Beauty in the Pause

The storm paused just long enough to take a picture

He knocked and came in. A weary smile and hello. 12 years of caring for his wife with a declining mind. I noticed that the snow had just begun to fall. The storm was coming. Softly and gently at first with memory slipping just like the falling snow when I glanced out the window. How innocent comes a storm sometimes.

We talked for a couple hours, mostly covering smatterings of the last 12 years interspersed with memorial preparations in the making. The snow outside had the makings of a storm coming and going. She whom we were remembering had thick slices of good times at first, very thin and meager slices of connection with her husband near the end. Every good time now deemed worthy of a memory token, beautiful and now treasured beyond measure

The storm was picking up speed but acting like an old car stuttering and grinding gears with a driver new to using a clutch. Her brain was like that, often disconnected with life, stuttering, charging and stranded in the next intersection. Oh the good times were really good, but shorter and shorter like camera shots, until all that was left at the end were a couple squeezes of the hand before hugging Jesus. He seemed at peace with much weight off his whole being but his sorrow brutal. A couple as “one” who Loved Jesus and each other fiercely, now an alone “one”

The storm was harsh as he left. “Drive safe” was my warning as he disappeared with his car into the storm. His storm has changed I thought. He is in the eye of the storm seeing the peace and beauty and reliving a life well lived. As soon as he left our drive our storm outside hit a hole in the clouds for a small while. I had seen the weather radar and the hole in the storm was predicted. The wind died and the lighting was an odd beauty not seen often. I stepped outside and snapped a couple of pictures, tokens for a memory. Beauty in the pause that tipped it’s hat to a life well lived here and received there.

His storm will start again when he is alone. he has a standard offer to call or drive over any time. Just come. It’s what Jesus does for all of us. Just come. Come in the storm or in the pause. Just come.

The storm quickly came again and would last into the middle of the night. I put on some layers, stepped out onto the deck and took a picture of the storm. a memory token of another kind. A token of his storm, my storm and yours. The token of the cross, a slain perfect lamb for a forever pause, forever beauty, forever connected to our creator after grinding gears in our storms here. Jesus says “Come, as you are, anytime”

“Just Come” Jesus

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

In memory of Kim. We are here for you Dennis

Gary

Wordless Son-rise Message

Have you ever walked out of the house and figured you went through a portal into wordless awe and wonder? I pass a slice of my morning experience on to you. If a lion roars, don’t worry, It’s Aslan.

May the Son rise in your soul, quicken your spirit and reflect the character of God into the dark.

Restore brightness to my eyes… Psalm 13:3

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).

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

Just to be Clear

Road sign after a storm…a sign of the times ahead?

God’s will and ways are not to be covered by circumstance, culture, current issues or coercion. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me” John 14:6 (Jesus)

So, this week, sit a spell, spend some time getting fed, and for heavens sake get directions.

I Know , I eat healthier in spirit

Gary

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?)

Only When the Sun Peeks?

sunlight through clouds 2eml
The Sun Shines through even on an old life battered, seemingly barren tree (even me)

Don Merritt’s post on Praise (click here..great stuff Don) hit my insight bone this morning. I have often thought: “what causes the first frog to croak, or the first cricket to sound off, the first wolf to begin it’s blood curdling moan and all the others join in?

A friend of mine tells about walking out on the dock one frosty morning. The lake was evidently super cooled. The moment he stepped onto the dock the vibrations triggered the whole lake to instantly freeze over in a thin layer of ice. The sound of snap, crackle and pop of a lake freezing over in a couple of seconds will be indented in his memory forever. What causes the first molecule of water in the lake to freeze come winter to ice over the lake in a few moments?

What causes a whole congregation to lift up a raucous praise to the Lord or a moan before the throne in one accord? What causes my eyes to lift to the Lord in a burst of heartfelt praise from depths of my soul? Maybe, when the sun peeks out in my Life after a long storm? When a prayer is answered to my relief? When something works out? When…?

This morning my heart was “super cooled” in a good way. I was ready in my spirit to Praise my Lord and Savior and Don let out the first croak. May all God’s people be ready in their own hearts to join in. May the world hear our sound of unified praise. Oh, it’s not the song leader or the praise band in church (many times they get in the way). It’s God’s people whose hearts are “super cooled” and ready to break loose in praise, in loving God through a kind spontaneous act or smile or something creative. It’s something God has prepared in you because you have been walking with HIM. Daily.

That’s it isn’t it? Our walk with God in obedience. Our Hope in Christ. Our Love for one another. Our eye’s fixed on Jesus as we run this race through life. Our morning coffee time in the Word and prayer. A prepared heart set for whatever life brings each day. Please someone, step on the dock of our little lake. God has “super cooled” my heart (Thanks Don)

May we all be in the process of becoming “Super Cool” before the throne.

Ready for God’s day?

Signiture

For Reasons. Some Unknown

Today, I will pack up the rest of the house to move 5 hours away to a foreign familiar land. The place where I grew up and lived over half of my life. The last couple months of this transition I have taken to heart Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is truewhatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  

I turned off the news, I quit reading several blogs and am terribly behind on many, I pray more and go out of my way to really connect with relational starving people.  I had asked God for some type of sign that I really should move back home and begrudgingly put the house up for sale. 48 hours later it was sold. It’s hard to do 2 out of 3 on that one but I wanted another sign..”God would you go ahead of us and help us to follow?” was our household prayer.

On one of my moving expeditions with a huge trailor, a rainbow double was beside the truck for an hour. I stopped at a side road and took this picture. Iroically, when we had moved with the company I worked for almost 7 years ago, a rainbow was arched over the building I would call my work place. I guess we have had several rainbows (literally) in our decision making life (God to angels” if you want Gary to make up his mind. Put out a rainbow).

roads end rainbow eml

“Ok Lord, you got this..um, why isn’t the road paved??” (God to angels “you should not have had that old road graded…it’s too nice).

I resonated deeply with G.W’s post. It’s very much worth the read. https://collinsgw.com/2020/06/20/amazed-a-haiku/

I suspect life will change a lot as I haven’t seen around the next corner of life. 

Neither have you

Jesus has gone ahead. Lets follow. He summons.

Signiture

Sun Rise in the Western Sky

Wow, God dressed up the western Sky in the Sunrise this morning!

This Sunday morning worship time with the Lord, before worshiping with others, I was facing west from our kitchen table, the opposite way to watch a sunrise. It took a half an hour for the sun to dress the morning. The western sky was really getting dressed up for this day. Random thought here: Which special saints are you bringing home today Lord?

I was reminded that God can take anything or anyone at hand to serve his purposes, communicate His truths or just get our attention. He has mine.

He loves us so very much and He seeks us, woos us, whispers on the wind and shouts from the skies. It’s all there in His word and in the hearts of his children who have found Him.

It’s possible that in the next 24 hours, millions of people will see some aspect of a beautiful sunrise around the world. Each one of us will have our own unique perspective point of the same event. Each of us has our very own unique relationship with God. I am merely sharing a small slice of mine with you.

Today: Let God speak to your heart his love, His Grace. Share this love, this Grace with someone else.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1

 I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

Gary

 

 

Love language to a thorn

 

I had to share a picture from our front yard. Such symbolism!

thorns against winter 2eml
Menacing crimson thorns in our front yard. No match for snowflakes!

I often wonder why Jesus took a crown of thorns. I wonder why he took thorny me. 

I marvel at the symbolism of the picture. The thorns are no match for the Christ who died for us with a crown of thorns. Then he takes our heart of thorns and washes us whiter than snow.

Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. (Isaiah 118)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Gary