Pastor Gary

Views

Riding around in Northeast Georgia during the fall is a wonderful experience. I complain about roads that have all the hills, twists and turns and how it seems you have to drive 5 miles to go a mile as the crow would fly. But these hills have  twists and turns that cause you to slow down- if for nothing else than safety,  and then you can look around.  What you see is gorgeous. When you are riding through a valley you are surrounded by beautiful colors and at times the road has a nice blanket.  The road seems to need this blanket to keep itself warm in the cold of winter. It is made of red, brown, yellow and green and just for a moment I’ll think about going in another direction so as not to disturb the beautiful sight. When I’m at the peak or ridge of a hill, it’s majestic to see for miles. The tapestry woven in the canopy of trees seems even more beautiful when you are above it all. The clouds sit ever so close to the tops but staying just above as to make a perfect unobstructed view and adding a beautiful accent.

I stand back and admire the artwork of God. What God has created, artists spend lifetimes trying to capture in pictures and paintings. Nothing can replace the majesty of God’s creation. Northeast Georgia isn’t the only place in Georgia to experience these beautiful views. I had lived 4 years in Northwest Georgia in the city of Rome before moving east to the hills of Gainesville. When driving from Atlanta to Rome you pass a certain piece of interstate 75 that begins the entry into the foothills of Rome. It’s a majestic view that reminds us of God’s artistic nature. I would often find myself driving with anticipation of leaving the man made buildings and getting lost inside the beauty of nature that was evident while traveling north. I feel blessed to have been living in North Georgia for the last 4-5 years.  I know of no other place in Georgia to see such beauty.  After all I have lived in and around the Atlanta area most of my life and never have seen the beauty I’ve seen in the last five years. I find myself speaking to God and saying “Thank you God for allowing me to be here”.

Well, several weeks ago Kristi and I were travelling along and noticing God’s beauty on our way to our 20 year high school reunion.  The Road from Gainesville to Marietta has some great sights and we decided to make sure we arrived early and drove around our old hometown. We travelled in neighborhoods where we once lived and places we used to go. There was my old home that still had the basketball goal attached to the tree where we used to play till my fingers would crack and bleed from playing on very cold days. We spent some time driving around our old High school to remind ourselves of a time some 20 years ago that still in many ways seems like yesterday. The school’s red brick was timeless and hadn’t changed a bit. I recalled posing for my high school football pictures in front of the Osborne Cardinal Sign that I believe was donated by the class of 1984. The old Gym no doubt still had that smell that is extremely pungent at 5:30AM when we used to practice basketball before school. The old practice football field seemed like a family friend. I have spent many, many hours there not to mention my blood sweat and tears. The memories were flooding back to me and I was feeling like I could remember everything with such clarity. My mind is pretty good I began to think. I have such vivid details of this place.

Well we continued on to our destination at a conference center when all of the sudden I saw something that I didn’t remember. How could this be? Someone must have planted these peaks and valleys in Marietta after I left. My memory was keen as evidenced by all the memories I had just seen in my mind. Never once in my teenage and young adult years had I seen this beauty before me, I stood awestruck.

I thought this type of beauty only resided in North Georgia where I had lived the last 5 years. I said to my wife,” How could I never have noticed this beauty when it was all around me so many years ago”. She simply said…”I know”. We had both missed it. It turns out North Georgia doesn’t have a monopoly in Georgia on God’s handy work.

The landscape hadn’t changed…I had. So I lived 20 or 25 years in that area not seeing God’s handiwork. What else might I have missed? Nature is a pretty obvious thing but God’s work isn’t always in the physical. What I thought I knew so well, maybe even pompously a few moments earlier, I didn’t know. I was humbled which often happens when we have a “God Moment”.

It’s easy to look back and say…I wish I would have paid more attention to spiritual things. It’s easy to say well, I’ve matured and now I see more than in the past. It’s even possible to regain my pompous attitude and say…we’ll I ain’t  what I used to be so I’m pretty good now. A better approach would be…even though I see more today than yesterday, what else could I be missing? After all, I was a Christian during those days as well. It’s not as though I was a complete heathen. Humility is the best place to remain open to seeing the movement of God.

So I find myself in the position that we should all find ourselves. Pray that God would let us see the world and people as he sees. I don’t want to be blinded by my personal issues, opinions, agendas and even my personal life. Let’s not be pompous and believe we have arrived and can see clearly now since we see better than before. You can after all be blind at any age and even partially blind. Only God can give us perfect vision. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. “

Let’s commit to ask God to let us see others as he sees them. Let’s commit to ask God to let us see material things as he sees them. Let’s commit to ask God to see ourselves as he sees us. Let’s commit to seeing God wherever we find ourselves. Let’s commit to ask God to make the most of every moment of life. We don’t want to look back 20 years later and say…I didn’t see that then but I do know. Make the most of today with God’s eyes. I believe  as II Corinthians 3:18 says “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Surely that includes our sight.

Busy World

We live in a very busy world. As I step back and examine my life I see a whirlwind of activity. Between my job as a Sr. Mgr. in the world’s largest professional services firm and my job at the best church in all of Gainesville and the positions and boards I sit on for the Georgia district church of the Nazarene and my family of 4 active wonderful children, I sometime wonder how I can get anything accomplished. It’s not uncommon when dealing with people in the church that they ask the question: “How do you do it pastor?” Often people actually purposely don’t tell me about their hospital surgeries or visits because they feel it puts too much pressure on me. I appreciate how people have genuine concern for me and don’t want to feel as though they are a burden but I say please don’t rob me of a blessing. You see those visits actually bring me peace. Some might say “Pastor you mean sitting at a hospital for 8 hours while someone has bypass surgery brings you peace? “ Well the answer is yes and no. I certainly take no joy when people are hurting but there is a great sense of joy and peace when I’m doing what I think God wants me to do. Scripture tells us in Matthew 11:30 “For my Yoke is easy and my burden is light”. That means: The things God wants me to do (the services if you will) are easily rendered. They are not burdensome like some religious things. In doing what God wants me to do even in the midst of what appears to be a very hectic life…”there is a peace that passeth all understanding”.  You can really only understand this when you put it into practice. The burden is light in following God. The truth is…it doesn’t make sense. The world says I don’t have time for that. Some might say “pastor that is foolish” but I Corinthians says “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” I think it’s best to error on the side of trying to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives rather than saying…”I can’t or I don’t have time”. So what are you telling us pastor? Should we all visit the hospital more even if we don’t have time? That isn’t at all what I’m suggesting. I am saying…in this world of go, go, go we stop and fulfill God’s calling on our lives. I don’t mean become a pastor or evangelist. I mean be Christ wherever you are wherever you go. When you see a need…fill it. Where you see hunger try bringing food. Where you see brokenness, try to bring healing. When you can…do. I know you don’t have time…none of us do. But when you “do” you’ll find God can multiply your time so you’ll never miss the time you spent serving and you’ll find the stress of life can be put on hiatus. Only God can do that through our obedience.

Back To School

It seemed when I was a child the weather would suddenly cool, and that meant school would soon start. Well, these days the summer is still sweltering and we cut lots of summer expeditions short to begin the new school year. This year was an especially exciting and tense time as all of our kids would begin new schools after moving from Rome to Flowery Branch. The concern primarily arose from having left a very small tight nit community in Rome where everyone knew everyone, and the high school had a population of about 600. The new schools would be much larger (high school around 1600) and the sense of community a little diluted compared to Armuchee (pronounced Armurchee).

The day had yet to show signs of the sun's rays and the Huff house was arising with as much commotion as you might expect from 3 girls and 1 boy getting ready for school. It was finally time to wear those new shoes purchased a week ago but dad wouldn’t let them wear until the first day of school. Hair was combed, styled and properly set with the assistance of hair products…then…the annual first day of school picture.

The picture was much like any other first day of school picture. There was the usual forced smile but perhaps a little more nervousness than usual. After all, Sydney would have her birthday the next day and stated she was going to have her birthday this year and be friendless. We all know the feeling of the unknown they must have been experiencing.

As I looked at our children, and afterward looked at the picture, I felt so many things. I was proud, I was hopeful, I was a little scared but I also knew it was also out of my control. The love and compassion I had for them was overwhelming and my eyes began to well up with emotion, and salt water would soon drip down my face so I quickly turned away so as to not cause them anything else to be concerned over at this moment.

At that moment in time I wanted go before them and smooth out the rough places. I wanted to make sure their teachers knew they were special and should be treated as such. I wanted any potential bullies to know not to mess with these kids. I wanted the lunch people to know the foods my kids liked best. In short I wanted the best for my kids. I wanted to protect them in every way possible, but aside from the all obsessed helicopter parent who goes beyond reason to care for their child, I had to let them go alone like all other kids.

I began thinking…do my kids know how much I love them, do they know how I’m ready, able and willing to help them at a moment’s notice. Do they realize they are never alone…I’m but a phone call away and will do anything reasonable to help them succeed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sports, academics, band, drama, relationships...church, boyfriends, girlfriends…and yes, even a relationship with God. It became clear at that moment…I have a huge role in the lives of my kids. I am their father and my love is unconditional and never-ending towards them. They need to know this. They need to know they have more resources available to them through their father than they have by themselves.

No doubt my kids will face difficulties in school and life and at times feel all alone, but they never really will be. If they could gain the broader picture of life they would see that this moment, while important, is fleeting and passing quickly. It’s the things of God that are most impacting and have the most longevity. That is partly my job as a parent-to instill in them the confidence that my love is unconditional and their personal value is not set by the world, and to help them see beyond the moment and see things as God sees them.

In becoming and being a father I believe I have learned more about God. I can imagine God taking our picture and having similar thoughts as I did just a week or so ago. The world is full of dangers and snares but I believe he wants to say to us “…take heart! I have overcome the word” John 16:33. He is only but a phone call away. I believe he wants us to recognize the trials of life are a blip on the radar of time. He wants us to see things as he sees them. He wants us to know “oh, how inexhaustible are God’s resources and God’s wisdom and God’s Knowledge! How impossible it is to search into His decrees and trace His footsteps!” Romans 11:33 (Weymouth New Testament). He is ready and waiting with whatever we might need to survive and make it through the day.

This causes me to ponder. Do my kids realize how much I love them and want to help them? Do I realize how much God loves me and wants to help me?