Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
New England is famous for its covered bridges; most built in the early 1800’s out of wooden trusses. Bridges were built to overcome the obstacle of crossing a river, connecting one side to the other. They were covered to protect the wooden trusses from the decay that comes from harsh weather. The covered bridges of New England were hard to build but once built they provided an easy way to face the obstacle of river crossing.
While river crossing is no longer an obstacle for most of us, we all face obstacles of different kinds. God’s word is the best way to face our obstacles. Like bridge building, understanding God’s word takes time and effort. The more we study it the more connections we will make not only between different passages but between God’s word and our lives. It becomes a part of us, of who we are. God’s word becomes a covering for us; protecting us from making poor decisions and giving us wisdom to face obstacles.
Give us insight from Your word. Help us make it a part of everything we do, of every connection that we make. Bring to mind the part of your word that we need to face the obstacles before us today.
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.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Over the past couple of years I have learned many of the secret places where the daffodils bloom in great numbers in the cove. We headed out on this beautiful sunny day to find them again. They were still blooming even after the constant rain and freezing cold. But today I just happened to find the biggest stand of them that I have seen in a new place. This stand of daffodils will be my secret place. I hope you have a secret place where you like to go to see God’s beauty.
Like the secret places of the daffodils in the cove, we all have secret places in our hearts - places where we hide our greatest joys, our greatest hurts, and our greatest fears. Sometimes it is hard to see and hear truth in the inward places of our hearts. It takes great wisdom to truly search and grow here. We need to open the secret places of our heart and seek God’s wisdom, for out of the secret places of our hearts come our words and actions.
Wise and Loving God
Give me the courage to seek your truth in my inner being. Teach me wisdom in my secret heart so that I may live a life of integrity and service.
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.
In addition to their beauty the fall leaves signal that it is time for seasons to change. Winter is coming when all the leaves will be gone and there will be more dark hours than daylight. But I have come to see the beauty in winter when the branches of the trees become intricate sculptures against a foggy sky. I am grateful for a God who gives us seasons - not only seasons in the physical world but seasons in the times of our lives.
This is the 284th post that I have made on this blog that I began a year ago. At that time I had no idea how long it would last and what form it would take, and I still don’t know those things. I have been so surprised with the words that God has given me in this new season of my life. He has truly revealed deep and hidden things. As I have chased the light with my camera I hope that I have captured glimpses of the radiant and perfect light of God’s love in my images. I pray that these images and words of scripture have given you wisdom and light in whatever season of life you find yourself. I walk forward not knowing what will come next with my photography and writing but I know that I will always find light in him.
God of All Seasons,
We praise the God who controls all times and seasons, who gives wisdom and understanding and whose light illuminates the way through dark times.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
This is the time of year when students of all ages are going back to school after summer vacation. New teachers, new schools, new learnings are ahead. In our culture we want quick answers, tips and tricks, but wisdom doesn’t come this way. True wisdom grows only from time spent being with God and studying his word. As we take time and develop the discipline of study, we find your wisdom. And in this wisdom do we find hope to walk in this world.
Be with all students as they return to their classrooms. Encourage us as we study your word and develop in us a discipline of study. Show us the encouragement and hope needed to live in our world that is only found when we study your word and learn to walk close to you.
And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:31-35, ESV
I have been on this road many times but would you know where I took this picture if you didn’t read the caption? Where does the road go? What is around the curve?
Cleopas and another unnamed follower of Jesus were on a familiar road that Sunday after Passover. It had been a difficult time seeing the one they thought was to be the Messiah crucified. Now on top of all the grief, they had heard stories of Jesus being risen from the dead. What were they to think? As they walked the 7 miles on the road to Emmaus, Jesus came beside them and opened their mind to understand the scriptures about him. He tells them that what was written about him has come true; things he had not taught them before.
Jesus came to these two followers just when they needed him, just when they needed to understand who he was and the road ahead. They rushed back to Jerusalem to tell their story to the disciples in the upper room - another 7 miles and mostly in the dark. Here Jesus appeared to them along with the disciples and taught them the scriptures. This was just the beginning of their journey from doubt to understanding, from heart-broken followers of a crucified Christ to witnesses of the risen Christ. In a few weeks at Pentecost they would need to understand all these things as they proclaimed to the world who Jesus was.
Look for Jesus to join you on the road you walk. And just like he did to the followers on the road to Emmaus, he will give you what you need for the journey he has planned for you. Know that he will teach you everything you need to share the Gospel with all those you meet on the road ahead.
Open our minds to understand who you are like you did for your followers on the road to Emmaus that day. Give us the knowledge and courage to share the wonderful joy we have in following a living Christ.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
In the days of the Missionary Baptist Church, printed bibles were a luxury, The way most people learned God’s word was from hearing it read in church. Today God’s word can come to us in many forms. We can read it on an iPad or listen to it read from apps on our phones. One of the forms of God’s word that I have come to love recently is really an old form, the Saint John’s Bible (Read more about it here). This wonderful work of art is a hand copied and illuminated Bible created the way the bibles 500 years ago were made. While I haven’t seen the original copy, I have seen a limited edition facsimile of the original. When I saw it for the first time, I cried at its beauty. My husband and family have given me several of the smaller printed volumes and I took one of them with me to Cades Cove. I wanted to see the beauty of God’s word in the beauty of his world. God’s word is both ancient and new. Every time we go to it with open hearts, God changes us. It is truly a treasure for us to store in our hearts.
Great God of Ancient Words,
We come to you with open hearts. Show us your beauty. Change us with your word. Amen
Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
About This Image:
This little bridge in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a short way off the Little River Trail. Many people who love this area of the park affectionately call it the troll bridge. Since it isn't on the main trail you have to know where to find it. If you search blogs and facebook groups focused on this area of the park you will find instructions for how to find this little bridge. I was excited when I finally found it after looking for it several times. Now I can easily find it and stop by whenever we are in Elkmont. The longer I seek God and study his word the more I find instruction for the way I should go in life.
Her [wisdom] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.
About This Image:
There is just something about this old, strong oak tree in the field across from the Lawson place in Cades Cove. It draws me to it every time I visit the cove. In these verses wisdom is depicted as the tree of life. Tim Keller in is devotional book on the Proverbs, "God's Wisdom for Navigating Life," has these powerful words about these verses: "this proverb promises that when we walk in accordance with God's Word and wisdom we began to get a foretaste of the Tree of Life- the fullness of life that will be restored to us on the last day. And we may approach the Tree of Life only because Jesus hung on a tree of death."
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.
The commands to fear the Lord are right and endure forever.
The judgments given by the Lord are trustworthy and absolutely just.
They are of greater value than gold, than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey, than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb.
About This Image:
When the sun is low in the sky right after sunrise and right before sunset, the land is bathed in beautiful golden light. During this time of day ordinary things become beautiful. There isn't really a trail on the side of the lake at Fall Creek Falls where I took this image. About the only people who ever go down this way are fisherman. But when I saw this view during the the golden hour the beauty of this place was amazing. God's words are like the golden light at this time of day. They are more valuable and beautiful than gold. When you study them and make them a part of your life they will bring you great delight.
If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
About This Image:
I actually remember sitting in desks like these in the Cataloochee School in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in my first years of school. For the children of the mountains, as with many children around the world today, going to school wasn't guaranteed. People who really wanted an education for themselves and their children had to work at it. So too it is for those who want to become wise; they must seek after it. As this verse tells us, though, true wisdom is also a gift from God. Seek God, stand in awe of God, and then you will find the gift of true wisdom which comes only from him.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
About This Image:
This Bible was left in the Baptist church in Cades Cove. I don't know who left it there or how long it had been there. When I saw it I thought about all the many different Bibles that had been opened by people worshiping in the pews of this church throughout the years. So I opened it to the Psalms and took its picture on one of the pews. God's word has come in many forms throughout the ages - oral tradition, hand-written scrolls, illuminated manuscripts, printed books, and digital files. No matter what form I use to read God's radiant commands, it gives light to my eyes. And it is this light from God's word that helps me see God in his world.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
About This Image:
I can't read this verse without hearing Hayden's chorus "The Heavens are Telling," from his oratorio, The Creation. God's world has always inspired great music and art. When we look at the world, really look and study it, we can only stand in awe of its beauty. In the words of Timothy Keller in his book "The Songs of Jesus," we marvel at creation as great art because it is great art. On the day that I took this image from the Cold Mountain pull out on the Blue Ridge Parkway the conditions for a beautiful sunset were perfect- easy access to a vantage point so no walking back in the dark, a good foreground, and just the right amount of clouds in the right place. But as beautiful as the heavens were that day, seeing beauty in the world is only the beginning place to knowing the Great Creator. Read his word and learn of Jesus through which all things are made (John 1) and you will find a love that is more beautiful than any created thing.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
About This Image:
Everyday begins with a sunrise, even on days when we can't see the sun rise because it lies behind a bank of clouds. The conditions must be just right for a beautiful sunrise like this one on the lake at Fall Creek Falls State Park. For true wisdom, just like a beautiful sunrise, the conditions must be right. Wisdom begins when we revere the all-knowing God. As we follow his laws we develop an understanding and insight that is more than knowledge. Our only response become praise.
Great are the works of the Lord; They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work, And His righteousness endures forever.
About This Image:
There is nothing to me more majestic than mountains. Maybe that is because I have always lived close to mountains. This past fall we made a road trip to Glacier National Park and these mountains, like these around lower Grinnell Lake and Grinell Glacier, are truly majestic. One thing that I have learned about mountains, though, is that you don't go to them unprepared. There are dangers there for the hiker who hasn't studied them and knows what to expect on the trails. God's word is like his works, they are splendid and majestic and a delight to all who study them.
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
About This Image:
One thing that learning to use a macro lens has given me is the ability to see details of things that were hidden from normal sight. I never knew that the center of a sunflower was made up of so many parts or the petals had veins and were covered with pollen, until I took this image of the sunflower at Seven Islands State Bird Park. (Click on the image to see it at full resolution, be amazed)
To really study God's word I have found that you have to begin as if the scripture were a conversation. If you ask God to show you what you need to understand as you study a specific scripture, he will show you things that you would not learn on your own. I am grateful for the scholars who have written commentaries and preachers who preach wonderful sermons. I use these tools when I study God's word. But the commentaries and sermons will only tell you about a passage. When you call to God, he will answer and show you what you need to hear from his scripture in your life, the Bible is unlike any other book in that way. Calling to God and asking him to teach you things that you need from a scripture passage is like using a macro lens - it allows you to see great and hidden things that you would never see without calling to him.
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