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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Green Knob overlook NC 10/25/10
A view from the Green Knob Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
(Click on image to enlarge)

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"The Sight Of Encouragement"

"And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage" (Acts 28:15).

Apple Barn cardinal in Pigeon Forge TN 10/29/10
Last week we were in Pigeon Forge at the Apple Barn, a real barn converted to a large country store. It sold merchandise, all of it relating to apples.  It was very interesting, but it didn't hold my interest nearly as long as it did for Brooksyne or my sister, Genelle.  In the process of "patiently waiting" at the country store an elderly couple caught my attention since they wore matching white sweat shirts with Tennessee emblazoned across the front. They both wore a small wooden carved boot with a big T around their necks.  As I observed them I sensed a friendly vibrancy about their demeanor.

Tennessee boot in Pigeon Forge TN 10/29/10
My brother-in-law Cesar and I were waiting by our van for Brooksyne and Genelle when the elderly couple came out to get in their car which happened to be right beside my van; a perfect set-up for getting acquainted with other tourists. We were intrigued by the carved boots and I initially thought the T stood for Texas, although I should have known better!  They seemed delighted by our friendly observation and she proceeded to pull the boot necklace from around her neck and handed it to Cesar along with a small printed card that stated, "You've been officially 'booted' by Papa Don and Gigi.  Membership Fee to be booted is to be kind to someone today."

We visited for a few more minutes. They told us they would soon be celebrating their 60th anniversary and were looking for a place in the mountains to gather with their family. We continued our friendly visit and they learned that I was a minister so they brought out a box of items he had carved and let me choose a small wooden cross. (They also identified themselves as Christians.)  We parted and I considered how this brief encounter with two complete strangers left me feeling encouraged and energized.  I thank God for people like this!

You've met people like Don and Gigi, haven't you?

The latter chapters of Acts records Paul's arduous journey to Rome. It was a wearying journey and now as he approached the great city some brethren had heard he was coming.  They adjusted their schedules and laid aside other commitments so they could come out to personally greet him.

Today's Scripture portion records Paul's joy-filled response when this group of brothers traveled from Rome to meet him and his fellow workers.  Paul had never been to Rome prior to this and these brothers are not identified. Frankly I wonder if he even knew these men. Perhaps he was just overjoyed that the church had sent out these brothers to greet him.

I smile as I picture the scene, "when Paul saw them (the brethren)." Before there's any evidence that Paul had even spoken to them his heart must have been warmed at the sight. The thoughts of unloading his heavy bags, sitting in a comfortable chair or taking a warm bath would no longer be foremost in his weary mind and body, but the sight of a welcoming committee would now invigorate him.  In the past he'd been met by an angry mob who were prepared to stone him, but this was a friendly group who were overjoyed that he would visit their community.

I know people like that.  Don't you?  Their very presence is a source of joy. Just seeing them from a distance brings a measure of encouragement.  I like to use the term "energy givers" to describe these kinds of people. A reading of Romans 16 will indicate Paul's rich reservoir of human support and friendship among his Christian brothers and sisters in Rome alone.

When Paul saw them he did two things:

1) "He thanked God." The sight of these men prompted an exclamation of thanks to God. Now that's a high standard regarding the impact of our presence to others. When people see us do they thank God?

2) "And took courage." Other versions describe that Paul "was encouraged". Regular readers know this is a major emphasis in my life and of course is at the very heart of this "daily encouragement" ministry. I pray that my presence may bring spiritual courage to those whom I interact with day by day.

Our challenge to our readers today is twofold:

1) Value the people that God has placed in your life. Are you developing and adding to those who have blessed your life?  Do you recognize them as "instruments sent from God"?  Do you thank God for them and let them know how much you value their friendship? Although I cannot say the older couple I met last Friday in Pigeon Forge are numbered among my personal friends, I'm sure they have many of their own since they spread cheer with their pleasant disposition.

2) Seek to be a friend such as these men whom Paul saw on his way to Rome.  Seek ways to encourage others and share God's love with a world in need. May we be the sight of encouragement to others!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we think of those people in our lives that refresh us at the very sight of them or at the mention of their  names. They have poured into our lives fruitful blessings by their kind actions and words, by their exemplary lifestyle and so often by their personal overcomings of life's hardships. May we be not only recipients of such tender mercies, but diligent dispensers of lovingkindness toward others. May our actions and words refresh them. Not that it should be our major motivation, but we know that when we refresh others, we ourselves are refreshed.  So as we bless others, we too are blessed and we bless You as well.  Amen.

Today we will share some more photos from our trip to the Smoky Mountains last week.

Mount Mitchell NC 10/25/10
We drove up to the top of Mount Mitchell, which is off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is the highest peak in the eastern part of the US at 6,684 feet. We have also driven up to the peak of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which is several hundred feet less in elevation at 6,288. However the drive to the top of Mount Washington is far more frightening since it is above the tree line in that region.

I find this interesting: Mount Washington has a prominent height of 6,138 feet (prominent height, also known as autonomous height, relative height, shoulder drop (in North America), or prime factor (in Europe), is a concept used in the categorization of hills and mountains, also known as peaks. It is a measure of the independent stature of a summit.) By contrast Mount Mitchell has a prominent height of 6,089 feet and Pikes Peak in Colorado has a prominent height of 5,510 feet. However Mount Everest  has a prominent height of 29,029 feet! (One of a few dozen peaks whose elevation and prominence are equal.)

Blue Ridge Parkway NC 10/25/10
On the Blue Ridge parkway we drove over the Linn Cove viaduct built around the side of a mountain. Note: Due to the clouds at the time we were here I was unable to snap a photo and this photo is taken off the internet!

Leaning shed NC 10/25/10
We thought this old shed was interesting. Perhaps even the pony knew it to be much safer standing to the right of the shed since the shed was leaning left.

Smoky mountain truck TN 10/25/10
In eastern Tennessee we passed an antique store with some fall decorations, including this very rusty truck.

Smoky mountain plow TN 10/25/10
Along with this interesting team and old plow!

Smoky mountain rose TN 10/27/10
Smoky Mountain rose taken in Gatlinburg, TN

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

Today we share some links to Smoky Mountain hymns (instrumental)

"Count Your Blessings"  Video  

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"  Video

"The Old Rugged Cross"  Video

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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