Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
You can find a short nature trail to Dugger’s Creek at the Linville Falls Trailhead on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most people never even see this little trail since it is at the opposite end of the parking lot for the bigger, more impressive Linville Falls Trails. When we took this short trail we came upon this little waterfall, hidden away. I couldn’t see its source but its peacefulness and hidden-ness drew me to crawl under the bridge to get a closer look. This was as close as I could get without wading through the creek so much of it still remained hidden.
Paul tells the Colossians that they are now “hidden with Christ in God.” What an image, just like this little waterfall we are hidden with Christ, part of it seen, part of it unseen. We have a relationship with Christ now since we have accepted Christ, but we have to trust God and wait for him to be fully known. Christ is the source of our life now and God promises that we will always be hidden with him. One day all that is hidden will be revealed. What a glorious thought to be hidden with Christ, something wonderful to set our hearts on, something more wonderful than any earthly thing.
Draw us closer each day to Christ. Move us to set our hearts on Christ in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Have you seen the Milky Way? It takes some effort. You must find a place that is really dark, a place where all the familiar things that you can see in daylight are no longer discernible. In our busy world we don’t often take the time to sit in a single place long enough to watch the sun set and the sky become dark. When you do find that really dark place to sit, look to the southern sky and you will see the Milky Way. Sometimes you can’t see it - the sky is filled with clouds, the moon shines too brightly, or it isn't the right time of year. On that really dark night as you look to the heavens in amazement, this beautiful sight imprints an image on your heart of the greatness of God who calls each star by name as he brings them forth each night. This same God knows your name and you are as important to him as each star. He made you in his image. The next time there is a clear night and a new moon go to a really dark place and look to the heavens. Take a picture with your mind’s eye and store it in your memory. See the power and majesty of God. Worship him and he will bring beauty to all your darkness.
Creator of the Heavens
We stand in awe of the heavens, the countless stars, and your mighty power and strength. We worship you and thank you for knowing us by name.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
I didn’t go to a special place known for its flowers or hike long distances to get this picture. It is just the bloom of a garlic plant in my flower bed. Yet the small flowers are so intricate and beautiful when examined with a macro lens. It is just an ordinary plant, something I see everyday, but today I saw its beauty.
Many times I have skipped over these verses that come before the familiar “Lord’s Prayer.” As one of my favorite writers, Debie Thomas, in her Journey with Jesus blog post, "When You Pray", noted these verses have some important insights into how Jesus prayed. The disciples watched Jesus pray and that prompted the request, "teach us to pray." He began his teaching by saying, “When you pray.” For Jesus, praying was an ordinary thing, something that he did all the time. For us to walk closer to God, prayer needs to become an ordinary thing - and in the ordinary things of life we will see God’s beauty and feel his presence.
Make prayer an ordinary thing in our lives. Fill us with your presence.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
It was just the way that the sun was shinning through the trees that made the fern stand out from the others and seem just a little bit brighter. The fern wasn’t creating any light itself, it was just reflecting the light of the sun. It lifted my heart and brought me a little joy as we walked along the path that early morning. God calls us to be like that fern. We need to reflect his light in times of darkness and illuminate the way for others. Sometimes it takes courage to take your light out from under its hiding place. We doubt the beauty and importance of our little light. The world needs your light for that is how they will see the Father’s light. Someone today needs to see the Father’s love and light reflected in your life. They need to see the beauty and peace of his love.
Father of Light
Give us the courage to live our lives today in such a way that we reflect your perfect light and love to those who are facing times of darkness. Make the light we reflect be gentle and humble, not overpowering but enough to light the path ahead.
You are my hiding place;
I think we all have days when we just want to run away - to ride off into the sunset and leave the pain and anxiety behind. But where do we run to find rest and peace we seek? The best place is into the hands of a loving God. From his word we learn the way we should go, the road we should take.
Thank you for being our hiding place and surrounding us with songs of deliverance on days when we just want to run away. Show us the road that will lead to you and counsel us with your word.
Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Sometimes I feel like this log - worn and crooked and filled with knots. These are the times that I need to stop and remember God's grace. I need to let go of all the things that are making me feel so crooked. I need to prepare my heart to come before God’s throne of grace, knowing that here I will find mercy in his love. I need to admit that I need his help and quit trying to walk in my own strength. I need to open my heart to God’s healing hand so that he can make my knotted, crooked life beautiful.
We bow before you with confidence and gratitude for your grace and mercy. Prepare our hearts to worship you.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Rainbows are rare treasures. The conditions have to be just right, sun low in the sky and the right amount of moisture in the air. So when I saw this one I got home as soon as I could, grabbed my camera and my tripod, and ran up the hill to a place where I thought I could get a good picture. I knew that I wouldn’t have long, for the light was golden and the shadows were growing. I was so thrilled when I caught the last fleeting colors before they disappeared. I want to be that thrilled about seeking the kingdom of heaven. It is hard sometimes to think about totally surrendering to God’s will. I do know that the times when I have fully surrendered and followed Jesus, even when it was difficult, I have found great joy and beauty. I also know that unlike the rainbow, the kingdom of heaven will not disappear. It is truly a treasure that is worth selling all you have to buy.
Give us the courage to sell all and follow you; knowing that the only real treasures of beauty and joy are found in you.
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Fog limits our vision and brings a mystery to our world. We often use fog as a metaphor to describe something that we are having trouble understanding. God is so above our ways of understanding that he is a mystery. Knowing Christ unveils the mystery of God, lifts the fog. In Christ we find hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The more we know Christ the more hope we have that we can trust a mysterious God who reveals himself in Christ. One day there will be no more mystery. We will worship God and know him as we are known by him.
Great and Mysterious God
Lift the fog from our hearts. Open our lives to treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ and renew our hope.
Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.
The book of Nehemiah tells the story of how the Israelites who had been in exile rebuilt the walls and temple in Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. It has become one of my favorite books because of the lessons there are to learn in its pages. When I have read this book I will have to admit that I usually just skip chapter 3 because it is just a list of people with names I can’t pronounce who helped rebuild the wall. Until I read it again, really read it closely, and noticed something new about those people. It seems that Uzziel and Harhaiah were goldsmiths and Hananiah was a perfume maker. These artisans were known for their talent and trade, not exactly the skills needed for wall building. Still they worked on the wall and I think they probably got a lot of on-the-job training in wall building. By using these new skills they helped to restore Jerusalem so that the people once again could worship and renew their covenant with God. Rebuilding the temple was an important part of God’s plan. It took lots of people who worked outside of their talent and skill.
So why the picture of the Queen Ann’s Lace and the waterfall? Even though I have stood in front of this waterfall for many years and taken many pictures I have never noticed the flowers before. I have never gotten down and taken a picture through the rails. This day I saw the whole scene differently. My camera has taught me to see things differently, to use an artistic talent that I didn’t think I had. The images that I have taken and this new way of seeing has led me to write. I am not a trained photographer, nor ever imaged that I would ever give myself that title. I have learned on the job, so to speak, from books and YouTube videos. I also am not a writer. Sure, I had to write in my job as a teacher but not this kind of writing. I am not sure exactly why this writing and photographing came about but it is my prayer that it helps rebuild a wall for you. I don’t write to teach theology, as one can tell from my writings, but I do write to encourage and to share my journey with Jesus with you. Read this list of people in Nehemiah 3 and think about all the people it took to rebuild the wall. Be open to God's call to rebuild the people of God in ways that you never expected to be your talent (and use your talents, too).
Lord God, Giver of Talents
Open our hearts and eyes to see things that need to be rebuilt in the lives of people around us. Develop in us the talents we need to do the rebuilding.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
I had never seen a blue heron on the lake at Fall Creek Falls until this early morning. It stood at the edge of the water watching for danger and for food. I was able to get an image from far away with a long lens but when I tried to move closer it saw me and flew to the other side of the lake. I thought about his watchful eyes. He was so still but he knew when I moved just the slightest distance. Knowing that we walk under the watchful eyes of God’s love we can replace fear with trust and despair with hope. When we face danger we face it knowing that we will forever live in Christ.
Lord of Watchful Eyes
Teach us to look to you and to trust your watchful eyes when we face difficult times. Help us to move forward knowing that your unfailing love will give us courage.
But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Black and white images are hard for me to create. I have learned that a successful black and white image is one that is simple, clean, minimal. It takes seeing something in a different way. I still remember the day I took this image; seeing this tree that I pass every time I drive on the loop road in a different way.
It is often hard to do the simple thing, the easy thing. It was hard for Naaman in this story of his healing. Instead of doing something difficult that would have proven that he deserved his healing, all Elisha the prophet told him to do was to wash in the Jordan River. This meant he had to take off his armor and be vulnerable. A simple task, a common task, but one that meant he had to accept stooping down from his own pride. And Jesus asks us in the same way, simple yet hard, “take up your cross and follow me.” I love these words from one of my favorite writers, Debie Thomas, in her " Choosing What is Easy" essay on the Journey with Jesus webzine (one of the best Christian resources I have ever found and recommend it to everyone every week).
It's amazing how often I needlessly complicate the Christian life. “But what does God want me to do?” I groan. What is God's will? How shall I hear God's voice and discern God's plan?
Are the answers really all that hard? Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Pray, listen, learn, and love. Break the bread, drink the wine, bear the burden, share the peace. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Get off your high horse and get in the water. Sit down at the dinner table and speak peace to those who are feeding you.
Help us do the hard but simple thing to follow you, to see in a new way, to lay down our armor and allow you to wash away our sin.
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb:
I am not exactly sure why the tree in the field across from the Lawson place in the cove is so special to me. I still stop to take a picture of this tree every time I go to the cove. To give you an idea of its size, I can easily walk under its branches without bending over. The last time I visited the cove, this tree had something else to teach me. This day this large, strong tree was dwarfed by the clouds that heralded the coming storm. I stood there amazed at the vastness of God who made all things and my own smallness in relation to the tree. And then I hear his promise that this God who made all things will hold my right hand. Overwhelmed.
Lord God, Maker of All Things
Thank you for taking hold of our hands and leading us through the vast and beautiful world you have created. May we humbly reach out and accept your love.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
It had been several years since we hiked to Spruce Flat Falls. In the past I thought of it as a relatively easy hike. It is only a mile to the falls. We didn’t even start out very early. However, the trail wasn’t the way we remembered it. It seems that while it is a well-marked and well-traveled trail, it isn’t a maintained trail. There were many places where the trail was worn away and now there were large steps over roots and several places where the trail was covered by rocks that had to be climbed over. It seemed more like rock climbing than hiking. If this had been our first time to the falls we probably would have turned around halfway. But we kept going because we knew what was at the end of the trail, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the park.
There are many difficult trails in our lives, times we thought would be easy. We take trails that can lead us far away from God and we turn away from him. We can get so lost we wonder why we keep going. Then we remember that God restored our lives from the pit before and we keep going on the trail to see the beauty that awaits us. We experience God’s discipline and weep, but joy comes in the morning. Beauty, peace, and rest rise before us as we sit again in his presence.
Lord of the Morning
Remind us of your love and presence along difficult trails and during dark nights. In the morning we sing praises for your beauty as we sit in your presence.
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