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Showing posts from 2019

Move Like Water

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Water doesn't care if obstacles find their way into its path. It just finds a way around them, over them, under them and sometimes even through them. Be like water and don't allow today's obstacles to be a deterrent in moving on with life. You can find your strength to do so in Christ Jesus.

‘For in Him we LIVE and MOVE and have our being.’
(Acts 17:28)

Patient Endurance

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Water does not typically carve out a hole this size in a matter of hours, days, weeks, months or a few short years. Yet, bit by bit, little by little, the stone has been chipped away. This is an example of patient endurance.

Patient endurance is a quality that we obtain through God's strength. We certainly need it because sometimes this road of life is long and full of hazards and immense stress. Patient endurance pleases God, bears witness of His goodness, helps us to show kindness, and makes it possible to joyfully give thanks in all things.

Patient endurance helps us as we await that eternal inheritance in heaven one day. So, no matter what you are facing today please know that there is a far greater blessing waiting on us one day that cannot compare with even your very best day ever here on earth.

Paul writes, "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, being strengthened with all power a…

Be a Reflector

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It doesn't take you being a priest, pastor or missionary to reflect God's glory to the world. If my car window can do it then surely we (who were created in His image) can certainly do likewise and much, much more!

Matthew 5:16
Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fences of Protection

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The fence in this picture looks almost like a corral. If this had been present in the day this church was active then it might have made a good place for the small children to play and be safely protected from dirt-slingin', wild-hoofin' horse-drawn wagons.

Most probably it was put there to keep vehicles from parking on the grass though. With pullover space a premium at times, people get very creative in their parking and too often it damages the environment.

The Bible gives us fences in the way of laws or commandments that are not meant to infringe upon our fun or freedom but to protect us from this fast-paced, dirt-slingin' secular society whose ethics and morals are quite contrary to God's desire for His children. These teachings also keep us from doing harm to ourselves and others. Fences are good for most of us who have a tendency for pushing boundaries.

Observe how the Psalmist felt about God's precepts (rules, directions, commandments)...

The precepts of the Lo…

The Narrow Lane

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If you've traveled the gravel roads in Cades Cove you know too well that these lanes are better suited for one-way traffic than for two. They are very narrow. But those of us who love the Cove would not want it any other way.

Jesus said, "Broad is the road that leads to destruction."~Matthew 7:13

Most people believe that the wide road with many lanes and higher speed limits is the way to go. Interstate highways were constructed for this purpose... to move the masses. Surely, if everyone else is choosing that route or the GPS sends you that way then it must be right! Or is it?

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. ~Proverbs 14:12

Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean it's right. Just because most people accept that there are many lanes to heaven does not make it so.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ~John 14:6

Biblical teaching and thinking…

If It's Not One Thing Then It's Another

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"IF IT'S NOT ONE THING THEN IT'S ANOTHER..."

Have you ever said that referring to one challenge after another? The couple pictured here emerged out of the fog to find a tree down in their path. Now, in reality neither the fog or fallen tree are true problems but they represent what we often deal with day in and day out. Do you ever get tired of it? I know I do.

One positive to this scenario is that these two individuals have someone with whom they can walk through their "challenges." When you face difficult times, do not retreat and become a hermit. Seek out caring friends and family.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 reads, "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

The second positive is that while things may be unclear right now, you can rest assured that in hindsight you'll see why God took you through the fog, and you will recognize His wisdom and purpose in it. He is often building your character to become more Christ-like.

We also glory in our sufferi…

Log Jam or Footbridge?

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Be careful when assessing challenges or obstacles in your life. This fallen tree could easily be perceived as a potential log jam but it could also be utilized as a foot bridge over the river. The very thing we might see as a problem could actually be the solution or answer to another of life's trials. Think on that for a moment!

Look for the Lord in every situation regardless of whether you "feel" good or bad about it. God has a plan and it's our task to join Him in it.

The LORD works out everything to its proper end— even the wicked for a day of disaster. ~Proverbs 16:4

Even when you do not see God at work around you, don't follow what you see or think to be true, but trust what you know about our loving and sovereign God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6

He is faithful, and those log jams can most certainly be a foot bridge to the next …

Try Looking Up

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Do you need to feel uplifted? Then start by LOOKING UP!

When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. (Matthew 17:8)

When your head hangs low from life's difficulties and disappointments, look up and see no one except Jesus. It will change your perspective on your present situation.

The Big Picture

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The mountains don't seem so large from this perspective, do they? Often times we see obstacles and challenges as mountainous in size, but that's because we're looking at them from the valleys we're in. When you get a heavenly perspective then those mountains look more like mole hills.

Jesus said, "all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27)

Trust God when you're in the valleys because He sees the Big Picture even when you can't.

Let Your Mist be the Most

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The Smoky Mountains were appropriately named. Often times they are enveloped in a misty haze or endless sea of clouds. Whether driving or standing in one spot, you may see the sky and clouds move rapidly with the variable winds.

In the Bible, James asks the question, "What is your life?" He compares it to a mist that appears for a short while and vanishes. We make plans for tomorrow, next week and retirement but the truth is that no one is guaranteed another breath. When photographing the Smokies, one must take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to shoot that morning fog, evening sunset, deer in the meadow, or fluttering butterfly because it is there one moment and gone the next.

We are reminded in God's Word to take advantage of every moment we live to savor it, use it wisely and give God glory in it. What is your life but a series of uncertain and unexpected seconds that pass like sand through an hour glass? Make every moment count. Do something special f…

There's Light at the End of the Tunnel

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You've heard it repeated that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Do you want proof? Here are some promises from God.

Isaiah 43:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 8:31
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

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

1 Corinthians 10:13
Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.

God keeps His promises. You can count on it!

Number 23:19
God is not human, that he sho…

My Rock and Refuge

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Bluemont Presbyterian Church is an historic Presbyterian church located near Fancy Gap, Virginia. It is one of the "six rock churches" founded by Bob Childress. It was built originally in 1920 as a small wood frame building. It features a Gothic style hexagonal bell tower. The natural quartz and quartzite stone facing was added to the frame building in 1946.

Bluemont Presbyterian Church is the largest of the six rock churches. Bluemont derives its name from the abbreviation of the words Blue and Mountain for the Blue Ridge Mountains where it is located. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. 

My name is listed on a "register" too. It was included in the Lamb's Book of Life in 1968 when I received the Rock of salvation (Jesus) into my heart and life. And that's way better than a National Historic Register any day!

2 Samuel 22:3
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my…

In the Color and the Clouds

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It had been raining all morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. As noon approached, the thick layer of clouds began to break and autumn color became visible in the ridges. It was a beautiful sight, although still dimly lit and only partly visible.

I was thinking this evening about a friend who was grieving the loss of his precious wife and how difficult it must have been to keep from asking God "Why me" or "Why her" and "Why now?" Can I let you in on something? It's okay to ask God those questions.

Then the following verse came to mind:

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

I am probably taking this way out of context but the Lord spoke to my heart saying, "You don't see everything clearly now. You rejoice in the color and you despair in the clouds, but one day you'll understand everything completely. I know …

Broad Side of a Barn

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You may or may not be familiar with the quote "You couldn't hit the broad side of a barn." This is a reference to very poor aim. Imagine a bow hunter who sees his target... an easy shot... a beautiful buck with a huge rack of antlers. He loads his arrow, pulls back on the string, aims, then lets the arrow fly in the direction of the animal -- but falls short by 10 feet. He missed the mark! His friends might give him a hard time implying that he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a shot like that.

The Bible talks about us missing the mark as well. Paul writes:

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... (Romans 3:22-23)

It makes no difference where we are born, who our parents are, the color of our skin, the lineage we claim... we are all alike when our very best is compared to God's holiness -- we miss the mark. We fall short. But there is good news. Paul continues:

...and all are justified freely …

Happy Labor Day!

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Even this cherry picking young bear needed some rest. :-)

I pray that it will be a day of rest and refreshing for you. Jesus knew that we often weary ourselves with work and unnecessarily carry heavy burdens, so He gave us the following message...

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Cades Cove
Great Smoky Mountains

Light of Illumination

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When it gets dark, you need a light to illuminate the way. Trust God to guide you down the road of unfamiliarity.

The prophet Isaiah quoted God as saying:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do.
(Isaiah 42:16)

Peace on Earth

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Does anybody else feel that life is just too busy? Almost overwhelming? I draw a peaceful feeling when photographing in the Smokies, but unfortunately feelings come and go like the wind.

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 there will never be peace with all people and in all circumstances. I take comfort in the following words of Jesus:

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

There is no life struggle where you cannot find peace internally and eternally when you know Jesus. He said "in Me" you may have peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, therefore He is the only real source of peace and the only giver of true peace.

Thy Will or My Will

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I've been asked, "How do I pray?" Jesus was asked the same thing by His disciples after being observed talking to His Father. Read Matthew 6:5-14 for this conversation.

There's one thing you should be prepared for, however, because Jesus is not a magic genie in a lamp. If you petition God's help according to Jesus' model prayer then you should be willing to accept the results. Remember, it's THY will be done and not MY will be done. Verse 10 of Jesus' prayer is:

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

We are used to walking up to the fast food counter and getting OUR order done OUR way. But if we accept His "Yes" then we must be willing to accept His "No" or "Wait" as well based on God's will and plan. Regardless of how our prayers are answered, He is still good and He is still God. He knows what's best for the present and He knows how it will all work out for the future. We must…

Where the Road Leads

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For many of you this scene is very familiar from internet posts. For others, you've traveled it countless times and in your mind you can easily travel around this curve and into the next scene and the next because you know each foot of those Cades Cove Loop Road 11 miles intimately.

I don't know about you but my heart still beats rapidly with excitement and anticipation for what may lie around the next bend or over the next hill. I can honestly say this is also true of my faith journey. While walking with Jesus is familiar territory, I am in constant awe of what God has in store for me around every curve and over every hill. There's nothing boring about my relationship with Jesus and He keeps my heart pounding for more.

I truly have no idea where my faith journey will lead in this life -- I only know of my final destination... and I know who will be with me all along the way.

In Matthew 1:23 we read of an angel's proclamation to Joseph.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceiv…

He Restores

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It was only a couple years ago that this area was ravaged by wildfires. Unfortunately, there was significant loss to life, property and natural resources. However, I thank God that He is in the restoration business. He is restoring the land and lives of those affected by the fire. He can also restore those areas in your life ravaged by personal loss, grief, sin or unforeseen circumstances.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.

~Psalm 23:1-3a

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Roots that Cause Others to Stumble

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Recently I shared a post about the importance of rooting yourself firmly in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Doing so enables you to hang on and stand firm in the worst of life's storms.

BUT... what if your roots of faith are causing others to stumble. The Apostle Paul wrote the church in Corinth and advised mature believers to be careful not to offend or cause unbelievers and new Christians to stumble over things that are a matter of conscience rather than sound doctrine.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

Paul suggested that we ought not argue our point (even if valid) but seek the good of others so that in time they might grow into a healthy, well-rounded and mature faith. Paul never says we ought to disobey G…

Bridge Over Roaring Waters

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This is the Roaring Fork in the Great Smoky Mountains. It doesn't look like much right now but it got its name from the roar that resounds through the mountains after a rainfall as water surges violently downward carrying with it rocks, trees and debris.

This bridge is located right beside the Jim Bales Place. I don't know if there was a bridge located here when the Bales' lived here or whether they only crossed the stream on good, low-water days. It's not a real photographic bridge but it is certainly functional for the purpose in which it was intended -- even on high-water days.

Like this bridge, you were made for a purpose. God Almighty Himself formed you for His purpose and plan. You may be thinking that you've never done anything grand and glorious, or never will, but maybe God created you just to help someone over that stream of difficulty they are facing. Maybe what you do everyday as you love on others and serve their needs IS the grand and glorious plan fo…

The Small Things

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What is pictured here is such a common sight in the Great Smoky Mountains that it can easily be taken for granted. Here's my prayer for you and me... May we never get so busy that we miss the small things that God puts in our path every day for our pleasure and benefit.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)

Roaring Fork
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Islands in the Sky

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You may be surprised to hear that every day is not as photo-friendly as another. In fact, some days (as much as I like clouds and fog) can be almost a complete washout if the rains don't let up. This was one of those days as we traveled our remaining miles down the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to Cherokee, NC. 

I was wet. My camera was wet. It was chilly outside. I was chilly inside to the very bone. The fall foliage photos were not going to happen because I could barely see the road most of the time... much less trees. But then I pulled into one parking area at an overlook and found the clouds beginning to disperse and separate. Lo and behold, islands of land began to emerge in the sky. A little color was even distinguishable. Maybe the day wouldn't be a complete wash after all.

Are you looking for those islands in the sky when clouds encompass you? Eventually the clouds will dissipate and sooner or later your circumstances will change as well. In the meantime look for tha…

Final Resting Place

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We look at a scene like this and consider the possibility of an eternal resting place in the mountains, but while this is a beautiful landscape it certainly is of no value to someone who has passed from this life into the next. A dead body cannot appreciate this field, the mountains and pretty tree. Only those of us who are alive can see it, smell it and experience it.

As lovely as this is, I am certain that there is a place reserved for me that is far more spectacular that I can even begin to imagine. The Bible talks of heaven and gives us a glimpse of its extravagant beauty, but far beyond that is the wondrous understanding that I will have the opportunity to walk, talk and worship Jesus face-to-face for eternity.

How can I be sure of that? Jesus said:

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, …

Shine Despite the Gray Clouds

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I am always hopeful when going to Clingmans Dome that there will be a spectacular sunset. The truth is that weather conditions can change in a matter of moments and what you thought might be a BANG (good) ends up being a BUST (bad). On this particular evening it might have been a little of both. The low, heavy, gray clouds still could not keep the sun from shining colorfully through the sliver of clear sky it was given.

As we approach our "sunset years" I think there is a parallel. We can either go out with a bust or a bang. I believe we have a choice in that matter though. No, I'm not talking about the way our life will end but in the manner or attitude with which we carry ourselves to the throne room of God. We can choose to be bitter and negative about our circumstances or we can be a person of gratitude, grace, care and positivity.

Circumstances out of your control may bring you to death's doorway, but circumstances do not control the impact you'll have on oth…

Hang in There Baby!

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This large tree began to grow on a hillside where wind and water would erode away the soil. Yet, this tree stands strong and firm because it has spread its roots across and deep into the remaining soil. It has a firm foundation that allows it to remain steady in the storms and floods.

Faith is the firm foundation of a believer in Christ Jesus in which one must sink deep roots. Then, when the storms of life come, you might get shaken but you will surely stand immovable on your eternal hope and salvation.

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)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Waking Up In A Fog

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It was early morning in Cades Cove and this is a scene I'm sure the Oliver family woke up to on many days. I love a good foggy morning for photography but waking up in a fog metaphorically is not ideal. We all lose our way at times and just have a hard time getting our act together as we hurry out the door for another busy day. So start your day seeking the Lord instead and in Him you'll find hope, strength and direction for your day.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:25)

But seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

So, have a good day and God bless!

Running Over

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This pond still overflows the dam that was once used to power a gristmill beside the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Rakes family obviously benefited financially from those who came to have their grain ground into flour, but they also gave back to their customers. You see, Mr. Rakes allowed his customers the sole privilege of fishing for trout in the mill pond while they waited on their grist products.

Jesus promised blessings upon those who have a generous spirit. And one thing's for certain... you cannot out-give God.

"Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38)

Don't be a Scrooge! Nothing you have really belongs to you anyway. You are just managing what God has given you. So overflow with generosity and see if God won't return the blessing.

Rakes Mill Dam 
Blue Ridge Parkway

Encompassing Clouds

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It's tough to see clearly when life becomes clouded by so many distractions. Set your mind on godly things and your priorities will become more focused.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Light at the End of the Tunnel

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Have you ever come through a challenge in life where you saw light at the end of the tunnel only to trade the dry security of the familiar with the wet, soggy unknown?

No one is promised rainbows and lollipops all the time. The one thing you can be certain of as a child of God is that He will always be by your side. You are never alone!

Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Grazing Peacefully While the Barns Crumble

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I've lived long enough to have seen a "different America." The one I live in now does not resemble the one I grew up in. It used to be safe to play in my neighborhood. People went to church and practiced their faith openly in the community through acts of love and kindness. It was sinful to show two people in bed together on the television. There was a sense of morality and people loved and served their country with pride. Human life had value. Our heroes wore medals of valor and bravery. Being a mom and dad was a high privilege.

Yes, there were many wrongs that still have not been made completely right, but the Mayberry memories have long since been replaced with a Las Vegas looseness. You can watch the nightly news yourself... I don't have to go into all the decay that has taken place in the last few decades.

Yet, we are grazing peacefully while the barns are crumbling around us. Churches are dissolving. Pornography has exploded. Unborn babies are killed by the milli…

Bare Before the World

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If you've walked to John Oliver's cabin in Cades Cove then you are familiar with this tree. Of course, it looks different with leaves covering it's branches but in this bare state there is nothing to hide it's true form. You see every beautiful, healthy branch as well as every flawed and damaged one.

This is a picture of humility to me. No, I certainly don't condone running around bare naked before the world, but I do believe that we ought to be genuine, authentic, real and honest about ourselves around others. We should not pretend to be perfect because we are all flawed and broken in some way.

One of the big problems with social media is that people are under the impression that some have the perfect life, with the perfect job, perfect relationships, perfect vacations, etc. while the truth is that everyone hurts, everyone cries and everyone needs a shoulder to lean on.

Christians ought to be especially honest with the world about the struggles, temptations, trials …

A Place of Rest-oration

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It was wet early this Fall morning but the weather would soon change and this waterlogged picnic area would be filled with tourists and locals enjoying a delightful autumn day in the Smokies. For now it was a prime photo opportunity for me.

I hope you're taking time to picnic, play and rest. If all you do is work then you are cheating yourself and your loved ones of the quality time needed to refresh and restore. Rest is an important part of a healthy life.

King David knew where to find rest and hope.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. (Psalm 62:5)

Jesus promises rest to those who are weary, weak and worried.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Jesus even encouraged His disciples to get away to a quiet place where they could find rest physically and spiritually.

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Need rest? It's only a prayer away.

Fabulous Fall Fog

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This was Laurel Creek Road between Townsend and Cades Cove in early November 2018. Many of the trees had an exceptional yellow and gold color to them. The damp weather and fog just added to the mystique and wonder of this magical drive to Cades Cove.

I am so glad we have space set aside in our National Parks for public enjoyment. I am so glad that we have a loving God who made this spectacular planet specifically for our habitation, wonder and enjoyment.

For this is what the Lord says — He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited — He says: "I am the Lord, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:18)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Almsot Heaven

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The song "Country Roads" became very popular, not because so many people can relate to living in West Virginia, but because so many can relate to driving down a simple, no lines, dirt or gravel, country road. It doesn't matter whether the memories are from the Mississippi delta region or from the valley of Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. For them, it's almost heaven.

But, as pretty as this is on earth, it is not heaven. Heaven is a place reserved only for those who are Christ followers.

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

I know it's the Holy Spirit's work to convict and convince people to give their life to Christ, but it's my job to tell you how. Please don't be like King Agrippa when the Apostle Paul was witnessing to him. After hearing Paul, the king said to him:

“Much more of this, Paul, and you will be making me a Christian!” (Acts 26:28)

King Agrippa was …

It Was Just A Mud Puddle... Or Was It?

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This muddy patch of water could be easily overlooked from what it truly was... a reflecting pool. You cannot see its reflective properties until you get the right perspective though.

Sometimes we look at people and might not see much until we look at them from the right perspective. We are ALL created in God's image or likeness. We were ALL made to have a relationship with Him. We are ALL designed to reflect His character and His image through our words and actions. Don't let the mud we see from the topside keep you from seeing people for the masterpiece they were created to be.

So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)

For we are God’s handiwork (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Scars of Leadership

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This big elk is now "the man" at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains. After years of dominance, the former bull elk was defeated in battle in 2018 and this new king resides over his harem. One look at him and you can see that it was not an easy win... but the loser was in even worse shape.

We look up to powerful leaders of industry and business with respect, but these people often climbed that ladder by stepping on people along the way and ruthlessly battling others in order to be on top. We applaud the winner and often forget about the victims. At the time I took this photo, the previous dominant elk had not been seen for a couple weeks. Some park volunteers feared he might even be dead (I do not know if that is the case or not).

There is a huge difference between this type of societal leader and the kind of spiritual leader Jesus instructs His followers to be. He said a leader must be an example for others by being willing to humbly serve them.

And Jesus called them to h…

Patience

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The leaves changed rather quickly on the Maples at Oconaluftee Visitors Center last year and began to cover the ground in a carpet of multi colors with varying degrees of crunchiness.

This was a popular spot for people just arriving in the Park. The cellphones were out and pictures were being taken of family groups and individuals.

As you might imagine, I had to be patient in order to get a people-free and car-free image. Photography has helped me with patience. It's still not one of my greatest strengths though.

In Colossians 3:12 we read that patience is a quality that we should "clothe" ourselves in daily as children of God.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Imagine a world where believers practiced these qualities every day, everywhere... even on social media. It just might change someone's world.

The Trail Begins with a Bridge

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The Chimney Tops Trail is very popular in the Great Smoky Mountains. Vehicles line the road and fill the parking area near its trail head almost every day of the year. If it were not for this bridge at the beginning then most would never even begin the ascend to the top of the mountain.

There is a bridge I crossed 50+ years ago that began what I consider an extraordinary ascent as well. I crossed over the bridge from death to life (spiritually speaking) when I gave my heart to Jesus. The mountaintop journey I am taking to heaven began with that one crucial crossing. It did not cost me anything because the One who built it did so with His own life -- Jesus paid it all on Calvary making eternal life available to me... and you!

There are many hazards along life's journey but I know that God, who by grace has brought me this far, will continue with me to the end. Some of Jesus' very last words to His disciples are the same that encourage me to keep hiking onward and upward -- "…

Cloudy Days

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For those of you who think that Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains has nothing but sunny days and black bears... then gaze upon this picture. Yep, storm clouds and not a critter in sight.

Honestly, I love a good storm scene that fills the frame with dark, menacing-looking clouds. It is a reminder to me that all people experience good days and bad -- sunshine and rain.

Jesus told his followers, "He [God] makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45)

What sets Christians apart is how they respond as they go through the difficult times. They are not without One who loves and cares for them regardless of the trial. God's promise to His children is that He will never abandon them. Never!

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)

Your day may not be sunny but you can always have the Son shining in your heart!

Convergence

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CONVERGENCE: the point at which lines, objects, etc., converge.

These two rivers (Bradley Fork and Oconaluftee) meet or converge along Newfound Gap Road in the Smokies beside the Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains. Convergence is something that happens all day, every day in one form or fashion. Personally, I don't believe these intersections in life happen by accident but that God has ordained them -- particularly as it has to do with the people you meet along your day's journey.

So, if convergence is God-planned and orchestrated, what impression are you making on other people's lives? How are you making a difference? Are you making their day brighter and better? A kind word or gesture goes a long with with friends and strangers alike.

Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

What's In A Name?

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The Wormy Chestnut... a name like that makes you want to instantly turn off the road and go shopping, doesn't it? NOT!

I must admit that it caught this photographer's eye on the Blue Ridge Parkway but I'm not sure I'm brave enough to venture inside (although I'm not sure it's even still open).

Names mean something. Proverbs 22:1 says "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."

When someone hears the name Bryan Nowak I certainly don't want negative thoughts to appear in their head. I want them to think about the grace of God on my life and the joy of my salvation that I share through photography.

Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, was saying that it's better to be poor with a good reputation than rich with a bad reputation. To be thought of highly for one's godly and righteous character is more valuable than gold.

Too often I hear the name of the Lord used in vain or flippantly (with little or n…

Where is Your Worship?

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You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)

I can't help but think about all the idols and gods we serve each day. What are you talking about, Bryan? I'm referring to all those things that take priority in our daily lives over our relationship with God.

Consider all the time you spend watching TV, surfing the internet, playing with cellphone apps, exercising, trying to get ahead in life, and working overtime to make even more money. Think of the "investments" you've made in the stock market, houses, cars, cameras, big boy toys, etc.

Next, consider the amount of time and energy spent in prayer, worship, Bible study, serving others, and quiet time with God. We learn in God's word that He is jealous for our time and attention. He desires an intimate relationship with you and me.

You can call Him Lord, but it doesn't mean a thing if your walk doesn't match your talk. Yes, I'm convicted too. As we …

When There Seems to Be No Way

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I like shooting bridges. I guess there's just something about crossing over from one side to another that reminds me of the challenges we encounter daily and the many ways God graciously provides to get over them.

So we have a choice when we experience difficulties. We can dwell on the PROBLEM or we can dwell on the PROVIDER.

In the book written the the Christians living in Philippi, Paul wrote "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6)

Look at those encouraging words more closely:
* Do not be anxious about ANYTHING.
* Pray and give thanks in EVERYTHING.

That's the key. Pray more. Worry less. Don Moen wrote a song years ago that has ministered to countless lives, written during a very difficult time in his family:

God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side

Deceptive Beauty

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My eyes and attention were drawn to the colorful display before me, but as appealing as it looked I knew better than to touch it... for this pretty plant is poison!

The world offers a great deal of temptation that is very appealing on the outside, but will poison your life with disappointment, pain and brokenness. It might not impact you immediately, but eventually you will suffer the results.

Satan is the father of lies and wants you to believe left is right, down is up, and wrong is right. Jesus' way is truth and life.

People say, "Three leaves, let it be." Those are good words to follow. God has a whole book of wisdom waiting for you to learn from so that you are not poisoned...it's called the Bible. Read it and take heed.

Charred Chimneys

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Unfortunately, the Chimney Tops resemble their namesake. The devastating fires that engulfed that area have left a very noticeable scar. However, the surrounding forests now abound with life and color. I would not have believed this sight today after witnessing the effects following this tragic event just a couple of years ago.

When you think about it, there are instances in our lives where we've come through the fire (metaphorically) and we still have the scars to prove it, but God is restoring and renewing you in ways you could not have imaged. Whether the pain is physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual, of one thing I am completely certain, God will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. He is with you and He loves you. The pain is real and the scars may remain, but afterwards I pray they will be a reminder of His faithfulness as He walked through the fire by your side.

Deuteronomy 31:8
"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or fors…

Paths

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As you begin to ponder the depth of this scene, you soon realize how easily one could get lost in the vastness of the trees and rolling mountains if you got off a designated path or trail.

My advice and caution to you is to stay on the designated path as you venture into unfamiliar territory. Follow the Lord as He walks before you and do not get sidetracked by distractions that lead you into the deep woods where you can easily lose your way.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. (Proverbs 4:26)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love. (Ephesians 5:1-2a)