Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain;
When we walked down to Lake Jackson on Colter Bay I stood in awe of the beauty of those mountains. I don’t know what it looks like to see God’s holy mountain, but I like to think it looks something like this - majestic and foreboding, shrouded with a layer of clouds. Truly it was a time for worship. While this was an awe-inspiring sight, wherever we are can become a holy place when we bow the knee and worship God. So many times we come to God with our wants and forget to worship him, to desire to be in his presence, to see that He is Holy. Take time to worship and exalt God today for truly he is a holy God.
Holy God, Maker of Mountains
We bow before you today and exalt your name.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
Without the sunlight reflecting on the surface of the moon we would have no moonlight. The sun changes the appearance of the moon to our eyes. After spending time with God, Moses appearance changed. He wasn't anything he did because he wasn't aware of the change in his appearance. His face, like moonlight is a reflection to sunlight, was a reflection of God’s glory. This wasn’t just a one time occurrence - every time he came out from God’s presence, he had to wear a veil. Being with God changed Moses. It will also change us. Our closeness to God shapes our identity. The closer we are to God the more we reflect his light. It may not be that our physical appearance changes as did Moses’s, but our lives will become a more perfect reflection of God’s light and glory the more time we spend with him.
Great and Glorious God,
Draw us closer to you so that we may become reflections of your love.
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
As I got up to get ready for my morning walk during the break in the rain, I looked out the window and saw some unusual coating on the my Leland Cyprus trees. My curiosity got the best of be so I headed down to the trees to see what this strange coating was. As I got closer I saw that it wasn’t ice or frost but rain drops. There has been so much rain and moisture in the air that the rain drops just held on. I ran back for my camera and tripod and I was amazed at what the camera saw. Each small rain drop was like a crystal ball reflecting everything around the tree. The camera allowed me to see what I couldn’t see any other way.
The blind man set alongside the road, cast off, forgotten, unable to see. When he heard Jesus was coming he called out to him for mercy. Jesus the King of Heaven (let that sink in) stopped and asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man’s reply, "I want to see. " Jesus also asks us what we want. Do you want to see? Jesus will give you sight. He will show you things that you can see no other way. And, like the blind man who received his sight that day, our only response can be to follow him, to serve him as he served the cast off, forgotten, and blind.
God of Light,
Help us to see you in your world filled with intricacies and beauty. And help us to see the cast off blind, and forgotten who Christ has called us to serve.
But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
Daffodils are not rare or exotic flowers, but they signal the coming of spring. They are beginning to bloom again around the sites of the old homesteads in the mountains. The homes are gone now but the daffodils still come back every spring. They are an inheritance left for all by the settlers who built the cabins and farmed the land.
An inheritance is a gift, something left for you by someone you love. God has promised that those who are meek will inherit the land, for it is the meek who trust God and not their own strength. When we wait humbly for God and trust his goodness and timing we will inherit the land he promises, a land where we dwell in his presence, a land of abundant peace - and just maybe a land of daffodils and mountains.
Teach us to be meek, to wait humbly for you as we wait for the coming of the daffodils and new life in the land you have promised as our inheritance.
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.
Wherever the spider finds to make a web, it is woven in such a way as to be the most beneficial in catching his food. The spider is so small that it never sees the pattern of its web, but we can see it, especially in the early morning when it is covered in dew. Our lives also have a pattern, although like the spider, we sometimes have a hard time seeing it. I think that Joseph must have had many times when he just didn’t see any pattern in his life but still he trusted God. He let God use the hardships of his life to grow him from an arrogant young man to a wise and forgiving leader. He saw the purpose of God in the pattern of his life. If we trust God he will grow us and we will find meaning and purpose woven into the pattern of our lives.
Lord God, Weaver of Our Lives,
Help us to trust you, to see the pattern you are weaving in our lives. May that pattern reveal your love.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
As I searched through my images I was surprised that I had a hard time finding an image to illustrate these verses. It seems that the pictures of trees that I love the most are those that stand alone in a meadow. This made me question my understanding of this metaphor of a tree planted by water. Then I thought about the difference between finding water in the Mediterranean and desert climate of Jeremiah and my temperate climate with abundant rainfall. The lesson here is that to survive and thrive all trees must have a good, reliable water source, be that a stream in a desert or an underground water table. The trees I love, ones that stand alone away from a river, still have an abundant water source through roots in a well-watered ground. If we are to face hard times unafraid we must put our roots deep in God’s love. When we put our roots here they will grow deeper and we will be able to withstand the hardest droughts of our lives.
Grow our roots deep in your love. Teach us not to fear times of drought but to trust in you as our source of living water.
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
You could see the storm coming. The clouds were getting darker by the minute and the waves were getting choppier and higher. My fear grew as the skies got darker and the winds stronger. I was glad that I had to run only a short distance to the safety of our motel room. From here I could watch the power of the storm, grateful for a safe shelter. Like the safety of my motel room over looking Lake Superior, we can face times of fear and trembling and even see beauty in the storm when we find our shelter in the Lord. Why do we stand in the storm when all we need to do is to call out to him? Hurry to his shelter,and he will save you.
Lord of the Wind and Storm
Watch over us when we face strong storms. Teach us to hurry and run to you when we need shelter from the raging wind that surrounds us.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
After you walk down the hill, cross the swinging bridge, and climb down a rather steep embankment you get to this quiet place along Piney Creek. The water is shallow and cool and I try to get here every single time I camp in the state park. In this place surrounded by rock walls on one side and a steep hill on there other there is this tall pine tree that stands overlooking Piney Creek like a protective sentinel. I have seen the tree from the above looking down from the swinging bridge and looking up from the water’s edge. This image of he tree along Piney Creek is the one that comes to mind when I read these familiar words from Psalm 1. It is tall and strong and has been there for many years. I want to be like this tree, strong and sure, standing for many years and bearing fruit. I know that I can only be this kind of tree when I put my roots deep in God’s word and let him sustain me.
Teach me to delight in your word. Make me into a fruit bearing tree that provides for all those around me.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Today I got to watch the sunrise over the mountains. It wasn’t going to be a good day for pictures because there were no clouds to make the sky light up with color. It was also very cold up at the top of the observation tower with 20 mile per hour winds. So my pictures aren’t very good, but it doesn’t matter. I got to see another day begin in a beautiful place and I am grateful. Today, raise your voice in praise. Sing a new song, for he has made you a new creature and given you another day to love and serve him.
O Great King
We sing praises to your name.
Amen and Amen.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
I stop at the Carter Shields cabin every time I go to the cove. I think I must have a picture of it in every season. I love how it is surrounded by trees and the little stream that flows behind it. Every time I visit it brings me joy, like seeing an old friend, the kind you haven’t seen in years but you pick up right where you left off, as if not a day has passed.
Paul had old friends in Philippi and he wrote to them a most touching and encouraging letter. He was grateful for friends who were with him in every season of his life; friends that surrounded him with love and brought him joy, even in a prison cell.
I thank you for my friends. Help me to be a friend to them, to surround them with love.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
I couldn’t believe it when I looked out our motel window on that rainy day in Two Rivers, Wisconsin and saw a sailing ship come into the harbor. I grabbed my camera and we drove to the docks to see this unexpected sight on our trip to the Great Lakes.
When Simon Peter was mending his nets that day the last thing on his mind was going back out to deep water. He never expected to have the catch of his career that day. And he would have missed it if he hadn’t sad, “because you say so.” I have seen again in these days of my life the unexpected ways God is working, leading me to photography and this blog. These words of Debie Thomas from her essay, “Same old, same old,” on the Journey with Jesus online magazine, struck me in a powerful and unexpected way so I share them with you now. (I encourage you to read this whole wonderful essay.)
"Second, the story honors the “same old same olds” of our individual lives. Jesus’s call in this story is specific and particular, rooted in the language, culture, and vocation his hearers knows best. Simon and his partners understand the nuances of the “catching people” metaphor in ways I never will. That is, they know from years of experience what depths of patience, resilience, intuition, and artistry professional fishing require. Simon knows the tools of the trade, the limitations of his body, and the life-and-death importance of timing, humility, and discretion. Most of all, he knows the water. He knows how to respect it, how to listen to it, and how to bring forth its best. When Jesus shows up and commissions the seasoned fisherman, Simon understands the call not as a directive to leave his experience and intelligence behind, but to bring the best of his knowledge and expertise forward — to become even more fully and freely himself.
The hardest thing to do at these moments is to make the leap of trust that Simon makes. “Yet if you say so, I will.” Yet if you say so, I will try again. Yet if you say so, I will be faithful to my vocation. Yet if you say so, I will go deep rather than remain in the shallows. Yet if you say so, I will trust that your presence in the boat is more precious than any guarantee of success. Yet if you say so, I will cast my empty net into the water, and look with hope for your kingdom to come.
May it be so."
Lord of the Unexpected
Help us to look at ourselves and then look at you and say, “because you say so I will.” And then put out to deep water.
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness;
Sparks Lane is a favorite spot for taking pictures by professional and amateur alike. I always stop here every time I go to the cove. Pictures taken here have a clear focus for the viewer. The road leads the eye into the photograph and the trees make a frame. It is much easier to get a good image here then on a trail through the woods. In the woods the landscape is more complicated and it is hard to isolate any one thing to become the subject of your photograph.
Our complicated and often chaotic lives can be like taking pictures in the woods. We struggle to find a clear focus. King David must have also felt like this as we can see from many of his psalms. He asked God to teach him and to give him an undivided heart, a heart that had a clear focus, a clear subject for his life. As a result he knew he would praise and glorify God’s name forever.
In our complicated and chaotic lives teach us your ways and give us undivided hearts so that we can praise you with our whole lives.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. . . . . . . . And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
It was an ordinary day, the first time I noticed this tree. It is on the side of a main highway that I have driven countless times. But on this ordinary day I noticed the tree and it became an important part of my story. This was one of the first times that I actually stopped take a picture just because I thought the tree was beautiful. This was the day that I saw that the bare branches of a tree are like graceful, intricate sculptures that you can see so much better without leaves. I saw beauty in something ordinary. God was using my new camera to teach me to see things that I would have never seen before.
It was the end of an ordinary day for the disciples, the day they followed Jesus. They had been fishing all night and caught nothing. They were tired and probably just wanted to go home and go to bed, but Jesus asked to borrow their boat. We don’t even know what Jesus taught that day from the boat. We know that this ordinary day was the beginning of a totally new way of life for Simon Peter, James, and John. Nothing would ever be the same.
What ordinary thing is God using in your life to call you? Maybe the call is just to keep on doing what you are doing now even though you have labored all night on a task that is seeming to fail. Maybe he is going to use something ordinary to gradually transform the way you serve him. Listen for his call on ordinary days and when you follow him, nothing will ever be the same.
Open our hearts to hear your call us out of the ordinary. Give us the courage to follow you in an extraordinary way we never would have seen before.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
You don’t need a caption under this image to know that it is a rose, even though there is no other rose like it in the world. Each variety of rose shares some of the same characteristics - petals, thorns, leaves - but each one is unique in how these characteristics show up. Christians are like this. We are each unique in who we are and how we come to Christ but we all have experienced the risen Christ in our lives. Still, we all search for our identity and an understanding of who we are in Christ - what is it that makes us a rose. Paul found that identity in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the words of Lewis Galloway from Feasting on the Word, Year C:
Just as Paul did not hide his past, stifle his personality, or suppress his anxieties, so Christians today can recognize that they are who they are by the grace of God. Each person’s struggles, pains, joys, accomplishments, and dreams are stories of the gospel that can light the way for others.
We are each saved by the grace of God and it is by this grace that we understand who we are, who God made us to be. Only when you look at your life, your failures, your sin, your personality, from the perspective of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection will you be able to say with Paul, “but by the grace of God I am what I am.” Because you have received much grace and have much to tell, work hard to share that grace and tell your story to others knowing that you can do this through the power of the grace of God.
Lord Jesus Christ
Help us to find our identity, our purpose, in you. Give us courage to tell our stories of grace to light the way for others.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
I have only had the desire to become a hiker since I started learning about photography. Hiking still scares me some. You never know what is going to be around the next curve in the trail because the mountains are filled with snakes and bears and other many other dangers. My fear has kept me from hiking a trail with a water crossing, hiking a trail longer than 8 miles, or solo hiking. (I tried that one time and after 20 minutes headed quickly back to the car.)
There are fearful times in our lives when we walk in the midst of trouble afraid of what will be around the next curve. We face enemies of many kinds - sickness, loneliness, loss, temptation, addiction. We don’t have to be paralyzed by fear because we can choose to walk with God who stretches out his hand to us. We can walk forward around the curve because we walk with a loving Lord who knows where the dangers are and delivers us from all of them. Even though I am afraid I still hike to see where the trail leads, be it a peaceful level path, beautiful waterfall, or a mountain vista, for each hike has its purpose. When we walk with God he will fulfill his purpose in our lives. He will sustain us with his steadfast love even though we walk in the midst of trouble.
Let us walk with courage, knowing that you have purpose for the path you have set for us. Your steadfast love will sustain us in the midst of trouble.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Yesterday, after church, we headed to the mountains. It is the only day in the coming 10 days that had a forecast of sunny, so even though we were getting a late start we headed out. We knew couldn’t hike a long trail so we chose an old favorite, the Little River Trail. It was so wonderful just to walk in the mountains; to follow the river as it flows over rocks. As usual when we walk in the mountains we are quiet and it becomes a time for me to be with God in his world and see the beauty of all he has created.
While I was walking I thought of this quote by the famous naturalist, John Muir, that can be found everywhere, from T-shirts to large wall murals, “the mountains are calling and I must go.” The interesting thing though is that this is only the first of the sentence, here is the rest, “and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.” For John Muir the calling to the mountains was not to relax, but to work, to understand them, so he could contribute to science. As I thought about that quote I thought about how God also calls us to work. It is a good thing to be called, to have a purpose, to find meaning in life. And the wonderful thing is that we are called by more than mountains, we are called by a living God. Not only are we called but we are promised that God will give us everything that we need to do the work.
Open our ears to hear your call. Make our calling to walk and work with you stronger than any earthly calling. Give us a sense of purpose and vision to see the work that you have set for us. Remind us of your faithfulness when we grow weary.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
My macro lens has given me a way to see very small things that I wouldn’t have seen before, like the ice that formed on this small petal of my hydrangea bush. There are lens which can magnify things even more, not to mention microscopes that have given us the power to see things that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Then I switch to a wide angle lens and see the vastness of the sky. The complexity of our world, both great and small, is beyond our comprehension. Like King David we marvel at a God who cares about man. And then we hear Jesus tell us how even the smallest part of us is known to God. Look to God’s world today, both the great and small, and be amazed at the Great Creator God who loves you beyond your ability to measure.
God of Great and Small
We marvel at the beautiful, complex world you have created and that you love us beyond measure. Show us your beauty and your love today.
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