The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
Since there was only a sidewalk between our motel room and Lake Michigan it was going to be easy to get sunrise pictures, or so I thought. As soon as I walked outside I was glad the safety of the motel was very close. I would have not wanted to be very far away from shelter that morning. The wind was getting stronger, the waves higher, and the clouds darker each second. You could feel the power of the coming storm. There were times when it was completely dark and then times when the light would break through the clouds bringing amazing color.
Sometimes we lose sight of the power of God. His power is like the power of a storm, elusive but present. Unlike an earthly storm that brings destruction, his power brings righteousness and justice. We don’t always understand God’s power, yet there are times when his light breaks into our lives and we stand amazed. The Lord reigns. Accepting the sovereignty of God isn’t easy for us. We fight too much to be our own king. But there is a peace that comes when we rest in the authority of a trustworthy and loving God that allows us to rejoice in the power of the storm.
We stand amazed at your power and bow in your presence.
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
I have lived in sight of the mountains most of my life. I have hiked in them many times, yet I have never really hiked to the top of one until last week. We didn’t really go that day with the intention of hiking a mountain. We were just going to go a short distance up the trail to arch rock but when we got there I decided to keep going to Alum Cave Bluffs. As I climbed higher the view became more and more amazing. It was truly a mountain top experience. There were many people on the trail that day, seeking the clear views that can only come from the top of a mountain.
Climbing a mountain is a physical experience and also a metaphor for a spiritual experience. There are times when we see God more clearly; we catch a vision of what God has planned for his world. While it won’t be like John’s vision of the Holy City from the great, high mountain it will be the vision that we need to keep climbing. We won’t be able to stay on the mountain top. The vision that once was clear will fade at times while we are on this earth. But, as the book of Revelation promises, there will come a time when the mountain top experience will never end. We will see God and live in. his presence.
Thank you for mountains - times when we see your world and you more clearly. Give us this day a vision of your radiance and glory and the strength to keep climbing.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
The trail was littered with tulip popular petals on the nature trail known for its popular trees and wildflowers. I kept hoping that it wasn’t too late to see a full bloom on a tree, but as much as I looked I just didn’t see one. The hike was harder than expected because the trail was more like walking up a creek with the recent rains. So at the highest point of the trail there was bench and when I sat down to rest, there it was the most beautiful full tulip popular bloom floating in the water at the edge of the creek. Had I not sat down I would have never seen it. This was the picture that I had asked for that day. You see, each time I go hiking I pray that the Holy Spirit will prepare my eyes to see and open my heart to learn something new about his word. The bench, the water on the trail, and that tulip popular bloom were brought together for me to see this beautiful image.
The story of Lydia in Acts is a story of how the Holy Spirit brought things together to accomplish God's mission. Paul only went to Macedonia because of vision that he had. It wasn’t in his original plan. Lydia had been searching for God and went to a place known as a place to seek and pray. We know she was a very unusual woman for her time because she was a wealthy merchant on her own at a time when women were mostly seen as property. She had found material success but it wasn’t enough for her. She was still searching for God. Because she had been searching her heart was opened to hear Paul's message. She then became a missionary herself as her home became home base for Paul while in Philippi. I believe that God still brings things together for us to accomplish his plan for his kingdom, whether it be something small like the tulip popular bloom or some much bigger life decision.
Prepare our hearts and our eyes to see you. Bring together everything you need to accomplish your purpose through us today.
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Even though I have traveled this nature trail many times I had never seen this waterfall. We have had so much rain this spring that some waterfalls that are usually only a trickle are now full of water. It is like that in these mountains - times when the streams almost disappear and times when they run full force.
We have times like that in our lives. Times when we are so thirsty but there is no water to be found and times when water overflows. But unlike the unpredictable water flow in the mountains, Jesus promises us that we will never thirst. We only need to seek him when we are thirsty. The water he gives flows from his life. He is our everything, beginning and end.
Give us a thirst that only you can quench. Show us the spring of living water that comes from you.
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
We were on our way back down the hill to the end of the trail when I happened to stop and turn around to see this little scene. I almost missed it. There weren’t any bright blooms, just so many colors of green around the base of the tree in these small plants, each of a different type, yet existing together. They were so small in comparison to the tree but they made me smile. They just seemed to be happy together. These little plants remind us that praise happens best when we each sing our individual song but sing it together gathered around our great and loving God, rich and poor, old and young, strong and weak.
We bow in praise to you. Give us the courage to sing the song you have given us to sing and to invite others to join in the song with their unique and individual voices.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
Our last stop that winter day at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was the pinnacle overlook. From this easily accessible lookout you can see for many miles and on this day we could see the storm clouds rolling into the mountains and valleys.
Just as we did that day, sometimes we can see the dark valleys ahead. Other times we arrive at them unexpectedly. Whichever way we enter dark valleys, we know that we don’t walk alone. It is true that people may not be there to walk with us, but the great Shepherd will always be there to guide us. He will use his rod and staff to protect and guide us and we can walk without fear. While we may not be able to avoid the storm, I know that it is in the darkest valleys of my life where I have walked closest to my Lord. He gave me the courage to walk on. This day look for friends who may be walking an unexpected dark valley and just gently join them in their walk, no words are usually needed. Jesus is already there.
When we walk into and through the darkest valleys lead us with your rod and staff. Give us courage and strength and comfort us until we walk through the dark valley and into the light of your love.
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
Anything that is white is hard to photograph because the range of light that a camera sees is much less than the dynamic range of the human eye. The light reflected from something pure white is beyond the dynamic range of the camera and as photographers say, too hot. There is even a warning on most cameras called the “blinkies.” Areas in the photo where there is so much light that the camera’s sensor cannot record anything will blink on the LCD on the back of the camera. In other words anything that is blinking in the image on the LCD won’t have any detail and can’t be edited. It will just be pure white.
This dogwood was so beautiful against the green of the grass and the blue of the skies, but I just couldn’t capture it without blinkies. I tried many different angles and positions, but the only one that could capture the beauty and purity of the dogwood was looking up through the petals to the light. John, in the book of Revelation, gives us a glimpse of a pure, white in the robes of those who worship God on his throne. Right now our ability to capture what it is like to wear a white robe is limited for we can only read of their purity. We do know that the robes are white because they have been made pure by the sacrifice of Jesus. We take these words of Revelation as a promise of what it will be like to one day after our time one earth to put on these white robes and serve God sheltered in his temple.
Right now I can only catch a glimpse of the heaven you have promised in your word. I can’t image or even fully understand what it will be like one day to stand before you in pure, white robes. I can only accept your gift of love that has always been and will last forever. I bow before you and worship you now.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The lush greens of spring in the mountains are back. The gray of winter is replaced with the breath-taking beauty of green leaves against blue skies. Simple pleasures of sitting by a mountain stream or taking an afternoon nap in front of my camper are just around the corner. These are the simple pleasures of summer. To find these and all other simple pleasures God provides, we must drown out the advertisements of our materialistic culture that seek to convince us that we need the best new thing. It is so easy to fall victim to these temptations that say if you have this one thing you will look younger, be more beautiful, be happy, and on and on. The simple truth is that God will provide us everything we need. When we walk with him, we lack nothing.
Give us the courage to close our ears to the false calls of the material world that claim to have the things that will satisfy our desires, improve our life, make us happy. Teach us to trust you and say with surety “I shall not want, for everything I need I find in you.”
That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
I got up before my husband and slipped out of the camper with my camera. We were camping on the river at Douglas Dam. It was a cool morning and there was just a light fog. I stopped at the last campsite and just sat on the picnic table. There was a peace and quietness there as I felt God calm my soul. I didn’t go out that morning expecting to experience God in a special way. He just showed up without an appointment.
It must have been like that for Peter, John, James, Nathaniel, and the other unnamed disciples that morning by the Sea of Galilee. They had been on an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster for the past month. They just decided to go fishing, we don’t know why. On that early morning it was John, the Beloved Disciple, the one closes to Jesus, that recognized him first. At John's words, Peter jumped out of the boat, swimming this time instead of walking on the water. Nathaniel and the others brought the boat into shore. Jesus just showed up without an appointment.
Jesus does that. He knows us so well. He knows just when and how to speak to us like he did with all of his resurrection appearances to the disciples. Sometimes like that day on the Sea of Galilee we need someone to see him first and sometimes we need to be the ones to bring the boat to shore for our friends. Whichever we are Jesus will always meet us at the shore, showing up without an appointment.
Show up in our lives this day. Help us to be the ones that point the way to you or the ones to bring the boat to shore for anyone who needs to see you.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
In fall every individual tree adds to the glorious beauty of the mountains. Individually they are nice, but together they are glorious. In the same way, individual worship is important but the most beautiful worship happens when we join with others “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” In the words of Michael Pasquarello, III, “worship is central to our identity and mission as God’s people, since it is worship that shapes the human community in response to the God of Jesus Christ.” We worship a Savior who is worthy and it is through his sacrifice that we find our way to worth.
We bow in worship to you who covers and sin and shame with the wounds of Jesus, your Son. With our brothers and sisters we sing now and forever, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
I had no idea that the passion flower is the state wildflower of Tennessee. Actually I had never even seen or heard of a passion flower until I saw one for the first time a couple of years ago at a state park near me. I think it is the oddest flower I have ever seen. I only knew it was a passion flower when I came back again to take its picture and I happened upon a fellow hiker who knew what it was. “Oh, that is a passion flower,” she said as she continued on down the path. When I put the image on my computer and enlarged it is when I became so truly amazed at its beauty, its intricate parts, its colors. It is truly an amazing flower, so different from so many others.
Being amazed at the passion flower’s intricate beauty made the joy of finding the flower even more intense. Being amazed at something I think is the beginning of the search for understanding of the object of your amazement. The resurrection was an amazing thing for the disciples, so amazing that they had trouble believing it. Each searching for understanding and acceptance of a love so great that it would die for them. After amazement then comes true worship. It was Thomas who put his amazement into words, “My Lord and My God.”
Take time to look again at the love of Jesus. “Stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,” who will come to you in the way you need to understand and believe. Seek others along the way who know Jesus and can tell you his name. Do not disbelieve but believe. Then, like Thomas, in amazement, in worship, in gratitude speak those words with him, “My Lord and My God.”
We stand amazed in the presence of your love for us. Deepen our understanding of your love as we follow you and make you the Lord of our lives.
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