Sunday, November 17, 2013

Camping Genius: Building a Fire Pit/Campfire Site

A good fire pit helps prevent out of control fires.
The highlight of my days at Lone Star MV Camp were the campfires. If you work with youth groups at all, the campfire is a useful tool for working with young people. The link I just gave you is to a blog post I wrote on the subject of campfires as a witnessing tool, just in case you've never witnessed the power of a nice fire for helping focus a group of kids.

Safety is a huge issue in constructing a proper campfire. More than one youth leader has overbuilt a fire or made one that was a danger to those sitting around it. Bonfire and campfire building is an art.  We start today with the Fire Pit.  This article on building a fire pit was published in "The Art of Manliness" weblog. It gives you a lot of great tips for building a safe and useful fire pit. It even includes a design for benches.  I've also written an article on how to build a simple sturdy campfire area bench that works for campfires or outdoor chapels.

You can have even more fun learning to cook over a campfire with simple homemade equipment like the tin can billy.  If you've got a spot in your backyard and it's legal, a ready made fire pit is really handy to have along with some canvas folding chairs, a guitar, a can of Vege-links, bag of marshmallows and some pointy sticks. If mosquitoes are a problem the smoke will help and you can set up a homemade mosquito repellant to drive away the ones the smoke doesn't get.

Nothing better on a crisp autumn evening.

Have fun and save me a vege hot dog.

Tom King © 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Christian Manhood: Making One Plus One Equal Wonderful

 
Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”  

  - Martin Luther

There is a little trick I have learned over the years that has made a huge difference in the quality of my relationship with my beloved wife. It is the pause and the quiet breath before speaking. In that moment, whatever is happening, being said or done, I try to think before I speak. What is really going on? What is she really trying to say. What does she need. It's merely an application of the Golden Rule - Treat others as you want to be treated. But it is more than that. It's putting yourself in her place and trying to understand what need I can fulfill. Sometimes it's not exactly the one being requested or the situation is not as it seems. If you are confused or do not understand, even if you are hurt or offended, stop and think about her first. Take that long quiet breath - careful, it's not a sigh you're going for. It's oxygen to the brain.

She does this for me all the time - thinks of me over her own needs. It is why we've lasted 39 years. It's wonderful to be loved so much, but what is even more wonderful is to love so much. In this way, 1 plus 1 equals wonderful.

© by Tom King

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ministries: How to Wear Out a Bunch of Hyper Kids in 30 Minutes or Less

© 2013 by Tom King


The Fox & the Hounds

 I learned a variation of this game from a book called "New Games", a book of games designed to promote play without an over-emphasis on competition.  Now the game itself is plenty competitive, but because of the structure, it encourages cooperation at the same time it encourages individual effort. It can be fun for a group even if the kids in your group vary in size, strength and speed.

The game is based on the old playground game "Tag You're It".  In traditional tag there's something of a problem that every teacher who's ever used it runs into. Whoever is "It" is the center of attention. Now some people really like being center of attention, especially kids with poor self-esteem.  So rather than running away they fake stumbling or taunt the person who is "It" so that they can get caught and then they run around pretending to chase people but never quite catching them. This keeps the game focused on themselves and everybody eventually ends up standing around waiting for the your egotist to finally be shamed into catching somebody so the game can go on.

The Fox and the Hounds variant turns the structure upside down and effectively uses the desire to be center of attention into a tool for making kids run their hearts out.  Here's how it works.

Materials:

  • Large relatively open playing field.  A wooded park area is best as the trees will break up the chase and give the fox a chance.

  • A 3 to 4 foot long "tail" made of cloth or canvas.  A strip of fake fur made up to look like a bushy animal tail is the most effective type of tail. I keep one in my games bag at all time.
  •  Whistle for the referee. The whistle is useful for stopping the action when the tail is grabbed and for getting the attention of kids who are getting over-eager (like the kid that picked up a fallen tree limb and decided that braining the fox might be an effective means of getting that tail).

Method:

  1.  Explain the rules and the boundaries to the kids.  Boundaries can be arbitrary, but should all be within clear eyesight of where the referee (and his whistle) is standing.
  2. One player is selected as "It" or "The Fox". Let slip that in this game the fox is "It". It will make being the fox more desirable to the egotists who are usually the ones you want to tire out.  The Fox must tuck six inches of the tail into his belt or the back of his pants - enough to hold the tail securely, but no enough to carry the pants down to his ankles when someone jerks the tail loose.
  3. The remaining players are designated "The Hounds".  The hounds must do two things.  First, they must chase the Fox and try to pull off his tail.  Second, they must bark and bay like hunting hounds while chasing the Fox.
  4. At the start of each round, the Fox is given a head start before the hounds are turned loose.  The hounds must then chant the fox hunting song and when they are done, they may all take off after him.  The song goes like this:

          A hunting we will go, A hunting we will go
            Heigh, ho, the derry 'o, A hunting we will go
          We will catch a fox, We'll put him in a box
            We will pull his furry tail and then we'll let him go.  


    A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go
    Heigh ho, the dairy-o, a hunting we will go
    A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go
    We'll catch a fox and put him in a box
    And then we'll let him go
    Read more at http://www.lyrster.com/lyrics/a-hunting-we-will-go-lyrics-children.html#ajoC4otcRv7ipgtf.99
  5. Whoever relieves the Fox of his tail becomes the new Fox and you start over with the chant to give him a head start.
  6. The referee must watch the hounds.  Any who are not baying or barking like hounds are ineligible to catch the fox.  Advise the hounds to be sure and bark when grabbing the foxes tail.  It doesn't count if you forget till afterward.  The barking slows the hounds slightly because it takes some of the wind out of them.
  7. The fox must not touch his own tail, shorten it or pull it out of reach with his hands.  Warn the fox not to take a loop around his belt to make it harder to pull the tail. It's a good way to get hurt by being pulled off your feet or slung into a tree or to lose your pants altogether.  The ref should check to see that the tail is removable with an ordinary tug. 
This game is exhausting. There are always plenty of egotists who want to be it, but in order to keep the coveted title of "Fox" the egotist must run like the wind because everybody is out to snag his tail. The game stays active because even if you have a fast fox, the hounds inevitably do what wolves do with their faster prey.  They simply take turns running the fox till he tires out and then they corner him and remove his tail.  If you catch the kids doing it, it's a good teachable moment to tell the kids that what they are doing is what wolves do to run down faster prey.  They take turns chasing the animal until he tires.  Chasing the animal in wide circles allows the other wolves to rest and pick up the chase with fresh wolves when the prey comes round again.


The game encourages the fox to run so he can keep the coveted tail and the hounds to pursue him in order gain the tail.  The kids will come up with some surprising pack hunting strategies all on their own, many of them just the sorts of strategies used by lions, cheetahs, wolves and hyenas. The kids inevitably run themselves to exhaustion in 20 or 30 minutes.  When they are all sprawled out on the grass gasping for air, it's a good time to go to campfire and then off to bed. They'll sleep pretty well that night, I promise you. The beauty is that you, the referee can handle the whole bunch while your fellow adults take a quick break AND you don't have to run around after the kids. The action circles you. I used to have this tall stump I liked to "referee" from. 


As I always say, "Old and crafty beats young and energetic every time!"


Tom King







Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Goldilocks Constant and Other Matters

by Tom King

I haven't posted here in a while. I'm working on editing scans of Sam Campbell's book, "Loony Coon" for a group that's doing a film and website about the legendary nature writer most of us SDA kids remember from our childhood.  As part of it, they're creating eBooks and digitizing his surviving films.  It's a great project and I'm pleased to be a volunteer on the project.

I've written a couple of pieces aimed at non Adventist audiences that I think might also be appropriate here.  I also intend to write up the second part of my article on the Dobson Telescope.  I was hoping to assemble the scope I'm working on and take pictures of the process.  I'm working on 6 eBooks I have contracts for, so it will likely be a few more weeks before I get time, though.

I wrote I'm Not a Physicist, But I Play One in My Head....... as a tongue-in-cheek poke at the latest incongruous discover in physics and the lengths scientists go to in order to avoid including God in their explanations.

The Proper Use of Campfires is a piece I wrote after watching a Christian music video that took me back to the campfires of my youth and how these mini-celebrations of life are a powerful metaphor for Christian fellowship.

My Favorite Uncle Bobby Story is a tribute I wrote to the late former president of the Oklahoma Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, Robert Rider, a man I learned and important lesson about leadership from.  He was also my uncle. Uncle Bob taught me that you need to stop and take a look at what you're really supposed to be doing once in a while. It's a lesson every youth leader and Pathfinder director needs to learn before his puts the patch and the pin on his uniform.

All God's Creatures Got a Place in the Choir  is about the joy of spontaneous musical events. It offers an idea that can be used with young people as a witnessing tool - the "flashmob choir".  It's a neat deal to set up at your local mall or a busy downtown plaza or at a park when there are a lot of people there.

Thanks for following me here.  Please leave a comment if you have any ideas related to these posts. I'm also looking for "guest" writers who have something to contribute that helps define the roll of Adventist men and offers positive ways we can contribute the church. In this age of relentless negativity, SDA men need to be relentlessly positive.

© 2013 by Tom King - Puyallup, WA

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Importance of the Passive Voice

Another Lesson from Sam Campbell

Sam with school children after a show.
If you grew up an Adventist kid in the 50s and 60s you probably know about Sam Campbell, the "Philosopher of the Forest".  Sam was a Christian naturalist who, during the 30s to the 50s made his living doing nature presentations and showing slides and films in schools all over North America.

His life was a child's dream. He and wife, Giny Campbell, spent the summers living on an island in the middle of a lake in the North Woods of Wisconsin. You had to paddle out to the island in a canoe named "Buddie".

Sam and one of his wild racoon buddies.
In the winter, Sam earned his living doing his lyceum shows and selling his books about life on the island with a collection of quirky animals with names like Inky, Nuisance, Sweet Sue, Loony Coon, Salt and Pepper. I've been privileged to work on a project that will preserve Sam's book in digital format so that they will always be available for future generations after print publishers have lost interest in Sam's work.

Sam is the guy that inspired me to become a writer. It took almost 40 years for me to do it, but I'm there. There was a call for volunteers to edit the scans of his books and clean them up to make eBooks.  Scanners don't always get it right and neither does Microsoft Word apparently.

Microsoft word subscribes to the fundamental principle of modern creative writing - "Always use active voice".  Avoid the passive voice at all costs say the writing teachers. When I clicked on the grammar checker on my MS Word copy of "A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too", it became instantly apparent that Microsoft word doesn't much like Sam Campbell's style of writing, flagging him repeatedly for using "passive voice".

I took writing courses in college and have kept up with the principles of good writing ever since.  But I knew, that in Sam's case, Microsoft Word's grammar Nazi was wrong. This sentence, for instance:


       Our adventure chest was being filled to the brim with golden nuggets of experience.

Microsoft Word's grammar Nazi complains that the sentence is in passive voice and suggests I change it.  I refuse because I think Sam meant to use the passive voice here.  Passive voice is absolutely what you would want to use if your adventure chest were being filled with golden nuggets of experience. You didn't fill the chest yourself. You allow it to be filled. There's a huge difference. In the passive voice version, you accept what God sends you and you receive it with gratitude.You do not grab salvation through your own efforts. You accept it and receive it as a gift from a Father who wants to give you more good things than you can believe.

One of the "golden nuggets" I received for my "adventure chest."
If you've ever been in the deep woods or paddled softly along a river far from civilization, you will understand. Too many modern paddlers roar up in their 4x4s to the exciting bits of the river, unload their indestructible composite canoes and paddles, strap on their helmets and "grab" whatever excitement they can get. Then they walk back to the truck, load up and run back to town for a brewski and to brag that they have "owned" that river.

And like those who only write in the active voice, they miss what Sam Campbell knew and what I have learned in receiving golden nuggets for my own adventure chest while paddling my own canoe. Sam and I know full well that you never own the river or anything in the wilderness. You receive from it what it offers you. Anything you have to "seize" from the wilderness is tarnished in the process and becomes less than it was had you simply let it alone. The modern active voice woodsmen miss the river otters, the fisher birds, the deer peering solemnly at you from the bank as you drift by. They never see the long and quiet stretches where angels voices seem to murmur in the trees and birds lay down a quiet choral backdrop against the chuckling of the water as it flows among the rocks.

To get from the woods what God intended for us to receive, we must enter the forest prepared to receive the gift. We must approach the forest in the passive voice, whether the grammar Nazis approve or no.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Master Guide Secrets - Star Honor Part 5 - The Dobsonian Telescope Mount

Although not required by the basic Pathfinder Star Honor, building a telescope is a wonderful Pathfinder activity.  It can be a group project that adds a new and powerful telescope to the club's stockpile of equipment every time you do a star honor class.  If you treat the star honor like a real astronomy class, you'll not only get your Pathfinders a nice patch for their sash, but will encourage them to look up and see the stars which God has made. Some of the kids may even go on to make their own telescopes and pass their knowledge of the skies to the next generation of kids.

Having a nice big powerful telescope along on campouts gives kids something to do in the dark as well - at a time when kids tend to sneak off from the campsite to explore and get into mischief.  A row of telescopes acts as a magnet for restless minds, especially if you have a batch of interesting things to look at that will fire their imaginations.

First we're going to build the mount for the telescope.  The only part of the scope itself is the telescope tube. You'll have to decide what size mirror you are going to use first, select a mirror mount and measure the inside diameter of the tube.  You may want to go on to the second part of the series which I will have done hopefully next week and build the scope first.  I start with the mount first because it's inexpensive and gives you an idea how much you will have left in your budget to buy the lenses, mirrors, mounts and spotting scope - the heart of a good reflector telescope.

The design of this mount, designed by famous amateur astronomer, John Dobson, is simple, inexpensive to build and requires quite simple carpentry skills. It's made out of old LP records, plywood, some glue, felt and a couple of bolts. It's easy to use and comfortable to look through.

To look at the details of the design, follow this link to my Howdy Ya Dewit website.  Have fun. The design we will explore in these next three articles gives you a really fantastic telescope. I collected the parts for mine on eBay over several years of waiting interspersed by frantic bidding.  Someone gave me a six inch mirror and I now have the parts for a very nice six inch scope for under a hundred dollars total. You can't buy a scope of this quality for 5 times the price and it won't be half the fun to put together.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Master Guide Secrets - The Stars Part 4



Checking Out Scorpio


It's midsummer and Orion is pretty much invisible because it's on the daylight side of the Earth right now. But halfway around the sky you'll find Orion's nemesis a striking constellation visible in the south along the ecliptic (the sun's path through the sky) where all the other constellations of the zodiac are found.

Use this chart to find objects discussed below.

Scorpio.


Scorpio is one of the few constellations like the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and the Southern Cross that actually looks a lot like its namesake. The long sweeping curved tail of the scorpion is clearly visible against the night sky throughout the summer. It looks like this:
Scorpio is Latin for scorpion, but not everyone sees a scorpion, probably because not every country has the nasty little critters. The Javanese people of Indonesia see a "brooded swan" (Banyakangrem) probably because Scorpio is higher in the sky and less "upside down.  In the islands of the South Pacific, which are also scorpion fee, it is also called Kalapa Doyong, meaning the "leaning coconut tree." In China the curved "tail" is part of a larger constellation called the "Azure Dragon".  In Hawaii, the distinctive hook-shaped arrangement of stars is known as Maui's fishhook after one of their demigods who was apparently partial to fresh-caught tuna.

Here's how Scorpio looks in mid-summer (without the red lines, of course)

It's easiest to see Scorpio in the summer.  In July you'll find it low in the southern sky at around 9 or 10 pm.  The constellation used to be bigger, but the Romans needed a sign of the zodiac for September, so they borrowed the "claws" of the Scorpion and designated the new constellation Libra. Most people still see the whole scorpion complete with claws, not realizing the Romans declawed it a couple of millennia ago.

The brightest stars in Scorpius include:

Antares & its companion
  • Antares (α Sco) - Antares is a red supergiant, the 15th or 16th brightest star in the sky depending on who you talk to.  It's magnitude is somewhere between 0.96 and 1.8. Antares is part of a binary system.  It has a faint supergiant companion star.  Antares is 883 times larger than our own sun. If you put Antares where the sun is, the surface would like somewhere in our asteroid belt.  Antares is 550 light years or 170 parsecs from the Earth.  It is 10,000 times brighter than the sun as well, so wear your shades if you plan to visit.
  • β1 Sco (Graffias) - Beta Scorpii (β Sco, β Scorpii) is a multiple star system.  The Arabs called the star several names including Acrab, Akrab or Elacrab from the Arabic (العقرب‎) al-'Aqrab. In China it was known as 房宿四 (the Fourth Star of the Room).  Even with a small telescope you can see it as a binary star. This pair of stars (β1 and β2) are the most visible orbiting components in this system. β1 Scorpii, the brighter one is made up of β Sco A and β Sco B.  β Sco A is also a binary that can only be detected with a spectroscope.  β2 Scorpii meanwhile has two stars within it (β Sco C and β Sco E). β Sco E is also a binary that can only be detected with a spectroscope. There are six stars in the system. There used to be a D component, but the astronomers were wrong and they took it out, which is why there is no β Sco D and the names jump for β Sco C to β Sco E.  
  • δ Sco (Dschubba) - It's name is from the Arabic jabhat, "forehead" (of the scorpion). It's also called Iclarcrau or Iclarkrav.  Whatever you call it, the star is at the forehead of the "scorpion" outline.  Dschubba or Delta Scorpii is unusual because it's near the ecliptic, so it is occasionally occulted (covered up) by the Moon and on rare occasions, by the planets. The sun covers it up as well, but you can't see that from here on Earth.  Delta Scorpii (δ Sco) is part of one of the closes "associations" of massive stars to the sun called the Upper Scorpius Subgroup (astronomers come up with such romantic names for things).  The USS contains thousands of young stars, kind of like Woodstock in the sky. It's magnitude changes because δ Sco has irregular outbursts that throw off luminous gases from its equatorial region. Like other stars in the region, it also has a companion that causes the star to flare up. Dschubba (δ Sco) has a second class B companion star that comes as close to it as Mercury does to our Sun. This companion star orbits δ Sco every 20 days in a wildly eccentric orbit that takes it close in about once in ten years. It also has a possible third and fourth companion star ranging out to about twice the distance from the main star
  • θ Sco (Sargas) - Theta Scorpii (θ Sco, θ Scorpii) was named Sargas by the ancient Sumerians and more prosaically by the Chinese as 尾宿五 (Mandarin: wěi xiù wǔ) or the Fifth Star of the Tail.  Sargas is one of the brightest stars in the night sky, located about 300 light years (90 parsecs) from our sun.  Sargas is a bright yellow giant star, about 5.7 times larger than the Sun and 1834 times as bright. An F-type star, Sargas is yellow-white and rotates so rapidly it is thicker at the equator than at the poles. Sargas has the distinction of being one of the stars on the flag of Brazil.
  • λ Sco (Shaula) - Lambda Scorpii (λ Sco, λ Scorpii) comes it at number 2 (after Antares) as the second brightest star in Scorpius.  It's name, Shaula, comes from the Arabic الشولاء al-šawlā´ meaning the raised tail.  Again the pragmatic Chinese just call it 尾宿八 meaning "the Eighth Star of the Tail".  Located 702.1 light years from Earth, Shaula is actually a triple system.  It has two B-type stars and a pre–main sequence star.  The primary star is a beta Cephei variable star meaning its brightness changes.  All three stars lie in the same orbital plane so they were probably all created at the same time. Shaula is also on the flag of Brazil.
  • ν Sco (Jabbah) – If you live on a planet in the Jabbah system, you probably wouldn't get much sleep.  Nu Scorpii (ν Sco, 14 Scorpii) is at least a quintuple, if not a sextuple star system. Nu Scorpii A and B are the brightest pair, being both spectral type B2 subgiants. Nu Scorpii C and D are fainter spectral type B8 and B9 main sequence dwarf stars. Nu Scorpii A is a spectroscopic binary with faint B-type companion star. Like  Since it is near the ecliptic, Nu Scorpii, like Dschubba, can be occulted by the Moon and rarely by the odd planet. Mercury occulted it in 1821 and will again on December 2, 2031. Venus clipped Jabba in December 1852 and will do so again on December 30, 2095. Neptune occulted it in 1808.  Nu Scorpii also bounces light of a nearby nebula - IC 4592 giving it a nice blue color.  Jabbah or ν Sco is called 鍵閉 by the Chinese or Jiànbì, meaning Door Bolt – something to do with Chinese asterism.  
  • π Sco (Iclil) - Pi Scorpii is a triple star located some 590 light-years (180 parsecs) from the Earth. German astronomer Johann Bayer gave it the name Pi Scorpii in 1603. No one is sure, but he may have been hungry at the time.  It was first discovered to be a spectroscopic binary with two hot blue-white B-type main sequence stars rotating around each other. These two ahve a third smaller star orbiting around them at a distance.  Pi Scorpii is also part of the USS (Upper Scorpius subgroup) of the Scorpius-Centaurus Association. Whether it is a voting member or not is unknown.
  • σ Sco (Alniyat) Sigma Scorpii (σ Sco, σ Scorpii) - Al Niyat, one of the brighter members of Scorpio, is roughly 696 light years (214 parsecs) from earth.  The brightest component of the system is a spectroscopic binary, σ Scorpii A, an evolved giant star.  The binary has never been successfully resolved with a telescope, but has been identified with a spectroscope through changes in their combined spectrum. A is 18 times larger than the sun and radiates 20,000 times the luminosity. It's a variable star whose temperature and brightness varies significantly. The other member of the Al Niyat pair, σ Scorpii B, is a main sequence star that orbits at about four times the distance from the sun to Neptune.  A third member of the system, σ Scorpii C orbits even farther out taking a hundred years to complete an orbit. The final member, σ Scorpii D is a B9 dwarf star orbiting even farther out. The Al Niyat is also liley a part of the Upper Scorpius Subgroup. 
  • U Scorpii (U Sco) -  U Sco is one of only 10 known stars that are recurring novae.  U Sco is located near the northern edge of Scorpio and normally has a relatively faint magnitude of 18.  In successive outbursts in 1863, 1906, 1936, 1979, 1987, 1999, and 2010, U Sco reached a magnitude of 8.  Scientist haven't been successful at predicting U Sco outbursts yet, but expect the next one to happen between 2018 and 2022.

Scorpio also has four deep space objects that were included in Charles Messier's early catalog of nebula and galaxies.  They were:

M4 (NGC 6121)
  • M4 (NGC6121) – NGC 6121 is the nearest known globular cluster to the Sun.  Discovered by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1746, M4 lies in Scorpio about 1.3° west of Antares.  If the sky is dark it can just barely be seen the naked eye if you have good eyesight.  Partially obscured by dust in the galactic plane it looks slightly red as a result.  It looks like a ball of stars with a unique central bar. The Hubble recently detected a planetary system within the cluster.



  • M6 (NGC6405) – Called the Butterfly Cluster this open cluster of stars vaguely resembles a
    The Butterfly Cluster
    butterfly in shape. First officially observed by Giovanni Battista Hodierna in 1654, the Butterfly cluster may have been seen by 1st century astronomer Ptolemy with his unusually acute eyesight while he was busy discovering its neighbour, the Ptolemy Cluster. The cluster was cataloged #6 by Charles Messier and contains hot, blue B type stars and a notable K type orange giant star that's a semi-regular variable.  Astronomers estimate its distance as somewhere around 1,600 light years from Earth.  With a magnitude 4.2, the star should be easy to spot just  above and slightly to the left of the "stinger" of Scorpio's tail.
The Ptolemy Cluster
  • M7 (NGC 6475) -  The Ptolemy Cluster, as it has been known since it was first observed by Roman astronomer Ptolemy in 130 AD, is an open cluster of stars, located just below M6 and to the left of the Stinger in Scorpio's tail.  Astronomers with telescopes have counted some 80 stars in the cluster.  M7 is 980 light years from Earth.






 
M80
  • M80 (NGC6093) --  M80 is a globular cluster located midway between Antares and Graffias. Even with an a amateur telescope, you can see M80 as a mottled ball of light.  It contains several hundred thousand stars and is one of the denser globular clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy.  In 1860, a nova within the cluster briefly outshined the entire cluster. 
You'll notice that Scorpio is located near the center of that bright hazy band of stars that cuts across the night sky in summer. Those stars are closer in toward the center of our galaxy which is why the look all packed together. When you look toward Scorpio you are looking toward the hub of the galaxy. Earth sits about 2/3 of the way out from the center of the galaxy (28,000 light years to be sort of precise) and 20 light years above the galaxy's equatorial plane within the "Orion" spiral arm. It is called that because the stars that make up the Orion constellation are all within that arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Scorpio is one of the easiest of constellations to spot.  Along with The Big Dipper, Orion, Cassiopeia, The Little Dipper, Canis Major and Minor and Taurus the Bull, they are among the easiest constellations to identify.  Ahead in our series we'll share some tips on viewing the moon and we'll talk a little about some other standout astronomical objects you can find with a telescope or binoculars.  Also coming up we'll give you instructions on how to build a ginormous telescope of your own. 

Meanwhile, keep looking up!  Jesus is coming.



Tom King, Master Guide

For more information and Pathfinder Resources, check out the Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book
© 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Camping Genius: Homemade Mosquito Repellant

You've got 30 kids headed for the mosquito-infested wilderness. How do you protect them?  The old Boy Scout remedy "Avon Skin-So-Soft" works pretty well, but it's kind of expensive. If you're like me and a little nervous about spraying the kids with something with toxic chemicals in it, here's a little natural alternative that works pretty well and can be made in quantity.

It's a homemade concoction made of cloves (the leaves, not the powder), alcohol and some kind of natural oil or baby oil.  Almond oil, fennel or whatever you can find in the ingredient list that's inexpensive works just find as a base.  It's the cloves that do the trick.

You have to start 4 days ahead because the clove leaves need to be marinated.  Multiply the amounts of the ingredients as needed.  You can administer it with an eye-dropper, or to save time, make enough to put in a spray bottle or squirt gun and spritz a few drops on the kids arms and have them rub it into their skin.  The smell keeps the skeeters away quite effectively.  Just be sure to  marinate the clove leaves for a full four days.  You may want to drop a leaf or two in the bottle to increase potency. 

The recipe is here -  Check out this link.

Have a safe campout.

© 2013 by Tom King

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Higher Standard


To become a follower of Christ; to take His name is a serious thing. It calls you to a higher standard of behavior. It calls you to treat others as you would have them treat you. It calls us all to leave a lot of things in Christ's hands that we'd sometimes rather do ourselves like judging others, telling others what to do and pouring wrath on those we disagree with. God judges. God commands. God handles any wrath that's needed. It's hard for many Christians to allow God to do all that. We want to meddle. Some of us even tell lies, twist facts or make things up in order to make God look a little more like we think He ought to look.  We want Him to be more involved than He seems to be - in the way of miracles, just desserts and that sort of thing. We'd like more heavenly parlor tricks, more bad people getting what they deserve and magical miracles that favor the good guys and fewer hard lessons and less martyrdom.

We are not called to be God's PR team.  He doesn't need someone schilling for Him to clean up His reputation, although we do possess a rather stunning ability to wreck His reputation and make Him look bad to our fellows. 


We are not called to be captains or sergeants to pass along orders to underlings (those with less spiritual "experience" than us). The command structure in God's army is very flat. There's God and then there's you. Why do we think we need to improve on how God does stuff? Heirarchy in the Christian church is about making sure the bills are paid and the janitorial work gets done.  Nothing else.  The shepherd's job is to show us the way home. Whether we follow is entirely up to us. It is also up to us to make sure for ourselves that the shepherd is, in fact, leading us home. Fortunately, God has given us the tool we need for that and if we find we're off the track, we are well able to get back on it with His help. If the shepherd is misleading the flock, God will admonish him. Our duty is to walk toward the light.

I've never understood the need some people have to tell others how wrong they are.  We are charged to bring folk who are hurting and lost to the feet of Jesus, not to harangue them about doctrine or punish them for their mistakes.  We are called to be witnesses.  Notice that witnesses do not give orders. Witnesses are not judges. They are not even the jury and they are certainly not the attorney. That is reserved to Christ alone. Witnesses tell what they know. They tell the truth as they saw it.  Witnesses are not called to invent little tricks or to use bullying, lying or intimidation to get people to obey God.  

The belief that we can and should do that is the lie behind the first sin ever committed.

"Pssst," said the devil. "Wanna be gods?"


Tom King © 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Christian Manhood: Oh, Brother Who Art Thou?

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” - C.S. Lewis


One of the things we don't do particularly well in the Advent Movement is build strong male circles of friends.  Perhaps it's because we are a movement and don't settle long enough in one place to build strong friendships.  I imagine being a pastor is a pretty lonely business.  I know teaching in SDA schools certainly was. It's hard to build friendships with co-workers anyway.  You try to build friendships with your kids, but they all hit that age between 15 and 25 during which you lose dozens of IQ points to become as Mark Twain once described his own father "the stupidest man in the world".

If you persevere and are patient, you do get those IQ points back when the kid gets his own family going, but too often the friendship gets lost in the process. Brotherly love is a mysterious process and one that, I think is being attacked in the final days of Earth's history.  Too often these days, friendships between guys gets dismissed as a "bro-mance" or hints are made that there is something unseemly about two guys who hang out and do stuff together. The specter of being charged with having homosexual feelings is always there in a world where everything worthwhile is being reduced to some sort of hidden sexual urge by the pop psychologists that seem to spring up everywhere.

C.S. Lewis, noted 20th century Christian apologist, faced the same problem himself.  He had a close-knit circle of friends that included fellow author J.R.R. Tolkien.  Lewis was, himself, not a Christian, when The Inklings (the name the group gave itself) formed for informal talk sessions in Lewis' chambers at Oxford.  They were just a bunch of Oxford dons, writers, a physician, the odd philosopher and Lewis' brother who all got together to read each others' manuscripts and talk away a Thursday evening.  It was Tolkien and fellow Inkling Hugo Dyson who influenced Lewis' conversion to Christianity.

I wonder sometimes whether we Adventist men don't tend avoid some natural friendships with men who are not Adventist for fear that awkward situations will develop or that we might be tempted to some sin or other.  If so, it would be a shame, because becoming friends with nonbelievers is the surest way I know of to bring them, if not into the church, at least into sympathy with Adventists.

Saving souls is not some sort of baseball game with the score being totted up on a heavenly scoreboard.  Introducing a human soul to Christ is not a pitching duel. Too often we pride ourselves on our skill at out-debating the Philistines and only succeed at making them more entrenched enemies in the process. There's an expression development officers in nonprofit organizations, schools and churches use.  "It's not fund-raising," they say, "but friend-raising." The same could be said of soul winning.  Perhaps it's not soul-winning, but friend-winning we should focus on.  Perhaps we should introduce Christ first and let Him win the soul.


We could all take a lesson from Andrew, Peter's brother.  Almost every time you see Andrew in the Bible, he's bringing someone to Christ to introduce them to Him.  In fact, it was Andrew that introduced his brother to Jesus in the first place. You don't see Andrew doing a lot of speeches. You do see him telling people, "Come and see." 

There is no more effective way to bring a soul to Christ than through the witness of your own life. I once had a neighbor comment that my wife and I were the nicest, most Christian people he had ever known.  I was stunned.  I'd made no effort to impress him with our Christianity or to argue theological points with him. I'd been a friend to him in the only way I knew how.  I helped him with projects he was working on. We sat out on his porch on many a summer evening just shooting the breeze.  I even helped him work on his house a few times when he was building it.  We did talk about God some, shared opinions.  No flaming debates. No calls to repentance.  Just two friends talking.  I think we both became better Christians because of it.

I've long thought that men in our church should work a bit harder on making friendships themselves.  Often it is our wives who make the initial contact with others and the husbands get thrown together by default.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it shouldn't be the only way we form friendships. We shouldn't wait for our wives to get together with some other guy's wife.  Simply invite a potential friend to go fishing, canoeing, sailing or golfing with you. Ask him to join a church league softball team. Invite him to a backyard barbecue.  Don't worry about the food.  You won't go to hell if a few of the hot dogs are beef.

Brotherly love is an important element of the Christian life.  In C.S. Lewis' lecture series, "The Four Loves" he describes it this way.  “In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others....In a perfect Friendship … each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before all the rest… each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.”

If you are blessed with friendships, by all means nurture them, for in true friendships we may find the strength to survive and thrive in a world which is doing it's best to divide us and piecemeal to conquer us.

Tom King (c) 2013