Showing posts from August, 2019

Light of Illumination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 …