About Gary Abernathy

"It's the little things that separate the good from the great." - Bob Schneider (Flowerparts). As a human being, I try to live up to that proclaimation. My life to this point has been extremely varied, highly exciting and rich in both blessing and curse. My greatest wealth lies in my wife and two daughters, who inspire, captivate and motivate me. My soul is registered in the book of Life (pending final review), and my heart is open and worn on my sleeve. I am honest, determined and stay true to my convictions. The rest...you will just have learn as time goes on.

The Grateful Series: The Mixed Bag of Unique Gifts

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(Photo of me at Muir Woods, California Spring 2016)

Romans 12: 6-8…We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance  with your faith, if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. 

In this series we’ve gone through the 5 senses God provided to experience this mortal life. There are indeed unique extra senses to which we owe our personalities, individual gifts and talents, and all the many ways we go about serving God’s purposes. These are the things we often describe as “just comes natural to us.”

An example of this in my life was 10 year old me taking drum lessons from a twenty-something pro that my dad arranged. For what felt like forever, all he’d let me do was play rudiments on the snare drum. I liked paradiddles, but the rest was terribly boring. All signs pointed to me giving that up in pretty short order. Then one evening his girlfriend stopped by while we were busy paradiddling and whatnot, and he left the room. There before me was the entire drum kit at my disposal. I had no permission to play it, but I did anyway, and I started emulating all the things Peter Criss was doing on my KISS records. For a kid with no experience except how to do a pretty slow paradiddle on the snare, I sounded pretty decent. Enough so that my long haired, super cool, teacher, was shocked as he stood in the doorway gawking at me. It just came natural to me.

How was I to know that God had no plans to make me like Peter Criss, as in my dreams? Instead, he’d use that God-provided natural instinct for his own benefit for a span of 20 something years in two different cities. I had a lot of fun and experiences on my own time, too, but the sum total of that gift turned out to be – in service to him. Quite an honor it has been.

That’s just one of my unique gifts or extra senses. There are others, as with your own, too, and the more I’ve aged the more aware of these things I have become. All of them are in use and service to God’s will and purposes.

I sincerely pray that those who’ve read this series or will in the future, seek to express their own gratitude for the wonders and grace God provides in their lives.

Onward towards the Kingdom!

Gary Abernathy

 

 

The Grateful Series: Touching the Heart

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(My hug-friendly family exploring Boston – Summer of 2018)

Luke 8: 42-45…As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelves years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

This is a great story in Luke’s Gospel. The essential human instinct of reaching out in faith for help. Or love. Or Sympathy. Compassion. In this case, reaching out in faith to be healed. Jesus knew someone had touched him for that reason, because he felt the power go out of him when she touched his cloak. She trembled at his feet explaining why she had done what she did, and how she had been instantly healed. Jesus replied, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

We take our sense of touch completely for granted. Many people are without sight or hearing, but nearly everyone alive has the ability to feel…to touch. Even as I type on this MacBook I’m not quite used to working on, my fingertips feel the slight sting as my hands try to keep up with my brain. We spend all day, everyday, processing the sense of touch. Thank you, God, for this miracle you’ve provided.

In Part 5 of this Gratitude Series, here are 5 things that touch my heart, to which I give great thanks to the Lord.

1. Holding Hands with My Daughters. They are 21 (nearly) and 17 now, so it doesn’t happen often these days. But the mental image in my mind of raising them will always be strolling along (anywhere we went) holding their hands. There is magic to that between a parent and child when they hold hands. It doesn’t just provide sense of security and love to the child. The magic flows back into the parent as well. By far, my favorite feeling of touch as a Dad has been holding their hands. The feeling is stored deep in my heart.

2. There are a great many things between a husband and wife that aren’t to be shared in a public forum. Most cherished instances of touch fall into that category. Suffice it to say, they are there with us, too, and they shall go without saying. But the sweetest can certainly be put on record. The feeling of my wife stroking my hair as we sit on the couch watching whatever we may be viewing. I adore that feeling.

3. A sincere and real hug. Without question, I’m a hugging type person. If I like you, it doesn’t matter what gender you are or who you may be, eventually, and probably often, you’ll be hugged by me. There exist several different types of hugs, and it’s a fun thing to Google sometime if you’re interested. But the best are the kind that come with a warm smile and enthusiastic embrace. One of the best huggers I’ve ever met served with me on a praise team for many years. That woman gives great hugs. Nothing weird about it, and no extra implications. She just hugs people for real. That’s a great feeling. My family has always been a group of huggers (as shown above). It means a great deal more than most people ever realize…to be hugged.

4. The sensation of water touching your skin. Getting into a warm shower. A hot tub. Pool. Slipping into a mineral bath in a luxurious spa. Wading into the ocean. There is a sense of home built into our DNA when we enter water (totally made that up but it seems right), and it’s triggered by our sense of touch as the water hits our skin.

5. My drumsticks. They’ve always felt perfectly natural in my hands. As if they were merely an extension of my fingers that my brain instantly controlled. They make reality of the rhythm playing in my mind. I like the smoothness of the wood. The exactness of the weight. I’m not one of those drummers that can do entertaining circus tricks with their drumsticks. That’s not me. I know that it’s showmanship and people enjoy it, but I find it disrespectful to the art. Like a monkey doing tricks at a zoo. My desire is to create music that moves another soul in all the right ways. Drumsticks? Are the tools that make that happen.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

The Grateful Series: Sensational Sounds

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(Photo of me Spring 1998 playing an outdoor festival in Charlotte, NC)

Acts 2: 1-2…The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

The description of sounds heard runs throughout scripture from Genesis to Revelation. In both Old and New Testaments, the writers describe the noises they experienced, dreamed, or had been told. None more dramatic than the Day of Pentecost as the second chapter of Acts opens. The Spirit of God filling the room like the sound of a violent wind and entering the bodies of the Apostles.

Our sense of hearing greatly helps to define the moments we experience. Writer, Milan Kundera, wrote this wonderful description…”The sound of laughter is like the vaulted dome of a temple of happiness.” Perfectly true, yes?

In Part 4 of this series of expressing gratitude to our Father for these senses, here are 9 of my favorite sounds in life.

1. I’m a drummer. To be exact, I’m a mostly self-taught rock drummer from age 10 until present. I’ve performed thousands of songs on all kinds of stages through the years, and I’ve done so in my own original style. One of my favorite sounds is truly hard to explain unless you lived inside me, but it’s the sound my drums make when I’m fully caught up in a song to the point it becomes like an out-of-body experience. The rest of the band and the vocals are still there, but I’m driving this temporary creation on pure rhythmic instinct, and it’s nothing short of its own miracle. Like I’m inside the song itself looking out, and I’m listening to what’s being made at the very same time it is being created. It’s beautiful to experience. It doesn’t always go like that, and in fact most times, you’re just doing your job and playing drums. The picture of me above? I was inside the song.

2. The sound of Autumn leaves crunching under my shoes as I’m hiking or walking on a crisp Fall day. I love to play in leaves. When my dad would make my brother and me rake them when we were kids it didn’t seem like a bad chore at all. The entire spectrum of senses and emotions that Autumn engages in our souls always find a warm welcome from me.

3. My daughters laughing. Especially when they were toddlers through elementary, but even now as they’ve grown. That sound. It has to be the closest thing a Father can experience that comes close to the pure sounds of heaven. I would never cease trying to come up with ways trying to make them laugh just so I could hear it again.

4. This one is oddly specific…the sound of chatter mixed with clinking knives, forks and spoons, at the Cupboard Restaurant on South Blvd in Charlotte, NC circa the 1970’s. My dad would take me there for breakfast or lunch often because his office was nearby. I have no idea why, but I couldn’t get enough of that background white noise while we ate. To this day I still think about it when I’m eating at some establishment, and try to hear what I used to hear back then. For reasons that only a professional therapist could bring to surface, those sounds were a great comfort.

5. Waves crashing on a beach when the sound is isolated to the point it’s all you hear. That’s a pretty difficult situation to ever come about, because there are always other sounds mixing in with the waves crashing. When I was just barely 18 years old I was living in our family beach house in South Carolina. This was 1984. Wild growth hadn’t yet overtaken the area, and though our home was across the street from the beach, nothing stood between the structure and the ocean on the other side. The house is on stilts, but my dad had an apartment built ground level as I began college at Coastal Carolina University. By late Fall, the beach population dwindled to few, so late at night as I was falling asleep, all I’d hear were those waves a hundred yards or so from my head crashing. Pure magic.

6. The sound of a woodpecker going to town on some tree deep in the woods. It’s a mystery to me why I love to hear that, but I do, and I got to experience that on a hike last October. I was plowing along shuffling my feet through the leaves as I mentioned above, and I heard that distinct knock. It took me a bit to find that beak beating fella, but I finally did. I just sat and listened happily.

7. The sound of rain pinging off a distinguished umbrella with personality, as I stroll a path or city sidewalk. In those times I laugh in my head and say, “Yes, dad, you’re right. I really don’t have the sense to even know to come out of the rain.” I will gladly put on a raincoat, grab my red and green tartan umbrella, and take a walk through a steady, yet friendly, soaking rain.

8. The jet-like whoosh of a massive stadium filled with people when the home team does something great. It’s a magnificent sound. That initial roar as it builds to deafening levels. I’m a big fan of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. One of my favorite moments in life was in January 2016 hosting the NFC Championship Game in Charlotte. I was there, along with my older brother, my dad, and my stepmom. It was a frigid evening game against the Arizona Cardinals for the right to go to the Super Bowl. We won. Big. It was fantastic. I heard this sound repeatedly for 3 hours.

9. The sound of a favorite or cherished song(s) coming on at just the perfect moment. This happened to me again today before writing this latest list. I was in our pool with my family here on Memorial Day 2019 in Florida, and floating on one of the high quality new floats my wife and I purchased. They’re super comfortable and perfect for catching some sun. My phone was synced up with the blue tooth speaker I have out there, and right when I was totally relaxed (rare thing) and enjoying the moment, a trifecta of great songs came on back to back to back. “California Stars,” by Wilco, followed by, “Last Song I’ll Ever Write,” by Jason Isbell, followed by, “When You’re Done,” by Lucero. Dude. What a treat 🙂

Gary Abernathy

The Grateful Series: A Matter of Taste

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(Photo by me at Sue’s Best Burger, Oct 2017, in Blue Ridge, GA)

Job 34: 2-4 (ESV)…Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know; for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.

As we continue with Part 3 of this series in expressing gratitude to the Father by acknowledging the wonderful senses we’re provided to experience life, I looked to this passage in Job. Referencing our senses of hearing and taste and the abilities they give to discern, the scripture implores us in the same way to actively choose right over wrong, good over bad, in our decision making. “As the palate tastes food.”

The palate is incredibly unique in each individual. While we certainly share common love or dislike with many others over any particular taste, no two palates are exactly alike. Have you ever considered that? Stunning to realize the complexity of His creation in these ways. The list of things that send my tastebuds into heavenly orbit would never exactly match another person. Yet, all individuals have “a taste” for certain items, and from that first initial bite or sip, many other emotions are engaged, the best of which we in America describe as – Comfort Food.

With great gratitude to my Father for the sense of taste, here are just a sample of some of the things I adore to experience. Create your own list and give prayers of Thanksgiving!

Disclaimer: I am not an Aristocratic man of highly refined palate and taste. I’m a southern boy raised on real cooking and great tasting foods. This list will reflect that 😉

1. South Carolina mustard-based bbq sauce slathered on pulled pork and served on a white bread bun. Preferably at a divine placed named, “Maurice’s Piggie Park,” in Columbia, South Carolina. The original one. With the enormous sign in the sky with a smartly dressed pig standing on top. I love that place deeply.

2. Steamed Dungeness, King, Snow, or Stone Crab, dipped in melted butter. One of the greatest (and most expensive meals on earth), is also one of the most simplistic pleasures to be found. There’s almost nothing to preparing, plating and then selling this meal (for great profit), but the reason it’s done is because it’s soooooooooooooo good. Sure it can be a bit cumbersome to get to that meat, and in the case of King Crab, it can also be painful, but slap down a mess of it in front of me and I won’t talk again until it’s all gone. I’ll just look up at you right before I start and say, “See you on the other side.” After that…it is just a fury of flying shells, dripping butter, and a series of pleasurable grunts and moans.

3. Dr. Pepper. No kidding, for a great portion of my life to this point I consumed Dr. Pepper like it was my paid job. I used to joke that my body chemistry consisted purely of the 23 flavors of Dr. Pepper. It was all a beautiful great ride. Until a Doctor one day ruined everything. In a nutshell, if I didn’t stop gulping down the truthfully really bad for you, yet amazingly delicious soda, I was on a fast train to a fried pancreas and early death. Begrudgingly, I put down the sodas and started drinking water like a normal human being. However, I still treat myself on occasion, and the Good Doctor still holds my heart. P.S. I visited the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas earlier this year. My advice if you love the drink? Don’t go. It’s sadly disappointing for what should be a grand palace honoring the world’s greatest soft drink. 🙂

4. An expertly prepared Strip Steak, either NY or Kansas City cut. I’m always down to chow on a strip steak. Anytime. Anywhere. But all steaks are not created equal, and neither are the cooks making them. To this day, the best Strip Steak I’ve ever had the great pleasure to eat was at Emeril’s in Orlando, Florida. A place that no longer exists. Hall of Fame Chef, Emeril Lagasse, of New Orleans fame, for a time had a great restaurant at Universal Studios Florida. I was there with my kids and wanted something more upscale than park food. I had no idea the most mouth-watering, buttery, juicy, awesome steak I’d ever eat was on the menu. But it was. I’ve been seeking its equal ever since. I’ll gladly keep searching.

5. A fried seafood platter on the Carolina Coast. Flounder, shrimp, scallops, oysters, deviled crab, hush puppies…it’s all deadly. Deadly delicious. The style is officially known as, “Calabash Style,” named after the small NC fishing town that calls itself the Seafood Capital of the World. That of course is silly, but the food is not, and it is served all up and down the coasts of both Carolinas.

6. New York City Pizza. My personal favorite (because you have to have one) is – John’s of Times Square. NYC is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me the city is – Pizza. I could take or leave the rest, but give me that pizza.

7. The Eastern North Carolina Style Chopped Pork BBQ Sandwich that was served in the Charlotte Coliseum during Charlotte Hornets basketball games. Not the Michael Jordan owned Hornets of now, but the original George Shinn owned Hornets. With Larry Johnson, Alonso Mourning, and Steph Curry’s Dad, Dell. Those Hornets. We went to all the home games back in those early years of the franchise, and oh my…there was a NC BBQ stand outside in the concourse that served up both Western and Eastern styles. The Eastern? Mouth-watering, unbelievably good. North Carolina is one of the 4 pillars of BBQ along with Texas, KC, and Memphis. The state is full of legendary joints. For me to sit here and say the best I ever tasted was from a stand at an NBA game? I could be banned permanently from the state. But I’m telling you truth…it was the best.

8. The Red Beans, Rice & Grilled Smoked Sausage at Acme Oyster House in New Orleans, LA. I have had the honor of sitting at the bar at Acme for many lunches and devouring their red beans, rice and sausage. The flavors just pop like a fireworks show in your mouth. If you ever find yourself having a drink or two in the French Quarter any given night, go to Acme the next day for lunch and order this. Fix you right up.

9. Breakfast. Let’s not even bothering to break it down to a specific breakfast food. Just – breakfast. You walk downstairs to the smell of bacon or sausage sizzling in the pan, fresh eggs are about to become something delicious however you like to have them…oh man. I love it all. Breakfast. Just typing the word makes me happy.

10. My Mom’s Baked Chicken. She was a splendid southern cook and had the skills to make all kinds of dishes. But for me growing up, my favorite was her basic baked chicken. I don’t know what she did because I was too stupid back then to pay attention. But whatever it was, that baked chicken was the comfort food of my childhood. I’ll never get to eat it again. She passed away in 2000. But my palate? The memory is still fresh. Thanks, Mom!

 

The Grateful Series: My Favorite Aromas

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Psalm 115: 4-8 (NIV)…But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

In the second part of this series seeking to instill gratitude in our hearts that the Father made us the way that he did, I’m going to be honoring the sense of smell. Our creator has blessed us not only with these bodies to function with, but also with 5 wonderful senses that bring those parts to life. Unlike the endless false idols man uses attempting to usurp God, we can see, smell, taste, touch, and have ears to hear. Do we not take this for granted? For those missing one of these senses for whatever reason, they certainly do not take any of the others for granted. But we sure do. These simple list exercises help to instill appreciation and thankfulness for these miracles. I encourage the reader to make their own lists.

My sense of smell is easily my weakest. I’m not sure why, but no one would ever mistake me for a blood hound. However, it does work well enough for me to have a list of favorite aromas and memories of great smells.

It the spirit of gratitude for our Father, here are some of my favorite aromas 🙂

1. Walking in the doors of Godfather’s Pizza from 1980 to 1984 at Park Road Shopping Center in Charlotte, NC. “Wow, that’s intensely specific,” you say? Ha! That’s my favorite smell of all-time. Nothing has topped it yet. Everyone knows how great the smell is when you first walk into a pizza joint, but this one in particular was ridiculously great. At least that’s how it lives in my memories.

2. The Evergreen Trees at the summit of Calloway Peak in North Carolina. Sitting at 5,964 feet, this is the highest mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountain range. After a strenuous, long hike to reach the summit, the first reward is not the incredible view. It’s the aroma. It smells like Christmas exploded in the best possible way. The commercialism evaporated in God’s wrath, and all that remains is the pure and wonderful smell of natural growing evergreen. When you reach that peak you know you’re somewhere super special. Your nose tells you.

3. My wife’s dirty hair. “What???” That’s right, I said it. My wife’s hair when it hasn’t been washed? Dude. It smells fantastic. I stick my snout in there until she swats me away like a pesky gnat. Then I come back for more 🙂

4. The blooming Jasmine bush Easter Weekend 2019 in Savannah, Georgia. We were staying at an Airbnb on gorgeous Jones Street in Savannah, and upon checking in late at night I could smell something great but I couldn’t see what. The next day I discovered the source. A gigantic Jasmine bush/tree/whatever they are called, in the courtyard of the townhouse. In full bloom. And sending out waves of awesomeness aroma. That bush had strong smell game.

5. Smoldering wood sending smoke wonderfully wafting through the air at any real BBQ place in the Southern United States. It doesn’t matter which type of wood is burning: Hickory, Oak, Cherry, Mesquite, Peach, Apple…it’s all a delight to the sniffing senses. In my opinion, THAT is the official smell of the south. I crave the scent.

6. Freshly cut grass in the summer. Isn’t this a universal favorite smell? Have you ever met anyone that said they didn’t like that smell? No, you haven’t.

7. The aromas of the South Carolina Coast. This goes beyond the obviously great smell of salt air that we all love and identify with as the beach, but also to those unique things about the South Carolina coast that are so amazing. Shrimp boiling or frying, footlong hot dogs being served to your table, the myriad of aromas of a beach boardwalk…I could go on all day. This time next week I’ll be there once again. I always come home.

8. Play-Doh. I was one of those kids. I didn’t eat it, but I wanted to, because it smelled so freaking good to me. I could just bury my snout in the cup and stay there. (Btw, this might be one of the weirdest things about me, but certainly not the only thing). I’m not the only one in this boat I’ll have you know. If you Google, “the smell of play-doh,” you’ll get this description: “Hasbro formally describes the trademarked scent as a unique scent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, and the natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough.” See???
They do it on purpose 🙂

 

 

 

The Grateful Series: 10 Things My Eyes Love to See

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Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)…Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Every person in Christ has important teachers that are sent during the journey home. I’m no exception to this, and one of those teachers has been a Southern Baptist preacher in Nashville, Tennessee. The funny thing is? He has no idea I even exist. “Pastor Mike” at Brentwood Baptist has taught me one particularly valuable lesson: Authenticity. Through a friend, I’ve visited his church several times, and I’ve watched countless of his sermons online. It’s a large place, so I’m just another face, but he’s meant a great deal to my growth.

As a Southern Baptist leader, Mike is expected to talk about America’s secular culture and its threats to the Christian community. Too many of his peers uphold that responsibility by snarling and gnashing their teeth at the people not going along with the biblical game plan. Mike doesn’t operate in that fashion. For one thing, he never snarls…at anything. However, I’ve learned to understand his body language and his vocal cadence, and I know when he’s gnashing and who it is directed at: His congregation. Us. The Christians.

Mike spends every sermon series doing one thing – Teaching his people how to be authentic. He understands that snarling and gnashing only gets back in return…the same. For a Christian to be the lighthouse that draws in the weary and broken to Christ, they actually have to BE a lighthouse. So Mike is always building lighthouses. He’s a construction manager more than anything else. God put my eyes and ears onto Mike to teach me a thing or two, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

In that spirit of authenticity, I’m starting what I’m simply calling – The Grateful Series – in which here on Oak Tree we will move through the 5 senses God provided for us to experience his creation, as well as a 6th that we’ll call, “the mixed bag of unique gifts,’ and I’ll list things I’m personally grateful for in that particular sense. It’s my belief that when we are teaching or leaning a new thing, such as authentically being what you claim to be, the only place to start is to go back to the basics. The fundamentals. There is nothing more fundamental in belonging to Christ than to be – Grateful. I’d encourage and hope that you’d make your own lists after reading mine. These type of exercises might seem silly, but they’re highly effective in helping to instill things that will stay in your mind and heart. Gratitude in your heart? That’s a splendid gift to possess.

Here are 10 Things My Eyes Love to See.

1. The way the morning sun coming through our windows falls gently on the skin of my wife. I truly love that moment. It gives a sense of pureness and true beauty. It’s a gift.

2. A fresh and whole Dungeness crab sitting on plate before me. It’s a beautiful blessing and a rare treat from his bountiful ocean. My favorite meal. Concerning my love of this crustacean, I often say to friends and family, “If I ever found myself on death row, the first thing I’m asking for as my last meal…is Dungeness crab.” True story 🙂

3. The way my oldest daughter navigates with expertise places she’s never been. It’s unreal. I’ve put that girl on the streets of NYC or Boston, and I’ve taken her on backwoods trails and rocky cliffs. She sets a faster pace than me so she’s always ahead, and I love to just walk behind her and watch her go. Once in 2016, I watched her learn the entire London Tube System in like 10 minutes. It’s impressive to see.

4. A chilled, crisp bottle of Pinot Grigio being opened by my wife. When I see this, I know that soon to follow we’ll be having some type of great conversation that twists and turns. We’ll laugh. We might cry. But whenever the wine cork is lifted up from the bottle…a special time with my wife is about to happen.

5. The way my wise-for-her-years youngest daughter looks at me when she is trying to settle my anxiety. For many years I’ve referred to her as “my handler.” She understands me. Makes me better, because she’s so good. If I’m in a tornadic bluster of emotion, or riddled with an anxiety attack of some sort? Call for Marissa. She’ll fix me.

6. A weight scale reading lower than I was mentally prepared to see. Yes, I know this is a bit of vanity to care, but I’m working really hard on my health in general, and it’s great encouragement when you get a surprise reading lower than you thought it would be. I’ll take that sight all day, everyday 🙂

7. The view from a mountain summit after spending a large amount of energy and spunk to get to that spot. Hiking has become a deep passion of mine in my 40’s and now early 50’s, and I find the visual rewards of the places God has brought me to be some of the most beautiful things I’ll ever see in this life. One of those moments is pictured above. That shadow is me. I had just conquered the longest, most difficult trail I’ve done at this age – Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain, NC – and I was elated to say the least 🙂

8. The first glimmer of the ocean coming into sight after a long drive to get there. I grew up with a mother who loved the beach. We lived roughly 175 miles from it, and there was no quick interstate to get us there. It was a long haul to a little kid to get to the beach, and she took us a lot. It was all worth it when you’d finally see the ocean coming into view as you turned off Hwy. 17 in South Carolina and headed for the sea. Most of my entire generation of Carolina kids get that same warm feeling when they see the Atlantic. It feels like home. It feels like family.

9. My friends. All of them. Their faces, their laughs, their personalities. I love my friends. And I love to see them coming.

10. Anything in the natural world that reminds me that God actually did create all this, and it’s certainly no accident. You see him in the trees and plant life. In the flowers and bees. In his wild animals. In the clouds. The storms. He’s everywhere. An unimaginable system of chaos becoming perfection.

 

Gary Abernathy

To Be a Godly Husband and Parent

(Photo taken by me of my family in San Diego, California Summer 2015)

Colossians 3: 19-21…Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

In the United States, this is a strange time in our history to be raising a traditional (western sense) family. The support systems and structures of the American family are crumbling in all directions. If no deeper reflection is taken, this is quite threatening to traditionalists and desperately frightening. Wrong is now right, right is now wrong, dark is good, light is bad. At least that’s how it feels to many Americans. But is that really so? Was right really right before, and wrong really wrong? Was light true light? Was dark true darkness?

History is always written by the victorious. For traditional Americans, the past was glorious and the present is an abomination to its legacy. It’s like when you go to a funeral and the person that has passed away is only spoken of in the best possible memories and thoughts. But that person was just as deeply flawed as the rest of us here on earth. We are only presenting the best of what we experienced from them in their lifetime. We whitewash the negative. The victorious do the same with history. The life structures of man are merely a byproduct of what he’s been taught. We were taught one way, and today they teach a new way. Guess what? If it’s worldly, it’s all just a flip of a coin. It’s just darkness taking turns who gets to be the good guys and who are the bad guys in the ongoing deception that separates mankind from the Creator. I made a decision long ago that I would not follow the trends of the world raising my family. I would follow God.

To be a Godly husband and parent runs counter in every way to being a worldly version of either. It’s as if you’re on an inner tube trying to use your hands to paddle – upstream. Against a powerful current. Temptations by the millions rushing past you trying to get you to just let go and let the current take you easy. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” That reads like truly sound advice. Because it truly is sound advice. It’s Godly instruction. But to put it into practice? I send you back to the imagery of your hands paddling upstream. You can’t do that alone. You’re not strong enough. Only the strength of Christ can push you up that current.

To be a Godly husband and parent is to possess the Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For it’s these qualities that allow a man to fulfill Paul’s ordained instructions in the matter. It’s not you…us…we. It’s the Spirit. When one of my daughters does something that angers me as a parent, how I react is going to make all the difference in the world for her future. Early as a father, my reactions were mostly born from – me. I’m a fairly decent sort, so sometimes I got them right just by my nature. But I’m also the same flawed human as everyone else, so when I allowed my anger to dictate, it got ugly in a hurry. Anger is not listed among the fruits of the Spirit. Patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control are. As God has continued his purging of me from me, and filled back with his fruit, my reactions have become more aligned with the ultimate goal of the family – peace and love. The same goes with my marital relationship. Where selfishness once held a primary role in my regard, now there is a partnership of goodness and kindness. Faithfulness. As a family we are united. Not perfect. But harmonious in our loyalty to each other. That’s of God. Not the world.

Any Christian pastor worth his salt when counseling a couple about to be married will tell them – Always keep Christ in the Center of your marriage. My wife and I were blessed with such a pastor at that time, and his words (instructions) have never left us. They’ve seen us through the entire 20 year ride to date. It’s for that reason I love the picture I included in today’s post. My wife and children sitting happily under that cross in California. It’s the perfect symbolism of what God has done for our family. Our shelter. Our refuge. My job to be the same type of shepherd for them as Christ is for me. That’s what it is to be a Godly husband and parent.

What is the status of your own marriage and family? Are you going with the current, or are you powered by Christ upstream against the waves of the world?

It matters not what the trends of mankind are in any given era including this one. The war has already been won. Jesus is Victorious. My best advice to you? Follow the winner.

Gary Abernathy

I Put You on the Cross

(Photo by me, taken October 2016 off Hwy 276 near Waynesville, NC)

Matthew 16:21…From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Last Friday night I was hanging on our comfortable couch with my wife watching Chef Ramsey’s – MasterChef Junior. We both love Gordon Ramsey and the episode was entertaining as usual. The show came to a particular point when the child contestants were to be cooking the wedding reception dinner directly after the couple were married. It was to be a surprise to all the guests. “Where’s he going with this?” perhaps you’re asking. Well, I tell ya…The engaged couple arrived early to meet the young amateur chefs and were being interviewed. The soon-to-be bride was beautiful as one would expect, but she was also wearing a deep cleavage revealing dress. I’m snuggled up with my own beautiful bride on the couch having a very lovely evening, and suddenly this G rated show is exposing one of my weakest points – the temptation of the female flesh. It caught me off guard.

At first I didn’t say anything, but as the interview went on, the camera never stopped showing the angle of her cleavage. My eyes couldn’t stop coming back to it and looking. My wise Pastor, Ernie, once said in a sermon about men and such things (paraphrasing)- “The first time you notice is not your fault, but if you look a second time – that’s where sin begins.” I was on about my 5th or 6th look. I told my wife what was going on. She knows me well (and my weaknesses) and wasn’t shocked in the least. I’m an honest man. I’ll tell her. I’m telling you right now. Mortal Gary of the Flesh finds things like that very appealing. Thank you, God, for your Holy Spirit within me that now convicts and corrects my sin so that I may remain safely in your grace. I confess this to all.

Why did I tell that story and confession? This is Holy Week. As of this writing, we are 3 days away from observing Good Friday. Three days away from driving the nails into the hands and feet of Jesus on the Cross. We as Christians aren’t prone to readily accepting the reality of who put Christ up there…Us. We did. I did. We read the scripture and watch the movies, and we toss around blame to the Romans or the Jews, as they pass Christ back and forth like a hot potato. And in doing so, we fail miserably to understand exactly what happened in that moment – In order to fulfill his own law that his creation continuously falls short of keeping, God came to us in the flesh, became the perfect sacrificial lamb, and shed his blood on the cross for all of us. He took upon him our deserved punishment. Our rightful suffering. His shed blood enabled to provide the power of forgiveness and to wash clean the sins of mankind. SO THAT WE, WHOM HE LOVES SO DEAR, CAN LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD ETERNAL He did that for me. For you. All that believe and call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13

Sin is sin according to scripture, and there are no various rankings. If you’re guilty of breaking one law, you’re guilty of breaking them all. Unless we are washed clean and perfectly blameless, we cannot ever be in the presence of our creator. The cross is how we shall one day be just that – with Him. So while, yes, in the big picture of my life this little story about the cleavage temptation getting to me is nowhere near the worst things I’ve done, it was still sin, and still must be put up on that horrifying scene at the cross. As if I walked up to him looking at the nail in his feet, and I nudged it just a little making it rattle against the broken bone and nerves, causing him yet another scream in agony.

I did that. You do that. Every time we sin. Do you understand? Do you get what the cross represents?

This is Holy Week. I urge you to attend all the services on Thursday, Friday and Sunday here in America and across the world. Read the accounts in the Gospels. Pray thanksgiving for his ultimate act of mercy on the Cross.

I confess my endless sin to you, my Lord, and there are no words that I could speak that would adequately equal the gratitude for what you have done for me. Even though it was I that put you on the cross to die so miserably. Use me to carry your cross forward so that others will know, too. We are saved by the Power of the Cross! Amen.

Gary Abernathy

Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Jesus (Palm Sunday Thoughts)

(My youngest daughter – now 16 – made this at church in pre-K when she was 4. I’ve put it in this spot at Easter ever since)

Revelation 1:7-8…”Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Palm Sunday is one of my favorite church days of the year. I like the optimism. The party-like atmosphere. Normally, I write at this time of year about how nice it must have been for Jesus to have that one brief moment of mass love, knowing full well he was riding that humble donkey to the eventual cross. You see, the people of Jerusalem thought the Kingdom of God was coming NOW…right then…and Jesus was the Jewish King to toss aside the Romans from rule. They were elated. When they quickly discovered that wasn’t going to happen at all…well…you know the story. But that’s not what I’m going to write about this year.

This year, I’m more fixated on when Jesus actually is coming as the Lion and not the sacrificial lamb. Our world and my country of the United States, are in such dire condition, that I’ve gone from being once vocal in hoping to sort the mess out, to mostly quiet and placing all my hopes in – “Look, he is coming with the clouds.”

Speak softly, and carry a big Jesus.

I have a regimented morning routine that begins with coffee, my chair, and my iPad. That device having replaced the morning newspaper that used to be the ritual. I miss the newspaper, but nostalgia isn’t bringing that back. The news moves too fast now, and what was a big story in one hour, is ancient history in the next. I also miss the cold Dr. Pepper that used to be in the place of the coffee, but that went out the window a few years ago after my doctor gave me a choice of a fried pancreas or making some serious changes. In with the black coffee. Out with the pancreas destroying, but so delicious, Dr Pepper. I hate the coffee, but what are ya gonna do? A fried pancreas is not something I’m interested in owning. So, that’s the imagery of me every morning:

Hair going a 100 directions

My nice, comfy and manly leather chair with wide wooden arms

My black bear adorned cabin-decor style blanket

A piping hot cup of bitter black coffee

And my iPad to see what’s happening

I start with the social media’s first in no set order. Facebook for friends, family, and about a billion post shares of poorly constructed political propaganda that requires me to hit “hide” far more than actually enjoy the FB space. Instagram for what I call the “pleasant social media experience,” where I see images of beautiful geography, foods and various revelries. It’s nice. And the 3rd, the newspaper replacement – Twitter. Where I catch up with the news of the world that day. I follow certain sources for that information that I’ve screened over time to be fairly reliable. One of them is a White House Bureau Chief for Voice of America. I’m telling you the man never sleeps. Ever. He’s on top of everything. He can be surly at times (probably because he never sleeps) and has a bias like all media these days, but if something is happening, I’m going to hear about it from him first. So, on this day, I opened Twitter right off the bat. Mistake.

The first thing my mind absorbed, as the coffee burned down my throat and my eyes stirred awake, was a post from the bureau chief regarding our President and former Vice President smack talking about who would beat the other down. Wait, what??? Former Vice President Joe Biden (for the 2nd time now) said he would “beat the hell” out of Trump in “High School.” Let’s just leave the psychology of that statement there for a second while we continue. So in retort, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, on Twitter, first thing in the morning, for the whole world to read, isn’t concerned about the overwhelming myriad of threats and problems facing us, but instead, posting a paragraph about how fast and easy he’d drop Biden in a fight, and that he’d make Biden cry. Wait…….what???

That’s insanity. Utter insanity. For those two men to not have the basic common sense to filter their words to match the great worldly power they’ve been entrusted with, is actually terrifying, psychotic, and at best, a complete lack of basic entry-level adult maturity. The big stick they carry has multiple hydrogen bombs attached to it…you would think we might not put that stick in the hands of 70 year olds still pretending they’re in the high school parking lot about to rumble. What stick do I have to protect me from those maniacs? It’s hard to shock me these days, and to others maybe this story only gives a shrug, but if you really think about the psychology of it matched with the position – MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE ON EARTH – well, it’s shocking. Color me shocked.

I’m writing about it here only as an example. I post very little about politics these days. I’ve long been coached by the wisdom of Proverbs to stay mostly silent on these matters, than to speak out and be made a fool. It’s what is next in my routine after the perusing of the social media’s that actually has value, and also where I find my big stick.

I’m finished with my bitter black 2 cups of coffee. Now it’s on to the much more enjoyable fresh Florida Orange Juice, and usually (2) plain mini bagels buttered slightly and microwaved for 35 seconds for optimum softness. Why 35 seconds? Because that’s the formula my oldest daughter taught me who is the one that created this breakfast. 35 it is! I follow directions. Then, I swallow the low dose blood pressure pill (prescribed by the same Doc that wants to preserve my pancreas), and an assortment of many vitamins that supposedly do all the things a 50 plus year old’s body needs to have. And then…it’s prime time. Scripture study! The big stick. Jesus. The man on the white horse that’s coming to save us from the maniacs.

That’s where my faith resides. My hope. My dreams. My everything. Those things surely aren’t placed within the whims of immature filthy rich earthly brats squabbling over who will beat the hell out of the other. I’ve placed 100% of myself into the faith that Jesus Christ was who he said he was. That the cross took my sins and punishment, and I’m now redeemed. That he is risen! Death has been conquered. And that he’s coming back! Not as a lamb on a humble donkey. Nope. Ain’t going down like that on the return…

Revelation 19: 11-16…I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

This Palm Sunday and Holy Week through Easter…Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Jesus.

His is risen. And his is coming back.

Gary Abernathy

My Dad, Billy Graham, Spiritual Maturity, and the Power of the Gospel

(My older brother and me circa 1971-ish wearing our new cowboy gear)

1 Corinthians 13: 11…When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

When the occasion arises that I get asked about my favorite childhood memories, the answer I give usually revolves around the experiences I had playing in the woods behind my grandparent’s house. The only time I don’t give that answer is if I sense the asker isn’t really interested in the long version. When I think of me feeling happy at any point as a kid, the very first flash I get is being 5-6 years old playing cowboy in those woods. In my mind, I was indeed a cowboy, and a very good one at that. There was no fear of being alone in the woods for hours at a time. And as far as I know, there was no fear from any adult that I was absent. They knew where I was going, and they knew I’d be back for lunch. Then the cowboy would head back out again. When I would come in for lunch my grandmother would serve it to me at her kitchen table, in a kitchen full of the cigarette smoke that was ever-present in their home. And she’d give me a big glass of sweet tea. And I’m talking old school southern sweet tea. SWEET. Loved that tea. Now for some reason at 5 years old, but being a cowboy, I’d pretend that sweet tea was a big glass of bourbon…like you would get in a saloon. How I even knew to think that is beyond me. Maybe it was from watching Gunsmoke. Maybe it was my mother. Who just so happened to develop a major dependence on bourbon later in my childhood, and eventually became a full-fledged alcoholic. It’s also no mystery as to why I never minded the smell of cigarette smoke, in fact I love it, and by age fourteen I started a habit that I wouldn’t kick for 30 years. I talked like a child, but one familiar with bourbon and smokes, I thought like a child, as I relished make-believe and heroic fantasy, and I reasoned like a child, as I didn’t think anything at all going on was remotely dangerous to my well being. Not the woods, not the creek, not the being alone, not the smokes, and not the pretend bourbon/super sweet tea. But then I became a man…at least…I think.

Who is going to fill those shoes? I’ve asked that question about only 2 men. 1. My dad. 2. Billy Graham. As far as I’m concerned, both were uniquely made individuals the likes of which are never to come again. Billy Graham passed away about a week and a half before this particular writing. He was 99. For all intents and purposes, his ministry has long since been over, but it was still comforting to know that someone like Billy was still alive just in case. When America was in trouble at anytime in the second half of the 20th century or the start of the 21st, they called 5 letters: B-I-L-L-Y. Now he’s gone. Who is going to fill those shoes? He’s unprecedented as a Christian evangelist, and was a perfect storm of God-given, just-right qualities to be welcomed anywhere on earth. The reason he was so effective goes beyond his movie star looks, charisma and charm, and his biblical prowess. The reason is Billy did one thing nobody else does – eliminated the middle man between soul-in-distress and Christ. He simply delivered the Gospel as is and never wavered. The problems of Christianity all stem from one source – man standing between Christ and the rest of mankind placing qualifications on the Gospel. Billy never once did that. And the ministry speaks for itself.

As for my dad…while I was play acting the bourbon swilling cowboy, he was actually a man. Like the only one I knew. He was everything. Gigantic. A level of person I never once believed I could achieve. Most kids feel that way about their dad when they’re young. But he’s definitely a larger than life character. Who’s going to fill those shoes? It sure as heck wasn’t going to be me, I’d tell myself. Told myself that until I was at least 34 years old. That’s the year I found my actual bourbon swilling mom no longer living on the floor of her bedroom. Things changed a great deal for me that year. Technically I was a man of course at 34, and I was a dad myself, too, so all the signs of manhood were there. But in my heart and mind, I was still a kid play acting at life. I had no idea what I was doing or who I really was. That’s when God truly began to mold me. From that moment until now, my life is completely in every way different than it was before. I barely recognize the person that existed from about 14 to 34. He’s not this man now, and he’s not that little cowboy, either.

About a month ago my larger than life dad had a stroke. And today, he’s back in the hospital again with an infection and a slightly fractured back from falling…again. He’s 79. We think he’s going to alright for now. But these aren’t good signs of long term health. Again…Who’s going to fill those shoes?

The only answer? We are.

We are going to fill Billy Graham’s shoes. We are going to fill my dad’s shoes. We must. “When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” That scripture is lifted from Paul’s famous chapter describing – love. That thought continues in verse 12 – “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” Billy Graham used to discuss that scripture in Crusades. Faith. We only know a little. A part. But God knows fully our hearts and who we really are. Faith. We place our faith in the promise that we know part now, but we will soon be face to face with Christ and know as he already knows. We must trust that – we – can fill the shoes of the great men and women that have come before. That God determines our steps and equips us with all that is necessary to do the work.

I still love to walk and play in the woods. I’ll be doing so again next week. But these days I’m not a cowboy. There’s definitely no bourbon, and I’m no hero. But…I’m still fearless when I’m walking with God. When he’s teaching me. Communing. Showing. Loving. That once boy, now a man, still feels the same thing – freedom to live. That? Is the power of the Gospel.

Goodbye for now, Billy Graham. See you in the next.

Gary Abernathy