A beautiful Ugly Tree I See

It’s my favorite tree in the fall of the year. I step out the front door and a splash of multi-color maple leaves against a backdrop of green oak leaves framing the maple. All framed by the sky and whatever the weather is doing at the time. A photogenic maple, in the fall only. Take a peek.

See what I mean? It’s just started to change color and it does it in sections. Reds, yellows and greens here

Each day I seem to enjoy a little more red or a little more yellow.

I must admit, I am partial to the reds in this maple. What a splash compared to all the other fall colors.

There is one glitch though. I find this tree hard to capture in a photograph. The look I want is hard to get. I have to frame sections of this spread out tree so I take many different pictures, framing them just so and cropping parts out I don’t want. take a peek at a few different angles of the tree.

Now on to the ugly part of the tree (in comparison). Right now the tree stands almost empty of leaves. So far I have refused to take a side view picture of the tree. It’s an old maple, leans and the body of the tree is crooked and unbalanced. It only looks good from the front. I have framed the tree in pictures to make it fit my purposes.

I was setting up my camera on a tripod with a big lens for a close up photo and a not so comfortable insight tapped me on the head, right through my thick stocking cap (and yes my thick skull). I do that with God. My perspective of God changes with the seasons and with the circumstances all too often. Somehow, when my perspective changes, I think God is the one who has changed.

When life is going really well, God is a good and beneficial God. God is with me at all times and is answering all kinds of prayer. When we were life flighting my daughter, God didn’t seem to want to be hear our pleas or even get on the plane (from where I sat). God is a God of little miracles. He will help a relative find their Contac lens in a miraculous way. God has saved our daughters life so many times but not healed her of the cause in her crippled body. God let a saw blade fly off a machine and cut both my arms to the bone, and then he saved my life. And, so, I frame God from my perspective. As a young boy trying to get my fingers to work after all the nerves in my arms were cut off, others could trust God wholeheartedly because they only saw the front view of God. Yet, God was an old leaning tree to me at the time.

Our perspective means everything and we trust our perspective. If we think our perspective has not been framed by any one or any thing but us, we are very wrong. The game in politics is to raise the most money for “framing” one’s great “colors” while discoloring the opponent. Advertising is a trillion dollar framing business in “brand recognition”. I have the best looking maple tree every fall and I frame pictures to prove it. Jesus just comes along and says “follow me”. We have had some very lopsided conversations on how he has framed my life. His answer is the same “follow me. I did and I have.

My wife and I had a rare glimpse of God’s framing when Our daughter was three. She went into septic shock. Her last words as we were going out the door to Emergency “mommy the lights went out”, then she went unconscious. No blood pressure, not enough blood to brain, c-scan ordered, The mobile unit c-scan came (his choice as he didn’t have to). Mobile unit guy thought the little girl would die in his unit so he made a bargain with God. “God if she lives, I will take my family to church in the morning”. She lived, the four of them went to church (of all places our church and they were praying for our daughter). They heard the gospel and turned over their lives to God, all four of them. Those in on the story being lived out by us, took a peak of life from God’s perspective. Sometimes that looking glass is quite foggy. Sometimes, more like most of the time, that view is beyond our eyesight. Jesus still offers the best framing from an eternal perspective and says “follow me”

When the back side of life is ugly and we cannot frame nice colors anymore, when beautiful people are finding Contac lenses in miraculous ways while our loved ones are losing their memory or in chronic pain or fighting to stay alive. Remember the one who framed our sin on a cross. Follow Jesus and let him frame life’s circumstances, events, issues and relationships. Know him through his word (the bible) and know him personally through his life in you. A living breathing relationship with our creator. The same one who made those red leaves and put them there. He then gave me the artistic desire and ability to frame so carefully and think I’m good.

This old guy can still dress up nice but I don’t stand as straight and I lean to the left and am not as balanced as before…Good one God.

Gary

Limited Time Offer

Don’t let the sun go down on this one.

When Matt posted about Hard Times in his Jesusluvsall blog, he needed prayer. He also needs a vehicle.

Me being me, I decided to check up on Matt and do a little digging. I did (sorry Matt). guess what? I found a guy whose heart is made of Gold. Yep, found gold. I suspected I had read between the lines well following his posts for awhile. That told me he has character. I also want to make sure I wasn’t involved in bailing someone out from what God is trying to teach him through hard times. Sometimes we do that as kind hearted people, which means it will happen again and again. Not the case here…I’m telling you, Gold.

Meanwhile Matt posted “The School Of Jesus” which explains why I found Gold.

  1. I’m supporting Matt in getting a vehicle for two main reasons. One is kind of selfish. If I help him buy a vehicle, every time he drives it to work, gives someone a ride or buys someone a coffee at the coffee shop, I am in on it (the selfish reason). I’m also in on it when he greets his international students in their native tongue (all 30 languages for Matt). It’s like buying stock in a company only the rewards are probably better. One could say they go on forever and Matts doing all the work.
  2. I honestly felt like God was tapping me on the shoulder saying “get in on this one Gary., it’s a limited time offer.” So, I called a friend who helps others more than I do and asked him if I was a bit nuts on this. He said, “you are Gary, and, of course you are nuts, do it and I’ll chip in as well.

So I’m posting (as some of you are) a link to matt’s go fund me link in case some of you want to get in on this limited time offer. No pressure. It’s like I told Matt “I don’t have much money, but our father is rich,” My dad used to say “people believe and sing the old hymn that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but they don’t believe he owns the meat in their freezer.” Let’s help Matt continue his ministry. Share a little from what we have in the freezer

I’m in.

Click Here for Matt’s Go Fund Me link

Gary

Matt, I hope we bypass your goal…by far.

Building a Desire For God in Others

I have this… what should be common, gift. I have been involved with many teenagers and adults through youth programs, Sunday School classes, teaching, speaking, board membership and personal mentoring and accountability. My gift is to help build a desire for God and eventually Godly leadership in others. To join the conversation how Godly Leaders raise Godly Leaders in context read Jim’s article here and then come back for some stories and insights. Sign up for SLIMJIM’s blog! read his series on Leadership.

I commented to James on his Godly Leadership article (A highly respected pastor, very active in evangelism and apologetics on the university campuses with a great Blog) and this was his response.

Gary I wish and pray for more leaders like you in our churches in America and the World today. What you are doing as a lay leader with your ministry orientation and ability to cultivate others to grow is so, so, precious. You got to tell me more what you do brother! My interest is peaked! SLIMJIM My foundational answer was in a nutshell “I spend time with God and He leads me”. knowing that answer was not answering his question, I wanted to use my blog space for furthering the conversation. So, yes. read Jim’s article.

Jim’s request took me back in time a bit when he said “tell me more what you do?” Back to stories of trying to help failing churches with their youth groups, as our Youth For Christ meetings were booming. Meeting with the youth leadership and sometimes a church board. The same question “What do you do?”, or “what are you doing to be successful?

It’s more than a program: Most of the time, they wanted a program outline, a list of creative games, resource books. I should have brought a can of “Fix a flat” to many meetings. I saw many a blank face when I told them to strive to build a desire and love for God in their youth. Then I began to ask questions of them to help them see where they were at as leaders (each one personally) and hopefully build into their youth.

Ask The Right Question: The right question(s) require vision, forethought, intentionality and a purpose to help the other person began to assess and take ownership of the outcome. This is true in developing Godly Leaders, helping people develop personally and even buying a car. I’ll give you a money saving question at the end (ha).

Build credible relationships: Conversation wit Jeff after playing some basketball a few times (a young guy who went to another church with a family and a good job), “Hey Jeff, there are 3 of us guys who meet after basketball. We are helping each other become the men we are supposed to be. Do you want in? Jeff: “definitely, yes” and Jeff has a history of saying “YES” to God in so many ways. his love for God is infectious.

Be Bold: A guy asked me to mentor him at work (I found out later it was find a mentor or get fired). Being somewhat reluctant, I asked him if he was willing to honestly face some hard questions and consider asking God for changes. He said “Yes”. The next week I took him in my boat to the middle of the lake and we talked and fished. We continued that conversation until he moved away for another job caught a big fish and later explained that he would have jumped out of my boat and swam to shore to avoid my questions. He began to understand that loving God is not checking off things on a to-do list. god used me in spite of myself that time.

Sense when the Holy Spirit nudges: A young family man was putting on his jacket in the church foyer. I sensed he was restless but felt led to say something. I said, “Hey Fred, do you mind a personal question from the church chairman?” he nodded ok. “First, don’t blink. I know you work a lot but if you blink your oldest son will be in college”. He nodded agreement. 2nd, “do you ever see yourself as growing so close to the Lord, leading your 5 kids and your wife in the ways of God, and being a part of Godly leadership after I’m gone”? Fred straightened up with a far away look and said quietly “yes, I think so”

Always give ownership of their growth and Godliness to them. Assume they are taking ownership of their relationship with God. I was a slot in giving a series of youth worker seminars to a regional group of youth directors in a mainline denomination. (My take on being recruited was that he needed a sacrificial lamb. A real life youth director to show how not to do things ). In the question and answer time one frustrated director asked the magic question. “how come kids quit the church after confirmation? they are not interested in church or any kind of “faith activities” again until they are married and have kids. The kids get baptized and confirmed and they quit. The cycle continues. WHAT’S WRONG????

Self discovery is so, so very important. The room was silent. Pin drop silent. who ever heard of 50+ youth directors gathered together being silent? This was an “I being in the way, the Lord led me” moment. I focused on the youth director and asked “can you personally have faith for your kids? does that work?” She said “NO”. “Can your pastor have faith for your kids?” again, “No”. “Can the parents have faith for their kids?” Another “No” “Can the church have faith for their kids?” “no”. ME: “You are correct, they have to have their own faith” (at this point the gal who asked the question almost jumped up and down and yelled to the rest of the group “That’s it!”). Now having credibility I concluded: “The real question then becomes do you as youth directors understand how to help your kids have their own personal faith in the very God who created them, loves them and wants to have a personal relationship with them. I would have loved to record the bit of chaos with the denominational leadership that happened for awhile...sound bytes no matter how spiritual they sound, well they have a hollow sound actually.

Desire: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. You can sure put salt in his oats! Figure out how to salt the oats but mostly drink deeply yourself. I cannot count the number of times I have heard someone say (in various ways) “You have something I want. I am not sure what it is but it has to do with God”. A teen came up to me and said “I came tonight because I want what Mitch has. I think it has to do with God” I said to him “Can I have Mitch tell you? He would be glad to share, hey Mitch come here” and Mitch introduced Mike to a personal relationship with God.

Mitch was brand new himself but had great desire to share this love for God and God’s love for us. Desire begets desire. Do you have desire? Tasting intimacy with our Savior creates more desire not less. Desire doesn’t burn out, it spreads like wildfire unless quenched by the weeds and garbage of life. Let me ask you a simple question “do you spend time alone with God in his word, prayer, praise and listening for his voice more than listening to the garbage of this world?” which one you focus on becomes the context of the other.

“To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.” If these are seen in our lives, others will want what we have. Earnestly desire this and then ask God for more desire!

This is a small slice Jim of what I do because of my Love for the Lord. I hope that is a good start. Gary

PS Oh ya, advice on saving money in buying a car. My son in college came to me because he wanted to buy a nice car. The salesman didn’t want to go below $20,000 and probably could tell my son could afford payments (worked his way through college). My son was budget minded and told me he might go 17K for it but how could he make the salesman come down. I told him to get the salesman on his terms by asking him how close to $15,000 could he get? upon hearing that number the salesman said, no way can I sell that car for $15K! My son said, “I asked how close can you get because that will depend on whether I buy it or not”…”How about 16.2? Do you see the dynamics at work here? (Sorry sales people).

Bad Investment

Life’s stakes are high. Daryl Maddens Poem hits it well.

Two voices in your head
Struggle for control
The loud voice of the ego
The whisper of the soul….. Read more here at Daryl’s blog

 It’s so human to buy a lot of ego stock for the short term and hold, sometimes into eternity, as if we can control the dividends

This morning I saw and captured a whole garden in a dew drop. Think what God can make of us when we trust Him

Instead, Invest here:Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

Think of the solid foundation from which we speak. If you believe and know Jesus, you have been forgiven, made whole, and have been made absolutely perfect (way more than a dew drop) before God. “For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” 2corinthians 5:21

Long Term Thinking: Eternity (see you there?)

I Love You To Debt

I’m an introvert. I may not always act the part but when I see lots of strangers in the big city (for example) I really see a sea of ice. I don’t see “friendly” on faces. It’s a fact, I don’t always like to be around people.

So when I was reading Romans 13 this morning I was nodding my head yes when Paul says to obey authority, pay your taxes and don’t owe anyone anything; I’m good so far. I’m still nodding yes.

Except The continuing debt….. 

(I’m not nodding yes anymore) Romans 13:8 says “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…”    I looked at this twice and said “What? I’m in debt?”

I’m sorry. I’m stuck on this continuing debt thing. If Love is money, say God’s currency, then I’m in debt and cannot get out. In fact there is a daily debt added and I’m in deep. No matter how much I love, show love, pay love money to my neighbor and fellow mankind I have just entered an alternate reality.

A verse popped into my mind “If anyone be in Christ they are a new creation...and have entered into a new reality” (well my remake of 2nd Corinthians 5:17 and I think I was frowning here).

Read on Gary…“for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law”  In other words the currency of love balances the checkbook in Gods eyes.

It’s dangerous to think outside the book but I have questions and you might have some thoughts.

So if we start every day in debt, say $200 in debt and do nothing does my debt compound? Does a smile count for more than a dollar? Do I really have to be proactive today? Do introverts have a reduced debt? Is the national debt bigger than the love debt?

Look where I just went! Am I already trying to game the system? I think so.

  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. John 13:34

Hey this love God and your neighbor stuff, It’s a really big deal in the market place of the eternal. We have the God Breathed book and the Holy Spirit to teach us all things. Let us be entrepreneurs about loving to debt

Gary

Note: This currency is alive but the wanted poster is out and Satan wants it dead.