I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The rock towers of the west are like strong fortress walls. They have stood for many years against the natural forces of wind and water. We all look for places of security and safety like these rook fortresses. Only when we trust in God do we find a place of refuge and strength.
Teach me to trust in you, to make you my strength and stronghold.
The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
The trees at the edge of the open field were all leaning, yet somehow they were and are still standing. We all face times when we, like these trees, are leaning over and almost falling. The Lord promises us that when we feel like we can stand no longer and have even bowed all the way down to the ground that he will support us. In his love we find strength and assurance that we need to take one step forward and then another.
Lord of the Falling
When we feel overwhelmed and on the verge of bowing down to the ground, remind us to look to you to find our support.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
I love to be in the outdoors hiking and camping except for when a sudden thunder storm rolls up. While I have been caught in a few storms, I am always grateful when the storms come and I am in my house. From the safety of my window I watch the storm coming and see its beauty and power. Jesus tells about a wise man who knew where and how to build a shelter from the storm. He not only listens to the words of Christ but puts them into practice. We can only truly survive the storms of life if our foundation is built on Jesus.
Lord of the Storm
When we see strong storms coming, teach us to go to your word, to listen to your voice, and to put into practice what we have learned. Teach us to trust your word and build our houses on its strong foundation so that when sudden strong storms appear in our lives our houses stand.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I have taken very few pictures of the night skies mainly because I haven’t developed the technical skills I need but also because to get a good image of the stars you need to be as far away from the lights of civilization as possible. And being this far away from city lights means being alone at night, in the darkness, afraid. Night and darkness are common metaphors for fear, sadness, and loss. To face times of darkness in our lives we must trust God and lean into his strength. Take hold of his hand and then, even in the darkest night, you will see the stars.
Lord of the Night
When we walk through the nighttimes of our lives, remind us to reach out and take your hand. Take away fear and discouragement and replace it with your strength. Show us the beauty of the stars.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Winter trees seem so bare and lifeless. They wait for the spring when the leaves return and their bare branches are filled with life. We all have times in life when we feel like we are wasting away. One day we will see that the difficult times we face today are preparing us for “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” We will come to see the beauty in the branches that was there all the time. God’s love and care is eternal.
All Seeing God,
Give us the courage to look beyond the trials we face today and see the beauty that lies before us in your eternal love.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The water that flows in mountain streams looks almost alive. It jumps and flows and almost dances over the rocks. It brings life to the mountains. Jesus promised the woman at the well a water that was alive like the life-giving water in mountain streams. Only his water would never run dry like mountain streams sometimes do. He promised her and promises us that when we drink his water we will never be thirsty again. Indeed his water will well up in us to eternal life.
Teach us to seek you first to quench our thirst. Sustain us with your love.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
You can hear the roar of the waterfalls as soon as you open the car door at the pull off. Even though they are set off from the road you still hear them. Powerful waterfalls can fill us with a sense of awe but also danger. One wrong step, one slip on wet rocks, and we could be swept away.
When we come upon times of trouble in our lives we can feel like we are going to be swept away. Even though the writer of this psalm felt overcome by the waves he still knew that the waterfalls were God’s waterfalls. Instead of looking at the power of the waves he remembers the steadfast love of God and even in his darkest night he sings the song God gave him to sing.
Creator of Waterfalls
When we face difficult times and feel like we are being swept away, remind us to look to your steadfast love. For it was you who made the waterfalls and you who will bear us safely through them.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
A simple cross is all that adorns the alter in this church in the cove. The cross represents both goodness and mercy - the goodness of Jesus who knew no sin and the mercy his death provides us. It is this goodness and mercy that draws us to him; that makes a place for us at his table; that makes us feel the comfort from his guiding rod and staff; and that makes us want to live in the house of the Lord forever.
Shepherd of My Soul,
I stand amazed at your goodness and mercy that shines so clearly in the cross. I want my greatest desire to be to always dwell in your house.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
Our last stop that day at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was the pinnacle overlook. From this easily accessible lookout you can see for many miles and on this day we could see the storm clouds rolling into the mountains and valleys.
Just as we did that day, sometimes we can see the dark valleys ahead. Other times we arrive at them unexpectedly. Whichever way we enter dark valleys, we know that we don’t walk alone. It is true that people may not be there to walk with us, but the great Shepherd will always be there to guide us. He will use his rod and staff to protect and guide us and we can walk without fear. While we may not be able to avoid the storm, I know that it is in the darkest valleys of my life where I have walked closest to my Lord. He gave me the courage to walk on.
When we walk into and through the darkest valleys lead us with your rod and staff. Give us courage and strength and comfort us until we walk through the dark valley and into the light of your love.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
There are several overlooks built on the rock walls of the canyon from where you can see the power and beauty of Yellowstone’s Lower Falls. Without these there would not be a safe and secure way to see these powerful waterfalls. It would just take one step on shaky ground to plummet into the the canyon, from which rescue would be impossible.
When you face difficult and dangerous times, wait patiently for the Lord and he will set your feet upon a rock overlooking canyons of despair and destruction. It isn’t easy to wait, but it is only when we wait that we have time to see the beauty. As you walk with him, as we walked on the trails in the Canyon of Yellowstone, he will make your steps secure and you will see his power and beauty.
Jesus My Rock,
Sometimes I run ahead of you almost to the point of destruction. Teach me to wait on you and trust you to show me the way and make my journey safe and secure.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
If you have read my blog before you will have seen several pictures of this ancient oak tree in the cove. When I go to the cove, I always stop at the Lawson place to see it. God has taught me a lot of things through this tree and it has become a special place of worship for me.
We all have people in our lives who are like this oak tree; people who have taken the time to show us God’s love; people who have served the Lord and weathered strong storms for many years. They stand now as oaks of righteousness. Though probably never famous, they have bound up the brokenhearted, comforted those who mourn, proclaimed liberty to the captives, and lived lives that have glorified the Lord they serve. Be grateful for those people in you life and realize that in your everyday life you may be one of those oaks of righteousness for someone who is looking at the way you life your life.
Bind up our wounds so we can bind the wounds of others. Free us from our bondage of sin so we can proclaim liberty to the captive. Comfort us so that we can comfort those who mourn. Plant us in your love so that we may glorify you.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
With its beautiful, wide-open fields surrounded by mountains, Cades Cove must have been a good place to create a home. The early settlers farmed the land and built fences to keep themselves and their animals safe. How do we find safe pasture? King David, in this Psalm, gives us three things to do. The first is to trust the Lord. Only in him do we find the confidence and strength to make our homes and build our fences. We are to do good, a simple imperative that is much easier to accomplish when we trust the God that gives us good things. Finally we must dwell in the land, not just visit occasionally. Spend each day with God. Make him a part of your life and your home.
Good Shepherd, Creator of Safe Pastures,
When my heart is afraid help me to put my trust in you. Give me eyes to see places today where I can do good. Remind me of the beautiful safe pastures you have created for me. Amen
Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future.
In east Tennessee, daffodils tell us that spring is coming. You see them everywhere in the mountains - in the fields, close to cabins or where cabins have been, or along the road. These daffodils are thriving along this fence row where they are secure, less likely to be trampled. They bring beauty and joy to our lives.
As I read David’s words in this Psalm, I image him looking back over all of his life and seeing God in both the easy and difficult times. He knows his security is in the boundary lines, the fences, given by a God who holds his future and he sees beauty in the place where God has put him. Sometimes it is hard to accept the circumstances we face in our lives. It is only when we look to a God that holds our future secure that we will see the beauty around us, the daffodils along our fence rows.
God Of Our Boundary Lines,
Open our eyes to the beauty around us, knowing that you hold our future secure. May we learn to give thanks with a grateful heart for the boundary lines in our lives.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5
About This Image:
The Ogle cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was built with the materials the settlers had at hand. They used logs from trees cut from the forest and stones for the foundation like the ones from this hillside above the cabin. The choice of stones for the foundation was the first step in building a cabin. The search for a foundation is also the first step in building our lives today. As we come to Jesus Christ and choose him to be the cornerstone of our lives we will become living stones and will be built into houses that can be used by God, made beautiful and precious by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
About This Image:
Highway 11E goes right through our town and I drive on it almost every day. It wasn't until I started taking pictures that I noticed this tree in a field close to the road. I don't really know how old the tree is but I suspect many years. It has withstood many storms as it stands alone in the field, strong and tall. When you walk close to it you see many of its roots growing above ground. When we walk with Jesus along the ordinary roads of our life we will build our roots in him and we will grow strong and tall like this tree.
He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
About This Image:
After seemingly endless rain we finally got a sunny day on Sunday, so after church we headed to the mountains. We knew that it would be too late and also too wet to do a good hike so we opted for just driving the loop road in Cades Cove. I had read on my hiking in the Smokies facebook group that the daffodils were beginning to bloom in the cove. On this group there are special places that are famous like the oak tree across from the Lawson place in Cades Cove and the daffodils across the road from the entrance to Hyatt Lane. And sure enough the daffodils were just beginning to bloom across from Hyatt Lane like they have for many years. Daffodils remind us that spring is coming and there is an order to the world God created. I have always loved these verses because there are so many times when I can't seem to hold things together. But like the coming of the daffodils, Christ, the creator of the world, can bring order out of the chaos of our lives.
Those who fear the LORD have a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
About This Image:
Fall Creek Falls State Park has been a special place that our family as enjoyed for many years. One of the things that made this land a state park is the gorge and waterfalls formed by Cane Creek. When you stand where this image was taken on Buzzard's Roost and look out over the gorge it is like you are looking out from a great stone fortress. The Lord has truly been a secure fortress for our family. As my children and now grandchildren remember their visits to Fall Creek Falls it is my prayer that they will be reminded of the refuge that we have in the Lord.
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
About This Image:
While we were camping at the tailwaters of Douglas Dam I talked with a photographer who was there to photograph the birds and he told me where the eagles sometimes like to perch. I never thought that I would see a real eagle in the wild. The next morning the eagles were there in the tree and I hurried to get out my camera. (Don't have a long lens so this isn't the best picture.) Until you actually see an eagle soar in the sky and swoop down to catch a fish from the river that you understand how strong one is. This oft-quoted verse was written as encouragement to a people in captivity beaten down and broken. For us it is a reminder that the Lord gives strength beyond our human strength to soar like the powerful eagle and walk steadily in our journey towards him.
Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
About This Image:
There is something special and healing about the power of touch. This image is precious to me because it is my grandson Sam's hand in the hand of his grandfather - one hand big and strong and one had small and helpless. In the scripture today Jesus takes the hand of a lady who has been sick - we don't know how long she had been sick, we just know that the first thing Jesus did was to take her hand and that began the healing process. Jesus still reaches out his strong hand to our small hands and lifts us up. And after Jesus takes our hand then we can reach out our hand and lift up the hurting.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
About This Image:
Yellowstone National Park is an interesting place with geysers and hot springs that can make you feel like you are at the ends of the earth; rock pinnacles and amazing waterfalls formed thousands of years ago yet still being sculpted today. From the north rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone you look down 1200 feet to this canyon formed by both geothermal activity and the Yellowstone river. There are two things that I tried to capture in this image and you will have to zoom in to see them both. The most obvious are the trees growing on the side of the canyon, strong and tall, but look a little ways above the trees to the top of the rock pinnacle and you will see an osprey nest. The trees grow strong on the canyon walls and are a refuge for the creatures of the canyon. The osprey built her nest in a mostly inaccessible place, a place of strength, a strong tower. Like King David, author of this psalm, we all seek refuge and safety when our hearts grow faint. And like David knew, the only place to find refuge is in the shelter of God's wings. Call to God and he will lead you to the rock that is higher than you.
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