Gary Miller's
Outdoor Truths Ministry,  Sept. 14, 2020


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Church has room for 50
in sanctuary
and more listening on radio

Pastor James Howes Chiefland First United Methodist Church
First United Methodist Church of Chiefland Pastor James Howes sits at a picnic table across the street from First United Methodist Church of Chiefland. His cloth face covering is around his neck, slid down for a photo op, which was taken from six feet away. The Rev. James Howes welcomes all people to the church – which is known to be a church without walls. The Chiefland First UMC is among the churches that have ‘Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors’ as is a motto of the United Methodist churches.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 26, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
Churches that are part of the Florida United Methodist Conference have been provided guidance from the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church since the global COVID-19 pandemic impacted the state.


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     Meanwhile, in Chiefland, a new pastor started at First United Methodist Church of Chiefland on Aug. 1 and he has instituted precautions to allow up to 50 people to worship in the First UMC Chiefland sanctuary on Sundays, with the worship service starting at 10 a.m.
     “I was advised to not be the 51st person to enter the church,” the Rev. James Howes said during an interview on Wednesday (Sept. 23).
     When the 50th person arrives, that person and the others after him or her are invited to go to the downstairs Fellowship Hall in the basement, or to go to their vehicles outside to listen on the radio, because the church transmits the service over FM channel 87.9.
     The Florida UMC Conference noted that it is praying for the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who have experienced the detrimental impact of COVID-19, and it prays for the friends, family members and other survivors of the almost 14,000 persons in Florida who have died From COVID-19 in 2020 so far.
     In a Sept. 8 letter from Bishop Ken Carter and The Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference noted for the members of the clergy and laity several points.
     “We know this has been a very difficult season for you to navigate as clergy and lay leaders,” Bishop Carter noted. “All of us have had to adapt to this ever-changing reality and learn new ways of doing life and ministry together as a church. We have watched as you have persevered. We applaud your resilience and creativity.”
     The church’s consistent guidance has been grounded in Matthew 22, the healing ministry of Jesus and the Lord’s commandment for people to love their neighbors.
     “In a global health crisis, we do this by maintaining a social distance, and by honoring many of our older and more vulnerable members,” Bishop Carter noted.
     Bishop Carter and the Cabinet, with guidance from other conference leaders and medical professionals, reaffirm that COVID-19 safety protocols remain in place.
     The United Methodist Church’s COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines are connected to the ongoing guidance and recommendations from the Florida Department of Health and the United States Centers for Disease Control.
     That ongoing guidance is noted below:
     ● At all times persons must maintain at least six feet of distance between family groups.
     ● Masks or cloth face coverings are required when any group gathers (except for children under the age of 2).
     ● Monitor your symptoms. Stay home if you are sick or displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive should adhere to the CDC guidelines for isolation and quarantine.
     ● All inside activities must be in well-ventilated spaces that allow for persons to maintain at least six feet of distance between family groups. Outside activities are preferred over inside activities.
     ● Continue to offer on-line worship and virtual ministry opportunities. It is important that opportunities are readily available for people in your church who are not ready to return to your campus. Persons in vulnerable populations or with underlying health conditions as defined by the CDC should be encouraged to stay home.
     ● Decisions about in-person activities will vary according to your church context. We understand there is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach for every church around the conference.
     ● At all times churches should carefully follow the guidance of their city and county officials. Any decision to resume in-person activities should be affirmed by the pastor in consultation with a team of leaders and should be communicated to your District Superintendent.
     Pastor Howes said he is glad to be serving the Lord in Chiefland. He provided his background, which follows.
     Howes was born Jan. 9, 1963 in the Suwannee County Hospital in Live Oak. He was the fifth child of six and had the privilege to attend the primary and elementary schools in Live Oak.
     In 1982, he graduated from Suwannee High School. After he earned an Associate in Arts degree from North Florida Junior College in Madison. The college is now called North Florida Community College.
     Howes earned a Bachelor of Science Defgree in Education from Florida A&M University. In 2010, furthering his education, he earned a Master of Theology at Andersonville Theological Seminary and now is in the process of completing the United Methodist Course of study program from Emory University in the fall of 2020.
     Before entering the ministry, Howed taught in the Suwannee County School system for 14 years. His first pastorate was at the Cedar Key United Methodist Church, where he spent two glorious years serving the island church. His first sermon was preached from the pulpit of the Cedar Key UMC on Father’s Day of 2004.
     From Cedar Key, James moved to Melrose and spent one year as their pastor. (Melrose is an unincorporated community in Alachua, Bradford, Clay and Putnam counties.)
     From there, Pastor Howes moved to Madison County for the next six years. During those years, Howes served the Hanson and Rocky Springs charge for five years and in the last year, added two more churches from Madison County, the circuit-Pinetta and Hickory Grove.
     Howes next pastorate was to serve a very rural church located in Lafayette County called, McCall’s Chapel.
     Since June of 2014 to present, Howes has been serving as pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Cross City (Dixie County), and he serves in the capacity as “supervising pastor” of the Steinhatchee United Methodist Church (Taylor County.
     Now, after 16 years in the ministry, Howes is very honored to say that he has added one more church to his biography -- the First United Methodist Church of Chiefland.
     Howes believes that Jesus Christ alone is the savior of all the world, and that salvation comes by faith and by faith alone in Jesus Christ. He believes the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. Pastor Howes is and will be fully committed to the ministry and work of the local church, he added.


CKS Aquaculture Students
Care For Island

CKS Students Show They Are Civic Oriented and Environmentally Sensitive
The Cedar Key Aquaculture Class has begun taking care of the island. These students are monitoring the debris that ends up in the storm drains along G street, they record the data on the types of debris found and clean them up. This group of students has also decided to monitor the trash/debris along the roads that dead end at the water and begin on G street. These students participated in Coastal Cleanup this past weekend and are working hard towards helping keep Cedar Key clean.

CKS Students Show They Are Civic Oriented and Environmentally Sensitive
The students who are lined up in this photo are (from left) Kyle Stewart, Ty Winfield, Jadyn Beckham, John Pelham, and Cadence Girdler.

CKS Students Show They Are Civic Oriented and Environmentally Sensitive
Jadyn Beckham is seen with a piece of litter she found and removed. Not pictured but participated in Coastal Cleanup were Anna LaVoie-Ingram and Natalie Stewart.
Published Sept. 25, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.

Photos and Information Provided by Rachel Wetherington, CKS Agriculture and Middle School Sciences, Cedar Key Middle and Senior Chapters FFA Advisor, and Varsity Girls and Varsity Boys Weightlifting Coach


Levy County Democratic Party
brings star power
to bear at virtual gala

Levy County Democrats 2020
This screen shot shows Pastor Johnnie Jones III, Brandon and Stacey Peters and Gussie Boatright as they were on the Internet Sunday night during the Levy County Democratic Party’s Annual Blue Horizons Gala.

By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 21, 2020 at 10:10 p.m.
While some may perceive certain statements broadcast on a social media outlet Sunday night (Sept. 20) as hyperbole, most Americans know how sincere every word shared by a star-studded lineup was meant.

In this video mad by filming from the screen during the social media event, Jon ‘Bowzer’ Bauman sings ‘Goodnight Donald Trump, Goodnight.’


     This event heralded the second year of the Levy County Democratic Party’s Annual Blue Horizons Gala. The global COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be virtual rather than in-person. The first one was held at the Community Center in Cedar Key last year.
     On Sunday night, former United States Sen Bill Nelson, Florida Sen. Randolph Bracy III, Florida House of Representatives Minority Leader Kionne L. McGhee, Florida Democratic Party First Vice Chair Judy Mount, shared the social media stage with live entertainment from Jonathan "Bowzer" Bauman of Sha Na fame and other stars of the national, state and county Democratic Party.
     Emceed by the Ministerial Faith Alliance’s Pastor Johnnie Jones III, the event was hosted by Brandon Peters, the Florida Voter Protection director for the Biden-Harris campaign, and Levy County Democratic Party State Committee Woman Stacey Robertson Peters.
     Levy County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Gussie M. Boatright welcomed viewers and spoke about this political party in Levy County. The lineup of stars included Donna Waller presenting somewhat of a civics lesson titled "Partisanship and Amendment 3: Why Primaries Matter."
     Brandon Peters provided an update from his perspective of voter protection in his role as the Florida Voter Protection director for the Biden-Harris campaign.
     With about a two-to-one ratio of people registered as Republicans rather than Democrats in Levy County, some of the members of the minority party here may feel their votes do not count for much. One of the messages sent over the Internet Sunday night, though, was that every Levy County vote for President counts in the Florida toll. All of the speakers made it clear that to not vote for Joe Biden as President is a vote for the Republican who currently occupies The White House.
     Listeners were reminded that U.S. Sen. Rick Scott beat U.S. Sen. Nelson by only 15,000 votes. Florida Gov. Rob DeSantis only won the election against Andrew Gillum by 30,000 votes statewide.
     There was no meal for the event this year. There was no in-person camaraderie as there was at the first Blue Horizons Gala held in Cedar Key last year. Beloved Williston Mayor Emeritus R. Gerald Hethcoat was among those people who have gone to Heaven and could not attend even over the Internet as he had attended last year’s event in Cedar Key.
     What was missing as far as food and fellowship, however, was made up for with absolutely clear lessons regarding the critical nature of this race for President of the United States of America. Viewers and listeners saw and heard about the power of Florida in that regard and of the importance of Levy County voters in the national, state and county elections.
     The event ran long with speeches and information. It was as if the Levy County Democrats had been saving up energy and star power for three-plus years only to release it at this event in one powerful blast. The intensity of the message for people to vote Democrat all the way down the ballot was so strong it may inspire a positive outcome for Democrats in Florida and other parts of America.
     One interesting aspect this year was the social media platform of Facebook being used. There was the Internet connection not existing well enough for some people. There was the cost for people who pay by the gigabyte for Internet service.
     Even beyond the logistical hurdles and financial obstacles, though, also there was the hateful tone that is spread by some mean-spirited individuals via social media outlets.
     Pastor Jones put love and patriotism all over this single sour spot of humans falling for temptation. He recognized “trolls” who had come to the virtual event, and which were evidenced as existing by some commentary. Jones welcomed all people to the Democratic Party event as he reminded listeners that America is a country full of people with diverse outlooks on political matters.
     He even jokingly thanked the thieves who steal political signs. His calm and peaceful statements are bound to have quelled the hatred stirred by malcontents in the social media platforms.
     Some local candidates spoke briefly, including Melina Rayna Svanhild Farley-Barratt (D-Trenton) who is running for Florida Senate Dist. 5 and Jerry Lawrence (NPA-Cedar Key) who is running for Levy County Superintendent of Schools. They both shared why they feel they are better than the Republican Party counterparts in those races, as did one of the candidates for the local soil and water conservation district.
     Another Democrat running for election in the Levy County list of candidates is Barbara Byram (D-Morriston) who seeks to be elected to the Florida House of Representatives District 22 seat.
     Republican candidates in Levy County who are incumbents faced no opposition except for Levy County Superintendent of Schools Jeff Edison. Republican Christ Cowart beat Edison in the Republican primary and now Cowart faces Lawrence in the General Election.
      Following are some of the night’s many highlights.

     McGhee, the Minority Leader in the Florida House of Representatives, is like some other Florida legislators in that he “terms out” in 2020. After growing up in South Dade public housing, McGhee went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a Juris Doctorate from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
     Like many of the speakers that night, showing McGhee’s entire curriculum vitae or even a shortlist of a résumé for this speaker would be a story unto itself.
     “This is the defining moment,” McGhee said.
     The 2020 Presidential Election is the moment that will shape the way of life in the United States for years to come, he said.
     The world as everyone knows it, McGhee said, has reached a critical point. McGhee is urging all American voters to go forward with a bold, progressive agenda that incorporates issues affecting all humans as they vote for the Joe Biden - Kamala Harris ticket in the race for President.
     The Biden-Harris manner of American leadership is equality for all -- regardless of economic status, race, gender, sexual persuasion or any other aspect of categories used to delineate one person from another. Voters can choose these candidates, McGhee said, to move forward.
     “Or we go backwards to a time,” McGhee warned, “that really differentiates us based upon our race, our class, our sexuality.”
     McGhee told listeners this is going to be the moment when all Democrats see this is not just a simple progressive movement, or a centrist movement, or a conservative movement. Instead, there is the graver reality that “this as a movement to save the United States of America as we currently know it.”
     McGhee captured the moment Sunday night, too, as he spoke about viewers who were in their homes, or even in their cars seeking a good Internet connection – where all gala attendees this year, across a wide area in space, were all together in the same cause.
     Listening and speaking about what must be done to bring about positive change, he continued, must be brought into action. Voters must vote.
     McGhee wants Florida to show the world that this is the defining state “that shapes the rest of the country for years to come.”
     He spoke words of appreciation and recognition to the Levy County Democratic Party, because while members of this political party are vastly outnumbered in registered voters, the Levy County Democrats did not “throw in the towel.”
     “You realize that just because it appears we are down and out,” McGhee said, “does not mean that we are forgotten. It does not mean that at least we can’t put forth a great effort to continue the fight.”
     Appearances should not -- and will not -- define who the Democrats in Levy County are, he said, “because what is inside of us is greater than that which is outside of us and is trying to conquer us.”
     Just as parents and pastors inspired Democrats when they were younger with stories about miraculously overcoming adversity, today’s voters don’t have to just be a footnote in a history book.
     “I want you to write that chapter,” McGhee said. “I want you to deliver that sermon. I want you to deliver that speech. It doesn’t matter whether you have $5 in the bank of $1 million locked away somewhere.
     “It just simply requires something that we all have in common,” he continued. “And that is a voice, an opportunity to pronounce words that change a nation. That’s what we need.”
     He went on to tell all Democrats in Levy County that while he may be speaking from Dade County at the minute, all Democrats in Florida are fighting the good fight are united in the noble effort to stop the man who is trying to break down the great union of the United States of America.
     As Americans, there are four things that McGhee has seen people fight for – they are the importance of family; the foundations laid for the future by actions of today; the flag of the United States of America, which symbolizes all that is good in this country of people who are brought together as one nation; and faith is among the things for which Americans will fight.
     McGhee said faith is the single most important thing to get America to the next level.
     Don’t lose faith, McGhee urged Democratic voters. The Founding Fathers of the United States, heroes of the Bible, community leaders seen every day throughout Florida, and good parents who spoke with their children at the dinner table -- all have shared messages of faith, he said.
     It is faith, McGhee said, that is going to bring America through this battle.
     The current President is one of the most diligent, deliberate destroyers of the United States Constitution that has existed in ages, McGhee said. The fight is not only for families today – but it is for the future of freedom in the country for decades to come.
     The four principles of faith, family, flag and the future serve as pillars, McGhee said, upon which all people in America rely. And these four things are among the reasons to vote for Democrats on Nov. 3, McGhee said.    

     United States Sen. Bill Nelson’s life of public service includes him as an active reservist in the military, as a Florida state legislator, as a member of the United States Congress and as a United States senator.
     Beyond that, he is among the few humans who has gone into outer space as an astronaut.
     Nelson shared with listeners that his family goes back five generations before him in Florida, back to 1829 – which is a time before the state was made part of the United States of America. Florida had been acquired from Spain as a territory in 1821, and it became a state in 1845.
     As for Levy County, Nelson visited Chiefland often even as a little boy. While in public office, he held town hall meetings in Fanning Springs and Cedar Key. He has gone to Bronson many, many times.
     Among his most recent visits was a well-attended campaign rally at the Suwannee River Youth Livestock Auditorium in Fanning Springs.
     The people of Levy County,” Nelson said, “are our kind of folks.”
     Nelson said he is grateful to the people of Levy County who have given him warm hands of support over the years when he was in public office.
     Nelson shared his perspective of why voters in America should choose Joe Biden as President of the United States.
     During this virtual gala by the Levy County Democratic Party, a clip from the National Democratic Convention was played, which showed a young man who had a stutter. The boy spoke about how Biden’s encouragement helped him overcome that difficulty, which Biden once suffered too.
     Nelson said this is one example of the honorable character of Biden.
     Biden can empathize with all people -- from the very young, who he will kneel to look at eye level, to the senior citizen who has a grandchild involved in war. Biden sees people with the eye of human compassion and empathy, Nelson explained.
     As Nelson shared a few stories about his friend Joe Biden, he gave examples to clearly reflect that Biden cares about other people. This is in stark contrast with the current President, who has unequivocally demonstrated a character flaw of being so narcissistic that he cares only about himself.
     “In public service,” Nelson said, “you need to serve the public – not serve yourself.”
     Biden understands this concept, Nelson said as he gave examples of that truth.
     In the 2012 campaign for reelection, Sen. Nelson had just left the University of Florida with President Barrack Obama and Vice President Biden. They were heading for a rally in Orlando, when the motorcade turned off from the Florida Turnpike.
     Sen. Nelson asked about what was happening. A Secret Service agent explained they were going to an ice cream shop located in the middle of The Villages, in Sumter County. Despite this being “pretty Republican territory,” that did not matter, Nelson said.
     Biden was buying ice cream for everyone. A crowd gathered outside, and the people were “getting a little rowdy,” Nelson said.
     The Secret Service agents were getting concerned and they wanted to move Biden back onto the campaign bus, Nelson said.
     “So, the task fell to me to go get him,” Nelson said. “I found Joe in the corner of the ice cream shop and he is talking to an elderly lady. He is totally focused on her.
     “And she is just pouring out her heart about how she’s so worried and so scared for her grandson that is in Iraq or Afghanistan. And Joe is just giving his total concentration to her – sensing everything that she’s feeling. (He was) telling her that the U.S. military is the best equipped, best-trained force.”
     Nelson said Biden’s comforting a person is typical – whether it is a little tike or whether it is a senior citizen, or any person between those generations.
     Another story Nelson shared about Biden was from just a few days ago, Nelson said on Sunday night.
     Biden went from a veterans’ event in Tampa, then to Orlando and on to Kissimmee to another event, Nelson said.
     Nelson and his wife Grace were asked to meet with Biden at an airport hangar, where all people were socially distanced and wore facemasks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Nelson said.
     A young woman was in the hangar. She was a student at Florida A&M University when Sen. Nelson and his wife Grace invited the young woman and others to an annual program on faith and values for college students. She was inspired to complete her undergraduate degree and then to further her studies to the point of earning a doctorate, Nelson said.
     She authored a book and wanted Vice President Biden to sign it for her that day.
     Biden met with the young lady and heard from her that she wanted him to sign the book she wrote, Nelson said.
     Biden then asked her to autograph her book to him, Nelson said, adding that Biden told her he would send her his book signed by him to her.
     This act mirrors the essence of being that exists in Biden, Nelson intimated.
     “I know him,” Nelson said of Biden. “I know him well. I had the privilege of serving with him in the Senate all those years, and to watch him as vice president. What you see is what you get. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a vice president turned President, who really cares about people.”
     It would give the American people comfort and confidence to have a President who the people know really cares about them, Nelson said, since he will be faced with many serious issues from the first day in office.
     Nelson reminded Democrats in Levy County that their vote could make the difference as Florida is weighed in on the Electoral College. Every vote counts in the presidential election.

     Florida Democratic Party First Vice Chair Mount said she is voting for “President Joe Biden,” whom she already is giving the win.
     With Biden serving as vice president to former President Obama for two four-year terms, Mount said she saw the loyalty and dedication of Biden through every moment when people would attack the President.
     Now, Mount said, Americans can choose a President who has loyalty, dedication and other fine qualities that have been missing from that office since the current officeholder occupied the Oval Office. 
     Mount said voters need to elect Biden to bring the good things back to the America that people used to know – with all of the pleasant attributes this country represented in the past.
     “America always has been great,” she said. “It may not have been great for some of us as we were going through the trenches of life, trying to get things going on a personal basis. No. But America is the greatest country in the world. That’s why we have the position of being the leaders of the free world.”
     For three and a half years now, every American voter should have been preparing himself of herself to vote on Nov. 3, 2020, Mount said, as this will be the day when voters “can help America get back to where we need to be.”
     Mount said any person who is not registered to vote, needs to do so now. All registered voters need to perform their civic duty and exercise that right this year.
     Beyond choosing Biden for President, Mount added, in every single space where there is a Democratic candidate, that is the person to choose. She urged people to literally drag their family, friends and neighbors to the polls to vote for Democrats.

     Bracy is a Democratic member of the Florida Senate, representing the 11th district, which includes central and northwest Orange County. He has served since 2016.
     He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2012 to 2016, representing the 45th district.
     Bracy mentioned that he was in that airplane hangar with Biden and Nelson recently. Bracy said everyone there could feel “the compassion and interest he (Biden) has for everyday human beings.”
     Biden will be a great President, Bracy said. It is imperative that each person utilizes their right to vote, he added.
     “Levy County,” Bracy said, “and counties like yours – even though they are ‘red’ counties, they matter. Sen. Nelson said it will make a difference in this election. I believe it’s going to be a razor-thin election.”
     Everyone needs to register to vote, and to check their voter registration, he added, “because we’re going to need all hands on deck in this election.”

     Bauman was introduced by Brandon Peters as being an expert on issues involving senior citizens.
     Bauman lives in California with his wife of 49 years – Mary, who recently retired. They have two children and three grandchildren, Peters said.
     Bauman has been active in campaigns for several years, crossing the nation from Alaska to South Florida and from Maine to California.
     Bauman, who just turned 73 years old about a week ago, entertained people with his music, including playing some classical pieces. He started his musical career with his mother encouraging him to practice piano with the material played by orchestras.
     Bauman was born in Brooklyn, New York. He started attending The Juilliard School at age 12 and is a 1964 graduate of Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village, Queens, New York City. Bauman was a member of the band Sha Na Na between 1970 and 1983. He was featured in the television comedy/variety show Sha Na Na from 1977 to 1981. In his "Bowzer" persona, he wore a sleeveless muscleman shirt and wore grease in his hair.
     When he performed at Carnegie Hall in 1972, his mother Bessie Bauman was in the audience, he said, as he sang Rama Lama Ding Dong. She called out to him, “Jonathan you’ve made it,” he said, because whether it was Chopan or Rama Lama Ding Dong, he was performing in Carnegie Hall.
     Frédéric François Chopin, who was born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin {March 1, 1810 – 17 Oct. 17, 1849} – was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for solo piano.
     Afterward at the merchandizing table in 1972, she signed souvenirs as “Bowzer’s Mother.”
     On Sunday night (Sept. 20), he performed some classical pieces. He concluded his part in Levy County Democratic Party’s Annual (Virtual) Blue Horizons Gala by performing a version of the song that was known as “Goodnight, Sweetheart – It’s Time To Go” from Sha Na Na, only he changed the lyrics.
     “Doo-doo de de do. Goodnight Donald Trump,” Bauman sang as he made his classic flexing of an arm muscle. “Well, it’s time to go. Doo-doo de de de. Don’t hate to leave you, but we must really say ‘Goodnight Donald Trump, goodnight.”
     He put in another sentence or so and ended his song with “Vote for Joe Biden.”


National wildlife hero
to accept award on Oct. 22;

This year’s winner is local
Vic Doig USFWS
Vic Doig enjoys some time in a boat on the Suwannee River.

Photo By Dan Frisk, USFWS

By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 17, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
Before choosing to be involved with the biology of wildlife and the environment where animals live, a man being honored with national recognition next month was on a track to serve in the dental profession.



Vic Doig USFWS
Vic Doig gives an educational presentation in Gainesville.
Photo by Larry Woodward, USFWS

Vic Doig USFWS
A light moment at the Refuge is caught on film.
Photo by Daniel Barrand, USFWS

Vic Doig USFWS
Active on the fireline
Photo by Anthony DiMaggio, USFWS

Vic Doig USFWS
Active on the fireline
Photo by Larry Woodward, USFWS

Vic Doig USFWS
Vic Doig checks the fire after a long day.
Photo by Larry Woodward, USFWS

     Speaking from the office at the United States Fish and Wildlife Services’ Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges headquarters in Levy County, a man scheduled to accept a national award shared insight about his life on Thursday morning (Sept. 17).
     Victor Doig, who prefers to go by “Vic,” is named and is scheduled to be recognized and awarded the country’s Outstanding 2020 Employee of the Year Award by the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Elaine Meier noted in an email on Sept. 14. Meier helped arrange an interview with the man who earned the national recognition.
     Doig is 56 years old, and he plans to celebrate his 57th birthday in October.
     Meier, the owner of Elaine Meier Associates LLC, in Florida, was named to the Board of Directors of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) based in Washington, D.C., in July.
     The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) is an independent non-profit 501c membership organization that works to conserve American wildlife by strengthening and expanding the 150-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
     In addition to his job as Fire Management Officer for the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges, Doig is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and promotes the protection of critical coastal birds nesting and feeding habitats. He will be presented his award at the NWRA’s Virtual Wildlife Refuge Awards event on Oct. 22, Meier noted.
     This award recognizes a current refuge employee whose accomplishments are judged to be the most outstanding of the candidates nominated, Meier noted.
     A resident of Gainesville, Doig worked for the State of Florida in wildlife management for 15 years. Originally from Ormond Beach, Doig graduated from the University of Florida with an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology. He earned a master’s degree in Wildlife Management from North Carolina State University.
     Prescribed burns at the national refuge are important for that habitat. In his role there, Doig made invaluable partnerships with organizations, sharing information, equipment, personnel and support. These relationships with outside organizations, have worked to promote the use of fire as an irreplaceable management tool to enhance the management of these critically important ecosystems.
     “We have witnessed dramatic improvements in managed habitats and wildlife diversity,” Deputy Refuge Manager Larry Woodward said. “Many of these astounding improvements are directly attributed to Vic’s innovative efforts in the field.”
     In his role as a Certified Wildlife Biologist, Doig promotes the protection of critical coastal birds nesting, feeding and loafing habitats. Loafing is when those birds are not actively feeding and they are free from human disturbance. As storm frequency and intensities increase in recent times, suitable nesting habitat for declining shorebird populations have been drastically impacted by flooding and erosion along the coast of Florida.
     Doig has been instrumental in leading a conservation partnership with federal, state, academic and local community resources developing a strategy in providing artificial nesting structures, Meier noted.
     “Vic consistently goes above and beyond what’s expected of his position for the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges,” NWRA President Geoffrey Haskett said. “His ability to take on a heavy workload and leverage his skills as a wildlife biologist make him critical to the preservation of wildlife that depend upon these Refuges.”
     Since 1994, the NWRA has helped to honor the outstanding accomplishments by refuge managers, refuge employees, volunteers, Friends groups, and refuge advocates through its Refuge System Awards program. The National Wildlife Refuge System depends on the dedication of its exceptional workforce and the devotion of its volunteers, Friends groups and advocates to manage the world’s largest network of lands and waters set aside for wildlife conservation, Meier noted.
     Doig’s award will be presented to him at the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s Virtual Wildlife Refuge Awards event on Oct. 22, from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. To register visit or call 202-577-3200.
     He spoke about several aspects of his life in relation to this first-ever virtual award scheduled for presentation.
     “It’s truly humbling and a bit embarrassing,” Doig said about this national honor to be bestowed upon him. “It’s absolutely a tremendous honor. I’m blown away by it. It was totally unexpected, and undeserved.”
     Doig said that rather than seeing this as an award for him, it is instead a reflection of the whole team effort from the labor put forth by all of his coworkers, the partners in other organizations, the volunteers at the refuge and others.
     It is the individuals in leadership posts, too, who make wildlife and habitat management possible, Doig added, and they are deserving of recognition.
     “They support a job I absolutely love and am passionate about,” Doig said of the leaders. “I’m just blessed to work with such awesome folks.”
     Among those leaders, Doig said, are Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges Deputy Refuge Manager Woodward and Manager Andrew Gude.
     Under the leadership of Gude and Woodward, this has made it possible for the employees at the Refuge to thrive in their various fields of service, Doig said. Doig has been at the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges for 17 years and these two gentlemen have been in the leadership roles for the past nine of those years there.
     Those leaders give Refuge employees what is needed to plan, produce and excel in the performance of their duties for the wildlife, habitat and for the visitors to this national Refuge. The leadership at the Refuge always has been good, Doig said, but these past nine years has provided leadership there that goes far above the bar. It is great.
     As for Doig’s current coworkers at the Refuge, which is in southeastern Dixie and northwestern Levy counties, there are seven to nine now. They, too, he said, are the best in their profession.
     “They are wonderful people,” Doig said of his colleagues.
     There was a time when the staff at this Refuge numbered 15, Doig said, however budget cuts in the last five years led to about a 50 percent reduction in force.
     “It’s a challenge when you lose so many folks,” Doig said. “Everybody has to wear more hats and do more stuff, because the work doesn’t go away” just because employees are removed from the workforce.
     Doig was slated to retire this year, he said, but instead he now plans to retire in December of 2021. His wife Jane recently retired from State Farm Insurance after 32 years, where she served as a senior insurance adjuster.
     When he retires, too, the couple plan to spend more time with grandchildren as well as to travel. His wife is a highly active volunteer now, and he intends to volunteer as well. They are bound for their home in Flagler Beach (Duval County).
     They both grew up on the East Coast of Florida. Doig said in addition to travel and seeing grandchildren more with his wife, he intends to volunteer at the state park there, and in the Turtle Patrol’s efforts to watch and help nesting sea turtles to be safer from human interaction on the beach.
     Beyond all that, Doig said he will continue to perform fire-oriented work. Not only does he plan to help in the prescribed burn activity at the Refuge in Levy and Dixie counties, but he will remain active in the wildfire fighting action, where he serves now.
     He will travel, as he does now, as needed across the United States to help fight fires.
     “I just got back from northern California,” Doig said, “and I’m waiting on orders to go out again – unknown where. I’m on an Incident Management Team (IMT).”
    This IMT is a “Blue Team” and it is a “Type One” set of firefighters.
     “My job on the team is as a field supervisor for fire crews,” Doig said.
     In that post, he must be out in the fray with the firefighters. While he is on the same ground as “the young guys,” his job is more in a supervisory capacity now than when he was one of those in that younger age range.
     “I’ve done for the last 31 years all of the jobs they are doing now,” he said. “So, I know how it is. My job now, first and foremost, is to keep the folks that are assigned to me – safe and productive.”
     Doig is happy to serve in this duty because he is dedicated and passionate about the profession.
     He admitted, nevertheless, that he is “a little long in the tooth to be scampering up and down the mountains.”
     After retirement, Doig sees his participating in another role in regard to the IMT – as a safety officer.
     Looking back in time, this national wildlife hero was on a different path before learning at the University of Florida.
     When he started UF, he was going to be a dentist. Taking classes with wildlife ecology as a major seemed good because of the science involved there, Doig said.
     During his freshman year at UF, Doig volunteered at the University of Florida College of Dentistry -- the dental school at UF.
     “I immediately decided I hated it,” he said. “At the same time, I just loved my wildlife biology classes – my techniques, my field classes. That’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
     As noted, after graduating UF he was a wildlife biologist with the state of Florida.
     “The single most effective, efficient and beneficial tool for wildlife management in the Southeast United States,” Doig said, “is prescribed fire (burns).”
     Over the next many years, he became an expert in this aspect of wildlife and habitat management.
     While his career migrated to put him in this post the most, his background and education, including his earning a master’s degree in Wildlife Management from North Carolina State University, makes him useful as a wildlife biologist at the Refuge.
     And his firefighting profession is not the limit in that regard either.
     Beyond the federal IMT responding to huge wildfire disasters, those teams have helped people when there have been hurricanes and floods as well. They can be called during any sort of incident that requires an emergency organized response.
     They even answered the call to Texas to help collect debris from the space shuttle Columbia disaster. The space shuttle Columbia was destroyed during reentry to Earth in 2003.
     “It’s not just fire,” Doig said, “although that is 80 percent of the workload or more.”
     As for advice to national refuge visitors, Doig said he wants people to enjoy them. These areas are little sections of what the landscape used to be.
     “But they are so important,” he said, “because they provide pristine natural habitat for all of the critters, that unfortunately, most private lands can’t provide – because of other management objectives.”
     The United States Fish and Wildlife Service tries to provide a place for habitat conservation, for any number of species – with a focus on the endangered and threatened, or species of special concern, he said.
     These Refuges are small examples of what the Earth used to look like, Doig said, before the wholesale manipulation by modern man. And so, these areas are to be enjoyed by visitors.
     On the broader view of life on Earth, Doig shared insight about the science of climate change.
     There is no question that the planet’s climate changes over time, he said. The changes over eons, or over geological time are documented. Now, though, over the last few decades, Doig said, scientists see more immediate results.
     For instance, the frequency, size and intensity of wildfires – particularly in the western United States – show a perfect example of climate change. California is showing the highest annual temperature, he said.
     “With that, comes bone-scorching drought,” Doig said. “With high temperatures and drought, you have an ignition source – be it humans or lightning, whatever, you get these tremendous fires.”
     Doig said that as recently as 20 years ago, a 100,000-acre fire would be absolutely unheard of.
     Nowadays, he continued, a 100,000-acre wildfire is common. He just left a 700,000-acre wildfire in California that as of now is only 30 percent contained.
     “It is unimaginable how big and fast, and ferocious and devastating this wildfire is,” Doig said. “And it’s only one of many that are burning.”
     This fire affects people, domestic animals, wildlife, homes, businesses and the smoke reaches even farther – even around the globe. The air quality is terrible because of the intensity of smoke.
     “Yeah, I think climate change is real.” Doig said. “And it’s having effects. Our hurricanes are more intense. I don’t know if it makes them more numerous, but I know it makes them intensify quicker because the average sea temperature is much warmer, and that heat is the gasoline – the fuel source for these hurricanes.”
     To deny climate change, Doig said, is avoiding the obviously clear truth by pretending that it does not exist. He said humans need to do something about it.
     Another piece of science has dampened this honor to be presented on Oct. 22.
     Rather than going to Washington, D.C., Doig and his wife are staying home. In the virtual presentation, he will receive the award while interacting via a computer either at the office for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges headquarters in Levy County, or from a computer at his home in Gainesville.
     Hence, a tour of the nation’s center for federal government must be considered at some point in the future by Doig and his wife. This future tour will happen after the act of visiting places like that are more normalized, in contrast with the situation during the COVID-19 global pandemic.


CF to offer CARES Act
scholarships for
short-term programs

By CF Marketing, Public and Community Relations
Published Sept. 12, 2020 12:10 a.m.
     OCALA –
The College of Central Florida is offering scholarships for short-term, in-demand programs intended to address the negative economic impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
     This effort is funded by a recent $505,000 Rapid Credentialing Grant award from the state of Florida as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Individuals who are out of work or who want to reskill or upskill may qualify to attend CF with no tuition expenses.
     The programs – which align with open positions in high-demand, high-wage jobs in our region – include Accounting Technology Specialist, Computer Information Data Specialist, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and Logistics and Transportation Specialist. The College Credit Certificate programs are for entry level students, range from 9 to 12 credits and can be completed in 18 weeks or less. They must be completed in spring 2021, though some may start earlier. Most are available fully online.
      “This grant presents a great opportunity for our students and for displaced workers to consider options that will help them start a new career,” said Dr. Mark Paugh, vice president of Academic Affairs. “Our area has so many high-demand jobs that need employees, and these programs can help someone earn a certificate fast and pursue a meaningful career.”
     CF will offer virtual information sessions on Sept. 15, Oct. 5, Oct. 21, Nov. 9, Nov. 20 and Dec. 2. Individuals who attend a session will have the $30 application fee waived. Details are available at Students may be eligible to receive additional funds for expenses such as uniforms and background checks, thanks to a partnership with CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion.
     The Rapid Credentialing Grant will also support a cohort of the Business Entrepreneurship College Credit Certificate program, offered in partnership with the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership and its IMPACT initiative for minority business owners; seats are limited. Students in the Emergency Medical Technician program in the spring may also qualify for the scholarship. The Critical Care Transport program supported by the grant is not available for free tuition and students must be a current paramedic or nurse to participate.


CF announces inaugural
William H. Jackson
Promise Scholarships

By Marketing, Public and Community Relations
Published Sept. 2, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
     OCALA --
The College of Central Florida has presented $50,000 in William H. Jackson Promise Scholarships to associate degree-seeking students for fall semester.
     Twenty-three students will receive $2,000 per academic year, and two students will receive full tuition and book scholarships, valued at nearly $4,000 per academic year.
     “The scholarships are named for William H. Jackson, the president of Hampton Junior College, which was one of the 12 historically black junior colleges in Florida. In 1966, Hampton Junior College merged with CF,” said Dr. Jim Henningsen, CF president. “In honor of President Jackson and to honor our history with Hampton Junior College, we have dedicated $50,000 annually in new student scholarships.
     “We are proud to support some of our highest achieving, high-need students with these scholarships,” said Henningsen. “The college is committed to providing education opportunities for our local students, who will become our business leaders, civic leaders, health care providers, educators and other professionals in the coming years. By investing in our students, we are investing in our community.”
     Jeremaih Evans and Kalis Stevens, both graduates of Vanguard High School, will receive the full tuition and book scholarships for 2020-2021.
     Evans is pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education. He has worked with children of all ages at Ocala First United Methodist Church, currently working with teachers in Ocala First Preschool during the week and leading Kids Church on the weekend.
     “I’m excited to begin studying early childhood education at the College of Central Florida. I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to receive this scholarship,” Evans said. “Since I was young, I’ve known I wanted to work with kids and this scholarship will help me reach that dream.”
     Stevens is pursuing an Associate in Arts with a goal of working in the medical field. She has been an active member of Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church for several years and volunteers with Sunday School, sings in the youth choir and is a member of the Teen Discovery Group. She participated in CF’s Project Eagle Summer Bridge virtual program in July.
     “I am very thankful to be the recipient of the WHJ scholarship. I am looking forward to starting my career in the medical field helping people the best way I can,” Stevens said. “The support that I am receiving from the College of Central Florida will allow me to focus on my studies without having the financial burden of paying for my tuition.”
     While all students are expected to maintain academic standards, the full tuition scholarship recipients also will meet with a mentor, attend student activity and engagement events as well as to speak with groups about their experiences.


First Published Feb. 1, 2011 at 8 a.m.
     On Feb. 1, 2011, came into existence on the Internet. On Nov. 1, 2011, The Christian Press section on The Life Page of started, which was about nine months after the start of the daily news website -- which officially began Feb. 1, 2011. The name "The Christian Press" was derived from an encounter a decade earlier in 2001 in St. Petersburg, when and where a man mentioned to a journalist that this particular journalist must work for "The Christian Press." Although the presumption by the man about that journalist was incorrect and misplaced, the name sounded good. And the journalist said that if he could work for The Christian Press, then that certainly would be the publication to serve.
     Since Nov. 1, 2011, The Christian Press section of this page has run daily devotionals from several individuals who contributed over the past years. There were two days in 2018 when the daily devotional did not run due to a journalist requiring emergency orthopedic surgery on broken bones in his left arm and wrist. That surgically added metal, though, makes that part of that arm even more able to withstand forces. Many daily devotionals are pulled from Strength for Service to God and Country (Whitmore & Stone © 1942; Renewed 1969 by Norman E. Nygaard; Second revised edition © 2002 Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, Providence House Publishers). The journalist who is a sole proprietor and owner of (Jeff M. Hardison) notes his appreciation for the use of those devotionals from that now-defunct publishing company, and for the many other contributors who have helped people over the past 10 years here now. This journalist welcomes contributions of daily devotionals. Daily devotional authors are asked to please send only their original works to Americans are reminded that all religions, having no religion and or being a person who endorses anti-religion are all protected as part of the freedoms from government intervention, as are other benefits from being an American.


Saturday, September 26, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.


Read Matthew 5:17-27

     Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
     But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
-- Matthew 5:21-22 (KJV)

     Jesus was never merely negative. The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest sermon ever delivered because of that fact. Again and again, Jesus substituted some positive demand for an old restriction. Jesus insisted that the old law was unalterably true, but He changed the emphasis from negative to positive. To accept Jesus’ interpretation would just about make over the conception of the religious life for most of us. Instead of, “Thou shalt not kill,” we have, “Thou shalt revere life.” The import of that is tremendous. Almost every relationship we have is included in it. Instead of, “You not only don’t talk about them; you do something for them.”
     “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” becomes, “Thou shalt think and act with purity always.” Negatives always limit, but the implications of positive conduct reach out in limitless ways.
     The last thing Jesus was trying to do was to make religion too easy. He challenged us to live by His inner spirit, not by any code that could be narrowed into words. The thing that must happen in us is a change of spirit, of disposition, and an inner sensitiveness to the voice and touch of God upon our hearts. The truth of Christ must go down deep in us until it gets under every thought and purpose.
     O LORD, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words for both time and eternity. Forgive us our casual acceptance of Thy truth when Thou hast given it to us as the very soul of our life. May we hear Thy voice and value Thy truth as timeless and final. And may we heed it for our own life and for every relationship with others. We make this prayer in Christ’s name. Amen.
The Rev. Peter Henry Pleune (1883-1943)
Highland Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky

Strength for Service to God and Country
(Whitmore & Stone © 1942; Renewed 1969 by Norman E. Nygaard; Second revised edition © 2002 Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, Providence House Publishers)


Outdoor Truths Ministry

By Gary Miller © Sept. 21, 2020 at 8:10 a.m.

     The opening day of deer season was always a special day for me. I can remember counting down the days and even being unable to sleep the night before. I can remember hunting in a downpour and in the hottest of days. It seemed no matter how uncertain the circumstances were, I was willing to get up early and make my way to a tree stand because that fourth Saturday of September was opening day, no matter if the weather cooperated or not. And while I could not predict any other thing with confidence, I could mark my calendar around this certainty.
     Years ago, I took a big step of faith. I left a position I had held for many years. I had finally reached a place where I was living on a decent salary with good benefits. But I felt the need to move to a new position where I would have neither. I would have to trust God for everything. I can remember many days, especially early on, where the circumstances around my life on one day were great and, on another day, seemed hopeless. As a result, I began to live on an emotional roller coaster. When things looked good, I was happy and when things looked bad, I fretted, worried and complained. I can remember the day God exposed my problem. In a not-so-gentle way, He showed me where I was putting my trust. And it wasn’t in Him. And in so many unspoken words, He reminded me the reason I was on an emotional roller coaster was because I was putting my trust in things that constantly change. And if I continue to ride that roller coaster, I will stay emotionally sick at my stomach. He reminded me that my eyes were to focus on the One who is not only as consistent as opening day, but who holds every circumstance and situation in his hands. I can put my trust in the changing winds and waves, or I can put my trust in the unchanging anchor of my soul.
     The times we are living in right now are fluid. They are changing. Many of the circumstances we are in are not of our doing. Many of the situations we have been forced to endure are making many of us fret, worry, and complain. We think if we could just change our circumstances, our problems would be solved – we would be happy. We think if we could just manipulate the conditions of our country, our problems would be solved – and we would be happy. So, as a result, we ride an emotional roller coaster. When the circumstances are good, we are. When they are not, we are not. I know you want things to change. You should. I know you want to work to help rectify the situation. You should. But if all these things are causing you to go from mood to mood, it’s a good sign you are putting your trust in changing circumstances and not in an unchangeable God.

 -- Gary Miller

Gary Miller has three books that are compilations of the articles he has written for nearly 15 years. He also speaks at game dinners and men’s groups for churches and associations.
Gary Miller's website is located at

SATURDAY  SEPT. 26  3:10 p.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties

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