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.
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!”
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.
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
Since we retired my husband and I have taken two long road trips. Before we left we made sure that we had the maps that we needed, both print and digital, to keep from getting lost. There were a few times when we were a little unsure about which way to go and those maps came in handy. It is a scary thing to be lost on a scenic highway far away from any town and few cars. We will all travel down dark, difficult, scary roads at some time during our lives where it can be easy to get lost. God’s word is a map and resource to keep us on the road, but we have way more than that. We have a Savior who looks for us.
Bring us back when we wander away from you and get lost. Thank you for seeking and finding us.
You are my hiding place;
I think we all have days when we just want to run away - to ride off into the sunset and leave the pain and anxiety behind. But where do we run to find rest and peace we seek? The best place is into the hands of a loving God. From his word we learn the way we should go, the road we should take.
Thank you for being our hiding place and surrounding us with songs of deliverance on days when we just want to run away. Show us the road that will lead to you and counsel us with your word.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
In some ways I have always been afraid of hiking in the mountains - of getting lost, of getting caught in a sudden, strong storm, or bears and other wildlife. My desire to hike has been fueled by my desire to take pictures of God’s beautiful world. So I started learning about hiking and the hiking trails of the Smokies. One thing that I haven’t mastered, though, is the ability to use a map and a compass to find your way. So I stay on the well-marked and well-traveled trails. I am grateful to the trail makers who carve steps out of rocks and make it possible to go to places that I would never have the ability to go by myself.
In our lives we also have a trail maker, the Holy Spirit. Jesus wanted his disciples and all those who follow him to know that he wasn’t leaving them without a trail to follow. Sometimes that trail can get a little hard to climb but Jesus promised his disciples and us that the Holy Spirit would guide us into truth, even when that truth is hard to understand.
Great Triune God
When we come to times when we no longer understand, give us the courage to accept your guidance. Open our ears to your words and keep us on the trail you have laid out for us.
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.
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.
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.
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
My husband and I have just entered a new day and time in our lives as we are now retired after many years of teaching. It is this retirement time that have allowed us to have adventures and do things that we never could while we are working. It is a new day for us.
In his latest album Ken Medema captured exactly where I find myself right now. Since his words say them so much better than I can, here are the words from his song, Ocean Beach, on his album, Nothing Like the Rain. (You should go to his website or purchase the album from iTunes.)
I stand by the ocean, looking back at the land
I remember my childhood when I played in the sand
Heedless of danger, I ran to the sea to leap in the whitecaps that set my soul free
Now I am older and cautious in so many ways
But I know there are beaches and whitecaps and journeys for these my best days
This is my choice I want to leap into this strange new day
To taste and to turn, to love and to learn what I could not know yesterday
No turning back, yesterday’s gone
I’ll relish this day, I’ll treasure this dawn
What a romance taking the chance of life
I walk in the city, down the streets I have known
I remember my young days when these streets were my own
I knew I was called here, this place held my heart
And now when I walk here I feel like a stranger, it tears me apart
I will not return here, that die is cast
But I’ll run to the present and love it as much as I treasure the past
I will run with a stranger and I will walk with a friend
I will dance til I stumble and I’ll get up again
I will not run for shelter when the path is unknown
For I am surrounded by friends and companions, I am not alone
I want to love the night, I want to seize the day
I want to run the race, don't want to dream my live away
This is my choice I want to leap into this brand new day
To taste and to turn, to love and to learn what I could not know yesterday
No turning back, yesterday’s gone
I’ll relish this day, I’ll treasure this dawn
What a romance taking the chance of life
I stand at the ocean, I look back at the land
Lord of Sunrises and New Days
Thank you for the beauty of a sunrise on a new day. Give us courage to treasure each day as we walk into new adventures you have prepared for us.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
It was getting a little late in the day and we only had time for one more hike at Tettegouche State Park in Minnesota. We decided to take the hike to Cascade Falls. We had a little trouble getting started because the signs in the parking lot were confusing. We finally figured out which trail to take. The trail followed the river so there were lots of little side paths that went to down to the edge. After we got to one of them a couple coming the opposite direction asked if these were the falls. They had been walking for a while and they said that they didn’t see any sign of a waterfall so they had decided to turn back. We were pretty sure that we had not been hiking for 1.2 miles, the distance to the waterfalls, but there were fewer and fewer people on the trail. So we kept going, the trail got harder until it just seemed to stop at this large rock. We were on the shore of the river and could hear waterfalls but now no trail. We climbed over this large rock which took some maneuvering, and there they were, what we had come to see. We knew that we might not ever come this way again so we kept going and in the end were rewarded with these beautiful falls on this clear blue-sky day.
In these verses from John we learn that after hearing these words of Jesus many disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. Many times we think only of the twelve disciples and forget that there were others who followed him in the beginning. The twelve were the ones who kept following him. Peter knew Jesus teachings were hard and he didn’t always immediately understand them. So like us on our hike that day, Peter knew that there was no where else to go but to keep following the difficult path walking with Jesus. Peter knew these hard words of Jesus were the words of eternal life and there was no where else where he would find them. Like Peter and the other disciples, walk on when the path seems hard knowing that the only place where we will find life is walking with Jesus.
When the way is difficult and we find your Word hard to understand, give us the insight and courage to keep going, to keep following you. Speak your words, even when they are hard, into our lives.
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
When the sun is low in the sky, like after a sunrise, it changes the color of things. Rocks that are gray and black now reflect a beautiful golden glow. The water reflects the blue of the sky and the clouds reflect the light of the sun. To see this beautiful light you must get up in the dark, make your way to a place to see the eastern sky, and wait patiently for the sun rise over the horizon. Then when you think it is time to pack up, look around and you and see the way the sun lights up the surroundings.
We need to look for God’s light and his truth like a photographer looks for the golden light after sunrise. When we do we will see beautiful things that can only be seen when we seek him. His light will lead us to a holy place, a place where we live and walk with him in our lives.
God of Light,
Shine your light and truth in our lives today. Help us to follow your truth to a holy place where we can dwell with you.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The little boy looked up at the great big tree along the trail and he wanted to climb it. What did he think about as he stood there looking up at it? Finally after some coaxing from his grandfather, he moved on down the trail.
I wonder, on this day of Ascension, if the disciples felt like the little boy looking up in amazement at that great big tree as they watched Jesus move out of their sight. Their wondering was stopped by a question and a promise. Jesus had given them a task so why were they looking up? After a short while, it would be time for them to follow the path from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. But they wouldn’t go in their own power for they would have the power of the Holy Spirit. They would also go with this wonderful promise - Jesus would return one day.
We have that same task, power, and promise. We are to be witness to the saving love of Christ. Sometimes, like that little boy, we stand in amazement at the task before us. But we also have the promise, Jesus will come again. And so we move on down the trail with the power of the Holy Spirit leading the way.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Give us courage as we set out to be your witnesses. Give us joy as we think of your return. Keep us close to you through the leading of the Holy Spirit.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
I have no idea what kind of flower this is. It is about knee high and grows along the road to my house. It could be some kind of thistle or other kind of weed. If you drive by it you might not even notice it. I only noticed because I was on my daily walk.
After the disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven they went back to Jerusalem as he instructed - and waited. They didn’t know exactly what they were waiting on. They would have days ahead where they would have to make hard decisions about the way to follow Jesus. They would have to listen and let the Holy Spirit lead them to discern if someone or some practice was a weed that needed to be pulled up or a flower that needed to be watered and fed. They would have to walk slow and seek the Holy Spirit’s direction. We must also look at the things that are growing in our lives. Are they weeds or flowers? Slow down and spend time in God’s word. Wait on the Lord and listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Father, Son and Spirit
We wait for you to show us how best to serve you. Show us what things are weeds in our lives that need to be removed and what things are beautiful flowers that need to be nourished.
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
I left the camper with only my camera and started up the path to the lake. The sun was up but just barely and since it rained during the night a light mist lay over the lake. It was so quiet and still.
It is hard to find quiet in our noisy world. We must make a conscious effort to shut out the noise of the world and listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd. He knows our name, knows us better than we do ourselves, and he is calling us. We will only hear his call when we are quiet and listen. He will go ahead of us for he knows the best way to go.
Quiet my soul and open my ears to hear you calling. Thank you for calling me by name. I want to always follow where you lead. Forgive me when I go my own way and pull me back to your fold.
He restores my soul.
In the Appalachian mountains where I live, there are mountain tops that have mostly grasses and a few trees called balds. On the mountain top the wind can be strong so the trees tend to be shorter than usual, many times these are rhododendrons or other evergreens. You have to climb to get to the top of a bald but once you are there you can rest from the uphill climb and look out over the mountains and valleys. The balds are places of great beauty, especially in the early summer when the rhododendrons are in bloom.
Living a full life means there will be times when we will have to walk uphill. If we are following the Good Shepherd we can be assured that the uphill path we are walking will lead us to a clear and level place. The path will not be easy, but we will be able to truly rest because we know we have taken the right path. We will know that the work we have done will be used to help others and glorify God. We will be able to look out over the mountains and valleys and see the path God has for us to follow.
Open our eyes to the path you have for us to follow. Give us the strength to climb uphill and restore our soul as we look out over your beauty.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
This is the image that comes to mind when I hear this familiar psalm - a beautiful green pasture with shade trees surrounded by a fence. What we can sometimes overlook in the familiarity of this psalm is how it starts - the Lord is my shepherd. To say we have a shepherd means that we are following someone. We are not going our own way, we are going the way the shepherd wants us to go. We are trusting that the shepherd is taking us to the best place even when it doesn’t seem like the way we are going will ever get to green pastures and still waters. We are trusting the shepherd to provide what we need to survive instead of going off and looking for it on our own. We must learn that the assurances of this psalm only come when we are willing to be led.
I forget sometimes that the only way to green pastures and still waters is to follow your lead. Teach me to trust that you will give me everything I need to walk with you.
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an amazing road that will take you high up into the mountains. There are look-offs and trails that give you the feeling of being on top of the world. Along the Parkway, there are mile maker posts each mile of the way and with a guide book you can know when you get to a place where there is a trail that will give you a special view.
Sometimes our journey in life is like traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We know where to stop and which trails to take to get the best mountain top views. Sometimes in our lives we can’t seem to find a mile marker and we have no idea where we are going. At those times we can look to our God who made the mountains and trust him to guide us to the mountain top where we can see his beauty.
God My Guide,
When I seem to not know which way to go, show me your way. Guide my feet to where I can see your beauty and show me how to follow you.
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