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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

We were fortunate to be in the center of the eclipse that crossed the USA this week.  It was surreal seeing the clouds on the northwest horizon suddenly go dark while clouds all around were still brightly lit.  Within a few seconds the light went dim as if a dimmer switch dialed down our celestial light just short of the “off” position.  As I slowly spun around, the “sunrise” visible on all 360 degrees of the horizon was beautiful.  The corona flared from behind the sun while pearls of light trickled through lunar valleys 250,000 miles away.  One hundred a fifty-three seconds after it started, the diamond ring appeared and our eclipse glasses had to go back on.  It was an amazing, and for most of us once-in-a-lifetime, experience.

Since I am in a sling I wasn’t able to do much photography during the eclipse.  However, I found several really good pics on the website BoredPanda.com.  I am attaching ones that I particularly enjoyed.  I hope you enjoy them too.

The hype for the eclipse was tremendous here in the USA, and particularly for those of us  in the “zone of totality”.  The eclipse became a cultural event crossing the US from coast to coast.  It was a nice respite from controversial matters, if only for a day.  One commentator in Oregon even made mention that for some the eclipse was a “spiritual” event.  While I don’t subscribe to the stars dictating things of the spirit, there is precedent of the Lord using the stars and other celestial bodies to point us toward truths that He wants to emphasize.  Here are some truths that yesterday’s eclipse brought to mind.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
https://www.bible.com/bible/59/JHN.1.5   The sun is hidden from view during an eclipse, but is never put out; likewise, Jesus is the one and only Light of the World.  His enemies try myriad ways to diminish or divert His light, but they cannot.  The light of the sun was darkened for a time, but it was never put out.  All we had to do was wait and trust in the light we couldn’t quite see and shortly the light again shown brightly upon us.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” Psalms 19:1-6 https://www.bible.com/bible/59/PSA.19.1-6

The ancients thousands of years ago saw the same sun, moon, and stars we do.  They stood in awe of the marvels in the heavens and realized that the intricacy and order in the universe point to the existence of a creative hand.  The second law of thermodynamics states that all things progress from order to chaos without the input of energy.  There had to be an intelligent designer- creator to achieve the tremendous complexity and perfect inter-relationships we see in creation.

“”Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”  Matthew 24:29-31  https://www.bible.com/bible/59/MAT.24.29-31

There is a day coming when Christ will return.  By His resurrection, Jesus has conquered death, hell, and the grave.  Yet God has chosen to allow life on earth to continue until a set time, a time of His design.  Until then every person has the opportunity to draw close to God or to turn away from Him.  There is a climax to time on this earth and one set of heralds of this end are amazing signs in the heavens.  One of these signs sounds like an eclipse that is witnessed by multitudes.

Those who follow Jesus, who have traded their broken sinful lives for His, will rejoice at His appearing.  Those who have chosen to follow anything other than a relationship with Jesus will be dismayed.  They will mourn, for they have chosen not just the lesser thing, but the wrong thing.

My prayer as I close is that you will be lifted and encouraged by the pics to consider the awesome Creator Who provides such amazing sights.  And as great as His creative genius is, His all encompassing love is even greater.  I encourage you to seek Him while He may be found.

Be blessed and be a blessing today.

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When our youngest son announced he was going to complete his under-graduate work in Germany, I began making family travel plans to visit as he completed his studies. Since flights are a major expense we began saving money and vacation time so we could spend three weeks sightseeing in Europe. With over a year to plan, I did a lot of research and built an impressive list of things we wanted to do and see.

As I have stated before, my desire in this blog is to share my faith story in progress – an open, honest picture of the ebbs and flows of one person’s walk with God. I intend to show God’s grace which is a constant even though at times I progress in this life in Christ while at other times I slip. God always uses my misses to teach me valuable life lessons when I give them to Him. Our epic European trip demonstrates this in an unusual, yet marvelous way.

Because trip planning began so early, about March I had a pretty full itinerary for the three weeks in July. It was also about this time that I began sensing a check in my spirit about the trip. By April I had come to realize I had once again rushed ahead of God. I planned this great trip, but it was with a vision of “pack in all the fun and historical sights I can” without really seeking the Lord’s guidance on what to do. I was guilty (once again) of what I believe is all too common for many of us… “Here is what I’m going to do God, please bless it.” Rather than taking the time to seek the Lord’s guidance from the beginning, I rushed ahead and did my own thing.

The climax came during a time of prayer when I realized I had to give up the trip. I was on a business trip later in April when I told the Lord I was willing to give up the trip and I meant it. Even as I began figuring out how to start canceling the multiple elements of the trip, I sensed the Holy Spirit reassure me that if I had a heart to accept His leading throughout the trip, He would be glorified. With this came a sense that I had to hold my plans and expectations for the trip very loosely. Additionally, the understanding came that there may well be challenges to arise that would make the trip less fun than what I was planning. I remember again offering this up to the Lord for His glory.

The trip arrived and we experienced several great days of sight-seeing. One highlight was the many new friends made on our Viking Rhine River cruise. Here are a few of my favorite pics as we visited 6 different places in France, 4 different locations in Switzerland, 6 places in Germany, and one UNESCO World Heritage site in the Netherlands before heading to Prague to begin our final week visiting the Czech Republic, Vienna, and Budapest.

Our arrival in Prague by train from Berlin was a bit chaotic. Expecting our son Sam, who has become quite competent in German, to be our initial guide was a bit unfair. They don’t speak German there. However, between his understanding of city travel in Europe and Google Maps we found our AirBnB and then the E-Bike rental. And this is where the story took an interesting turn.

Most of our E-bike tour in Prague was really great. We had clearing weather and after riding through several interesting spots in the Little Quarter, Old Town, and the Jewish Quarter, we crossed the Vltava River and climbed up to the Castle District. I am including a few pics from this portion of the trip.

After visiting St Vitus Cathedral inside the castle complex we headed further along the Castle Hill. I noticed my front tire was going flat. Since we were close to the end of the trip I assumed I could make it the final half mile. Unfortunately, the final leg was down a relatively steep hill through an orchard. I made it down the straight part but the curve at the bottom proved my undoing. Even riding the brakes hard all the way down the hill I was having difficulty controlling the bike. In the curve, I lost control and crashed landing hard on my right shoulder. I broke my right clavicle at the end next to the shoulder joint.

The realization that I may have done serious damage came pretty quickly. Miss KJ, our guide, came back to check on me when I didn’t show up with everyone else. (I was last in line.) I am so appreciative of her help. We called for the ambulance and she and I sat in the orchard by the bike path waiting for them to arrive. Up to this point my body was somewhat in shock, but as we sat there, crystal clarity came over me. I knew the “vacation” was over for me, but I had an absolute peace. As I began to pray I was absolutely overwhelmed by God’s goodness and love. Instead of prayer, praise just flowed forth. I knew that my plans were gone and yet I could not help but smile because of the certainty of God’s immediate presence which I was experiencing. And I was also aware it was not for my benefit alone, but for Miss KJ and others who might hear this story.

The ambulance ride, the hospital visit, x-rays, and the conclusion that my shoulder was broken and needed surgery consumed the next 3+ hours. Throughout that time though I was never alone even when there was no one else present. I remember two more times when the love of the Lord again became tangibly real. At one point, I was left alone in the front hallway of the hospital facing the open front door. The hospital was in a building that I am sure is older than most (if not all) communities here in the USA. There was no traffic whatsoever outside being on the cul-de-sac of a narrow, cobblestone drive. But there were large trees across the cobblestone drive. As I sat looking at the golden light filtering through the trees, the wind began flirting with the leaves causing branches to sway and leaves to wave. I was reminded of Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit arrives as a mighty wind, touching the lives and enlivening the spirit of those who seek the Lord. And I was again enraptured.

The final divine touch that evening occurred as we were leaving the hospital. Miss KJ had been a tremendous help. None of the medical personnel knew enough English to communicate effectively. Thankfully Miss KJ served as our interpreter. As we left the hospital – my wife, Miss KJ, and I prayed together and the sense of the Lord’s love for us and for Miss KJ was amazing. I have experienced God’s touch many times and in many mountaintop experiences, but what I experienced in Prague with a broken shoulder on that Sunday evening was miraculous. No pain meds, no real treatment other than to be x-rayed and given an arm sling, nothing but the Lord’s grace carried us through a broken shoulder and the loss of 6 vacation days with peace and even joy.

As I type this one handed… with my left hand… it’s 16 days later. I have had surgery and I have a hook plate installed holding my clavicle together so it can mend. I have learned to do most things left handed. I am functional, if neither fast nor good with the left hand. And there are some things I simply can’t do now that I could before the fall. But these things are all temporary.

I didn’t have regrets as I sat in that orchard realizing our vacation was over and I still don’t. Because the Father had brought me to a place of relinquishing control, I have not been battered by what-if’s and regrets. I know that the Father’s plan is perfect. I am satisfied that in my accident, God is bringing good out of it. He is revealing Himself to others and meeting needs that otherwise would have remained hidden and unmet. And that makes me smile. My arm may be in a sling, but my life is in His hands and that’s a marvelous place to be.

Be blessed my friends. Seek the Lord with all your heart and you will find that He is but a whisper away.

Don’t forget to be the blessing you were created to be!

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Good Morning or Guten Morgen as we are docked in Kel, Germany this morning as we awake. I have had a challenging time keeping up with my pictures and posting to you due to the fullness of our schedule. (Also, the number of pics I am taking.) Hopefully now that we are onboard the Longboat Eir on the Rhine River, the pace will slow enough to edit and post a few pics. This morning being Sunday I’d like to post a few pics of our Mt Pilatus excursion and tell a story of affirmation that the Father gave me up on the mountain.

Several weeks ago, my friend Greg shared with me how God powerfully spoke to him one day when in a time of prayer and meditation he asked, “Lord, what would you have me know today?” I was thinking about that a few days later during my prayer time and so I asked the same thing. Upon asking that question I opened my bible and these verses literally jumped out at me.

Proverbs 3:5&6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight. (or direct your steps as I’ve memorized it).

Proverbs 4:4 “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.”

Proverbs 2:7&8 He (the LORD) holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, He guards the course of the just and protects the of His faithful ones.

That has turned into a recurring theme for me in my prayer time since. And our Mt Pilatus adventure was one of three or four times on this trip where the Lord has again affirmed my role of trusting in Him fully and His faithfulness in guiding and leading.
MT PILATUS

The day broke cloudier than forecasted, but as morning warmed, the low clouds dispersed some and sunshine and beautiful blue sky became predominant. Our drive from Zurich to Lucerne revealed the charming Swiss countryside – crisp, clean, and green. While navigating into Lucerne I could see the much higher mountains across the lake were visible on the lower reaches, but shrouded in clouds at the top.

We met our guide, Annette, and boarded the bus to the cable car for the ascent up the mountain. Up to the first and second cable car connections we remained under the clouds and the view became increasingly expansive and majestic. We switched cable cars at around 4000 feet elevation where we were still under the cloud cover, but in deep shade because of them.

The final cable car was a 30- passenger car that swiftly whisked us up from 4000’ to the visitor center near the summit at 6700’. I fly frequently so the sensation of entering the clouds and “white out” is common. However, it was a little disheartening when you are anxiously anticipating the amazing 360-degree view which includes close-ups of the Alps and you exit the cable car to white-out outside and gift shops inside.

The girls headed to the gift shops and Jeff and I wandered outside into the fog. We walked around a bit managing to find a trail to a mini-summit with a cross on it. The picture in the fog was a little hard to see, but we snapped it to show we had “climbed higher”. To add insult onto injury, there were posted placards that showed the amazing view we could be seeing if we weren’t wrapped in the deep fog. I have to admit, I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

I know what some of you may be thinking… “Dan, you are on this amazing trip… you had all the beautiful views on the way up… you are with your wonderful wife on an adventure of a lifetime and you are feeling sorry for yourself? What ingratitude!” Well, you happen to be right.

Fortunately, it was only a little later I realized that for myself. As Jeff and I worked our way down this little path I noticed another path diverting along the mountain top. I took that path off into the fog as Jeff headed to check on the girls.

I’ve learned that for me, as for many people I imagine, it is hard to really focus upon God, to seek His wisdom and guidance, and to clearly hear Him speak to my heart when: 1) I am ungrateful, 2) I am focused upon my own schedule / plan / or goals, or 3) when I am surrounded by to many distractions, like hundreds of other tourists. When I started down that foggy mountain trail, I had given up my goal of seeing the view from the mountain top because there was no view to view. I headed down a trail that the crowds either didn’t know of or care about.

As I trudged with my camera in hand I felt my heart softening as I realized what I have mentioned above. I was not where I wanted to be in my heart. The reality that the God of the Universe loves me and has provided bountifully for me began to fill my awareness. I repented of my self-centeredness. I moved into thanking the Father for the many wonderful blessings He has provided to me and the ones I love. Then I began praying for family, friends, my Radmen friends, and others whom I knew God was going to send across my path.

As I am sure many of you have experienced, I felt a weight lift. My soul was lifted as I turned my heart toward our good, good Father. And I hiked through the fog with an uplifted spirit. After a little while I noticed a couple young Swiss ladies hiking up from down below. I asked how far down until I could be below the clouds. Through their minimal English (and my non-existant German) I understood it was several hundred meters. I prayed asking the Lord to guide me whether to hike down or not. I sensed to stay the course, so instead of hiking down I exchanged pictures with them and continued along the path in the fog.

The next 10 – 15 minutes of hiking the rugged mountain trail in the fog was delightful. I had given myself over to accepting whatever opportunity I was provided to meet people and love them with Jesus’ love. I remember whispering one little prayer, “Lord, I’d love to see some of the view from up here.” But that prayer was uttered from a place of complete surrender. Whether the fog lifted or not, I was satisfied the Lord would do what was best.

I stepped into the gift shop to find girls and then a water closet and when I stepped out I was shocked – I could see all the way across the patio… and even the near-by summit that had been completely shrouded in fog the entire day. I quickly hustled out with camera in hand and snapped a few pictures. I saw the trail to the highest peak beside me and I quickly headed up the final 300 feet toward the now- visible summit. I had not gone far before the clouds began to close in again. I realized I had gotten exactly what I had asked for although now having a taste, desire for more sprang up tempting me back into the self-centered funk I had been in earlier.

“NO! God, you have been good to me. Lord, I thank you for the glimpse that you have given me. It was beautiful. And I loved the fact that across on the summit opposite me there was a cross.”

I remembered at that moment that our guide explained how the mountain got it’s name. Surprisingly it is named after Pontius Pilate. It seems that when he died, no one was willing to take his remains. So, they brought them to this mountain and threw them in a lake. The irony that on the mountain where Pontius Pilate’s remains may lie, there is a beautiful cross just resonated God’s greatness.

At that moment, I sensed the Holy Spirit whisper, “Do you trust me?”

“Yes, Lord, I trust you”

At that moment, for about 3 seconds, a single ray of light broke through the cloud and illuminated me and the trail where I was standing. While that thrilled me, I sensed I was to hike on to the top. The clouds quickly swirled back around me, but I pressed on. In less than 5 minutes I was at the top. As I arrived the clouds opened again for about 3 minutes. I did something a little uncharacteristic for me. Instead of whipping up my camera and snapping dozens of shots, I moved from side to side soaking it in and praising God. I did get a few shots before the clouds completely settled back in, but I mainly just worshipped.

There was one other thought that I believe was a gift from the Lord. One of the shots that you will see is of the cross on the other summit. It was clearly seen when I first got to the top, but I didn’t take the picture until it was almost obscured again. I was a little sad when the fog closed back in and I couldn’t see the cross. That was when the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. “Do not worry. Like that cross which is still there even though you don’t see it, I am always with you.”

 

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The start of the first chair lift in Kriens.

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Two happy tourists – our daughter Rhiannon and my photography padewan, Jeff.  He’s also our son-in-law.

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Just getting started.  About 1500 – 2000 feet up I believe.

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Just about to enter the first cable house.  Still 15 minutes to go in this car.

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The distance from cable house one to cable house two where we exited to the final cable car.

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View back to cable car house one.  You can see the Swiss central highlands spread out past Lake Lucerne.

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Cable Car house two and our first exit.  Elevation about 4000 feet and just under the clouds.

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This high valley had a ropes course, a toboggan ride, and other extreme sports activities.  We had to wait about 10 minutes for the 30 person cable car to the top.

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Sign showing our trip.

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In the 30 passenger cable car heading out from the station.

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Last view before going into the clouds.

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This was one of the clearer shots when we first arrived.  These horns were so mournful when we hiked around and could hear the sound in the deep fog.  One other remembrance – when the fog lifted, the guy was playing Amazing Grace.  I don’t know if he started before or after the fog lifted, but it was so cool.

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Jeff as we head up to the mini-summit.

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Jeff at the foot of the cross.

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Me at the cross.  See how deep the fog is.  This was true for almost the entire first hour we were up here.

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Look how steep the “not steep” side of the trail was.  We were a good ways into the alpine region above the tree-line.

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I am on the steep side of the mountain.  The Swiss girls took my picture for me.

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This was what I saw when I came out of the water closet.  That is the mini-summit where Jeff and I had hiked about an hour earlier.

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Another shot during the first brief opening in the clouds.

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View over the gift shop during the first opening, but as the clouds were sweeping back in.

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View at the highest point I hiked to on Mt Pilatus – summit Esel at 2118 meters or 4000 feet.

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The entire moutaintop at the clouds begin to settle back in.

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Summit Tomlishorn, a little higher at 2138 meters.  This is where the cross I mention in the story is.  This is my wide angle lens so it is so far away it is hard to see.

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The cross on the summit of Tomlishorn, the highest peak of Mt Pilatus. 

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Heading back down the trail, confident that God is always with me.  Just like that cross that I could no longer see because of the fog, yet I know is still there, God is with me and with you even when the fog of trials, challenges, and difficulties arise.

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The cog-railway we rode down.  It has the steepest incline of any railway in the world with one section at a 48 degree descent.

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Final view of the mountain top from the cog railway on the ride down.

Friends, it was thrilling. In fact, I guess it qualifies as a mountain top experience – twice over!

 

 

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I love spring.  The bursting forth of new life thrills my soul.  The awakening of the countryside from the drab greys and browns of winter to multi-colored flowers set against the backdrop of green simply makes me happy.

We recently experienced the birth of our 4th grandchild.  My wife helped with the delivery and today Lilah Joy is 7 days old. We actually have two grandchildren now who were born on Good Friday.  Jasper Leland was born on Good Friday 4 years ago.  As I held Lilah last night I couldn’t stop thinking about what a precious gift I held.  As she lay restfully sleeping in my arms she was totally at peace.

I was reminded that this is what God wants for each one of us… to rest in Him, to put our trust in Him, to be His child and be at peace.  Holding this precious child and considering the amazing love God has for us was both humbling and inspiring.  Roman 8:14-17 comes to mind.  We are His children and He wants to be known as our “Abba”, our Daddy.

It seems appropriate that for most of us Easter corresponds with spring.  Jesus’ resurrection marks the ultimate of new life.  There are a number of ways that Jesus coming to earth, His sacrificial death on the cross, and His resurrection changed the world forever.

There is salvation.  The price for our sin has been paid and we can enter into a right relationship with God as our Father through what Jesus did on our behalf.

There is freedom.  The power of sin is broken because of what Jesus did.  We can experience freedom from the dominating and destructive habits of our old self because of the cross and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit given to each one who accepts God’s gift of salvation.

Oh, and there is purpose.  We no longer are subject to the whims of a fickle nature.  We are called and equipped to live a life that has God-ordained purpose.

There is praise overflowing.  God gave us new life to live in Him and to live for Him.  Our lives are testaments to the one, wholly, and Holy Other.  God is worthy of our constant praise.  We do this best by living in close communion with Him and responding in prompt obedience to His nudges.

Yes, spring has sprung.  The tomb is empty.  And there is new life… radical…rich…full… abundant new life available to all who trust in and give their lives to Jesus – the lover of our souls.  Rejoice my friend.  He is ALIVE!  And so are we.  Death no longer has a hold on us.  Neither does sin, at least it doesn’t have to.  The only power sin has left is the power we give it.  Let sin no longer reign in your body, but live your life totally immersed in Jesus and His saving, cleansing, healing, delivering power.  Again I say REJOICE!

Be blessed today my friend as you bask in the new life Christ Jesus provides.

As a new grandpa’s prerogative, I included a few pics of our new grand-daughter who helped inspire today’s blog.

 

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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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I had the privilege of serving as a room leader at Gauntlet 2016.  In my young adult life I was a youth leader at two different churches and I even lead a diocese-wide youth event in Louisiana.  Other life demands took priority as I entered my mid 30’s so my youth leadership became focused upon coaching and a four year stint as a scoutmaster.  Gauntlet is our church’s youth camp, but it is youth camp to the extreme.  There were over 5300 youth at the Gauntlet with another 1700+ room leaders and support staff.  We descended upon Daytona Beach in 129 buses and filled 9 beach-front hotels.  And for the first time we filled the entire Ocean Center auditorium.

I intend on posting several pics and a few highlights from the week in this blog over the next few weeks.  The Gauntlet is an environment where youth and leader alike hear clear teaching on how to become a Christian and what it means to live the life God has created us for.  It provides ample opportunity to speak with caring leaders and fellow sojourners about life’s trials, challenges, failures, and triumphs in a safe place.  Within this context each person is given multiple opportunities to identify and take their next step in the faith journey of life.

This was my second time to serve.  And I almost didn’t go.  My experience the first time was enough of a challenge that I questioned whether the Lord wanted me there.  I left the date open on my calendar and I continued to ask the Lord to make it clear if I was to attend.  About 4 weeks prior the Lord gave me the nudge that I was to go and He provided two very clear instructions.  “Don’t have expectations on how your students are to respond”  and “Trust Me.”  So I signed up.  I am so glad that I did.

That I had chosen the right path was confirmed for me on the bus ride down.  Everyone traveled down in “pods” of three or four buses.  We were the first pod of buses from our campus which also happens to be the furthest from Daytona Beach.  Just outside Jacksonville the bus in front of ours broke down.  The failure on the bus disabled their air conditioning, so our bus leader asked us to make room for the folks from the other bus.  Our boys immediately moved to the back of the bus tripling up in seats or standing in the aisle.  We spent the next 3+ hours waiting on one of the other buses to complete the trip down to Daytona and then return to pick up the passengers from the disabled bus so our pod could continue.

The AC in our bus was stretched to the max with the extra body heat and the lack of air movement over the AC coils, so it was not very comfortable in the back where the boys were all scrunched together.  But during that entire time there was no whining or complaining.  The boys chatted.  I got to know several of the young men like Hawk, CJ, Bernard, Nick, Sean (or maybe Shawn), Drey, Marcelous, Dillon, and others.  For three hours we sweated together, watching bus after bus pass us as we sat on the side of the road with the Florida sun beaming in the windows… and the mood never turned sour with self pity.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because I was, and still am, pumped at how mature the boys handled the situation.

Although I didn’t meet and begin getting to know them until we arrived in Daytona Beach, my two roommates and new friends, Dylan and Greg were among those on the bus who handled the situation so well.  And they proved to be just as mature and good-natured as my initial impression of the other young men on bus 5.  It was truly a blessing to spend the week with these two guys, to get to know them, and to talk about what our next steps in growing closer to Jesus are.

That’s enough of a story for today’s post. So without further ado I share the first of my Gauntlet 2016 pics.

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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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