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Showing posts from May, 2019

We... Like Leaves

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I can't help but think of our personal existence as I gaze upon the leaves. Some never form due to adverse weather during the early stages, some become food for grazing insects and animals, and others live through their entire life cycle... departing in a blaze of glory. Yet, they all have one thing in common -- none live forever.

Speaking with a friend who had a near-death experience, she said that she never knew what hit her. An unknown and unexpected brain aneurysm hit so suddenly that she immediately passed out. That could very easily have been the day she met the Lord face-to-face. The same is true for each of us in that we have no idea when we will say our last "I love you" or breathe our last on this planet. Physical death is no respecter of persons and can happen to babies, children, teens and adults -- all ages, all levels of fitness.

Here's where I'm going with this and I hope you'll stay with me for a few more moments. If it is certain that we will A…

The Mountain Maker

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Across the landscape as far as you can see, mountain ridges, one after another, like ocean waves. What a beautiful sight first thing in the morning. What a beautiful sight any time, for that matter.

I am blessed beyond measure to call the Mountain Maker my Lord, my Father, my Savior and my God. He is my hope now and for all eternity. And He answers my prayers with awesome deeds. NOTHING is impossible for God.

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power... (Psalm 65:5-6)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Oconaluftee Valley Overlook

Soothing Streams of Life

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In the Smokies high country, over 85" of rain falls on average each year, feeding over 2,100 miles of rushing mountain streams and rivers that flow through the park.

Water is the life-giving flow to plants and animals alike. As a result, both flourish in the Park. The very sound and sight of moving water in the Smokies soothes the soul and spirit.

It should be no surprise that Jesus equates the new life He offers to living water. His invitation to humankind is “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)

Are you thirsty for more than what this world offers? Then come and drink from the living water that never runs dry.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Change

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Change is inevitable. Most of us don't like it. We are comfortable with status quo. It's been said that the only ones who like change are babies with dirty diapers, but I can attest that even they pitch a fit when it's time for a change.

However, I can tell you unequivocally (do you like that big word?) that I love the season change from summer to fall -- minus the allergies I suffer during a short period at its onset. The cooler air, the frost, the leaf color, fresh apples, pumpkin pie, and the list goes on.

So, while we may just have to live with the constant ebb and flow of change in our lives, there is one constant that you can depend on... GOD.

Daniel 2:21 reads, "He changes times and seasons" but God Himself declares, "I am the Lord, I change not." (Malachi 3:6)

Why is that a big deal? Because what God says, He will do. His promises are trustworthy. His character is unquestionable. What you read in Scripture is still true today, was true before it was…

Let's Head for the Barn!

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"It's getting late. Let's head to the barn!"

Chances are you've either said that or remember a parent or grandparent urge you to head home once the sun began to set low in the sky.

This is a picture of the cantilever barn in Cades Cove at the Cable Mill area. There are a couple examples of cantilever barns on the 11-mile loop through Cades Cove. While they may take on slightly different shapes, it was a design in which the upper story was larger than its base.

These barns featured an overhang for an upper loft. The lofts were used for storage of hay or other materials and the lower crib areas were where livestock was kept. This design allowed animals, which were normally outside, to stand underneath the overhang in order to get out of the sun or rain. The farm animals resting under the eaves in Cades Cove would have included pigs, hogs, chickens, goats and (in winter) cattle.

So, all in all heading to the barn is not such a bad thing. Animals found a place of food, s…

A Place of Rest

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Do you ever feel that life is so hectic that you don't have any time for yourself much less quality time with the Lord? Jesus' disciples found themselves in that situation repeatedly. The Lord took note of their need for rest and beckoned them to go to a quiet place with Him where they could recharge.

Do you need to find that quiet place with Christ where you too can find rest from your weary day, busy life, and constant demands? You do? Then seek it out... even for 15-minutes at a time if necessary. Jesus is calling you to come and join Him.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Great Smoky Mountains

Coming Up Around the Bend

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If you follow any Smoky Mountain photographer then this picture is almost cliche'. It was taken at the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook on Hwy 441 as the road leads up to Newfound Gap.

This is a scene from early fall. The colors were changing nicely at that higher elevation. What you cannot see is what is right around the corner on that road. Now, we can all imagine the snaky road as it weaves past the rock cliffs, the intersection for Clingmans Dome and finally Newfound Gap... but honestly, you cannot tell that by looking at this picture and you cannot know for sure what you will encounter until you actually drive up that road personally.

Life is like that, isn't it. Based on past experience we imagine in our mind's eye what the future might hold -- what is just around the bend -- but truly, we have no earthly idea. Only God knows that and WE aren't HE. Yet, we generally move forward anticipating the best, but often times we find ourselves very anxious as we consider the wor…

Grace Flows Down

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There is a song I love singing by the Passion Worship Band called Grace Flows Down. The lyrics are very simple:

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
Amazing love now flowing down
From hands and feet that were nailed to the tree
As Grace flows down and covers me
It covers me. It covers me.
It covers me. And covers me.

What is grace? It is more than a prayer spoken before you eat a meal. Grace has been defined as unmerited favor. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.

How can God be so kind? Because of Jesus. His blood shed at Calvary flowed down that cross, providing us the way to forgiveness and accessibility to God the Father. Just as the water in this picture flows freely down these rocks, the grace of God flows freely to all who receive Christ as Lord.

The Apostle Paul writes that we "are justified (made right) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption (price paid) that is in Christ Jesus."

The writer …

A Change of Plans

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Many of you know that over the last three or four years I have been plagued with vocal chord issues that pretty much keep me out of the preaching circuit and from leading worship. However, by God's grace or perhaps His providence He has given me what I believe is an even greater platform from which to testify of His amazing power, plan and purpose.

Photography is now my pulpit from which Christ is proclaimed and receives all praise. I don't need a congregation or a building to click a pic and post. My audience is unlimited if God chooses to open greater doors of opportunity for a Gospel witness of this kind. But I am sincerely humbled to be able to share daily right now with you. We did not meet on Facebook by accident. We were brought together to learn from and encourage one another through this life.

I'm learning that as I go through struggles, it is often hard to see God's master design, but I am honored that He rerouted my passions so that I can make much of Him usin…

Have You Missed the Spring?

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Interesting Fact: Noah Ogle had running water in his cabin.

Noah “Bud” Ogle and his wife Cindy first settled in what is now Gatlinburg in 1879. On their 400 acre farm they built the cabin that still stands near downtown Gatlinburg. Located near the start of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, the Ogle cabin gives a glimpse of what pioneer life was like in the Appalachian Mountains.

The Ogle cabin also had a very unique feature for the time... running water. A wooden plume ran from the spring near the cabin down to the back porch. Once there, the water poured into a double sink, made from a large log.

Now, here is where it get embarrassing for me. I have been visiting and photographing this cabin for decades, yet it wasn't until this last trip that I even saw (and paid attention to) the spring at the top of the hill above the cabin and just below the roadbed. In fact, water is still flowing from that spring to this day. I'm pretty certain that the CCC or NPS built the stone struc…

Tracks in the Heart

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This is where the dirt road ends and pavement begins. There are a lot of tire tracks found in that loose, red Georgia soil, but you will not see a single impression in the asphalt (except maybe on a blistering hot Summer's day when you can fry an egg on that surface).

I believe most people reading my posts would rather have a dirt road over asphalt. They would prefer a slow ride down a quiet, country road over the hectic hustle of the big city traffic jungle.

This photo speaks to me about the condition of a person's heart though. There are strangers, friends and family you meet regularly who appear on the surface to be hardhearted. They haven't always been that way but circumstances turned their warm heart of compassion into a cold heart of stone -- and nothing or no one can make a positive impression on them or move them. And then there are those whose hearts are soft, pliable, vulnerable... people on whom others leave a deep impression -- sometimes for bad, but mostly for…

Confidence - Misdirected and Assured

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A MISDIRECTED CONFIDENCE

Quote from the Movie:
"We'll give him more than chains. He's always been king of his world, but we'll teach him fear. We're millionaires, boys. I'll share it with all of you. Why, in a few months, it'll be up in lights on Broadway: Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World."

God warns man about placing confidence in status, power and reckless behavior.

Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence. (Psalm 49:12-13a)

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. (Psalm 146:3)

The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence. (Proverbs 14:6)

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AN ASSURED CONFIDENCE

An assured confidence does not rest on human accomplishments or wealth. An assured confidence lies in the hope, grace and help of our God and Savior alone.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord…

Light in the Valley

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This is a sunrise photo from the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook on Highway 441 in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is one of my favorite sunrise locations as you've seen before because of where the sun appears on the horizon, the layers of ridges, and the frequently present clouds hovering just over the mountains.

The thing about sunrise photos is that you never know what to expect, particularly if you set out in the early morning hours while it is still very dark. Actually, this is the only way to do it otherwise you will miss all those sweet colors that appear with the very first light -- generally 45 minutes before the sun actually shows itself.

In this case, there were no clouds in the sky so the orange and yellow tones that appeared prior to the actual sunrise were not reflected off the clouds but off the chemicals naturally and unnaturally found in the atmosphere (yes, even traces of smog can produce appealing colors on the horizon). And as it grew lighter, more of the valley reveal…

When the Lights Come On

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I rarely photograph the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge during the day. There's just something mesmerizing about shooting a long exposure image of the water cascading over the dam with the lights reflecting in the water. The mill just seems to exude new life and character at night.

I don't know about you but I am drawn to the historic structures that remind us of decades long gone. I am thrilled when people care enough to maintain and/or restore them for present and future generations.

I believe giving the next generation something tangible to experience of the past is vital. I believe that consistently living out our lives for the Lord today in front of this generation of young people is vital to raising up strong adults who will continue a faith journey which will lead future generations to the Lord too.

But here's my concern... what was spoken of concerning the Israelite nation in Judges 2:10 is far too real in today's American society as well.

"And all that generation al…

Streams of Mercy

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When in the Smokies, I love coming down out of the mountains and stopping at many of the streams, creeks, brooks, and waterfalls along the way. There is a sense of peace and calmness that accompanies the sound and scene before you.

I am reminded that following a mountaintop experience there is only one place to go -- down. It's not unusual to feel depressed, forsaken, lonely, bored, hurting and afraid right after having a grand and golden sunrise moment.

Can I reassure you of something? God gives us those mountaintop moments to remind us of Himself and His presence in our lives, but those rivers of peace, calm, love, mercy and grace do not flow UP... they flow DOWN. So as you journey toward or dwell in that valley experience please know that God's goodness is flowing to where you are. Open your eyes to His life-giving, life-sustaining flow so that you will be re-energized, rejuvenated and restored in whatever situation you find yourself in.

The same God in the mountain is the sam…

Movers and Shapers

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Have you noticed how smooth the rocks and boulders are in the river beds of the Great Smoky Mountains? Obviously the rocks are much harder than water, but it is the water that shapes the rocks and not vice versa.

Yes, rocks may divert the flow temporarily, but sooner or later the force of rushing water will inevitably move or reshape even the largest of stones.

You may have found yourself between a rock and a hard place in life and the weight of your circumstances seem unmovable, yet I am here to encourage you -- prayer, like the rushing waters, touches the heart of God to move or smooth those obstacles which seem too heavy to bear on your own.

Jesus told His followers, "Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."…

The Road Ahead

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No one can predict what lies ahead. We can look forward with hope or we can tremble with fear as we consider the future. Would the next few moments after taking this photo provide other spectacular displays of light or would a torrential rain pound on us for the remainder of our journey?

Proverbs 27:1 reads, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring."

Jesus tells us, "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:34)

Only God knows what the next moment holds for us. We should be consumed with neither boasting nor fear. While I may not know how this day will unfold, I do know Who holds me securely in His grip. So, by faith I trust Him.

Hopping Into Streams

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SURPRISE! I like to photograph mountain streams!

Okay, maybe it's not such a surprise. Considering my past experiences in and around mountain streams you can rest assured that I take the utmost caution when rock hopping nowadays. However, to me the reward outweighs the risk.

In what areas of your life do you find yourself going beyond your comfort zone for a greater purpose? Jesus gave us a command to love our neighbor as our ourselves. In a story He defines a neighbor as someone in need. Perhaps God is nudging you to reach out to that friend, coworker, family member or stranger who needs a helping hand, friendly smile or word of encouragement.

James, the brother of Jesus, was very pragmatic about a visible faith when he wrote:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm a…

Days Like Two Hand Widths

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Wes King wrote a song called "Life is Precious" with the following chorus:

Life is precious, life is sweet
Like the earth beneath my feet
Though I know I'm passing through
I know I belong to You
Life is precious, life is sweet
And this truth makes it complete
Knowing Jesus died for me
Life is precious
Life is precious, life is sweet


The older I get the more precious I value my life, my relationships, my memories and most importantly, my salvation. Truthfully though, life is not always sweet but each passing minute is both precious and priceless because once that moment is gone we can never retrieve it for a do-over. I love taking pictures because it at least helps me remember those events that could easily get lost in my graying brain matter.

I'm not sure exactly how much time is in a hand width or "hand breath" as found in some Bible translations, but the verses in Psalm 39:5-7 written by David below seems to indicate that it is very short in comparison to eternity. …

The King

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Monarch butterflies are the most beautiful of all butterflies, some say, and are considered the “king” of the butterflies, hence the name “monarch”. Likewise, the name "monarch" is believed to be given in honor of King William III of England, whose secondary title Prince of Orange makes a reference to the butterfly's main color.

However, there is but one who is both Lord of lords and King of Kings and that is God Almighty. Meditate on the words of the Psalmist David this morning and praise our Lord and King!

The Lord is King for ever and ever. (Psalm 10:16)

Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:10)

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. (Psalm 29:10)

For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. (Psalm 47:2)

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3)

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 10…

Are You Ready for What's Around the Corner?

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The Great Smoky Mountains transform into rolling waves of color in Autumn. Often, the window of opportunity to photograph peak leaf color in a particular location might be rather short. However, since there is such a wide range of elevation you can find colorful displays for a solid month or more somewhere from the ridge lines to the valley floors.

Timing is everything whether your subject is a blooming wildflower, nursing black bear, fence-jumping deer, flowing waterfall or a vibrant leaf display. There is always something to shoot though, so a good photographer is always prepared for the expected and unexpected around the corner.

What about you? Are you ready for what's around the corner? No, I'm not talking about photography now. I'm talking about life. As much as we plan and prepare for tomorrow there is one thing that you can count on... the unexpected. You can save your money for decades just to have the stock market collapse. You can plan for a once-in-a-lifetime vaca…

Unsalty

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I was sad and disheartened when I passed by this little church building and noticed that it was boarded up and abandoned -- DEAD. Yet, all around it were green signs of LIFE and vitality.

I'm afraid this is a reality more and more frequently as the communities around many of our houses of worship blossom and thrive while the number of people attending church services are in decline. More houses of recreation...and less houses of worship.

I realize there are many reasons for this phenomenon in America. We have been the third largest mission field in the world for at least a decade or two now. Wealth, knowledge, spiritual bankruptcy, hedonism, self-centeredness, pride, independence, division, lack of clear spiritual leadership in our homes and very little real discipleship happening in our churches... and the list goes on.

What you see is what Jesus described when the church (Christians) become tasteless (uninteresting, unsavory, weak, stale, unappetizing) and good for nothing (ineffec…

Lifted Up

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Have you noticed recently how busy life can be and how focused you find yourself on everything going on around you -- job, family, chores, bills, hobbies, even Facebook -- yet neglect the very ONE who sustains you unquestionably, cares for you unconditionally, and loves you immeasurably?

Suffering and trials teach me great humility as I recognize my inadequacy to truly effect change in my life and the life of people close to me except through total dependency on God and the power He has to make the impossible possible. So, I have determined to not just pray but to pray hard in those circumstances, knowing that God is my only hope.

When tragedy strikes, suddenly your perspective on what's truly important is modified and your faith in God is solidified. As a result, I spend more time with my heavenly Father and looking up to the only One who can truly bring healing, comfort, peace and restoration.

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! ~Psalm 123:1

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