This is one of my most favorite signs that I have in my photography portfolio. It was taken at the edge of a pecan grove in Lee County, Georgia several years ago. I was recently reminded of this sign in connection with the slow study I am doing through the book of Genesis--in particular, Genesis 3:1-13. Go ahead. Read it in your Bible or Google search Genesis 3:1-13 and it will pop up. It is a short story and will help make this next part make sense.
--Have you read it? Good. Let's move on.---
God puts up signs all around us, reminding us of the dangers of going certain places mentally, physically, spiritually, yet, I catch myself choosing fruit from the other side of the sign much like Eve did in this part of the story. What I want to talk about are some of the interesting tactics satan uses in this story because I have found that he is still using them to get me to bypass the "Keep Out" signs God has put up in my life.
Tactic 1: satan uses questions to make me question the directions God has given me.
Genesis 3:1 "Did God actually say..."
--This tactic is so dangerous, because I usually start trying to come up with a reason why I should get to do what I want to do even if it means manipulating what God has said in scripture. "Did God actually say that I shouldn't do this? Maybe what He actually meant was...I'm not hurting anyone and I still love Jesus."
Tactic 2: satan uses hyperbole to try to make God sound ridiculous in His commands.
Genesis 3:1 "Did God actually say 'You SHALL NOT eat of ANY tree in the garden'?"
The emphasis is mine, because what God actually said is almost the exact opposite. God said they "MAY SURELY EAT of EVERY tree of the garden," except for one.
--This is why it is important to have God's word memorized and to read the Bible, not just go off of what you think, feel, or what someone else says the Bible says. satan is really good at saying something that sounds close to what God says.
Tactic 3: satan lies.
Genesis 3:5 "You will not surely die."
--Uhhhh, yes they will and they do. From the moment they ate that fruit, they died in so many ways. Their innocence died. Their close relationship with God died. The freedom their innocence brought died, they now had to deal with pain, heartache, and struggle like they had never would have experienced. Their relationship each other died, because from that moment on Adam and Eve would struggle in their relationship with each other. (follow this link to better understand how Genesis 3:16 points to this https://www.dennyburk.com/four-quick-points-on-the-esvs-re…/) And last, but certainly not least, they no longer had the freedom to eat from the tree of life and have life eternal. From that moment on, they were in the process of dying.
Tactic 4: satan likes to suggest that one party in a relationship is being unfair to another party.
Genesis 3:5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened..."
--I have fallen into that trap too many times. I start ruminating on how a friend, co-worker, or family member has somehow short-changed me, whether it is true or not, and suddenly our relationship is not looking so good. The negative thought process leads to a very nasty spiral of my attitude toward that person.
Tactic 5: satan convinces you that you need something that you really have no need of.
Genesis 3:6 "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes...she took of its fruit and ate..."
--Literally, if Eve had looked at any other fruit bearing plant that was all around her, she would have found an abundance of food that was "pleasant for the sight and good for food." (Genesis 2:9) She didn't need that fruit from that tree. It was like she went into the grocery store with its 39,500 items and walked up to the one thing in the whole grocery store that she couldn't have and took it instead of all the other free, delicious, and gorgeous options around her.
--That sounds so much like me. Every day, God sets me in the midst of a million choices that are good for me. They are choices that are the best and they look amazing, if I will just look at them. Instead, I zero in on that one thing that is off limits and take it no matter the cost.
Lastly, I want to point out that when satan throws the temptation in front of us, and we go for it, he never sticks around and walks with us through the consequences of that decision. he tempts and then he abandons, just like he did with Adam and Eve. Once they ate the fruit, they suddenly became very embarrassed of their nakedness. Did satan offer to help cloth them? Nope. When God wanted to be with Adam and Eve, did satan volunteer to help them explain why their choice to eat the fruit was a wise one? No. He is very quiet for the rest of this scene. He doesn't even show up to take the heat off the serpent when God punishes it for allowing satan to use it.
God on the other hand seeks out Adam and Eve, even though they were hiding from Him. God explains to Adam and Eve the consequences of their decision. God made some better and more permanent clothes for Adam and Eve. Then God removed further temptation from them by removing the option of the tree of life. He relocated Adam and Eve and He installed a security system.
Let's go back to the "Keep Out" sign. The one in this picture caught my attention and I can honestly say, I did not go past the sign when I found it. I can't say that is true in all my dealings with satan in my life. Too many times, he has used questions and lies to tempt me, and too many times I have acted just like Eve. It is the beginning of 2020. Many of us have resolved to avoid our pet sins and addictions this year, we are striving to ignore the temptations, and live this year in the abundance God is offering us on the correct side of the Keep Out sign. The good news is that satan has not changed his tactics since the beginning of time so we can easily spot his attacks if we want. The even better news is that the God who created all things, has shown since the beginning of time that He is willing to seek us out, walk with us through the consequences of our past sins, cloth us in His righteousness, and move us mentally, physically, or spiritually into places that keep us from continuing in our destructive habits.
So my friend, my prayer for you and for me in 2020 is that we will learn something from this story that will help us "Keep Out"!
Every photographer has some favorite images in their portfolio. This is one of mine. It was taken in the old, defunct St. Albans Sanatorium across the river from Radford, Virginia. One of the things I remember most about this photo is the feeling I had as I entered this room.
It was a winter day in January of 2013 and this building was so cold. There was no heat, about a foot of snow was on the ground outside, and the cold winds blew in through some of the broken windows. The building was crumbling around me with very little furniture remaining except for a folding chair here and there. There were paint chips--probably lead paint--all around, bits of masonry on the floors, and holes busted in walls from vandals. Most of the rooms that I entered had a tired sadness about them like is common in buildings that are abandoned and abused. But there was this one room...
It wasn't a clean room. It is hard to see in this image, but the room had its fair share of dirt, grime, and paint chips. Even so, there was something different about this room. The sunlight was warming the most comfortable looking chair I would see all day and it looked to have a new-ish throw pillow sitting on it. The peaceful scene out the window overlooked the New River. There was nothing else in this room except the one comfortable chair. Despite the welcoming environment, for a variety of reasons, I took a few pictures and moved on, never partaking of the rest that was offered to me in that moment.
Recently, I was reading the biblical creation account recorded in Genesis. As I read Genesis 2:2's description of the seventh day, I noticed something new. It says, "On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work."
What struck me was that nowhere in the verses about the seventh day (vs. 1-3) does it say that God rested because He was weary. It says that He rested because His work of creation was done. He didn't even rest because all of His work was done, because next on His to do list was planting the Garden of Eden, instructing Adam on not eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and man naming the animals...There was plenty still to do, BUT He rested because He finished His work of creation.
I learned 3 things from this passage.
1. Rest is holy. The definition of holy means that it is something set apart for use in the worship of God. A cup in the Old Testament tabernacle was declared holy which means it was set apart and only used in a special way in the worship of God. It was never used mindlessly or for common, everyday task. This means that rest, in and of itself, is a spiritual act of worship. I know I often attach a task or obligation with acts of worship. For example, I sing to worship, I attend church to worship, or I serve others to worship, but God set aside day seven as holy because after spending a week of DOING He wants me to spend time just BEING as my act of worship.
2. Rest is not a semi-comatose state of stolen moments at the end of the day being entertained by a television show or movie, nor is it spending time doing my favorite activities. The rest God took on day seven was a day set aside to celebrate a week’s worth of work accomplished. Study after study shows that celebrating achievements, even the smaller ones, is what insures future success. Isn't it great that God made space for us to do that each week? This makes me ask myself, how would my life change if I became more intentional about my times of rest? What if, I took some time each week celebrating with God a week of work accomplished? What if, I took time to purposefully rest in the arms of Jesus each week instead of collapsing in His arms only when I am weary?
3. Rest is a regular event that is to be scheduled and protected and not reserved for a special vacation that comes when I can no longer function because I am beyond weary. I don't know about you, but I can tell myself that I am going to do this one more thing before I rest which is always followed by this one more thing, and this one more thing, and this one more thing...until I eventually realize that it is past my bedtime and I must go to bed before I collapse from exhaustion. As a matter of fact, I am doing it as I read over this post for the fourth time making sure it is ready to post. And the same is true each week. My to do list is too long so I do this and that task until my day off is filled. In reflection, I have come to realize that by not setting aside time each day and each week to rest with God, I enter into the next day or week still weary from the one before.
This brings me back to my special room at the St. Alban's Sanatorium. I wonder what would have been different that day if I had accepted the invitation to rest for a few minutes. Reading Genesis 2:1-3, I am reminded that God has set up rooms for me to enter in and find rest with Him at the end of each day and week. These spaces may not be the pristine fairy tale space that I imagined they would be. Hadassah the Cat will still meow incessantly and the dishes will still be waiting to be washed, but that is okay. If I will enter into that moment of rest, I am confident that I will find God in that moment with me.
1. The night before, when I am setting my alarm earlier than usual, it will sound like a great idea--even a bit romantic, but when the alarm goes off in the morning, I will have to force myself to get up and get moving. I dare not even look in the direction of my bed or I will crawl back in. (Can you tell I am not a morning person?) However, the rest of the day, I will look back and be glad that I stuck to the plan.
2. I never know what I am going to get. Bright lights, vibrant colors, clouds, rain, fog, gray skies, or a boring sunrise with nothing worth photographing. Same with the Bible devotional time. Will I get answers to my problems, great insight, silence, peace, more questions, warm fuzzy feelings, or seemingly nothing at all?
3. Not every sunrise is going to be epic and not every devotional time is going to feel like I am standing on Mount Sinai with Moses as God walks by. Even so, each one is a blessing.
4. If I spend time processing it, I may find that the most simple images and devotionals are the ones containing the most amazing end products. One of the things I have learned as I delved deeper into the digital darkroom is that the camera gathers a lot more information than I first see, especially if I am shooting in RAW format. It is possible to find that an image that looks too dark and devoid of color is actually full of vibrant colors waiting to be unveiled. The same can be said of devotionals. If I will spend time praying, reading the Bible, and sitting in silence with God, I may discover that what felt like a flat, boring devotional morning, is actually the one that impacts me the most.
5. Whether I see the sun or not, it is there and doing all the amazing things the sun is known to do. The same is true with God. Even if I don't see, hear, or feel Him during a devotional time, God is still there and doing all the amazing things He is known to do.
Sometimes things are hidden in the strangest places. That is what I thought the day I came across this beautiful old and broken Singer sewing machine stand. I was in a tiny town in the Deep South, 4 miles from a very busy interstate, in a building that had only a broom handle holding the door shut, and a tattered no trespassing sign that was posted many years ago.
What was amazing about this find is that it is a highly coveted piece among those who love antiques, yet it was sitting forgotten and left unprotected from those who would steal it. Even with some of the wooden pieces broken and showing signs of neglect, it had lots of value. There were still enough original pieces that with some work by loving hands it could be restored. Just the cast iron parts of the sewing machine stand is valued by those who could repurpose it.
I took 4 quick pictures of the stand from outside the building and then my friend who had discovered this piece closed the door putting the broom handle firmly in place. As we walked away, I had so many thoughts go through my head. "I sure hope no one steals this beautiful piece." "Why is this stand abandoned in this building as if it has so little value?" "I wonder what caused this stand to be put away." "Has it been forgotten?" "Will the owners ever rescue it from its exile before someone else sees the value in it and steals it?" But most of all, I wondered how something that at one time was someone's treasured sewing machine cabinet that played a vital part in meeting the basic needs of a family and was used by someone to express their love for others came to be sitting in a building abandoned and treated as if it no longer had value.
As a photographer who enjoys traveling the backroads recording old and forgotten relics, I often stumble upon pieces like this. I have found broken gas pumps, old soda bottles, abandoned houses, and even letters written by a mother to her child cast about a bedroom. Each time, I wish I knew the story. I imagine that in the beginning the item was new and brought joy to a person's life. That is was used for its intended purpose resulting in its full value being realized. Then, at some point, it was left for newer, shinier things or the person who originally treasured it passed away and it was left to a generation that no longer values it.
I think that it is this very thing that resonate with me. It reminds me that my story is not much different. There are things that I have been blessed with--some physical things and some intangible dreams, abilities, and accomplishments-- that I have discarded in my life as if they hold no value. As I reflect on this, I realize that some of those things I put away because I started chasing newer, shinier things, forgetting the greatness of what I already had. Then there are some things that I discarded because I allowed someone else to tell me it had no value or I listened to lies that I told myself. Some of those things are forever lost to me, especially the physical things from which I walked away. But some of those things, especially those intangible treasures, are sitting in some dusty forgotten corner of my heart behind a door with a no trespassing sign and only a broom handle holding the door closed. It wouldn't take much for me to open that door and revisit those treasures. If I did open that door, I would probably find that with some work those things could be restored to the beautiful functioning place they deserve in my life. I know I love to see a building restored or a forgotten piece once again treasured. Wouldn't it make sense to do the same thing in my life instead of allowing those valuable things to crumble away to a point of being unable to give joy to myself and others?
What about you? What do you need to rediscover and bring back to life? Do you have a dream that you put away? Did you stop doing something you loved because you allowed busyness or other people to steal those things from you? I hope that pictures like this challenge you like they do me to ignore the no trespassing signs that we posted ages ago, remove the broom handle that holds the door shut, and reacquaint yourself with the valuable things we have locked away. Let's not leave them there to fall apart in hiding. We have something valuable to share with the world.
Hello! I am Dawnita Hall. Sometimes I need to put into words the things God is teaching me. This blog is my way of sharing those moments with you with the hopes that what God is using to grow and encourage me will also inspire you. Please, share your thoughts in the comment sections after each post. Let's make this a place where we work together to encourage each other to live inspired to be an inspiration.