For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
This lighthouse stands at the entrance to the harbor in Duluth, Minnesota, shinning its light for the ships returning to port. It must feel good to the sailors to see it as they guide the large ships into the safety of home port; sometimes after enduring difficult waters. There have been times in my life when I have wandered away from Christ. Maybe I was too busy, worried about material things, or just focused on having things my way. I know that Christ stands like the lighthouse guarding my soul. In Christ I find the safety of home. He stands ready to forgive and welcome me into his protection.
Lord Jesus, Guardian Of Our Souls
We entrust our souls to you. We thank you for accepting us and forgiving us when we have wandered away.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Most of the time Mount Washington in New Hampshire is covered in clouds. Even when the skies are clear below it is not unusual for there to be clouds and strong winds at the top of the mountain. On the first day we were in the White Mountains the skies looked clear, no rain in the forecast, so we decided that this was the day to try to get to the summit. We took the van ride to the top and were amazed at the clear skies. We could see for miles from the White Mountains to the mountains of Western Main. It was an amazing experience.
Luke tells us of a time when two followers of Jesus had an amazing experience of seeing clearly like our day on Mount Washington. Cleopas and his friend, followers of Jesus, had been in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. As they were walking the seven miles to Emmaus, discouraged and confused, they talked about all that had happened and the stories that Jesus was alive. Jesus joined them as they walked, but as Luke tells us, they are kept from seeing who he was. It must have been amazing to hear the scriptures that you have heard all your life explained in a new way; a way to see that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah of all the scriptures. It wasn’t until they invited him to eat with them and Jesus gave thanks, like he had many times before, that they knew it was Jesus. They could see clearly now. They couldn’t even wait until morning so they headed back to Jerusalem to tell the others what they had seen.
Open our eyes this day. Give us a clear vision of you as we study the scriptures.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
Sometimes in dark and difficult times it is hard to remember a day like this one with clear, blue skies and white, fluffy clouds. I imagine Psalm 118 being sung on such a day. This psalm is part of the group of psalms known as the Hallel that were used as processionals to the temple during feasts days filled with joy.
It is easy to rejoice in a victory on a day like this, but all our days are not clear, blue-sky days. Even in difficult days we can still rejoice when we put our focus on Jesus. For it was Jesus who conquered death. In him we find victory even in our darkest days. In him we can truly say, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Remind us of your steadfast love this day and help us keep a heart of joy as we put our focus on you.
My husband and I have been making videos with my images and his music. So far we have made three. We have one more in the works. Just starting doing them during the pandemic since we can't go to visit family or the mountains. You will find them on the "Songs" menu at the top. Hope you enjoy them.
Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
On the other side of this gate is a beautiful garden. In order to enter the garden you must lift the latch and open the gate. Jesus stands as a gate like the one into this garden. We must first look at his glory and love and see our unworthiness, our sin, and our need of him. When we do we lift the latch and through him our unrighteousness becomes righteousness. He has answered our need and become our salvation. Lift the latch and walk into the garden.
We praise and thank you for the indescribable gift of grace that opens the gates of righteousness for us.
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
The light was low in the sky and I saw the two chairs in the meadow of the garden. They seem to draw me to them; to just sit quietly in the garden and see the wonder of God’s world. Sometimes Jesus comes to us in loud and joyous worship experiences and sometimes he comes to us in the quietness of the morning light. In his book, A Violent Grace, Michael Card reminds us how Jesus first appeared to his disciples:
But have you ever noticed how quietly the grace of Easter arrived? No angelic choirs heralded Jesus’ return from the grave. No foreign dignitaries arrived bearing gifts. No voice thundered from heaven.
The Resurrection unfolds entirely in a series of intimate conversations between Jesus and His followers. It’s all family business. As He did with Mary, Jesus rises for each of us and calls us by name. The promise is for everyone, but the experience of Easter is only for those who believe and have longed for His appearing.
He calls our name. He knows us. He loves us. He gives us quiet mornings that speak deep in our hearts. Find a place to sit in quietness and open your heart.
Come to us again this day and speak peace and joy to our hearts.
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
I have many memories of visiting my grandparents in Gatlinburg and hearing stories of mountains. I remember going to the Ogle Cabin and hearing my grandmother tell me about visiting her cousins here when they still lived in this house. It is a familiar place and reminds me of important times. The mountains are to me a homeplace.
If we are fortunate, we have a homeplace, a place that brings memories of safety and security. Jesus lived most of his life in Galilee. He grew up there and spent most of his ministry with his disciples there. So after the resurrection he told the women to go tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee, the homeplace. He was no longer needed in the temple in Jerusalem for he had become the temple. Life was forever changed and he knew they needed a place to regroup so he sent them to Galilee. But going to Galilee was just the beginning. In the words of N. T. Wright in his book Lent for Everyone: Matthew, Year A:
From the very start, the news that Jesus is risen contains a command: ‘Go!’ Go, first to Galilee; go back to where it began, back to your roots to meet the risen Jesus there and watch him transform everything, including your oldest memories. And, as you obey the command of the angel, Jesus himself may perhaps meet you in person (verse 9). Take hold of him. Worship him. This is his day, the Day of Days. Make it yours too.
My grandparent’s home was destroyed in the fires of 2016, but I still go to the mountains. I still go to visit the Ogle cabin, which my mom always called Junglebrook; but now I go and find new places in the mountains that I haven’t been before. Each time I go there is something new to find, some new word from the Master spoken to me in the mountains. From the familiarity of our time with Jesus, meeting him first at home wherever that is, we go forward to worship and serve our Lord.
Help us find new places and new ways to serve you in the spaces of old places. In the security of your love which will never go away, we go forward.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
While scientists know many things about clouds there are still some things that are a mystery to them. I have spent some time learning about clouds in order to determine the possibility of a beautiful sunrise or sunset, but still the process is mysterious.
In the gospels and Acts we read the stories of the risen Christ. We see how his disciples struggled with understanding the mystery of resurrection. I wonder how long they stood there staring into the sky. They now must learn how to follow their Christ who was no longer physically with them. Like the disciples we too must walk into the mystery of following Christ.
Jesus gives us a mission to be his witnesses and in unexpected ways he works out with each of us how we will accomplish his mission. Even though we do not know exactly how we accomplish our mission of being his witnesses we can walk with security as we follow him. One of my favorite hymns, Christ The Lord Is Risen Today by Charles Wesley, describes for me the mystery of following Christ. We take up our cross and follow Jesus through death into life, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Lord Christ, Our Exalted Head
Keep these words on our hearts and in our minds throughout this day as we seek to follow you, “Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!”
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.
I had gotten to our favorite sunset spot in plenty of time to catch the sunset. Waiting is a big part of landscape photography. You have to wait on the light. You have to wait on the clouds. You have to wait on the wind. For me that day the waiting wasn’t hard. It turned out to be worth the wait to actually see the rain clouds and the soft, muted colors of the sky. There are times when waiting is difficult.
As the first Good Friday came to a close, Mary Magdalene and the other women had spent most of the day watching and waiting for Jesus to die on the cross. Now they waited as Joseph and Nicodemus carried the body of Jesus to the tomb. Since it was almost the Sabbath they would have to wait one long, sorrowful night and day to finish what they felt still needed to be done for Jesus’s body. As soon as the morning came they went to the tomb and they couldn’t believe what they found. Their wait was over.
He Is Risen!
On this Easter Day we wait again. We wait for the pandemic to be past. We see the rain clouds in the distance and wonder when they will get to us. We wonder how long it will be until we can meet again to worship. We plead with God to help us and he will in his own time. We can wait on God with security and hope for we know that Jesus has won the victory. We will see each other again one morning and celebrate Easter in a new and more vibrant way!
We wait on you. We praise your name even in our fear and our tears. We put our trust in you and claim your victory over death.
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.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”
I took this image while we were camping on spring break one year. It had been a very unusual camping trip weather wise with a hail storm, tornado watch, lots of rainy, cloudy skies, and this day a half inch of snow. There was no one on the trail that morning so I walked to place I call the swamp. On this day, though it was filled with more water than I have ever seen. It was quiet and still which made for the reflections of the trees. I just stood there for awhile taking in this haunting image on this very unusual day.
The last Passover that the disciples ate with Jesus was also very unusual. They had eaten the Passover many times in their lives, this meal that always had the same pattern. But this time the meal didn’t go in the usual way. Jesus washed their feet; he told them he was leaving them and that this would be the last meal he would eat with them; he promised to make a home for them there; he prayed for them and for us; he took the symbols of the Passover and made them into the symbols of a new covenant. And then the most disturbing part of the meal was his news that one of them would betray him.
Each one ask him and each other in sorrowful tones, “Is it I, Lord?” Someone how they each knew that it was possible for them to betray Jesus. And later that evening they did betray him as they all ran away and left him to face the temple guard alone. They were shaken and didn’t understand; for this was not the image they had of the Messiah.
Like the disciples on this day we must also ask ourselves, “Is it I, Lord?” For we all at times betray Jesus - when we don’t keep his Word; when we fail to share his love with the world; when we think more about getting than giving. On this day, this Good Friday, take time to look for times you have betrayed Jesus. Then as hard as it is to do, look to him on the cross and know that He hung there for you. Hear him ask his Father to forgive those who hung him there. Hear him promise the thief on the other cross paradise. Hear him give his mother’s care to his disciple. And finally hear him cry with a loud voice, “It is finished!” Humbly bow and seek forgiveness and Jesus will pour out a grace that is amazing.
On this day give us a fresh realization of the love that you have for us, that you demonstrated as you hung there are on the cross. Overwhelm our hearts with your amazing grace that we can never deserve. Give us the courage to share this love with the world and live a life that seeks to serve rather than be served.
This year I wanted to find a way to observe Lent in a way that would help me walk with Jesus in a deeper way. During the month before Ash Wednesday, while I was recovering from hip replacement surgery, I had lots of extra time to read and study. One of the resources that I found during this time was a video by the Bible Project, “The Tree of Life.” I can’t explain the impact that the video had on my relationship with Jesus. As a result I decided to begin this project on my blog. This was going to be my special way to observe Lent. So on the day after Ash Wednesday, February 27, I began the project. I didn’t really have a plan or any idea how the project would work, just a desire to share what God was teaching me about him through trees.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Today I will end my Lenten Project in a world that is very different from the world of Ash Wednesday. In a world suffering under the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, we face difficult days ahead. Our daily lives barely resemble our lives of a month ago. The virus has taught us that self-sufficiency is a false God and that we are our brother's keeper. We are searching for someone to trust. We have a God who can be trusted. We also have a God who suffered for us, who faced the darkest of days. In the week ahead we will look again at the last days of Jesus. We will see the most important tree story in God’s word. We will see Jesus riding on a donkey with people throwing tree branches to welcome him to the Temple. He knew it was now time that he would become the new Temple. He spent the last Passover with his disciples seeing the tree that was ahead.
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:13-19, NIV
We will see Jesus betrayed and abandoned and alone. We will see him carry his cross and die on a tree, the most important tree in the Bible. Because Jesus died on this tree we have a new life. We have hope. We have a loving God to trust even in our darkest days.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
One of the traditions of my church is to take the tree that we covered with the shroud of death on Maundy Thursday and on Easter Sunday cover it with flowers that everyone brings from their yard. As our symbol of the cross transforms from a symbol of death to a symbol of life so Jesus transforms our lives. This year we will have to postpone our Easter celebration, but we will still celebrate new life together when we have walked through these dark days and can meet again.
May this upcoming Holy Week and Easter be a special time for you to experience the suffering of Jesus, to rest in his love, and to trust him to walk with you in the days ahead.
Comfort us, strengthen us. Thank you for your great sacrifice of love.
View the post for February 27 for an explanation of my Lenten Project
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
The picnic tables sit along the bike path by the lake under the shade trees. It provides a perfect place to rest after riding around the lake. We all need a place and time to rest. We learn from the Genesis story and other scriptures that God made us this way. When we rest we set aside time to be with him, to worship him. I encourage you to find a place to rest and worship God in his creation, this day even if it is only on your porch or doorstep.
Thank you for making Sabbath for us. We rest in your loving kindness and mercy.
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