In their hearts humans plan their course,
I am a planner - of lesson plans, road trips, and photography outings. Planning is my way of bringing order out of chaos. Things in our world right now seem disordered and chaotic. We don’t know what will happen next. Planning is almost impossible. It is like we are walking down an unknown path not sure of where we are going or what will be around the next curve. What we do know is that the Lord is there to establish our steps. He knows what is around the next corner. His light will show us the way. When we can't plan we can trust God bring order to our chaos.
We are plan-less right now. Shine your light on our path this day and bring order from the chaos that we face. Calm our fears and help us to walk in the confidence of your love. Show us your purpose and direction for this day.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
I love to walk in the morning. My favorite path is straight and the way is easy. Someone has done the hard work of preparing the path for me. John the Baptist came with a call to the people to prepare the way, to make a straight path for the Lord to come to them, to repent. Preparing our hearts is hard work. We must listen to the Spirit, examine our lives, and confess our sin. When we do clear out a way for the Lord, he will come and walk with us. He will make our way straight.
Help us clear a path for you each day. Remove the clutter of our lives and help us to focus on you so we can share your love with others along our path today.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
According to the tour book the Thunder Ridge Nature Trail leads to one of the most beautiful overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. However when we arrived at the trailhead everything was just socked in with fog. We decided to take the trail anyway and while we didn’t see the amazing view from the overlook that we expected the fog created a serene, peaceful, and beautiful walk.
In those times in our lives when unexpected fog rolls in we can choose to stay the course and just keep walking. When we wait patiently Jesus will come to us. In him we will find a joyful hope because he has proven to be trustworthy every time. Patience is never easy but our best choice is always to stay the course and he will lead us out of the fog.
Develop in us a patient trust in your love. Help us to just faithfully keep on keeping on when we are surrounded by fog trusting in the promise of your love.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Every morning that I can I go to Cherokee Dam to walk on the cross-country trails. On some mornings the sunlight drenches everything in golden light and the sky is filled with color. It makes everything feel fresh and new.
I have heard this phrase, “walk in the newness of life,” at just about every baptism I have watched. During my walk this morning this phrase kept playing in my ear. I think I have heard it so often that I sometimes forget what an amazing promise it is. The Greek word translated as newness is kainotēs. It speaks of a life that has a fresh quality. Jesus’s resurrection provides for us not just more life but a new kind of life. Our sins are buried with him. Our burden of sin and guilt is lifted. Like my morning walks, Jesus brings us a fresh, new life each day as we walk with him.
Thank you for new mornings and new life. Help us keep the wonder and excitement of the newness of life as we walk with you through our day.
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.
This was my first time to visit the Caldwell House in the Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountains. It is not like most of the other cabins that have been preserved in the park. Instead of logs and mortar, it is two stories with white washed clapboards and blue shutters. I walked up the steps and opened the door to see finished wood work and a carved stair case. As I stood in the hallway the sunlight was streaming through the slightly opened back door and it made everything appear golden. The only thing that I could see through the door was bright light.
As I stood there taking the picture I remembered the image of an open door in the book of Revelation. John tells of a day when in a vision he saw an open door standing before him. As he looked into heaven it must have been amazing to see the light and then to hear God say, “Come up and I will show you around.” This image of an open door to heaven is one that brings us hope. In our darkest days we have this promise that God has made a way for us to be with him. He will open the door for us and we will be with him forever.
In days of darkness, thank you for the bright light of your presence and the promise of the open door.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Color is a complicated concept. While even a 2 year old can correctly name a color, to understand how we see color is difficult. A simplified explanation tells us that color has three properties: hue, the shade, e.g. red or green; saturation, the strength of the color; and luminance, the brightness of the color. When I took this image with my camera it recorded all the properties of color. You see the image in black and white because I changed the color properties with my image editing software. My software allows me to change any one of the color properties of the image and when I do it changes the whole image. For example I can take a fall scene and increase the saturation of the yellows and reds to make the trees stand out. Or, as I did in this image, I can de-saturation an image so that the green of the grass and the pine needles and the brown of the tree trunk become shades of gray.
When we say that someone is color blind what we are saying is that the person doesn’t see all the properties of color. He or she only sees saturation and brightness but not hue. The image a color blind person sees is incomplete. In the same way we can be color blind when we look at our world. Just like the properties of color we all have properties though which we look at the world - our race, our economic status, our neighborhoods, our politics, and even our religious beliefs. We develop a kind of blindness, our vision is incomplete. The result of all of our color blindness is division and disunity.
The church at Corinth was having such a problem with discord and division. Paul wrote to them to help them get over their color blindness, to develop a complete vision. He admonished them first to examine themselves to look to see what properties were missing. If we are going to live in unity with all, we will need to begin by examining the way the properties of our lives influence the image we see. We will need to listen to those people whose properties are different from ours. We will need to see where and how we are color blind. It won’t be easy and will most likely be painful. We don’t like to think of ourselves as racist or prejudice but when we look carefully we will find that we are. Our vision is incomplete and our image of the world is missing something. While we don’t have editing software that will allow us to easily change the properties that we are using to see each other, Paul writes to the Corinthians that we have something more powerful - “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” This is the only way we can began to remove the divisions and walk in unity with each other.
God Of All People
Examine our hearts and show us where the properties of our lives keep us from seeing the unjust way we and our culture treat others. Give us the courage to reach out to someone whose properties of life are different from ours. As we listen to each other give us wisdom to find ways to seek justice for all who have been oppressed so we can live in unity.
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
I have always loved Queen Anne’s Lace so I was excited when I saw this group in the gardens. When I looked closer I saw this tiny purple flower growing in between all the Queen Anne’s Lace. I liked this one especially that seemed to be poking its head in the center. It would have been easy to overlook without looking closely with my macro lens.
In this passage of scripture there is one phrase that can be easily overlooked, “along with the women.” In our modern culture when men and women routinely pray together we just skip over this little phrase. But, in this time, the idea that women and men would pray together in one room was something that just wasn’t done. It was because of Jesus’s love and teachings that both male and female followers of Christ prayed together. From this small group of men and women the church began to spread the love of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In our country today we are divided: black/white, republican/democrat, liberal/conservative, rich/poor, wearing a mask/demanding our rights, and on and on. We seem to have lost the ability to think of anyone but ourselves, our side. We focus only on winning and end up hurting each other. We need to pray together again. We need to see things from the other side. We need to grow together like the Queen Anne’s Lace and the little purple flower. This will only be possible when we trust the Holy Spirit and allow him to convict us of our sin and show us how to walk in service to our fellow humans, especially those on the other side. Then, like the two flowers made more beautiful because they are together, we can find unity in Christ.
Give us a heart of love. Teach us to love our enemies. Give us wisdom to find ways to seek justice for those who have suffered injustice for so long. Give us courage to take one small step and reach out to someone on the other side, in the power of your love.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
After I go my first DSLR I had a lot to learn about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I remember the first time I learned that if you have a slow shutter speed when you take a picture of a waterfall the water will appear to be silky smooth in the image. I was amazed by this and I couldn’t wait to try it. My first couple of tries were terrible because I didn’t realize you had to have a way to keep the camera steady. I remember when I took this picture at one of my favorite places with my new tripod. This was the first time after many tries, I successfully had an image with smooth water and sharp detail. I have learned a lot in the eight years I have been taking images with my camera, yet I still have a lot to learn.
Even though the disciples had been with Jesus for three years, they, too, still had a lot to learn. The disciples knew the scriptures about a promised Messiah, yet Jesus was not the Messiah they had expected. He was still teaching them after his resurrection. He “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." He showed them how he fulfilled the Scripture's promises of a Messiah. They now had a new way of understanding the promised Messiah. I wonder what it was like to hear Jesus teach them that day. I believe that Jesus will open our minds to understanding the Scriptures today. The Bible is a beautiful book but it isn’t always easy to understand. We must spend time learning to read it and when we do we will see how Jesus fulfilled God’s plan to love and redeem us.
Open our minds to understanding the Scriptures. Give us a desire to study them so that we can see you and become your witnesses.
When he [Jesus] had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
We started our third road trip last September on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since we have driven on the parkway many times it was a good place to start our sightseeing. We would travel from the familiar to the unfamiliar, leaving the mountains where we live and traveling through New England to the coast of Maine. When we left that day we were filled with excitement of the beauty and adventure before us. Things we had read about and seen pictures of we were now going to see in person.
I wonder if the disciples felt like we did that day we began our adventure. Jesus had been with the disciples for 40 days teaching them and preparing them for the new journey ahead. As he prepared to leave them he took them to a place near Bethany. It was a familiar place, the place where he began his final entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This time instead of leading them into Jerusalem he was leading them out into the world.
Open our hearts to desire the adventure of following you. Lead us out from the familiar and comfortable to be witnesses of your grace and love to out world.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
We oftentimes come to realize the value of something when it is taken away. I have learned this very recently after my hip surgery when I could no longer go for my early morning walks. After my surgery, I had to start over again building up my strength. Each day I would try to increase my step count. Counting and tracking my steps helped me to see progress and encouraged me to keep walking. Now that I am on the road to recovery, I still count my steps and I am grateful for each step. I can go on my early morning walks again and they are even more special to me. We gain wisdom in the same way; one step at a time. Wisdom comes when we take the time to be grateful for each day without worrying about tomorrow, taking each day one step at a time.
Develop in us a sense of gratitude for each day. Teach us to count our days and give us wisdom to make each day count.
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
We were returning to our motel from a day of sightseeing when we turned the last corner and I saw the harbor. In the week we were in Acadia we passed this little harbor on almost every trip. It was usually filled with little boats and it definitely wasn’t on the list of must see places. But this night it was beautiful to me. It is a simple picture of mostly just sky and water but it is one of my favorite images from the whole trip. There are times in our lives, times like right now, where everything is complicated. The harbor is full of little boats and we long to see the simple beauty of the quiet harbor.
John the Baptist knew that his purpose was to call the people to make a way for the Lord. His voice calls to me in these complicated times. I need a quiet harbor, a place to clear out the jumble of my life and confess my sin of seeking my own way. I need to make a way in my heart for Jesus. In him only will we find a secure harbor and the quietness and peace that we seek.
Help me clear my heart and listen to your voice. Be the harbor that I seek and show me the beauty of following you.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am grateful that I live in a place with four seasons, each one bringing its own gifts. This spring it has been a little harder to enjoy its beauty. The virus is keeping us in our homes. Instead of trips to the mountains to see the wildflowers I have been enjoying the flowers in my neighborhood. I am thankful for the flowers and the reminder they bring that God is in control. In him we find a hope that won’t fade; a hope that can fill us with joy and peace in dark times.
God of Hope
Open our eyes to the beauty around us. Replace our fear with your peace. May the hope we have in you overflow to those around us.
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!”
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