Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
I decided to take the stairs to the upper part of the garden. There was a path that would get me there without the steps but these steps looked strong and secure. Each stone had been laid in carefully and there was a rail to make the climb easier. In addition the steps were beautifully set into the landscape. Wherever we walk, as long as we walk in the way Lord instructs, we will walk in paths that are marked by the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord.
Make my heart humble, teachable. Instruct me in your way so I can walk in paths of steadfast love.
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
Slowing the shutter speed in a photograph of a waterfall lets the viewer see something that can’t be seen with the normal eye. It slows time in a way and the result is silky smooth water. And so it is with waiting that seems to slow down the passing of time. Waiting gives us time to see things in new and different ways, things we would have never seen without slowing down and waiting.
Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the new church year. The season of Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting is hard, especially in our technology ‘speeded-up’ culture. We wait today for God’s promises still yet to be fulfilled as we rejoice over the fulfilled promise of the Messiah. Take time during this season to reflect on what the promise of a Messiah coming into our world means to you and what it requires of you. Take time to think about the grace of God and to seek forgiveness.
Teach us to wait on your perfect timing. Teach us to slow down and use our waiting to seek more of you, to be amazed not by glittering lights of the season but by your steadfast love and grace.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I got up very early that morning so that I could be at the gate to the loop road at Cades Cove when the sun came up. I knew exactly where I wanted to go to get the sun shining through the fall leaves, the Missionary Baptist Church. I drove through the dark and sat at the gate and waited for it to open. But as the sun rose what I saw was fog, heavy fog. There was not going to be a beautiful sunrise that made the gold of the autumn leaves shine even brighter against the white of the church. So instead I got this image of the trees made more beautiful by the fog, their branches and leaves becoming an intricate gate over the lane softened by the fog. The circumstances we face are not always the circumstances we want. It is hard to always rejoice and give thanks. I do believe that when we do face difficult circumstances if we pray without ceasing that God is faithful and will give us a new way of seeing. It may not be the image we wanted to see but it will be the image we need to see. And we will see what Jesus has made especially for us to see.
We rejoice in your greatness. We give thanks for the circumstances we face right now. Show us your will.
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
To take an interesting picture you always have to consider the background. Sometimes you want the background to fade away and sometimes the background is the focus of the image. For example, without the mountains in the background this image would just be a picture of a dilapidated old gate. As with images, we need to think about what is in the background of our lives. For what is in that background impacts our own growth and our relationship with others. Timothy Keller in his book, The Prodigal Prophet, encourages us to make God’s grace the background music of our lives.
“Grace becomes, as it were, the background music of your life. If that is the song your heart sings much of the time, it changes you.”
In this season of Thanksgiving, sing praise to God for his grace with all your heart and let that grace change your heart and fill your relationships with others.
Remind me today to be thankful for your grace. Make my background music always be a song of thanksgiving.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Gates mark protected areas. When you enter a gate you enter into that protected place. To enter the gates of the Lord is to be surrounded and protected by his steadfast love. Enter his gates today with gratitude not for good things we have that may come and go. Enter his gates with gratitude for a good Lord whose steadfast love will endure every circumstance we face, good or bad.
Good Lord and King
Today we thank you for your great love. We praise your name.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Sometimes all we can do is to make a noise - the joyful part just won’t come. I find that I can make my way out of those times when I think about serving the Lord by serving others. At this season of thanksgiving there are many opportunities to serve others. Take one of those even if at first it is without gladness. Slowly the door to joy will open again and you can walk into his presence with singing.
Open our eyes to those around us who are having a hard time making a joyful noise. Show us the best way to serve them so we can shine your light of love in their lives.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
It had been a beautiful sunrise filled with just the right amount of clouds and now more were rolling in again. Rain and storms were predicted but for this instance there was one light shinning through the clouds on the mountains. It was beautiful and fearful at the same time. I can’t explain it but I was glad to be there with the dark clouds. I was alone and content to just stand there and look. This place and time became sacred for me. And for this I am grateful. I can look back on this day and always remember how God spoke to me through clouds and light.
When I read Paul’s words about being content I have to really stop and think about how he could have written these words. This man who had experienced both highs and lows, for he had been imprisoned and imprisoned others, beaten, lost at sea, successful in his preaching, rejected by those he loved, and surrounded by those who loved him. I must ask myself, am I really content in all situations - clear blue sky days and gray dark cloud days? Then I go back to Paul and read the next sentence to find out how he did it. He fully trusted a Savior who loved him, so in all situations he saw “him who strengthens me” first and there he found a sacred place no matter where he was.
Lord of All Times and Places
Teach us the secret Paul learned about how to find contentment no matter what. Teach us to find our strength in your love. Take us to sacred places where we find true rest and contentment even in our busy days.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
These were the words of Moses to Joshua as he was about to take on the job that Moses was leaving him. Moses knew that Joshua would face fear and discouragement, for he had faced them both himself doing this difficult job of leading the people. Moses also knew that the Lord had always gone before him.
We all have these kind of turning points in our life - times when are called to take on the job God places before us. When we look at the task before us it can fill us with fear. Only when we stop and remember that the Lord himself goes before us as he went before Joshua will we find the courage and strength to go forward - no matter what the road ahead looks like.
Lord Who Goes Before
No matter what curves in the road lie ahead, remind us that you go before us. And as we move along the road help us to encourage those on the road with us by reminding them, as Moses did for Joshua, of your presence.
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
I am so grateful for the amazing roads that allow us to drive to the top of mountains. When you arrive at the top and look out, the mountains seem to unfold before you. As far as you can see there are fold after fold of mountains. Folding and unfolding is an important metaphor of understanding God’s word for you can only unfold something that has been folded. God’s word is so neatly folded - every word fits together to show us God. Now you have to work at unfolding it. We need to to study it, to memorize it, and to be excited about all the light it brings to us. It takes time in God’s word to see all the folds that are there but the more you unfold, the more understanding you have, the more light you see. This verse about unfolding has become so important to me. You will find it in the header on the home page of my website. It perfectly describes what I want this website to be - an unfolding of God's word through the light captured in his world.
Great Creator God,
Thank you for your beautiful word. Guide us to unfold it in our lives and give us light on our journey toward you.
I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.
To get a picture that is sharp and clear there needs to be no camera movement while the shutter is open. The slower the shutter speed the harder this is to accomplish while hand holding the camera. If I want to take a picture in low light or make the waterfall look silky smooth then I have to use a tripod. Now a tripod is a lot to carry and if you are carrying it on your pack then you have to stop and take off your backpack to set it up. So when I come to a scene that I want to photograph I have to ask myself, “is this tripod worthy.” If I see the light isn’t right or I can’t get a clear composition of what I want to photograph then I won’t take the trouble to set up the tripod. The longer that I have photographed the better I am at judging if a scene is tripod worthy. Over time and experience I have learned to discern much better not only when I need a tripod but if the scene will make a compelling image.
If we want God to help us discern the best course of action, if we want to truly serve God then we must know God’s word. We need to ask God to develop in us an understanding of his word. When God’s word becomes ingrained in our every daily lives then we can use it to determine if an action is “tripod worthy.”
Increase our desire to know your word and give us the discernment we need to use your word to serve you in a worthy manner.
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
There is a church that we pass when we drive to through the mountains of North Carolina, far away from any large bodies of water, named Lighthouse Baptist Church. I decided that I would just do a little google search to see if there were any other Lighthouse Churches and even found a Lighthouse Missionary Baptist Church in my own county. The purpose of a lighthouse, of course, is to shine light in dangerous places and I guess that is why so many churches choose a lighthouse as part of their name. I have never needed a lighthouse but I do need light and truth. God’s word has been a guiding light for me and the more I read it the closer I come to dwelling with God.
Lord of Light
Thanking you for sending your light. Thank you for the lighthouse keepers who have helped me study your word and shown me the way to Jesus.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
I got to see my special tree across from the Lawson place again and this time in full fall color against the mountains filled with color on a clear, blue sky day. I remember the first time I noticed the tree. It was after I got my camera and started taking pictures. Since then I have always paid attention to it and I don’t think I will ever go to the cove again without stopping to take its picture.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews warns his listeners to pay attention to what they have heard about Jesus. The letter begins with with a beautiful and lofty description of who Jesus is, written to a people who live in a culture that will soon ostracize them and later persecute them. If they are going to stay true to Jesus then they must pay close attention to what they have heard. The words translated as “pay closer attention” are much stronger in the original Greek. They carry the idea of being completely obsessed with something. If we are going to make Christ the center of our lives than we must be completely obsessed with him.
I want to be as completely obsessed with Christ as I am with the tree in the cove. It is easy to get busy and skip a day spending time in God’s word and the more we skip the easier it is, we just start drifting away. I know that when I do spend time with him, think of him throughout the day, be amazed at his love and grace, then I always see wonderful things.
Teach us to pay closer attention to you this day. Break into our lives and keep us true to you, amazed at the love you have for us.
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.
In addition to their beauty the fall leaves signal that it is time for seasons to change. Winter is coming when all the leaves will be gone and there will be more dark hours than daylight. But I have come to see the beauty in winter when the branches of the trees become intricate sculptures against a foggy sky. I am grateful for a God who gives us seasons - not only seasons in the physical world but seasons in the times of our lives.
This is the 284th post that I have made on this blog that I began a year ago. At that time I had no idea how long it would last and what form it would take, and I still don’t know those things. I have been so surprised with the words that God has given me in this new season of my life. He has truly revealed deep and hidden things. As I have chased the light with my camera I hope that I have captured glimpses of the radiant and perfect light of God’s love in my images. I pray that these images and words of scripture have given you wisdom and light in whatever season of life you find yourself. I walk forward not knowing what will come next with my photography and writing but I know that I will always find light in him.
God of All Seasons,
We praise the God who controls all times and seasons, who gives wisdom and understanding and whose light illuminates the way through dark times.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
No single image can capture the exact nature of what the photographer sees and feels when the shutter is pushed. If there is not enough light then you get a dark image. You can try to slow the shutter speed down to capture more light but any movement in the scene changes the way object appears, flowing water becomes smooth. If there is too much light then the camera just records only white light with no detail, places in the image where there is no color. Like the camera we can’t truly see all of God, so Jesus came, the exact imprint of the nature of God. When we look at Jesus we see the radiance of God’s glory. We see the amazing grace of our Savior.
Great God, Creator of All Things
Thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your nature to us, to have relationship with us, to love us. Help us to sharpen our focus on him so we can lead others to see the radiance of your glory in Jesus Christ.
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.
I love the golds and reds of the autumn, especially in the early morning and late afternoon when the sun intensifies the gold of the autumn leaves. The mountain streams reflect the beautiful leaves and the whole world seems to be awash in gold. More beautiful than the golds of fall are the words of God. When we study them our lives are illuminated and we have a gift more lasting and beautiful than the fleeting golds of fall.
Make your word light up our lives like the beautiful golden leaves of fall amaze us with their beauty.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Each morning the sun rises and while we may have some idea or plan about the day we really don’t know exactly what the day will hold - what challenges, what joys. How will we exercise our faith this day? Today I will leave you with this encouraging quote from Thomas Parker from the Feasting on the Word Commentary Year B, Psalm 127 in Week of Proper Time 27.
“God is greater than whatever threatens me/us n particular situations. There will be resources and challenges we do not now see: trust God. There will be purposes served we can know only looking back: be open to learn. This faith is a courageous hope that does not have all the answers. They must learn as they walk into the unknown future. Divine providence is not magic; it does not rescue us from trouble without following the way of God through it. Faith becomes courage to endure what we must without losing heart, and thereby losing our souls.”
This day keep us faithful and true as we follow you through the challenges of our day and turn our faith into courage.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
The Henry Whitehead Cabin in Cades Cove is one of the most unusual cabins remaining in the park. It is considered a transitional cabin because it has elements of both traditional log homes of the past and sawn wood homes that predated the modern frame homes like the Caldwell house in Catalooche. It seems Mr. Whitehead was a very creative man using new technologies and even making bricks for a chimney instead of using stone. Like Mr. Whitehead, building homes is apart of the creative work that we each do when we build our homes, places where we live and grow. Our home building work is a part of God’s creative work.
Photography has become a new way of home building that I would have never thought that I would create. I am new to this art and have a lot to learn. I want my photography to build a home where I can grow and help others to grow. I am not the best landscape photographer which is evident to me when I see some of the beautiful landscapes of some of my favorite photographers like Thomas Heaton and a former student of mine, Jason Eldridge. But God never asked that we be the best he only asks that we give our best (Colossians 3:23). Today as you go about your work think of it as continuing the creative home building work of the Lord. Build a house that he will use and I know that even when you see you work as not very creative or unimportant know that if you are using the gifts God gave you, you are letting God build a house that he will use for his purposes.
Great Builder of Our Homes
Give us strength and courage to build our homes. Shine your creative light into our lives and help us to remember the value that you see in each of the gifts and talents you gave us. Keep us focused on you as we build our homes so our labor won’t be in vain.
I will keep your law continually, forever and ever,
Several of my favorite trails in the Smokies are wide trails. Since many were at one time roads the incline is more gradual, there are fewer rocks and roots to trip on, and I can see further ahead. It is also easier to walk beside someone which can’t always be done on a single wide path. Keeping God’s precepts and laws means that I have his guidance in my life. He walks beside me and keeps me from stumbling. He will walk by me forever on beautiful wide trails.
Maker of Wide Paths
Thank you for your laws and precepts that guide me to you.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
Fall is an exciting time for photographers, the colors are so rich and vibrant. To capture the beauty of fall, a photographer must seek out places and times of day to get an image that stirs the viewer's heart. Like I seek out places to photograph, I have found that I must seek out time to worship God. I need to set aside time to worship him, time when I sit in humble silence and let praise for him fill my heart as the glory of his world in fall fills my eyes. We need to make holy places in our lives, places where the attitude of our heart ascribes glory to God. Then we will see the splendor of his holiness.
Help us to seek out a time and place to worship you this day, to ascribe glory to your name, to see your beauty.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
All lighthouses need to be high enough above the water to shine their warning light. At the time most lighthouses were built, a person had to manually climb to the top to operate the light. Most lighthouses have stairs of some kind and usually they are very narrow. On our recent trip to the Great Lakes I developed an appreciation for those lighthouse keepers who had to climb a very narrow, difficult, and frightening set of stairs many times carrying supplies needed for the light. There have been times in my life when I thought I just can’t climb another set of difficult stairs that are before me. But I have learned that is in those times when I let God be my strength that I grow the most. He has always been my strength. And after climbing those hard steps, I look back and see their beauty like the intricate ironwork of the lighthouse steps.
Strong, Mighty King
When I grow weary and my heart fails, teach me to look to you to be my strength.
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