“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.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
As we made our way up the trail to Hidden Falls we were passed by a group of very strong men all in red shirts with backpacks. After a while of steady up hill we got to a broad place along the trail overlooking the lake where we could take a rest. I looked up and saw those tiny red specks on the mountain and realized those were the men that had passed us. So big and strong when we first saw them and now against the mighty mountain they were only specks of color. (Look closely at the bottom of the image for the red specks)
When I look at God’s world I feel like those men so small against something as majestic as the mountain they were climbing. I question how could God care for mankind so small and insignificant in this vast created universe. David also asks this question in the middle of his beautiful Psalm 8. Instead of an answer to the question, the psalm just begins and ends with praise. There are times when we will all question God, doubt his care for us, be overcome with our insignificance. In those times we speak the words of this psalm and doubt and praise exist together. Anxiety is replaced by awe. And we continue climbing trusting in the God who made the mountain.
When we look at your amazing world we stand in awe of your majesty. We sing your praise even when we don’t always understand how and why you care for us. Replace our anxiety with awe.
How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all;
The wood lily’s bloom is not just one but many small blooms. You don’t see this until you get up close and see that it is a flower made up of flowers. While each little flower is similar it is also unique in its coloring. And this is just one small part of God’s creation, a creation full of amazing diversity. When I see the wood lily, this small part of God’s creation, I can hardly fathom the wisdom of God that created this diverse, complex, and interrelated world. So I sing praise to him and I will sing to the Lord every time I step into his beautiful, amazing world.
Great Creator God
May our praise be pleasing to you this day in your beautiful world.
Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
It is that massive, ancient boulder that controls the boundary of the mountain stream and the smaller rocks that create the cascades. Even when you can’t see the stream you can hear the water as it follows the course set by the boulders and rocks. The constant sound of the water is like the clapping of an audience after the performance of a master. We have such a master, a great King, the Lord Most High. Follow the course set before you by a great and loving King and you will find joy.
Lord Most High
We clap our hands with the mountain streams. We sing for joy to you. As we walk with you set our course and replace our anxiety with trust of your greatness.
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
We were on our way back down the hill to the end of the trail when I happened to stop and turn around to see this little scene. I almost missed it. There weren’t any bright blooms, just so many colors of green around the base of the tree in these small plants, each of a different type, yet existing together. They were so small in comparison to the tree but they made me smile. They just seemed to be happy together. These little plants remind us that praise happens best when we each sing our individual song but sing it together gathered around our great and loving God, rich and poor, old and young, strong and weak.
We bow in praise to you. Give us the courage to sing the song you have given us to sing and to invite others to join in the song with their unique and individual voices.
Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
On this past Easter morning, there were just the right amount of clouds for just a very short time just as the sun rose that bathed everything in golden light. The grass and trees seemed to be lit in such a way that made them shine like gold. It was so beautiful. As I was thinking about that experience and looking at those pictures I took, the words to an old hymn by William Cowper came to mind: “Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings; It is the Lord who rises with healing in His wings.”
There are 150 Psalms in our Bible, some teach, some remind us of God’s faithfulness, some are songs of lament, and some are songs of comfort; but the last Psalm, Psalm 150, is just a simple song of praise. On mornings like this when God overwhelms us, surprises us with his light then our only response can be praise.
We sing joyous songs of praise to you this day for your beauty and healing.
So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
One thing about picnic tables that I only noticed when I started taking pictures is that most of the time they just unused. When they are used, it is usually some kind of special occasion like a holiday or just a day spent at the park with special food prepared before or even cooked right at the table. Sometimes I think we treat God like we do picnic tables. We think of him only in special places and special times. God invites us to come to him everyday in our ordinary times of meals and rest. Accept God’s invitation and come to his table for that is the only place where we will find satisfaction for all our needs. Then celebrate and sing for joy for a God who is your help and shelter.
God Our Help and Shelter
Bring us to your table. Teach us to find our satisfaction in the food you provide. We sing for joy and praise you as long as we live.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Today I got to watch the sunrise over the mountains. It wasn’t going to be a good day for pictures because there were no clouds to make the sky light up with color. It was also very cold up at the top of the observation tower with 20 mile per hour winds. So my pictures aren’t very good, but it doesn’t matter. I got to see another day begin in a beautiful place and I am grateful. Today, raise your voice in praise. Sing a new song, for he has made you a new creature and given you another day to love and serve him.
O Great King
We sing praises to your name.
Amen and Amen.
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
The Carter Shields Cabin was probably built in the 1830’s. Just think about that, it has been standing for almost 200 years. It is a simple one room cabin with a loft, a porch, three doors, and two windows. When the national park was created there were lots of structures like this still standing. Some of them were kept as a way of preserving the way of life of the early settlers for future generations to see. When I visit this cabin I always go around to the side door and look through the cabin and out the window to the beautiful trees that surround this place. I think about what it was like to walk through this doorway a hundred years ago. It is like looking into the past. As I grow older I want my children and grandchildren to be able to look into my life, like I look through the door of the cabin, and see a wondrous God. I want to be taught by God all the days of my life. I want my life to proclaim his goodness to another generation. I want them to know and be taught by God who has shown me his love from my youth.
Thank you for all you have taught me from my youth. Make my life proclaim your goodness to another generation.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Gates mark protected areas. When you enter a gate you enter into that protected place. To enter the gates of the Lord is to be surrounded and protected by his steadfast love. Enter his gates today with gratitude not for good things we have that may come and go. Enter his gates with gratitude for a good Lord whose steadfast love will endure every circumstance we face, good or bad.
Good Lord and King
Today we thank you for your great love. We praise your name.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
As a landscape photographer you are told that your best images won’t come in the middle of the day. It is only in the golden light of early morning and late evening when you will make an image worth keeping. While I love the golden light when the sun is low in the sky, there are times when I find such joy in a clear, blue sky with white fluffy clouds in the the middle of the day. Sometimes we need to just ignore man's rules, rejoice in God’s beautiful world, and go out and take a picture in the middle of the day. And, even when it is hard, when the clouds cover the blue sky and rivers rush with the power of a flash flood, I will remember the blue sky days and sing praise as long I have being.
Great Creator God,
We sing your praise and stand in awe of your world and your love for us.
The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice;
On a journey to the Northern Great Lakes, I stood in awe of these great inland seas. On some beaches the waves lap gently against a sandy shore, but on others the waves crash against the rocky shoreline. We truly serve a mighty God who speaks to us in gentle waves and those that crash hard against the shore.
Great and Might Lord
Open our hearts to your voice. We bow in awe in your might as we join the waves in praising you.
But I will sing of your strength;
We got up very early and drove to this place that I had read about with a large, rocky, peaceful beach that faces east and was good for sunrise. After driving down unfamiliar roads for a while we found that place, but when we got out of the car the sound was deafening. We thought it was thunder but soon learned it was the sound of crashing waves against sea cliffs. The large beach was covered in high water, the winds were strong, and the waves were powerful. I thought about the power and strength of our God who made these amazing waves. We were afraid but we walked on and did find a place that wasn’t quite so high and I took pictures of the sunrise. God has truly been my strength and fortress on many days like this when I found myself in unexpected places with crashing waves and strong winds. He has been my refuge and turned difficult times into times of beauty and peace. In the morning I will sing of his strength.
Great and Mighty God,
In days of high winds and strong waves, be our fortress. Show us beauty in your power and steadfast love.
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Deep lakes surrounded by tall and imposing mountains tell of the greatness of our Creator, God, for he holds these massive mountains in his hands. And if he can hold these mountains in his hands then he can and will hold us in his hands. May your heart be filled with joy and praise to our great God.
O Great King
We bow in awe and wonder at your greatness. We praise your name.
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
There is just something about this tree across from the Lawson place in the cove. I have taken and shared pictures of it in all seasons, at different times of day, in different weather conditions, and from different viewpoints. Every time I go to the cove, I always stop at this tree. And every time there is a new emotion, something new to learn from its beauty. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing and photographing this tree because I haven’t yet been able to capture in my picture what I feel in my heart. I want my praise to God to be like this. I want to always praise him no matter the season of life. I want to learn to praise him in new ways. I want to invite others to join in praise with me.
I am amazed at your wonder and beauty. May I ever sing your praise.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
When I think about giving glory to God I think about grand praise, beautiful words of poetry, and beautiful art. Last summer we traveled through several national parks in the west with amazing mountains, canyons, valleys, and waterfalls. These all also speak to me of God’s glory. I remember one time we had stopped to see a breathtaking waterfall and as I opened the door to get back in the car I looked down at my feet and there were theses small pine cones. Each one was different and each one was beautiful. I realized that I saw as much of God’s glorious world in them as I did in the grand waterfall. The important thing about the gift of church is that it is made of amazingly different people, each one with a beauty all its own, like these pine cones. Each member of the church of Christ, no matter how small, has access to a power that is more than we can even image or grasp. And the purpose of that power, to tell the story of Christ and to glorify God. So I now seek, no matter how small the gift, to live my life to bring glory to God and I seek to do that through the power that is at work within me.
Thank you for the gift of church and the power that you have given every member of the body of Christ. May we do all things for your glory.
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
Today is Sunday, a day of worship, and for me this means a day to sing wonderful hymns. One hymn has come to mean something special to me because of all the references to light. As a photographer, when I capture an image, I am actually capturing light on a sensor. So my words today are this beautiful hymn by Walter Chalmers Smith written in 1867. If you are familiar with this hymn read it again slowly and look for all the references to light.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small,
in all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render, O help us to see
'tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!
Immortal Invisible God,
We praise you for light, splendid beautiful light. Open our eyes to see your glory in a new way today.
My heart is steadfast, O God!
If you take a walk the hour before sunset, you will see why it is called the golden hour. Everything takes on a golden hue, especially in the fall. At this time of day and year, even ordinary scenes like this one will take your breath away. It is times like these when I see the beauty of God’s world that I know for sure that I serve the Great Creator God. I want to worship him and sing to him with all my being. I know my hopes and my life is secure in the God who loves me.
O Great Creator God,
Thank you for golden hours and the beauty found all around in ordinary places.
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great!
When we first got to Flagg Ranch and I looked down toward the Snake River I thought this place was kind of drab and boring and wouldn’t be a good place for a sunset. But as the sun fell lower in the sky, the light covered the valley with a garment of soft subdued color. It was so beautiful, the multitude of soft colors in the plants that sky.
It is just like that with God. When we bless God, bow down in adoration, then we see beautiful colors where we never expected to see them.
Splendid and Majestic Lord,
Transform our lives with your light. Bring the beautiful colors of your light into our lives.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
Truly seeing this sunset was a special time for me to stand in awe of the beauty and majesty of God’s world. But I have also stood in awe of God’s beauty in a flower so small that most people just walk by. God created a beautiful world and we need to always remember that this world is his, from the most majestic mountains to the smallest flower. And then we can only bow our hearts in praise to the greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty that is God’s alone.
We exalt you above all others, for everything is truly yours.
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