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Archive for the ‘Beautiful Places’ Category

Certain lessons seem to be particularly important for me to “get” because they are being reinforced  almost weekly.  Last week an exclamation point was made on the lesson – “It may not be what you expect, but trust Me, My plan is better!”

We visited our two married daughters over the course of last week.  Rhiannon and Jeff in Chattanooga Thursday – Sunday morning and then Christin and Michael in Elizabethton Sunday – Tuesday.  Everything went pretty much like we planned with Rhiannon and Jeff, but it seemed like every plan we made with Christin had to be scrapped or modified heavily.  No worries, we were just happy to be spending time together.

Monday afternoon one modified plan had us drive to the top of Roan Mountain where we enjoyed some beautiful views from the bald mountain top.  The wonderful 360 degree view had us thinking about sunrise pics over the NC mountains.  Checking the weather in Elizabethton, 20 miles away we saw that the weather report was promising and the plan was hatched.

 

Tuesday morning we arose at 4:45 am and we were headed out of town 15 minutes later.  We were excited to see a star studded sky as we rolled out of Elizabethton heading toward Roan Mountain.  Two miles from the top of the mountain was when I first noticed the moisture on the road.  A mile from the top I noticed the stiff breeze that hadn’t been present on any of our drive thus far.  Shortly thereafter wisps of cloud started sweeping across in front of the car and for the last 200 yards I had to drive at a snail’s pace into the parking lot because of the thick fog.

We were still an hour before sunrise.  I am quite used to fog.  But fog is usually stationary settling into the low areas on windless mornings.  On the mountaintop it was foggy with a 15 – 20 mph breeze driving it.  Undeterred we gathered camera, tri-pod, flashlights and goody bag and headed up the 3/4 mile hike to the top of the mountain in a cold, drizzly, windy fog hoping for the best.

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This is about 15 minutes before sunrise and we were beginning to think the sun may not actually burn through the fog like we were hoping.

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This is when you kinda wished you hadn’t been told about the number of bear sightings up on the mountain.

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Inside the woods the wind was blocked and it was eerily peaceful.

That breeze that we experienced in the Parking Lot was a foretaste and not the real deal.  We broke out of the woods about half way to the top and realized that the exposed mountain bald seemed to increase the wind intensity by at least a factor of two.

We made it to the top of the mountain, thankful that we had also been there the day before so we recognized some rock outcroppings as landmarks.  We hunkered down behind a rock for a bit hoping the clouds would clear and we would get some sunrise shots.  But while the clouds around us brightened as sunrise arrived the wind didn’t let up and the fog never thinned.

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The view right at sunrise… at least according to our watch.

Since we had been to the mountain the day before, we knew that amazing panoramic views existed from right where we were huddled.  Yet the wind, fog, and rain made it difficult to remember just how beautiful it was.  I was struck with how graphic an illustration that is of the impact of trials in our life.  When life is good it’s easy to see God’s hand at work.  But when trials press upon us it often becomes much harder to discern God’s actions on our behalf.  It is in these times that our faith is stretched.  Holding onto the reality that we have previously experienced – God’s faithful provision, is just like remembering the mountain view we had seen the day before.  We may not see it at the moment, but we know it exists.  Our task is to remember and wait for the reality to be revealed again.

We slowly made our way back down to the car and then headed back down the mountain.  A deer  came up beside us on the road and we slowed to let it pass.  A mile down the road we were out of the fog.

As we progressed down the mountain we saw sunshine followed by a brief rain shower.  The thought passed through my mind, “Sun and rain, I wonder if there’s a rainbow somewhere?”  Through a break in the trees just prior to the final overlook I could see a shower in the valley beside the mountain and a slight brightening where the sun was trying to break through.  As we rounded the curve at the final overlook this is the view that we saw.

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We were shocked by how quickly this rainbow appeared.

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The colors were vibrant and yet it was continually shifting from a single to a double and from a full to a partial rainbow.

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For a few seconds it formed a full rainbow… and we just happened to be in the right spot to catch it in all it’s glory.

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We couldn’t quite tell if the pot of gold was in that little barn or the orchard beside it.  What we knew for a certainty was that our Heavenly Father was enjoying our laughter and celebration with us as we alternately uttered words of praise and gasps of wonder while we snapped pics.

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The double rainbow was fleeting, but we saw it come and go two or three times in then 3 – 5 minutes the rainbow was visible.

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Looking toward the sun… and giving praise to the Son.

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The final pic as the shower ceased and the rainbow quickly faded.

The entire rainbow celebration lasted less than 5 minutes, but a number of things stood out to me.

  • We had to make the journey to be able to see the rainbow.  We didn’t know the rainbow was the purpose and penultimate pic of the trip, but our Father did.
  • We tarried in the dark, in the rain, in the wind, in the fog, and ultimately made close to a 2 mile hike seemingly in a lost cause, but God had a better plan.
  • We had to be in exactly the right spot AND at exactly the right time to see and enjoy the rainbow like we did.  If we had rushed at any point in the morning’s journey we would have missed it.
  • Our response to seeing the rainbow was pure wonder, celebration, and thankfulness to our gracious heavenly Father for this simple, but beautiful blessing.  And I believe He enjoyed it as much as we did.

Finally I remember where God first introduced the rainbow to His creation.  It’s in Genesis chapter 9:12-17.  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

We didn’t get what we expected, but what we got was so much better.

And that’s just the way God is with His children.

Be blessed today and be a blessing!  If you like this, please share it with a friend.

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At some point in our lives, most of us want to hear God speak directly to us, directly into our life situation.  I am convinced that intimacy with God is our highest calling.  What Adam had in the garden before the Fall is a picture of what life in Christ can become… intimate, familiar, loving, without secrets or shame, the PERFECT relationship.  But for almost all of us we are still a long, long ways from it.

If intimacy with God is our highest calling, then why do we struggle so with achieving it?  Why is it that we don’t hear about or see where God is speaking to people regularly?  Why does my prayer life feel more like a one sided conversation than a dialog?  Why is the silence so quiet?

A conversation this weekend has brought this question into my spirit and I have been wrestling with it for three days now.  While I suspect there may be other reasons, I have insight into some of the reasons and a path through a season of silence that may be beneficial for you.

Let’s begin with the order of priorities God has for us.  The most important thing God has for us is to know Him.  That is priority #1.  Not knowing ABOUT Him, but knowing Him.  He sent Jesus to earth to engage humanity face to face, skin to skin, heart to heart.  Jesus’ life on planet earth was brief – 30 or so years, but in God’s providential plan, He inspired the writing of the Word which not only fleshes out the “God Story” for the billions of us who did not get to know Him in the flesh, but creates the pathway to meet and truly know Him.  Also in His plan, Jesus’ resurrection means Jesus is alive.  If He is alive then He is knowable.  At my conversion, I believe Jesus was right there with me, talking to me, offering me life in Him.  When I accepted, He placed His Holy Spirit within me and I was changed.  I know it.  I felt it.  Others saw it and commented on it.  It really happened.  Now humanity’s enemy, the bible calls Him Satan, has periodically tried to convince me otherwise.  Most of His attempts have been to get my eyes off Jesus, my spiritual ears from listening to the Holy Spirit, and my actions away from intimacy with God.  Those times I have been diverted, quiet ensued.  This brings me to the first reason we may enter a time of silence in our relationship with the Lord.

Spiritual warfare is a reality.  The enemy actively fights against God.  The children of God, believers who have been saved through faith in Christ, are at the frontline of that war.  There are many similarities in warfare we see and what goes on in the spiritual realm, but I want to focus upon one aspect – communication.  Knowing the battle plan and keeping in touch with command is vital in battle.  This is often hard to do, particularly when the fight is intense and the din of battle drowns out all other sound.  Spiritual warfare will have times when we are getting hit with any number of  assaults.  The good news is our Lord God is the ultimate Commander in Chief.  He has both a plan and resources to win the war and bring us through the battle.  When we are in the battle, we may not clearly hear Him, but we can trust Him.  We make our requests, we hold our position, and we do what we know from His Word we are to do.  In the absence of a clear word from the Lord, we trust the Word of the Lord and the last thing He told us to do.  And we hold on.  We also look for reinforcements.  This would be Godly friends who can come alongside us in the fight.  Ones who will join us in the battle.  Ones who will also be communicating with our Commander, the Lord God Almighty, about our needs.  Scriptures for this are 2Cor 10:3-5 and Eph 6:10-18.

Reason 2.

On-going sin.  Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins – all of them.  God in His wisdom has given us a role to play in our salvation.  We repent – we turn away from sin and turn to God.  There are many things that can be said about why sin is such an evil thing, but for the sake of this discussion I’m going to focus upon just one aspect.  From where we stand sin lies in the opposite direction of God.  If we choose to run after sin, we are turning our back on God.  Have you ever noticed the orientation of our ears?  They are cupped forward.  This allows the capture and amplification of sounds in front of us.  This also provides a degree of shielding from sound waves coming from behind us.  This is a physical picture of a spiritual truth.  When we turn away from God, it becomes much more difficult to hear God’s voice calling us back to Him.  That which we are facing grows louder and more strident.  The voice of God grows harder to hear.  And God seldom shouts.  Hopefully I can come back to that theme in another post.  God can and will shout, but it is the exception rather than the rule.  His gentle whisper and subtle nudges are the norm.

The remedy when on-going sin causes us to lose awareness of God’s voice is simple, if not necessarily easy.  Cease the sin immediately, repent, confess, and seek the Lord’s help through Godly friends and counselors who can help you take your next steps.  In this I have seen an accountability partner provide tremendous benefits.  God works through His people in the healing process.

Reason 3.

Emotional wounds not dealt with.  My understanding of God is that He has saved me utterly and completely.  My experience has been that in a few cases God walks me through the healing of damage created by sin, my sin and the sins others have done to me, over time.  Although I have been a believer for 30+ years, there are still times of periodic cleansing, teaching, and healing that He does in me years after I felt Him power-wash my soul.  I am getting into an area that still holds a degree of mystery for me, but I have seen this at work in my life and in others.  God will choose to heal some things from our past years into our walk with Him.  The forgiveness has long since been applied, but sometimes God wants to heal the scars.  In some cases our stuffed hurt actually encases a bit of poison that must be removed.  If the Lord wants to do the healing, our role is to allow Him, the Great Physician, to do surgery.  Covering it up, holding it in, saying it doesn’t exist does not further the Lord’s work in this area.  Giving it to the Lord, confessing and lifting it up to Him, is the right thing to do.  One of the areas I have seen this frequently take place is for people who have been victimized by sexual sin.  Opening up about this to a caring and wise counselor is a one of the most benefical steps in the healing process.

Reason 4.

Our unrealized expectations of God leading to a “God Grudge”.  An unfortunate situation often occurs when a person comes to faith.  A well-meaning soul will tell the new convert something like, “You are changed and your life will be rich, full, and exciting because you are a Christian.”  While there are many blessings that come with being a Christ-follower, absence from life’s difficulties is not one of them.  In fact, when we immerse ourselves into living a fully surrendered life we will experience times of need that lead us into greater dependence upon Him.  Sadly many believers reach a point where their expectations are not met, but rather than seeking Godly counsel, they bottle up the disappointment and trudge on.  Over time and as more unrealized expectations occur, a God Grudge develops.

I have seen this and been fortunate enough to speak words of encouragement to people to help them identify the source of their grudge and help them take it to God.  He already knows we are holding it.  He just wants us to admit it and then give it to him.  I can think of five situations where the persons took this step of faith and within a month a break-through in the natural realm of a long-standing problem was manifested.  Intimacy requires honesty.  God can handle our honesty.  We just need to be open to what He has to say back to us.  Psalm 51 resonates for Reasons 2 – 4.

Reason 5.

Disobedience to what the Lord has said.  I know that disobedience to the Lord is sin, but I want to zero in on disobedience to God’s personal word to us.  I shared my most poignant and painful example of this in a post last summer. https://areliablefaith.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/responding-to-the-nudge/.  In this story I share how I rationalized my way out of obedience to the Holy Spirit’s nudge and the consequences were significant.  This example and some lesser periods of waffling when presented with promptings from the Lord have clearly shown me that quiet ensues when we ignore what the Lord tells us.

Our Pastor has shared this with us as well.  “Have you done the last thing I told you?”  This is the question the Lord has laid on his heart when he has tried to maintain a dialog, while not being fully obedient to the last thing the Lord told Him to do.  I admit to the same thing.  A few years back I went through an extended time where the Lord repeatedly brought the same scripture to my mind as I prayed.  It wasn’t until I obeyed the practical application of that scripture that my prayer life moved forward.

God is not into superficiality.  There is no façade that works.  Obedience is essential if we desire unhindered dialog with the Lord.

Reason 6.

We are to wait.  This one is perhaps the most common for me.  And it really only becomes an issue when we get our priorities backwards.  At the beginning I said our #1 priority is to Know the Lord.  For the finite to know the Infinite takes all our life and at the end we will still fall far short of knowing God fully.  But that is what God desires and has called us to.  Part of the process for getting to know the Lord is that we walk in our second priority which is: Know and Do the Things God Wants Us to Do.  Life spent being where God wants and doing what God created us to do is a life well lived.  However, our “doing for God” can usurp our first priority – Knowing God.  When this happens we can get out of the Lord’s whisper range and we can move into the realm of silence.

I have fallen into this pit more than once.  I am an active person.  I also tend toward being a workaholic.  I struggled to type that because in my mind I am just thorough, but my wife and others have pointed this out with enough examples that I cannot deny it.  It is not uncommon for me to get involved in a good thing but fail to take the time to validate it against the Lord’s leading.  Being over-committed to good things invariably leads to being under-committed to the best things.

The solution here is pretty simple.  Make the #1 priority the #1 priority.  Isaiah 40:31 is on the spot.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  The shall mount up with wings like eagles.  They shall run and not grow weary.  They shall walk and not faint.”

If we seek first God and His righteousness, then we put ourselves in position to hear, to learn, and to move when He says move.  For me waiting is manifested in a number of ways, but let me share my primary few.

1) Rising early with the bible, a cup of coffee, and a heart to enjoy anything new that I perceive is from the Lord.  This may be a new insight in the scripture.  It could be a person the Lord brings to mind that I pray for.  It is often an idea that rumbles around in my Spirit picking up scriptural ties that becomes a blog post.

2) Attending worship with the sole intention of lifting up adoration and praise unto the One Who is worthy of every last bit of praise I have to give.  There was a time in my life when I had to listen to a number of praise songs, concentrating on their lyrics before I moved into deep worship.  I seem to have moved to a place where I come expectant and ready to commune with the Father in worship.  This is awesome within our church, but it now occurs regularly whenever I listen to praise and worship.

3) Serving others has become a source of blessing for me.  I have found that in praying for and caring for others, I become more sensitive to the Lord nudging me, prompting me, leading me.  I know Who the answer is and so in listening to others in need, I am open to the Holy Other speaking life and hope to them.  Sometimes it may be through me.  Sometimes it may be through another in the conversation.  But I have consistently seen the Lord minister.  My role is to simply wait, be open and receptive, and do or say what I believe He leads me to do or say.

4) Out in nature – particularly at sunrise or sunset.  For this one I generally am simply swept up into the awesomeness of Who God is… Creator, Sustainor, Artist, Master Designer, intimate Friend, Loving Father – and worship ensues.  The utterences of my heart flow unbidden to the throne of grace.  Sometimes I sense something specific in my Spirit.  Always I receive the Lord’s refreshing.

 

I know this has been a long post.  I hope and pray it has been encouraging for you.  The Father loves you and He has a message for you.  Seek Him and He will speak to you.  Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

In closing I share a few of my favorite pics from my sunrise and sunset devotions.  Be blessed my friend and allow the Father’s blessing to flow in, through, and around you to in rich abundance.

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Sunrise over Crater Lake, Oregon.

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Crater Lake, Oregon

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East Rim of Crater Lake at Sunset

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Alpine-glow on Mount Rainier, Washington.

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Update South Carolina Foggy Sunrise

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Radiant!

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The heavens declare the glory of God.

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The best man can do is but a glimmer compared to the beauty the Lord bestows on the canvas of this world. View across our front yard.

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Sunset on Ruby Beach, Washington.

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Ruby Beach at Sunset and Low Tide

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Splitting the Sky

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Rows in the heavens

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Sunrise in the South Pacific.

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Darkness tried to hide it, but the Light cannot be contained!

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Sunset over the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia.

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Sunrise over Mahon’s Pool at Maroubra Beach, Australia

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Sunset over my backyard this past Sunday.

Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (47)

The reason for our hope. Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC

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Our trip was a nine day road trip from the SeaTac Airport just south of Seattle, Washington to San Francisco.  The route was plotted out to be 150 – 250 miles driving a day with 3 or 4 highlights visited each day.  We were blessed with good weather the entire trip.  We were also able to visit several touted sites without too much competition from crowds.  I took about 3000 pics and I am going to share about 15 from each day of the trip over the next couple of weeks.

One of my goals was to catch as many sunrises and sunsets as possible.  I knew ahead of time I would be alone for the sunrises.  My travel buddies are not as enthusiastic about seeing the break of day as I am.  I have already posted pictures of Day One and portions of Day Six and Eight in previous posts.  Check out Lesson in Love and Justice on Mt Tamalpais for Day Eight and Walking Among Giants for Day Six.

This was our itinerary.

Day One – Tacoma, Washington to Seaside, Oregon

Day Two – Seaside, Oregon to Portland, Oregon

Day Three – Portland, Oregon to Bend, Oregon

Day Four – Bend, Oregon to Crater Lake, Oregon

Day Five – Crater Lake Oregon to Klamath, California

Day Six – Klamath, California to Fort Bragg, California

Day Seven – Fort Bragg, California to Novato, California

Day Eight – Novato, California to San Francisco, California

Day Nine – SF to Home

Without further ado, here are Day Two Pics.

From Seaside we headed south a little ways to Cannon Beach and then Hug Point before backtracking and taking highway 27 into Portland.

Haystack rock at Cannon Beach. Note the person on the beach in front of the rock to get the scale of the rock.

Haystack rock at Cannon Beach. Note the person on the beach in front of the rock to get the scale of the rock.

 

Tide pool at the base of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Tide pool at the base of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

 

Cannon Beach at Low Tide. It was mid morning and low clouds were still hanging around.

Cannon Beach at Low Tide. It was mid morning and low clouds were still hanging around.

 

Lots of cool sea creatures live in the tidal zone like this anemone.

Lots of cool sea creatures live in the tidal zone like this anemone.

 

Another view southward on Cannon Beach. We drove about half of the Oregon Coast on the trip and this is fairly indicative of what it is like.

Another view southward on Cannon Beach. We drove about half of the Oregon Coast on the trip and this is fairly indicative of what it is like.

 

Haystack Rock was alive with Sea Birds. This gull was fluffing up it's nest. There were also dozens of cormorant and puffins roosting on the Rock.

Haystack Rock was alive with Sea Birds. This gull was fluffing up it’s nest. There were also dozens of cormorant and puffins roosting on the Rock.

 

These gulls did a dance for about 30 seconds when one flew in. They alternately bobbed and sang to each other. The term "Love Birds" came to mind as I watched.

These gulls did a dance for about 30 seconds when one flew in. They alternately bobbed and sang to each other. The term “Love Birds” came to mind as I watched.

 

View of Haystack Rock from the south. These are called Sea Stacks. They are the harder rock that stands longer while the softer rock and soil is eroded by years of pounding surf, storms, and winds.

View of Haystack Rock from the south. These are called Sea Stacks. They are the harder rock that stands longer while the softer rock and soil is eroded by years of pounding surf, storms, and winds.

 

In the days before modern roads, the coast at low tide was the road. At Hug Point the rocks extended out into the sea so they carved this road into the rock for the Mail Delivery carts. The road hugged the point here.

In the days before modern roads, the coast at low tide was the road. At Hug Point the rocks extended out into the sea so they carved this road into the rock for the Mail Delivery carts. The road hugged the point here.

 

This steep sided cove is really cool. Those are two sea caves behind Lisa. At low tide there is plenty of space here, but at high tide the water comes up into this cove area, continuing to erode the caves further.

This steep sided cove is really cool. Those are two sea caves behind Lisa. At low tide there is plenty of space here, but at high tide the water comes up into this cove area, continuing to erode the caves further.

 

Another interesting phenomenon was the almost constant swirl of wind in the cove. The onshore wind hits the steep sides and spins a whirlwind which creates this pretty spinning patter in the hard packed sand.

Another interesting phenomenon was the almost constant swirl of wind in the cove. The onshore wind hits the steep sides and spins a whirlwind which creates this pretty spinning patter in the hard packed sand.

 

View from back in one of the Sea Caves.

View from back in one of the Sea Caves.

 

Another Sea Cave view.

Another Sea Cave view.

 

The coastal mountains strain off a lot of moisture coming in from the Pacific Ocean creating numerous streams back to the sea.

The coastal mountains strain off a lot of moisture coming in from the Pacific Ocean creating numerous streams back to the sea.

 

My trademark - I take pictures and leave cairns.

My trademark – I take pictures and leave cairns.

 

It was late morning after visiting these two beaches so we decided to head inland.  The Rice NW Rock and Mineral Museum was right on the way so we decided to check it out.  This is in the family home of the Rice’s.  They were geologists who gathered hundreds of rocks and minerals over their lifetime from all over the world.  Their focus was the Pacific Northwest, which apparently is a rock and mineral gold mine (do you even have to ask if the pun was intended or not?)  It was a fun visit and surprisingly comprehensive.  Check it out on TripAdvisor which is where I found it.

Fossilized wood of a variety of species.

Fossilized wood of a variety of species.

I had no idea how beautiful a slice of petrified wood could be. These are as much pieces of art as they are rock specimens.

I had no idea how beautiful a slice of petrified wood could be. These are as much pieces of art as they are rock specimens.

The Rice family collection is the basis for museum, but there are pieces from many of their peers and friends.

The Rice family collection is the basis for museum, but there are pieces from many of their peers and friends.

 

The Alma Rose is one of the centerpiece exhibits. The museum was informative and entertaining.

The Alma Rose is one of the centerpiece exhibits. The museum was informative and entertaining.

 

On to Portland.  We checked into our hotel and immediately headed into town on the MAX, the Portland Light Rail system.  Our destinations were 1) the Saturday Market, 2) The Japanese Garden, 3) the International Rose Garden, and then dinner at the City Grill.

 

The MAX lightrail system in Portland.

The MAX lightrail system in Portland.

A couple hundred vendors with almost anything you can imagine for sale. Did I mention that Oregon has recreational marijuana sales. There were plenty of shops offering medical and recreational MJ for sale.

A couple hundred vendors with almost anything you can imagine for sale. Did I mention that Oregon has recreational marijuana sales? There were plenty of shops offering medical and recreational MJ for sale.

 

These are the some of the street people semi-stalls. These were not part of the official Saturday Market, but they tried to take advantage of the crowd. There were large numbers of homeless in this area. Between the marijuana, the unwashed bodies, the multiple open air grilles of a variety of ethnic food choices, it was unusually aromatic.

These are some of the street people semi-stalls. These were not part of the official Saturday Market, but they were positioned just outside the market and took advantage of the crowds. There were large numbers of homeless in this area. Between the marijuana, the unwashed bodies, the multiple open air grilles of a variety of ethnic food choices – it was unusually aromatic.

 

There were plenty of musicians ranging from some fairly elaborate bands, to this semi-organized group, to homeless people playing percussion on assorted buckets and cans looking for handouts. Variety was definitely the watch-word.

There were plenty of musicians ranging from some fairly elaborate bands, to this semi-organized group, to homeless people playing percussion on assorted buckets and cans looking for handouts. Variety was definitely the watch-word.

 

Falling water in the Japanese Garden in Portland

Falling water in the Japanese Garden in Portland

 

One of the peaceful ponds in the Japanese Garden.

One of the peaceful ponds in the Japanese Garden.

 

The American Bonzai was the special exhibit in the Japanese Garden. This tree is over 100 years old.

The American Bonzai was the special exhibit in the Japanese Garden. This tree is over 100 years old.

 

The Japanese Garden is located inside Washington Park on the slopes west of the city of Portland. From here you can look across downtown Portland to Mount Hood.

The Japanese Garden is located inside Washington Park on the slopes west of the city of Portland. From here you can look across downtown Portland to Mount Hood.

 

The International Rose Test Garden was an absolute riot of color. Surprisingly only about 1 in 10 of the roses were fragrant. But almost all were rich in color and in full bloom.

The International Rose Test Garden was an absolute riot of color. Surprisingly only about 1 in 10 of the roses were fragrant. But almost all were rich in color and in full bloom.

 

We unknowingly arrived in the midst of the Rose Festival.

We unknowingly arrived in the midst of the Rose Festival.

 

This rose was so beautiful and luscious looking it made me think of a milkshake. I'm not sure why.

This rose was so beautiful and luscious looking it made me think of a milkshake. I’m not sure why.

 

There was bed upon bed of roses of single varieties, but I was drawn to this bed of a mixture of award winning roses of a palate of colors.

There were many beds of roses of single varieties, but I was drawn to this bed of a mixture of award winning roses creating a palate of colors.

 

One small section of the garden was an English style tea garden where I spied this Calla Lily straining toward the late afternoon sun.

One small section of the garden was an English style tea garden where I spied this Calla Lily straining toward the late afternoon sun.

 

There were hundreds of people wandering through the gardens snapping pictures of all sorts. There were prom pictures, wedding pictures, family photos, tons of "selfie with rose" pics, and of course lots, of couples-in-love pics.

There were hundreds of people wandering through the gardens snapping pictures of all sorts. There were prom pictures, wedding pictures, family photos, tons of “selfie with rose” pics, and of course lots, of couples-in-love pics.

 

It's funny, we left the Rose Garden with it's thousands of gorgeous blooms and yet, I think I like this simple magnolia bloom just as much.

It’s funny, we left the Rose Garden with it’s thousands of gorgeous blooms and yet, I think I like this simple magnolia bloom just as much.

 

 

We got lost a time or two, but handy signs like this one helped point us in... many directions at once. So we sought some advice from a guy who looked like he knew the place pretty well.

We got lost a time or two, but handy signs like this one helped point us in… many directions at once. So we sought some advice from a guy who looked like he knew the place pretty well.

 

He didn't say much but fortunately he was pointing the way to the City Grille. A great dinner and a million dollar view from the 30th floor.

He didn’t say much but fortunately he was pointing the way to the City Grille. A great dinner and a million dollar view from the 30th floor.

 

View over the Willamette River toward Mount Hood. This was from the City Grille on the 30th floor of a bank building.

View over the Willamette River toward Mount Hood. This was from the City Grille on the 30th floor of a bank building.

 

It was pretty late as we headed to our hotel a few blocks from the Portland Civic Center. Proud of this shot which was taken at night without a tripod.

It was pretty late as we headed to our hotel a few blocks from the Portland Civic Center. Proud of this shot which was taken at night without a tripod.

I hope you enjoyed day two.  Stay tuned for Day Three which will have the Columbia River Gorge and pics of the second tallest continuously flowing waterfall in the United States.

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This post and some of the subsequent posts will be a little different from most of my posts.  I mentioned in my last post that my wife and I, along with our oldest daughter and her husband, made a trip down the west coast of the US.  Photography is a primary hobby of which also spills over into some of my work.  I would like to share some of the best photos from that trip.

The Mouth of the Mighty Columbia River. This is arguably the most dangerous river entrance in the United States. This view is from North Head Lighthouse.

The Mouth of the Mighty Columbia River. This is arguably the most dangerous river entrance in the United States. This view is from North Head Lighthouse.

 

Cape Disappointment, North Head Lighthouse. The "youngest" of the two lighthouses. Only 118 years old. Warned ships coming from the north of the dangerous Columbia River mouth and shoals.

Cape Disappointment, North Head Lighthouse. The “youngest” of the two lighthouses. Only 118 years old. Warned ships coming from the north of the dangerous Columbia River mouth and shoals.

 

This tenacious tree has laid claim to what little soil exists on it's personal island apart.

This tenacious tree has laid claim to what little soil exists on it’s personal island apart.

 

Raven harassing a Golden Eagle.

Raven harassing a Golden Eagle.

 

That Golden Eagle has a 7 - 8 foot wingspan.

That Golden Eagle has a 7 – 8 foot wingspan.

 

Coast Guard Severe Weather Training Station at Cape Disappointment. Hundreds of shipwrecks with over 700 lives lost in the waters off Cape Disappointment. Hundreds saved though due to the efforts of the Coast Guard teams here and from Astoria.

Coast Guard Severe Weather Training Station at Cape Disappointment. Hundreds of shipwrecks with over 700 lives lost in the waters off Cape Disappointment. Hundreds saved though due to the efforts of the Coast Guard teams here and from Astoria.

 

Ilwaco, Washington viewed from Cape Disappointment.

Ilwaco, Washington viewed from Cape Disappointment.

 

Plants I pay good money to plant in my garden grow like weeds in the Pacific Northwest. Beautiful shoulder side bed of Foxglove.

Plants I pay good money to plant in my garden grow like weeds in the Pacific Northwest. Beautiful shoulder side bed of Foxglove.

 

Astoria and the Astoria Megler Bridge, the final crossing of the Columbia River before the Pacific Ocean.

Astoria and the Astoria Megler Bridge, the final crossing of the Columbia River before the Pacific Ocean.

 

Astoria Column on the brow of the highest hill in Astoria.

Astoria Column on the brow of the highest hill in Astoria.

 

A wider view from the Astoria Column out the mouth of the Columbia River. Cape Disappointment, Washington in the far distance.

A wider view from the Astoria Column out the mouth of the Columbia River. Cape Disappointment, Washington in the far distance.

 

Necanicum River with Quatat Park on the right in Seaside, Oregon.

Necanicum River with Quatat Park on the right in Seaside, Oregon.

 

Statue of Lewis and Clark overlooking the beach at Seaside, Oregon at "The Turnaround". Marks the spot, theoretically, where the Corps of Discovery viewed the Pacific and then turned around and headed back to report to Thomas Jefferson.

Statue of Lewis and Clark overlooking the beach at Seaside, Oregon at “The Turnaround”. Marks the spot, theoretically, where the Corps of Discovery viewed the Pacific and then turned around and headed back to report to Thomas Jefferson.

 

The beach at Seaside, Oregon. Wide and sandy at low tide on this relatively peaceful Friday night. Showers came through earlier and other than occasional fog, we enjoyed good weather the rest of the trip.

The beach at Seaside, Oregon. Wide and sandy at low tide on this relatively peaceful Friday night. Showers came through earlier and other than occasional fog, we enjoyed good weather the rest of the trip.

 

Sunset approaches. View from Sunset Boulevard in Seaside, Oregon.

Sunset approaches. View from Sunset Boulevard in Seaside, Oregon.

 

Final shot on Day One from the Water's edge in Seaside, Oregon.

Final shot on Day One from the Water’s edge in Seaside, Oregon.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures.  We were just getting started and we had already seen some really beautiful sights.  The Golden Eagle at Cape Disappointment was the highlight of the day for me, but there were even better sites and inspirational moments ahead.  Check back in a day to two to see pics from Day Two.

Until then, May the Lord Bless you with the fullness and richness of His love.

 

 

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I rose early to catch the sunrise over the San Francisco Bay.  I had scouted out our route for the West Coast trip with a specific goal of catching sunrises and sunsets as often as possible.  Mornings are particularly meaningful to me as I like to rise early and spend the first of my day communing with our Father.

While I had identified Mount Tamalpais as an appropriate viewing location, I incorrectly assumed I could drive to the top on the service road.  I finally found a place to park and began my trek up the mountain with the pre-dawn light much further advanced than I had hoped.  Fortunately I broke into an open area where I could see the bay moments before the sun crested the horizon.  Since I had not made it to the top of the mountain, I was not able to capture the actual sunrise, but the view of the bay, the city, and the fog alternately edging in and then out of the Golden Gate narrows was beautiful to behold.

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As I prayed and snapped pictures, a series of images rolled through my spirit prompting progressive waves of prayer for the people in the Bay area.  The first was the fact that where I stood, and for that matter much of the California coast, sits on or adjacent to one of the most active fault lines on the planet.  The opposing forces of the two tectonic plates generates tremendous stress which is periodically relieved in earthquakes both small and great.  Usually these plates move 1 – 2 inches per year in opposite directions.  In the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 the pent up energy was released in a massive jolt that resulted in 20 feet of movement over a one minute time span.   It was interesting because the prayer that flowed forth was that the people would be prepared for the sudden disaster that was coming.

San Francisco just after sunrise viewed from the side of Mt Tamalpais

San Francisco just after sunrise viewed from the side of Mt Tamalpais

The fog rolling in from the Pacific into the Golden Gate Strait

The fog rolling in from the Pacific into the Golden Gate Strait

In short order the picture changed and I saw multitudes choosing any and every way to express themselves – to accommodate their passions, lusts, and appetite except in seeking intimacy with God the Father.  This broke my heart and I grieved for a time, praying in the Spirit for God to move to open eyes and hearts and minds to the reality of Who He is.

It was not long before this vision began to merge with the first of the devastation that a massive earthquake would bring.  I pondered this, again asking the Lord to pray through me.  I began to think about God’s justice, an aspect of His nature that when viewed apart from His love may seem harsh and demanding.  At different times throughout history God’s justice has resulted in judgement falling upon people, nations, and tribes.  Some versions of the bible refer to this as the wrath of God.  I must admit, at this point the vision was uncomfortable and the prayer was labored and not fun.  I have learned that not everything God calls me to do will be fun.  But if, in obedient submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I do what I sense the Lord wants me to do, it will turn out good.  It always has.  I believe it always will.

As this heavy prayer burden began to lift, I continued to periodically snap the shutter on my camera.  Suddenly I heard the familiar noise of hummingbird hums all around me.  Immediately in front of me a hummingbird landed and sat there as if to say, “take my picture”.  I hesitated momentarily since I almost never catch a hummingbird perched for more than a few seconds.  After 5 seconds I realized, he wasn’t flying off.  It took me several more seconds to get properly positioned while the little fella patiently waited for me to get set.  Finally I was set and I snapped about a dozen pictures before he decided he was famous enough.  As soon as I finished the shots the Lord brought to my mind Jesus’ words to his disciples about the Father’s care in feeding the birds.  In Matthew 6:26 and Luke 12:24 Jesus tells us the Father’s compassion goes so far as to provide food for the little birds.  In Luke 12:24b Jesus climactic words are: “And how much more valuable you are than birds!” 

Hummingbird Posing for Pics

Hummingbird Posing for Pics

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Mr Hummingbird thinks his profile shows off his beautiful beak better.

H moves behind me thinking the lighting is a little more flattering.

He moves behind me thinking the lighting is a little more flattering.

At that moment I got just a glimpse of the marriage in God’s character of His absolute justice and His overwhelming love.  I can’t say I truly understand it, but He demonstrated it to me that morning on Mount Tamalpais in a way that I can say I know it is real.  Sin will be judged and punished completely.  All sin.  Love will conquer.  It will triumph completely and eternally.

At this my prayer turned into praise for the great love He has for us.  God’s love reaches to the people in the San Francisco Bay area.  He wants people to turn to Him, to reach for Him, to turn away from their sin and receive His gracious love in the form of His mercy.  Jesus truly paid the price in our place.

My final thought from the mountain was that God still loves the sinner who chooses not to turn to Him.  Judgement comes, but not because God didn’t extend mercy, but rather because the one never turned to God and let go of their life.

I have come to know God as intensely personal and relational in the most wonderful of ways.  He comforts me in my sorrow.  He joins me in my celebration.  He whispers guidance when I am confused and uncertain.  He envelopes me with His peace at just the right time.  I believe that His heart is grieved by each one who fades from this life without accepting the finished work wrought by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Those final moments on the mountain were bittersweet.  I know God’s love is real and it still extends to the people living under the shadow of death.  He is calling out.  He burdens His children who do know Him to intercede, to love, and to reach out to those who don’t know Him.  Some will experience His love in direct response to our obedience and participation with God in His redeeming love.  Others will not turn, will not accept, will not receive the love the Lord extends.

Love and Justice.  Our God is a consuming fire in the purest and fullest sense.  The fire of His love drove Him to send Jesus to take our place in judgement.  And for those who fail to heed, fail to turn, fail to receive, there is a consuming fire of His absolute justice to be faced.

An interesting footnote in history.  Most of the people killed in the 1906 earthquake were killed by the fires spawned by the earthquake rather than the earthquake itself.

Be blessed my friend and let the Holy Spirit intercede and move through you today.

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The Coastal Redwoods found in Pacific Northwest are the largest, and among the oldest, living things in all creation.  Soaring in excess of 300 feet and with circumferences over 60 feet, these giants of the forest grace the steep slopes of the Pacific Coast for approximately 300 miles from south of San Francisco northward to southern Oregon.  I am visiting this area for the first time this week and thoroughly enjoying the beautiful scenery and lessons learned walking among giants.

Looking up in the Redwood Forest.

Looking up in the Redwood Forest.

On our morning in Klamath, California I woke early to visit the Father in the forest.  Redwoods grow in groves of dozens to hundreds of trees grouped together.  Interestingly, these massive trees do not have deep root systems.  The roots of a 300 foot tall tree will only go 8 feet or so into the soil.  However it will also spread some 500 feet around the base of the tree.  Trees in a grove will intertwine their roots as they spread creating a dense lattice work of roots and soaring trees joined together.  During winter storms with 60 mile per hour winds it is not unusual to see the tops of Redwood tress swaying 15 or more feet side to side and the earth at their base heaving 2 or 3 feet.  Yet because their roots are locked together they don’t topple over.  In fact they thrive.

In the same way, the people of God must be connected to one another in loving fellowship.  We are not made to do life alone.  We are made for godly community.

Another interesting fact about Redwoods is the importance of “tragic” events to their thriving.  Redwood lumber is amazing.  It is resistant to rot and insects and it has very good strength to weight characteristics.  For these reasons and more, Redwood harvesting was a major industry in California in the late 1800’s and into the mid 1900’s.  As timber harvesting became more prevalent and the excesses and damage of poor practices began to manifest themselves, conservation efforts began.  Naturalists were at first stumped with how to propagate these trees.  They had the seeds, but they couldn’t get them to germinate.  Then one year a major fire occurred and viola, the next year there were redwood seedlings everywhere.  It seems the seeds need the heat of the fire to cause them to burst open.

Life from the Roots.

Life from the Roots.

Perpetual twilight under these giant trees.

Perpetual twilight under these giant trees.

I see an obvious parallel in many people’s lives.  They live life trying just to survive, often wrapping themselves into various protective cocoons.  For those who achieve wealth and success, this provides a type of shield from the challenges of life.  For those with more modest means that barrier to life’s difficulties might be to immerse themselves in work, alcohol, or some hobby.  But life and true peace – deep, rich, and full, remains out of reach.  It is a hope or a dream.  Yet I have seen tragedy impact persons in the most amazing ways.  The Lord reaches into the depth of tragedy and brings life, growth, and hope.  Just like the redwood seeds, something painful becomes the pathway to life.

Another observation was the regrowth coming out of redwood stumps.  For the few redwoods that are damaged, many are able to start anew because of the life in the roots.  In fact, during the rainy season the roots of the Redwoods are able to store up to 150 gallons of water per day in anticipation of the coming dry season.  Therefore developing a robust root system is essential for the vitality and longevity of the Redwood.  For the believer this root system is reading and incorporating the Word into our life and learning to live in close communion with the Holy Spirit as our counselor.  Applying the Word by obeying what Jesus said is the best way to develop a root system that will sustain us during the droughts of life.

When we think of spiritual giants we will most often think of Moses, King David, Peter, Paul or a similar spiritual giant.  But the impression the Lord laid on my heart was the widow Jesus referred to for His disciples to consider.  Many persons had placed large sums into the temple treasury, but Jesus pointed out this poor, yet faith-filled, widow as their example.  She, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.  How could she do that?  Because she trusted the Lord completely.  Her job was not to focus upon providing for her own needs, but to trust and obey the Lord.

When I return home shortly, I will return to tasks to be done, work to be caught up on, and future plans to be made.  But as I do so I will remember my walk among the giant redwoods.  And I will strive to remember that I walk among giants in faith when I allow the Word of God to fill me, when I apply its truths to my thoughts and actions, when I seek to know Jesus better and when I allow Him to live through me.   We walk among giants, my friend.  Keep the faith and, over time, the Lord will make us giants through our simple obedience.

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

 

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I went for a run in the woods today.  I like to be outdoors.  I like to run…  Actually, we better make that “I like to jog.”

I went to a state park near where I am working this week, picked up a trail map and selected a Moderate trail, 3.9 miles in length.  I was feeling pretty perky.

Since there where no topographical lines on the map, I made my best guess which way would provide the best grade.  OK, for those not familiar with running, er jogging for the middle-aged and somewhat conditionally challenged, the best grade means as little uphill running as possible.

I guessed right, or at least the first 3 miles seemed so.  A fairly long, but gradual downhill was followed by a few slight rises.  All in all the first three miles were sufficient to have me pondering the goodness of God.  I began to see how trail running can be a good metaphor of life with it’s up and downs, periodic ruts, times of running in the brilliant early evening sunshine followed by the dusky shadows of the deep woods.

I came to a rather long flat section about three miles in and that perkiness really kicked in.  I picked up my pace.  Turtles and snails were no longer my trail companions.  Seventy five yards or so later I was beginning to congratulate myself on being slight less winded than I thought I should be when the trail turned… and went up…really up.  Like somebody forgot this was a trail around the base of Morrow Mountain and not over the mountain.

I lowered my vision to the trail in front of me and plodded purposefully up the ever steeper slope.  The biggest problem I had though was that I had looked at the dauntingly steep slope and it was in my head as well as being a real physical challenge.  As I slowed my pace to get my heart rate back off the edge I had to laugh as several obvious realizations came to mind.

First that long downhill to start my run was followed by a number of approximately equal rises and falls.  Logical conclusion #1, I still had the height of the long gradual downhill to climb to get back to my car.

That height difference had to be made up.  Since I didn’t have a clue of the topography in this area, it appeared that the route I took was the gradual side and this was definitely the steep side.  Logical conclusion #2, it is okay to walk if it is too steep to run.

Logical conclusion #3 was related, to #2, it is better to walk, laugh about it, write a blog about it, and survive than to die of a heart attack trying to run up a hill in the woods where I hadn’t and didn’t see another soul the entire time I was out there.

Logical conclusion #4.  The trail was a combination horse trail and jogging trail.  The designation of the trail being Moderate was probably for those riding a horse.  Where I was did NOT feel the least bit moderate… even when I slowed to a walk.

Logical conclusion #5 (perhaps the most important learning from my run), trail running is a lot like life.  (I know I had already started down this trail earlier, but I think the Father was just getting me ready for the real lesson.)  Sometimes we do have downhill runs where it is great and we are seemingly carried along.  Sometimes there are slight rises that correspond to the challenges that periodically come our way.  We press on through and are made stronger because of them.

And then there are the steep slopes that rise up and challenge us to our limits.  I was about halfway up the steep slope when I had to slow to a very slow walk to bring my heart rate down.  (When you can hear your heartbeat approaching three beats a second you know it is time to take it easy.)

Life will bring us to times that press us to our limits.  I believe in God’s sovereignty.  Nothing that we come up against is outside of God’s knowledge and allowance.  There are three sources of challenge we will routinely encounter.  1) Some we bring on ourselves.  In those situations the best approach is to quickly acknowledge our error/mistake/sin, turn around, and ask God’s forgiveness and help.

2) Some are attacks of the enemy of God and His children.  If we ask for discernment, God will provide it.  When this is the source we are to stand firm in faith, resist the devil, and call upon our mighty Warrior & Savior to intervene on our behalf.

3) Finally many are due to the fallen world we live in and God’s desire to live through us in a manner that strengthens us and provides a consistent witness of His Grace to others.  Again standing firm in faith is called for, but additionally praying for the opportunity to shine brightly for God through the time of testing is appropriate.  We do not know all the good God wants to bring through our patient perseverance, but we can cooperate with Him by praying and resting in Him.

Before I knew it I was at the top of the steep hill.  I looked back down and realized I had made a significant elevation gain in a short period.  I almost prayed, “Lord make that the end of the uphill”, but I didn’t.  Instead I started jogging again, a little slower perhaps to conserve a little more energy, thinking about how good God is to provide life lessons in such a beautiful classroom.

Have a most blessed day my friend.  May God make the trail rise up to meet you and give you peace.

 

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