The Lord’s Regard

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May you have a blessed Christmas Eve.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

— Luke 1:46-49, ESV.


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The Magnificat, by Martin Luther

Mary confesses that the foremost work God did for her was that He regarded her, which is indeed the greatest of His works, on which all the rest depend and from which they all derive.  For where it comes to pass that God turns His face toward one to regard him, there is nothing but grace and salvation, and all gifts and works must follow.  Thus we read in Genesis 4:4, 5 that He had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard.  Here is the origin of the many prayers in the Psalter—that God would lift up His countenance upon us, that He would not hide His countenance from us, that He would make His face shine upon us, and the like.  And that Mary herself regards this as the chief thing, she indicates by saying: “Behold, since He has regarded me, all generations will call me blessed.”

Note that she does not say men will speak all manner of good of her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility, or sing of what she has done.  But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed.  That is to give all the glory to God as completely as it can be done.  Therefore she points to God’s regard and says: “For, behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.  That is, beginning with the time when God regarded my low estate, I shall be called blessed.”  Not she is praised thereby, but God’s grace toward her.  In fact, she is despised, and she despises herself in that she says her low estate was regarded by God.  Therefore she also mentions her blessedness before enumerating the works that God did to her, and ascribes it all to the fact that God regarded her low estate…

But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed.

Whoever, therefore, would show her the proper honor must not regard her alone and by herself, but set her in the presence of God and far beneath Him, must there strip her of all honor, and regard her low estate, as she says; he should then marvel at the exceedingly abundant grace of God, who regards, embraces, and blesses so poor and despised a mortal.  Thus regarding her, you will be moved to love and praise God for His grace, and drawn to look for all good things to Him, who does not reject but graciously regards poor and despised and lowly mortals.  Thus your heart will be strengthened in faith and love and hope.  What do you suppose would please her more than to have you come through her to God this way, and learn from her to put your hope and trust in Him, notwithstanding your despised and lowly estate, in life as well as in death?  She does not want you to come to her, but through her to God.

… who does not reject, but graciously regards poor and despised and lowly mortals.

Again, nothing would please her better than to have you turn in fear from all lofty things on which men set their hearts, seeing that even in His mother God neither found nor desired anything of high degree.  But the masters who so depict and portray the blessed Virgin that there is found in her nothing to be despised, but only great and lofty things—what are they doing but contrasting us with her instead of her with God?  Thus they make us timid and afraid and hide the Virgin’s comfortable picture, as the images are covered over in Lent.  For they deprive us of her example, from which we might take comfort; they make an exception of her and set her above all examples.  But she should be, and herself gladly would be, the foremost example of the grace of God, to incite all the world to trust in this grace and to love and praise it, so that through her the hearts of all men should be filled with such knowledge of God that they might confidently say: “O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, what great comfort God has shown us in you, by so graciously regarding your unworthiness and low estate.  This encourages us to believe that henceforth He will not despise us poor and lowly ones, but graciously regard us also, according to your example.”

Luther’s Works, Vol. 21: “The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat.”
Concordia Publishing House, 1999, 1956, 321-322.
Emphasis in original.

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Word and Water

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The light shines on the water.

The Spirit of God hovered over the waters at both creations: in the beginning (Genesis 1:2) and at Jesus’s baptism (Matthew 3:16).  God cleanses and recreates through the washing of baptism.  Simple water does not do this, but rather God’s word added to the water.  Jesus is the Word of God, and He went into the water to be baptized.

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“Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water included in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.”  Baptism “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”  “Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”  (Mark 16:16).

— Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.

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At the Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska a channel of water leads to the sanctuary.  This water symbolizes baptism which saves us.  In baptism, God puts his name on us, adopts us, and makes us part of his family.  We become his, and come under his protection, he brings us into his sanctuary.  Through baptism God works faith in our hearts.

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For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

— 1 Peter 3:18-22, ESV.
Emphasis added.

Veterans’ Day 2016

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This picture is of the Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Nebraska.  The men and women buried here served their country with honor.

Whether you gave your life to the end or not, whether you were wounded or not, whether you served in combat or not, your service to our country is appreciated.  Service is not easy, but it is good.

Thank you.

May you have a blessed Veterans’ Day.

The End of My Canon G12

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Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Boyd Lake State Park in Colorado.

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I got up at about 6 am to see the sunrise.  It looked like it might be a beautiful sunrise, so I walked down to the water with my trusted and beloved Canon G12 camera.

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A crane and some ducks foraged for breakfast.

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As I approached the water, the fowl moved off to the side in the bluer areas of the scene.

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The sky toward the sun started out very red with a hint of purple in the clouds.

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Down by the water’s edge, the whole scene was filled with light and color.  Little by little the light shifted from red to orange.

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The blues away from the sun made a beautiful contrast.

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The colors constantly turned and changed as the sky brightened into brilliant orange.  (Some of these photos are best viewed by clicking on them, and viewing a larger size).

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Some of the best sunrises and sunsets are when the sun shines underneath cloud cover causing the clouds to reflect back the light from the sun.  In this case, the clouds reflected the sun, and the water reflected the clouds.  This effect doubled the light.

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This wide angle shot pulled back from the lake to show the full pallet of color.  The sun is just starting to appear, and the colors are retreating.  Please notice the magenta just to the right of the main sunrise.  I tried to capture that color, but failed because my camera malfunctioned on those pictures.

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At this point, most of the pictures were horribly overexposed due to what I think may have been a malfunctioning computer or shutter.  This one turned out okay.

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The light receded off the water even further.

After the above photo, it was clear that something was terribly wrong, and it wasn’t going to fix itself.  I kept snapping photos, but they were all white and covered in lines.  That magenta color would never get its own shot.  Eventually, I would get one last photo:

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The very last photo.

Then the sun rose above the clouds, and the colors faded to gray.  “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, ESV).

And now a moment of photographic silence in honor of my departed G12.

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Autumn Blessings

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The Lord is merciful and good.  So let us fear the Lord in every season.

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

— Isaiah 64:6, ESV.

But the Lord is merciful, and sends rain in the Spring and in the Autumn.  Because of Christ crucified and his mercies:

‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives the rain in its season,
the autumn rain and the spring rain,
and keeps for us
the weeks appointed for the harvest.’

— Jeremiah 5:24, ESV.

Every day and every season brings us one ticktock closer to his final return.  For those in Christ, his return will be beautiful.

Notes:

The picture at the top was taken at Copper Falls State Park in Wisconsin.

A Marvelous Kingdom

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After a lot of rain, the sky cleared, the sun called, and still sprinkled with sparkling drops of water, the daisies answered.

These wildflowers just show up every year.  Whose wardrobe is as beautiful and wondrous as the lowly field of wildflowers?  And yet, it is a marvelous kingdom.  The King’s subjects are bees and jumping things.

Consider how the wildflowers grow:  They don’t labor or spin thread.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!  If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you—you of little faith?  Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious.  For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.

But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.  Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Be ready for service and have your lamps lit.

— Jesus of Nazareth
Luke 12:27-35, HCSB.

They sway together in a cool breeze under a warm sun.  And through them their maker imparts wisdom.

Blessed Veterans’ Day

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The picture above is of the United States flag at Fort Laramie, Wyoming.  Primarily cavalry served there during the time of the old west.  The men who served there served under circumstances that were not easy.  It is never easy to serve others, but it is good.

Veterans today also face hardship, especially those who served and were wounded in combat.  Some also lost close friends.  Not only do they carry the disabilities and scars from their wounds, sometimes they can also face discrimination and suspicion from those who do not understand.  It is especially hard when men who hold offices of trust, and who are supposed to protect others, also display discrimination and suspicion based on military service.

Whether you served in combat or not, whether you were wounded or not, your service to the people of this country is appreciated.  Service is not easy, but it is good.

May you have a blessed Veterans’ Day.

End of Summer Susans

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Warm summer light illumines the yellow petals of black-eyed susans.

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“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 11:7, ESV).  Even the reflections of sunlight are beautiful.

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Can you see the geometric pattern in the photo above?

In the work of even the smallest creatures, one can see the hidden and glorious hand of the Creator.

White Epiphany Winter

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All the pictures in this post were taken in a field on Christmas Eve 2013 A.D.  So the original title of this post was supposed to have been “White Christmas Winter,” but Flickr changed some of its code, and I had difficulty posting pictures here to WordPress.  So now it is an Epiphany post.  It was a white Christmas, and so far God has blessed us with a snowy and cold Winter.

Whether God sends us warmth or cold or wind, we rejoice in all things.

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In the picture above, one can see that the trunk of a very large tree was snapped in half by a tornado last August.

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A lot of trees were bent over by that tornado.  Many were also broken.

New trees will grow in their place.

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The light still shines.

Epiphany is a season in which we celebrate the revelation of the shining light of Jesus Christ.  The baby born in Bethlehem is the Son of God and the promised Messiah.

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The Christmas Eve snowstorm delivered about eight to ten inches of a very flaky fluffy snow.

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The picture above shows the flat reflective flakes this snow can form.

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Only a very cold day will preserve such delicate flakes in a bright Winter sun.

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If one cross-country skis at night with a headlamp through this type of snow, the snowflakes will reflect the light back from the lamp in a million little points of light.  As one schusses through the snow, those lights can sparkle.

It is beautiful on a cold winter night with twinkling stars above and sparkling snow below.

Above is a short video to give an idea of what that sparkling can be like.

Unfortunately, internet compression has caused this video to lose much of its rich blue color and sharp detail.

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Tracks from a Christmas Eve Field Mouse

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These tracks would often suddenly end.  This snow is so fluffy, it must be easy for an adventurous mouse to tunnel underneath.  I suppose they have to watch out for hawks.  How does such a little mammal stay warm when it is so cold outside?  God watches over all His creatures.

I saw a number of animal tracks in the snow.  I’m not an expert, but I thought I also saw tracks from wild turkeys and possibly a pair of foxes.  Maybe the Lord’s creatures were out preparing for Christmas.  We know that all “creation waits with eager longing for the” second coming of Christ.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  {Romans 8:19-21, ESV}.

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Winter photography seems to be best only when it is very cold, or maybe that is just my fingers’ imagination.

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Usually, this is as close as I get to a selfie.

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May the true love and selfless beauty of Christ be revealed to you.  May God bless you and your family in this season of Epiphany.