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Showing posts from February, 2019

A Firm Foundation

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MISSION CONCEPCION
Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña

This mission was named in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Juan de Acuña, the Marqués de Casafuerte. The Marqués was Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) when the mission transferred to the San Antonio River area in 1731.

Originally founded in 1716 in what is now eastern Texas, the mission was one of six authorized by the government to serve as a buffer against the threat of French invasion into Spanish territory from Louisiana. Developed by Franciscans and after a tenuous existence and several moves, the mission was transferred to its present site in 1731.

This handsome stone church took about 15 years to build, and was dedicated in 1755. It appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. Due to the fact that it was built directly on bedrock, it never lost its roof, or its integrity. It remains the least restored of the colonial structures within the Park.

There is something to be said about the in…

Watching Whales Fly

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Like a kid in the candy store... that was me on 2018's summer vacation trip to San Antonio's Sea World. It had been 25+ years since I had been to the one in Orlando, FL and I was excited to see all the shows, but especially the killer whales. And if there's any question as to whether I captured any whale stunts then see below.

It's natural to be excited about seeing a 10,000 sea creature do aerial somersaults. It is also expected that one would be emotionally connected to a favorite college or professional sports organization and be shouting wildly when the team wins. The one thing that people have a hard time understanding is the excitement a believer feels for the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean, how can someone get zealous about a Bible story figure that walked the earth over 2000 years ago?

Well, the reason is because this Bible story character is not dead and buried. He is not merely a man. He is not far away in some distant galaxy. No, Jesus is alive and well. He is the …

Better Than The Original

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You cannot choose or always predict the conditions you'll encounter when photographing outside. I may not be the best at cleaning up a photo, but I hope you can see a positive difference between the original below and the edited version above.

Original - Unedited
That being said, I personally know One who is masterful at completely changing the original version to something that is beautiful. That person is Jesus Christ. He brought me out of darkness into light. He took me out of the bondage of sin and freed me to live willingly for Him. A life that was blurry and out of focus became clear and sharp with purpose.

I'm not perfect yet, but God is still Photoshopping me. :-)

I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. ~Philippians 1:6) (AMP)

Palmer Chapel
Cataloochee Valley
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Way of Death

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If you're anything like me, you've made your share of wrong decisions. You didn't intentionally set out to make a bad choice, but in hindsight you realize there would have been better paths. We should learn from these mistakes but unfortunately there are many who will always be too prideful or hard-headed to listen to the wisdom of others.

Solomon wrote, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." (Proverbs 16:25)

Life and death are more than natural parts of human existence, they are a CHOICE. Life is found when you choose God's way. Death is the result of choosing your own way. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6)

I choose life. I choose Christ.

Unshakable

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In a January 1934 article about the Arches National Monument Scientific Expedition, this arch was described as "the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area." It is also the largest and most recognized of the 2000+ arches in Arches National Park.

While this arch appears delicately chiseled, it probably is way stronger than its name implies. Why? Because it rests on a firm base or foundation and its arched shape (replicated by architects world-wide) is ideal for long-term support. I see a very distinct parallel here...

Believers in Christ are often seen by the left, the media and the politically correct culture as being weak, unstable and "delicate" creatures. Please do not mistake a humble or meek demeanor for a weak and fragile character. We are stronger than we appear on the surface. For we have a firm Rock to stand on and we are shaped or fashioned for God's long-term purpose.

Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested sto…

Metamorphosis

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Metamorphosis
the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.We commonly think of metamorphosis as the stages a butterfly goes through as it transforms from egg to larva to pupa and finally to adult. But did you know that word was used in the Bible talking about Christians and the way we think?

Romans 12:2
Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform (Greek:metamorfow)you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.

Through the supernatural power of God you were instantaneously and miraculously changed on the inside if you received Jesus as Lord and Savior. You were given a new heart for God, but transformation (or sanctification) is a process that requires you allowing God to take control …

Sunning Turtles

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I came across there three turtles in a Texas botanical garden. It was clear that they were sunning themselves on that rock, but what caught my attention was that the adult and baby turtles all looked exactly alike with necks stretched and heads held high while the rear legs were extended far to the back.

Now, I understand that this is just a characteristic of the species but for some reason I was thinking about how people will often resemble these turtles. While positioning themselves above others and their noses raised high, they look down on others as less significant, less worthy, and less valued.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." (Romans 12:3)

The Psalmist wrote (Psalm 75:4-5)...
I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.’”


Someone may have more money than another, but in God's eyes both are eq…

Be a Charlotte

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Do you remember the story of Charlotte's Web? Charlotte was a spider that made Wilbur the pig famous, sparing him from slaughter by writing words of praise for the pig on her web.

Each day I try to encourage you with words of encouragement from Scripture and pictures that represent those concepts in order to spare you unnecessary troubles and a life separated from Jesus Christ. The prophet Habakkuk was told by God to do similarly.

The Lord answered me, “Write down what I show you. Write it clearly on a sign so that the message will be easy to read. ~Habakkuk 2:2

It is my desire that God will speak to you through His Word and His creation each day and that the message will be clearly seen and easy to read. I cannot spin a web but I can take pictures and share Bible verses.

May you also be a Charlotte who rescues people from danger through words of praise, encouragement and gifts that God has given you. God bless you!

New Every Morning

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Sometimes my day brings unexpected stress and burdens that go with me into the night. It might be related to family, friends, work or personal concerns. At least twice in the Bible we are told how to handle this but my human nature has a hard time releasing even that which I have no power to change.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. ~Psalm 55:22

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

I know I'm not the only one like this and that many of you reading this post feel the intermittent or constant weightiness of physical, emotional and financial strain. For many, each new day brings a new set of woes for which you have no immediate answers or relief.

The prophet Jeremiah understood your pain. He too suffered much. He is known in the Bible as the weeping prophet and he even wrote a book called Lamentations (meaning, to express sorrow or grief). However, in those times of affliction, wandering, and bit…

Making a Name

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Yes, I am one of THOSE tourists. I have a camera strapped to my side and I am looking up at all the really tall buildings that appear to touch the sky.

This building in Dallas, TX really struck me as an incredible feat of architectural design and ingenuity. Sure, there are buildings taller than this in other cities, but this one in particular rose WAY above the rest where I roamed.

Looking up at it reminded me of the biblical story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 where the people gathered together and said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves..." The end result was God confusing the people by giving each person a new, unknown language so that they were no longer able to built this unified structure to glorify themselves... and they were scattered across the earth.

As we revisit this story, we should consider just how much pride can fill our hearts with notions of personal greatness and draw us aw…

Poisons Inside

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Milkweed Bugs eat milkweed seeds. They are actually more of a nuisance than a threat. They have a long mouth-part known as a “rostrum” which they use to pierce the plant’s seed pods and suck juices right out of the seeds themselves. Milkweed bugs can be found in all stages of growth on the plants in mid to late summer.

As with Monarch Butterflies, the toxic glycosides from the plant make the bug distasteful to predators, and their orange color serves as a warning. Birds know not to eat them.

Okay, I know you're wondering how I'm going to turn this one around into a life lesson. So ask yourself this question: "What is it that I consume that makes me distasteful to others?"

If you spend your days consuming garbage on the computer, television and phone then it is very likely that you will be regurgitating that same poison to others through rude behavior, gossip, lewd speech and inappropriate comments. What goes into your mind pollutes the heart and generally comes out of t…

To Be Still and Know

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The morning mist danced upon the waters as the sun rose this morning over Lake Louise in Toccoa, GA. The sky was painted with shades of orange, red, yellow and Georgia peach (of course) as darkness gave way to light. 
There was stillness in the air...not even a hint of wind. Branches from a partially submerged log poked through the calm, reflective waters. God was there and I was attentive in my quiet peace.
In that moment I recalled the Lord's words to "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
If you are not hearing Him, then you may possibly be too busy, or more concerned about lifting yourself up rather than exalting God.

Drama in Life's Desert Places

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This photo may not portray chaos or disaster, yet there is a very real life and death struggle for plants and animals alike in the western U.S. deserts. Life is tough here with extreme temperatures and very little water, so just existing takes everything a living creature can muster to survive.

While your life and mine may not reflect the struggle faced daily in the desert, we all experience times when we need more help than what we or others can provide. I think of those who annually face the ravages of fire, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and more. I see news stories daily of dangers experienced on the streets. I hear of family members and friends fighting cancer. There are loved ones trying to get back on their feet after a job loss.

Folks, let's face it... we all struggle. We are either coming out of a crisis, in the midst of one, or just about to enter into one. But there is hope to be found wherever you may be or in whatever situation you may find yourself. There i…

Webs We Weave

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This massive spider was hanging out in the open but not far from its dark hiding place. Sharon's eagle eye spotted this creature as we walked along Porter's Creek Trail in the Smokies while I focused on waterfalls and wildflowers. I almost wish she had not seen it because now you have to.

Spiders make me think of a lot of things (usually involving poison, flames, hammers, etc.) but also of the webs WE weave. Walter Scott penned the phrase "O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!"

Wonderopolis.org reports that unlike unsuspecting prey, spiders don't come into contact with their webs all at once. Instead, they move nimbly along the strands of their webs with only the hairs on the tips of their legs making contact with the sticky threads. This minimizes the chances that they'll get caught in their own trap! To avoid sticky situations, spiders also groom themselves very carefully. Spiders routinely clean their legs of all pieces of silk a…

Light of the World

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Is it worth getting up at 3:30 AM and driving 3 hours in the dark to photograph a scene like this? You betcha it is!

On this particular Friday morning we arose from a good night's sleep and packed our bags in the car to catch sunrise from the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook in the Great Smoky Mountains. Sharon and I arrived about five minutes AFTER sunrise so we missed a lot of the changes that occur for 30 minutes preceding the earth's awakening, but I was not disappointed in the least to witness the sun's rays streaming across the mountaintops and filling the hazy valley with vivid color.

It's so easy for me to contemplate God's presence at a moment like this. Jesus said, "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." ~John 12:46

The darkness of night that accompanied me for three hours was no match for the overwhelming power and intensity of light that shown over the mountain range. The evil and dark forces…

Root on Which to Stand

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What keeps you standing when the waves are washing the sand out from under your feet? When trials, struggles and hard times try their best to knock you down? You look around and feel all alone. No one is there to support and encourage you. Where does the strength come from to stand... to endure... to courageously persist?

The tree pictured here on Driftwood Beach of Jekyll Island, GA can only stand because of its root. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, "You do not support the root, but the root supports you." (Romans 11:18)

What is the root that enables you to be supported? Paul again writes, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7)

You will continue to stand when:

1) You receive Jesus Christ as Lord
2) You live your life in Him (His power, not yours)
3) You are nurtured & grow in…

Living in Wholehearted Devotion

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Tipton Place homestead was initially settled by Revolutionary War Veteran William “Fighting Billy” Tipton in the 1820s. He was able to procure the land under the Tennessee Land Grant program.

The two-story cabin that remains on the property was initially constructed by Fighting Billy’s relative and Civil War Veteran Colonel Hamp Tipton. He built the large cabin in the early 1870s.

In 1878, their house was rented to James McCaulley, who was trying to settle in the cove. McCaulley was a welcome newcomer to Cades Cove as he was a blacksmith. In time, McCaulley built his own home along with top quality blacksmith and carpentry shops. McCaulley was a trusted blacksmith, carpenter and coffin maker, working in Cades Cove for a quarter of a century.

I've heard many times from friends that they would love to live in a place like that. Personally, I think the lack of modern day conveniences would soon drag you back into reality. Those were tough times and people had to be strong physically, sh…

Mountainside Experiences

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There's nothing like a foggy fall day in Cades Cove... with cool temps, colorful leaves and photographic opportunities everywhere you look. Honestly, I wish I could stop time when I'm in the Great Smoky Mountains in Autumn.

But then... I must remind myself that there is so much to take in all times of the year there. Wildflowers bloom profusely in spring, the deer and bears become most active in summer, and frost covers the landscape like a blanket of shimmering diamonds in the winter.

Yes, my Smoky Mountains are like heaven on earth especially when you can escape the crowds and enjoy the solitude available outside the highly visited areas. It is a place where you can refocus your life and commune with your Creator.

Even Jesus found it important to escape the crowds into the mountains in order to talk to His Father (especially before making important decisions). Luke writes...

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:1…

Moon and Son

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It's quite humorous to me how clearly we can see an object 238,855 miles away in space yet fail to recognize something right under our nose. Of course, it's not so funny when I'm the one searching and hunting for that "lost" object.

Jesus talked about lost objects to His disciples... a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. In each case these were possessions that meant a great deal to the one from whom they were separated. The Bible describes those who are separated from God as being lost, and how it was Jesus' very mission on earth to seek them out and restore them to God the Father.

Jesus said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Our Heavenly Father loves you so much that He sent His Son to find you and restore you to a right relationship with Him. To be lost means you are of great value. To be found is even better. This should not be news to most -- it's been right under your nose for years. Take the blinders off and …

More Powerful Than a Locomotive

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Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound... yes, you know this as the opening line for the old TV show "Superman."

I remember as a young boy pretending to be Superman as I jumped off porches with my towel cape pinned to my shirt. I actually dreamed at night of flying (although for some reason I was never as graceful as Superman). He made being super look easy. But, he was not invincible. You remember the one thing that could take away those super powers -- Kryptonite.

Thankfully we do not have to trust in the power of superheroes in real life. We have someone much more powerful who is watching over us -- the Lord God Almighty. He is described in the Bible as being:

OMNIPOTENT: All Powerful (Genesis 17:1)
God has supreme power. This means He can do what he wants. He is not subject to physical limitations like man. God has power over wind, water, gravity, physics, etc. God's power is infinite, or limitless.

OM…