Parallels and Candy Bars

I saw the three boys in the church foyer with their mother. Now they were men. They looked older and smiled less than the last time I had seen them. They were all looking at me to see if I recognized them. Would I say anything? acknowledge them? Their mother was oblivious to the dynamic of her sons here in this place. It was Christmas eve service early afternoon. I smiled and greeted them and said “it’s been 10 years hasn’t it?” They gathered around as if it were 20 years earlier, ages five to 10. Smiles came. Mom noticed and trusted their smiles. A flood of memories disjointed with what could have been for these boys.

55 years earlier little Johnny and I had parallel lives in many ways. Being Johnny was a few years older, I was able to buy his abused three speed bike from him so he could get a 10 speed. I wanted a faster bike to get to work 5 miles to mow the fairways on the local 9 hole golf course. A couple years later I bought Johnnies 40 pound recurve bow to hunt deer as Jonny didn’t ever use it. I used it. Three years later I talked dad into getting Johnnies motorcycle that he was selling (don’t get me going on motorcycle stories). I looked up to Johnny and his best friend Jim until one day I didn’t anymore. The parallel was gone, pathways in life changed. I changed and veered a hard right from John’s path.

John and I both attended kids club, church and youth group. My life was being greatly influenced. I remember the day clearly when my eyes were opened. It was a church spring clean-up day on a fine Saturday and all was well until John and friend Jim found the candy bar stash for kids club awards. They were the coveted treat earned by one of 4 teams each week. The team with the most points got a candy bar. Winning games, memorizing bible verses and finishing work book sections gave these candy bars gold medal status. When John and Jim found and took the candy bars, I was perplexed. It was wrong on principle of stealing but also on trampling the sacred ground of the winners circle. The worst part is it seemed there was no decision to it, like a dog finding a scrap of meat under the table or a cat running across a mouse.

However John got this way, I wanted no part of it.

John’s three little boys liked me. They were not raised as well as John was. They began going to church with mom, only once in awhile, until she left. Kids club was their life line but that fell away as John had fallen into drinking too much (too many meat scraps under the table I guess). I saw them in their small boat on the lake and would tell them what the fish were biting on. They loved to tell me their fish stories when I would see them at a men’s breakfast or on the street. They would gather around.

Down through the years I grew into leadership in most jobs I had. John drifted through life working here and there and getting fired was a pattern. He tried to raise the boys with all his might. He really did. He loved those boys. Evidently strong drink loved him more and finally won. He died running out of money to build his dream house. While he drank his sons in their teens were attempting electrical, plumbing and Sheetrocking themselves.

Don’t ever think the taking of a candy bar is no big deal

It’s been 10 years. It appears the boys recognize they have some decisions to make. There will always be candy bar finds; meat scraps if you will. The boys will have to decide if they are going to just be religious or if they will grow in a relationship with God who will set them free. I still see that hunger in their eyes if I look closely. I would like to think I saw it.

We walked into the church for a candle light Christmas eve service. The 3 boys and I and a hundred more people would hear(among other things) a talk given by my son, whose life parallels mine in so many ways more than Johns. Who has also had candy bar choices in life, who challenged us to know God, hear God’s voice and obey with some great personal stories. The boys are similar age to my son, their paths are different. I am so proud of my son’s path and the thousands of choices to get there (now he has three small sons becoming??)

When I was 15 I gave a talk to about 30 of my peers about knowing God and following Him. John sat in the back snickering with a couple others. I was not hurt other than hurting for him. These were my thoughts as my son was speaking 56 years later, as the boys and their mom were listening. What if they really heard? What if 2022 will find them veering off the parallel path shown them?

Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.

Psalm 16:11 “You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

May we not help anybody find their way (they already have that). Bring them into the winners circle, God’s way



I should know better then to follow the weather forecast too close. I end up with a narrow band of expectations. I saw the huge system on screen that would hang over us for quite a few hours. I heard it could produce on average an inch of snow per hour. I did the math and that’s a lot of snow. If my math was correct we would get over 20″ of snow. The weather person predicted 4-8″.

After 4 hours of snowing I took a picture of our 25 pound dog exploring 7″ of new snow and the storm was just starting. After lunch three hours later I shoveled off both decks and took some pictures at 16″ and still coming down heavily. The weather person really should have done the math. We are now close to 20″. I will readily admit, the snow is beautiful but I had different plans and expectations for the day. After all don’t expectations affect reality somehow??

Expectations really are one of life’s themes. Some people come much closer to reality in their expectations than others.

I still tell the story (I’m retired now) of a person who walked into our work place and said “I’ve decided I really want to work here.” I walked them over to our operations manager and introduced them. Knowing I would be in on the interview process, I stuck around as this person repeated they wanted to work at our facility.

When asked to supply a resume and be open to three interviews they simply said “no need to do that because I have decided I want to work here“. The hiring manager said “Thanks, we will call you when we need you, we will need to talk!” This brought on an obvious question by our wana-be new hire “you don’t even know my number”. A big smile and reply “exactly, have a nice day”

Expectations: A friend of mine asked an 18 year old last week what kind of job field he would like to go into after college. Response: I’m not going to college or get a job, the government will give me money. My friend: “We need to talk”

Expectations: I reacquainted with a retired friend I used to work with in our younger days. I asked how his retirement was going. This was his sad answer; “I retired with a lot of money so my wife and I could do things together and have fun doing things we didn’t have time for when we were working all those years. She doesn’t want to do anything with me. I’m not having fun and it’s her fault!” I said, “about that, we need to talk”

It seems every day I fuel my tank with present and future expectations. The vehicles I own, the food I eat, friends and family fulfilling promises made, safety, health, prayers fulfilled and going to heaven when I die. Yep Lord, “I’ve decided I really want to live in heaven when life is over and I’ve had a great life.”

God: “We need to talk!


Swan Thoughts

Swans, geese and bald eagles

I admit to feeling foolish when I looked at this picture. I had captured swans with the camera sitting on the ice while some were taking off from their ice flow. Good job Gary. I didn’t even notice that two of them were Canadian Honkers(geese) and two bald eagles had snuck into the background of the picture.

I should have noticed the bigger picture, set up a tripod and put everything into focus. In my defense the wind chill was minus zero, it was a misty blowing snowy day. The air was almost foggy and I was parked behind a big spruce tree after sneaking up on the birds. They were mostly facing the wind coming at me and in no mood for swan poses or looking pretty on their little patch of ice. basically giving me their backside (swan moon?). My hands froze and so did the camera and the batteries.

See the misty air? I might opt to be in the cabin by the fireplace

I was not going to get any clear pictures so I opted for “winter weather-nature” pictures instead. Context is so important isn’t it? There was way more to my iced swans than I had thought.

Well, you can see the winter weather. We have had a foot of snow and mostly below freezing temperatures for awhile. What you realize is going on is the bald eagles are watching to see if there is an opening for any vulnerable birds. The eagles are bird watching with an agenda. From experience these mature eagles know that there may be some signets that will not make it any further in the migration and be left behind. A lone swan no matter how big is no match for a hungry eagle. The eagles determine the rules, it’s natures way. For now, patience is a virtue. Not for me, I’m freezing.

As the swans began to take off and disappear to the other end of the lake, it occurred to me that cultures and governments are not much different than the swans and eagles. The ones with the most power make the rules. Regular people are just as vulnerable as the swans are to the eagle. I’m not going to expound on that as each of us has our own ice flow and cold storms to weather. The key to surviving is doing life together. The birds seem to even take in other species on the same ice flow sharing the wild rice beds for food now underwater.

This was my third time out with the camera. The weather was better the other times so I’ll share a few pictures of different aspects of the swan migration in a slide show. just click on one to enlarge and hit the buttons showing on each side of the picture.

Like the bird migrations, life has dangers we don’t see and we imagine dangers that are not there. I’m not dangerous to these birds except for the danger they put themselves in getting away from me. It’s hard to notice the bigger picture.

Life’s context is hard to see when we are in it. Did you notice that the harsher the weather the more the pictures turn out more like a black and white photo? It’s true. When life is hard the colors of life get less noticed. Finding and knowing God has been a huge deal for me. Relationally and in all areas He has put the color into my life. I do not run to the other end of my ice flow in fear of God like so many.

I love the claims of Jesus (yes, I’m a follower) when he said “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” John 16:33.

I have one other picture of the brush in the woods I (thankfully) only partially had to go through to get these pictures after the storm. Yes, you may feel sorry for me. Sometimes hard work is required to get a good picture. Usually I just do things the hard way…sigh

Seriously? Where is the path to the lake?

Feel free to kindly comment on your insights about life from these pictures…Gary

When Second Best Is Okay

A couple miles from our house is a good size very shallow lake with weeds, reeds, and wild rice. In the fall before freeze up the ducks, geese and swans use the lake as a stop over in migrating south. This week there is a swan convention.

I spotted the big flock of birds spread out on the end of the lake with open water. Swans everywhere. I vowed to go back with a camera hoping they would get closer in the vast marsh land for a recognizable picture. I’m averse to having photos that evoke responses like “what are those white spots in your nice evening swamp picture?”

As vowed, I get to the lake as the sun is low on the horizon making the browns and blues deep in color. The swans were spread out further from the road than before. Undeterred I set up the tripod and took a few pictures from the road with white blobs in the swamp. I’ll post the best picture here.

Yes, they are all swans, one of the many batches on the lake anyway.

See the high marsh grass in the bottom of the picture? I wanted to get there. I could still stay hidden and get close enough for a good picture. The woods area by the birds is too dense with brush to sneak up on them. I went around the side of the lake and headed into the grass to the waters edge.

Did I mention the lake is surrounded by springs out of the black muck? If you step in one you may sink out of sight. Theories would abound about one’s sudden disappearance. As it was the reeds at the edge were 8 feet high compared to my camera on the tripod at about four and a half. I can see the birds through the reeds but the camera will only get reeds waving around in the breeze. I go for second best as it’s the only solution I can think of that does not include knocking on a neighbors door and asking them if they have a good picture taking drone that I can borrow. See for yourself. Second best turned out okay. This time.

The swans still saw me and dispersed quite a bit. I still got a couple strands of marsh grass in the photo.

My second best idea came to me by knowing my camera features. I have a T3i Canon. I was able to keep the camera on the tripod fully extended and lifted it up overhead to about nine feet, holding the end of the tripod legs above my head while sinking in the mud as it’s getting dark was a unique new experience.

Before taking a picture that would work I had to do 5 things.

(1) set the camera on a 10 second timer so I had 10 seconds after pressing the shoot button to find the swan group closest to me and hopefully frame the shot as the camera went off.

(2) twist the viewfinder screen straight down so I could look straight up and see what the camera was about to shoot. My view finder flips sideways from the back of the camera and can be made to pivot in a circle (up, down, forward, back).

(3) Put the camera on the high speed setting for a 1/1600 speed shot.

(4) Put the lens on Manuel focus and pinpoint a set of swans that would be in focus.   I just had to raise the camera and find the right swans which would be in focus before activating countdown for the shot.

(5) I had to be okay with a narrow band of focus as I was waving the camera around like a flagman on an airport runway. the narrow focus comes with high speed shots.

After10 shots I felt it was the best I could do with what I had. Darkness was coming and all the swamp monsters were honed in on me as soon as I would cross the mine field of underground creature sucking springs. I’m quite sure I heard them.

Sometimes, some days, some jobs, some relatives, some cars, some vacations, some pictures and some circumstances we just need to be okay. Some other time I’ll talk about the best things in life. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I’m okay with most of these side things in life being second best.


PS: do a quick click on David’s haiku, worth the follow. He used one of my photos from unsplash brilliantly

Prey Predator Pray

Hey Deer. That’s what you get for eating our sour apples!

I have always come close to wildlife. It happens to many of us who live in the woods. When a person acts normal, they do not seem to be a threat to many animals and birds who tend to meander and stop a lot. That is normal. Alertness is normal for wildlife. Taking many pauses to see and look for abnormal movement is the way of nature. Every step through the woods has a different perspective, take it in. There is no way to move without being noticed; it’s continuous movement that causes anything wild to flee. Stopping a lot is the key. So much for being sneaky, hunching down and trying to be really quiet is suspicious predator type behavior.

Deer are not predators, they merely look for food and take what is presented to them (including our garden produce and flowers). Bear are predators. Bear hunt and kill spring fawns and anything they can catch. They also eat grass and berries so being a predator they can take time outs. Wolves, coyotes, cats (of any size) and the weasel family (wolverine, fisher, ferret, pine martin, mink and weasel) are pure predator.

Eagles hawks and owls are predators, and, depending on size can kill and eat mountain goats(have you seen the you tube videos of golden eagles pulling mountain goats off ledges to fall to their death?), small deer, sheep, goats, rabbits and mice are prey. Our little dog is in the category of prey if one of our big owls has his way. This barred owl was following our dogs movements through the dining room window, when I scared the bird away he flew two trees away and kept watching. Predators will often “lock on” to their prey.

Our world and our human culture is increasingly turning into and accepting the predators and the predator culture in society. Predators lead countries and design new ways to prey on their people. Sexual movements as predators are glorified, protected and their prey is shamed. Suicide is increasingly an acceptable way to handle life’s problems as they are on the prey side of culture. Political movements are predator in nature as is our news media. Cancel culture makes the wolf pack stronger and the individual more vulnerable to all the predators out there.

This spring fawn survived the two bear hunting them around our place. About 50% of our fawns did not.

The end result will always be the same as it is in nature. When the prey is scarce and gone, the wolves turn on each other, kill and eat, and only the strongest will be left alive. It’s the way of the predator. Thousands of years of human history is no different. Wolves will take a bear out of it’s den in the middle of winter when hibernating. Coyotes in a large pack will take on a few large wolves knowing full well many will be sacrificed. When a predator becomes old, sick or wounded, they become prey. Anyone who only sees skin color or nationality is operating from the eyes of a predator.

A very small fawn skull. Even the barred owl could have been the predator on this size fawn.

Being a follower of Jesus, I know it is possible to be neither predator nor prey. We do not have to be of that character. The character God gives a person from the inside out knows no skin color or history of rights and wrongs. When we “believe” and follow Jesus, our lives are distinctly marked by becoming like Him. Love is a way of life, fear diminishes, those around them see an inner peace and joy, an aliveness that is not understood by circumstances. They also become stronger people with a surety of life and purposeful living. There is a reason to life and it is worth dying for. The Bible calls these people “of whom the world was not worthy” (read Hebrews 11:38, just read the whole chapter…it’s worth it).

It may seem foolish to have enough love so one loves and prays for their predator enemies. To do good to those who hate you goes against common sense. Jesus says to even pray for those who misuse us.

This is a much deeper way than just saying “lets all get along”. If you desire to be an “influencer”, will you come as a predator? lash out as prey being cornered? or, love God and people so attractively in lifestyle and confidence the rest of the world around wants what you’ve got?

At least one deer likes me. I toss her an tomato and save a banana peel for her now and then and warn her of hunting season.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) That’s beyond having religion, way beyond.

Why can’t we all learn to love and pray? It’s such a better way then hate and prey. The route to God and the route to having that kind of love is through Jesus, any other way is like lifting yourself up by grabbing your shoes and lifting…Hmm, ya, show me the video where that works.


Looking For Light

Sun. It came up again this morning. I don’t always get to see it lately between clouds and wild fire smoke. I had an inkling last night when the rain clouds allowed an evening of fire in the sky. I took some pictures in low light between wind gasps, hoping to catch some leaves being still. I did, but as always the issue is finding light. Light is good when you have a camera and an itchy finger with a posed tree and the leaves are behaving.

I noticed a climbing vine on a spruce tree turning red but it’s always in the shadows. As the sun set the leaves began to show their colors in the fiery sky. I caught them hugging the rough bark and brittle dead mossy bottom limbs that die from lack of sunlight.

I positioned myself to capture the sunset. It’s full of fire and taints everything a bit red. Filtered light has it’s own influence. I take a couple pictures and just watch. I love light. I need light. We all do. Everything we want to see needs light.

Compared to the sun, all else looks dark unless the sun shines on or through it.

Early this morning, before the sunrise, I found myself in 40 degree weather sitting on the deck, reading and praying. I watched the big burr oak in front of me find some sun first. I wanted to share some of my first light with a picture. What I saw is way more than I can show you in a photo but the light allowed this much.

My sky view from the back deck

The sun striking the branch tops have come alive. The presence of sun is life. I can take a picture, the squirrels suddenly explode in and out of the woods, birds are singing, Light shafts appear through the tree branches to the forest floor.

I take a few pictures of the light rays in the nearby woods and walk through the shadows and light shafts. I find what I am seeking as a couple of maple trees have begun to turn traitor to summer. Their green leaves are turning red and yellow. I pause under a branch of leaves fully exposed to the morning sun.

I love sunlight. All is exposed in the light. This is why evil loves darkness and hates the light. I’m remembering some of my morning reading. I go in search of a yellow ash tree which should be fully exposed to the sun by now. I am in search of light. The suns light causes such contrast. The golden glow is mesmerizing. I love light. I love the Sun. I will always be in search of it’s light.

I read recently that one of the most internet searches in our day is “Finding God” I thought back to my teen years when I found God. I found a relationship through Jesus Christ. I found life. I wonder how much Gods son reflects from me? His Love, joy, peace, patience, and his light. Do I glow? I don’t get to evaluate myself.

This yellow ash tree glowing in the sun is like someone who has found God. They are in the light, they receive the light gladly, they glow, they reflect God’s light. They are full of life.

As the tree seeks the sun from God, so we seek the Son of God

It was said of Jesus when He began to minister “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”(Matthew 4:16)

Someone told me awhile ago they would find God on their own. I told them that the Book of John in the Bible had quite a good map in case they got lost.


It’s uncanny how much nature reflects truths of it’s creator. It’s common sense. Should we even be surprised?

Ghosts In Frame

I will admit my impulses are not always thought through completely. When I decided to capture pictures of ghosts at a local lake as a prank, I should have known the pandoras box possibilities. Consider my reasoning here as if I was influenced by our present culture.

I don’t believe in ghosts so if one or more gets in the picture, its not real. This allows me to prank people who think they are (this is not even a strange sentence in our present culture)

I decided the ultimate prank possibility would be a “haunted” lake shore area known to spook people who were susceptable to this kind of thing. The rains quit, the dark clouds hung around, the sun was trying to peek out and highlight some clouds on the way out so I grabbed my camera and went.

what do you think happened?

Aside from getting photo bombed by three friendlies it’s a nice picture. The wild rice is ready for harvest, an eerie calm after the rains came and it looks like I can land my boat there.

I did get some strange calls though. You would think people would know better.


Meanwhile I have been fishing alone. I get it, people are busy. I did find out that one picture can create a thousand words or more. No, I did not photoshop this picture. No, I only clicked the shutter once, this is how it turned out. No, I will not let you know the location.


PS: I thought this might create some discussion on how we arrive at what we believe to be true. If you knew me really well you would know what happened to get this picture. It’s a good (??) Discussion starter. Its worked for me.

how did I keep them away? I met them halfway…see

Hummingbird Picture Problems

I have spent part of the summer figuring out how to take a good photo of the hummingbirds that haunt the flowers and feeder. Aside from some easy still shots and a couple lucky flying fotos, I am being humbled into rookie status (again). I have come up with one main conspiracy theory about those good photographers. Tell me I’m wrong on this one…

To be really good, one must get a hummingbird (or two) that killed itself trying to fly through the picture window. They have a taxidermist friend who stuffs it and puts flexible wire in the wings so it can be positioned at various flying poses. Walla, take in focus pictures to your jolly hearts content. Sell that picture for big money with a bumblebee in it’s beak while grabbing a yellow jacket wasp with one of it’s little spindly feet and landing on a red willow branch with autumn leaves with the other foot. In the background you can just make out a poised (posed) bobcat ready to pounce.

How hard can it be to catch a little birdie in flight with just the right pose, the right background colors, the right lighting, the right framing and right enough so even I say “WOW”. So, I check the deck below the picture window daily.

Factors to consider until the picture window yields fruit… Is the eye in focus? are the feet tucked in, extended or signaling a direction? How much color is showing? can I see the ruby throat? Is it glinting colors in the sunlight? Is the lighting from behind for a silhouette? Can I get two in the picture? Can I get one with it’s beak open or flicking it’s tongue? Once again…is it in focus? Really in focus? How do I get those little squirts in focus? Focus is over rated isn’t it? Why do they chase each other? Hey you, ya you, the bully guarding the feeder…you are acting like our politicians and that’s not a compliment! Argh!

Learning is the process where one finds out how much they didn’t know they had to understand, I mean how hard is it to learn taxidermy? Meanwhile I’ll share a slideshow of the good, fair, interesting and I wish they were just a little, um, better. Here’s to learning a lot about the ruby throated hummingbird. (just click on a picture and see the whole pictures in a slideshow)

You can see the lighting, speed and color differences as no day is alike. To answer a couple questions, NO, I am not hoping for a bird from the window. Yes, I am often very frustrated over so many poor shots. Yes, I know one of those was a hummingbird moth.

Sometimes even a poor picture can get a point across better than just words. Instead of a thousand, maybe it’s still worth 59 words? But lets face it, you and I will never experience life like the hummingbird. If they ever build a ride at an amusement park called “The flight of the hummingbird” I’m not going on it unless I have advanced cancer and have tried everything else.


PS: I will use some of these pictures for my spiritual blog in a couple days, there are some good analogies and insights for living from those little hummingbirds. The link is

Drought Effects

The bees are thirsty, the grass is dry, flowers that rely on rain are gone. The forests are a tinderbox and well over a thousand wild fires burn throughout North America. Yesterday was clear because of the wind direction. Today the air is filled with smoke from several wildfires a couple hundred miles north of us in Canada. I have pictures from yesterday and today. You will be able to see the difference. The nearby lake is 3 feet low but the fish are biting for these boys anyway (Click on any picture for slide show and enlarging).

Nature ebbs and flows. It’s a natural thing. My father and grandfather talked of the wet and dry years, the hot and cold years, winters with piles of snow and others with little. Right now we have drought and are seeing the beginning effects. A couple feet of slow rain over the next 30 days would almost get us back to normal. For now, states south of us have been flooding. Hey guys, send some our way???

Oh the symbolism nature has for our lives. What does drought of the soul look like? If you thought to yourself “it looks like me,” then you might be in company with a whole lot of people. In a world of thirsty people how do we get and give water for the soul? Who even admits their thirst for satisfaction? Do you find yourself a sojourner for another place, a seeker of truth or an onlooker posturing and blaming? maybe you are like this hummingbird moth looking for nectar. I think it checked out the hundreds of blooms on our deck before moving on.

The bees are desperate and short tempered with more bees than blooms. Green grass and flowers are blooming where the underground water siphoning effect has not been broken by drought. Did you know that water from 100 feet down and further will siphon up to the tree roots and deeper plant roots still collecting moisture until the soil dries down beyond the roots? Once the moisture connection is broken the plant dies. Our planet is, was in a sense, one big hydroponic system.

We were designed as people to be hydroponic. Our thirsty souls need that deep living water to experience deep peace and satisfaction. I am speaking of the spiritual area of our lives.

I was asked by our church to share how I have and maintain a healthy relationship with God. They posted it on you tube. Check out the video link or see the outline here “Life is Like that,” (If you follow my other blog you have seen it). This is how I refresh my relationships from neighbors to siblings, my marriage and with God.

Searching and finding little

Consider these hydroponic claims: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (Jesus in john 4:14)

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (Jesus in John 7:38)

O Lord, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame.
Those who turn away on earth will be written down,
Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:13)

The swamps are still hydroponic even though dry

The living waters of life are worth searching for……Gary