Blog Posts by Dr. Gary Nelson

  • At That Very Moment

    " that very moment..."

    "Jesus gave a command to the demon, and it went out of the boy, and at that very moment he was healed."
    (Matthew 17:18)

    On Father's Day I visited a friend's outdoor model train layout open house. I took a lot of photos and happened to catch this soap bubble that one of the toy trains was popping out as it moved around the track. The bubble lived barely long enough for me to snap this photo. Such beauty, but just for a moment...

    A moment is not a very long measure of time, but string a few moments together and we get a minute. Put a few more moments together and we have an hour, a few more and we make a day, then keep going until finally a lot of moments linked end on end give us a lifetime. Obviously, lifetimes vary in length yet what each has in common is that at their most elemental level each is a string of moment after moment after moment after moment. In this soap bubble's brief moment of life it reflected beauty and wonder to the eye of the beholder.

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  • Watching



    "The Lord is always watching what people do; everything they do is as clear as day to him." (Sirach 17:19)

    I was slowly circling the green-slime-covered pond watching for signs of life to photograph when I saw from a distance this "log" sticking up out of the water. Drawing closer to that part of the pond I watched the "log" submerge beneath the surface. That's when I realized I wasn't the only one doing the watching. I was being watched by one of the huge snapping turtles that claimed this emerald pond as their home. A few moments later I stood still, he resurfaced, and we spent several moments quietly watching each other.

    The author of Sirach (one of the apocryphal books in the Old Testament of the Bible in case you're wondering) says that the Lord is always watching us, waiting to see whether we'll take a path toward health and wholeness or sin and destruction. I remember as a young boy we lived in a town small enough that it was safe for me to walk to

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  • Presence



    I am always aware of the Lord's presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me. (Psalm 16:8)

    I realize this may sound crazy, but I watched these two tree swallows (at least I think they're tree swallows) for a few moments at a nearby pond and was immediately transported back in time to the day I spent in the labor and delivery room with my wife as she struggled through many hours of labor to give birth to our son. In spite of all the classes we attended where I was affirmed as such an important part of the birthing process, when push came to shove (no pun intended because the birth wound up being a caesarean section) I still felt like my wife was doing all the work and I was simply hanging out. Makes me wonder if the mama bird in my photo was looking out to make sure her "hubby" was still there, half expecting that he had gotten bored with all the waiting and flown off for some distractions. Why was she checking? Was his presence actually important even through there

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  • Special

    "...hated their brother..."

    "When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner." (Genesis 37:4)

    When I saw these two spider webs "posted" side-by-side on the fence yesterday morning I couldn't help but wonder if there was some sort of friendly competition or sibling rivalry going on. It's happened to me on more than one occasion that a child has asked me to judge their artwork as being the "best of show," even while I'm surrounded by other children holding their own creations. The best I can usually muster is something like, "Oh, it's wonderful. I think all the drawings are wonderful," and pray the child doesn't press me any further to declare a "winner."

    We all have it as young children, that deep need to be "special" or "the best." Millions, if not billions, are spent each year on ribbons, trophies, and the like to support that need to feel like "we're number one."

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  • Leaving


    "At daybreak Jesus left the town and went off to a lonely place. The people started looking for him, and when they found him, they tried to keep him from leaving. But he said to them, 'I must preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God in other towns also, because that is what God sent me to do.'" (Luke 4:42-43)

    A youth from our church showed me the nest in a bush by the corner of the building. Mama robin had tucked the nest just inside the branches, but pretty much at eye level, making for some very amazing bird watching. By the time I took this picture the three little birds were not quite so little and looked pretty uncomfortable all squished together.

    Let's face it leaving the nest is difficult. As a matter of fact, most transitions are difficult, be they a graduation, new birth, divorce, death, move to a new location, or promotion. Even the ones that include joy, anticipation, and excitement can also include more difficult feelings like anxiety, fear of the

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  • Disaster

    "...anticipate the time of disaster."

    photo"For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them." (Ecclesiastes 9:12)
    Just two days ago I watched folks picnicking in the riverfront park and launching their fishing boats for a day of angling. Today, it's raining again and suddenly the Ohio River is flooding its banks again. As the promotional posters for the series of JAWS movies once proclaimed, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..."
    How vulnerable we truly are as human beings! We expect a certain amount of strain and stress in life, but disasters that suddenly surprise us without warning can be especially devastating. Our first response is most often shock, almost like a state of suspended animation in which we might feel frozen or numb and find it difficult to get our brain wrapped around the reality of what has just happened

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  • Lose My Strength

    "...loose my strength..."

    "She (Delilah) kept on asking him, day after day. He (Samson) got so sick and tired of her bothering him about it that he finally told her the truth. 'My hair has never been cut,' he said. 'I have been dedicated to God as a nazirite from the time I was born. If my hair were cut, I would lose my strength and be as weak as anybody else.'" (Judges 16:17)

    Yesterday I was outside moving boxes around from our flooded basement and was surprised by this tiny one-inch-long critter appearing suddenly in my path. He was quickly making his way up his "rope" from the ground to a tree branch about ten feet above. Wow, what strength! If my math is correct that works out proportionally to me hoisting my body straight up a rope about 700 feet, a 70 story building. (Fat chance of that ever happening!) That's some strong caterpillar!

    Ever lose your strength or have the wind knocked out of your sails? We know it happened to Samson. He gave in, told Delilah his secret, she

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  • Remember how it feels...

    "...a foreigner..."

    "Do not mistreat a foreigner; you know how it feels to be a foreigner, because you were foreigners in Egypt." (Exodus 23:9)

    A few years ago we transplanted some iris to a flowerbed running along the side of the church. Each spring the same thing happens, we are treated to a gorgeous display of purple blossoms -- with one stalk of yellow in the middle. Proudly, the yellow iris stands as a foreigner in a purple land.

    In Exodus the Lord reminds the Israelites that they, "know how it feels to be a foreigner." The memory of their own journey and the awareness of how it felt to be a foreigner would help guide them in their treatment of foreigners in their midst. Too often we react or respond to another too quickly from our fear, judgment, bias, vengeance, etc. The act of first remembering our own experiences and feelings, as well as wondering what it might be like to be in the other person's shoes is an important check in the process. It's easy to hurt
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  • Overwhelmed

    "...shall not overwhelm you..."


    "When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." (Isaiah 43:2)

    My week began with one of those family medical emergencies that elicits that "Whuuuuuuuuu," sort of response. You know what I mean. You hear the sharp inward sucking of air passing through your lips and throat as your brain starts to play ninety million different scenarios about the possible future consequences of the emergency. Then today, just as I got off the phone from hearing some good news about the situation I heard the sweet voice of my loving wife calling up from the basement (rather calmly, all things considered), "Dear, the basement is flooded. The sump pump quit working." Once again I heard the, "Whuuuuuuuuu," as I surveyed the extent of the water's meanderings.

    In both circumstances I thought of the photo above that I took a few

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  • Deceit

    "...deceitful tongues."

    photo"Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues." (Psalm 120:2)

    This past week Patti and were in Houston, Texas so I could give some talks on teen depression and other topics. One afternoon we were able to get away and engage in one of our favorite activities, a walk on the beach, this one at Galveston. We've walked many beaches on the east, west, and gulf coasts, but never before had we encountered the sight before us -- piles and piles of brown seaweed filled with these iridescent "balloons."

    Something told me to be careful around these beautiful creatures. At first I thought they were jellyfish, but then I realized they weren't really "jelly." In fact. they looked just like latex balloons (and sounded like them when Patti popped one with a stick). I pushed a couple of them over and saw some interesting tentacles hanging from the bottom. Hmm... pretty on top, but something sinister on the bottom...

    photo "Don't let looks deceive you," certainly

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