My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Fog limits our vision and brings a mystery to our world. We often use fog as a metaphor to describe something that we are having trouble understanding. God is so above our ways of understanding that he is a mystery. Knowing Christ unveils the mystery of God, lifts the fog. In Christ we find hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The more we know Christ the more hope we have that we can trust a mysterious God who reveals himself in Christ. One day there will be no more mystery. We will worship God and know him as we are known by him.
Great and Mysterious God
Lift the fog from our hearts. Open our lives to treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ and renew our hope.
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
Since there was only a sidewalk between our motel room and Lake Michigan it was going to be easy to get sunrise pictures, or so I thought. As soon as I walked outside I was glad the safety of the motel was very close. I would have not wanted to be very far away from shelter that morning. The wind was getting stronger, the waves higher, and the clouds darker each second. You could feel the power of the coming storm. There were times when it was completely dark and then times when the light would break through the clouds bringing amazing color.
Sometimes we lose sight of the power of God. His power is like the power of a storm, elusive but present. Unlike an earthly storm that brings destruction, his power brings righteousness and justice. We don’t always understand God’s power, yet there are times when his light breaks into our lives and we stand amazed. The Lord reigns. Accepting the sovereignty of God isn’t easy for us. We fight too much to be our own king. But there is a peace that comes when we rest in the authority of a trustworthy and loving God that allows us to rejoice in the power of the storm.
We stand amazed at your power and bow in your presence.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The lush greens of spring in the mountains are back. The gray of winter is replaced with the breath-taking beauty of green leaves against blue skies. Simple pleasures of sitting by a mountain stream or taking an afternoon nap in front of my camper are just around the corner. These are the simple pleasures of summer. To find these and all other simple pleasures God provides, we must drown out the advertisements of our materialistic culture that seek to convince us that we need the best new thing. It is so easy to fall victim to these temptations that say if you have this one thing you will look younger, be more beautiful, be happy, and on and on. The simple truth is that God will provide us everything we need. When we walk with him, we lack nothing.
Give us the courage to close our ears to the false calls of the material world that claim to have the things that will satisfy our desires, improve our life, make us happy. Teach us to trust you and say with surety “I shall not want, for everything I need I find in you.”
But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
Daffodils are not rare or exotic flowers, but they signal the coming of spring. They are beginning to bloom again around the sites of the old homesteads in the mountains. The homes are gone now but the daffodils still come back every spring. They are an inheritance left for all by the settlers who built the cabins and farmed the land.
An inheritance is a gift, something left for you by someone you love. God has promised that those who are meek will inherit the land, for it is the meek who trust God and not their own strength. When we wait humbly for God and trust his goodness and timing we will inherit the land he promises, a land where we dwell in his presence, a land of abundant peace - and just maybe a land of daffodils and mountains.
Teach us to be meek, to wait humbly for you as we wait for the coming of the daffodils and new life in the land you have promised as our inheritance.
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.
Wherever the spider finds to make a web, it is woven in such a way as to be the most beneficial in catching his food. The spider is so small that it never sees the pattern of its web, but we can see it, especially in the early morning when it is covered in dew. Our lives also have a pattern, although like the spider, we sometimes have a hard time seeing it. I think that Joseph must have had many times when he just didn’t see any pattern in his life but still he trusted God. He let God use the hardships of his life to grow him from an arrogant young man to a wise and forgiving leader. He saw the purpose of God in the pattern of his life. If we trust God he will grow us and we will find meaning and purpose woven into the pattern of our lives.
Lord God, Weaver of Our Lives,
Help us to trust you, to see the pattern you are weaving in our lives. May that pattern reveal your love.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
As I searched through my images I was surprised that I had a hard time finding an image to illustrate these verses. It seems that the pictures of trees that I love the most are those that stand alone in a meadow. This made me question my understanding of this metaphor of a tree planted by water. Then I thought about the difference between finding water in the Mediterranean and desert climate of Jeremiah and my temperate climate with abundant rainfall. The lesson here is that to survive and thrive all trees must have a good, reliable water source, be that a stream in a desert or an underground water table. The trees I love, ones that stand alone away from a river, still have an abundant water source through roots in a well-watered ground. If we are to face hard times unafraid we must put our roots deep in God’s love. When we put our roots here they will grow deeper and we will be able to withstand the hardest droughts of our lives.
Grow our roots deep in your love. Teach us not to fear times of drought but to trust in you as our source of living water.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
I have only had the desire to become a hiker since I started learning about photography. Hiking still scares me some. You never know what is going to be around the next curve in the trail because the mountains are filled with snakes and bears and other many other dangers. My fear has kept me from hiking a trail with a water crossing, hiking a trail longer than 8 miles, or solo hiking. (I tried that one time and after 20 minutes headed quickly back to the car.)
There are fearful times in our lives when we walk in the midst of trouble afraid of what will be around the next curve. We face enemies of many kinds - sickness, loneliness, loss, temptation, addiction. We don’t have to be paralyzed by fear because we can choose to walk with God who stretches out his hand to us. We can walk forward around the curve because we walk with a loving Lord who knows where the dangers are and delivers us from all of them. Even though I am afraid I still hike to see where the trail leads, be it a peaceful level path, beautiful waterfall, or a mountain vista, for each hike has its purpose. When we walk with God he will fulfill his purpose in our lives. He will sustain us with his steadfast love even though we walk in the midst of trouble.
Let us walk with courage, knowing that you have purpose for the path you have set for us. Your steadfast love will sustain us in the midst of trouble.
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.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;
Hope and trust are related to each other like two sides of a bridge. The way to hope requires trust and when we trust we have hope. The important thing to know before crossing a bridge is its quality - is it well built, can it hold my weight. We know we can put our trust in God for his love is steadfast and sure. Even knowing this we will sometimes walk through waters of worry when right above us is a perfectly good bridge that will carry any weight we put on it. And our hope to turns to fear. Look for the strong, trusty bridges that God builds and they will lead you from fear to hope.
Strong and Steadfast Savior,
Teach me to look to you, to trust you instead of walking through waters of worry. For you, O God, are my bridge to hope, strong and steadfast.
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
I decided to take the stairs to the upper part of the garden. There was a path that would get me there without the steps but these steps looked strong and secure. Each stone had been laid in carefully and there was a rail to make the climb easier. In addition the steps were beautifully set into the landscape. Wherever we walk, as long as we walk in the way Lord instructs, we will walk in paths that are marked by the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord.
Make my heart humble, teachable. Instruct me in your way so I can walk in paths of steadfast love.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
It had been a beautiful sunrise filled with just the right amount of clouds and now more were rolling in again. Rain and storms were predicted but for this instance there was one light shinning through the clouds on the mountains. It was beautiful and fearful at the same time. I can’t explain it but I was glad to be there with the dark clouds. I was alone and content to just stand there and look. This place and time became sacred for me. And for this I am grateful. I can look back on this day and always remember how God spoke to me through clouds and light.
When I read Paul’s words about being content I have to really stop and think about how he could have written these words. This man who had experienced both highs and lows, for he had been imprisoned and imprisoned others, beaten, lost at sea, successful in his preaching, rejected by those he loved, and surrounded by those who loved him. I must ask myself, am I really content in all situations - clear blue sky days and gray dark cloud days? Then I go back to Paul and read the next sentence to find out how he did it. He fully trusted a Savior who loved him, so in all situations he saw “him who strengthens me” first and there he found a sacred place no matter where he was.
Lord of All Times and Places
Teach us the secret Paul learned about how to find contentment no matter what. Teach us to find our strength in your love. Take us to sacred places where we find true rest and contentment even in our busy days.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
These were the words of Moses to Joshua as he was about to take on the job that Moses was leaving him. Moses knew that Joshua would face fear and discouragement, for he had faced them both himself doing this difficult job of leading the people. Moses also knew that the Lord had always gone before him.
We all have these kind of turning points in our life - times when are called to take on the job God places before us. When we look at the task before us it can fill us with fear. Only when we stop and remember that the Lord himself goes before us as he went before Joshua will we find the courage and strength to go forward - no matter what the road ahead looks like.
Lord Who Goes Before
No matter what curves in the road lie ahead, remind us that you go before us. And as we move along the road help us to encourage those on the road with us by reminding them, as Moses did for Joshua, of your presence.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Tasting is an action. You must open your mouth if you are going to taste something. To experience God we must open our hearts to God, like this rose whose petals have unwrapped around its heart. To the degree to which we do open our hearts to God, we will experience God. When we do open our hearts and taste God, experience God with our whole being, we find blessings in the way he cradles and protects our open hearts.
Good Lord and Master,
Give us the courage to open our hearts to you, to taste your goodness.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
I live in the mountains far away from any lighthouse, so on our recent trip to the Great Lakes I was looking forward to photographing one especially beautiful one, Split Rock Lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Superior. The day we had scheduled to visit started out very foggy. I hoped that the fog would soon blow off, but it never did that whole day and even into the night. The images I had in my mind of this colorful lighthouse against a clear, blue sky or the light of the golden hour was not going to happen.
The kingdom that James and John pictured was not the kingdom that Christ was teaching. Even though in the preceding verses from Mark, that Jesus had been trying to get the disciples to understand what was going to happen to him. They were just in a fog of their own making. We read also in these verses that some who followed Jesus were afraid. It is easy to look at this request of James and John as arrogant and presumptuous. Another way to look at the reply of Jesus is described by Dr. Charles Campbell in Feasting on the Word Year B Commentary:
However, in the larger context of the story, Jesus’ words may also be read as an extraordinary promise: “You will not always be driven by your fears and your need of security. Rather, you will be empowered to take up your cross and follow me. You will be faithful disciples to the end.”
After I thought about the images that I did take of Split Rock lighthouse, I realized that the fog was the reason the lighthouse was built. Look to Jesus' words even when we find them hard to understand and afraid to follow. Trust his promise that we will not always be driven by our fears and he will lead you out of the fog. As we daily seek to walk with him, we will become more like him, even to the point of drinking the cup that he drank for us.
Jesus, Lord and Savior
Shine your light of understanding on us. Calm our fears as we walk in your light.
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
One of the things that I have learned about photography is that to make a good photograph the first thing to think about is your subject. What are you really trying to capture in your images, what message do you want your image to tell? Before you take your image you need to think about where the subject is in the frame and what things do you need to include and what needs to be left out. I think that one of the reasons that I like this image so much and other people have liked it also is that it has a clear subject, the water lily. Where I put it in the frame makes it looks like it is glowing from the inside.
The same idea about composing a good photograph applies to our relationship with Christ. To really know Jesus you must make him your single focus and remove the things in your life that detract from him. When you make Jesus the single focus of your life, his love will light up your life from the inside like the light on my lily. Your life will then send a clear message to all those who see that your life has a clear focus.
Sharpen my focus on you each day.
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.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Storms fill most everyone with just a little bit of fear. Sometimes you can see the storm coming or sometimes they come out of a blue sky. While the storm in this story brought fear to experienced sailors, the greatest fear came after Jesus calmed the storm. It was the storm that brought them face to face with the idea that Jesus was no ordinary teacher. Now they must decide who Jesus was and if they were going to follow him. We also must decide who Jesus is. Will we accept him as a good teacher or the Powerful Son of God? Will we awaken him, call on him, and let him calm the storms in our lives?
Jesus, Controller of Storms
We bow in amazement at your power and accept you as Lord. Strengthen our little faith. Calm the storms in our life and bring us the peace that comes from trusting you.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
The lighthouse at Sturgeon Bay, WI isn’t a very big lighthouse and you can walk out on a pier and get almost to it. As I walked further out on the pier with the waves crashing against the concrete pier I saw this gull perched on the lighthouse tower looking out over the bay. The waters were crashing around him at the base of the lighthouse but he was safe above the waves. He perched there in this same position for a long time, watching and waiting for the time to find his dinner.
We, like this gull, need to be ever watchful, for there are many temptations that splash against our lives. We have a strong, firm foundation on which to stand. We have a God that will keep us safe from the storms, but we need to use our intellect and senses to keep watch out for the waves of temptation that crash around us.
Strengthen our faith so we have a firm foundation on which to keep watch over the temptations that splash against us. Keep us vigilant and keep our eyes on you.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Sometimes I think I have always been a planner. It is a skill that has served me well in the past and still does today. As I learned from my teaching years, if I want a good lesson that will help students learn then I need a good plan. But if I am more concerned about the plan then the students then the lesson will fail. My planning skills have also carried over into my photography. If I want a good picture of sunflowers then I must know where they are growing, when the sun will rise, predicted weather for a specific day, camera equipment, and time I will need to get to the place - and them make a plan. However I have learned that if I focus to much on the plans then I can miss beauty that God has for me that day. Planning is a good thing, but we must be careful to be open to the Lord’s plan. It is God who will make our steps secure when we walk with him and only when we walk with him will our heart finds its passion and plan.
Guide our planning but keep us from following a plan so closely that we miss the beauty you have for us. Open our hearts to your plan for us.
But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
While at a visitors center on our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park I learned that there were trumpeter swans at a place along the Yellowstone river. I had never seen a real swan and I so hoped to see one. As we came to a pull off I noticed a couple of photographers with long lenses sitting in the grass so we stopped. There they were, these two beautiful swans. I watched them in awe. They seemed unaware that we were there.
These beautiful swans are just two of the many creatures God has created. And in his hand are not only these swans but every living thing. There is a peace that can come only from the security of a loving hand holding you. When we face hard times, sad times, times when we have no idea what to do or how we will handle our circumstances, we need only be still and remember our great God holds us and every living thing in his hand.
Thank you for holding me in your hand. Teach me to be still and trust your hold on my life.
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