people tend to forget their manners outdoors. So memorize the 10 Rules of Camping Courtesy and teach them to others so that everyone can have a fun and happy time.

10 Rules of Camping Courtesy

1. Say excuse me.

2. Do not complain.

3. Keep everything as clean as possible.

4. Remember to do your share.

5. Never step over the food or cookware.

6. Be quiet after quiet time.

7. Stay with the group or tell someone where you’re going.

8. Cut only downed trees.

9. Leave things nicer than you found them.

10. If it doesn’t grow there, it doesn’t go there.

If you didn’t catch on already, these rules were modeled after the 10 Commandments in the Old Testament. When teaching these to campers, it offers a great opportunity to talk about how the 10 Commandments in scripture are a set of simple straight forward rules that help us remember how to follow God and treat our fellow humans with respect. You can share why the 10 Commandments are still important today, how Jesus summarized them in Matthew 22:35–40 and Mark 12:28–34, and how the 10 Commandments are a foundation of other laws and commands in the bible and in our society.

For more info on preparing new campers for their first trip read this article. For great info on camping hygiene check out this article. Check out this article to learn more about outdoor ethics.

Written by David F. Garner

Friday, August 31, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 74: A Home Fit For A Frog

Key Text

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23:1 (KJV)


Frogs are odd creatures if you stop to think about them. They have big bulging eyes. They croak loudly to communicate. They are nocturnal. They get around by hopping. They have extremely long tongues. Frogs are amphibians born like fish in the water but live as adults out of the water. Tree frogs are especially unique creatures who can live while on land, under water, or all the way up in a tree.

They are able to live underwater by “breathing” through their skin (in actuality they absorb oxygen through their skin). They can also live on land or in trees. Have you ever wondered how they are able to climb trees with those big toes? They have a special toe shaped like a hook that allows them to climb up the tree bark without sliding. This toe is called a terminal phalanx. Tree frogs are also generally small compared to other frog species which enables them to sit on small leaves and branches.

This is one of the only animals that is at home in all three environments, trees, land, and water. The ability to live in various environments has helped them to spread all around the world. Over 800 different species can be found on every continent except Antarctica.1

Like tree frogs, humans are good at living in many different environments. We can live where it’s cold and icy or in the hot tropical jungle. Through technology, we have designed ways to stay alive under water and even in outer space. We may find ourselves in places that are foreign or even scary to us. God is able to care for the tree frog whether in the lofty tree, or below the murky water. God promises that no mater where we are he his able to take care of us and provide for our needs so that we lack nothing.

Do you think frogs are cute?
What does the key text mean when it says "I shall not want?"
What can you do when you feel God has left you hanging?
What is a Bible promise that gives you hope?

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit 12019 via



Friday, August 24, 2018

Near Rome

Though the hills are cold and snowy,
And the wind drives chill to-day,
My heart goes back to a spring-time,
Far, far in the past away.

And I see a quaint old city,
Weary and worn and brown,
Where the spring and the birds are so early,
And the sun in such light goes down.

I remember that old-time villa
Where our afternoons went by,
Where the suns of March flushed warmly,
And spring was in earth and sky.

Out of the mouldering city,—
Mouldering, old, and gray,—
We sped, with a lightsome heart-thrill,
For a sunny, gladsome day,—

For a revel of fresh spring verdure,
For a race mid springing flowers,
For a vision of plashing fountains,
Of birds and blossoming bowers.

There were violet banks in the shadows,
Violets white and blue;
And a world of bright anemones,
That over the terrace grew,—

Blue and orange and purple,
Rosy and yellow and white,
Rising in rainbow bubbles,
Streaking the lawns with light.

And down from the old stone-pine trees,
Those far-off islands of air,
The birds are flinging the tidings
Of a joyful revel up there.

And now for the grand old fountains,
Tossing their silvery spray;
Those fountains, so quaint and so many,
That are leaping and singing all day;

Those fountains of strange weird sculpture,
With lichens and moss o’ergrown,—
Are they marble greening in moss-wreaths,
Or moss-wreaths whitening to stone?

Down many a wild, dim pathway
We ramble from morning till noon;
We linger, unheeding the hours,
Till evening comes all too soon.

And from out the ilex alleys,
Where lengthening shadows play,
We look on the dreamy Campagna,
All glowing with setting day,—

All melting in bands of purple,
In swathings and foldings of gold,
In ribbons of azure and lilac,
Like a princely banner unrolled.

And the smoke of each distant cottage,
And the flash of each villa white,
Shines out with an opal glimmer,
Like gems in a casket of light.

And the dome of old Saint Peter’s
With a strange translucence glows,
Like a mighty bubble of amethyst
Floating in waves of rose.

In a trance of dreamy vagueness,
We, gazing and yearning, behold
That city beheld by the prophet,
Whose walls were transparent gold.

And, dropping all solemn and slowly,
To hallow the softening spell,
There falls on the dying twilight
The Ave Maria bell.

With a mournful, motherly softness,
With a weird and weary care,
That strange and ancient city
Seems calling the nations to prayer.

And the words that of old the angel
To the mother of Jesus brought
Rise like a new evangel,
To hallow the trance of our thought.

With the smoke of the evening incense
Our thoughts are ascending then
To Mary, the mother of Jesus,
To Jesus, the Master of men.

O city of prophets and martyrs!
O shrines of the sainted dead!
When, when shall the living day-spring
Once more on your towers be spread?

When He who is meek and lowly
Shall rule in those lordly halls,
And shall stand and feed as a shepherd
The flock which his mercy calls,—

O, then to those noble churches,
To picture and statue and gem,
To the pageant of solemn worship,
Shall the meaning come back again.

And this strange and ancient city,
In that reign of his truth and love,
Shall be what it seems in the twilight,
The type of that City above.

By Harriet Beecher Stowe

Photo credit:

Friday, August 17, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 73: The Best Pot

Key Verse

"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, and some thirty.” Matt. 13:23 (WEB)


Note: Material needed includes 4 small pots. Fill one with gravel/stones, one with dull nutrient deficient soil, one with weeds, and the last with fresh and rich potting soil. As each one is mentioned in the lesson, show it around to the audience so they can see what is inside. This is a modern take on the parable of the sower.

A mother wanted to plant some flower seeds in a pot to brighten her home. She looked in the 4 plant pots she had on the back porch. As she looked through each one she found they were filled with different substances. She looked in each one trying to find the best one that would provide good soil to grow her flowers. She wanted only the best soil that would provide all the nutrients for the seeds.

She peered into the first one and found it was full of stones and gravel. (show first pot) Do you think that would make good soil to grow the flower seeds in? The next one she looked into was full of dull dirt that had many rocks in it. The dirt had many hard lumps that were difficult to break with her hand. (show second pot) Would this make better soil than the first? The third pot was full of weeds that had grown over the past several months. Their roots reached all the way to the bottom of the pot and she could hardly see the dirt they were growing in. (show third pot) Would the new seeds be able to grow around all those weeds? The final pot was filled with dark, rich, black soil. She ran her fingers through this soil and found it had no rocks or lumps. There were no weeds growing in it yet. (show last pot)

Do you think the last pot would be best for her to grow her flowers in? If you said yes, than you are correct. New seeds need nutritious soil. Rocks and hard lumps of dirt make it difficult for seeds to put down good roots. Large weeds will take up all the light and water and choke the seeds as they try to grow. Jesus used this illustration to help us understand what kind of heart we need to have so that the gospel will grow in us into something beautiful. Jesus said if our hearts are full of rocks and stones, the gospel is easily snatched away because it cannot grow there. If our hearts are like the dull soil that is full of rocks and lumps of dirt, then we may receive the gospel with joy, until life gets hard. Then because of the poor soil of our hearts, the gospel does not have deep roots and is washed away by difficult times and we give up on it.

If our hearts are like the third pot and full of weeds, we may receive the gospel for a short time. But if we are not careful, the cares of this life and pursuit of material things may choke it out because we focus more on them than on the gospel. The only sure way for the gospel to take deep root in our heart and grow into something wonderful, is if we have a heart like the fourth pot. Our heart needs to be rich and fertile so that the seed can form deep roots and become the most valuable thing in our life. Jesus is the great farmer and can give us hearts of good soil if we let him. Then as it says in the key text, we will hear and understand the gospel and it will bear much fruit in us making us kind, patient, joyful, and loving. Ask Jesus to give you a heart of good soil today.


If our hearts are like one of the first three pots, how do we get one like the fourth, full of good soil?
What types of things in our life can choke the gospel?
What else do seeds need besides good soil? Did Jesus say where we could get these important items?

Written by David F. Garner

Friday, August 10, 2018

Leadership Lesson Series: Trust One Another

In college I rock climbed quite frequently. There is more time for that sort of thing prior to a family and career. One bright Saturday my longtime friend Brian* and I decided to go climb some routes at Tennessee Wall near Chattanooga, TN. Known locally as T-Wall this beautiful cliff set in the Tennessee River Gorge offers grand vistas and legendary traditional routes that attract climbers from around the world. Near the end of a fantastic day of climbing, I was leading a moderately hard route while my close friend Brian belayed from below. I methodically placed one piece of protection into the rock after another paying little attention to my surroundings beyond the line I was climbing. I trusted my belayer who held the end of my rope and therefore my life in his hands. We communicated with one word sentences without having to looking at each other. "Slack." I would say as I continued up the cliff-face. "Thanks." He replied. "Take." I yelled after placing another piece of protection into the rock to secure the rope. "Thanks." I heard from below.

One-word commands are the best way for a climbing team to communicate without an over abundance of "What did you say?" A team that is experienced with one another and knows each other can more accurately fulfill a one-word command like "Tension" with just the right amount of force. Trust between a climber and belayer is everything. As I neared the top of the cliff I was able to hear a squirrel jumping from branch to branch in the trees at the top. But this was at the back of my mind as I focused all my effort on finishing the last few feet of the climb. It was not an easy route and as the leader I would need to build an anchor once I reached the top. Climbing is about pacing your self to avoid using all your energy too early. It requires a lot of focus and it is easy to ignore whats going on around you, which can be a major mistake.

Suddenly I heard a piercing crack! I knew something must have broken loose at the top of the cliff. I did what all climbers are trained to do when something falls from above and yelled at the top of my lungs, "Rock!" I pulled my body in tight to the cliff as I knew Brian would below. This is the safest spot as falling objects are most likely to bounce out away from the cliff-face. Out of the corner of my eye I saw not a rock, but a log bigger than any person go falling by me. My first thought was "God save us." Next, I thought if Brian is hit, let him only be injured. This was for his sake and mine because I knew, short of being killed, he would find a way to lower me to the bottom. He was my only way down! A split second after yelling "Rock" I heard a second crack. I looked down and saw a log 8 feet long and 8 to 10 inches in diameter right where Brian had been standing.

To my relief I saw he was not under it. God spared us that day I have no doubt. That experience also impressed on me the importance and value of trusting those with whom we venture outside. This trust becomes even more indispensable when we are responsible for leading others. It is no wonder Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs to preach the Gospel before the leaving them with the Great Commission. They needed to trust not only him, but also one another. He could have sent them out individually and covered more territory. But he knew the value of companionship and trust. We are always more likely to succeed when we have both. The beauty is that by learning how to trust each other we also learn how to trust God more.

You must trust your fellow staff if you are to succeed in the mission of your group or organization. No church, outreach, club, or mission will be successful if the staff lack trust. Here are several tips to grow trust among your staff. Use an interview process to filter out untrustworthy staff candidates before they even join the team. Ask a couple questions such as: How would you handle it if you were asked to do something you know is unethical but not illegal?” or “Would you report a dishonest co-worker to your manager?” Also, be sure to actually check out any references they provide. Give new staff some time to mingle and get to know current staff they will interact with regularly before making them permanent. Give them a trial period to ensure its a good fit for both of you. To build trust among your current staff, plan some staff only events. An afternoon filled with games and socializing is a good start. Tryout some classic team building games that encourage working together and get people out of their comfort zone just a little. Outdoor activities like an overnight camping trip are a great way to build interpersonal trust. A day spent learning to rock climb will build trust, guaranteed! For other team building ideas and activities check out this article by U.S. News The Best Team-Building Exercises or the book 365 Low or No Cost Workplace Teambuilding Activities by John Peragine and Grace Hudgins.

Written by David F. Garner
*Names have been changed for privacy.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 72: Limb for Life

Key Text

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew‬ ‭16:24-25‬ ‭(WEB‬‬)


Salamanders are some of the most amazing creatures on earth. When full grown they can be as small as 0.6 inches (1.7 cm) or as long as 6 feet (1.8 m). Some grow to be nearly 140 pounds (63 kg)! However most are around 6 inches (15 cm) long. They live all over the world and there are about 600 known species. One species has no legs and looks like a giant worm. Newts, mudpuppies, and sirens are all considered salamanders.

Salamanders are usually brightly colored. This acts as a warning to predators that they are dangerous to eat. It also makes them pretty for we humans. They live in a wide variety of environments from jungles, to mountains, to caves. Those that live in caves are pale and have large eyes. One mountain dwelling species, the Iranian harlequin newt, lives in the mountains of western Iran where there is only water for a few months each year. During the wet times it mates and feeds. In the long dry months it goes into a deep sleep in a burrow until the rain comes the next year.1

There are two important aspects that set salamanders apart from other animals. These two things offer an important lesson for us as Christians. The first is that they must live very close to water to keep their skin moist and to reproduce. Jesus said that he is the water of life and we must live close to this Water in order to survive. The second and perhaps most unique aspect of salamanders is that they are able to lose and regrow their limbs. This is a defense mechanism that allows them to escape when under attack. This is similar to what Jesus meant when he said whoever wants to save his life will lose it. In order to save our life and have eternal life, we must be willing to sacrifice our old life. By old life Jesus meant our old habits and thoughts. It may seem like giving up a whole limb when we leave that old life behind, but Jesus promised to give us a better one in its place and it will be worth it!


What does it mean to lose or give up your old life?

Doesn’t Jesus want us to have fun? Can we still have fun with this ‘new life’?

What if I have accepted Jesus’ new life but my life hasn’t really changed, it doesn’t feel better?

What does it mean to take up your cross?

Written by David F. Garner

Photo Credit: StefanHoffmann via

1. Alina Bradford. Facts About Salamanders. October 29, 2015 Accessed July 31, 2018 from