The Real Deal

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I had to take a picture of this intimidating project

My neighbor shot a framing nail through his hand (between the knuckles) on his DIY project a couple of days ago. He obviously cannot do much for awhile. What would you do?

I have more than some experience in building projects. What would you say I should do?

Answers I have weeded out so far: 1) I’ll pray for you. 2) “What a bummer man” (yes we are products of the 70’s era). 3) Were you drinking again? 4) Well. I’ll put you on the church prayer chain (I might without his knowledge).

This is real life. I have an ongoing daily walk with God but my neighbor admits he personally does not like “religious people” for a long list of (sad and real) reasons. He likes us as neighbors and hopes our house does not sell so we stay put. So, how far does one go for his neighbor?

One of my favorite quotes; “The Bible is clear here: I am to love my neighbor as myself, in the manner needed, in a practical way, in the midst of the fallen world, at my particular point of history. This is why I am not a pacifist. Pacifism in this poor world in which we live — this lost world — means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.”
― Francis A. Schaeffer

Consider this; I do not even consider “religious reasons” to be a factor in how I treat people. Let’s face it, we are who we are and the core of our being is tested by those around us every day. Who are we and who are we becoming? Does what we say, do and post on facebook draw people into becoming more like Jesus? most everyone except for the religious flock liked Jesus.

If Christ lives in us, His unstoppable unimaginably infinite love will go to great lengths to shove our plans aside to help our neighbor in need.

So, guess what I am doing besides helping? Ya, I have asked a couple of guys (who are on their church prayer chain) to lend a hand. I am scouring the neighborhood for some more equipment (a monster fork lift as my back won’t take carrying the shingles up this long of a ladder). And…We are having some great conversations. I would like to think this is in part who Christ wants me to be.

(Matthew 5:40-42)         40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Now, The story behind the story

One of my last morning times in the word was from John 21:15-17  Jesus points to the pile of fish on the shore and said to Peter “Do you love me more than these? Hey, I love fishing and move my schedule and priorities around to be fishing, so this is how God set me up. This is an example of how he communicates through His word. In my devotions and prayer time last week I had already said yes to my neighbor. My neighbor didn’t ask, God did before it happened. This is the real deal and I will get some more wood slivers, find muscles I didn’t know were there and catch less fish. What an adventure following Jesus. I told my neighbor three hands were better than one after asking how his gimpy one was doing.

I can’t wait to hear all your real life stories in the re-telling around the campfire in eternity. Not that we have done anything great but what God has done in and through us. I want you and my neighbor to be there! I am really praying for him, hammer in hand and fishing rod in the garage.

Gary

 

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Love Potion 3:16

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Different: What if you were the only one?

He stained our planet with His blood.

He Killed Death.

His Love permeated all time and space.

If the force of love could be measured  it would have shattered the Richter Scale at the cross

Jesus Christ

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation (new species…italics.. my words) has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If you claim to be “in Christ” that means He lives “in you”. It’s fair for the whole world to say “well then, where’s the Love?”.

 Oh that we are becoming more like Christ daily.

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A Word Worth a Thousand Pictures

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This picture is worth a thousand words, but…

Words are often cheap, thrown around casually as if in endless supply. words can power and leverage others with only thought of result. Words can change another’s world. Words leave in their wake no mystery of character image. Words flowing from a pure spring are clean and refreshing. Words with even a trace of dirt taint the taste for more.

I have been thinking of a word worth a thousand pictures to turn about the common phrase (a picture is worth a thousand words). In a split second I can think of this one word and a thousand pictures that go with each time I have used it at major times in my life,

Yes   

The word is yes. A word that begets yes after yes. Yes is direction. commitment direction, direction of duty, character development direction and a thousand thousand pictures splayed through a life of continuous yes.

Think about a life of “YES” to God,  This means a continuous “YES” to your Spouse, “YES” to your neighbor and yes the pictures are rolling in. We have stories to tell. Great stories that will be told in eternity.

Think about “Yes” to our self only. You see much different pictures. I always picture George and his wife (past friends of ours) as she put his suitcase on the front porch when he came home from work and said “Choose between me and cocaine. If you choose me we flush all your drugs and you can carry your suitcase inside and stay. If you choose Cocaine, take the suitcase and go and you will never see me again.” George took the suitcase and ran. This “YES” to cocaine has been the saddest thousand pictures for me personally.

Please say a continuous “YES” to Jesus. The pictures and stories in eternity will be better than any epic movie made by man. Amen?

GARY

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Fade Away Beauty

Question: Is your Life Beautiful?

All of life is a progression. Ebb and Flow happen (Ebs and Flows is also a blog by Nick and other contributors) constant change, grow and die. These thoughts always come to mind as the sun bs and flows i. It seems that the most beautiful sunsets do not last very long. I only hope for five minutes to capture some good images on camera. Some call me a sunset junky with a camera and it’s close to an addiction I suppose but the thoughts a sunset stimulate can literally capture ones whole life in those five minutes.  Take a look at a recent view a few feet out our front door where we live in the northern Wisconsin.


On the one hand God creates such beauty. No sunset is the same and every image is different of the same sunset. God has given us, as part of his image, the ability to feel His Beauty emotion as we gaze upon something so common as a sunset. For us it happens once a day. Jesus as human, experienced the sun rise and sunset.

I see a sunset as a part of dying. The day is over and in a sense our life will have one last sunset. Some lives are beautiful to the end and finish well. Other lives are shrouded by the clouds of surviving life and busyness. There is a beauty that exudes even from the most pain wracked follower of Jesus. Beauty that burnishes the cloudiest day. Both you and I have seen those warriors ready for the time travel of their life. I saw it in my mom before she left.

Rather than trying to get deep here I leave you with a simple thought given a long time ago to Gods people …”But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Our nation has all kinds of gods that we have created. In many ways the sun is setting and our beauty has faded. Pray for Revival anyone? Only God can fix it one life at a time.

Choose with me each day to serve the Lord. May we be a light in the darkness until our last beautiful fading sunset…Gary

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Exponential Brain Illustration

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How do we learn?  Teaching a grand daughter to fish. Picture by my Daughter Tracy Demarse

We are born with a brain in the physical sense. I am told that most of us only use a few percentage points of our brains capacity through out our lives. Huh! Funny word “capacity” . I picture a livestock water tank (from growing up on the farm) that can hold 200 gallons of water and most of us put in 10 gallons our whole life.

Reality check here. The brain is actually closer to being a water balloon with growing expansion room as we grow.  Yes, it matters what you put into it! “But wait, there’s more” (to quote the overused commercials).  Way more!

What if the brain grew more capacity as it was used? what if capacity (and it does) grows exponentially in the areas used? What if we were created in the image (and we are) and likeness (how much do you know about His likeness?) of God? That part of us that can have a close relationship with our creator and be-becoming like Him in proportion.

Here is my story…and a spiritual illustration.

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Trying to get a grand son interested….this is going to take some work

When I was 11 years old a saw blade came off a machine and cut both my arms to the bone, cutting off the main nerves to the rest of the arms, hands and fingers. As I tried to function somehow a doctor told my mother I needed to either play the piano or learn to type; and do it a lot. I now had Hope to be able to use my fingers past being clothespins on the end of my hands. I chose piano. It was slow. Very slow. Somehow I began to use my fingers. After years of playing (even with a degree of proficiency) I began to wonder why I could feel the keys when I played. I could play songs in the dark and actually feel the keys. Hmmm. This is not possible…or is it? What happened?

A few years ago I read an article from a retired neurosurgeon that explained what happened. The brain can actually begin to fill in the blanks (it’s the nerves that tell the brain what is being felt and in essence we experience feeling through the brain. This is why a blind person can use their hands to feel your face and say with confidence “I can see you” and they really can! This is why, when I play the piano, I actually have a touch on the keys and do not just pound away (although pounding was a huge part of learning for me). I can feel the keys and yet get a wood sliver under my fingernail and not feel it until I see it…then the brain kicks in and then says “yep , sorry, this should be hurting….oh, sorry wrong finger. Sometimes my brain still gets the fingers mixed up.

(A good version of senses taking over other senses is explained here)

Don’t miss the applications here. I have realized that knowing God and having a personal relationship with Him is way more than knowing about God. It’s like knowing about pianos.  The hours spent on the piano for me are way beyond what most people would need to be able to play the piano extremely well.

    We come to God, in a sense (pun intended), with our spiritual nerves cut off. The best we can do if we used 100% of our capacity falls extremely short of Gods requirement of perfection.

Our baby brain does not start out leaning toward anything but ourselves. fast forward into adulthood and we have no more capacity to play the piano proficiently or have a deep relationship with God without a “start” in our lives. With the piano the start was easy. Sit down and start banging away right? No I needed someone to at least start me in the right direction, Sit down on the bench, open a beginner’s book, point the way, keep pointing the way and then practice for hours on end every week for years. I started to “feel” the piano keys some time in my 20’s. The progression was extremely slow. Even now, if I quit playing for awhile my feeling of the keys deteriorates rapidly.

I believe a relationship with God is the same way. Our “Start” is when we realize we cannot even know God except through Jesus Christ, your most important relationship (Please see how this is explained in detail here).

Final thought and why I wrote this blog: Knowing Gods heart deeply takes time. Knowing God can be in the next few minutes. Knowing God and His Heart can begin right out of the gate. Knowing God deeply takes a lot of time spent with God. No short-cuts on in-depth relationships of any kind.  I am still a beginner but alone time is essential.

Every morning I get up and put my book (not the piano book) in front of me and read my Bible. I ask God for understanding, guidance and honestly have a staff meeting with God.  Side Note: God seems to like “obedience” quite a bit. We talk and listen to one another. It’s taken years for this time to not be so one sided. My “feeling” capacity for God and for others has changed me to be more like Jesus. I may be quite slow to love God, others and possibly even my enemies but hey my nerves were cut off as were yours. I suspect that is why there are so many “One Another” commandments in the Bible, sigh, that’s  another discussion.

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Sometimes I See

A day paddle and many portages between waters lies an insignificant little island in the northernmost  Minnesota wilderness. Battered and vulnerable to every wind and storm from any direction, a display of all that life brings should one care to gaze awhile. I did. I felt the emotion. Pain in the calm after the storm, despair in a fog, hope in the suns rays coming to me, and all the seasons passing to get there. In the reflection I saw and felt me.

 

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Doesn’t look like much does it? I’m not much. I realized my insignificance.

God brought me here. I watched the sun come through the fog and touch the battered tree tops. I felt HIs hope brush against me and penetrate my soul. I worshipped My Creator God and Lover of my soul. I felt unashamed tears. What a rendezvous. What a trysting place. Oh to have eyes to see and a heart to believe at all times.

Gary

Little Red Bird, Big Life Lesson

I was restless on this chilly, damp and blustery May day. The kind of day to read a good book by the fire casting it’s heat to thaw the chilled bones. I had been watching the deer mosey around the fenced apple trees and the little song birds getting blown off the feeder by wind gusts. No singing today as they seem to look for spots of refuge from the wind and flapping foliage.

I stood with my camera ready as I had spotted a bright red Scarlet Tanager. A tunnel through the flapping leaves suddenly appeared as my little red bird found a sanctuary on a stout oak limb situated just right behind the tree trunk and out of the wind. The unruffled bird put up with me and even posed a bit. I felt as if we shared some peace in the chaos until little tweetie said “that’s it, I’m done” and off he flew to wherever birds go after a fine photoshoot.

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Much has been said about having Peace in the midst of Chaos. Songs written and Poems published but so many times the experience eludes us.

Jesus told his disciples they would encounter chaos (my words) but he promised “My Peace I leave with you” John 14:27. Jesus calmed the storm when the disciples thought they might die. Mark 4:39.  Again: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Watching this little bird find a brief sanctuary in the chaos made me realize that I spend too much time looking for ways and places to escape the various levels of chaos life seems to daily throw my way. I have also found peace in the storms of life when my walk with Jesus is close. He draws me closer and says “I’m here, experience my peace”.  When my trust level with God is high he seems to smile and raise the bar higher. “Trust Me”. Seems cruel on God’s part to give no explanation or relief sometimes.

My Prayer most of my life has been “I need you Jesus”

My wife and I have experienced our share of loss and extremely hard times as well as a great life with adventure and good times. Our trust bar with God has been raised beyond sight. There becomes an unexplainable depth to the sanctuary we find in walking daily with Jesus. unexplained chaos becomes unexplainable depth? hmm.

My hope is that others may see a tunnel through the chaos to where we are sitting and see what they would like to have. Peace inside becoming peace on the outside. That’s my Little red bird lesson. I will not look at the Scarlet Tanager the same way again.

Feel free to share your helpful thoughts and thanks for reading. Trust Jesus.

Gary

Seeking Solitude in Plain Sight

Solitude

 Auras of mystery surround places of solitude. The very word fills pages of novels, entices the busy, and secretes fear into the lost. Solitude hides a secret ingredient in the discovery of inner peace. She whispers of fulfilled longings and whisks sweet fantasies into the souls of dreamers.

Solitude begs the wilderness to conspire. “Let the open places call and the forests invite the seeker”. No answer is heard as nature awaits it’s own peace.

Seekers reach for solitude. I slid the canoe into the water quietly at 4:30 am in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness. Getting away from camp for my own sense of solitude. 3 portages, a river, and part of a floating bog later I was met by the early morning sunrise on Sema Lake. Crystal clear calm water looked like I was floating on air 40 feet above the rocky lake bottom. It was that moment when I realized that being totally alone without anyone knowing where, did not give me the solitude I was seeking. Only God knew where I was and only His peace could fill me. Of all the places in the world to discover the place of solitude was on the inside. How ironic to find one must be still and get alone when they are already alone. Even more to find out one can be still and utterly alone in the middle of a a busy city (although a park bench might keep us from getting run over).

     Solitude is not found in the rocks, trees, skies, or seas. She hides in plain sight while we are distracted by all that surrounds us.Just the fact that we are searching is a seductress. Could it be that solitude is always there waiting for us to slip away from all our distractions into the quiet place of our own heart?

   Beware of seeking solitude for solitude’s sake for it is a trysting place. A place to meet with the lover of our soul. A place to know the depths of God’s desires for our heart. A place to listen for Gods voice and bare your soul without uttering a word. 
Learn how to practice the the discipline of Solitude wherever you are. Psalm 46: 10 Be still and know that I am God. Could it be that easy?

                  You don’t have to get to the mountain top to find solitude

Get alone anyway

 
For in depth information on the discipline of solitude read Jan Johnsons writings and her sources she uses on this little used but necessary ingredient for growth in our walk with God.

What does alone time look like for you? Do you have a trysting place?Please share in the comments at the bottom

Gary 

Unswerving, An Intentional Journey

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“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

In life we swerve. We navigate life as a canoeist navigates a wilderness river full of deadheads, sandbars, rocks, rapids, sink holes, log jams and a host of unseen dangers in an otherwise majestic ride.
After 60 tears of life I vividly remember (stay with me here) paddling my canoe off the big river through a narrow opening between some big rocks with a little sign at the entrance “Follow Me”…Jesus
I know something about swerving. I have an aversion to obstacles in life as I seem to hit and crash on so many unseen and unavoidable things. I also know something about studying the river ahead with a diligent eye. I have a lot of experience both dumping the canoe and then getting back in. I have a ton of stories and even some  meaningful enough to share.

The picture above explains much of my journey of living life intentionally.

I sit down for breakfast with some coffee, open up my Bible to where I left off yesterday. I usually see a word, phrase, concept, story or just some encouragement for direction  for the day or for the season in life. God knows what I need. I have come to know the living Word of Life in the scripture as well as the Person of God in presence each morning. I have come to realize that each morning (keep with me on this analogy) I pack up camp, get in my canoe and paddle more of river stretch of life. The spiritual journey has become one with my physical journey and I have a guide.

I am a follower of Jesus and He has led me deep into the wilderness. My canoe has many wrecks and patches. Each day requires trust.

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I know of many who seem content to make camp and never go further down the river spiritually. Some of my friends stand on their last wreck and demand that God apologize and explain why he does not remove the rocks we wreck upon in life. The book of Job in the Bible is required reading here. We are so important aren’t we.

It is my prayer that at the end of life (our last inevitable crash on the river) we will have a ton of stories to tell forever.

Each day we packed up camp, checked our canoe for any patching needed, spent some time with Jesus as our guide, put on our life jackets, lashed the gear into place and shoved off. Yes, do swerve around the potential wrecks if possible but above all be unswerving in your walk and Trust in the ultimate guide Jesus Christ (you know the one with the map and has really good advice), the only one who has been there before on our behalf.
Please add your helpful comments as well. Angry comments from your rock will be ignored. If you like what you see please hit the “follow” button to get devotional posts in your email. Thanks for reading!

Gary

PS: Garyfultz.com has many of my wilderness stories, please check those out as well

 

 

 

 

Perfect

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Soul Food for thought

What we desperately want and need we avoid

I opened up Facebook this morning to see what was going on. more news feeds to get the blood boiling and tempt one to dive into the fray. How to ruin a perfect Saturday morning. No, I need to settle my soul, look for words of encouragement, start the day with time alone with God as I usually do through the week. I share with you some worthwhile thoughts and perhaps share some depth to an undefinable peace that permeates the core of one walking in an intimate fellowship with Jesus. We want all that Jesus gives without taking the time to have an intimate walk with God. Here is a glimpse of my morning time with God. I know my mind goes to many places over a few words of scripture in the mulling.

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Hebrews 5:8 Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, and was designated by God to be High Priest.

“Once made Perfect” That took 33 years by the way.

“How are you today?” (overheard in the church entryway) “I’m perfect!” Hmmm…Lester with his gnarly fingers wrapped around a home made cane from a bent and twisted tree that resembled his body frame and the physical trials of life. Lester living in pain was “perfect”. maybe the perfect poster boy for selling home made canes out of bent and twisted tree branches and similar small trees cut to length, debarked, polished and finished into a beautiful product actually. One of a kind, original, possibly perfect and becoming more perfect in the aging, testing, usefulness and possibly essential to another like Lester himself. Sometimes I rebel and actually hate God’s perfectness and all I see is the pain and tragedy of what I would call perfect.

Our middle daughter with 35 surgeries, in constant pain, clinging to a hope that one day she will run and jump and play, is perfect and becoming more perfect as she has her own intimate walk with Jesus. This is hard to accept!

Lester with his attitude and contagious crooked smile. His company is enjoyable and I am better for it. In a world where most things lean toward falling apart rather than building up there is something worth exploring here. Lester is not so perfect for the church basketball team and many other tasks but when did “perfect” take on so many meanings?

As a little kid the perfect Christmas gift could cause all kinds of fights with the siblings. No wonder we received clothes from our grandparents. The perfect husband or wife often becomes very imperfect after being tried and tested with time and life. Parents are perfect until they have kids for even a very short time. The perfect newborn child does not stay perfect very long and the new car gets a scratch and it’s another old beater.

Jesus was made perfect

How strange to think that even though Jesus was perfect he had to be made perfect in order to be our High Priest and intercede for us in front of God. It took 33 years of becoming us, living every moment perfectly, responding perfectly to pain, abuse, temptation, success, all of human life stuff including death. Perfect. Oh, and he also had to conquer his human death to become our advocate before the Father God. He was made perfect.

The one who was made perfect can be making us perfect but we need to trust his sense of perfection!

I have an idea in my head of what my perfection would be. I’m quite sure it’s different than God’s. My life has been detoured quite a bit. I need to trust that God is making me perfect as I trust him. To those who believe in him he declares  “Perfect” but He also says (in the context of loving your enemies) “Be perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect” Matthew 5:48

So how are you today? Can we say “I’m Perfect” ? Or “walk with me, this will take awhile”