If you’ve read any of my books, you know that the Obion River (that’s pronounced [o – BI (long I sound) – yun] flows through all of them and plays a significant role in the story line. My newest book, Toby, is no exception.

Although most of my stories are completely fictional, the Obion River is real.

The Obion River system, which has four separate streams, is the primary surface water drainage system of northwestern Tennessee. Those four forks are: the North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork and Rutherford Fork (which is named after the town of Rutherford). The confluences of these forks are only a few miles above the mouth of the Obion’s discharge into the Mississippi River.

In Toby the South Fork of the Obion figures prominently.  If you take the Hinkledale Road out of McKenzie, TN,

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you will soon find yourself enveloped in the verdant landscape and surrounded by thick woods, the closer you get to the river.20160630_122034

 

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During the dry, summer months, the water level is often low enough that walking through the woods can be done with relative ease when compared to trying to navigate it when all the trees are standing in water and the mud is 8-12 inches deep.

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This is no crystal clear stream.  It’s color always reminds me of the color of chocolate milk.

During the summer it is teaming with snakes, especially the deadly water moccasin, or cottonmouth, as it is sometimes called.  But in the winter it is home to ducks and occasionally to nesting Bald Eagles.

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Symphony Nelson and Toby are completely at home in this area, having grown up hiking in it.  But even familiar areas become unfamiliar when a flood removes familiar markers or if you are there at nighttime (without a flashlight) which makes it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you.

Join Symphony and Toby as they frequent this area on their journey toward discovery – discoveries that will change them forever.

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Book Cover

Years after Symphony rescued Toby, they went walking in the woods where they both took what was to have been a short nap, but don’t awake until night has fallen. Here’s some of that scene:

Without warning Symphony jerks awake and sits up. Her eyes wide, she stares into the darkness. “Toby, it’s night! I didn’t mean to sleep this long.”
Toby stands up, stretches himself, and shakes.
Symphony feels around on the ground beside her until she finds her walking stick then stands up. She pats each of her empty pockets. “I didn’t bring a flashlight or matches or anything. I didn’t plan to be out here after dark. I didn’t even bring my phone.” She feels panic pushing its way into her throat. She looks up, trying to see through the canopy of trees. “I can’t see the moon or stars to try and get a sense of direction.”
The woodlands orchestra and chorus that fell silent when she shouted Toby’s name reconvenes and picks up their performance where they left off. Tree frogs begin their sing-song buzz, the high-pitch chirp of crickets rubbing their legs together, a chuck-will’s-widow and a whippoorwill start up their own variations of their similar frenetic song, the deep bass of a bull frog croaks in the distance. Though all these sounds are familiar to Symphony because she was in the woods many times with her grandfather at night, she’s never been in the inky black woods without any light. She tries to think about the path she took before she sat down and went to sleep to see if perhaps she can retrace her steps back to her car. She closes her eyes and sees all the different items that attracted her attention during the day. But when she opens her eyes she has no sense of what direction she should start in. A chill shakes her body, and she notices for the first time that she is cold, the damp, cool air having settled into her bones while she was sleeping.
Suddenly Toby detects something that doesn’t not fit in with all the naturally occurring elements of the woods. Unsure which of his senses picked up on it, he gives out a low growl of warning to whatever it is and sweeps his eyes all around them, then sniffs the air.
“What is it?” Symphony whispers, gripping her walking stick more tightly.
In the distance Toby believes he sees a tree fifty yards away move ever so slightly. His eyes are like lasers as he stares unblinking. Again he sniffs the air. This time his olfactory senses reward his effort with the smell of something that is human-like but unlike any human he’s been around. His hackles raise reflexively, and he growls a little bit louder. Every nerve in his body is alert. He sees movement again in the same place and explodes into rapid barking.
Symphony screams.

(If you want to know what happens, be sure and buy the book when it’s released July 26. Better yet, why not pre-order your copy today from Amazon?)

Aren’t you amazed at what tiny, seemingly insignificant things can excite a puppy? Here’s a very early scene from my soon to be released book, “Toby”, when he is first taken in as an orphan:
From the corner of his eye Toby notices a small tear in one of the blankets he’s sitting on. He turns and looks more directly at the frayed threads ringing the edges of the tear. He shifts his weight and the blanket moves. Immediately he pounces and attacks the edges of the hole, grabbing a mouthful of the loose threads. Growling, he shakes the blanket furiously. Pushing backward with all four feet he tries pulling it toward him. When it doesn’t budge, he lets go of it and bounces at it with stiff legs while barking at the same time. He stops and waits to see what will happen. When nothing moves, he eases forward and sniffs of the saliva soaked tear. Just as he does, his foot causes the blanket to barely move. Believing his quarry is still alive, Toby jumps backward and barks as ferociously as his puppy voice will allow him.

(release date is July 26. Pre-order your copy today from Amazon.)

 

I am an unabashed patriot. In spite of all our flaws and problems, I believe that The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. It is in that spirit that this year’s spring concert of The David Johnson Chorus will be a celebration of America.

The first half of the show will feature popular American music that has been sung around the world.

  • A medley of song’s from Disney’s “Frozen”
  • From the 40’s: Oscar & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” combined with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”
  • From the 50’s: a medley of Ray Charles’ most famous songs
  • From the 60’s: a rousing 10-minute medley of songs by The Four Seasons (whose music enjoyed a resurgence after the musical “Jersey Boys”)
  • Also from the 60’s: a pulse-driving medley of The Beach Boys
  • And from 1969 an unforgettable arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

In the second half of the show, we will feature songs about America’s greatness.

  • We’ll begin with a medley of Irving Berlin’s music that concludes with, perhaps his most famous song, “God Bless America.”
  • Following the bombing of the World Trade Center on 9/11, Joseph and Pamela Marten composed “Song For The Unsung Hero” that salutes all first responders.
  • “American Anthem”challenges us to look at where we’ve come from and raises the question are we going to carry forward that legacy into the future.
  • After Celtic Woman toured America they recorded “O America,” a song that celebrates America as beacon that draws people to it.
  • “America, the Beautiful,” by Katherine Bates and Samuel Ward, is the quintessential patriotic song.  We will be singing all the verses of this wonderful song.
  • Mark Hayes is one of the most talented arrangers of choral music. He takes My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, America, The Beautiful, and This Is My Country and weaves them together in a gospel style that is mesmerizing.
  • And we will close out the show with a medley of all the fight songs of each branch of the military, followed by God Bless America.

If you celebrate the greatness of America as I do, you won’t want to miss this show.

Come join us at one of these venues:

  • May 14 – Union City (TN) (Cumberland Presbyterian Church)
  • May 21 – Senatobia, Mississippi (The Baddour Center)
  • May 21 – Cordova, TN (Covenant United Methodist Church)
  • June 4 – Dresden, TN (Dresden Elementary School)
  • June 11 – McKenzie, TN (McKenzie Church of Christ)

I have long “preached” to clients, and anyone who will hear me, about the importance of being “in the moment” and being “present.” One of the things that gets in the way of our doing that is all the technology at our disposal.

Christopher Willard has written a thoughtful article on the topic in which he says in part, “There’s nothing inherently bad or good about technology. Technology just is. How we relate to it and what we do with it are what matters. But our phones are not designed to be neutral, they are created to keep us hooked with texting, shopping, and sharing data with marketers, corporations, and even government agencies…oh, and our friends and family, too.”

Take the time to be “in the moment” and read his entire article at the link below.

Source: The Joy of Missing Out – Mindful

Be A Warrior!

March 25, 2016 — 1 Comment
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     If you are one of the millions of young people who are about to graduate from high school, college, or technical school, I have three words of advice for you:  Be A Warrior.
     There is nothing kind and gentle about the world you are entering, and it will eat you up and spit you out unless you tackle it with the tenacity of an NFL linebacker. 
     That piece of paper you will be given upon graduation won’t mean a thing when you show it to a prospective employer unless you look them in the eye and prove to them that you are worthy of a chance.  Neither that employer, nor the world at large, owes you anything.  You have to earn it, just like you had to earn your degree.
     You need to grab life by the front of the shirt and shake it.  Be a warrior.
     This is no place for the timid and shy.
     “But I am timid and shy,” you say.  If you are, quit using that as an excuse.  Many a soldier has entered the battlefield with terror in their heart, but they refused to give into the terror.  Rather, they pushed their way through it, and you can, too – if you have the mentality of a warrior.
     Do you have goals and aspirations for your future?  Then YOU have to make them happen through hard work. 
     My eight-year-old grandson told me he wants to be an All-Star in Little League baseball.  I told him, “Then you have to practice harder and longer than anyone else.  You have to try harder than anyone on the field.”  He thought about that for a few seconds, and replied, “Oh, so that’s how it works.” 
     Absolutely, that’s how it works.  Even at age eight, he needs to have the heart of a warrior if he wants to get to where he wants to be.

 

     Whatever excuses are lining up in your head about how you can’t get this or achieve that, set them on fire, burn them up, and trample their ashes under your marching feet.  Excuses are shackles that keep you imprisoned in the world of “I can’t.”  The world doesn’t care one twit about your sorry excuses.  The world is looking for warriors.

     I’m over sixty years old (yes I’m going to play that card on you), and every commencement speaker I’ve ever heard always talks about “the changing world that you are facing” as if it is something new.  Hey, the world is ever-changing.  So what?  All that means is that opportunities are constantly morphing into something new – but there are still opportunities.  What you have to do is to be that warrior who runs them down, pins them to the ground, and demands to be given a chance.  Don’t take no for an answer.
     So what will it mean if you try and fail?  It will mean nothing more than that – you tried and failed.  No warrior goes undefeated.  But a warrior doesn’t give up and quit just because they fail.  They sharpen their sword by looking for lessons to be learned from the experience, and then they eagerly enter the fray again with redoubled zeal.
     I congratulate you on your achievement and approaching graduation.  But you’re not finished.  You’re just getting started.  Put on your boots.  Strap on your armor. 
     And be a Warrior!

The playgrounds of my childhood always had two things to play on – a swing and a see-saw.

The see-saw was an extremely long board fitted perpendicular to a piece of large pipe that it pivoted on. The only way to hold on and ride it was to grip the sides of the board. The more advanced see-saw featured two pieces of pipe fashioned into a t-shape securely attached to the end. Those didn’t come into fashion until a few years later.

By today’s standards there was nothing safe about it. There were multiple ways to incur an injury. One of the favorite “tricks” to pull on someone was when they were up in the air and you were on the ground was to jump off and let them plummet to the hard-packed soil. No doubt this resulted in multiple spinal compression injuries.

The See-saw also worked as a catapult. If you pushed off the ground with all your might and your friend on the other end braked hard when he touched the ground, no matter how tight your grip, you could be dislodged. Your trajectory resembled a broken-winged quail as you sailed across the playground, landing in a cloud of dust.

One of the problems involved the weight differential on each end. The twelve year old bully who was still in third grade required two to three classmates on the other end to counterbalance the board. If he pointed you out to come sit on the other end of the board, you were caught on the horns of a dilemma. If you refused, he’d beat you up. If you joined the other victims on the board, you knew he would eventually either catapult you or let you drop like heavy stones into a mangled heap of knees, elbows, and heads striking each other and the ground.

What you needed to make the see-saw work perfectly was the perfect partner. My perfect partner in Kindergarten was Jane Foote. Jane and I were the exact same size. Her being a tomboy didn’t hurt either. We made, and kept, a promise to never jump off the see-saw when the other was at the apex.

As simple as it may seem, marriage is much like a see-saw. Just like the see-saws from my childhood, there is nothing safe about marriage. There are innumerable opportunities for injury, some self-inflicted and others perpetrated on us. Betrayal, neglect, abuse and affairs cause the most harmful injuries – a broken heart, a broken spirit and a broken mind.

The most important safeguard against being wounded by the marriage see-saw is finding that perfect partner, someone who brings balance to your life. Someone you can look at across the see-saw from a position of equality. For a marriage to work, both people need to make a commitment to never bailing out (jumping off the see-saw) when the going gets tough.

The reason see-saws have been a staple of children’s play for hundreds of years is because it’s fun to ride a see-saw! That dizzying feeling in the pit of your stomach when you suddenly descend rapidly; the joy of watching and listening to your partner’s laughter; the skill it takes to create that balancing act when you are sitting level; the challenge of holding on through the bumps; the relaxing feeling of a gentle ride; the exhilaration of a rapid ride; the excitement of finding that perfect partner.

Marriage can provide the same types of thrills. It’s ok to be afraid of marriage, but don’t let that fear keep you away from the most exciting toy on the playground.

And don’t settle until you find that perfect partner.

No one believes in the power of prayer more than I do. It is the avenue that puts us in direct contact with the ultimate power – God himself. And God can do things for us that we never dreamed possible. I truly believe that because I’ve seen it happen in my own life many times.

But sometimes our expectations of God set us up for disappointment and frustration because those expectations are in direct opposition to an important principle, and that is this – God won’t do something for us that we can do ourselves. Starting with Noah, in the Old Testament, the Bible reveals this principle over and over again.

Noah and the ark. Everyone is familiar with the story. But did you realize he and his sons worked on building the ark for 120 years?! You think you work long hours at your job?!

The interesting thing to me about that is in the twinkling of an eye God could have given Noah an ark – complete and furnished. Instead, God had him labor over a hundred years on the project.

I have to believe that Noah and his sons learned many valuable lessons over that span of time while working together to accomplish God’s will.

The Kingdom of God is not some kind of welfare state that rewards people who sit on their hands and do nothing.

So if you are frustrated in your prayer life because God is not giving you what you ask for, then perhaps you should look within yourself and ask if there is something you should be doing.