Happy New Year 2017 A.D.

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Happy New Year and Merry Eighth Day of Christmas.

Almighty and ever-living God, You make us both to will and to do those things that are good and acceptable in Your sight.  Let Your fatherly hand ever guide us and Your Holy Spirit ever be with us to direct us in the knowledge and obedience of Your Word that we may obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

— “For divine guidance” prayer, LSB, 310.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  (James 1:17, ESV).

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.

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.

Walking on High Cliff

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Crack in the Niagara Escarpment rock at High Cliff.

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The Red Bird Trail follows along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment which forms the cliff of High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin.

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The Niagara Escarpment is a large arch shaped, raised rock that runs from an area south of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, through Door County, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a number of large islands in Lake Huron, Ontario, Niagara Falls, and continues on into New York.  It is most famous because Niagara Falls runs over it.

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“How magnificent are Your works, LORD,
how profound Your thoughts!”

— Psalm 92:5, HCSB.

God’s creation is magnificent, and reflects His glory.  But the greatest and most profound thought of God for us is His own incarnation in Jesus Christ.

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Christ is the only way of forgiveness and reconciliation.  He is the only way to heaven.  (John 14:6).

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Jesus is the rock of our salvation.  (Psalm 62:2).

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

— Isaiah 53:5, ESV.

Only God Can Heal

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“‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!’  (Matthew 7:7-11)…

“For this reason have we who are evil a good Father, so that we may not always continue evil.  No evil person can make another person good.  If no evil person can make another good, how can an evil person make himself good?  Only our Father, who is good eternally, can make of an evil person a good person.

“‘Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved.’  (Jeremiah 17:14).”

— St. Augustine,
Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, 11.2,
as quoted in A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH 2011, page 313.

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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A Slice of Heaven

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Hartman Creek near Waupaca, Wisconsin

There is something quite beautiful about the way the pine needles shimmer in the late afternoon summer sun (that I’ve never been able to capture with a camera).  This place seems to me like a slice of heaven.

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Mist from campfire smoke and water vapor.

Even tainted by sin, God’s creation remains wondrous.  But the greatest beauty of all is God’s mercy in Christ.  In him all things will be made new.

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Mist on the creek.

Christ is much more than just a slice of heaven.  He is life itself.  (John 14:6).

God’s blessings to you.

Long Weekend

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Mountain biking, hiking, and watching the sunset at High Cliff.

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The pictures in this post are from Labor Day weekend 2016 A.D.

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Swimming, watching the waves and clouds, enjoying the cool breeze, meditating, praying, and reading Tainted by Morgan Busse on the beach at Whitefish Dunes.

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Hiking at Whitefish Dunes.

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Mountain biking at Peninsula.

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Biking the Sunset Trail, mountain biking, picnicking, biking the Sunset Trail again, and more mountain biking for good measure.  That landmass on the horizon is Chambers Island (just west of Adventure Island).

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At the end of the day at Peninsula State Park, a sudden realization.  Also thankful for the car I purchased brand new sixteen years ago.  199,000!  That’s worth one last photo before leaving.  16 years, 199,000 miles.  Thank you Lord Jesus.

Some Interesting Clouds

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I think these might be stratocumulus clouds, but I’m not certain.  When these clouds appeared, there were a number of pictures on TV, and I think there may have been a specific name for them, but I cannot remember it.

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The entire sky reflected the amber light of the setting sun.  The show lasted for about one-half an hour.

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The light itself shown with golden shades of heaven, as God revealed Himself to be an artist.

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Even the afterglow was beautiful.

Then the light retreated back across the clouds, and faded away.

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Dreamy Hartman Creek

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These pictures are from a hike in Hartman Creek State Park near Waupaca, WI.

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Fishing is popular in this area.  Two canines helped in this photo.

Is the word “canine” related to “Canaanite”?  A Canaanite woman came to Jesus, and cried, “Lord, help me.”  And Jesus answered,

“It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.”  And her daughter was healed instantly.

— Matthew 15:25-28, ESV.

Just wondering about the etymology and God’s grace.

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The sun came out after after a rain shower.  Back-light illumination is one of my favorite ways to photograph vegetation.

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Rain fell as mist floated across the water.

Hartman Creek is one of my favorite places to go mountain biking.  It has an extensive single-track and double-track trail system.  However, I generally do not take pictures while mountain biking, opting instead to enjoy the sights and scents without electronics.

God’s blessings to you.