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NOTES ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS:
The Living Word (Feb 2019): The featured image “The Yoke” is a replica of a first-century yoke. The photo was taken by me of an exhibit in the Museum of the Bible (see link below). According to all I have learned (since I’m not from an agrarian background), the yoke was laid upon two oxen: an older, seasoned ox and a younger ox-in-training. Many illustrations come from this scene, illustrations that would have been very familiar to the more agrarian culture in which Jesus taught. The older ox represents our Christ who guides us in all wisdom and truth; He Himself being disciplined by obedience to the Father (the yoke). We are the younger oxen. We are harnessed together with Christ (as believers) and as He walks, so we also walk. But we get distracted and turn and look elsewhere and we feel the pull of the yoke against our necks as the lead oxen keeps us on the straight road, ploughing a straight path to our Destination. But the harness and the yoke rub us raw and we rankle against it. We “kick against the goads” as Paul was warned. The goads were little pointy sticks that were attached to the back end of the ox to provide a little “incentive” if the ox resisted and kicked backward, unwilling to move ahead. As Christians, we are provided these disciplinary measures not to hurt us or to keep us from joy, but that we would arrive at our Destination with joy. As we learn this obedience, we calm under the yoke; it no longer chaffs us as much as when we were first yoked together in our immaturity. This is the peace that God talks about; that calming influence that obedience brings. We are no longer fighting Christ’s influence in our lives, but we are working with Him. And we plough a straight path forward. God’s Word is our Yoke. Christ, the Word Made Flesh, is our lead ox who was sanctified by the same yoke under which we serve.
LIkewise, as Christ’s disciples, we are to be the older oxen for our younger, more immature-in-the-faith brothers and sisters, not in replacement of Christ’s own leadership, but by our example of obedience to Him and His Word. Let us keep our minds focused ahead on the Prize of Christ and our Destination in glory with Him, so that our “yoke-fellows” don’t falter by our bad examples.
Not Ashamed (Feb 2019): This featured image of the modern city of Jerusalem was taken of a display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.. This is the place where Christ was sanctified. The city of Jerusalem was a multi-cultural crossroads in the world at the time of Christ. From here, the gospel spread throughout the known world to today. The good news of Christ is not spread by the news of Christ’s death and Resurrection alone. It is spread by the validation of that truth in the public testimony of His Church as that truth burns through their lives in willing self-sacrifice and joy in the midst of suffering. It is not our proud moments that turn the world’s heads, but our humility–the laying down of our own lives for the sake of His Life in us. May that Light shine throughout the world so that the world will be won, one by one, for His Name as worshippers of the One True God.
The Story of Our Lives (Feb 2019): These photos (the featured image “Ice on the Mountain” and the in-text photo “Buds in Winter”) were taken at my mother’s home in the mountains of North Carolina. How beautiful it was to be on the top of the mountain on a crisp, cold morning in winter with the radiant sun shining down onto an ice-crystal world! The ice had enshrouded power lines and made amazing shapes and patterns all around. But this caught my attention: the ice-enshrouded bud. Within its frozen casing, there was life. Always, the promise of God in us is life for all life’s hard killing frosts. If that bud should wither from the extraction of moisture, a new bud would take its place come spring. Death has its season, but life is eternal!
“The Ocean’s Surface“, (see “Adrift“, Feb 2019): Special thanks to Phillip Colla of Natural History Photography at www.oceanlight.com for gracious permission to use his image #00700. Please visit Phillip’s gallery and blog for more stunning photos! (Credit given in FOOTNOTES area of my post.) This photo was taken on location in the Bahamas. It was exactly what I needed to illustrate my view from inside the pool, and inside life at times. What can look like sinking under life’s surface, is actually a promise of life waiting beyond the threshold of this one.
Waiting for God (Feb 2019): This featured image is a photo I took from the wooded trail atop Kilbroney Forest Park in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland (2018). The trail was covered in shadows and darkness due to the extraordinary tall trees. But if one looks UP, one can see the light of life shining happily down. The light doesn’t reach the forest floor very well, but it is there all the same. And the light at the end of the trail opens out onto a cleared and stunning meadow filled with long, flowing green grass and multi-shades of purple heather and the steel-gray and brilliant blue of Carlingford Lough and the Republic of Ireland in the distance. So it is with our walk on this earth. The truth of the matter is that the Lough and the meadow and the beautiful open sky still exists for us even as we walk through the shaded trails of life with signs of death all about: fungi, prickly dead pine needle layers….all in a state of regenerating the soil underneath. Life is going on, if we will stop to see it. Take hope! God’s love penetrates to your forest floor and renews all.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand (Feb 2019): This featured image was taken on a solo walk up the Cavehill Country Park nature trail in Belfast, NI. Along the way, there were similar signs posted and I admired them but regretfully didn’t think of photographing them on the way up until this one. Then it rained on the way down, so I missed my opportunity again. But I finally found who was responsible, so you can check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Messagesofhope.
“Messages of Hope is a group of people who are set out to try and make a positive impact on our communities. We aren’t in any way counselors…”
In their story, they write: “Together Aaron McCrory & Kirsty McBride went to the Cavehill overlooking Belfast, a place where they would often go to pray, especially at nighttime, and there they nailed many Messages of Hope for passers by to read, but especially for those who would be in that area for the wrong and tragic reasons…”
When I first was in Belfast, summer of 2017, the news reported a death at Cavehill Country Park down by the cave (homicide). Belfast is a place grievously acclimated to sorrow and grief, yet I have since seen much hope and active, practical love from the believing churches in Northern Ireland. They are reaching out with the hope of the gospel, biblical counseling and practical acts of service–and it is making a difference.
Messages of Hope began with just two people who prayed and did an act most people would probably have judged ineffective and a waste of time; a small act that was not based on arguments or deep Biblical scholarship. They just acted in love.
They are just positive messages, not the gospel, but they acted. Rather than criticize them for not going the whole way, I am humbled by their moving out for other’s sake at all. Others, even children, are joining in the positive message movement in the Shankill area and in West Belfast, both areas previously well known for hard-line prejudice and violence. A small act? From small acorns, mighty oaks grow. Faith as small as a mustard seed, shelters many when it is full grown.
The picture may not illustrate physical touch by hand, but reaching out takes many forms, does it not? I was very encouraged when I read the signs. What can I do?
The Good of Affliction (Jan 2019):
The featured image is of sheep calmly and quietly grazing in a pasture in Trossachs National Park by the Trossachs Woolen Mill (Callander, Scotland). We got to feed some “Heelan’ Coos” (highland cows), which was a real treat. The pastoral scene was so reminiscent of Psalm 23, I had to take the picture.
I am also reminded of “the cattle of a thousand hills are mine” (Psalm 50:9-12). “Cattle” meaning “livestock”, not just the coos.
Now, I wanted a picture of some good Phoenician clay pottery, or a picture of a potter at his or her wheel. But I chose this, because the end of the psalmist’s song is God’s Providence. The sheep are grazing as a result of the Savior’s own affliction for my salvation, and the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying affliction to keep me safe. The peaceful end is what I want to remember.
But I would still love pottery photos, so if anyone would like to contribute any I can use here, I would be grateful.
Revision Redux (Jan 2019): The lovely pink flowers (what kind?) were taken by me at Ward Park in Bangor, Northern Ireland. This is a lovely little park across the street from Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church where I ventured before and after meetings at the Bangor Worldwide Missions Conference (2017, 2018) to soak in all that the Lord could give me from His presence and His Word. Ducks, bird sanctuary, lots of kids at the play park, winding walking trails and a creek that ripples its way through the heart of the park–so lovely! Unfortunately, the photo was taken with my iPhone and is not crisp. My wish list for future travels is a neat, excellent quality camera with macro lens but nothing too fussy or “professional”. 😀
Wholly Clean: (Jan 2019): This photo of the gorgeous pink rose in the dew of a Scottish morning, was taken by me at the site of Eilean Donan castle near the “picturesque village of Dornie” at the meeting point of Loch Long, Loch Duich, and Loch Alsh on the Isle of Skye. The stunning innocence and purity of this flower seemed appropriate for the topic of this post. As a child, this color of pink fired my heart to know that there is a God. Who (and it must be a who!) could ever have imagined the depth and delicacy of this color? My heart knew it long before my mind ever did: there is a God. Further, this color of pink tells me the nature of my God: He is kind. He loves beauty! He is gentle. To be less poetic, I first saw the color on one of those bright neon “flower power” stickers Burger Chef used to give out with its burgers. You know, the kind of flowers that were pasted all over Volkswagens in the 60s and 70s. Yes, this dates me. I had been to Burger Chef and had sat in utter amazement holding a neon pink flower sticker in my hands. Then I saw this color transfixed amidst the brilliant green of a bouganvillea in equally amazing shades running all the way from pink to dark purple. Every time I see this color (especially juxtaposed over brilliant green), I give worship. But more than just the color, the freshness of the chilly mountain dew on the leaves enhances the idea of God-washed purity. I want that. Every morning of my life.
Show Me, Parts I and II: There are three photos. The statue of the mom and little girl was given to me by a dear teacher friend, Carol. We are both remedial English tutors (see www.easyreadenglish.com). I love the statue as it reminds me of the relationship aspect of learning, which is reflected in Psalm 119:33-40 (He). The Part II photo is an illustration of the heart being transformed from a heart blackened by hidden sin to a blood-red heart by the rays of God’s mercy and grace. It is not a perfect illustration; the fulcrum for change is the cross of Christ. A cross is needed somewhere, but we do have the blood. The sins are fading as the blood washes each one and the rays of the light of God’s Word (Jesus is the Word) penetrate to even our darkest, most hidden secrets. The blood reaches there, too. The featured image at the top shows a Bible study with one important element–the mirror of self-evaluation and petition to God. I hope my attempts are successful in making us remember as we contemplate He together.
Shepherd’s Door: This graphic is from “Explore the Ideal Shepherd” at Step Into the Story (stepintothestory.ca). It is not my own graphic. Please do visit the website and read this excellent article explaining the metaphorical content of John 10.
Guardian Angel with Children on Bridge: This unnamed, anonymously authored print was photographed by me from a matted and framed version displayed at St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow, Scotland. It was cropped and retouched by me to reduce camera glare from the glass covering.
An interesting backstory to this painting appears at “The Story Behind This Guardian Angel Painting” by Appalachian Magazine, January 27, 2017 at appalachianmagazine.com. The print is in the public domain and there are many renditions of it. Apparently at one point there was a version that had a forest painted such that the face of Jesus could be detected and this face glowed in the dark, leading some to think there was a demon hidden in the painting. Another version says that a face can be detected in the girl’s red hair, but that this is either a coincidence or otherwise is not a demon.
My point is to depict God’s supernatural care early in life, which is the way most people regard this print, without its earliest influences. As a child, I, too, innocently took great comfort in the picture. To me, the angel represented God’s care; I never thought of any doctrine of angels except that I knew they exist to serve God and man at God’s command. Looking at the missing planks on the bridge, I got it. It alerted me to the idea that there are things going on in the spiritual world all around me of which I am not aware. It reminded me that I can’t take care of myself, but that I can and must trust God to be my Keeper and my Guide.
This print may be painful to you, as you may feel that God abandoned you during the harm and abuse you suffered in early years at the hands of authority figures, family, or your peers. The print is not a doctrinal treatise. But the truth remains that all our lives we are watched over by God, even when His purposes are often mysterious to us in this life. We have this promise that whatever He allows is part of a greater plan to draw us at the appropriate time for salvation and for our greater joy and ultimate restoration and healing. The Bible is full of incidences of injustice, and yet the Lord fulfills his greater promise above and beyond what evil had designed for our destruction.
If this painting disturbs or causes pain, disregard it and look beyond it to the real hope that is yours now in Christ Jesus. Please do read the articles given in the “Further Resources” section below the blog post.
Smut and erosion, Monteath Mausoleum, Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland. Taken September 2018.
It was such a lovely orange-stone, thoughtfully-carved octagonal building set close to the overlook and close to the John Knox monument. But years of industrial soot and the heavy winds and weather had pitted, soiled and degraded its features.
Time and erosion happens to us, too. Still, in this photo, you can see the glory that it once was. In time, we too shall be remade and the corruptible will be changed into incorruption. We shall shine in better than our former glory, we shall be new! Now, we are being made new in our spirits, but even our bodies are precious to Him and we will be complete in evey way! Hallelujah!
I wish I could show more photos that I took from this cemetery (that is not a Christian cemetery, despite some godly people memorialized there). One in particular took my eye, and my heart as well. (See below)
Though sullied by the dirt of progress, eroded by the harsh winds of adversity, lichened by the neglect of the world, still she watches the eastern sunrise and looks to her redemption which “draweth nigh”. The beauty of the picture, set amongst the studded graves of those who do not share this hope, gripped my heart. With the eternal sky as her backdrop, she waits…ever alert, despite the sleepiness of the ages. The angel “knows” that the one beneath the ground will one day burst forth from this hill to meet the Lord in the air. Quietly, the stone declares this hope with the words of 1 Corinthians engraved for all to see.
Interestingly, this Necropolis, or “City of the Dead” was one of the first moves to privatize (i.e., commercialize) the burial of the dead apart from church grounds (1833). One website claims that most of those who planned and sponsored this “city” were Freemasons. It was designed as a glorified status-clinching cemetery city on a hill for the wealthy and worldly noble. It was not designed for the common folk. Still, Christ will have His way; some of those wealthy were godly-minded and planted their Christian witness there, anyway.
As I walked about the hilltop, I looked for signs of Christian hope in symbol or in word (epitaphs). There were some: the John Knox monument at the hill’s peak, the artfully designed Celtic crosses–if it wasn’t just an artful design to them, a very few inscriptions and testaments to noble Christian deeds. Most only drily told the name, dates, and sometimes their earthly contributions.
This one, however, was unmistakably designed to glorify the Lord and His promise. She is me…dirty, sequestered, broken in places, weathered, her strap falling off her shoulder; but she watches and waits in faith. I was encouraged. I hope you are, too.
Meditations on Psalm 119, the featured photo throughout this website. Taken spring 2018.
Tropical sunset on Brenneke Beach, Kauai, Hawaii (this page). Taken by my dear husband 2017.
Oakwood University’s Historic Slave Cemetery, Huntsville, AL. On/near the campus of Oakwood University. Taken spring of 2018. See “The Sign of My Being” blog post, July 25, 2018. NOTE: Driving the back way from US Hwy 72 toward the Oakwood University Campus, I noted a brown historic sign “Historic Slave Cemetery” and decided to turn left into the lovely green and unadulterated landscape. A long and stately tree-lined avenue silently guided me toward a roundabout that opened up onto a quietly serene cemetery. Out in the distance to the right, three tall crosses signified some special place of significance. Off to my left stood a short dead-end paved road ending in a tall flag post with a huge American flag waving decorously over the graves of many who in one way or another, great or small, have served and shaped our country. This is Oakwood’s main cemetery. But where was the slave cemetery? I backtracked from the roundabout and came upon a small side road that I had missed. It led to the commemorative slave cemetery with a marker and a quote from Ellen White:
If they believe on him, his cleansing blood is applied to them. The black man’s name is written in the book of life beside the white man’s. All are one in Christ. Birth, station, nationality, or color cnanot elevate or degrade men. The character makes the man. — Ellen White, Southern Work, 1891
On the back of this stone were the words to an old spiritual song, “Deep River”: “Deep river, my home is over Jordan. Deep river, Lord; I want to cross over into camp ground.”
I can’t remember being so at peace in such a lovely place of final rest. Being an avid family historian, I am frequently found in beautiful cemeteries, familiar with their lore and layout. Yet I was struck by the beauty, the repose, and the graciousness with which Oakwood University has so perfectly embued this memorial garden. And it is a garden.
A gentle rainstorm was brewing. Cooling breezes rustled the trees disturbing the many songbirds taking refuge amongst their branches. They literally sang in the midst of the coming storm. The eternally-ring-linked archway, signifies to me both the remembrance of the chains of bondage (one thinks of the elliptical shape), but now also embracing a more perfect unity of the brotherhood of all mankind in Christ with their perfectly circular shapes. This, the memorial markers, and the respectful planning of this largely unnoticed little acreage of green said what it needed to and no more. It all stands. It quietly and gloriously stands unapologetic in the pain of its remembrances, yet humble with the grace of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I wish more people could see this cemetery. So here it is for you at least in snapshots.
Two Points in Crisis, taken summer 2018. See “Crux” blog post, Aug 7, 2018.
Amy Carmichael’s Welcome Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Taken Summer 2018. See “Living in Prayer” blog post, July 26, 2018. When I have had the privilege of traveling to Belfast, I have asked a cab driver to take me to see Amy Carmichael’s Welcome Church that she began in 1889 for the mill-worker girls who were unable to attend regular church services due to the fact that they were ill-dressed (called “shawlies” for they only had a shawl to wear instead of a proper coat and accoutrements) and unschooled in the ways of church attendance. Each time I have been able to tell them Amy’s story and it has affected each one that I have told. This picture shows the new Amy Carmichael Center for children and adults with disabilities. This is a statue of a mill-worker and below is a picture of the mill. Amy must have been affected by their plight in a special way. Her father owned a mill in Millisle and Belfast before he passed away when she was young. Her work with the mill-workers in Belfast led to a request that she help out with the mill workers in Manchester, England, which she did until her extreme dedication led to her ill health and she had to return home. Of course, the story continues…Amy was never one to accept any limitation placed on her that prohibited her from obeying her Lord. Her story is told other places. I just wanted to share with you my beloved memories.
Wild, Uncultivated Thoughts. Taken summer 2018. See “Wild, Uncultivated Thoughts” blog post, July 10, 2018.
Out of the Darkness, Kilbroney Forest Park, near Rostrevor, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Taken summer 2017. Rostrevor, or rather this area looking down upon Carlingford Lough at the top of Kilbroney F.P. where lies the great Cloughmore Stone, was mentioned by C.S. Lewis as his idea of Narnia. When walking through the forest, the darkness was so intense and the path so confused that it was easy to imagine the lostness of the forest scenes throughout The Chronicles of Narnia. What a heart-stopping joy it was to see the lush heather-plumped sunlit-from-heaven view at the path’s end! Metaphors abounded! Enjoy! See “Seeing and Being Seen” blog post, July 12, 2018.
Old Mountain Church, Obids Township area, Ashe County, North Carolina. Taken 2017/2018. See “Read Psalm 119, II” blog post, July 26, 2018.
Crux and Compass, taken summer 2018. See “Crux” blog post, August 7, 2018. NOTE: The compass is open to signify taking a measurement; facing decision and open (hopefully) to answers.
Hidden in Christ, taken summer 2018. See “Crux” blog post, August 7, 2018 (scroll to the bottom). NOTE: The ebony-stained wooden cross that says “Jesus” across the horizontal beam was a purchase at a missions conference. It was supposedly machined and made by African men (prisoners? my memory is sketchy on that detail) in Liberia and the proceeds from the sale went towards missions work there. When I see it, I remember all those in Africa facing decisions far larger than my own “made in America” problems. Also, the compass is closed in this photograph, representing a settled position in Christ. All is now centered and at rest inside the life of Christ who is ALL.
NOTES ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY NOT MY OWN:
****icommittopray.com**** is a link to the original website. This is NOT my photography. The link is given at the bottom of the photograph. I am trying to figure out how to make the entire image linked, but am not able to figure that out at the moment. Please do visit this link! See “Not Yet Suffered…” blog post, July 13, 2018.
NOTE: I recently found that one of the pictures I had linked to was no longer on the linked page. It was not a “resident” linkable image. When I found the photo again to get copyrights, I couldn’t afford the subscription, so I deleted the photo from my system. Just a note to the more-prudent-than-I to do things the “long way” from the beginning.
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