Snow — fun, beautiful, and cold!

Spoiler Alert : nothing profound or thought-provoking here – just fun!

We just had our first snow of the season in East Tennessee.  The mountains received significantly more than we did in the valley, but it was still pretty as it covered the grass and laid softly on the leaves and branches in the back yard.  When I looked out the window and saw the first snow, I was reminded of a video I made of Snickers and Cuddles as they ran in the snow wearing their yellow slickers, complete with reflector strip across their back end, in case they get lost at night!  

We adopted them from Young Williams Animal Shelter here in Knoxville.  Bill always says that they “won the lottery” when we brought them home with us, but I believe that we were the winners in those transactions when you think of all the joy and love they provide on a daily basis.

Here is the video — please bear with it for about 9 seconds and you will see them come streaking in from the right side of the screen.  Cuddles is the one with her tail curved over her back – Snickers has the straighter tail.  The video always brings a smile to my face.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

Happy New Year and, if you have snow, enjoy it before you have to start shoveling your way out of it!  I know shoveling can be a bear, but enjoy the beauty for a little while.  Please don’t let the obligation to get going eliminate your appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation, even in a little snowflake.  

Blessings to you today, and throughout the new year.

A CONSUMING FIRE

This past weekend, my husband and I spent a beautiful evening at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park where we enjoyed dinner at the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro in Townsend, Tennessee, with our children and their spouses as we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.

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Greeting as you begin the entrance to the Dancing Bear Lodge and Appalachian Bistro Restaurant.

Then we spent the night at the Dancing Bear Lodge, all compliments of the children.  Yesterday we left the lodge rested, thanking the children for their thoughtful gift, and praising the Lord for the beauty of the mountains surrounding us.

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Dancing Bear Lodge and Appalachian Bistro entrance, Townsend, Tennessee

As we drove back home, we saw the smoke from the forest fires that have been plaguing our area for the past several weeks.  We are in the midst of a severe drought and the mountain woods are dry creating the perfect setting for forest fires.  We stopped at a little store in the area and spoke with a police officer about the status of the fires.  He said that there were a couple of small spots still burning uncontrolled on the other side of the mountain but he did not know of any real concern at this point.

We continued on our 45 minute trip home and brought our things in from the car.  In the afternoon, we turned on the television to learn the upcoming weather and heard about a cold front that was coming and that would bring strong winds and rain.

We were aware that the wind had kicked up significantly because we experienced this as we were driving home.  The reality was that the wind was blowing in excess of 80 miles per hour in the high mountains.  One result of that strong wind was that embers were picked up and blown a long way, some over a mile from the fire source, where they landed on dry leaves and a whole new fire started.  A second result was that trees were blown over and when they hit power poles the fallen power lines fell on dry leaves and burst into flames.

In short, in just 15 minutes, there were multiple new fires all burning out of control and all headed toward the resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, two vacation tourist areas adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The fires were all-consuming.  This morning, the report is that well over 100 structures have been destroyed, including resorts, free-standing restaurants, and multi-story hotels.  The firefighters have not been able to get up into the mountains to check on how many homes have been destroyed, but there were over 1,000 people staying in shelters after mandatory evacuation orders were given for their protection.

Watching the videos taken from cars as they were driving down the mountain roads with fires on both sides of the street reminded me of the Scripture describing God as a “consuming fire”.

In Deuteronomy 4:23-24 we read this warning:

Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you.  For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

We think of God as our Father, and for the believer He certainly is that because of the salvation we have through Jesus Christ our Lord.  He loves His people and has done everything that He can do to protect us and bring us to eternal life with Him.

But we often don’t remember that He is a jealous God. He wants us to worship Him alone.  We are not to worship idols that replace His rightful place in our life.    Those idols are insidious, they interject themselves into our lives in what is seemingly innocuous ways.  For example:

  • Family – we love our families and we take care of them, indeed, Scripture tells us to do so. The family is a gift from God.  But when our family pushes God out of the picture, the family is now a forbidden idol.
  • Money – we are told in Scripture to work so that we can take care of ourselves and our family and so that we can donate funds to help others. Money is good.  But, when money becomes our god so that we hoard it, we strive to get more and more, we look to it for our security and happiness, when we take pride in how much we have accumulated without recognition that all things come from God, money has now become a forbidden idol.
  • Fame – we want to be well known so that we can spread the gospel to others, something that Scripture tells us to do. But, when we seek fame for our own glory, when we believe that we have accomplished these things on our own without acknowledging God’s role in our success, we have made fame a forbidden idol.

The list could go on and on, but the point is that God will not tolerate idols in our lives.

In Hebrews 12:28-29, the writer tells us this:

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

We are to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

A series of natural events collided in East Tennessee causing devastation and loss by fire  — extreme drought and dry conditions, strong winds whipping embers to new locations, downed trees cutting power lines thereby igniting leaves below.  I pray that we would search our own lives to see if there are any activities or conditions that would collide with our love for God — effectively pushing God out of our lives or diminishing our trust and devotion to Him.

I pray that

  • our worship is acceptable to God and that we come to Him in reverence and awe of His majesty, power, glory and honor.
  • we come to Him with contrite hearts, asking for forgiveness for our sin and seeking His power to live lives that are acceptable to Him.
  • we would worship and seek His face when we interact with others to spread the gospel.
  • we would seek His mighty hand to stop the raging forest fires and that He would comfort and strengthen those who have suffered such significant injury and loss.

Father, please put out Your hand and stop the devastating forest fires now raging in East Tennessee.  I thank You and there have been only a few injuries and no fatalities at this point, and I pray that You would protect those who are in harm’s way as well as those who are fighting these fires.  I pray that You would give guidance to those who are directing the rescue efforts and that You would sustain the workers with Your Spirit’s energy, love, compassion and strength. I also ask that You would encourage, comfort and strengthen those who have suffered loss during these fires.  Finally, I pray that You would bless these words and that those who read them would be encouraged and/or convicted by Your Spirit so that blessings will come this day.

GOD’S ARTISTRY – A TESTIMONY TO HIS CHARACTER

 

Throughout the Southeast United States we have been experiencing record-breaking heat at a time where the calendar would suggest that we should be having much cooler temperatures.  And we need rain!  

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Fall colors in the mountains of East Tennessee.

However, while the need for rain is certainly significant, there is a blessing side of the situation.  The leaf-bearing shrubs, trees and vegetation are so colorful that they create a scene that exceeds any picture that an artist’s pallet would create.  Because we have not had rain or wind, the leaves have remained on the trees and the colors have retained their brilliance much longer than in recent years.

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Fall colors along the roadway.

East Tennessee is always beautiful with the mountains and the gentle rolling hills … the majority of which are covered in a wide variety of trees.  Now, however, God’s pallet of colors is on vivid display in the hills and valleys of the area.

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Neighborhood trees on colorful display.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

Paul in Romans is noting that the human race has no excuse for denying God’s power because it is so clearly on display in His creation.  Simply put, creation evidences God’s attributes that are invisible to us, His eternal power and His divine nature, His goodness and His beauty. 

In fact, Scripture has much to say about the beauty of God and we find that beauty is one of His attributes, an attribute that is evidenced not only by His creation but also by His directives regarding worship due to Him.

When God’s people were in the wilderness, we read that God directed the design of the tabernacle, the place where He was going to be with His people.  It was to be made with gold, with purple cloth, with all assortments of gems, jewels and craftsmanship.  It would be dazzling in the sun and would reflect God’s beauty and glory to all who looked at it.  In fact, God directed that this beauty extended even to the clothing that the priests were to wear:

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. …  “For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty.

Exodus 28:2, 40.

David, in the Psalms, speaks of the “beauty of the Lord” in a number of places, but here are two examples:

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Psalm 96:6

But there is beauty in God’s creation not only on a panoramic scale but on a small scale as well, and not just when the leaves turn colors.  Think about the the beauty and variety of apples.

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A bushel of apples from the orchard.

Consider too the variety of winged gourds.

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Winged gourds directly from the farm!

We won’t even begin to think about the variety of flowers, trees, animals, fish … people!

 For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!

Zechariah 9:17a.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love [goodness] endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble … Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love [goodness], for his wondrous works to the children of man!

Psalm 107:1-2, 8

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”   Tell others of your relationship with this wonderful, loving, God of creation Who is the very definition of goodness and Who has extended His unspeakable grace and love in sending Jesus Christ, His only Son, to be our Savior and Lord. 

When you look at the beauty of creation this autumn, let it remind you of the glory of our God and of our Lord Jesus. 

Let it remind you of the beauty of our omniscient and omnipresent God who love you and who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the atoning sacrificial Lamb so we could have life eternal through His name.  John 20:31.

Let it speak to your heart and soul and mind, and let your mouth sing praise to Him for His goodness to the children of men.  

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Here is John Rutter’s beautiful arrangement of the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” as sung by The Cambridge Singers.  

 

 

 

Father, forgive me when I get so focused on the issues in the news, the distress of others, the materialistic culture around me … that I forget that You are my Father and I have no reason to quake.  Forgive me when I look at the beautiful colors in your creation and only see dead leaves on the walkway.  Forgive me when I see only sinful people when I should be looking at people with your eyes of love and compassion.  Forgive me when I fail to tell others of your steadfast love and wondrous works to the children of men.  Give me strength, dear Father, to following your commands through my Lord and Savior, your Son, Jesus Christ.