Showing posts from 2019

Made In The Shade

He/she has it "made in the shade."

This was an expression from the 1950s which means to be in an excellent or ideal situation. Well, duh! Makes sense to me when looking at this shady, scenic, rural setting. Surrounded by stately mature trees, this old barn has it made in the shade... although I suspect the hard-working farmer who owns this place sees very little shade as he tends to his fields except when heading for the barn (which is a whole 'nother idiom).

What surrounds you? The Psalmist and King, David, knew all too well what it meant to be surrounded by life-threatening dangers. He also understood what it meant to be surrounded by God's presence even in those times. He penned the following:

Surely, Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12)

You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7)

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing lo…

Putting On and Peeling Off

Even as the dogwood tree fills it's branches with beautiful flowers, the old barn in the background is shedding its exterior.

Seasons come and go for all things. No natural thing, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, will last forever. We rejoice at new life and grieve at life lost, but it is all part of the circle of life that has taken place since Adam and Eve's fall to sin in the Garden of Eden.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon wrote (in various translations):

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. (KJV)

Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. (GNT)

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. (NASB)

So, if God ordains special "appointments" for us to experience then they are intended to teach us, build character in us, and prepare us for His purpose and plan. Nothing lasts forever except God's plan. We should consider it a joy and privilege to be …

Supersonic Versus Supernatural

Much technology goes into the development of fighter jets capable of supersonic speeds. We marvel at the ingenuity and precision of ever detail that goes into its design, but as fast as these birds can fly, they are still limited by natural forces like friction and gravity. They are limited in the distance they can travel based on gallons-per-mile consumption and size of the fuel cells. The maneuvers they are capable of are limited to the skill of the pilot.

There is One, however, who has no limitations based on natural forces, skill, consumption or size. He is all knowing, all present, all powerful, almighty, everlasting and all sovereign. Nothing is impossible for Him or with Him. He is not limited by time, space, environment, resources, circumstances, my abilities or my inabilities. He is supernatural. He is God.

Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

In Isaiah 55:9 we read, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than…


Julia sat on that limb for hours overseeing her precious eaglet. Nothing escaped here attention though. We were no threat to her or baby at the distance we were from the nest, but she was certainly keeping two eyes on the photographers below.

The wind blew, vehicles passed by, people chatted, other birds flew overhead, but Julia kept her post... diligently observing her surroundings for any danger.

I'm glad that we have a God whose eyes are even more keen than an eagle's. He never sleeps; His eyes are always on you. With everything that is going on in the world at any moment, God is not distracted and His attention is never pulled away from you.

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip —
He who watches over you will not slumber.

~Psalm 121:2-3 

Shiloh National Military Park
Shiloh, TN


Triodopsis tridentata - Northern Threetooth Air-breathing Land Snail

No, this snail does not have three teeth. The name represents the particular shape of the shell having three denticles or “teeth” of calcium at the opening.

Triodopsis tridentata is the most widespread threetooth of the East, ranging from the southern Appalachian Mountains, west to Michigan and southern Canada, and east into Vermont.

Land snails serve an important role in the ecosystem. They eat very low on the food web, as most land snails will consume rotting vegetation like moist leaf litter, and also fungi and sometimes eat soil directly. The land snail relies on a diet rich in calcium and other nutrients to support the growth and repair of its shell as well as its overall health.

Snails then in turn are consumed by a variety of predators that rely on snails for their calcium and other dietary needs. A great diversity of animal life feeds upon land snails, from insects to lizards and snakes, salamanders, birds and ma…

New Things

This old wagon has seen its better days, but I'll bet it served many functions in its prime. It was probably the family car, the dump truck, the U-Haul, and the hit of the hayride. Today she rots and rusts in her place... a reminder that the present keeps driving forward without a worry for the past.

Søren Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

Bill Keane said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

Mother Theresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Getting lost in the past can be interpreted as being nostalgic, but it can also hinder your joy for the present and anticipation for the future. God told the Prophet Isaiah...

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

(Isaiah 43:18-19)

What new and wonderful things is God doing around …

Be the Bract

I'm not sure which I enjoy most... Spring or Fall. Each has its own unique beauty, but while Fall brings the mind harvest season and putting to rest nature's covering, Spring is all about revitalization, life and new beginnings.

I love the wide array of blooms that fill the forest floors and adorn so many trees in the Great Smoky Mountains and other locations around the southern U.S.

I suppose the Dogwood is among my most favorite of flowering trees. However, most people mistakenly think that the white of the tree is the flower when it is actually a bract (a modified or specialized leaf) that surrounds the flower in the center.

The bract provides the beautiful color that attracts the bee or other pollinating insect to the flower. The flower is the reproductive part of the plant that ensures a legacy or continuation of similar plants in the future.
Like the bract, we ought to be attracting others to the Lord Jesus Christ who alone can reproduce Himself in others so they can be witn…

Take the Photo When You Have the Chance

This was one of my favorite barns to photograph in the Townsend area, just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains boundary. It was difficult watching it slowly deteriorate. It was a sad day when mighty winds blew through and took it down completely.

I've learned to stop and take the picture while I have the opportunity because: 
I might not have the opportunity again, and the opportunity may cease to exist by the time I pass that way again. Likewise, never take time with your family for granted because time is fleeting. Never forget to tell the ones closest to you that you love them. Take lots of pictures of them even if they think you're a nuisance... because one day pictures and a hole in your heart may be all that's left.

This picture stands as a testimony to this truth. The splintered pile of lumber remaining in its place today is my witness. Take the photo when you have the chance.
Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning an…

For His Glory

Why would God create a wildflower so beautiful even when in its short lifespan it could go completely unnoticed? Why indeed? Because He created it for His glory.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)

And that is the same reason that He created you and me.

"And every one that calls upon My name, I have created him for My glory, I have formed him, and made him." (Isaiah 43:7)

Even if you go unrecognized all your life, there is One who knows you and cares for you intimately because He made you just the way you are. And He receives glory when you show others His image in you and through you.

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensi)Great Smoky Mountains National Park

True Value

One is labeled an unusual flower that must be photographed... the other a common weed that must be poisoned. Yet God placed both in the Great Smoky Mountains... each having their own unique beauty, place and purpose. How often do we judge a plant by other's opinions, a book by its cover, or a person by the color of their skin? May you see the value in all of God's creation before critiquing its worth and enjoy the extraordinary even in the ordinary.

All things were created by God and for His glory. Who are we to devalue the handiwork of the Creator?

"For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him." (Colossians 1:16)

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)


Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert energy from the sun. It is the process that allows plants to create organic molecules that they use as fuel/food. As Christians, we ought to look to the Son, Jesus, for our energy and life-giving nourishment to sustain us and help us thrive.

Physical food sustains us temporarily but there is a fuel source that enables you to really live. When tempted by the devil, Jesus quoted scripture from Deuteronomy 8:3 about the power of receiving and taking in God's Word as opposed to just eating a meal of bread.

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)

And, as Jesus often did, He took that analogy of food one step further when He told his disciples, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work." (John 4:34)

Jesus let it be known that the energy and fuel He received from God was not just from sitti…

Murky Reflections

The puddle was almost too muddy and murky for a reflection.This reminds me of the story of David in the Bible.

King David was known as a man after God's own heart, yet he allowed sin to creep in and muddy his relationship with God to where he no longer reflected Him with his attitudes and actions. There was only one way to be restored and made clean.

Look at David's prayer very closely. Perhaps it ought to be the yearning of your heart as well.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.


Weeds in Your Tracks

The rails are shiny. Trains travel them regularly. But weeds are growing up in the rail bed. I suppose it must be a real challenge to constantly maintain the steel, timbers and gravel for thousands of miles of rail lines without having a few weeds here and there.

Where am I going with this? Consider your life and activities. If you are a Christian then you may find yourself very busy with activities that abound with every church. Don't get me wrong -- activities are good if they fulfill the purpose for which you exist: to glorify God and lead others to faith in Him. But in the busyness, sometimes we can get weeds growing in our lives because we have failed to pray sincerely, study God's Word diligently, and practice Christ-like behavior and attitudes whether in the public eye or in our private times.

Just like in your yard and this rail bed, weeds can get out of control quickly, and this is true for our lives too. Consistently walking and talking with God, learning and growing…

Temporary Things

The sign beside the front door reads:

Last Meeting
September 25, 1987

Last 3 Members:
Ollie Maddox Kinard
Lillian Maddox Rivers
Shirley Rivers Ray

Last Pastor
Elder Rubert E. Nobles

That sign is sad and depressing to me. Looking at the graves, it is obvious that this church building has been in this location for 150+ years. There were countless families who worshiped here, had picnics on the grounds, married here, and were eventually buried here. It is a reminder that no "earthly thing" lasts forever. Everything material has an expiration date. However, the Psalmist tells of things that have no end:

God's reign - 9:7
Our heavenly home - 23:6
God's plans - 33:11
God's punishment for those who hate Him - 81:15
God's covenant/promises to man - 105:8
God's righteousness - 111:3
God's love - 136:1
God's faithfulness - 146:6

God's character, His Word, and this promises are eternal. If all things material are temporary, don't you think you oug…


Some would say this old barn was looking a little worn, weathered and rusty. I would rather think of it as having "character."

Character is defined as:
the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing one such feature or trait; characteristic moral or ethical quality
Solomon wrote, "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." (Proverbs 31:10)

And Paul wrote, "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Corinthians 15:33)

What traits do others see in you? Do they observe noble character demonstrated by kindness, sincerity, love and godliness? Or do they see see bad character demonstrated by greed, hatred, selfishness and ungodliness?

Character is more valuable than rubies according to Solomon. You can't buy it. It's earned by reputation. Because character can be so easily damaged, be sure to protect it with your whole being.

Let the Restoration Begin

As surely as I am getting older, things around me are showing their age and vulnerability to time as well. This old homestead is a prime example of that. Still, I love the design and its charm.

Wouldn't this be a great fixer-upper? Sometimes our lives may resemble this old house, but God is in the restoration business.

The Psalmist wrote, "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" (Psalm 85:6)

And God's answer to this question is "Yes" ...but revival begins with our heart's desire for it.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

1. Forsake pride/arrogance and humbly approach God.
2. Pray earnestly/urgently
3. Seek the face of God (to know Him intimately)
4. Turn/repent from wickedness/sin... and don't look back


What Are You Made Of?

You can probably tell that I like photographing barns. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they also are constructed of many different materials. I've seen log barns, rock barns, as well as those covered in wood boards, sheet metal, plywood and assortments of the three all at once. The substance(s) from which they are made may depend on its purpose, location or material available at the time.

I too was made for a purpose and my Builder did not skimp on materials when He designed me.

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)

I may be flesh and blood, but I am also soul and spirit. I am being made for His glory and praise. Yes, I am a work in progress but my character is being shaped more and more each day to take on the appearance of Christ Jesus. Not that I will ever attain perfection in this life, but one day I will be like Him.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that w…

Thanksgiving's Over! Or is it?

I don't know about you but we have a refrigerator full of leftovers and my pants are a bit tighter than normal, but thankfulness is something that we should never get over. It ought not be a one day occasion but a year round lifestyle for Christians.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church and reminded them several times about living with a heart of gratitude. It's a good reminder for us too.

Be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving. (Col.2:7)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts... and be thankful.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col.3:17)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col.4:2)

Thanksgiving is a natural reaction when your heart is occupied with Christ. Faith, peace, service to others and prayer are the results of a life overflowing with grateful praise. Don't be a closet Christian in hiding. Demonstrate your gr…

Maintaining for the Long Haul

This is the McDaniel farmhouse, sheds and barns. It is the oldest home standing in Evans County and even predates the county itself (founded in 1914). It stands as a testament to quality workmanship and ongoing maintenance.

Perhaps if we did as good a job at maintaining our lives then we too could look this good when we're 115+ years old.

Keep your mind, body, soul and spirit active and sharp by daily exercising each. It does you no good to be physically alive yet spiritually dead, and you certainly won't enjoy your latter years if all you do is increase your intellect but fail to keep that heart muscle pumping strong.

We ought to be like the Psalmist who wrote, "I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word." (Psalm 119:16)

And Paul, who wrote to Timothy, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8) 

Be fit for life -- now and for …

Temporary Things

Bernie's Grocery is closed now in this location but is open in a more modern building just down the road. That seems to be the way it is with much of what we have... it's relevant, practical, useful and even state-of-the-art when new (or slightly new) but eventually it no longer serves its purpose or cannot keep up with the changing times.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon reminds us, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."

So, we understand that life happens--good and bad. Everything has its place and time and purpose. Solomon goes on to say in verse 11, "[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart."

While things come and go, and what was once beautiful eventually fades or rusts away, there is something that lasts forever -- a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Personally, I think it's wise to waste less time on temporary things and invest more time in that whi…

The Great Deception

Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.” – Ansel Adams

Well, even the famous Ansel Adams magically tweaked his photographs. The photo you see here was actually taken during the day and I added the night sky and mood in order to bring a sense of realism.

You shouldn't believe everything you see any more than you should believe everything you read.

Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you." (Mark 13:5)

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Mark 13:22)

Even Christians can be deceived/fooled if they are not regularly in God's Word, studying together with other believers, and having an active part in a faith community. If you don't know the Word then you will fall for smooth talking, false teachings that will lead you astray and far from God's will.

How can you know deceptive words. The last book of the Bible gives us the answer in a warning.

I warn e…

Run, Forrest, Run!

If you saw the movie Forrest Gump then you'll remember the scene where young Forrest is being taunted and chased by bullies and he takes off running, freeing himself from the literal shackles of medical equipment that was attached to his legs.

When we were in Yellowstone National Park in 2011 we were photographing this grizzly when a loud noise spooked it from a time of quiet grazing and digging... and it ran. I had never seen a grizzly run so fast. You can see the dirt and mud flying up behind this bear. It's not a great shot because I was not prepared to shoot at that speed, but you get the point -- this bear was hauling!

Like Forrest Gump and this grizzly, there ought to be things in our life from which we hit the gas and fling mud behind us as we high-tail it out of sight. In the New Testament we read:

Flee from sexual immorality. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

Flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthian 10:14)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil... flee from all this. (1 Timoth…

Don't be a Grouse!

God adorned this grouse with the perfect camouflage for hiding among the grasses in Yellowstone to evade detection from predators. We too can find ourselves looking like our environment, our culture, our coworkers and neighbors. As Christians we can look just like everyone else and go undetected as being "different." However, God did not save you to go into hiding. He desires for you to be witnesses of His saving grace.

The King James Version Bible translation reads:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Peculiar might have some negative connotations, but in actuality it means "a people for God's own possession, dedicated, consecrated, a purchased people, or people who belong to God." Christians are not like everyone else. We are special and set apart and ought to live like it, showing forth pr…

Be Wise

For thousands of years, from Ancient Greek legend to modern literature and TV, humans have portrayed owls as sage and wise. The wise owl appears in everything from The Iliad to Winnie the Pooh. But, it turns out, though they’re excellent hunters, owls probably aren’t any smarter than a lot of other birds.

Many people consider themselves wise in their own eyes or according to the world's standards, but God's ways are much higher. In fact, one must acknowledge their total lack of understanding before they can become teachable by God and truly wise. The Bible tells us:

Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18)

So, what does it mean to be wise? How do I live as a wise person?

1. First, know and do that which is good. A bank teller can quickly detect a counterfeit bill, not because they've studied bad currency but because they authentically know the real dea…

Arguing with God

I encountered this unique moment in Yellowstone a few years ago with a hawk and eagle flying together. Believe it or not, there are two verses in the Bible (also together) that mention these two beautiful birds, and they were spoken by God to a man named Job, and He begins with the question...

"Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them." (Job 38:2-3)

When God tells you to brace yourself like a man, you can bet He's going to speak hard truth into your life. And it should be understood upfront that you will NOT win an argument with God. Job was in a very bad place in his life and questioned God's wisdom and actions, so God began to ask Job many questions for which he had no answers, including the following...

"Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar and spread its wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle rises to the heights to make …

The Path with a Heavenly View

The path leading up to Trout Lake is short but very steep. Between the high elevation and arduous incline, it's difficult to make it to this body of water without a rest stop or two. But once you arrive, the path around the lake is a scenic wonder. And it your timing is just right, perhaps you'll see some otters dining on freshly caught trout.

There is only one path that will take you to this heavenly location. Likewise, there is only one path that will take you to heaven.

Show me the right path, O Lord. (Psalm 25:4)

And in case you need further assistance getting started on that right path, Jesus said...

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

Trout Lake
Yellowstone National Park

On Wings Like Eagles

We find encouragement in God's promise to us that those who trust in God, young or old, will find NEW strength and enable us to keep the course laid out before us. It is not a physical strength of and by ourselves but rather measured out generously by the everlasting Creator of all the earth.

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 

Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Are you soaring like an eagle or strutting like a turkey? If you're strutting like you're something, then one day you will become weak, tired, exhausted and powerless. Trust in the Lo…

Turning the World Upside Down

There are a lot of confused people in this world who are convinced that right is wrong and wrong is right. Their vision of truth is blurred. If that's the case then we ought to be more like Paul and Silas... people who were seen as turning the world upside down.

"These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." (Acts 17:6)

Although the above statement was intended to be a derogatory remark about these two Christian missionary preachers, I'm sure for them it was a badge of honor. And we too ought to be accused of turning the world upside down for Jesus. Why? Because there will never be a time when sin is okay with God. His truth should be in your heart, on your lips and in your actions so that people see that the world they're living in is already upside down. We're just here to help people flip their thoughts back to right side up.

Are You in a Jam?

If you live in Atlanta (like I do) or another urban area, then you are quite familiar with traffic jams. In the Smokies I have often been in bear jams and deer jams. Pictured here you have a log jam after high water in Yellowstone National Park.

Sometimes you may also encounter "jams" in your personal life where a relationship is not developing as you had hoped or maybe you're in a career where you don't seem to be getting anywhere or advancing as you dreamed. Time certainly changes our perspective as we look back and see where it was favorable that we were in a holding pattern. God works things out like that for our good and His glory... although we might not always see His hand at the time.

There is another area of your life that you might not think about often with regard to jams and that is your personal spiritual growth. Is it stifled right now? Not growing? Are your prayers bouncing off the ceiling and you feel like you're in a dry spell? There's good n…

Living and Thriving in the Heat

Most organisms can only survive in certain environments. While one may be able to survive extreme cold, another may be able to withstand life deep underwater. Yet another may thrive in a very hot environment. The bacteria in Yellowstone are accustomed to the heat of the water, but at varying levels of comfort. You'll note the varieties of bacterial growth by their color - blue fades into green into yellow, orange, red and then brown.

As LiveScience explains: In the orange band, which is a "cool" 149 degrees F, you’d find Synechococcus and Chloroflexus bacteria (which also contain both chlorophyll, for photosynthesis, and the carrot-colored carotenoids).

God created this bacteria to live and thrive in these extreme temperatures. He created you to live and thrive too where you are. Unfortunately many people are just getting by or trying to survive.

From the Psalmist we learn that thriving isn't about WHAT you have but rather WHO you have.

You have given me greater joy…

Milk is for Babies

This bison calf is doing what calves are supposed to do... drink milk. How absurd would it be for a full-grown bison to still be living off of mother's milk? Crazy, right?

The writer of the book of Hebrews in the Bible warns that we should "grow up" as Christians and mature from drinking milk to eating solid foods. He is not talking about literal food but about spiritual food. We should read, study and learn God's Word so that we will not be deceived by false teaching and lies from other sources. See below...

"You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong." (Hebrews 5:12-14)


Predator and Prey

Some of you may get a little squeamish at a sight like this, but in Yellowstone the animals all realize they are either predator or prey. And that status can change one moment to another depending on their size, speed, agility, and persistence.

This harsh reality is not limited to the animal kingdom because if you look closely you'll see this to be true of many human beings... although it's debatable whether their actions are indeed humane. The TV news reports a continuous cycle of greed, murder, abuse, neglect, suffering and violence.

Why do people act like that? Because it's in our nature -- well, our old nature... the one we were born with. Paul, to the church in Ephesus, wrote...

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desir…

Rooted in the Rock

You can't help but be amazed at the sight of a tree growing out of a rock. I image the day when that seed found its way into a crevice of that lava rock boulder. After a little rain, a little sunshine, and a lot of persistence, roots appeared and began making their way into that hard surface. Trees mature slowly in Yellowstone because of a limited growing season and harsh winter conditions, so the skinny evergreen on the right could be decades old. Who knows? The point is, it stands tall... firmly rooted and established securely in the rock.

As Christians, we too mature at different rates depending on our environment and influences, but we all have one thing in common -- we are rooted in the Rock of our Salvation (Jesus Christ) in whom we can have full confidence and faith.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith. (Colossians 2:6-7)

‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ (Psalm 89:…

The Fire Inside

It was late May and Yellowstone Lake in the background was finally beginning to unthaw. However, a thick layer of ice still covered much of it. Yellowstone temperatures remain in negative territory for much of the winter season. Yet, this colorful pool and the surrounding area are free of snow because the water bubbling up from deep in the ground is super-heated by a dome of magma a few miles beneath the surface.

Unlike the lake just 100 feet away, this water is not affected by its environment -- it boils year round because of where it is fueled. There is a spiritual truth I think we can learn from this hot spring and it's that we do not have to be influenced by the world around us if we are fueled by the Holy Spirit of God. If we are fired up for Jesus then this cold world will not influence our behavior, attitudes, passions and actions.

How is this possible?

"Because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

Yes, Jesus has overcome Satan …

Is Your Terrace Active or Dry?

Minerva Spring is a favorite for Yellowstone visitors not only because of its wide range of bright colors but also for its ornate travertine formations. Since the 1890s, when records were first kept on the activity of Mammoth Hot Springs, Minerva has gone through both active and inactive periods. For several years in the early 1900s, it was completely dry, but by 1951 Minerva was again active.

During some cycles of activity, water discharge and mineral deposits have been so great that boardwalks have been buried beneath mounds of newly deposited travertine. In recent years, hot spring activity has shifted dramatically from Minerva to other features on the Lower Terraces, and back again.

Just like Minerva Terrace, our spiritual lives can be both dry or flourishing. We enthusiastically embrace those seasons when God is working in and around us. We celebrate as others benefit from God's spring of living water pouring out from us. But then there are those dry spells when we wonder if …

Faith From the Fire

At Yellowstone each year, the rain and melted snow seeps into the earth. Cold to begin with, the water is quickly warmed by heat radiating from a partially molten magma chamber deep underground.

After moving throughout this underwater “plumbing” system, the now hot water rises up through a system of small fissures. Here it also interacts with hot gases charged with carbon dioxide rising up from the magma chamber. As some of the carbon dioxide is dissolved in the hot water, a weak, carbonic acid solution is formed.

In the Mammoth area, the hot, acidic solution dissolves large quantities of limestone on its way up through the rock layers to the hot springs on the surface. Above ground and exposed to the air, some of the carbon dioxide escapes from the solution. Without it, the dissolved limestone can’t remain in the solution, so it re-forms into a solid mineral. This white, chalky mineral is deposited as the travertine that forms the terraces. (From…

Light at the End

We've all heard the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel." The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as signs of improvement in a situation that has been bad for a long time, or signs that a long and difficult piece of work is almost finished.

I have been thinking about difficult life situations that many friends have gone through or are going through right now. My wife and I are not unfamiliar with tunnels either. The thing that separates those who face life's trials with negativity, despair and darkness versus positivity, hope and light is a little thing called faith. Now, before you get on my cast because I used the word "little" with regard to faith, let me remind you of Jesus' words.

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Now let me ask you a question with regard to what Jesus said... how much fai…

The Last Will Be First

If you grew up when I did, the caboose was a common sight. Cabooses were located at the end of a freight train and provided shelter for the conductor and crew who were needed for switching and shunting, keeping a lookout for load shifting, damage to equipment and cargo, and overheating axles. This crew was very valuable to the engineer who was at the head of the train prior to days of automated switching and electronic sensors.

Nowadays you'll find these rail cars prominently displayed in small towns and shopping centers across the country. Most are for show only, but others have been converted for use as restaurants and sleeping accommodations.

Thinking of things that were last, I was reminded of a story in the gospels where Jesus' disciples were arguing over who among them was the "greatest." Jesus knew what they had been talking about and proceeded to tell them...

“Whoever wants to be the most important must make others more important than themselves. They must se…

Calm in Choas

The river is rushing. The waters are hazardous... even life-threatening. Yet, just feet away is a calm pool of still water.

When you feel like you're trapped in a whirlpool of chaos, realize even then you can find a calm place. It's not in the situation but in the Savior that you can find peace and rest.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:7

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." ~Matthew 11:28

Why would you ever want to take on the worries and frustrations of the world alone when Jesus has offered to come beside you and carry that load for you? 

Little Pigeon River
Greenbrier, Great Smoky Mountains

When Rivers Rise, Head to Higher Ground

For the most part, the rivers and streams in the Smokies are flowing gently downhill with the occasional rapids, cascades and waterfalls but when the skies open up and the rain falls hard it's a completely different story. The sound of rushing water fills the valleys and dirt, rocks, trees, and debris are heaved out of the way or carried downstream. The beauty gives way to a beast!

Fortunately, life gives us more calm than flood, but where do you escape when things are bad? Where do you go to find refuge and help? Well, I personally run to higher ground where God is waiting for me. The Bible tells us...

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. ~Psalm 46:1

But not only is God there for me when times are bad, He is also with me constantly -- giving me what I need to make it through each day.

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. ~Psalm 54:4

Why does God offer ME help? The same reason He is there for you too -- because He loves us!

Help me, …

Seeing Right Through

Typically I do not like to photograph a building straight-on like this. Generally the structure will lack a sense of depth and dimension as a result. However, I liked that the two open doors allowed me to see all the way through from front to back, and there were enough foreground lines and background scenery to keep it interesting.

This photo also brings to mind a sense of vulnerability as anyone can clearly see into and through this home. I believe God wants us to be like this house where the doors to our heart are wide open, and who we are on the inside is clearly revealed to the outside world.

A year ago, a woman who I've never met accused me openly on Facebook of being a fake Christian. I have no idea where that came from but I was blocked from her page so that I could neither see nor respond to the post. I will admit that I've made my share of blunders and will continue to either say or do the wrong thing at times, but my spirit ached to know that someone considered me les…

Free, But Not Really

This is Charlie... not a great picture of Charlie, but I think the message will still resonate. For years we kept Charlie and Hershey in crates while we went to work or were otherwise away from the house. This wasn't because Charlie was mischievous, but Hershey was known to get into trouble if you weren't paying close attention to her.

Hershey got cancer this past December and we had to make the unfortunate but appropriately difficult decision to put her to sleep because of her pain. She and Charlie were 12 years old and had been together for 11.5 years. Knowing that Charlie was not one to be destructive, we immediately started leaving his crate door open 24 hours a day. However, Charlie was used to being in his crate. It was a place of comfort, safety and rest. He now has free roam of the house yet Charlie still chooses to spend most of his waking and sleeping hours in his crate. He chooses to remain caged when he is in fact completely free.

Where am I going with this? I beli…

What Do Others See?

What do you see?

I see clouds reflected in the lake, forming what looks like a giant arrow.

I hear in my heart a message to reflect the person of Christ in my life so that I point others to Him.

Proverbs 27:19 reads, "As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart."

It's not so much what I see but it's what others see that really matters. I pray what is reflected through me is the Jesus people need to see.

Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone National Park

Hot & Cold Running Water

Hot, steamy pools of water spring from the ground and cold, clear rivers flow down mountains from melting snow. This is Yellowstone. The extremes are what make it fascinating.

Lukewarm is not nearly as desirable. You don't want to bathe in lukewarm water... you want it hot and relaxing. You don't want to drink lukewarm water... you want it cold and refreshing.

Jesus spoke to the members of the church in Laodicea and said they were like lukewarm water. Their lifestyle disgusted Christ because they were neither a source of comfort or refreshment to others. Revelation 3:14-16 reads...

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

The verses that follow suggest that the people in this city were wealthy with …