View the post for February 27 for an explanation of my Lenten Project
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
When God put man in the garden he planted trees. These trees were pleasing to the eye. God wanted man to have beauty and to appreciate beauty so he planted trees. We need to have beauty in our lives. Sometimes that means we have to search for it. Remember God’s purpose for man was to till the garden.
Thank you for trees that bring beauty into our lives.
View the post for February 27 for an explanation of my Lenten Project
You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
The air was cold and the snow covered the ground. The leaves were gone and the tree laid bare. Man’s sin, his choosing to decide for himself what is good and evil rather than trusting God’s wisdom, has made the world a cold place. Yet as with the tree in the snow there is promise of new life. Spring will come and the leaves will be full of life. So Jesus comes into our lives, warms us, and gives us new life.
Lay bare our hearts and show us our sin. Melt the coldness from our hearts with your love and forgiveness.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
I have developed this special affinity for taking pictures of trees. It all started soon after I got my first DSLR and went to Cades Cove just to take pictures. I still remember seeing the oak tree in the field across the road from the Lawson place. It seemed to draw me to it. Since then I take a picture of this tree every time I go to the cove. And because of this tree I started seeing other trees. Trees, especially single trees, have become one of my favorite things to photograph. (If you have been following my blog you will know how many pictures I have of trees.)
Recently I have found this wonderful resource called the Bible Project that produces animated videos about the Bible. One of the most recent videos is the Tree of Life. And because of this video I found a book about trees in the Bible, Reforesting Faith by Matthew Sleeth. Here is a quote from this book that got me started thinking about doing a special project for Lent.
Other than God and people, the Bible mentions trees more than any other living thing. There is a tree on the first page of Genesis, in the first psalm, on the first page of the New Testament, and on the last page of Revelation. Every significant theological event in the Bible is marked by a tree. Whether it is the Fall, the Flood, or the overthrow of Pharaoh, every major event in the Bible has a tree, branch, fruit, seed, or some part of a tree marking the spot.
I want to make my posts for this Lenten season focus on trees in the Bible. I will use Dr. Sleeth's book and other resources that I find to share what I learn about trees in the Bible. I am not sure exactly how this project will go but I hope to post at least a picture of a tree and one passage from the Bible about Trees each day. Some days I may only post a picture of a tree and a verse and sometimes I might share some of what I am learning about trees. Either way I pray that you will see God a little more in the beauty of the tree. The scripture for today is the first time that a tree is mentioned in the Bible and the image is my special tree in the cove that has become for me a sacred place.
Lord Creator of Trees
Lead us closer to you through the beauty of trees and what your word teaches us about them and you.
Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
The Blue Springs Lutheran Church in Mosheim, Tennessee no longer has a congregation. The building is watched over by a historical committee that recently succeeded in having the building added to the National Register of Historical Buildings. I happened to see it from the highway on the way to somewhere else, abandoned on the hill, no longer severing the purpose for which it was built.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a time for us to "rend our hearts." In the ancient times, people would tear their garments as a sign of grief. Lent calls us to do more than just a quick, forgive-me-of-my-sins prayer, but take time to mourn and confess our sin. So that as we move through Lent we open our hearts again to what Jesus did for us on the cross. If we don't rend our heats and confess our sin, then our walk with Christ will become like this abandoned church - still standing, looked after by an historical committee, but no longer serving its purpose.
O Great King,
Grow my desire to follow you, with a deeper understanding of the price of my redemption. Show me the purpose you have for me and fill my heart with your love.
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
I have come to understand sunrise as really more of a process than a single moment. It begins with a lightening of the darkness of night at the edge of the horizon. Each minute the light shines a little brighter until the sun finally appears on the horizon. Becoming a Christian is like this. We begin mostly in the dark with only a small light of understanding. As we grow in Christ the light becomes brighter lighting up the dark places in our hearts. We grow when we spend time in the reliable message of God’s word. Peter describe the process of growing in Christ as being like the morning star rising in our hearts. As we spend time in the light of the scriptures a light grows inside of us that we can then share.
Shine your light in the dark places of our hearts as we spend time in your word.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
I went out to rake a few leaves that early fall morning but I didn’t get many raked. Instead I ran to get my camera and my tripod because what I saw was intricate, beautiful, and amazing. There had been a frost that morning and the leaves were still covered. Looking at them through my macro lens took my breath away. Through my lens I could see the structure of each leaf and pattern of small frost particles, truly stunning. (Click on the picture to enlarge, detail gets lost on the web.)
As I read God’s word this morning and some wonderful commentaries, I thought about those frost-covered leaves. It took some work to see the intricacies of those leaves. I didn’t see it with my naked eye and it takes work to read God’s word. God’s word is intricate and beautiful, each part fitting together in amazing ways. The more we study it, the more we read it and make it a part of us, the more beauty we see in it. While you can find beauty and meaning by just reading you can find so much more the deeper you dig into its meaning. This is why God’s word is so amazing to me. I will always be able to see something new in this book that is thousands of years old.
Great Creator God
We stand in awe at your intricate, beautiful, and amazing words. Open our eyes and hearts to its beautiful story.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Somewhere along the way red roses have come to symbolize love; maybe because they are beautiful, expensive, or come with thorns. They remind me of God’s love that is lavished on us, a love that will never let us go, a love that died for us. I give you this rose and these words from the hymn written by a blind Scottish minister, George Matheson (1842-1906) and a link to these words put to music by Elaine Hagenberg.
O Love, that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Light, that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy, that seeks me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
For a love that will not let us go, a love that is given freely and not earned, we bow with grateful hearts. Help us to share this amazing love today.
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
The chair sat there all alone, a picture of loneliness. I think we have all felt times when we were like that chair all alone. We feel left out, somehow like we don’t belong anywhere. We all want to belong. Paul wrote to the Corinthians who were having a belongingness problem. It had become so great that they were dividing themselves into groups based on who they followed. They needed to feel they belonged. They were wounded and alienated. I love these words by Roger J. Gench from the Feasting on the Word, Year A Commentary that explains Paul’s answer to the Corinthians and to us who need to belong:
How do you walk with wounds that are so deep and so alienating? The answer Paul gives is Christ and him crucified, who not only identifies with our loneliness, but who also carries our wounds, in order to show us the God who loves us. It is in Christ alone that we can learn we belong. By learning to live in Christ we grow into the discovery that we are loved.
Now I look back on this picture of the chair and am grateful for the time God pointed it out to me on my early morning walk that day. I now see the tree that covers it an all the beauty that surrounds it, like God’s love surrounds me when I am lonely.
Heal our wounds of loneliness as we grow in your love. Forgive the times our need to belong has divided us and hurt others. Help us to seek the lonely and bring them to your love.
Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
This boardwalk makes it possible to walk through swampy land to see a beautiful lake. It forms a boundary line that keeps you safe. Every so often there is a place to stop and sit and just consider the beauty before you. God’s law, like this boardwalk, provides boundary lines for us. When we follow God’s law we find his blessing in the beauty he provides along the way. His law keeps us safe while leading us to his beauty.
Open our eyes to find the boundary lines in your Word that we need to make decisions and walk blamelessly with you this day.
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