Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
Another yellow lady slipper - how would you compare it to the image of the lady slipper in the previous post. I am sure that if I ask any ten people which image was better each image would be selected by at least one person. Often after I put images on my computer I struggle trying to decide which one is the best. In the end I am not sure that it matters which one is best or even which one is better. The ultimate goal of my image is that I create something that people enjoy, images that make them appreciate the beauty of God’s world or think deeply about his word. Spending time comparing each image at the computer will sap my energy and passion that I had when I took the image.
Constant comparison does that in our lives. In our society it seems that we are always reducing things to numbers so we can tell which is best - highest number of 5 star reviews, number of likes, size of church membership, and on and on. It is such as easy sin to fall into, comparing ourselves with others. Paul warned the Galatians of the poison of comparing. Instead of comparison he advised the believers to test their own actions. The more we know our own heart the less likely we are to look down on others. The more we examine our own motives and the lives we create without comparing ourselves to others the more we are able to carry our own burdens and have the courage and strength to help shoulder the load of our brother’s burdens.
Forgive our sin of comparing. Help us to see that you have created each one of us with unique gifts. Teach us to test our own actions without comparing ourselves to each other. Open our eyes to see ourselves the way you see each of us and give us the courage to stop comparing and start carrying each other’s burdens.
Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Yellow lady slippers are such a rare flower in the Great Smoky Mountains that during wildflower season there are park rangers and volunteers who walk the trails where they are found to protect them from poachers. It is kind of an unwritten rule that if you post a picture of a lady slipper online you should not post where you took the picture. I found my first yellow lady slipper 2 years ago with the help of another hiker who showed me where to look. Now that I know where they are I go back each year to see them again.
We have been entrusted with the treasure of God’s word that is as rare and beautiful as the yellow lady slippers are in the mountains. We must seek to find their beauty with the help of sound teaching and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we find God in his word we must guard this treasure he has entrusted to us. We need to keep returning to God’s word over and over again until his words and his beauty fill our lives in such a way that others can see him.
Help us to guard the treasure that you have given us. May we reflect your beauty and love as we grow closer to you.
Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
On this past Easter morning, there were just the right amount of clouds for just a very short time just as the sun rose that bathed everything in golden light. The grass and trees seemed to be lit in such a way that made them shine like gold. It was so beautiful. As I was thinking about that experience and looking at those pictures I took, the words to an old hymn by William Cowper came to mind: “Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings; It is the Lord who rises with healing in His wings.”
There are 150 Psalms in our Bible, some teach, some remind us of God’s faithfulness, some are songs of lament, and some are songs of comfort; but the last Psalm, Psalm 150, is just a simple song of praise. On mornings like this when God overwhelms us, surprises us with his light then our only response can be praise.
We sing joyous songs of praise to you this day for your beauty and healing.
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
It has been stormy and cloudy for the past two days. I had hoped that this morning the weather would be different but the predictions weren’t promising. I just wanted to see a special sunrise this morning. I decided that it wasn’t going to happen and that I would not try to go to a special place to see a sunrise. Instead I would just get up before dark and read the resurrection stories.
So this Easter morning I sat in my sunroom and read my bible in the dark (you can do that if you read your bible on an iPad). It was very cloudy but I just happened to look out my window that faces east and saw a slight bit of color. I grabbed my camera and put on my coat. I didn’t have time to change lens, get my filters, or tripod. I ran up the hill and through a neighbor’s yard that I knew wouldn’t mind to the field on the other side of my neighborhood.
And there was this beautiful sunrise, unexpected glory. I was so glad that I didn’t just sit in my sunroom. It is cloudy again now with the sun behind the clouds. When the women went to the tomb that first Easter morning they only expected to see Jesus’s body, but that was not what they saw. I believe that Jesus still comes to us in unexpected ways. And when he comes he brings light to the darkest night. When we follow him, he will always show us unexpected things.
He is Risen! He is Risen!
Open our hearts to the unexpected and give us courage to follow you into new life.
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
It is just a barn on the Tipton place. It wasn’t built to be beautiful. It was never intended to be an example of great craftsmanship but to serve its function of keeping the farm productive. Someone had to build it.
Someone had to do it. The sun was getting low in the sky of Good Friday and the Sabbath would soon be here. And there was the body of Jesus on the cross, his life gone; it was finished. So now what do you do. There were a few people who did what others couldn’t. It wasn’t the disciples who did it. Instead it was the silent followers who, with great courage and sacrifice, went to Pilate and requested Jesus’s body. We don’t know why Joseph, Nicodemus, and the women who followed them took this risk. Maybe they were the ones who always did the right thing, the ones who worked behind the scenes to get things done. They did the hard work of carrying Jesus lifeless and beaten body to the tomb. They purchased the burial materials. They wrapped and prepared the body. They did the everyday work, the behind the scenes work, that had to be done when someone died.
They were faithful in the everyday things, the utilitarian things that must be done. When they finished the job they had no idea of how big their act would become to the story of the empty tomb. Sometimes we feel that what we do is unimportant, it is only a barn after all and not beautiful art. We may never know how God will use the little, everyday, unimportant things we do to change someone's life. So be faithful in the little things, the everyday things and leave the rest to God.
Help us to see and do the things that no one else wants to do, the hard things, the everyday things. Use those things to accomplish your work and bring you glory.
I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
My wildflower knowledge has grown over the past few years so I knew this was like the hepatica that I have learned to recognize but it was different. It had red anthers instead of the usual yellow ones. Hepatica is such a small flower that if you weren’t looking for it you may not even see it. It is a humble flower, not one of the famous wildflowers of the Smokys that many flock to see this time of year. This small flower has much to teach us. Its petals are pure white, like the perfect, sinless life of Jesus; the red anthers like his blood shed for us. Small and humble like the servant that Jesus was and we are called to be.
The words, “I love you,” are simple and humble like this hepatica. They are intimate and precious words. Jesus said these words with his actions on this Good Friday, his blood shed for us. Today we say these words back to Jesus, “I love you Lord because you have heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.”
I love you because you first love me, red blood spilled over a white, sinless life - a life that perfectly fulfilled the will of God. I will call on you as long as I live.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
I remember the night I took this picture. I decided to go to this place at the dam because I would have a good view to the east as the full moon would rise over the horizon. We know there was a full moon on the night of Passover because the way the Jewish calendar, a lunar calendar, was used to determine the time of Passover each year. So as Jesus and the disciples left the upper room to walk toward the Mount of Olives, they were walking toward the rising moon in the east, a full moon like this one over the lake. Matthew and Mark tell us that the last thing the disciples did after the Passover meal before they left for the Mount of Olives was to sing a hymn. We don’t know what hymn they sang but it was very likely that it was Psalm 118, the last of a group of psalms called the Hallel that were sung at festivals like Passover.
As I think about that night, the night of his betrayal, I wonder what it was like for him to sing this Psalm knowing what he would face the next day. He knew the time had come to fulfill the purpose for which he had come to earth, that "this is the day the Lord has made." He knew that he was about to be rejected and all his disciples would leave him. It was the time of Jesus’s deepest anguish as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Go out this evening and look at the full moon and think about Jesus walking east toward the place of his betrayal and remember his great sacrifice for you. Know that it is because of his great love for us that we can truly say these words, “This the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
When we look at what happened this night of betrayal, “it is marvelous in our eyes.” We are amazed at your love for us and can rejoice only because of the anguish that you walked through that night. May we make you the cornerstone of our lives.
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
It was lush and green, this path that I have walked on so many times, but it was different that day. The impending storm made the skies dark and the well known path ahead foreboding.
Jesus had walked into Jerusalem on this road many times before, but on this day it was different. It wasn’t an accident the way he came into Jerusalem; he had planned for the donkey to be available (Mark 11:1-6); he came in from the east, opposite from the procession of the Roman soldiers on their horses who came from the west for crowd control during the Passover. His followers and the crowds were rejoicing with loud Hosannas, but he knew what he was doing. He knew the road ahead was going to be dark for him and for his disciples. It wasn’t easy for him. His soul was troubled, but he knew that the whole purpose of his life had been this hour. He faced that hour for you and me.
Make this day and week for us, a week to be amazed at your love. Fill us with wonder again at the story of a God who loves us so much that he sent you to take away our sin. Fill us with a joy at this love that our lives are daily changed by its truth.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
On the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while the multitude of his disciples were singing praises, Jesus wept. The Greek word translated wept is to sob and wail. So these weren’t just silent tears streaming down his eyes. He knew the way before him, the people’s rejection, and he wept.
There are times of deep lament in our lives, times when we look at what lies before us and see only fog. They clear blue skies are gone. Our lives seem bare and lonely and peace is only a distant memory. Like Jesus we will have to weep but our lament won’t last forever. Because of Jesus's love and sacrifice his peace will no longer be hidden from our eyes.
Open our eyes to see you so that we can know your peace. Show us your beauty, even in the fog of our lament.
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
One of the gifts of photography for me has been time to be silent. To get good light on a beautiful scene you usually have to get to the place early to get set up and then sit and wait on the light. Even if you are at a popular location, once you get set up, the waiting is quiet. Our lives can get so noisy with the demands of work and pressing needs of loved ones who need our care. It is in these times that we need to find a quiet place to sit or walk and just be silent before God. For me being in nature is being in God’s holy temple. When I am silent I will find him in the world he has made.
Close our mouths and open our eyes and ears. We bow before you in silence.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!
The spring weather in East Tennessee is very unpredicatable. One day you can have snow and ice and the next day the temperatures can rise to the sixties. When this happens the melting snow drips down the rocks onto the vegetation below, encasing everything in an inch or two of ice. As the sun reflects and shines through the ice the plants become like sculptures glistening with diamonds. They seem to just reflect joy. The ice is still present but there is the promise of spring.
When everything in our lives seems as cold and hard as ice it is important to look back to past times when the icy times of our lives melted into bright, sparkling joy. We need to think of our tears as watering the ground preparing us for the new life that Jesus brings. When we trust God to restore our lives then he will turn our tears to bright, glistening joy.
Walk with us through icy winters of sorrow and sadness. Melt the ice of our hearts and restore our joy.
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,
Sometimes we just need to marvel at God’s creation. There are so many things in creation that are metaphors of God and his word - light and dark, day and night, spring and winter. The flowers bud each spring and teach us of the new life Jesus has given us. They bring us joy and remind us that God promises a new heaven and a new earth that he will create filled with joy and gladness. May the flowers of spring remind you of God’s love and bring joy.
Teach us to rejoice in the world you created for us. Show us your beauty this spring day. Remind us of your promise that everything you create will be for joy.
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