Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Recently I have been walking on the trails at the dam close to where I live every morning. Each day I walk I see the ‘regulars’; some of them I know by name and some only by seeing them everyday. We all walk different routes and at different speeds; some run; some walk slow; some walk alone; some walk with a partner; some walk in specialty running clothes; and some walk in an old T shirt and jeans. Sometimes I get discouraged when I am passed by the same person and wonder how they can walk that fast. Even in the early morning I get hot and tired and wonder if I am going to make it back to the car. There are times when I just think I am going to sleep late today; but then I get up and see the beautiful morning light and decide to make the effort to walk. There is a joy in my morning walk that I truly miss, even the 265 stairs to the top of the dam in the middle of my walk.
The writer of Hebrews wrote to encourage followers of Christ who were becoming discouraged. They were being ostracized by their community and maybe their family and some were facing persecution. To encourage them he tells them of the great cloud of witnesses that have come before. None of the heroes he described in the previous chapter were without fault. They all followed God at different speeds, some quickly, some slowly, some were important and some were unimportant, and some required signs of assurance from God. Their lives weren’t perfect like this picture I just snapped with my phone; but like my picture they saw a way marked out before them and they kept walking. They walked toward a God who loved them.
Dear friends let me encourage you to keep walking when you are hot and tired and discouraged. Your walk doesn’t have to be perfect; you won’t always have get a good picture. Some will pass you and sometimes you will walk alone. Even in the hard times, the 265 steps straight up times, you will find joy when you fix your eyes on Jesus.
Jesus, Who Endured All For Us,
Thank you for all the strong witnesses that have surrounded me in my life. Forgive the sins I sometimes cling to and keep me walking toward the light and joy of Jesus who endured all for us.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
I didn’t label this image with the location like I usually do. Without that label can you know where this road is, where it is going? All you know for sure is that it is a paved road in the fall. I am not sure I would just follow a road without having some idea of where the road would go. I spent many hours pouring over tour books and Internet sites when I planned our last two road trips. Now think about Abraham, a man that God called to leave his home and follow where God would lead. He didn’t know the road or plan the trip. He just obeyed God. God asks us to do the same thing. This is faith - to be willing to take the road that God lays before you without knowing where it is going. Thankfully we do have a guide in God’s word. Study it and then get on the road.
Give us courage to take the road you lay before us. Guide us home to you through your word.
The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah's son.
This tree has stood on the cliff at Buzzard’s Roost for as long as I have been coming to watch the sunset here, and probably many years more. It stands twisted and gnarled by the elements, but somehow it still stands. Isaiah spoke this prophecy to King Ahaz and a people in trouble. These words were meant to encourage and warn the king that he needed only to trust God to save him. Going his own way and seeking to make alliances with other nations was not going to save him. Either he was going to choose to stand firm and trust the Lord or he would be destroyed. The sad part of the story is that he chose to go his own way and Judah was overtaken. I think these words had wisdom for King Ahaz but they also have wisdom for us today. There have been times in my life when I was just about to be blown off a cliff and it was only because I held on to God that I could stand at all. So if you are having trouble standing now, take hold of the rock that can never be moved and then you will stand firm. You may come out a little twisted and gnarly like this tree, but there will be a depth and beauty to your life that wasn't there before.
When we feel we can longer stand, be our strength.
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.
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.
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.
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.
Fall is a season of transition; the hot days of summer give way to the beginning days of winter. You can feel the change in the crisp air and beautiful blue skies. The leaves change their color from green to reds and golds, each tree at its own pace. Just as we feel the changing of the seasons, Elisha knew that day that change was coming for his mentor, Elijah. Somehow he knew that Elijah was leaving before the prophets of Jericho told him. He knew that it would be the last time that he would see his mentor. We know that Elisha felt deep grief because he tore his clothes in two places. And after he grieved he picked up the cloak of his master and walked into his new beginning as the prophet of God. We all have transitions in our lives; some are joyful and some are sorrowful. Like Elisha sometimes we will grieve. It isn’t easy to trust God when big changes come in our lives just like it wasn’t easy for Elisha. Still he walked forward. He knew that God had been faithful to Elijah and that God had promised to walk with him. We may not have the stunning experience of a cloak falling from a fiery chariot, but still God speaks to us through his word and through the encouragement of others.
Lord of Transitions
Thank you for mentors and friends who have modeled for us what it is like to walk with you. Guide us through times of transition when we grieve over the ending of something we have loved and give us courage to walk forward to a new beginning.
When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
When I started taking pictures I asked many technical questions, e.g. what is an aperture, what is an f-stop, what is ISO? After learning these basics then the questions became a little more advanced, e.g. how can I use aperture to keep the most of the image in focus, what shutter speed do I need to use to make the water appear silky smooth. Now I ask much harder questions, e.g. why am I taking this picture, what about the flower do I find beautiful, what about the flower amazes me, what do I want my viewers to feel when they see this image of the flower. It is the questions that help me make a good image.
Jesus began his conversation with the man he had just healed with a simple but important question, What is your name? In that question he led the man from his pain and fear to a place where he could find his identity. In many stories of Jesus encounters with people he began with a question: “what are you seeking?” (John 1:38), “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5: 6), “What do you think, Simon?”(Matthew 17:25), “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 10:36). When we take time to listen to Jesus’s questions, even thought they are hard, we begin the journey of finding our identity in him. It is the questions that lead us to Christ. And it is in him that we find the answers.
Open our hearts to hear your questions and give us the courage to speak the answers that lead us to you and then to ourselves.
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.
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.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Last fall we got to take a road trip to the Great Lakes. One of the places we wanted to find was Lake Itasca State Park in Minnesota. It is here where the Mississippi River begins, yes this mighty river begins as a creek flowing out of Lake Itasca so small you can rock hop across it.
Our road trip was a journey to find new places of God’s world, like Lake Itasca. Today I found a wonderful book by the Australian photographer, Ken Duncan, “Where Jesus Walked.” He took pictures of the Holy Land and wrote about them. These are words from this book about Jesus’s journeys: “People often take journeys to find themselves. Jesus journeyed to find us.” So as the mighty Mississippi begins as a small creek so our journey begins with a rock hop across a small stream all the while knowing that Jesus is seeking us and he will find us. Be amazed at such love.
Jesus, Seeker of the Lost
Thank you for finding me. Open our eyes to see you and journey forward knowing that when we walk with you we will never be lost.
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
I have been on Little River Trail in all seasons. I have seen it lush and cool in the spring and summer, beautiful and brightly colored with the leaves of fall, and stark and bare in the winter. I have seen it with clear blue skies and like this last time with the fog quietly rolling in. I want to see Jesus like this - in all seasons on clear days and foggy days. I want to seek him just out of sight around the next corner following the path he has laid out for me. I want to be like Zacchaeus who wanted to see Jesus so much that he risked what others thought of him and climbed a tree. Not to many adults I know climb trees. On that day Jesus saw him, the real him, the person behind the short hated tax collector. And he looked into Jesus’ eyes and saw how much Jesus cared for him. The fog was lifted on his way of life. He immediately changed everything he had been, the hated tax collector and followed Jesus.
I want to be like Zacchaeus who sought to see you and then saw himself through your eyes of love. I want to seek to follow you on whatever path you lay out for me.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
I couldn’t believe it when I looked out our motel window on that rainy day in Two Rivers, Wisconsin and saw a sailing ship come into the harbor. I grabbed my camera and we drove to the docks to see this unexpected sight on our trip to the Great Lakes.
When Simon Peter was mending his nets that day the last thing on his mind was going back out to deep water. He never expected to have the catch of his career that day. And he would have missed it if he hadn’t sad, “because you say so.” I have seen again in these days of my life the unexpected ways God is working, leading me to photography and this blog. These words of Debie Thomas from her essay, “Same old, same old,” on the Journey with Jesus online magazine, struck me in a powerful and unexpected way so I share them with you now. (I encourage you to read this whole wonderful essay.)
"Second, the story honors the “same old same olds” of our individual lives. Jesus’s call in this story is specific and particular, rooted in the language, culture, and vocation his hearers knows best. Simon and his partners understand the nuances of the “catching people” metaphor in ways I never will. That is, they know from years of experience what depths of patience, resilience, intuition, and artistry professional fishing require. Simon knows the tools of the trade, the limitations of his body, and the life-and-death importance of timing, humility, and discretion. Most of all, he knows the water. He knows how to respect it, how to listen to it, and how to bring forth its best. When Jesus shows up and commissions the seasoned fisherman, Simon understands the call not as a directive to leave his experience and intelligence behind, but to bring the best of his knowledge and expertise forward — to become even more fully and freely himself.
The hardest thing to do at these moments is to make the leap of trust that Simon makes. “Yet if you say so, I will.” Yet if you say so, I will try again. Yet if you say so, I will be faithful to my vocation. Yet if you say so, I will go deep rather than remain in the shallows. Yet if you say so, I will trust that your presence in the boat is more precious than any guarantee of success. Yet if you say so, I will cast my empty net into the water, and look with hope for your kingdom to come.
May it be so."
Lord of the Unexpected
Help us to look at ourselves and then look at you and say, “because you say so I will.” And then put out to deep water.
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness;
Sparks Lane is a favorite spot for taking pictures by professional and amateur alike. I always stop here every time I go to the cove. Pictures taken here have a clear focus for the viewer. The road leads the eye into the photograph and the trees make a frame. It is much easier to get a good image here then on a trail through the woods. In the woods the landscape is more complicated and it is hard to isolate any one thing to become the subject of your photograph.
Our complicated and often chaotic lives can be like taking pictures in the woods. We struggle to find a clear focus. King David must have also felt like this as we can see from many of his psalms. He asked God to teach him and to give him an undivided heart, a heart that had a clear focus, a clear subject for his life. As a result he knew he would praise and glorify God’s name forever.
In our complicated and chaotic lives teach us your ways and give us undivided hearts so that we can praise you with our whole lives.
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
For those of you who have been following my blog you know that I never thought I would be a photographer or a writer. Yet here I am. I am only a novice photographer with a lot yet to learn. And while I have read the Bible since childhood, I still have so much to explore in God’s word. I do know that God has used my photography to show me the beauties of his world in ways that I would have never seen before I picked up a camera. While I would have enjoyed seeing a pretty sunrise or sunset now and then, I would have never gone searching for them much less have known how to take a picture of one. The more I learned about landscape photography the more I wanted to see and know about Creator God.
There are times when I feel so inadequate as a photographer and a writer, but in those times I hold on to the way that God has spoken to me through his word and world and has given me the courage to share the word he speaks to me through my images and his word. So I will continue to develop my photography skills but more I seek to experience God’s word in a way that moves beyond intellectual knowledge. In the words of D. A. Carson in an article in the NIV Theological Study Bible, “Desiring merely to maser the text is not enough; we must desire to be mastered by it.”
Jeremiah didn’t expect this call to be a prophet and he made excuses about why he wasn’t a good choice. But God had different plans. The road Jeremiah followed as a prophet wasn’t an easy one. I do believe that God has a call and a plan for every life, a plan which can change throughout our lives. Like me it may not be the one you expected or feel qualified to accomplish, but as I have found, God will give you what you need. It may not be to speak to thousands but to simply take one step and take a picture.
Lord God, Creator of all Life,
Speak to our hearts and fill us with the courage to follow you.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
I was amazed when I happened to look at the dandelions in the field on that frosty morning and found them covered with frost. When I looked at them closely through my lens I saw the tiny drops of water turned to ice. From little beginnings, even those covered with frost, grow big things. This seems to be the way God works. God has always shone himself a little at a time as we see in the pages of scripture. The Bible is a story of how God works to bring about full maturity. This is the way we grow in grace. We begin with a tiny seed of grace and it grows until it changes our lives and we then can impart the story of God’s grace to all the world.
King of Heaven
Grow us up into your grace and the purpose you have for us this day.
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Even though I can see the Great Smokey Mountains from where I live, I still will drive for at least an hour to be in them. Yesterday was such a day. I wanted to see sunrise from a place that I had not been to in awhile. When we got there we ended up having to turn around because, unlike the prediction, the clouds were so thick that they would cover the sun for most of the day. We drove on to the cove hoping to see something besides clouds. Most of our time in the mountains was still cloudy, but there was this one brief moment when the sun broke through the clouds and you could see the mountains covered with a light dusting of snow.
There are times like this when it seems that God is so far away. There is injustice everywhere we look. And then the light breaks through and we see the mountains that were there all the time. When I read this Psalm I had a hard time understanding these words, “Your righteousness is like mountains of God,” until I rearranged them and replaced the pronoun with its antecedent - God’s righteousness is like God’s mountains. God’s mountains are always there even when they are covered with clouds so God’s righteousness is always there even when we don’t see it. God is faithful. His love for us is steadfast and precious. We can take refuge in God at times when we can’t even see his mountains.
Righteous and Steadfast God
In times when injustice seems to rule and nothing seems fair, remind us that you are still there. Break into our lives like the sun breaks through the clouds.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Water is mesmerizing to me; it can bring out so many different emotions as I watch it. I find peace in the quietness of a gurgling stream and stand in awe at the power of a roaring waterfall. I watch the always changing waves as they crash against the shore and think about how they will surely change the landscape as all water eventually does.
I wonder what emotions water brought to Jesus. I wonder what Jesus felt when he stepped into the river Jordan to be baptisized. Did he feel the peace of a quiet stream or the raging power of a waterfall? Did he sense the danger that water can be, the dangers that he would face? The waters of baptism were a defining moment for him. In his baptism we see both his human nature and divine nature. We see him join other people, to identify with us. In the voice from heaven we have proclaimed his divine nature, the true son of God. We know that after his baptism he faced challenges to that identity, tempted to take the easy way out, to be an earthly king instead of a sacrificial lamb. His baptism was a defining moment in his identity for it was in this moment that he heard the Father say, “you are my beloved son.” It was beginning of the road to the cross and because of that cross we can now hear the Father say in a fresh way to us, you are my beloved - not because of anything we did but because of what Jesus did.
Open our hearts to hearing our name, to being called beloved. Remind us of our own defining moment when we found our identity in you.
This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.
When I read this verse from the lectionary this week it made me stop and ask myself, what is my life’s work. Paul knew his purpose, but it wasn’t always his purpose. Remember the first thing we read about Paul is that he was passionate about stamping out the apostasy of followers of “the Way,” Christians. For 36 years my life work was teaching. Seven years ago I purchased my first DSLR so that I could take pictures at my son’s wedding. I would never have imagined that God would use that purchase to write an “almost” daily devotional blog with my pictures. It has truly been a real surprise. I have never considered artist expression to be one of my natural abilities. But God has equipped me for this my new life’s work. I believe, I know, that he has given me the right books and YouTube videos to learn this art of photography. He has developed in me a desire to hike and be in his world that I never really had before. He has taught me to write something besides lesson plans.
I offer you today one of my favorite pictures that I have taken this year. It is a sunrise, the beginning of a new day, in a place far away from where I live, a place I never really thought I would go. I still have so much to learn about photography and even more to learn about God’s word, but I am trusting a God who will equip me and use me in his way. The lesson is that this is what God does. He gives each of us a life’s work and he uses this to share the gospel. And sometimes, as with me, the thing that you never thought would be your life’s work becomes a way to share the gospel in ways you never could have predicted. And also like me you stop and think I am so in over my head, but that is the time that God can use you the most. As Paul learned, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Open our hearts to your calling. Come to us in a fresh way. Give us a new day. Guide us to our life’s work and equip us to share Jesus with all we meet.
And Mary said,
I clearly remember the day that I took this image, one of my most favorite images of all I have ever taken. All the conditions were just right. There were some clouds and a little fog but no dark rain predicted. We were the third car in line at the gate to the Cades Cove Loop Road before the gates opened at sunrise so we could move quickly around the one way road. I knew exactly where I wanted to be and I made it there just after sunrise at the beginning of the golden hour. It was just a wondrous and glorious feeling when I looked at the images on the back of my camera. Everything came together and I got it. I think that we all have times like this in our everyday lives when everything just comes together; the project is finished successfully, the goal is accomplished. We also have those times in our walk of faith. We have questioned God, we have spent time reading the scriptures, and we have looked at all our experiences. Everything comes together and our faith is sure. In the words of Timothy Keller, “In the end faith always moves beyond mental assent and duty and will involve the whole self - mind, will, and emotions.” Everything comes together, our faith is sure.
In the gospel of Luke we read of the time when Mary’s faith came together. She had been visited by Gabriel and submitted her will to God. She had made the journey to see Elizabeth. She had received Elizabeth’s blessing and was assured that what was happening to her was truly from God. And the result was her beautiful, exulting song of praise that is called the Magnificat. We know that there were future times when Mary would question again, but we see her standing at the foot of the cross, still there even in what must have been the hardest time of her life.
Christmas is drawing near, the time of waiting is almost over. Read Mary's song of praise and the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. Be amazed again at the incarnation and the coming of Christ into our world. I pray that you will have a time when your faith will come together and you will be able to truly rejoice in Christ.
Thank you for the story of Mary’s faith. Strengthen our faith until it involves our whole self and may we rejoice in you.
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