Showing posts from December, 2018

To Stand in Awe

After visiting the Grand Canyon,  you try to find words to describe what you saw, but they just fall short. It's a sight too grand for words. You just stand there speechless... just breathing... taking in as much as possible... in awe.

That's the way we ought to approach the Creator who is far greater than His creation -- God Almighty. In fear, reverence, awe... speechless, breathless.

This scene brings to mind the song "I Stand in Awe of You."

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depth of your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above

And I stand, I stand in awe of you
I stand, I stand in awe of you
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of you

Sometimes the Road is Chosen for You

Sometimes you choose the road you're on.
Sometimes the road is chosen for you.

When we traveled the 469 miles end-to-end on the Blue Ridge Parkway it was intentional and we enjoyed the trip of our own planning. However, more times than not the road we're traveling on was chosen FOR us and not BY us. How do I know that? Because the potholes, dips, fender-benders and blind curves that we face on that journey come unexpectedly and are generally not welcomed.

Since I cannot always plan my life's journey, how do I cope with the detours, lane changes and roadwork that I face? Solomon gave wise instruction:

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6 ESV)

I like the Contemporary English Version too.

Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. (Proverbs 3:6 CEV)

The key is to trust the One who is taking you down the road to bring you successfully to your appointed destination.

Light Makes the Difference

My jaw literally dropped when I came around the bend at Overlook #2 on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and saw the mountains, trees and skies illuminated with the most incredible light I've ever seen for taking a photo here.

The clouds filtered what could have been a very harsh sunlight. This is the type of balance that makes you histogram happy (photographers will understand what I mean). I really could have remained there for a long time but it was very crowded with others wishing to take in the fantastic view.

Light really does make a difference, and THE Light makes all the difference in the world!

[Jesus said], “I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus is the light of the world and He illuminates the path to eternal life. All you have to do is follow Him and you will no longer walk in darkness, ignorance, and deception. Instead you will follow His path of love, peace, hope, grace and …

Memories of 1.3 Seconds in Time

I don't know about you but it seems as if time is passing by too swiftly. I love photography because it allows me to stop time and savor those special moments for years to come. This is just a mountain stream in the Smokies but what I saw on this morning will never be repeated ever again in the exact same way.

God gives us these fleeting moments to enjoy. They are more precious than worldly riches, and they are not to be taken for granted.

In a letter Paul wrote to Timothy, he encouraged those with wealth to not consider themselves better than others nor to put their future hopes on their possessions as well (1 Timothy 6:17). God gives us EVERYTHING we have, including the Smokies, to enjoy.

Since God gives generously to us we ought to also be generous with others. So, I present you with a generous gift of beauty that I experienced on November 3, 2017 at 9:59 AM. I hope you will take longer than 1.3 seconds today to soak it in!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A Christmas Sacrifice

Georgia National Cemetery (12/15/2018)
Wreaths Across America
Canton, GA

I was asked on Facebook why Ronald J Baylis did not have a wreath on his stone. As you can see by the Star of David, he was of the Jewish faith and unless specifically requested by the family, Christmas wreaths were not placed at their head stones.

While is breaks by heart that Jewish people today deny the Messiah born into a Jewish household, what made me stop in my tracks was seeing a blank stone in front of all the others. This was the only one I saw like that in the National Cemetery. It too did not have a wreath, although it probably was due to oversight rather than religious objection.

My mind immediately went to a place of honor and respect for all who died serving our country yet either did not come home or whose remains were never identified. My dad was a veteran of the Korean War and he does not talk about it. Most WW II vets were the same. They did not serve for recognition but for their country's freed…

Final Moments

I remember leaving the Smokies on November 6th to head back to Georgia... it was bitter sweet. I thought the colors would be just plain blah this year but our nation's most popular National Park showed off spectacularly in a short span of time between late October and early November. This photo was taken along Hwy 441 at the Chimney Tops pullouts.

What is it about final moments that stick with us? Well, I guess it's because we know that we can never go back and experience things in just the same way, with the same person, or with the same emotion. Things change, people change, the environment changes. So we hold on to those departing moments.

As Christmas approaches, I can't help but think what it was like for our Heavenly Father and Jesus as their relationship was about to change dramatically. The Son of God was going to become the Son of Man. The Spirit Jesus would take on earthly flesh. The Prince of Peace would be born in an animal stable and laid in a feeding trough as …

Fences in Black & White

Most of us do not see the world in black and white except for those who are color blind. In fact, most of us see the world in a wide spectrum of colors. Unfortunately, the world we live in also tends to personalize their spirituality by coloring in their own views and opinions. They/we also do not like fences that keep us from doing whatever we please wherever we please.

The truth is that God gave us the Bible that includes fences and very clear distinctions between right and wrong. You may not like it and you may not agree with it but there is One who earned the right to lay down the boundaries because He made the universe in which His rules exist. He is God and we are not.

BUT, these rules, laws, commandments or instructions are not meant to stifle your creativity or keep you from having fun; their purpose is to protect you, keep you healthy, and make life more pleasurable. There were way too many laws written down and expanded upon in the years leading up to Jesus' appearance, so…

Like Water Under the Bridge

We use this phrase to describe something that happened in the past that we cannot do anything about now. What's happened has happened. Yes, sometimes we live with the repercussions of actions from the past, but we certainly cannot go back and fix them.

Christmas is about water under the bridge too. How, you ask? Well, because of Jesus' birth and subsequent life, death, burial and resurrection we can know forgiveness from God and be made completely right before Him. Everything we did in the past becomes like water under the bridge.

The Bible says "as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12)

In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7-8a)
We don't have to live with guilt or remorse. We can live in joy and peace because the past is remembered no longer once God has forgiven you in the Lord Jesus Chr…

Mum's the Word

"Mum's the word" means to keep silent or quiet. Mum is a Middle English word meaning 'silent', and may be derived from the mummer who acts without speaking. Note the similar English word "mime" meaning silent actor or imitator.

There are a lot of people who would prefer that we keep silent this time of the year -- let Santa have all the spotlight and move on to New Year's Day activities -- but not this guy! JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON and that's why I celebrate and gladly share the good news of His birthday.

Like the shepherds who visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the stable, they could not contain their joy and excitement. They couldn't help but share the marvelous news. And neither can I!

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:17-18)

Mum's the word? No way! It's CHRISTmas!

A Scene to be Seen

This old, dead tree stands on a mountain in the Appalachians beside the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. What a view it has of the valley below and skies above. I imagine on a clear day that sounds of nature resonate in this area like a megaphone. Unfortunately dead trees do not have eyes to see and ears to hear in order to appreciate such wonders.

What about you? You have eyes but do you truly see? You have ears but do you truly hear? Nature is proclaiming the glory of God. We have great insight into who God is through His Holy Word, the Bible. The Holy Spirit is working around the clock to point you down the road of redemption and salvation. The celebration of Christmas comes annually to remind us of the greatest gift ever given to mankind - Jesus.

Are you seeing? Are you hearing? Or is all this just a scene playing out before you that cannot be seen or hear clearly just like this old dead tree?

Jesus asked His disciples, "Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail t…

Life's Short - Explore More

Ever since I was I child I had a fascination with the world around me and dreamed of exploring our nation's natural wonders. I've been very fortunate to live out some of those dreams and have plans to keep traveling and exploring in the future, Lord willing.

The western U.S. desert lands have been on my bucket list for a long time and a recent vacation to Arizona and Utah has just given me an even greater desire to go back and explore further. This is a photo taken during a hike in Arches National Park. Folks, this is a world away from Georgia pine trees and red clay. I think my mouth was so dry all the time, not just because of the extreme heat, but because of all the jaw-dropping beauty I was constantly taking in.

I believe God created the world for us to enjoy. God did not make a universe of spinning rocks and a bunch of people with rocks spinning in their heads just to entertain Him. No, He made us to have fellowship/relationship with Him, and every plant, animal and mineral…

Beware of Jellyfish

The jellyfish -- a lesson in contrast... beautiful to look at but painful to meet. Don't you just love the colors though?! Whatever you do, don't you dare try to pet it! It is not your friend. 😬

Jellyfish are carnivores -- they eat other animals. Smaller jellyfish eat algae and other tiny plankton called zooplankton. Larger jellyfish eat crustaceans and other bigger aquatic animals. They don't seek out people to attack -- their nervous system is too simple to do that. Their sting is both a defense mechanism and a way to capture their prey.

Each jellyfish tentacle is covered with thousands of cells called cnidoblasts, which house nematocysts containing stinging threads. When a jellyfish encounters another object, pressure inside the nematocyst causes the threads to uncoil. The stinging cells spring out at the unwitting victim like tiny darts, firing venom into it. The venom is a neurotoxin designed to paralyze jellyfish prey. Although a jellyfish can kill a small aquatic ani…

Mountains to Missions

In front of the treeline at the base of the mountains sits an old log cabin. It was built in the early 1820's by the first permanent white settlers to Cades Cove, John and Lucretia Oliver.

The dusty path takes you to the cabin where you can try to imagine living off the land and natural resources available almost 200 years ago. To be honest, most of us are too spoiled with today's conveniences to even come close to envisioning the reality of it.

If you didn't kill it, plant it, or pick it then you didn't eat that day. If you didn't cut it, stack it and seal it then you didn't sleep inside protective walls. The first ones in depended on their wits and strengths. The Olivers were also faithful believers in God. They were instrumental in starting the Cades Cove Baptist Church which later became the Primitive Baptist Church. Yes, even back then there were disagreements and a "split" concerning the funding of missions. Hence, the Missionary Baptist Church wa…

It's All About The Light

Ask a photographer... it's all about the light. The word "photography" was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtos), meaning "light" and γραφή (graphé) or "representation by means of lines or drawing." Together the word is interpreted "drawing with light".

There is no visual perception of shape, form, depth or color without light. Consider this -- there is no source of darkness in the universe... there is only light or the absence of it. Imagine this picture with no light. If you're imagining only a black screen, then you'd be right.

We ought to be thankful to God everyday that the very first thing He created was light. He spoke it into being, saying, "Let there be light,” and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)

Darkness, as a state of mind, only exists in the absence of light, knowledge or understanding. For our minds to be illuminated to truth then it must be exposed to light that reveals all things.

The Bible refers to darkne…

Under Attack

This milkweed plant in Cades Cove of the Great Smoky Mountains is under attack. Driving by and glancing casually at the plant does not reveal the oleander aphid infestation, but close examination shows a large colony of these dreaded yellow creatures sucking the life out of the host plant. Often the plant is left alive but covered in mold and fungi afterward.

If this was happening in your garden you would certainly take steps to either:
1) prevent them in the first place, or  2) eliminate them from your plants.

You may not be aware because of the distractions of life, but you may very well be under attack as well. Upon close inspection you may find that Satan has launched an attack on you and is slowly sucking the joy right out of your life because you've allowed him to influence a certain area that you haven't given over 100% to the Lord.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.&qu…

Nothing Lasts Forever But...

This wall found in Arches National Park is comprised of colorful sandstone and interesting formations of hoodoos, spires and balancing rocks.

I was reminded that nothing on earth will last forever as I gazed upon the scars and erosion of time carved into this stone. "All we are is dust in the wind" according to the 70's rock band Kansas...and there's some truth in that.

However, there are at least two things that will endure for eternity -- God's righteousness and the salvation He offers to mankind.

"Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail." ~Isaiah 51:6

While God has offered mankind His salvation for thousands of years, your opportunity to receive God's gift of salvation is short-lived. None of us knows the day or hour when we will pass from this earth …

Contemplations at the Rim

There's a reason they call this place grand. The Grand Canyon truly is a sight to behold. Every overlook provides a view that extends miles wide and a mile deep. Canyons crisscross the landscape where for centuries water has carved through the soft stone revealing layers upon layers of prehistoric sediment.

While at a restaurant there, we struck up a conversation with our server who was in her 20's yet had already traveled the world. She was born in Hawaii, had lived in Europe, and had experienced places I can only dream of seeing. I asked why she was now at the Grand Canyon and she said, "I like to be places that make me feel small."

I was not expecting that response but she certainly came to the right place. If you don't feel very small when standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, then you most certainly think way too highly of yourself.

Don’t think that you are better than you really are. You must see yourself just as you are. Decide what you are by the faith …

Parasitic Beauty

This is Dodder (Cuscuta spp). It has many other names like strangleweed, devil's-guts, goldthread, pull-down, devil's-ringlet, hellbine, hairweed, and devil's-hair.

Dodder is a parasite of living plants, gaining not just water and minerals (as in some mistletoe) but actual carbohydrates. Each year it produces seeds that fall to the ground and germinate in the soil. The young dodder is a 2-4 inch long threadlike plant which grows to locate its host, then the tiny root system eventually dies once the plant is firmly attached to the host. The stem sends out suckers which gives the plant its nourishment from the host. Sometimes spaghetti-like masses form that totally obscure the host plant. These stems, lacking chlorophyll, are generally yellowish-to-reddish. In late summer and fall the plant produces numerous tiny, white flowers. These flowers produce the 2-celled fruit capsules which burst open to release 1 to 4 seeds, which is the only way the plant reestablishes itself eac…

Choose Your Next Move Wisely

Life is like a chess game... in a garden... in Texas... in July... in 100 degree temperatures... with over-sized pieces... on a big open lawn. 😰 😀

Well, I don't know how well you can relate to that analogy, but life certainly involves making many important decisions that have crucial gain/loss and win/lose consequences. Sometimes you feel like you're under the heat. Sometimes your decisions cause you to feel exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes you intentionally make sacrifices for the greater cause. Sometimes the weightiness of decisions requires someone with expertise to come alongside for help.

So, how do you go about making wise decisions? King Solomon wrote...

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. ~Proverbs 8:10-11 [NIV]

First or all, pray... and certainly NOT as a last resort. Read God's Word for understanding. Seek counsel from friends and family wh…

Mountains and Valleys

You can't have a high without there being a low, and vice versa. This Rocky Mountain scene clearly depicts how rapidly the landscape can change from one elevation to the other. Likewise, we can find ourselves on the mountaintop of life one day and then descending to the very depths of the valley the next... and in most cases it is completely unpredictable.

Often times we ask ourselves if God is still present in the tough times. We look around in those valleys and wonder where He is and wonder if He cares.

The Apostle Paul asked similarly. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" (Romans 8:35)

And he answered his own question with: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37)
One thing never changes -- the faithfulness of God. You can trust Him in your highs and you can trust Him in your lows. He is still there regardless of th…