For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Somewhere along the way red roses have come to symbolize love; maybe because they are beautiful, expensive, or come with thorns. They remind me of God’s love that is lavished on us, a love that will never let us go, a love that died for us. I give you this rose and these words from the hymn written by a blind Scottish minister, George Matheson (1842-1906) and a link to these words put to music by Elaine Hagenberg.
O Love, that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Light, that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy, that seeks me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
For a love that will not let us go, a love that is given freely and not earned, we bow with grateful hearts. Help us to share this amazing love today.
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
The chair sat there all alone, a picture of loneliness. I think we have all felt times when we were like that chair all alone. We feel left out, somehow like we don’t belong anywhere. We all want to belong. Paul wrote to the Corinthians who were having a belongingness problem. It had become so great that they were dividing themselves into groups based on who they followed. They needed to feel they belonged. They were wounded and alienated. I love these words by Roger J. Gench from the Feasting on the Word, Year A Commentary that explains Paul’s answer to the Corinthians and to us who need to belong:
How do you walk with wounds that are so deep and so alienating? The answer Paul gives is Christ and him crucified, who not only identifies with our loneliness, but who also carries our wounds, in order to show us the God who loves us. It is in Christ alone that we can learn we belong. By learning to live in Christ we grow into the discovery that we are loved.
Now I look back on this picture of the chair and am grateful for the time God pointed it out to me on my early morning walk that day. I now see the tree that covers it an all the beauty that surrounds it, like God’s love surrounds me when I am lonely.
Heal our wounds of loneliness as we grow in your love. Forgive the times our need to belong has divided us and hurt others. Help us to seek the lonely and bring them to your love.
Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
This boardwalk makes it possible to walk through swampy land to see a beautiful lake. It forms a boundary line that keeps you safe. Every so often there is a place to stop and sit and just consider the beauty before you. God’s law, like this boardwalk, provides boundary lines for us. When we follow God’s law we find his blessing in the beauty he provides along the way. His law keeps us safe while leading us to his beauty.
Open our eyes to find the boundary lines in your Word that we need to make decisions and walk blamelessly with you this day.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
One thing that makes the Smoky Mountains special is that just about anywhere you hike you will find streams and creeks. When you are in the mountains you are surrounded by water even in winter when the streams become beautiful ice sculptures. When I read these familiar words of Paul I think that this is what he means when he tells his friends to pray continually - to surround ourselves with God. Even in cold and icy times we can walk in his presence rejoicing and giving thanks for the water and its beauty.
Thank you for promise of your presence even in cold and hard times. Show us your beauty this day.
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
This one-way road is one of my favorite roads in the mountains. When you pull off for a view you don’t have to wonder which way to turn you just have to follow the road. The road ahead is narrow and moves out of sight and it ends in a different place from where it starts. It is filled with beauty all along the way. All you have to do is follow the road.
Jesus’s call to Simon Peter and Andrew was as straightforward as driving on this one-way road, “Come, follow me.” They didn’t know where it would end but they did know who they were following. Jesus called them from where they were and told them that he would make them into different kind of fishermen. Following Jesus begins where you are now. You only must decide to follow the road he lays out for you. You won’t always see the road in front of you. You must trust Jesus to lead the way.
Give us the courage to follow you this day. Remake us into what you would have us be.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart
The sailboat waits at the dock for its owner to come and help it fulfill its purpose. The name, “Endurance,” made me wonder why the owner gave the boat this name. I wonder what he or she has had to endure in the past or is enduring now. When I think about endurance I think about waiting., which may be the hardest part of endurance. The sailboat cannot sail without its master so it must wait. We can endure because we wait for a Master who is faithful and true. In him we find the courage and strength to endure. When we wait for him we find our purpose.
Lord and Master
We wait for you. Show us your purpose for you this day.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
The plant has made it through the winter and soon the bud will become a beautiful white trillium. Many people will come to the mountains in the spring to see the trilliums in bloom. It will be a new creation out of something old. Only when we have weathered the dark and trusted God to carry us through are we able to sing a new song. The new song we sing won’t be our song, it will be his song. It is when we sing his song that we bring the promise of new life to all those we meet.
Open our hearts to your song and give us a new song of praise to sing for you have made us new.
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.
For years I didn’t know about Sparks Lane. I just stayed on the loop road around Cades Cove and never thought about going on a gravel road that I didn't know where it ended. Then one day I decided to take a chance and take this gravel road and oh what I found. Now it calls me every time I go to the cove to discover its beauty. When you follow its call, no matter the weather, it leads you to beauty. God calls us to follow him. The way he calls is not always clear; it can be foggy and a little scary not knowing where the road leads. He promises us to take hold of our hand for he has a purpose for us. He calls us to be a light for others who sit in darkness.
Our God and King
Take our hands and lead us to be a light for those in darkness.
This is what God the Lord says--
The heavens definitely stretched out before us this day. We had stopped for lunch at Branbury State Park in Vermont to enjoy the small lake, the beautiful blue skies, and bright sunny day. The clouds seemed to change all at once and we could see the rain clouds coming. The houses and boats along the shore were now dwarfed underneath those skies. It is hard to explain the feeling that I had watching the clouds come in a way that I have never seen before. I took this picture right before we made a run for our car. The clouds and rain moved on as quickly as they came.
God comes to us sometimes like the clouds that day. We are going about out daily work and then something causes us to look to the heavens and remember the God who spread them out before us. Take time this day to go outside, even if it is raining, and look to the heavens and worship the God who gives us life.
Creator of the Heavens
We bow in worship at the beautiful world you have given us, its majestic skies and all that it is in it.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
I didn’t expect to see very many people on Cadillac Mountain for sunrise that morning. The temperatures were below freezing and the skies were clear so the possibility of beautiful color in the sky was very low. When we got to the top of the mountain more than an hour before sunrise I couldn’t believe what I saw. Instead of the few photographers I thought would see, there were tour buses full of people. Based on the buses and the cars there were at least a thousand people on that mountain top. While I knew that this spot in Acadia National Park was the first place in America to see the sun rise over the horizon I was surprised that so many people would make the effort to get here. Even more surprising was the reaction when the first sliver of light appeared on the horizon - there was applause.
In our world today despair is rampant and darkness seems to have won the day. People are desperate for that sliver of light, wondering if it will ever come. If we follow Christ we know that the Light of the World has come. Praise the Lord who brings light and maybe clap your hands with joy. Arise and shine and share the light of Christ with all you see this day. Make the effort to be the smile, the kind word, the comforting hand for there are thousands upon thousands looking for the light.
Give us an overwhelming sense of your light this day and the courage to arise and shine.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.He called out to them, “Friends, haven't you any fish?”
Sometimes it just seems that nothing we do is right. Our work seems fruitless and we are just tired. The disciples must have felt that way too after they had fished all night and had come up with nothing. Then Jesus called to them from the shore in the early morning light. In his presence their catch was amazing. When we work in his light then we find meaning in our work and joy in his presence.
Shine your light on our work today. Make our work fit you purpose and make us fruitful.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
A baby - Jesus came as a baby to a first time mother - the creator of the world as a tiny baby. Jesus, fully human and fully God, Savior of the world. Sit in awe and wonder. Merry Christmas.
We bow and worship you this day as the shepherds did when you were born.
“Glory to God in the highest,
Fireworks are used to celebrate all kinds of things - this one happened to be the Fourth of July. You might think this is an unusual picture to choose for Christmas Eve, but when you think about this verse it is a celebration. That first Christmas night, the angels were celebrating God's plan to send a Savior to the earth in the form of a baby. Next time you go to a fireworks show, listen to the crowd. They ooh and ah and tell each other to look at the amazing spectacle of light. We all celebrate Christmas in different ways; but on these days of Christmas may we also remember to celebrate and be amazed at the birth of Jesus.
We stand amazed at your love for us seen in Jesus Christ. May we tell others about your glory this day.
Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
I still remember the excitement I felt when I first saw this tree on the roadside close to my house. While I had passed by it countless times, this was the first time that I noticed the beauty in a tree without leaves. I couldn’t wait to get my camera and come back to try to take its picture. It was the first of many pictures that I have taken of this tree in all seasons at many times of the day.
Whenever I pass by the tree I remember all those times that I was so excited to take its picture. While I still see beauty in the tree I don’t have that same excitement that I had the times in the past when I rushed to take its picture. I think that I see the same thing in my walk with Christ sometimes. There are times when I loose my desire to spend time with Him. I let my mind become cluttered with all the trappings and worries of the world. Instead of thinking about the beauty of the world I give in to the temptation to think about some material thing. The only way that I will regain that joy of spending time with God is when I ask him to restore me - when I realize that I can’t save myself and turn to him for salvation. Show me the beauty of a tree without leaves again.
Lord God Almighty
Take away our sin and restore us so we may be saved.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
For the scientist these are crepuscular rays. They are sunbeams that appear to radiate from the sun shining through an opening in the clouds. They are most notable when there is the greatest contrast between light and dark. They appear as shafts of light separated by darker shadows. For photographers and other graphic artist this phenomenon of light is called God Rays. They shine through dark clouds and bring life and interest to the whole scene. They become the subject of the photograph and draw the focus the attention of the viewer.
During advent we celebrate Jesus who broke through the darkness like God Rays break through the clouds. His light is more than just a passing light that fades away when circumstances change. He brings light and life to all mankind forever. His true light will never fade for darkness of the world, of sin, will never overcome it.
Lord of Light
Thank you for the light you bring into our world. Help us to become reflectors of your light to those who are walking in dark times now.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
It wasn’t a rare flower or some spectacular find that people made a special trip to see. It didn’t have a fancy name plate like all the other flowers in the garden. It was only a common daisy, a humble daisy, yet it was beautiful. Our expectations can sometimes blind us to what we need to see.
John the Baptist had spent his life proclaiming a Messiah and now he is in prison. It wasn’t what he was expecting. I imagine that when he sent his disciples to ask if Jesus really was the Messiah there must have been desperation in his voice. Jesus words were not a resounding “Yes” - not what I would have expected had I been in John’s place. Instead they were calm and reassuring words for one who understood the prophecies of Messiah. Jesus was doing all the things that the Messiah was going to do, heal the sick and proclaim good news to the poor. He wasn’t the military king that everyone expected. He was humble and in his humility changed everything and gave us a hope. Jesus is Messiah.
Teach us your humility. Show us where we can bring healing and proclaim the good news in our world today.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
There are times when the clouds and sun paint beautiful pictures in the sky. I am amazed at the beauty of the heavens and these great paintings that only God can make. As amazing as the heavens are, our great God loves us with a love that is higher and greater than we can imagine. It is a love that forgives us when we turn from him. It is a love that removes the burden of our sin and guilt. It is a love that fills our highest heavens with beauty.
O Great King,
We ask forgiveness of our transgressions and stand amazed at you love that is so steadfast and true.
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
There was just something about those red chairs overlooking Rangeley Lake that drew me to them early that morning. There was no one else around and it was so quiet. It seemed the chairs were calling me to take time to be still, to stop and ponder. We all need times to stop and ponder. A short verse in Luke’s telling of the nativity that is often missed is this verse that tells us Mary’s reaction to all that happened. She saw these things as treasures. They were memories that somehow she knew she would need to keep so she pondered them in her heart. I am sure that there was a lot more pondering in her life as she grew in her understanding of who her son was. We, like Mary, need to take time to stop and ponder. We need to sit in quietness and treasure all that Jesus is. Take time this advent season to sit and ponder and allow that pondering to change your life. Jesus will do that.
In our pondering this season, deepen our understanding of who you are and break into our lives anew.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
Sometimes it happens suddenly; the fog rolls in and bright sunny days turn cloudy. Sometimes it is predicted; you know the fog is coming. Either way you find yourself alone. We all have lost people that we love and sometimes at this time of year the loss stings more and you feel alone again. When those times come, turn to Jesus and let him mend your broken heart and tend to your wounds. It isn’t an easy thing to do, admitting that you need to be healed. The healing may take many years; but I have found God to be faithful and tender. It is through him that I can see the light in the distance.
Loving Father, Healer of Wounds
May those who are brokenhearted today feel your presence in a special way. When they no longer see light help us shine your light for them to see. Help us to be your healing hands.
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
There are many different sizes and kinds of lighthouses but they all have one thing in common; they produce a light to guide sailors in treacherous waters. They were crucial to sailors at the time in which they were built since there were many more stretches of coastline without light. The darkness they faced was real, vast, and overwhelming, especially during a storm. While we live in a time where we have plenty of physical light, we still face different kinds of darkness that can be overwhelming - times of tragedy, grief, loneliness. At these times we need to let the light of Jesus shine into our lives. We need to remind ourselves that we don’t have to walk in darkness. We can walk in the light of Jesus.
Father of Light
Help us choose to follow the light of Christ this day. May your light shine through our lives to bring light to all we meet.
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