It’s supposedly the #1 attraction in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, the Billy Graham Library. That means it’s more popular than NASCAR. Although I had seen the billboards advertising the Billy Graham Library and I routinely visit Charlotte and the surrounding area, I hadn’t visited until … my parents joined me in Charlotte for a family wedding. I grew up watching Billy Graham’s amazing crusades on our black and white TV, back in the ’60s. As a teen, I went forward to answer the call at a crusade in my hometown of Sioux Falls. And now, it seemed fitting, right, to go to the library and to visit the resting place of Rev. Graham and his wife, Ruth, at the library in Charlotte with my parents, the wonderful people who not only brought me into the world, but also, who started me on my journey of being a Christian.
These are my lovely parents, who are standing in front of the Billy Graham Library on a wet and chilly April day in Charlotte. The grounds are gorgeous.
Inside the Billy Graham Library
Although the building looks “barnish,” it houses valuable documents and artifacts that chronicle Graham’s mission in life — to preach the gospel of Christ. Rev. Graham preached for almost 80 years, and you can follow, chronologically, his own journey. The Library is hosting special displays this year:
June-August: “New Frontiers” – 1980s & 1990s
September-October: “Looking to the Future” – 2000s & 2010s
November-December: “Then and Now” – Today
I especially liked the display that featured the time that Rev. Graham went to Berlin. It features live footage of the occasion, and the magnitude of the crowds is really, rather overwhelming. There is a hunger in the world to hear the word.
Visitors to the library will follow the life and journey of Billy Graham, and also learn about his #1 helpmate, his soulmate, Ruth Bell Graham — whose parents were missionaries in China. Find out more about this lovely lady and about how her plans, of eventually returning to China as a missionary, were changed and melded into an even greater plan.
This is a super interesting display — the preaching Bible that Billy Graham used on his crusades across the world.
Throughout the library, you will be exposed to videos and photographs of the world and the times and how Rev. Graham effected change.
How can I even improve on this little piece of information. Life changing. You’ll find nuggets of wisdom and pearls of knowledge throughout the journey in the museum, which will take at least 2 hours. Make sure to visit the gift shop, where you may find Rev. Graham and his team’s books, as well as several devotional books and lovely mementos of your visit.
Rev. Graham had his family home moved to this site, keeping 80% of the original materials. He lived in this house from the age of 9 until he left for college. The interior is similar to how the Graham family lived, with original appliances and furniture, along with fascinating photographs.
Rev. Graham passed away in February 2018, at the age of 99, and his grave is located on the site near his wife’s grave.
This is the first design in a promotional tee shirt design called Wild at Heart with the superstar pro shooter, mother, veteran known as Julie Glob. In this first rendition I chose someone I just know that is both a child of God and a multi-time world, a national shooting champion, an experienced shooting instructor, woman of the outdoors, proud US Army veteran, published author, wife and mom.
Here is how you can get one of these as a shirt or something else cool from our shop.
I got this idea to create action tee shirts based on the spirit of this ministry. The Speak Life Church ministers to everyone seeking an honest relationship with God but we are focused on ones that live life to fullest. For too many, churches today are reserved for the elderly or have become stagnant in dogma. Religion is how we are comfortable in worshipping a Holy God.
I am looking forward to worshipping our Creator and the lover of our souls with others like me on the range, on the water, on two wheels and online.
Wild at Heart
I remember getting persecuted for being pro-gun in church too often as I grew in ministry. At the same time, I know many gun owners, competition shooters, and hunters that love the Lord Jesus but don’t regularly attend church for more than one familiar reason. I have been called to minister to God’s people regardless of what the brick and mortar churches are saying to them.
So true to form, I am back in the wilderness, where I am comfortable, using the internet to teach, preach and reach people for Christ. I’m not alone. God is with me. He was in the wilderness a lot if you think about it. He was with the Israelites, the prophets, Jesus, and John the Baptist in the wilderness.
If you would like to be considered for a tee shirt to made of you representing a follower of Jesus that is wild at heart, send me a high definition photo of you in action.
One day I felt super excited about life, getting ready to embark on an outdoor writers’ event that promised driving fast trucks on off-road trails, shooting at a world class clays range, fishing with bass pro anglers and more fishing with fly-rods in a pristine world-class stream. The next day, I found myself back at home, sitting in a chair with crutches by my side and ice wrapped around my knee. A torn meniscus did me in, while at the reception at the aforementioned event, and waylaid me so that I couldn’t hobble around in the outdoors with a throbbing knee and frankly, now sour attitude. So, what can I do while I’m out of commission – along with deadlines and work that I’m committed to doing? Here’s my list and 10 suggestions to do when you blow out your knee, or something else.
10 Things to Do When You Blow Out Your Knee
Order a fresh devotional book or find one that you like to read in your own library, and put your Bible on the table next to you. You know what to do next. I’m re-reading this one: God Always has a Plan B. Seems appropriate. Cross reference the devotions to Bible passages.
Do you meditate? This is a great time to start or improve.
Listen to podcasts. Catch up on your favorites. Of course, one of my favs is the “Speak Life” podcast.
Take a class. Craftsy and Skillshare are 2 websites I love for this reason — opportunities to learn something new, under the tutelage of pros and people who know. Just ask my family about my chicken fried rice from a previous class with Grace Young, the “Stir-Fry Guru”; it’s amazing.
If you have more suggestions, please share them here.
As a content creator and editor of podcast, I have seen shows come and go. I have created over a dozen myself that have faded away into the ether. A friend of mine started a podcast based on his niche of being a professional oyster shucker. Before I met him, I didn’t even know that was a thing. I want to share some things Gardner Douglas also known as the Oyster Ninja has done right and identify some things you can do to fix or avoid the rookie mistakes all new podcasters make.
Let me share a little about Gardner.
He is a married US Army veteran and a devoted family man. Gardner has been shucking oysters for ten years and can be found in the DC metropolitan area. Gardner learned the art of shucking from his father, and fellow oyster champion, Samuel “Sam Sam” Fisher. Gardner has shucked at the best raw bars in DC including Whaleys, Rappahannock River Oysters, The Local Oyster, and The Walrus & Ale Oyster bar. He has also shucked at DC’s most premier events include Chef for Equality, the DC oyster Festival, The St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, Shuck-n-Suck, and The Oyster Riot at Dc’s Historical restaurant, Old Ebbits Grill. As a business owner, running his own oyster catering service and mobile raw bar, Gardner has shucked for some of DC’s most elite.
He is also a champion oyster shucker.
• Ranking 6th place in the 2016 National Oyster Shucking Championship.
• 2017’s Best Shucker in Philly,
• Ranked 2nd place at the 2016 Best Shucker in Baltimore and Baltimore Rotary Competition
• Ranked 5th place in the Boston Seafood Expo Shucking Competition.
Currently, Gardner can be heard sharing his knowledge about oysters and shucking skills with the world via his podcast The Oyster Ninja, which centers around oysters, oyster shuckers, farmers and other oyster related things. The Oyster Ninja can also be spotted in the Eating Oysters: Chesapeake Style a Maryland PBS documentary.
Whether on camera or behind an oyster bar, Gardner Douglas’ personality is infectious. He draws you into the art of oyster shucking as if you were watching a performance. Gardner Douglas’ shucking skills are a work of art. There is no wonder that they call him the Oyster Ninja, as his techniques make shucking oysters look as easy as eating them. The art of oyster shucking is lost on most until you decide to try opening an oyster yourself. Gardner is a sought after expert that works with caterers, bars, parties, and special event to provide the seafood delicacies.
Here are are things to help you avoid making rookie mistakes in podcast. Everybody is selling something. so you have to specialize in this crowded world in order to survive. Gardner’s niche is in the seafood industry. He prepares and presents oysters for bars, cocktail parties and high end events. He was born almost with a oyster knife in his hand. He learned from his father who passed an Eastern Shore tradition to him. Gardner is also concerned about the environment. His niche is as deep as the ocean. He has a lot of things to pull from, he just didn’t know it at first.
The first goal for a successful podcaster is preparation. You have to know where you want to go. You don’t have to have all the answers but you have to know that you are providing a service, or a reason for us to listen. How long is your show going to be? What persona are you going to portray? What does your album art look like? These are just a handful of questions that will frame your show before you even find a microphone you want to buy in Amazon. I suggested Gardner get a notebook and write his vision down. Something happens when you put it on paper. For me, its more concrete and fluid than coming from a keyboard. I am very proud of my brother Gardner. He actually listened to me on more than one occasion and is doing well.
The second goal is to figure out who wants what you are selling. In other words, you have to identify your target audience. This one takes a little time. Everybody does;t want what you have. Everybody won’t like your voice, your delivery, your accent, your graphics, or something. The good news is those that do, will love you to pieces. They might not look like you or live near you but the good news is, they are somewhere on this big blue marble. Your job is to find them, connect with them and deliver.
The third goal we all must take after we get going is to actually take action. It is easy to get a paralysis of analysis. There is always something else to buy. There is always something just not quite right. One of the great things about social media and tech today is that you fix it on the go. Gardner did that and has made connections already that he will use when the time is right. Yoda said it best, “Do or Do Not, There is No Try.”
The fourth thing you should be working on is to solve certain problems for specific people. When someone invest their time with you, do something for them. Teach them. Inspire them. Make them laugh, think, moan or cry. Whatever you do, just don’t be boring.
The fifth and final goal of this blogpost is to do what Gardner is doing well. Create a “tribe” and tap into a more loyal and highly engaged audience. Even though he isn’t creating a podcast episode every week he is still working on building his base. He is working social media and good old fashion networking to share what his show will be. He has enough episodes for newcomers to listen to and a lot of upcoming shucking events where he meets potential clients, guest and listeners. He is not resting even though you don’t hear him.
The Oyster Ninja podcast is going to be successful. Right now, Gardner is being a good Christian father and husband so the podcast creation has not been as regular as maybe required to grow exponentially but he knows it. He chooses to do the right things, and I am positive that when the time is right, you’ll see and hear a lot more about and from the Oyster Ninja. This is his new knife he created to get a buzz going.
If you can’t wait, you’ll find him on social media:
Remember there are five things you can do to avoid the rookie mistakes I made. Prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance. (plan) Figure out who your audience is going to be. After you get and idea of what your show is going to be — do it. To be successful, solve a problem. Have a reason for your show that is of more interest than you just being cute. Create a tribe from your identified audience and change the world; or why else do this?
The world is your oyster, shuck it! – Kenn Blanchard
About 30 pounds ago, I was a fitness instructor – jumping around on the fault line in Southern California, leading people through step aerobics and high impact workouts. See, I’ve dated myself already. So now, 30 years and 30 pounds later, I’m back in the gym and one of the first things I changed about my workout? The music. I decided to add Christian tunes to my workout regime.
Cranking up the Christian Tunes
Instead of listening to metallic rock, hard-driving and fast-packed thumping music with nasty words, I’ve switched the sound system over to Christian Rock. I’m revisiting the songs from 15 years ago, when I played in a Christian band at a big Baptist church in Missouri, and I’m starting with this CD, Integrity’s iWorship, “No Boundaries. It is a 2 CD collection of 33 worship songs, including these artists – Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Israel & New Breed and more. I look forward to exploring more modern Christian music as I practice this new choice of music in the gym.
I reference Ecclesiastes 3:3: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.
I like to think of it this way. As I tear down muscle fibers, to rebuild themselves, I am also tearing myself down again and listening to the words through these songs, and rebuilding myself. I am able to hear the words, think through them and leave after a workout with a stronger purpose in living the life that God wants me to live.
What are some Christian artists and songs that you do or would listen to when you work out?
Our friend, Barbara Baird, has been a Sunday School teacher, a concert choir accompanist at a Baptist college, a singer in church choirs and a keyboardist with Christian rock bands. She’s also a travel writer, a gun writer, a wife, mom and granny who lives in the Ozarks. She’ll contribute tips on lifestyle topics – such as travel, exercise, safety and who knows what else? Find her at Ozarkian.com and Womensoutdoornews.com.
None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church… Ephesians 5:29
When I got started in the gun community I was shocked to learn that I had as much prejudice and bias as anyone else. I had to check myself. The path from firearms instructor to minister of the Gospel, to Black Man With A Gun was not a straight line. My journey was unintentional. God often makes a straight line with a crooked stick. I love the people in the gun community, I didn’t know that when I started though. Let me share some of what happened along the way…
I started out with nothing. I still have most of it left.
I began as the evening, sexton of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Washington, DC. At the time it was a prolific and big name church in the African American community. I didn’t know any of that. I liked it because the Spirit spoke to me there. I had recently bankrupted my family, strained my marriage and changed jobs trying to become an entrepreneur. I was a burgeoning public speaker that had successfully lobbied and testified for concealed carry reform in four states. I was a gun activist. I was trying to become a paid lobbyist. I was trying to build a firearms training business that would stop accidents in the homes and make people in my community safer with the guns they owned. I was certified to qualify police, security and federal officers for armed duty. My community wasn’t buying what I was selling. Before concealed carry was an option in thirty-five states, I was trying to educate people. So I put it all on hold and went to work for a church.
Every evening I opened the church, checked the place for leaks, spills, toilet cleanliness and then waited for the women of the shelter to get off work and unlock the house door for them. The church owned homes that it allowed homeless women to rent super cheap. They had to work of course and couldn’t lay around all day so the house was locked all day. I learned a lot. The choir members would come in and I would patrol the place to make sure they old ladies and the teens in the building were safe. After things got settled I sat in a little room near the door and worked on my first book, “Black Man With A Gun; People Fear What They Don’t Understand.” The title was changed by the editor.
The church ladies loved me being there. They loved the attention I gave them. They giggled at the fact that I rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was in church. I was the good bad boy of the building. When asked what I was writing they thought my premise was sound. Help stop the violence. I was shocked when the book was published and a few of the deacons recoiled in horror about my book. I was the same guy. Fortunately, the old ladies still bought the book and supported me. It was there after hours that I got the chance to talk to God one on one. In the sanctuary, I would sit on the first pew and look at the cross in the few minutes before I closed the building down and lock it up and leave. It was there that I would ask the Lord what He wanted for me in my life. It was there that I praised Him for saving me, sustaining me, and protecting me from all the things I had willfully done.
My day job in the government had just changed and I was wondering if I was going to make it to retirement. I was a misfit among misfits. As an entrepreneur I was dabbling as a writer, a speaker, a private firearms instructor, a professional bodyguard and a private investigator. At work, I was a supervisor of armed police officers, a senior instructor of police tactics and facilitator of new hires. I was struggling. I got the opportunity to fly all over the country with the NRA, and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America but it didn’t satisfy the longing in my soul.
One night a family of four came to the church looking to see if it had food to give them. They were living on street, in an old station wagon. I had never met anyone like that before. I thought it unbelievable in this day in age, in America, in the Nation’s Capital, there were hungry families. I heard the church had a pantry so I asked someone and they told me it was upstairs in the church attic. I didn’t even know there was a church attic. I got the key, found the attic and saw that there was plenty of food there. I went shopping. I filled four bags of canned and boxed food and brought it down. I was met at the door and challenged by a church trustee that admonished me for giving food to drug addicts. It was in ear shot of the couple. The look on their faces was authentic. The hope they had vanished. I felt as if someone had gut punched me. The trustee took a bag from me and handed it to the woman. She took a couple of cans and threw it at the stairs in anger. The husband was angry but he bent down and picked up the food. I looked at trustee and his arrogance and felt repugnance like I have never felt in my life. Another church officer walked by and gave a nod of approval to his actions. I felt anger for the first but not last time in a church. I wanted nothing to do with these people if this was acceptable. I apologized to the couple and gave the rest of the food I had bagged and walked back into the church.
When the pastor came in that night, I told him what happened and that I was resigning. I asked him how he could work around such people. I told him I didn’t want his job. He smiled and said he accepted my resignation. I was surprised. He didn’t try to change my mind or anything. The next week was quiet for me. The trustee saw me at Bible Study and apologized. A few nights later, the Lord spoke to me again in a dream. It wasn’t the first time but I remembered all the times He had in the past and recognize the feeling of peace that comes from being in His presence. I don’t remember the conversation but I woke refreshed and with a Scripture on my lips as I opened my eyes from Isaiah 6:8.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
After church on Sunday, I waited for the opportunity to talk to the pastor privately. Having been on staff, it was easy to navigate the building, and bypass the personalities. I was expected to be cleaning up or opening a room. When I approached the pastor in his study, he saw a look of concern on my face and asked if everything was OK with my family. I assured him everything was great actually and we were now doing better than ever.
“So what can I do for young man,” he asked. Pastor I think I have a calling on my life to minister, I said. He looked me in the eyes, and said, “Yes, you do, everyone in this church knew that except for you.”
Stunned I just stood there. Tears leaked from the corner of my eyes. Now what do I do, I asked, I am not like the other ministers here, I said. I am Harley riding, gun toting, former US Marine, that works as the CIA.
He smiled and said, the Lord called you, He knows.
That was during the time of the Y2K fears. I gave my trial and initial sermon ten days before 9-11. It was the year of change for more than just me. The Black Man with A Gun persona was created and firearms training, radio interviews happened. These was before Google, Facebook and other social media.
The Washington Times interviewed me and to push the article they wanted an eye popping picture. We took one with me holding my Kimber 1911 and a leather bound King James Bible. The deacons of the church voted to kick me out of the church and resend my license to preach but it was defeated. I didn’t learn about the secret ballot until much later.
I wondered from church to church, serving where I could. I created In The Wilderness Ministries, the Forgiven Christian Riders Motorcycle Club and ministered where I could. I did this until I was called to pastor an autocratic church in Washington, DC. It was a tough place. When I resigned from the pastorate I felt the anger, frustration and sadness many who no longer attend church feel.
I now know that the Lord allows everything to either move, teach or prepare you. I know 999 things that don’t work. I know who I am. I walk with God. He has never left me nor allowed me to screw up too bad that I couldn’t get back to the safety of His side.
I refused to conform to this world. I refused to conform to the politics of the church as we play it. I am not popular in religious circles around the city. I don’t get invitations to preach revivals, and special days. I can be called uneducated. I don’t have a doctorate of divinity. I have failed at many things but not my God. I refuse to accept defeat in serving a victorious God.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2
He called me and asked Who shall I send, I said again, Send me!
This is a new beginning. Please join me. Don’t worry if you like hunting, riding motorcycles, shooting high powered rifles, pistols and shotguns. I do too. Don’t give up your faith. Don’t give up on having a real relationship with the Creator of the universe despite what has happened to you in this life. Don’t surrender to the voices you hear and the naysayers that are abundant in your life. Roll with me, follow Jesus, let’s do this thing together. I understand your situation. I have been on your street. I am not above you. I am just walking with the One that saved me and I want you to be with me.
I don’t know what it is about bodies of water but I love them. I especially love rivers, bay and oceans. Saltwater being my favorite locale of all. It started off just being a place for fishing but it is also a place I talk to God every opportunity I get.
The Atlantic ocean off of Virginia Beach was probably the first place where the water was overwhelming. It is said you can drown in less than a foot of water but I am not afraid of drowning. My father and his brother in law, took me out when I was young on a rented 15-foot boat and a outboard motor to fish in Virginia Beach. Now that I am an adult I would never do that. That boat was too small. The fishing however was spectacular. It left an indelible mark on me where I wanted to fish ever since. I used to ride my bike to any creek or stream in the area that looked like it might have fish in it. I never caught anything during my high school era fishing this way. After I got a car I would drive fifty plus miles to reservoirs and rivers with the same bad luck. But I loved fishing still. After I got my first “good government job” I met some retirees that had been fishing together for twenty years with a charter boat captain our of Solomon’s Island, Maryland named Robbie. It changed my fishing status instantly. On this old 60 foot converted crabbing trolley we fished the Patuxent river and the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay with ridiculous success. After years of hitting and missing with fishing, for the first time I was catching fish by the buckets full. We were bottom fishing for spot, croaker, perch, flounder and the occasional sport fishes like trout, striped bass, bluefish and mackerel.
I was a supernumerary on the fishing party and became a full time member after the death of one of the regulars. The fishing crew consisted of five retired African Americans that worked in the intelligence fields during the early years. They had stories of surviving Jim Crow, the Civil Rights era and filled me in on parts of history that escaped most books. I used the time onboard to learn, listen and pray. I found a peace onboard the boat that was unlike anything I had had before except maybe on my motorcycle. On back of the boat, or aft, with my back to the conversations about jazz music, the blues, and current events I faced the shore or open water. There I saw where the horizon touched the sky. Where clouds hung so low you could touch them in your mind. I watched sea birds like the osprey and eagle hunt and effortless sail across the clear blue canvas of sky.
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11
It is easy to pray here. There is a droning sound of a diesel as the boat moves from position to position. The charter captain spoiled us with knowing from data points favorite feeding grounds of the fish we are after. On more than one occasion he admonished me to get my hook in the water while I was marveling at Gods handiwork.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Psalm 19:1
In 2014, I lost the last of my five fishing partners. The original member that invited me went home to be with the Lord. The captain himself is fighting illness. Now I am the old guy, and I hope to keep the traditional alive by getting some new anglers to go with me regularly, once a month from June till September to fish, pray and enjoy the beauty of God.
One of the few reasons I don’t move away from this high traffic and taxing, cosmopolitan area is that not too far away are places like this where I can pray, praise and fish.
Now I prefer saltwater fishing to freshwater. I prefer being on a beach surfcasting, or on a boat in waters too deep to reach from casting from shore. I plan to get some video footage and preach from these spots this year, Lord willing. I am hoping you will join me. If you like fishing, I would love to get the invite to fish with you. Jesus likes fisherman, you know?
And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. – Matthew 4:18-22