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Showing posts from August, 2018

Are You On The Rails?

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Sharon and I visited Blue Ridge, GA last Christmas and we discovered something interesting about it... the town revolves around the scenic railroad business. Soon after we arrived we heard the sound of a locomotive powering down the tracks toward town, full of passengers (and Santa). We also observed a freight train on tracks off to the side marked "Derailed."

I was thinking about this scenario last night. Both of these locomotives had the potential to be used; yet, one was and one was not. One was powering through the darkness with lights ablaze. The other stood silent -- no lights, no life, no power.

I couldn't help but reflect on my life and the potential I have to make a difference in the lives of others. I have all the physical "equipment" that I need to move on down the tracks. I even have the power source within me, God's Holy Spirit, to get me moving and shining His light. It seems to me then that it is MY CHOICE whether I want to serve according to …

Joy in the Journey

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My heart starts pounding when I see a sight as scenic and beautiful as this. How could a person not stop and stare in awe at the wonder of what God has provided for us to enjoy? -- And yet they walk on by because they are on a mission to reach a certain destination and THAT alone is on their mind.

Friends, I can assure you that joy is not just about reaching the final destination, but joy is found all along the journey. The whole earth is filled with wonders to behold. Perhaps it's time to slow down your pace a bit if your heart no longer pounds with a song of joy for a sunrise, a sunset, a delicate flower, fall leaves, rushing streams... the Lord's masterpiece all AROUND us and created FOR us.

"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy." (Psalm 65:8)

Make JOY an important part of your JOurneY. Be filled with awe at His wonders and sing praises to God about them. The trip will be so much mor…

The Prayer Bridge

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To me, life seems to be a series of crossings. From cradle to the grave we are passing over one challenge to the next. Crossings are not age specific and include all people, all races, all socioeconomic statuses, and all languages.

If asked, each one of you could relay stories of crossings that you just made, are currently making, or are anticipating. Although each challenge, obstacle, pain or difficulty is different, the bridge across it is the same - PRAYER.

I believe in the power of prayer because I believe in the God Almighty who knows no challenges, no obstacles and no barriers. Nothing is impossible with God. He may not always answer the way we desire, but He always walks the road with those who reach up for His hand of compassion.

When Jesus spoke the words found in Mark 11:24, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours," He was not just saying something to make us feel good. He was not proclaiming to be…

Peace Within You

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The views along the Little River near the Elkmont area were as pretty as I have ever seen them last year. I could have spent all day soaking in the view... okay, maybe not all day but a little longer than I did.

It was so peaceful...so relaxing...so soothing to the soul. The sounds and sights were hypnotic and transcending.

God speaks of that peace-like-a-river feeling too that comes when you listen and obey Him.

This is what the Lord says, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:17-18)

Too often, unfortunately, our lives lack peace and are instead full or chaos because we turn our backs on God and do our own thing rather than listen to Him.
The Psalmist said, "I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to…

Shadows

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Shadows can be a scary thing to a child. They are very dark and can exaggerate the dimensions of an object to monstrous sizes.

I have not always been a fan of shadows either, particularly when photographing people or landscapes but have now learned the importance of them for contrast, mood and depth.

One thing I know for sure is that there are no shadows unless there is a light source. When my eyes are fixed on dark, scary things, it is a good time to remember that the Light of the World (Jesus) is there to drive the shadows away.

In fact, it might be the Lord who is casting those shadows before me as a reminder that He is there for me because in the shadow of God's "wings" is:

RELATIONSHIP - Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 17:8)

REFUGE - How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

REJOICING - Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 63:7)

RES…

Even When No One Is Looking

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If no one is around, does the stream stop gurgling? Does the songbird cease to sing? Do trees fail to adorn themselves in brilliant color? Of course, the answer to all of these is NO. Then to whose benefit does nature continue to gurgle, sing and clothe itself night and day? Why, for The Master of course!

As you read the story of creation in Genesis chapter 1, you see God's response to each day's new addition -- "It was good." God is the Master Designer and Architect and He enjoyed what He made. Nature reveals His character and praises Him continually with its sounds, smells and intoxicating beauty.

There was only one created thing that was formed in the image of God, however, and that was human beings. In the very first book of the Bible we read:

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
(Genesis 2:7)

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he cr…

Learning and Growing

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A few years ago I acquired a book entitled "Experimental Digital Photography." I learned that it was pretty much okay and even encouraged to take really bad and blurry photos. Of course, I thought that was completely ridiculous. HOWEVER, I do enjoy doing a little vertical tilt of the camera while photographing trees to get this really cool effect. And before you judge me, I learned this from some top pros in nature photography.

If you are a photographer or wannabe photographer, I want to encourage you today to try new things. You CAN learn and SHOULD experiment with new techniques so that you have a variety of tools in your "camera bag" in case you ever need it -- or just for fun.

As you develop your photography skills, do not neglect the greater and more significant area of growth we should ALL pursue.

The Apostle Paul wrote...

Live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians…

Grace Will Lead Me Home

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Have you ever left work trying to get home and just had one barrier or deterrent after another hinder your progress? Traffic accidents, weather, road construction and other "rocks and roots" can get in the way, slowing or preventing our arrival to a desired destination.

Those of us who call heaven our home will journey down different paths as well to arrive at our desired destination. No, I don't mean that all roads lead to heaven because I believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father. But while some will travel life's journey to their heavenly home in peace there are others who will experience the worse that can possibly be heaved on an individual...sometimes for years.

Cancer, heart attacks, strokes, disease, martyrdom, persecution, murder, etc. are some of those rocks and roots that trip us, hinder us and can make us question our faith. We certainly cannot choose our health but we can choose HOW we live and for WHOM we live. The way may not be easy and it may no…

Trash or Treasures

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This bridge is located at The Island at Pigeon Forge, TN. As I looked at this photo and the "spirited" figures on the sidewalk, I thought about crossing over from this life into the next. My most valuable of worldly possessions right now will be worthless trash as I depart this life into the next.

The Steve Miller Band sang, "Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future."

The 70's rock group Kansas sang, "All we are is dust in the wind."

James wrote, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:14

All three had it right. Life is precious. Life is fragile. Life's moments seem too fleeting. So, if everyone realizes this then how should this influence our lives?

Paul wrote, "Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesian 5:1-2)

W…

Solitude

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Sometimes solitude is a lonely place and for others it is a place of rest.

If you are in need of solitude, then do as Jesus told His disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

His disciples weren't the only ones in need of rest. Jesus often found Himself in need of solitude so that He could pray and recharge. Luke writes: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16) 

If Jesus needed that time away from people and ministry so that He could focus on His Father and refocus on His purpose, then we certainly do. It doesn't have to be a mountaintop or designated prayer room... it can be a study, office, closet, kitchen table, rocking chair or backyard deck.

There is a flip side to solitude, however.

Unfortunately for many, solitude is a place of loneliness. If you find yourself feeling abandoned, all by yourself, or with no one to talk to, then do as the Psalmist and cry out to the Lord, "Turn to me and be gracious to…

Unexplainable, Incomprehensible Peace

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My soul longs to be back in the mountains by a quiet stream with the concerns of the world far behind me.

Does anybody else feel that life is just too busy? Sometimes the stress, concerns and troubles are almost overwhelming. How does one focus on God, self, peace, and soul-rest in these circumstances?

It was at the birth of Jesus that the angels proclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)

I have come to realize that even when there is little peace in the world, there can be peace in my heart. Even in the darkest of places, I can experience inner peace that transcends explanation. It's a peace that unbelievers cannot understand. It's not natural. That's because it's supernatural.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

I take comfort in the words of Jesus:

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you …

Fit Together

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This old cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains is a beautiful example of being fit together in such a way that no screws or nails are necessary. Even the weight of the structure itself helps to maintain that snug fit.

This is a picture of how God wants His church to operate. You will notice that every log and cut is a little different, yet fit perfectly together by the woodsman who uniquely designed and shaped it to uphold the next addition. If not, the structure would collapse.

Every follower of Jesus, although very differently shaped, is fit together in the body of Christ to uphold one another so that God's church can be built up and sustained. If each part is not lovingly performing the responsibility for which he or she was designed then the church becomes "structurally impaired," cannot grow, and may even find itself on the verge of collapse.

Under His (Jesus Christ) control, the whole body is being fitted and held together by the support of every joint, with each part w…

Reflecting Our Environment

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This old cabin in Great Smoky Mountains Elkmont area is being restored back to the way it was originally built... including the red window frame (at least, that is what I've been told). That caught my eye of course, but so did the glass which was reflecting its surroundings on this early October afternoon.

We too reflect that which surrounds us. The Bible tells us:

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

But it also reminds us that...

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

Flee from those who will drag you into the mire or the pit. You don't need negativity, gossip and activities that pull you away from a closeness with God. Rather, surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth, hold you accountable for your actions, and help develop within you high, moral, godly character.

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure hear…

Go with God's Flow

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Water does not care where it flows, it just travels the path of least resistance. It does not care whether it is through a beautiful, picturesque scene like this in the Smokies or down your home's staircase as a result of a broken water hose.

There is something about being fluid that allows you to get through the best days as well as the worst. Our plans may not be God's plans but He has the authority and ability to change them at will. And He who holds the past, present and future in His hands knows what is best!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

So, like water, we need to be fluid, pliable, and movable if we are going to be usable by God. Submit to His path and flow in the direction He carves out before you. Make this the prayer of your heart today...

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your pa…

Clay Pots

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Clay pots are fragile. They can be as useful as they are decorative and come in all shapes and sizes depending on their purpose.

The Bible refers to God as the Potter and we as clay in His hands. He formed us from conception and transforms us in His masterful hand into vessels for His service.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

So how is it that we (the clay) should ever question God (the potter) who formed us into the vessels that we are.

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21)

Consider this... we have at least three different sets of dishes. There are those we use every day and then there are the other sets that remain in the China cabinet for special occasions.

W…

One Small Spark

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One tossed cigarette, one floating ember from a fire pit, one dropped candle... it doesn't take much to burn down a home, a forest or a city. One careless or intentional spark is all that is required.

Similarly, one small off-hand remark, one unjust criticism, one uncalled-for remark about someone's appearance or intelligence... that's all it takes to lead another person down a path of ruin.

The old children's rhyme that says, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me" is totally false. I would venture to say that there are more people hurt and devastated by thoughtless words than all the hurled sticks and stones combined.

People recklessly trash others on social media -- people of all ages, not just teenagers. Parents leave children feeling worthless and unloved because of harshly spoken words. Business men and women, and politicians use words to demean and belittle others in order to get ahead. Our words can be an encouragement and b…

Looking Down the Road

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It's funny how the Lord puts something on your mind and then a friend calls who needs encouragement about that same matter. But why should I ever be surprised? That's how God works in and through us.

As you look down Hyatt Lane in the valley of Cades Cove, the mountains appear on the horizon but the road disappears from sight before getting there. It's pretty clear what you will encounter on the drive in the visible distance but there is an uncertainty about what lies ahead beyond our sight along the journey to the mountains.

Sometimes we go through difficult times (living in the valley) and we have a yearning for that mountaintop experience that takes us away from the pain, worry and frustration. We can mentally visualize what that might be like to be free of today's stress, and once again find peace and enjoy life... BUT, there are decisions to be made and uncertainties to be faced in the journey ahead that we cannot anticipate.

What do we do? Learn from Proverbs 3:1-6

M…

Which side of the fence are you on?

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Fences are designed to keep you on one side or the other. People who are indecisive are said to be "sitting on the fence" because they can't choose which side they want to be on.
While the fences in the Great Smoky Mountains are certainly not a deterrent for most animals and humans to cross through (or over), there is a fence on which no person can sit -- a fence through which there is only one entrance -- and you are either on one side of it or the other.
Jesus said, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved." (John 10:9)
You are either saved or you are not. You are either a part of God's family or you are not. You are either spiritually alive in Christ or spiritually dead in your sins. Your eternity will either be heaven or it will be hell. And Jesus is the only gate through which one can pass to get from one side of this fence to another. (See John 14:6)
You cannot jump the fence. You cannot crawl through the fence. You cannot work hard enough …

Caution: Hazardous Curve

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You've seen the street signs: Curve Ahead. Slow Down. Decrease Speed. Winding Road. Danger Ahead. And the list goes on. The Department of Transportation (DOT) wants us to know in advance of the potential for catastrophe if we fail to heed the warnings.
Likewise, it should go without saying that standing too close to the curves pictured here could result in the loss of life or limb. But just to be sure, the Okefenokee Swamp Park posted signs all over their property about the dangers of getting within striking distance of an alligator. These are wild creatures and not pets. Disobey the rules and there are dire consequences.
God loves you. I hope you know that - not because you deserve it but because He made you and desires an intimate relationship with you. Yet, we all have a nature that wants to push limits and throw rocks at alligators, so He set in place Ten Commandments to help us understand right from wrong. These laws were not meant to punish us but to protect us.
However, no one…

Dangerous Attraction

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What beauty to behold! I was attracted to this plant with its interesting shapes and colors. Insects are also attracted to it... but their interest can quickly lead to their demise for these are killers!

Pitcher plants are carnivorous. They have modified leaves known as pitfall traps—a prey-trapping mechanism featuring a deep cavity filled with digestive liquid. The traps of what are considered to be "true" pitcher plants are formed by specialized leaves. The plants attract and then drown their prey with nectar.

When I think of the lottery, gambling, casinos and get-rich-quick schemes the pitcher plant comes to mind. The lust for money, possessions, wealth and more-more-more can lead a person down a path of devastation or destruction - financially, relationally, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Paul wrote about this 2000 years ago.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desire…

Impressions in the Sand

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Walking along the beach of Jekyll Island, GA I noticed a footprint that was perfectly pressed into the dark sand. It would not remain there for long with the strong sea breeze and rising tide, but for a brief time someone left an impression of themselves on the island.

Have you given much thought to the impression you leave behind in those areas you walk everyday? When people consider the interactions they had with you, do they remember your smile, your friendliness, your helpfulness, your servant heart, your godly character? Or do they talk about how you were rude, dishonest, mean, selfish or uncaring?

How would you feel if your children, grandchildren, friends, coworkers, neighbors and strangers treated you the same way you treat them?

The Apostle Paul walked such a godly life that he could say to others, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) Can you say the same?

God's law to the Israelite nation included, "Lov…

Bleading Heart

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Dicentra eximia Also known as Wild Bleeding Heart, Eastern Bleeding Heart and Turkey Corn. It grows on cliffs, rock outcrops, and rocky slopes of the Appalachian Mountains from New York to Georgia.
We look for this plant each Spring growing on the rocky cliffs along the road heading to Cades Cove from Townsend. It's always a "must stop."
There is also a very different meaning for the word "bleeding heart." Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this as a person who shows extravagant sympathy especially for an object of alleged persecution. The term is often used associated with people of very strong libertarian or liberal views.
"Bleeding" (meaning "generous") came from the late 16th century, and the notion of one's heart bleeding as a figure of emotional anguish is from late 14th century, but the most common image associated with that period is the "bleeding heart of Jesus."
Jesus was so passionate and extravagantly sympathetic towar…

Taking the Straight Path

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This is Sparks Lane in Cades Cove of the Great Smoky Mountains. The road is pretty straight right through this section. This gravel road is bumpy and noisy, however, and often contains potholes. There are also a couple water crossings just ahead out of view.
King Solomon, anointed with the greatest wisdom ever given to a human being, wrote about the straight road (path).
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6)
Here's what the Lord is revealing to me today... WHEN we submit/commit/yield ourselves to God, He WILL show us the straight way. Now, that does not mean it will be a smooth journey. It might get bumpy along the way with some obstacles that will test our faith. Solomon continues:
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. (Proverbs 4:26)
We are so prone to wander off the straight path by distractions along the way. We also might consider the tests/trials/water crossings too much for us to handle. …