Puzzling Strays

I was perplexed. I had an immediate immature thought last week when I looked up the statistics on my free share photos posted. nine months ago. My thought? “wow, I wish I had a dollar apiece for each photo downloaded and a kick-back per click on advertising. The numbers? 597,911 views and 2979 downloads (proud moment here). The next few thoughts along with the first though needed to be hunted down and interrogated because they were just as immature. I realized my pictures would need 200 views before anyone would download one (humbling self abased moment).

Here I am, thinking that life is about me. I know better than that, in my head. I guess not all the stray thoughts stayed in the fence and they roam about and feel free to brush against me and I become familiar with the foul scent not realizing the infected aroma lingers and grows. Selfishness thinks of self first, always. sigh…

I had posted some pictures to share with the world on Unsplash.com from the urging of a few bloggers, namely Ted Martins (Thanks Ted), and have added a few here and there. I’m up to 57 photos that anyone can download for free to use on their blog, make Christmas cards, crop and use for their purposes. I’m a giving person, I thought.

I have taken the time to take a walk, have a talk, get right and stay tight. I have rounded up some stray thoughts and offered them to the Lord and posted some more of my photos for the world to use as they will. For now.

I recognize that stray thoughts happen. My fence probably needs more mending then I am aware of. It’s ongoing and not a once a year roundup like the old west cattle days. I am encouraged and wish to encourage you as well to be on the alert for those puzzling strays, not just the obvious ones. If I wait till others start pointing them out, I have a bigger problem than I thought and I smell quite bad to those around me.

May God align our thoughts, thinking patterns, our words and actions with His thoughts permeating His word to us, daily.

“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Cleaning ones self is hard.

Gary

PS: I would be honored should you find one of my photos useable for your purposes. Unsplash has literally 300,000 people contributing photos for free download. I do not need a tip through the paypal option (seriously). Use key words to find what you are looking for. I can be found using unsplash.com/@garyfultz

Questions

Sometimes, like this morning, I sit on the back deck with tweety bird song, bee hum, early mornings stillness, lake birds in the distance and a big animal making noise as they walk by in the woods. I read (now in psalms), journal, sip a Gary coffee (strong and black) and ponder the ways of God and the questions of mankind. I’m quite sure they are not very original questions.

This mornings question “why am I here?” I asked of God. “Did I retire to live in the woods, take care of our crippled daughter, enjoy nature and accomplish nothing else?” These questions are not new but the vail of God’s silence seemed to leak out a couple of questions back. “So like the Lord to turn questions back on me” I thought.

“If you could cut down the forests around you, mill out all the lumber and build many buildings would you feel like you accomplished something? (we have a sawmill on the place). Or, would you be content living in wonder of all that surrounds and learn to hear my voice when I want you to join my accomplishments?”

Do you want Stature before me or gain a Statue before the world?”

God is in the business of helping us gain His perspective. Take a walk, Have a Talk, Get right, Stay tight. Psalm 119:2 “Happy are those who keep his decrees and seek Him with all their heart”

Gary

Ponderings lost, Deep In

Thought

I’m the smartest person in the room. It was obvious to me but the look on everyone’s face puzzled me. So I pontificated more. It was a great moment.

Years later as I was fondly remembering that highlight in my life when I suddenly came to another realization. I was the dumbest person in the room. Now that I know so much now. I digress.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

Have you ever?

Gary

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).

Thread Pullers

My mother used to say “Don’t pull on a loose thread”, meaning; our sock that she knitted would unravel or our bed quilt would start coming apart.

In the work place I retired from recently, a common phrase from the CEO was “pull on the loose thread”, meaning; investigate fully if something seems not quite right with the product, a tool or the process. If you think for a second something could be wrong, follow that thought through even if you have to shut down the line. Quality is everything! Be a superhero, pull the loose threads till you find out what is wrong! (Do check out Peragon Truck Bed Covers…I’m probably still in a couple old videos somewhere)

Looking back at the life spans of various empires and civilizations we seem to be repeating history in the unraveling of our society. It’s one thing to pull on loose threads and expose flaws in each other and our systems but quite another to bring a scissor to the party and start snipping away.

We lie (snip), we report one side of the story (snip), we black out a story (snip), we create skewed polls (snip), we report and pass on made up scenarios as fact (snip), we watch our preferred news outlet (snip, snip) and in all this we label our relationship with God as nonessential (who brought the chainsaw to the party?). Enough, you got the picture long before I ended the thought.

How well do you know the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The threads of the gospel are throughout scripture with no loose ends. Now, don’t confuse all those smart people with lots of theology degrees with their ideas of the Gospel and the Gospel itself. People have loose threads, God does not. He wants his threads to be woven into the tapestry of our lives till we become like him. Yes, there will be some or a lot of painful unraveling in our lives for that to happen. Personal revival isn’t pain free. I fear that covid 19 (the disease and the dismantling of lives by shutdown) may look like child’s play for national revival to happen. The God of no loose ends is the ultimate thread puller.

Jesus is the only hope for our society getting better. Revival is not a Christian sound byte. Revival is only found in a person who has met and been radically changed by Jesus Christ. They have love, joy, peace and a host of other new qualities of character with no pretense. They love God and they love people period. They have a hunger to know Jesus more and more. They know what intimacy with their Savior and Lord feels like.

Revival. Yes our nation needs it, but do I need it? Those who have this peace, joy and love are more infectious than covid. Those who have it “practice the presence of Jesus“. Those who have it have experienced and keep experiencing what scripture says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Could we ever get to one nation under God? And he is before all things, and by him all things are held together. Colossians 1:17

Gary

My World Today

A few moments ago a delivery driver, with an attitude, handed me a package while making an off hand statement about the unstable shape of our world. “I’m sorry, I’m feeling political today” he said.

I took a sip of my coffee and answered “This morning the sun came up, the tips of the oak, the pine cones in the white pine and the whole woods was lit up while the moon was setting. I took pictures of this absolutely beautiful morning. The sun will come up again for all our tomorrows”.

He paused, looked at the trees and the woods for quite a long moment while he seemed to reset and relax while answering“and there is only one God and he’s in charge”. I said “always. you have a great day”

I want to encourage you to reset if you need to. Above all, be in a place with the Lord Jesus to share his light while engaging those you meet in our turbulent times. Sometimes it just takes a small nudge to help those around us to reset.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Gary

Photo’s by Gary this morning after a meeting time with the Lord

Garden Hose Readiness

Our trails turned white. It snows on the good and the bad! winter doesn’t care!

It’s still autumn. How dare winter pay a visit so early. It’s a bit like the bank assessing your property a few weeks early before they auction off your farm. It’s 25 degrees Fahrenheit today for a high and the garden hose hooked to the house is now ice (and a hundred other things now under snow). I’m not ready. Foul, I cry. “Ha”, says winter “I’m gonna win”, and it will. Maybe fall will make a comeback but winter will win, then spring, then summer, then autumn will get a turn again, then winter will wreck another garden hose.

Dare you to shake the tree!
Whoops, missed picking some apples.
The ground is still warm enough to melt roadways but the forecast isn’t friendly
I hear the raspberry’s cry “it’s still Autumn…Bad winter. Bad!”

I can almost hear Jesus saying “ready or not, here I come” Then it will be the season of the Lord’s final victory. It makes me wonder how many of life’s garden hoses (trivial and the urgent overshadowing the important) are still keeping me too busy. How many apples (neighbors) are neglected and lonely? How warm is my heart under this rough exterior to melt the cold storms of life?

I know, I know. I’m all over the place on symbolism and illustration but so was (is) the snow!! Sadly, I have a lot of putting away of our things to prepare for the oncoming snows and really cold weather. I know of two neighbors that are not able to put up firewood for the winter. I should be in shape here so I can be fruitful there. That is the real lesson I should be learning here. The need is real and very large out there and God’s issue with my un-readiness is way beyond the scope of a garden hose

Gary