Blog Posts by Dr. Gary Nelson

  • Relationships

    "...make straight in the desert a highway..."


    "A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'" (Isaiah 40:3)

    I was driving home a couple of weeks ago on the interstate when this street down below in South Charleston caught my attention. Immediately I thought of the verse from Isaiah, " . . . make straight in the desert a highway for our God." I was frustrated that I couldn't stop at that spot on the interstate and take a photo. Instead, it took me a good bit of time winding through neighborhoods in the daylight and dark trying to find the spot to get the photo you're seeing. Finally . . .

    Having lived a great part of my life in West Virginia I can attest to the fact that we have very few straight highways. Most of our older roads wind their way over hill and mountain with sometimes such sharply curving switchbacks that GPS systems call for a right or left turn when approaching one of the hairpin
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  • Don't Sweat the Moment

    "...appears for a moment..."


    "You don't even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears." (James 4:14)

    I love the fact that the camera can capture a moment. Every event is a series of moments but often our experience is such that individual moments are rolled into one experience without much sense of the unique moments involved. This particular moment captured by the camera is part of a trick that one of our youth was performing late one evening for the rest of the group from our church. He swung high in the air from the playground swing then left the swing, did a flip in mid-air, and landed on his feet (sometimes). The camera caught him upside down, suspended in mid-air. I can't look at this picture without noticing just how vulnerable this youth was as he performed his trick for the rest of us in the group. What if he had landed like this instead of on his feet? Yet he performed

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  • People at the Table

    "...people at the table..."

    "Be considerate of the other people at the table and treat them the way you want to be treated." (Sirach 31:15) (A book from the Apocrypha of the Old Testament)

    The table has been set, the invitation extended, and now we wait. In this case it's not just one table, but many tables that have been set up in our church's gymnasium as we prepare for the second annual Thanksgiving community luncheon. Come to think of it, maybe it really does represent just one table - the Lord's Table that we have set to welcome all who are in need of physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment on Thanksgiving Day.

    Leading up to this holiday season I am saddened to hear how the retail industry is once more encroaching upon another opportunity for us to pause in our hectic lives, be thankful, spend quality time with loved ones, and extend the hand of fellowship to others. The conflict that has developed around this year's retail shopping schedule and the demands it

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  • In Memory

    " memory of me."


    "Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.'" (Luke 22:19)

    As the saying goes, "X marks the spot." That's certainly the case in this situation. I had to walk into the middle of a busy street to get this shot, but something told me I just had to do it. I waited for the traffic light to change and ventured across to get the photo. I stood directly over the spot and took the picture. I guess it really doesn't make much sense unless I show you the X in context.


    Now most of you know exactly where I was standing. When Patti and I were in Dallas a few weeks ago we made a trip to see the spot that was burned into my brain since I was a young child. I was in third grade when President Kennedy was assassinated and will never forget the look of horror on the face of our teacher when the school secretary unexpectedly entered our classroom

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  • Your Value?

    "Aren't you worth much more than birds?"
    "Look at the birds; they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren't you worth much more than birds?" (Matthew 6:26)

    How do you know you're valued? That's a question I always ask of couples that are coming to me for premarital counseling. I want to make sure they are aware of how important it is in relationships to feel that each of them is valued by the other. I know they're feeling valued at the moment or they probably wouldn't be asking me to marry them. However, valuing one another is one of the things that couples get sloppy about pretty quickly in relationships. They quit doing and saying the things they were offering when they were dating that sent a simple but vital message to the one they love, "I value you. You are really important in my life. You mean so much to me." In order to have healthy relationships we need to communicate that message with our words and our

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  • Strange and Terrifying Things

    "...strange and terrifying things..."


    " There will be terrible earthquakes, famines, and plagues everywhere; there will be strange and terrifying things coming from the sky." (Luke 21:11)

    Yesterday there were, in fact, many strange things coming from the sky in several parts of our country. For some, the sky was filled with threatening clouds, driving winds, pounding rain, and shredded debris. Apparently there are many today who are awakening to unbelievable devastation. When they emerge from shock they most likely will be overwhelmed with feelings of disbelief, anger, and sadness, just to name a few.
    In our area the clouds were of a different, but strange nature, dropping about eight inches of very heavy snow on our area and cutting power to many residents. Snow on fresh-growing roses is strange.

    When Jesus spoke the words recorded in the Gospel of Luke, "there will be strange and terrifying things coming from the sky," he used them to indicate that
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  • Tension

    " stood up straight..."

    "You blew on the sea and the water piled up high; it stood up straight like a wall..." (Exodus 15:8)

    Sometimes it's difficult for us to understand some of the miracles recorded in the Bible, like the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites as they fled from the Egyptians. Exodus records how God, "blew on the sea and the water piled up high; it stood up straight like a wall..." If we haven't seen it, if we can't comprehend it, we often tend to discount it. How terrible that is because the practice of discounting God's miracles robs us of the hope we need when we find our own selves struggling and needing God's intervening Spirit.

    Just for the record, here's a picture of water "standing up." Really, look at the drops standing on the petals of a rose a parishioner grew in her garden and gave me yesterday. Science tells us that the water standing up or beading up has to do with things like adhesion and cohesion. The rose petal's surface is smooth enough

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  • Signals: What Are You Sending?

    "I will signal..."

    "The Sovereign Lord says to his people: 'I will signal to the nations,
    and they will bring your children home.'" (Isaiah 49:22)
    Recently Patti and I were wandering through an antique store when I came upon an old railroad signal lantern. I think I've mentioned before that I'm a railroad aficionado (nut) so I had to stop and look. Signals were and are critical on the railroads. Without them there would be constant tragedies. My grandfather actually lost his leg because someone failed to put the proper signal on the rear end of a train that would indicate it was getting ready to back up. The train rolled over his leg as he crossed the tracks on his way to work. Signals are extremely important.

    In the passage from Isaiah we hear that God will send a signal to the nations indicating that something very important and wondrous is about to happen in their lives. I thought the same when I saw this hickory nut starting to open on a tree beside the church. God is

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  • Like Puff of Wind

    " a puff of wind..."


    "Lord, what are mortals, that you notice them; mere mortals, that you pay attention to us?
    We are like a puff of wind; our days are like a passing shadow." (Psalm 144:3-4)

    "Lord, what are mortals...?" and "Lord, what is life...?" are questions that have been asked over and over for centuries and millenniums. In a recent internet article entitled, "Will Science Someday Rule Out the Possibility of God?" (Natialie Wolchover on, 9/18/12) the author states the following:

    "Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious - the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe - can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science."

    I remember the line from the song that went something like, "...looking for love in all the wrong places..." I guess if a person

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  • Failure Can Never Be Forgotten

    "...failure can never be forgotten."

    "The people of those cities ignored Wisdom and could not tell right from wrong. Not only that, but the remains of their cities still remind us of the foolish way they lived, so that their failure can never be forgotten." (Wisdom 10:8) (One of the books of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament)

    Not long ago Patti and I were hiking along a trail that paralleled the river on one side and an abandoned railroad track on the other. Up ahead we noticed some wreckage along the trail. At first I wondered if we were seeing the remains of an airplane since we were also hiking near the airport. As we drew closer we were able to determine that the wreckage was most likely that of a coal car that had jumped the tracks above us and tumbled near the path and river. I found it interesting that the twisted car remained beside the tracks for so long. It almost seemed like a grizzly monument to remind the next engineer not to make the same mistake at the throttle as

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