Memoirs of Mountains, in Light of Psalm 148

SANGRE DE CRISTO RANGE in Colorado, near Westcliffe (photo credit: Steven Garufi)

satellite image showing Sangre de Cristo Range (and Westcliffe) in Colorado

Memoirs of Mountains, in Light of Psalm 148

Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps; fire, and hail; snow, and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling His word; mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars; beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl; kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth; both young men, and maidens; old men, and children.  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven. (Psalm 148:7-13)


SANGRE DE CRISTO RANGE in Colorado, near Westcliffe (photo credit: Steven Garufi)

All of creation honors the Lord, one way or another, yet we humans can honor Him consciously and voluntarily and gladly. And we can appreciate His glorious Creatorship – including the majesty and splendor of mountain ranges (such as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado) as we honor Him!  For many summers, throughout the past couple decades, my family has gone to the Sangre de Cristo range, outside of Westcliffe, for a mix of recreation and revival.  Even now I can remember those good times as I reflect on how wonderful God is.



The Rocky Mountains are fun to hike,

Or ride a horse, or maybe bike;

What a landscape! Oh, what views!

To hike’s a joy – like good news!

The Rocky Mountains, I surely like.

(See also my poetic record of adventures hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire  —  posted at —  summarizing a weekend along the Appalachian Trail.)

Striving for Peer Approval, King Saul Falls from his ‘High Horse’

Striving for Peer Approval (and Stardom), King Saul Falls from his ‘High Horse’

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Envy and strife cause so much needless folly and tragic trouble.

Jealous Saul strives against David, to destroy David, but God providentially protects David.

Seeking Popularity and Vainglory Leads to Foolish Strivings

Haughty Saul, atop his “high hoss”,
Was so proud, of how he was “boss”;
David’s fans were so zealous,
That Saul became jealous —
Saul’s envy led to his own loss.

And the women answered one another, as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his 1000s, and David his 10,000s. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he [i.e., Saul] said, They have ascribed unto David 10,000s, and to me they have ascribed but 1000s; and what can he have more but the kingdom? (Quoting 1st Samuel 18:7-8 — see also, accord, 1st Samuel 21:11 & 1st Samuel 29:5)

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:16)

Some things don’t change all that much – certainly it is a timeless truth that “envy and strife” produce “confusion” and all kinds of trouble” (James 3:16). Even nowadays, in plain view, we see many examples of this tragic-but-true reality. And yet how ironic it is that David was so much more qualified to lead than Saul, his detractor, was. Although Saul seems, from outward appearances to be “head and shoulders” above his “peers” (an early example of how “peer review” is often an unreliable “veneer review”), it was David whom God recognized as qualified for carrying the responsibility of leadership (compare 1st Samuel 9:2 with 1st Samuel 16:7). Picking the flashy crowd-pleaser for leadership may seem like a “natural selection” (pardon the pun), but God makes intelligent and purposeful selections, based on His brilliant wisdom and moral judgment.

If we really understand our uniqueness as God’s creatures we won’t quickly fall for competitive strife and jealousy, trying to one-up someone else whose God-given assignments in life don’t belong to us anyway. Appreciating our own uniqueness, as God’s created and redeemed children, can help us to enjoy a life accented by gratitude and contentment.(1)

Peer pressure, whether it comes from singing “fans” or so-called “peer review”(2), is anchored in seeking to please other humans to gain “fame” and “popularity”, i.e., the approval of their peers.(3)  But that motive clashes with prioritizing God’s honor and approval (see John 5:44 & Ephesians 6:6).


(1) See “Of Grackles and Gratitude”, Acts & Facts, 41(7):8-10 (July AD2012), posted at  —  and “Valuing God’s Variety”, Acts & Facts, 42(9):8-10 (Sept. AD2012), posted at .

(2) “Forensic Science Frustrated by ‘Peer Review'”, Acts & Facts, 44(2):18 (February AD2015), posted at .

(3) See also “Saul, a Tall Man, Short on Faith”, my earlier limerick blogpost posted at .

Trump Rejects the False Alarmism of the ‘Paris Climate Accord’ Scam

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22)



Dr. James J. S. Johnson

While ‘global warming’ scams try to scare us
Obama signed a bad deal to snare us
A hoax on emissions
For crooked ambitions
But Trump dumped the agreement of Paris!

COMMENTARY:  As Genesis 8:22 indicates, God has established seasonal cycles that we can depend upon, allowing limited variety in climate, contained within bounds of resilience and regularity. At times the earth gets warmer (like the Medieval Warm Period, when the Viking Age flourished); at other times it cools (like the Little Ice Age, when the Hanseatic League saw its monopoly dissipate). But it is both empirical dishonesty (i.e., science fiction, mobilized by political funding) and quixotic silliness to suggest that mere mortals can change global climate patterns – much less control them! Yet such fake science is used to rationalize power-grabbing politics, with economic disasters imposed upon the so-called “little people”. Thankfully, President Trump batted one such scam away – as if striking it with a hockey stick – when he announced (on June 1st of AD2017) that America was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. One more victory for truth and justice – a win for America, for real-world science, and genuine “social justice”.

Fair Use photo credit (President Trump keeping campaign promises): Daily Signal

Political cartoon spoofing Obama’s “global warming” alarmism:  Branco

Why Kangaroo Rats Don’t Get Dehydrated in the Desert

Behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. (Jeremiah 50:12b)

DESERT SCRUBLAND near EL PASO, TX photo credit: Pinterest

Kangaroo rats thrive in America’s hot, dry deserts —  so why don’t they suffer from being dehydrated?  How do they get enough water to survive, since they don’t need to drink water like almost all other mammals?

In short, God has designed and constructed kangaroo rats so that they get their water from their food, especially drought-resistant seeds that abound in the desert.  As they digest such xeric foods, the rats produce (within themselves) all the water that they need, metabolically (i.e., from the normal digestion process), and they retain most of that water by releasing very little of it in their urine (as noted below).

In sum, kangaroo rats are made to get their water form their food and to conserve it better than other animals do.   (In this respect the kangaroo rat is much like a camel.)

The kangaroo rat is a rodent, but it is unlike any other rodent on Earth: it is able to survive in the desert with virtually no drinking water. The camel is the only other mammal that can match this feat…. This humble creature lives in the desert regions of North America … [with] a large head and eyes, short forelimbs and long hind limbs, and a body that ranges in length from 10 to 16 cm (4 to 6.5 in). They can jump up to 1.8 m (6 ft) in a single leap. Like [kangaroos], the kangaroo rat balances on its hind legs and hops. But that’s where the similarity ends. Kangaroo rats live in burrows by day, foraging by night for seeds, leaves and other vegetation, and carrying food in their cheek pouches to store in their underground homes. They also occasionally eat insects. But how is it possible to live with virtually no drinking water? What makes the kangaroo rat different from other mammals, which would die within days in the desert without water? The answer lies mainly in the rat’s kidneys [maximally concentrating urine, minimizing water loss]. Research has shown that the kangaroo rat produces the most concentrated urine of all mammals, and only passes a few drops per day. Humans drink a lot of water, and also gain moisture through food. As such, our urine is quite dilute. Kangaroo rats, on the other hand, take in very little water and so produce urine that is even more concentrated than that of the camel (which also concentrates its urine to survive without water). This means that the kangaroo rat loses little water in its urine. Scientists have marvelled at how the kangaroo rat’s kidney works. The study of this organ—in particular the Loop of Henle, which enables the concentration process to take place—has led to a better understanding of how human kidneys work. The kangaroo rat’s Loop of Henle is much longer than that of other rodents.  [Quoting Paula Weston, Creation Ex Nihilo, 26(3):18-20 (June 2004).

KANGAROO RAT, Sonoran Desert (Pinterest photo credit)

God cleverly designed this water-conserving rat’s kidney system to fit and to “fill” desert habitats!

The kangaroo rat … probably never takes a drink in its entire life time. In captivity, it lives nicely on just barley seeds. Carbon dioxide, water, and energy-release are the results of the [oxidative] combustion of fuel [such as gasoline]. As oxygen combines with carbohydrates, carbon dioxide is formed from the burning of the carbon atom[-based hydrocarbon or carbohydrate molecules], and water is formed from leftover hydrogen atoms. In like manner, the metabolism which powers living animals produces carbon dioxide, water, and energy-release. This metabolic water, if conserved, is sufficient to meet the needs of many small rodents. These rodents retreat to burrows during high temperature, thus keeping evaporation [of water] to a minimum. They have very efficient kidneys, which produce a urine relatively low in water concentration, and they produce very dry feces. Their ability to exist on metabolic water (probably along with licking up some dew [when available]) means that they have no need for drinking water. Some foods—seeds, in particular—are especially good at allowing the formation of metabolic water and … they are abundant in the desert. Parts of the North American desert have been found to contain from 5,000,000 upwards to 100,000,000 seeds per acre. One kangaroo rat was found to have over 900 seeds tucked away in his cheek pouches. Caching [i.e., storing] seeds appears to be a compulsive habit of many arid-country rodents. In deserts characterized by continually shifting sand and dunes, some insect species live their entire lives under the sand, existing solely on organic matter, including seeds which have blown in and been covered. [Quoting John Meyer & Kenneth Cumming, “Biology of Grand Canyon”, in GRAND CANYON: MONUMENT TO CATASTROPHE (Santee, CA: ICR, 1994), page 163.]

KANGAROO RAT photo credit:

But, the kangaroo rat can’t retain water until he gets it — so it’s vital that the little rat gets enough nutritious seeds for metabolically producing water, via digestion.  Notice how critical desert-surviving seeds are, to the kangaroo rat’s diet.

There are a number of mechanisms used by plants to help them adapt to [i.e., ecologically fill niches in] the dry conditions of the desert. Some flowers succeed by sheer opportunism, only germinating , flowering, and seeding every ten years or so when the conditions [for progressing through their life cycles] are right. Went [i.e., botanist Frits Warmolt W. Went] writes: ‘Probably their most remarkable feature is that they are perfectly normal plants, with no special adaptations [sic] to withstand drought. Yet they are not found outside the desert areas. The reason lies in the peculiar cautiousness of their seeds. In dry years the seeds lie dormant. This itself is not at all amazing; what is remarkable is that they refuse to germinate even after a rain unless the rainfall [such as rains during rare desert flashfloods] is at least half an inch, and preferably an inch or two.’ In fact, [because] living organisms are designed by a Perfect Engineer, they should reflect not only the best possible solution to various problems presented by the environment, but also utilize the most efficient solutions—those expending the least amount of energy and materials while producing the exact degree of performance required by the organism, and, at the same time, with little or [in a pre-Fall world] no waste.  [John Meyer & K. Cumming, “Biology of Grand Canyon”, in GRAND CANYON: MONUMENT TO CATASTROPHE (Santee: ICR, 1994; Steve Austin, general editor), page 159.]

Next time you see a kangaroo rat in the desert — or think of one — be amazed at God’s providential design and construction of the little rodent!  God has made sure that the little hopper gets (and keeps) enough water to survive, even in the hot and dry deserts, such as the Chihuahuan Desert lands of far West Texas, or even in southern California’s Death Valley wilderness.

O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.  (Psalm 63:1)



James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, CNHG

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (PROVERBS 15:1)

King Magnus was Harald’s nephew,
But Harald claimed royal right, too;
Harald’s might was well-known,
So he soon shared the throne —
Thus, the co-kings of Norway were two.

Of the other, each king was jealous,
They both, for glory, were zealous;
Once, for a dock spot…
King Magnus got hot!
(At least, that’s what Snorri would tell us.)

“Weapons!” – Magnus’ men went to arm!
But Harald foresaw needless harm;
Harald yielded his space,
Found a new “parking” place,
And withdrew – with a diplomat’s charm.

‘Twas not that Harald feared, to fight,
Nor was timid, to cast a sound-bite;
Though Harald was strong,
The showdown was wrong —
So (for now) he backed down, from the slight.

“Harald parked first!” — someone prattles,
“Ja, let’s fight!” — a sword soon rattles;
But ignoring the nuisance,
King Harald used prudence;
Said Harald:  “you must pick your battles.”
><>  JJSJ

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. (PROVERBS 16:32)

COMMENTARY: One of the tense moments, during the unesay co-kingship of Magnus and Harald Hardrada, occurred when Hardrada “parked” his boat in the best docking spot. Oalf insited that Hardrarad move his boat to allow Olaf to “park” there. Before a fight broke out Hardrada conceded to Olaf’s haughty demand – although, interestingly, Olaf died (maybe accidently) soon afterwards, leaving Harald Hardrada as sole king of Norway.

How did this situation arise? Norway’s King Magnus (“the Good”) Olafsson was the illegitimate son of Norway’s King Olaf II (“the Holy”), but he did not promptly ascend to the throne at his father’s death. Rather, Magnus then fled Norway — and the Norwegian kingdom was ruled by the powerful Knut the Great (a/k/a “Canute”, who ruled Norway, Denmark, and England, till he died in AD1035); Knut was himself son of Denmark’s King Sveyn Forkbeard, who was son of the famous Viking Harald Bluetooth, king of Denmark and Norway. After Knut died in AD1035, Magnus immediately became king of Norway – and in AD1042 added the kingdom of Denmark to his realm. However, during AD1046, the wealthy Norwegian Viking Harald Hardrada returned from his exploits in Russia (and in the Byzantine Empire, where he had also been adventuring, for years), and Hardrada demanded a rulership interest in Norway, considering his own claim to the Norwegian throne to be superior to that of King Magnus (Hardrada’s nephew). A co-kingship arrangement was negotiated, so that Norway was jointly ruled by King Magnus and (co-king) Harald Hardrada, with Olaf having first rank of the pair. Friction and jealousy routinely infected the relationship, or course, and – ironically – Magnus died in late AD1047, with the cause of his death still being questioned. King Harald Hardrada himself died in battle, at Stamford Bridge, on 25 September, AD1066, while trying to invade England. Harald Hardrada’s linear descendants include England’s King James I, sponsor of the KING JAMES BIBLE.  (See JJSJ’s “Impact of Norway’s King Harald Hardrada on the British Isles”, posted at ), with further information on Hardrada’s family lineage (through King Somerled’s progeny) being reported within JJSJ’s “To Globally Sow His Word, Did God Use Vikings?”, posted at .)

For more on the Viking history of Norway’s co-kings Olaf and Harald Hardrada, see pages 67-77 of Snorri Sturluson’s KING HARALD’S SAGA: HARALD HARDRADI OF NORWAY (Penguin Classics, 1966, a translation by Magnus Magnusson & Hermann Pálsson, of part of Sturluson’s HEIMSKRINGLA: HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF NORWAY).   This episode form Viking history illustrates the timeless wisdom of PROVERBS 15:1 & 16:32, i.e.:  “Pick your battles” strategically;  don’t just fight over a parking spot!



Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words [of Scripture] that were declared unto them.  (Nehemiah 8:12)


“Aw, shucks!” Some people actually celebrate shucks – shucking oysters, to be specific. Oyster shucking competitions are a time-honored tradition in the coastal areas surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.  [For youtube video, illustrating an oyster-shucking competition, see . To learn how to shuck oysters, see “Oyster 101 with Rickey Lee, the World’s Fastest Shucker”, posted at .]

As the quote from Nehemiah (above) shows, there is a time to celebrate with food and drink — and enjoying the privilege of having God’s Word is certainly a proper occasion for celebrating.  And, if it’s available, the feasting aspect of such celebration could include the delectable mollusk we call OYSTERS!

Of course, shucking oysters (without hurting yourself) is an art that requires tactile skill, but the real fun, for most oyster enthusiasts, is in the eating, as Lara Lutz reported in September of AD2016.

The first time that George Hastings entered the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Contest in St. Mary’s County [Maryland], he didn’t win. But his bright blue eyes were set on the prize. I knew right then I’d be clearing my schedule every third weekend in October and going to St. Mary’s County”, Hastings said. “I told myself, ‘I’m coming here till I win this thing.’”

That was in 1994, and Hastings has lined up at the shucking table every year since. He won twice, first in 1999 and again in 2003, and represented the United States at the world “oyster opening” championship in Ireland. He’s become an enthusiastic ambassador for the homegrown festival that hosts the St. Mary’s contest and part of the regular crowd that travels from across the region and across the nation to enjoy comradery, competition and good food.

“It’s a family-oriented fair atmosphere, with something for everybody, young and old”, Hastings said. “And oysters, any way you like them – you’ll find them there.”

Quoting from Lara Lutz, “Keep on Shuckin’ – St. Mary’s Oyster Festival Draws Fans from Across United States”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 26(6), September 2016 issue (BAY JOURNEYS insert), page 4.


Thankfully, the rising industry (and art) of oyster aquaculture has been replenishing the supply of oysters for America’s East Coast, especially the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica), so that oyster festivals need not worry that oyster-craving festival visitors will go away hungry and disappointed.  (Ibid.)The wild oyster populations have been seriously challenged, however, for generations now, by a vicious combination of over-harvesting (especially by dredging) and habitat pollution (especially due to untreated sewer wastes that poison estuarial waters used by filter-feeders such as oysters).

Regarding the sometimes extreme controversies involving oyster-harvesting watermen, see John R. Wennerstein’s THE OYSTER WARS OF CHESAPEAKE BAY (Washington, DC: Eastern Branch Press, 2007), which chronicles the “surf wars” (which have sometimes involved bullets and even howitzers!) over Chesapeake Bay oysterbeds.

Regarding the tragic demise of wild oysters that succumbed to inundating sewerage waste pollutants (including industrial/chemical wastes) from New York City, see Mark Kurlansky’s THE BIG OYSTER: HISTORY ON THE HALF SHELL (New York, NY: Random House, 2006).

The efforts and politics of oyster aquaculture, striving to protect the Chesapeake bay’s “white gold” populations and industry, are described in Kate Livie’s CHESAPEAKE OYSTERS: THE BAY’S FOUNDATION AND FUTURE (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2015).


Back to the National Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where they don’t intend to run out of oysters – at least not anytime soon. Lara Lutz summarizes the oyster-shucking, oyster-snacking celebrations as follows: “The National Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County [Maryland] is an annual celebration of the Chesapeake [Bay] oyster harvest.” (Ibid.) But how did this annual tradition originate?

The 50th National Oyster Festival takes place this year [i.e., in AD2016, when Lara Lutz wrote the article being here quoted] Oct. 15-16, at the county fairground in Leonardtown [Maryland]. The annual gathering is one of the oldest [festivals] in the Chesapeake region, created and still sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lexington Park.

It was a one day event back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s [i.e., AD1960s and AD1970s]”, said David Taylor, Rotary member and former festival administrator. “At the first festival, they claimed they had 1,000 people, and it was $2 for all you can eat[!].” The festival now draws approximately 15,000 people, with more than 75 artists and nonprofit organizations showcasing displays and items for sale, including oyster prepared in just about any way possible.

There are activities for children, including small carnival rides, and a nonstop variety of live music on two stages. “It’s grown from a little festival that attracted a lot of locals to a prominent regional if not national festival”, Taylor said. Visitors and participants have come from as far as Washington state, Oregon, Colorado, Louisiana and Florida. In the ‘90s [i.e., AD1990s], an RV group from Buffalo [New York] stopped by on their way south every year.” “There’s a loyalty to it”, Taylor said. “It’s grown in size but the purpose remains the same – to celebrate the opening of oyster season in the Chesapeake Bay.”

Oysters, of course, are the main event. The festival serves up approximately 150,000 oysters each year, and the shells are used to regenerate oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay. Raw and cooked oysters abound, although seafood and other Southern Maryland specialties are on the menu too. You can purchase oysters from vendors or sample top-notch recipes during cooking contests and demonstrations. Fried oysters served by the St. Mary’s County Watermen’s Association are always popular. In the Tasting Room, which was introduced in 2015, you can sample the difference between the various farm-raised [i.e., aquaculture-produced] and wild-caught oysters that are available in St. Mary’s County. . . .

The festival is also home to the National Oyster Cook-Off, which began in 1980. Hundreds of recipes are submitted every year, but only nine are selected to compete. Professional chefs judge the results, and the crowd selects a “People’s Choice”. Submitted recipes are compiled in an annual cookbook, and this year’s festival will include a commemorative collection of grand champion recipes from each year of the cook-off.

The shucking contest includes divisions for men and women. Contestants come from across the country, and the two winners [i.e., the victorious man and the victorious woman] face off to [see who will] become the U.S. Oyster Shucking Champion. Louisiana shuckers have won five times. There’s an amateur round for those with lesser skills, and all ages get in on the action. [A lot more details about the festival follow.]

Quoting from Lara Lutz, “Keep on Shuckin’ – St. Mary’s Oyster Festival Draws Fans from Across United States”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 26(6), September 2016 issue (BAY JOURNEYS insert), pages 4 & 12.


Ironically, the U.S. Oyster Festival in Southern Maryland is not the oldest oyster festival in the Chesapeake Bay region – because the Urbanna Oyster Festival, in Virginia, is 9 years older than the Southern Maryland oyster festival in Leonardtown. (Ibid.)

For current information on the Urbanna Oyster Festival , check out  —  a very informative website.  (In AD2017 the 60th Annual Urbanna Oyster Festival is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, November 3rd & 4th.)

For similar information on the one in Leonardtown, Maryland, see  and .    The latter website summarizes the shucking contest as follows:

All oyster shucking contestants are timed. The speed of shucking 24 oysters is a key component of the contest. Presentation of the shucked oysters, however, is also very important. Seconds are deducted from the shucking time for improperly shucked oysters or those showing less than perfect presentation. Thus, the winners need to be fast, but also must pay attention to the appearance of the oysters they shuck. After judging is complete each contestant shares his or her oysters with the spectators in the stands.

(In AD2017 this event is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, October 21st and 22nd.)

Because the Urbanna Oyster Festival (in Urbanna, Virginia) is held in early November, about a half-month after the one in Leonardtown (Maryland), there is no calendar competition between the two oyster festivals. If you missed both of them – well, shucks! Maybe you can attend one in the near future. Music at these events is a mix – folk guitar, reggae, whatever – so you can shuck and jive.   ><>  JJSJ


PHOTO CREDITS:  oyster shucking, oysters cooking, & St. Mary’s County fairgrounds map (with event labels) adapted from  .



James J. S. Johnson

going-shopping-livestock-show-analogyHow quickly my energy fails

When ‘pressed to go to estate sales,

So “we” shop near and far

(While I sit in the car)

Guess I’m not much for estate sales.

COMMENTARY:    See 1st Peter 3:7 (“likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [each one of you his own wife] according to knowledge …”).   Going to estate sales, or garage sales, or shopping malls, or warehouse sales, etc., etc., is not my idea of having fun — but my wife often enjoys that kind of shopping.  Sometimes I am “needed” to carry heavy purchases to the car.  (On the other hand, I have some habits that my wife tolerates, despite her reduced level of enthusiasm for those habits.)  But part of knowing my wife, and dwelling with her, involves going to estate sales (sometimes), etc. — even so, I routinely take a book to read, plus paper and pen, just in case I think up a limerick (like this one), or I just take a nap.