Cold Rain on the Mountain

by Timothy W. Tron, Oct. 2020

It was no surprise. The forecast had been for 100% rain for the next twenty-four hours. The pitter-patter of raindrops in the darkness on my bedroom window as I awoke confirmed what had already been known – today’s long run would be a test of faith and perseverance. All through the drive up the mountain in those predawn minutes there was ample time to ponder what one was doing out in this weather. The windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the downpour while the car fought to find traction through the countless areas of standing water on the roadway. There was no doubt that this would not be one of those morning where the butterflies flitted about through the dancing rays of sunbeams peeking over the mountain as the sun slowly rose in the morning sky.

As my car pulled into the parking lot of Moses Cone Manor Memorial Park, my suspicions were confirmed – I was either the only insane person here or the only one committed to my beliefs enough to endure this dreadful weather. Golden Sycamore and Poplar leaves covered the pavement to the point, it was nearly impossible to discern where the marked spaces to park were located. Even in the torrential downpour, there was a melancholy beauty in that gray light of dawn. Turning of the engine, the sound of raindrops on the roof of the car seemed to lessen. The storm had finally lightened up and was now a residual heavy mist – “God was surely smiling down on me,” my thoughts reflected as the car door shut behind me and I made my way down to the start of the trail. “Think of yourself as a little boy again splashing your way through the puddles,” my heart mused.

All was fine with that until the trail came to the underpass beneath the Blueridge Parkway. There before me ran a small river several inches deep that flowed beneath the stone archway above. Like a window into some distant time, I ran toward the light. Passing beneath the roadway above that would wind through countless forest of color and beauty, my path was merely to find a way up and down an ancient carriage trail – it’s peak landing upon the summit of Rich Mountain. Almost beyond the tiny river, my last footstep went up to my ankle in water as the splash fully emersed my lower body in a very awakening spray of bone, chilling coldness.

Later that same morning, unbeknownst to me, our preacher would talk about what motivates people. He used an illustration of Michael Jordan as shown in the documentary, “The Last Dance.” Jordan would find insignificant incidents in his life that others wouldn’t know to bring forth an ire in his mind that he would then use to drive me to greater heights. Likewise, the Apostle Paul used his detriments in life not to dissuade him from his ministry, but rather, to find silver linings in even the most horrific circumstances.

Likewise, before having heard the sermon that would come later, I too found inspiration in something that may have stopped some and caused them to turn around. A wet foot at the beginning of a very long run, especially up a mountain, was something less than ideal. Yet, the incident neither discouraged nor stopped my progress, but rather, gave me just the motivation I needed to push me onward. Like a cold slap in the face, it reminded me that nothing worth having in life was easy – and so I pushed onward.

Usually on this particular run, my challenge to quote scripture begins when I cross over the bridge that lies on the dam at the end of Trout Lake. However, today was anything but typical, so instead of waiting, I began working on the lines to the farthest passages that were yet to be fully burnt into my mind – those in John 5. As my mind began to weakly recall those verses, the most amazing things began to occur. Slowly, the rain began to diminish. The puddles no longer danced with reflections of precipitation. In time, the bitter cold numbness of that initial onslaught of icy water would begin to subside. The sky brightened ever so slightly and soon; the cattle were my only companions as my journey passed through their pastures along the upper reaches of Rich Mountain. What had seemed what might be one of the most dreadful morning runs in quite some time, had finally turned out to be one of a soulful rejuvenation.

The rain-soaked pastures stretch out across those upper tables of mountainside like blankets of comforting greenery. It is a time of ease for these herds. Even with the rain, it is a time when there are pastures of plenty. Soon, the season will change. Running past the grazing cattle, the aroma of their wet hides drifted into my awareness – a pungent richness only a farmer can appreciate. By then, my voice called out the beginning passages of the Gospel of John as the cows eyed me with little care. Calves would stop their nursing and move to the opposite side of momma, eyeing me with curiosity as I passed. Just then a gust of chilly wind reminded me that this was the mountains and weather was forever changing. Before long, these pathways will be covered in blankets of snow.

A young Hereford calf stood just beyond my path and the herds of my maternal grandfather’s memory returned. It had been a harsh winter and he had taken me along in the truck to check the cattle that morning. The snow was deep enough across the pastures that there wasn’t a blade of grass showing. We drove to where the cattle were gathered and soon found a calf that had not made it through the night. Evidently it was a newborn, and as is often the case, the cow had given birth during the night in the midst of the storm. It always seemed that they would calve in the worst weather, and so it was that specific morning. The frozen body of that little baby cow forever stayed with me.

Image provided by AllTrails.com

Soon, these highlands will be likewise buffeted with the harsh, cold winter winds and with them, the blankets of snow will cover the plethora of green grass that they now enjoy. But do the cattle worry? Do they stress about what is tomorrow? Even with the most severe weather, their births occur, and yes, even sometimes a death happens, but they push on through the storms of life. This reminder of my youth and of cattle was only possible because of the events that transpired to this point of this morning. Had I stopped at the underpass in the cold pool of water, these things may have never found their way into my thoughts.

Unlike previous jaunts up this mountain, this morning I was all alone. It was as if God had reserved the property just for me. In so doing, it gave me plenty of time to study His word and to reflect upon so many things in my life. While time passes, we seldom take the time to spend it giving thanks to all that our Creator had done for us in this life. Praying as I ran, the many people whom he had placed into my life came to mind. One by one, their needs were lifted, and one by one, my voice asked God to watch out for them and to help them in their times of need. As my journey soon found the downward pathways easier, the strain became less and ever so slowly, the pains began to fall away.

The words of Jesus from the Gospel of John, chapter 5, seemed to return to me when he spoke to the impotent man at the pool in Bethesda, “Wilt thou be made whole?”

As my journey in this story has shown, when we persevere, pressing on toward the mark, as Paul would say, we often find God is with us. Through it all, He reminds us that we are not alone. If we stay true to our faith, He will eventually take those things which seem insurmountable, those things which might feel like they are going to end your relationships, those things that seem like they will never heal, and he finds a way to brighten that sky and stop the rain. God can make you whole even if your entire life has been an infirmity.

Don’t give up, for He is with you always, even to the end of time.

Thanks be to God.

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A Cold Mountain River

by Timothy W. Tron

It was late September in the highlands. We were camping on the banks of the Johns River. While the leaves had yet to fully change, there were the tale-tale signs of imminent transformation on the horizon. As my feet slid underneath the surface of the cold mountain water, a formidable repercussion burst through my soul. Deeper I waded in until it was a matter of now or never; an immediate submersion momentarily took my breath away. It was my evening bath in the John’s river, yet another first in my life.

Johns River, Collettsville, NC. – photo by Timothy W. Tron

As the due course of washing ensued, the greatly diminished bar of soap I was using slipped from my fingertips and into the brink below. In an instance, there was a fear that gripped my heart. “Oh no, now I won’t be able to get clean,” were the thoughts that raced in my head. “Does it float,” came the question? Before the unspoken whisper was even done, the tiny little bar popped back up. Quickly, my hand scooped it up and cradled it carefully. “No more losing you,” I mused at the careless soap. Looking down the course of the waterway to where that tiny sliver of could have traveled, a shimmering image caught my eye. The rapids below me sparkled in the setting sun. A thousand diamonds reflected the vast spectrum of light back towards me and a radiance illuminated the bend in the river about me. It was as if the Lord had suddenly appeared. The thought of that momentary fear of losing the bar of soap returned and how it made me think of what it might feel like to lose one’s Bible, or even worse, God. For me, in that instance of time, it would have meant that I would be unable to physically cleanse my body. But like the Word, it helps us to cleanse our soul. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, our sins were literally washed away. Like that grime from my flesh, it was purged clean and taken away with the never ending current. Suddenly, standing as I stood in an indescribable realm of illuminated river, a revelation began to form in my being.

By this time, my body had nearly lost feeling. My head fully lathered, I dipped beneath the surface once more. The frigid waters rushed around me and all sound ceased from the surface. There was nothing more than the sound of gurgling flow pulsating past my being. A faint heartbeat sounded in the distant, like a bodhran keeping time to a Celtic song, ancient tomes for which the voices had long since faded into obscurity. My mind flashed to that of the river Jordan and the Apostle John standing over Jesus, who at the moment was also beneath the surface. As Christ looked upward from beneath the cleansing waters of Baptism, he could see the heavens open and the Spirit of the Lord descending. At that moment, John lifted him up. The cold water fell away from his body, his face flush with the exertion of that same shock, now beaming as the multitude of God’s love imbued his being. John saw it appear above Christ’s head, and it slowly fluttered until it appeared to light upon the crown of his head, like a dove descending from heaven.

Likewise, as I rose from beneath the veil of frigid flow, the sky opened above me to a clearness that seemed to take away one’s breath. The feeling of a newness unlike before overwhelmed my soul. Though my body was immersed in the freezing mountain waters, my soul was enveloped in an indescribable comforting warmth.

Through that momentary elation, the question returned, “How sorrowful would it be to have known God, and then to lose Him?” Simply asking the question to myself made me appreciate what I had all the more. One who has never known the love of God cannot comprehend what it is to imagine losing him. Like that inanimate bar of soap, while it is easily replaced, how unlike it is to the spirit within us. Once we receive Christ into our lives, there is a newness of living. Like emerging from those frozen depths of the mountain river, we are torn free from those previous fleshly burdens. We are given the greatest gift of all; freedom from sin. We are washed clean by the proverbial, never-ending bar of soap; the blood Jesus shed for all mankind on the cross.

Still yet, the profound symbolism of losing that bar for but a second, and the feeling of that lost translated into miniscule slice of what it might be like to lose one’s faith. So too, we who believe, would find ourselves in a despair unrivaled with any known heretofore if we were to knowingly lose our faith – to have it torn asunder like a child from a mother’s bosom. There could be no greater loss of hope, freedom, and truth. Yet, throughout history, people have been tortured because of their faith, and many times told to escape the torture or death, that they must abjure their faith – to give it up. Many died for this faith. Untold numbers were tortured through some of the most unimaginable gruesome deaths. Yet, there were a few that gave in. Sadly, their torture would have been less to have died, for the remainder of their lives, they would be haunted in a life of anguish knowing that they had turned their backs on the one thing that gave them hope, gave them life eternal – their faith.

We are living in some of the most distressing times in our country. While we are facing a growing evil, there is and always will be hope. It is now that we, those who are called, must boldly wade into that torrent of bone-chilling water of life and reach out to those who drowning in the depths of despair and heartache. Like the bar of soap, they are tossed about, unable save themselves. Without a hand to reach out and lift it up, it would have certainly been taken away downstream. Likewise, without God, we too are lost. But we can be the lifeline through which the giver of eternal life can reach them. As the gospel hymn goes, “When my Savior reached down for me, I was lost and undone without God or His Son. When He reached down His hand for me. [1]

You may not be able to immediately see those who need your help. But stay the course, and continue to walk in the light. In time, they will come to you, or their presence will be made known. It is then, that you can save them from falling beneath the rushing waters of this world’s darkness and lift them up. You were made for a time such as this. “The fields are white ready to harvest,” Jesus told his disciples. “One reapeth and another soweth, I sent yea to reap wherein yea bestowed no labor. Others labored and yea entered into their labors.”[2]

There will always be a Comforter there by our side. Step into the water, and the Lord will take you the rest of the way.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Source: Musixmatch, Songwriters: G. E. E. Wright, When He Reached Down lyrics © Bridge Building Music

[2] John 4:35 KJV

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A Song of Old – The Return to the Denton Bluegrass Festival 2020

by Timothy W. Tron

While the past few days have been a blur, there were many poignant moments upon which to reflect. Gazing out across the fervent green pastures before the light of dawn, the cattle were making their way across the begotten landscape. It felt almost as if I was back on the farm in Chatham, there with my cattle grazing before me. As I sipped my campfire percolated coffee, there was a peace of mind that passeth all understanding. Perhaps it’s only in the blood of someone raised in the country, or perhaps, it’s just knowing pleasures of a simpler life. While this was not my land, nor my farm, it was still a homecoming in many ways. This was my first real trip back not only to a place, not only to an event but more so to a collection of souls that had been part of my life before I crossed over that great river. When that journey began, there was a song that spoke to me when the challenges seemed to be uphill, no matter where I turned. The tune was called, “Wide River to Cross,” performed by the Bluegrass group Balsam Range who hails from Canton, NC. The song goes like this,

photo by Marty Tew

“There’s a sorrow in the wind
Blowing down the road I’ve been
I can hear it cry while shadows steal the sun
But I cannot look back now
I’ve come too far to turn around
And there’s still a race ahead that I must run

I’m only halfway home
I’ve gotta journey on
To where I’ll find the things I have lost
I’ve come a long, long road
Still I’ve got miles to go
I’ve got a wide, wide river to cross”

Once there was a life that was not well lived. The vessel was hollow, but none could tell from the outside. It wasn’t until that day when the decision was made, to cross that great divide – to serve God in all that I do – that life began to change. While we, my family and I, eventually made it across that great divide, the journey never ends until the day we are laid into that final resting place. In essence, we are only halfway home. While that road we have traveled may seem long, we’ve still many miles to go. Yet, once you make that leap of faith, you are reminded that you’ve come too far to turn back. Each day becomes another opportunity to serve Him in all that you do. There is not a day that the scripture from Colossians does not come to mind, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.[1]

When we take that leap of faith, there is no turning back. Yet, those who have been left behind seldom know the reason, but only that someone has left the presence of their life, be it good or bad. Meanwhile, life goes on. The clock ticks, the wrinkles grow like furrows in the cornrow as the setting sun casts its shadows. One by one, the soldier’s fall – Randy Shumaker, Dave Murph, and so many more. Yet, these two were special, especially on this return trip to the Denton Bluegrass Festival. God had placed them in my life for a reason. We had met through our shared experiences of camping at Denton. Randy’s fellow band members and their families, along with other campers on that hill by the cow pasture, became my extended family. He was one of the founding members of the Second Chance Bluegrass Band, was always there, first thing in the morning regardless of how bad his cancer had progressed, and would say to me, “Great is the day the Lord hath made.” The first time he said it to me, I could only smile. At the time, I had only heard the scripture quoted, but didn’t know it well enough to respond to the pause he had purposefully extended on my behalf. Later, I would come to welcome his pre-dawn greetings with a, “Let us be glad and rejoice in it,” reply.

David Murph, the founder and former member of The Gospel Plowboys, was with me through the crossing of that river. He became like my lighthouse to the incoming ship. He assured me that God was using me in a mighty way. In their final days, both men impressed upon those whom they left behind a sense of urgency and a clear understanding of what it looks like to serve the Lord to the end. Both men passed too early for our earthly understanding, but are now with Jesus in that far brighter land. Each of my dear friends are healed and waiting for the day we can walk along God’s golden shores together, laughing and singing as in days of old. God had allowed them a time and place for which the seeds had been planted for many more. From a distance, we hear of their passing, but from that distant home, we can only know that they are waiting for us for that ultimate day of rejoicing.

My time in Denton this past weekend was not without quiet moments. Though the bed be weary, there was a bequeathing of the solstice in the sounds of raindrops falling upon the tarp above my tent. Warm and dry, the night passed into slumber as strains of stringed music wafted across the hollar. As campers hunkered down under canopies from the formidable precipitation, it failed to dampen their spirits. From one hilltop to the next, like waves of promise buoyed upon the breezes of jubilant voices soothed the weary soul. Like sunshine breaking through the storm, there was a rekindling of a consciousness of life. Like the traveler returning from a long, extended journey, my welcome home had been more abundantly received than ever imagined. It was heart-warming, and impactful at the same time, as one after another of my long-lost friends greeted me like a brother. Like, true friends, we picked up where we left off as if there had never been a separation in time. Some had only heard of my return and stopped by to see if it were so. Like a ghostly figure, we too are only a vapor in the midst of time. So with respect to the admiration of one another, there were some things left unsaid – those that had parted this world for the next, for one, were those often silent moments where words had no place. Randy’s daughter, Jessica, stopped by during one of our jam sessions and sought to say hello. There was so much that I wanted to ask and say to her, but at the moment it didn’t seem right. Instead, as she spoke briefly about her life, my thoughts returned to when I could hear her singing along with her daddy, Randy, at those late-night jam sessions. Later, I regretted not stopping and pulling her aside and just taking the time to sit and dwell in the moment. While she said at one point, “I have never missed a festival for the past 14 years, and I’m not going to start now.” In that defiant voice, there was the sound of her father’s tone ringing true. When she said that, my mind could hear Randy say the same thing, and emotion welled up in my throat. Quietly, I choked back what would have sounded contrite in comparison. Too soon, she would move on, but the memory she had invoked would tarry like the sweet aroma of a freshly baked apple pie sitting on the window sill cooling.

Here and there little children would be riding their bicycles past the campsites and the memories of my own children, and those of my friends would return. Their happy, garish voices would echo back in time. Their joy came not like ours but just living in the freedom of the moment, riding on their own up to the country store to buy another soda and slice of hoop-cheese, or wandering down to the pond to go fishing. The safety of the festival’s confines provided them an opportunity to step back into another time, akin to our own. To grow up in a sleepy little town, like New Harmony, where our only limitations were how many bottles you could collect in order to buy a bag of candy from the five-and-dime. Our energy seemed boundless. We never stopped. We were either running in play across fertile green pastures or riding a bicycle around our little village from sun up to sundown. When the evening baths were complete, there was no sleeplessness. As soon as your head hit the pillow, you were waking up to a new day.

As the gray light of dawn found its way into the corners of my tent, the raindrops could not silence the lowing of the cattle. Some had stopped their music only a short while before. Many would not rise until long after the sun’s arc had reached midday. It was this time of day, the predawn, that made the recollections of previous festivals drift back into one’s mind. Like Randy’s early morning greetings, there were other familiar sounds, but less obvious. Intently, if one listened, the coffee grumbling at the heat from the fire could be heard, shortly before the burp of percolation began. The crackling fire, like the last vestiges of the whippoorwill, united with the sounds of water still dripping from the trees. Here and there another acorn would fall from the many oak trees that shaded our camping site. There were no more sounds of singing or instruments being played – this was the morning after. Like that return across the river, once you have been to the other side, there is an appreciation for all things now.

While you will never be the same, there is a certain contentment in seeing or hearing how some things will never change; albeit, some may be less industrious than others. While our instruments of choice are the same used by our ancestors’ centuries before, our campsites are lined with tents and RV’s which would have made the cover of Popular Science at one time. Yet, there are still the fires to warm the chilly hands and feet when the darkness of night falls.

It is there, in that moment of time, where the past meets the present; when we are afforded the opportunity to return to a place we once knew, to show others that it can be done – to wade across that wide river and find that far distant shore. There is an inspiration of choice, to which each person is offered. It is when we make that journey, we are changed, and when we are allowed to return, as Moses came down from the Mount, the radiance of his being was too great for those to see – likewise, we are changed. Our light can become that for all to see.

As Delmar, in the movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou,” waded back from his Baptism to tell the others, “Step into the water boys, there’s plenty of salvation to be had for all.” Let your sins be washed away, and someday, you too can reach that far distant shore. There weren’t just two men who lived their lives serving until the bitter end, but three. Jesus led the way and was an example to all – by the blood of Christ, we are all washed clean of our sins. Randy and Dave would have wanted you to know that this was their calling. Someday, it maybe yours too.

As the campfire fades, the time slips away and soon, it is time to say goodbye once more. But this time, unlike before, it is, “until we meet again.” Whether here on this earth, or on God’s golden shore, we shall meet again, and what a day of rejoicing it will be.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Colossians 3:23-24 KJV

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An Evening from the Porch

The evening sky was muted. A serenity had bequeathed the mountainside below the Cone Manor, a living museum that sits above Blowing Rock, NC., just off the Blueridge Parkway. After having just finished my run, it was the cool-down time. Dusk had fallen, and the last vestiges of the golden rays of sunlight had departed from the distant peaks. Now, the gray sullenness that precedes the nightfall enveloped the stately grounds. Gone were all of the holiday weekend visitors. In their vacuum, a welcome stillness permeated the air.

From where I stood on the front porch steps overlooking the vast forest, falling away unto the breath of the shimmering waters of the lake, a calm overtook me. It was as if the place were all my own.

In my mind, my thoughts wandered back to when the house had been occupied by its original inhabitants. Thinking unto myself as if I were one of them, “How might the evening unfold?” Supper now complete, one was free to walk out upon the front porch and purview one’s holdings. Inside, the muffled sounds of the kitchen staff clearing away the table could be heard. Outside, the calls of the night begin to waft upon the gentle breeze – whippoorwills and nightingales begin their evening symphonies.

It is then, in the moment, that you realize the difference between then and now.

There is no T.V. blaring the eternal, never ceasing sensationalized news story. There is no rampant shrill of amplified cacophony coming from various entertainment devices. There are no people with heads bent in apparent submissive prayer – their blue-lit faces reflecting the stolid control as their eyes glaze over from countless hours of overuse.

No, there is nothing here now but a sense of serenity.

Before all this, there was much more.

An evening stroll after dinner allowed for reflection of the day’s work. There, floating upon the mountain air, were the soft, gentle sounds of a piano. The melody of “Ada Plays – from Cold Mountain[1] toils in my head – a simpler time, a gentler time. Later, as the light fails from the sky, one shall retire inside. There, sheltered from the chilly night air, a good book from the personal library might carry one until the bedtime hours approach. Perhaps a letter to a distant acquaintance is necessary, so you sit at your desk, under the flickering light of lamp or candle, and begin scribing pen to paper. You pause between dips of your pen’s head into the inkwell and reflect upon the words freshly poured out onto the page. The sullenness of time grips your heart like the dark reaches of the night, which fast approaches.

Outside your window, a hoot owl calls, and you are reminded of a carriage ride up to the top of Flat Top where you and this friend, to whom you now write, watched God paint another beautiful sunset. Your concentration is broken when the sweet, delectable smells of something baking in the kitchen reaches you. Suddenly, your stomach answers as a momentary frill of joy leaps as if to answer. Later, as you sip warm milk as your palette is being sated by the fresh, hot apple pie, you peruse through scriptures. The late evening snack just before bed refreshes your spirit as the words of the Holy Spirit begin to speak to you. The two combine in your soul, and for a moment, there is nothing in this world that could make you feel any closer to heaven. A warmth envelopes your being as if the hand of God has wrapped around you. The Psalmist words come to mind, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” The hoot owl calls once more as if to confirm those seemingly random thoughts. For a moment, you ponder the future and what it might hold for you and your family. As you lay your fork down beside the remaining crumbs on the fine china dessert plate, your eyes grow weary, and you momentarily nod off.

In the fog of a future time, you can see a world in turmoil. It is as if there is no peace in that far distant place. It is as if mankind has given in to all the lusts of the flesh. Your heart quickens, and God speaks to you, “But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God.”

You awaken from the dream with a start. So troubled are you by the vision that you seek to find comfort before trying to resign to sleep for fear of where your thoughts may continue. Opening the book of Ezekiel, you find the rest of the scripture, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”[2] Your heart is calmed, and you close the well-worn pages of the Bible, retiring to your bed-chamber.

Just before falling asleep, you think to yourself, “How could anyone turn away from the Lord so much so that they would become detestable in their own abominations to the point that God would pour out his wrath upon them?” The white linen drapes gently move from the cold night’s air wafting through your open window. You pull the feather comforter up to your chin and exhale a contemplative, but comforting sigh. The warmth of the bedsheets warding off the crisp coolness of the coming fall reminds you of God’s love. “How much greater is He than we shall ever know,” are the last thoughts you whisper to yourself. Eyes heavy with sleep send you off, and you become one with a peaceful eternity.

While we may not live in a time where we can walk away from the bitter influences of mankind’s own self-demising attributes, be they through media, electronics, or the immediate world in which he lives, we can always seek shelter from the storm where we have always been able to go – to God. Seek out the simpler ways in life, and find time to turn off all that noise.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him,…”[3]

The Cone Manor became the backdrop for a peaceful evening that I had not anticipated, yet was a welcome respite from recent times. Too often, we fail to stop and pause in this busy life. It is when we stop and wait for the Lord that we are most often blessed beyond measure.

Yesterday evening, I felt a calling, a still small voice, if you will, to go back up to that porch from whence this tale began and take a picture to go along with the story. The storms had passed, and there was the chance that I might be afforded an unforgettable scene from which to draw. Upon my arrival, lo, there on the porch, I found a young man scribing in a journal next to an open bible. He was seated in a foldable camp chair he had brought along. The Park Service had removed all the rocking chairs from the porch because of COVID. Curious, I asked as to what he was reading. He responded, ‘the Bible.”

“What book and chapter, I asked further?”

“The gospel of Luke,” he replied hesitantly.

“A great book indeed,” and from there, a conversation began. I soon learned that the young man was searching for answers. His faith journey had hit a point where he knew not which way to turn. It was then, I realized why the voice had said to come. Retrieving a camp chair of my own from the car and a snack, we spent the remainder of the evening until dark, sitting there on that antiquated porch. It was as if the previous tale had come to life. The color slowly faded from the sky as clouds waltzed past us, following the contour of the valleys below. There, two men, previously total strangers, became brothers through a shared faith. Questions were asked, and questions were answered. Like the Apostles to their own Disciples, the passing of one’s knowledge of God’s word onto the next generation transpired in a place fitting for its reception.

It was a blessing far more generous than one might envision on an evening such as this.

No matter the noise around you, seek Him, and he will find you.

Walk away into a place where that still small voice can find you once again.

Thanks be to God.


[1] “Ada Plays”, Gabriel Yared, from the movie Cold Mountain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q94_xysbTQ

[2] Ezekiel 11:20-21 KJV

[3] 1 King 19:11-13 KJV

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Sharpe’s Store – A Story of Days Gone By

by Timothy W. Tron

Mr. R.C.(Reno) Sharpes’s store came into my life one hot summer day, a few years ago, on one of my return trips from a local sawmill.  The store had obviously seen better days, which is not hard to imagine since it had been built in 1883 and moved to its current location in the 1920s.  The store was run by Calvin Sharpe, Reno’s grandfather, until Reno took it over in 1941.

R.C. Sharpe’s Store, Bear Creek, NC.

The outside, with its weathered brown wood siding and the sign above the rusting metal roof, was hardly readable. Yet, there on the front porch that late morning was a host of folks, sitting in the cool shade of the large oak that shadows the porch of the store, watching life go by.

It reminded me of the old general stores that I had grown up with as a child, which held a magical place in my heart.  A place where time stands still and places long forgotten are revisited in stories that randomly wander down life’s beaten path. I figured what would it hurt to stop and have a cold drink.  I might even get to know someone, I thought to myself as I pulled up. As I got out of the truck, I was warmly greeted as if I had been coming there all my life. The rest is history.

I now go to Mr. R.C. Sharpe’s store every chance I get.

This particular day, I was to meet Mr. Gene Galin there to introduce him to the original source for the “Ole Carolina General Store”.  It certainly gave me a good excuse to get over to the store and a chance to show him why I came up with the website.

It was a cold rainy morning, excellent for getting a chance to visit with more friends since rainy days are best for store days.  As I walked in, I was greeted with a host of “Mornings.”  Everyone was gathered near the heater that sits in the middle of the store.  Wilson Poe Sr., one of the oldest patrons, was seated in his usual seat, an old office chair, positioned next to the snack shelf to the right of the heater.  Mr. Sharpe (Reno) was in one of his customary spots, leaning against the counter on the left of the heater.  Bud Clegg was sitting up on the counter on the right side of the heater facing the other two, and Johnny Young was sitting on the counter near the cash register facing the other three.

They had already discussed who knows what.  However, all conversations stopped, and my input was then questioned as to what I had been up to lately, which is sometimes good for more food for the gossip fire. Upon my reply of, “Not too much,” a disappointed sigh could almost be heard.  The storytelling continued on as I went over to the cooler, slid the lid back, and reached in for a cold coca-cola.  I then walked back over near Johnny and settled in for the latest news and ramblings.

The talk slightly ebbed as I eased into an open spot, but not for long since Wilson was not about to let the moment slip by without quickly getting back to where they had been.  He is one of the best sources for stories about the old days, I have found yet.  He is very well suited for that since he is a young 87.

I don’t recall precisely what was being discussed initially, but Wilson began discussing something about the way the use to make cross-ties or railroad ties. They were apparently talking about how they use to make them in the old days.  Wilson was describing how two or three men would go out into the woods and fall a tree with a crosscut saw.  They would then use a premeasured form to get the sizing (width) just right and then begin hewing the log by hand with very sharp axes. (Hewing is done by chopping the roundness of the wood off to make it square.) He said the sharper, the better.  In fact, he kept his sharp enough to shave with.  The logs were required to be hewed on at least three sides. If you have ever tried this, you will know or find out that it is definitely an extremely labor-intensive job.  They were paid handsomely though, 25 cents per cross-tie.  Working together, they might get as many as twelve ties in one day, which includes carrying them out so they could be picked up.

About the time this tale was ending another faithful patron and barber to all, Max Burns, came in the door with his friend and another store regular, Glenn Beal. They, too, were warmly greeted, and they soon joined in. Max had been quite ill recently, and it was very good to see him getting out and looking good on such a dreary day. There was a slight jockeying of positions around the stove, but we all settled back into more discussion and carrying-ons.  Those that didn’t have a soda in hand got one and those that had revisited the cooler for another.

Johnny took the opportunity to ease on out since sometimes it’s hard for one to get away from good talk. As he was leaving, he asked me about the information on McPherson’s quarry located on the Haw River, five miles west of Woodin’s ferry.  I said I would look it up for him on the Internet since no one there had known anything about it, which is unusual.  The store is a natural first reference stop for anyone seeking information about something old or thought forgotten around these parts.  The quarry was a place where they use to quarry wet stones used for sharpening knives and tools. (I have not found anything as of yet)

As Johnny was about to leave, Reno softly spoke up with his warmly cordial salutation, “No need to rush off now.”

To be honest with you, the first time I heard it, on that hot summer morning as I was leaving, I actually turned around and stayed a while longer.  When I went to leave again, he again told me there was no need to rush off.  At which point, I realized the generosity of the statement and the feeling that I would definitely be back for more.

One by one, more regulars came flowing through the double front doors.  Talk wandered between individuals from one speaker back and forth like the ebbing of a tide.  Quite usually, one person talking about a story or past event would spur other discussions aside from that one, and then they would all converge back to the start of the original tale, like the ripples in a pond.  By the time Gene showed up, a whole host of folks were in the store.

Hoke Brooks came in with Herbert H. Harris.  Hoke is known for hay around these parts.  He can be seen getting up hay all summer long.  He is the first one we think of when someone asks where they could get hay, especially this time of year.  That is quite remarkable for a man in his late 80’s.  Especially since he can easily be mistaken for a youngster in his 60’s.  Herbert is akin to the Ford place, Wilfred Harris.  He retired from there in fact. 

In fact, Bud Clegg had worked there for many years, fixing all sorts of engines. (Another patron in the crowd this morning, which I spoke of earlier.)  This is just an example of how closely knit the lives of individuals in this small community have become over the years.  Its what the rural south is all about. It’s a wholesome place. A place where honesty and integrity are as good as a person’s word.  The best thing is, I am lucky enough to be a part of this is, and what a blessing it is.

By this time, the action was really rolling, and discussions of all types were flowing throughout the store. The question asked earlier about the quarry prompted Wilson to begin discussing covered bridges that once existed in this area.  There used to be one over the Haw River on Hwy. 64, many years ago.  That preceded the steel bridge, which was also replaced several years ago. At one time, one lane steel bridges were the latest and greatest.  One still exists in our area on the Asbury area that crosses the Rocky River.  A drive across its one-lane narrow passage can take your breath away, especially if you stop in the middle and look out the side windows of your vehicle.  We have been reminded of the winding roads that once existed, which were traversed in wagons and horseback.  Back then, there were no bridges, only fords.  This is one instance when we can be thankful for the advances in transportation and roadways.

Reno kept an eye on all in case someone wanted to leave and pay on their way out, which is customary.  When Marshall Oldham pulled up in his truck, it was no surprise to anyone as Reno gathered up items from an imaginary shopping list and took them out to Marshall. Marshall is handicapped and cannot get around very well, so Reno provides him with curb service as a courtesy. Marshall doesn’t get to join us much on cold days, but he sits and visits with us with his window rolled down when the weather allows us to sit out on the porch of the store. His story is only part of the mix of folks that frequent the store.  If someone is missing, it won’t be long before their name is mentioned, as if being called upon a roll.  This particular morning the Meronies Church Rives were absent.  That would include Gerald, William, Wilbur, and Mitchell, who are not to be confused with the Antioch Christian Church Rives of Virgil, Jackie, and Foster.

Somewhere along the line, Ricky Sharpe, Reno’s son, slipped in and was getting his gourmet lunch eaten when Gene started snapping the pictures. One of the best gourmet lunch dinners around is a hunk of hoop cheese and a coca-cola.  As Gene went around, he asked the name of each individual being photographed.  Upon asking the occupation, the general consensus was, “Retired.”  Not bad company to hang out with, especially since a youngster in the crowd would be in his 60’s.

In all, a small crowd of regulars was present that morning.  Gene could see from the generosity and cordiality that this place was something of a find.  The short time he was there, several tales were spun, and several names had been recalled.  Some still living and others have gone on.  The store is like that to me.  A place of memory and recollection.  A place where you can visit with the past in the present and sometimes wish you could have seen it, and other times you are thankful for the changes of today.

As with all good things, the visit had to come to an end.  I always look forward to the next visit, and I am thankful to have the last one.  The stores of this era are slowly being replaced by the Quicky Marts, which reflect the fast-paced world we live in.  I know too well that someday, this gem of history will become a recollection in itself, like the patrons that walk through the front door.  Until then, I am thankful for each precious moment.  And as always, we ease toward the door and hear, “No need to rush off now.”  We know Mr. Sharpe and company will be waiting for us again.

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The Cup of Faith

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”- Phil 3:17

It was an early Sunday morning. The air had the feeling as if it could snow at any minute. In an uncustomary manner, my morning devotional was actually upon the steps just outside the front door of our church, Rock Springs Baptist. There, I opened my Bible, journal, and thermos, pouring a hot cup of coffee to accompany my communion with the Lord. Before beginning, the steam from the coffee caught my attention. Swirling from the depths of my cup, the vapor rose, swirling as it ascended, like a spirit rising to meet our maker. On my walk, the bone-chilling air had eventually found its way into my very core. Taking a sip of the hot, bitter brew, I could feel the warmth invade my body, slowly recapturing that which had been nearly frozen.

It was then the similarity hit me; the steam; the Spirit, warmth of my body; us accepting Christ into our hearts.

A car passed and broke my focus for a moment. Taking another sip, I closed my eyes and prayed. The sound of the vehicle dissipated, and soon, the voice of the John’s river began to speak, which lay just beyond our church’s parking lot. The soothing sound and the warmth of my coffee began to erase all the toils, and struggles of the week as the hand of the Lord wrapped his arms around my being. As I exhaled, my breath made another pathway of steam into the air. It was then the thought of how much better coffee tasted when you were partaking of it out in the open, especially on a cold, winter morning. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more everything seemed to taste better when eaten or drank in the outdoors, where all that was man-made was removed, and you were one with the elements; purity begets purity.

Then my mind turned toward the devotionals on my Sunday morning hikes to church and how they always seemed more powerful, more meaningful than those of which I partook every morning before heading up the mountain while sitting in my home. It was as if the materials of man’s creation removed, allowing for a purer experience, a cleaner connection to the Almighty if you will.

There, I had done it; allowed myself to find something of God in merely drinking a hot cup of java on the front steps of the church.

Then my mind took a quantum leap, back, many years to my youth.

The ground was covered in snow. It was the dead of winter in Indiana, a place where Boy Scout Troops wouldn’t cancel a camping trip for the weather, regardless of the conditions. Fortunately, the camporee was at a camp where our tents were the heavy canvas permanent type built on wooden floors; surplus from a not so distant war. It was Friday night when we arrived. The routine was that we were to build a fire and then cook our supper while we made camp. From experience, we knew that in this weather, the fire was the key to everything; warmth, food, survival. Yet, everywhere we looked the snow had covered everything; not one stick of firewood was left untouched. Everything was either frozen or soaked with water. Knowing that we might face a challenge for which we may not fair too well, we began to build our wood in preparation for a valiant attempt, nonetheless. By good fortune, one of our patrol members found an old mouse nest in a hole in one of our tents’ floor. Thankfully, we shoved the dry tender in amongst all the other shoots of Sassafras, Cherry, and Pine, knowing that once the moisture burnt off, we would have the start of a roaring fire. One of the patrol leaders went to the cook box to find matches. When he returned, he held open the small cardboard box, with the little drawer, pulled out. The look on his face said it all. With a look of shock and dismay, we all quickly realized, there was just one match left. We gathered round, each of our young faces had a look of fear and anguish. One of the new scouts almost began to cry, “Oh no, we’re going to starve,” he stammered as tears welled up in his eyes.

“No, we’re not,” I bit back, the steam from my mouth shot into the air like a blowtorch. “You have to have faith. We’ve been through tough times before, and if anyone can make a fire with one match, it’s this patrol.” Ricky, the Scout Master’s son, who was also my good friend, stuck up for me at that moment, and reiterated what I had just conveyed.


“You gotta trust us man, if anyone can get a fire going, we can make it happen. We’re going to show them all, with one match, we’ll keep this fire going all weekend.”


There, he had done it; Ricky had unknowingly made the vow that we would all gladly have given our last breath to uphold. It was an unspoken word of truth and honor, nearly as revered as the Scout Law.

Delicately, like marooned sailors on a deserted island, we made all the preparations and double-checked each other’s work to make sure that the one match would work. Then, with a shaky hand, someone struck the match. The smell of sulfur and warmth filled the space before us. Immediately, we all gathered around, holding our hands as a shield to prevent any breeze from extinguishing our flame before it could take. Slowly, the flame touched the old mouse bed, and steaming smoke began to spread through our pile of tender.

“Nobody breath,” Ricky commanded.

We all stood, feet in shivering in the snowbank that we had created digging out the fire pit so that it would be clear of any moisture, and watched as the smoke seemed to almost disappear. The skeptical scout almost began to whimper once more. “Have faith,” I breathed again.

Then, as if prayers had been answered in unison, a flame nearly 12 inches tall leaped from the center of our woodpile. Smiles spread across our faces as we older scouts looked and nodded at one another. The younger scouts then realized they were with someone who would take care of them.

That weekend happened to get so cold, below zero, that they made us stay in the chow hall one night, for fear we might freeze to death in our cots. Meanwhile, we had stoked and prepared our fire, so that no matter how long we were gone, it would continue to keep a hot coal bed. We needn’t fear that the fire would spread since the ground was covered in almost a foot of snow. So, unlike other times when we would have to put out a fire when leaving our campsite, that particular weekend we were allowed to keep it going. Memory also recalls that the other patrols had not been so lucky when trying to strike their fires. More than one patrol visited us that weekend to warm themselves because of their own inabilities to keep a fire going. We learned a lot about ourselves in the process, not only that we had possessed a knowledge which provided for our own, but that we were able to pass on this to others while sharing with our neighbors.

I don’t remember anything else about that weekend, other than our parents came to stay with us the night we stayed in the chow hall. But the one thing I do recall, even to this day, was that by the time to pack up Sunday evening to head home, we had a fire that had never gone out. Meanwhile, other patrols had problems just getting theirs started, let alone able to keep them going.

We had struggled through adversity, but already in our young lives, having experienced hardship campouts before the one just mentioned had allowed us to have faith. It is the same in our walk with Christ. Those who are new to the faith struggle with knowing that the Father is with them always. By providing them examples of our own steadfast faith, we can give them the courage to face the struggles in their own walk.

The Apostle Paul had faced many trials and difficulties in his life once he turned to serving God instead of persecuting Christians. He was an encourager to others in the faith, and with confidence, not arrogance, as brother David said this morning, he told his disciples to ““Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ[1] He had faith enough to know that if they were to become believers, that they would have to have faith in what he said and to know that through believing him, they too would come to know Christ.

Once they had faith, they would find the love of Christ working in them, warming them, imbuing them with the Holy Spirit, lighting the flame within and starting the fire. Like that hot cup of coffee and a cold winter day, God envelopes you with His Spirit and warms your very soul.

Each day, as I begin to climb the mountain, either figuratively or physically, I ask the Lord to help me find my way. Each day, he answers me in the most unexpected ways.

Nearby, the river speaks to me, and a song begins to play in my head:

“Once I stood at the foot of a great high mountain
That I wanted so much to climb
And on top of this mountain was a beautiful fountain
That flows with the water of life

I fell down on my knees at the foot of this mountain
I cried, “O Lord what must I do?
I want to climb this mountain, I want to drink from this fountain
That flows so clear in my view.”

Then I heard a sweet voice from the top of this mountain
Saying, “Child put your hand in mine.”
I started climbing slowly, “Watch your steps at the edges
And take one step at a time.”

I started climbing upward taking one step at a time
The higher I got the harder I climbed

I’m still climbing upward and my journey’s almost ended
I’m nearing the top and you ought to see the view
Oh the water flows freely, there’s enough to make you free
So friend, if you’re thirsty climb this mountain with me.”[2]

In the gospel of John, Jesus said on the last day of the feast, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”[3]

While these may or may not be my last days, the harder I climb, the more beautiful things I see and reveal, seeing with eyes anew. From walking in faith, although I will never achieve the level of the Apostle Paul, I can, with deep conviction share with others that with faith, all things are possible. In sharing that belief, may it light a spark within their own soul, one that will make within them a desire to seek Him.

With one spark, a fire can be built, and with it, the light of life can begin

That particular campout of which I shared earlier was one where our parents were invited to come spend a night camping with us. It was one of only two times that a parent of mine came to a campout. My mom, of all people, came to stay Saturday night. She, along with the other parents, stayed in the chow hall with the rest of our troop. Looking back, I wish I had done more to interact with her, but it was a treat just to hear her voice talking to the other adults and to know that someone who loved me was present. Now that she is gone, those few glimpses of the past are ever more precious.

She, along with the other parents, more than likely had no idea of our fire struggles, but rather, took it in stride that we had learned how to survive and were doing well enough. I don’t remember anything else about that weekend, but the one thing I do recall, even to this day, was that by the time to pack up Sunday evening to head home, we had a fire that had never gone out.

From all of this, we can surmise that we are a constant work in faith. We may never achieve the level of faith of an Apostle Paul, but we can share our testimony with others, and with that, provide them the knowledge that they are not alone. Through our faith, shall we lift up others, and in the end, give them hope of the Father.

Like steam from the coffee cup, the Holy Spirit will warm us through and through, and our walk of faith will continue to grow as we climb that final mountain and drink from the eternal fountain.

Thanks be to God.


[1] 1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV

[2] Ralph Stanley, Great High Mountain, lyrics © Bug Music, Z77ss, Z77ss Music

[3] John 7:37 KJV

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The News Hurts

Screams of the dying fall upon deaf ears until one begins to wonder if all sanctity of life has been lost. These are the thoughts in my head of those that suffer from the disease that permeates our world. One can only sit and wonder what their final moments of time feel like as the soul within extinguishes from this world. The feeling is that of being held captive within a body that is fighting for its life. Hours pass like clouds rolling through a thunderstorm, each heavy with the pressure of the coming torment. One after another, thoughts of where this is going tend to flash like bolts of distant lightning – threatening but not close enough to scare.

Tonight, there are more stories of fear, death, and evil working its way into our society, until a friend of mine said, “The news hurts.”

photo FoxNews: Beirut, Lebanon

We’ve had torrential rain each day. It is as if we are living in a tropical rainforest. The forest and fauna drink it in, like a drunken sailor of old, notwithstanding having to report to duty, washing away the pain of knowing anguish of deadly seas. One tries to focus on what makes life worth living. Some have nowhere to turn – yet, there is a well of hope for which most forget in troubled times; the life-giving water that quenches all thirst – the Holy Scriptures. You can hear it in their voices – the despair. The whispers of calamity that rip across the crests of raging seas, tell them they are doomed.

Last night, as another thunderhead rolled through the valley, I sat on the porch listening to the roar of the water as it fell from the sky. The streams were no longer cute little trickles of water. They had turned into angry torrents, bursting from their timid banks, engulfing everything in their path. The limbs of the trees, heavy with foliage, groaned under the weight of the flood from above. The air was like a mighty wave, washing over the deck of the ship, pulsating and mad with fury. Here and there, bolts of electricity shot to the ground as the earth erupted in moans of travail. 

It was as if the earth had joined in man’s anguish.

Tonight, here in the Retreat, my little ship in the sea of life, there is still the echoes of the stream, still swollen, like red-eyes after a weary ordeal that one has escaped. There are brushes of clouds in the setting sky, some pink, some pale orange, all bequeathing a surrealness to the sullen mood. For every star in the night sky, there is a soul that has been undone. There are too many to count. Feverish frivolities are all that some have found in this life. Their zeal for pleasures has only accounted for an emptiness that now supplies nothing more than deep, hollow caverns of no end. They cling to anything that allows them to remove their pity – even to the point of pursuing another to deprive them of their momentary joy – covering that blue sky with the stain of hate and dread.

We must rise above that which seeks to pull us under.

When Jesus told Peter to come out of the boat, he knew that alone Peter was not capable. Alone, we are nothing. With God, all things are possible. As Peter hesitated, he knew in the natural realm of this world, he could not walk on water, but yet, there before him stood Christ, clearly upon the fluid sea that floated the boat from where he stood. To confirm his fears, he needed Jesus to command him to walk upon the water. “Jesus said to them, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”

And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”

 And he said, “Come.” And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”[1]

Alone, we cannot survive in this world of evil. Christ knows our every weakness. If we wait for him to tell us to come to him, we are admitting our frailty of belief. Just as Peter found that once he began, he soon was buffeted by the storm around him. The same beleaguered typhoon we endure each day as we are buffeted on all sides by every form of media, device, laws, societal shame – there is no escape. Is it any wonder we are easily distracted – it’s all part of Satan’s plan.

And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, “Lord, save me.” 

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…[2]

They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. It seems that we are all waking up before dawn in these perilous times. Although the predawn hours are for many the hardest, we must take comfort in knowing that there will be another day. Remember, Jesus didn’t let Peter drown. 

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…

He is there for you, no matter how difficult the circumstance you face. As the world seems to consume you until it hurts to even hear the news, like the wind and waves becoming boisterous to the point you feel you are going to go under, remember he is waiting for you. All you have to do is ask.

All it takes are three simple words, “Lord save me.”

He is there to catch you before you perish beneath the waves.

God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” [3]

 We must rise above that which seeks to pull us under, yes, you are not alone.

Seek Him with all your might…it is not too late. His hand is outstretched and waiting…

Thanks be to God.


[1] Matthew 14:28-29 KJV

[2] Matthew 14:31 KJV

[3] John 3:16 KJV

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A Soul in the Middle of Nowhere

They once called it “Nowhere” mountain. Today it’s known to the rest of the world as “Rich” mountain. The slow gradual climb slowly wears at your body, walking or running. The deceptive incline slowly takes you to a secluded overlook. There only the stone remnants of an ancient house’s foundation are all that exist. Leftover from another time, a bygone century. For a moment, above the distant mountain peaks, above the wayward meadows there is a feeling of freedom. The cattle in the fields dispersed amongst the shaded oaks and hemlocks, lowing in the fresh mountain air. Their voices bellow across the ridge. Once this was all that there was of a pioneer outpost, a home in the wilderness. It eventually became the property of the Cone’s. Today, it’s a place where one can go and find themselves a few moments of seclusion from a world that seems to fall out of control a little more each day.

photo by: Sweetwilder

A few days ago, I had found myself atop of Nowhere. Therein lies the story – it was part of my run.

Before I continue, let me say that this is not meant to be any shape or form of bragging. There are times that we must share something in our life that has become a testimony; thus, the sharing with you of how running (or the semblance thereof) has become part of my spiritual journey. Besides, my sister, a practicing Cardiac Nurse, recommended it would help strengthen my heart. Something with which my Cardiologist wholeheartedly agreed. Truly, if you saw me in action, you would know there was nothing to brag about.

Several weeks ago, the Lord convicted me to start running again. At the time, it was as if something inside me wanted to be done with this life. Between the never-ending accusations of our society from one extreme to the other, to the seemingly never-ending pandemic, fueled by every political conspiracy theory you can imagine, one begins to look with joy toward the next life. In a sense, pushing my body to the extremes will either make me a healthier warrior for the Lord or it will take me home to be with him quicker. The options are Pauline in nature, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.[1] Herein lies the rub: many have not, nor have no idea what that “next life” is. They live day-to-day, battling from sunup to sundown without hope. Their lives have little to no direction. For them to find the way to life eternal on their own would be like finding a needle in a haystack. While we want to help them as much as possible, we can only plant the seeds. It is by God’s Grace that we are saved. As Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.”[2] Sadly, there are greater numbers of lost in our world than those who are awakened to God’s plan of salvation. For those who know Him, and have asked Him into their lives, there is that hope of life eternal. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”[3]

I don’t know the exact mileage of each week. I don’t keep track of the miles that my body has been pushed these recent days, but this much I can tell, there is a renewing of the soul. Slowly, my body shifts from the unhealthy cravings as before to now, those of wholesome, natural foods beckon my taste buds. As I had experienced once before, the feeling of how the body changes when it is exercised to the extreme is not new to me. Yet, the reserve with which I can now control my diet and temptations to imbibe in things that only go against not only your body’s health, but the spirit within – these have become the things to which I am now drawn, those things which enrich the body, soul, and spirit.

This journey is not about becoming the fastest. The goal these days is to merely push this terrestrial body to become the best it is capable of being, only so that my soul has a better home. I heard Ravi Zacharias mention a quote from the 19-century writer, George McDonald a couple of days ago. McDonald said in a roundabout way, that we do not “have” a soul, but rather, we are a soul.  “We have a body,” he said, “but we are a soul.” Genesis says it best, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.[4]  This new perspective has really made me rethink the way in which I had been approaching life. 

In the act of pushing my body, I am then making a better dwelling place for my soul to live within. The nicer the home, the better the soul can feel. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “ What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”[5] The more features the temple has, the more possibilities there are for the soul to flourish, and with it, the spirit. When our spirit is awakened, it then is able to welcome the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Then, as we might prepare for an esteemed guest, we would too want our temple to be the most glorious that it can be. It is in this vein that my pursuit of the new day’s dawn, from the time, that the sun hits the horizon until long past its setting – my days are thus filled to serving Him.

Pain in this life is a constant reminder that we live in a fallen world. There is not a run that I take that I don’t have pain. My dad used to say, “The day that I wake up and feel no pain is the day that I know that I’ve died.” Today he no longer suffers. His body was healed when his soul was welcomed into that home above.

In my youth, I longed to train in the mountains; something I was never afforded. Now, in my advanced age, here I am, training in the mountains. There is no pain like that of running up a continual climb at elevations over 3,500 feet. To try to lessen the suffering, I learned a long time ago in those early training years, that if you could talk while you were running, then it would keep you at a pace that was optimal for practice runs. In that vein, my journey has brought me full circle. Since I run alone most days, there is only myself with whom to converse. As I’ve mentioned many times in other writings, today I work as unto the Lord, not unto man, and so it is with my exercise. So now, as I run up those steep grades, my practice of memorizing scripture is put to work, quoting out loud as I run. It is nothing spectacular. A word here, a breath there, and maybe after a few hundred feet a sentence is finished. This is how it goes.

The other day, as my practice of speaking scriptures as I ran continued, I happened past an older lady. She too was out enjoying the beautiful day before the afternoon storms came. As I passed her on my ascent up the mountain, she and I exchanged the usual pleasantry of, “Good morning.” On my way back down, she said something that gave me pause. Before I passed her, she smiled and said toward me, “Thank you for using your gifts.” All I could eke out was a simple, “Amen.” As I was still pondering her words in the back of my mind, I continued through my versus. Just as I was finishing John 1, I rounded a curve and broke out into a meadow filled with a plethora of golden wildflowers. My voice still trailed, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”[6] Suddenly before me above the field of gold, the sky around me was like a throng of white stallions waiting to stampede, yet were held at bay by a mighty hand. In the center of those towering billows of white, was a crystal clear, azure blue sky reaching to the heavens. Yes, the heavens had opened and my eyes searched those ever-changing Cumulus formations for angels ascending and descending. It was at that moment I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit dwell within my soul. For a moment, there was no ground beneath my weary legs, there was no pain, there was only the glory of God.

photo by: Michael Kight

Being afflicted through the sufferings of our daily life, and yes, in our daily exercise, are all part of how God shapes us. As Peter wrote, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.[7] In our youth, our bodies recover more quickly so that there is little time to dwell on the struggles through which we face. As we age, it takes longer to recover and to overcome those once trivial obstacles. Through the tribulations of life, our soul is refined as the sword in the fire. Through these trials, we are made stronger when we learn to lean on Him, and in so doing, find hope for tomorrow. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope…[8]

This morning, the water was still dripping from the trees. The abundance of storms had passed in the night leaving the air fresh, new, and alive.  The sound of the bountiful life-giving fluid made it feel as if I was surrounded by a tropical rain forest. The effect it had upon my body felt good. Like a blanket of comfort, its warmth enveloped my being. My mind drifted back to the Garden of Eden and how it must have felt for Adam and Eve before their sin. It was at that moment that I realized that while we are affected by the world through our flesh (our body), it isn’t always negative. There are moments, as in that instance, where we are blessed by God through his marvelous creation. Through those beautiful sunrises, to the smile of a newborn child, we are given glimpses into his love and majesty; thereby, enriching our soul, allowing the spirit to be lifted. Yes, even when we happen onto the edge of a golden meadow while His words parse through our lips we are blessed. When we are one with Christ, we are then afforded to allow the Holy Ghost to dwell within, and in so doing, find beauty in places heretofore there was only sadness and despair. These precious moments in time uplift our soul, and like the afflictions, strengthen it. 

Not all growth has to be painful, for, at the top of Nowhere, one can be afforded the most gratifying reward – to look upon the distant mountains and valleys and rejoice in God’s glory. As the air slowly returns to our weary lungs, as the heart beats blood to those body parts that are fatigued and ailing, we can be blessed by more than what this world of man will allow. It is up to us to sometimes go to the middle of nowhere and call upon His name.

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”[9]

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”[10]

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[11]

 As you go through each day, beware of the effects the world has upon you through your body. Live each day as if your soul depends on it. 

Eternity is forever.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Philippians 1:21 KJV

[2]  John 14:6-7 KJV

[3] Luke 9:24 KJV

[4] Genesis 2:7 KJV

[5] 1 Corinthians 6:19 KJV

[6] John 1:51 KJV

[7] 1 Peter 5:10 KJV

[8] Romands 5:2-4 KJV

[9] Luke 11:9 KJV

[10] Psalm 23:3 KJV

[11] 1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV

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The Doldrums of COVID

By Timothy W. Tron July, 2020

The feeling of being stuck in the doldrums has slowly washed over me lately. 

My body floated in the water effortlessly. Like a being upon the sea, only the clear blue morning skies above. Here and there were wisps of clouds barely enough moisture to collect to form a whiteness, yet they were there. It was as if time had stopped. My mind drifted to those ancient mariners who relied on the ocean winds to propel their sailing ships. A calm day was not a blessing. A robust sea with gathering storm clouds and gusts of ocean spray were signs of life. 

Likewise, our walk-in faith is like those ancient sailing vessels. When we are facing a headwind, we know we are going in the right direction. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.[1] As the Apostle Paul would remind us, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”[2] It is when the winds cease, those opposing forces suddenly stop, that we should be concerned. For it is then, when you are no longer finding the world against you, that you should take stock and see if you are not going along with the whims and will of the evils that surround you. “And be not conformed to this world:..”[3] “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”[4]

Floating there in the pool, my mind’s eye could see the glistening mirrors of glass surrounding their vessel as the sun beat down on them like a mighty drum. This absolute stillness was their valley of death. The very breath of life hung in the balance. The maritime sailors of old, even in their mighty sailing ships, were at the mercy of the prevailing winds. It was as if without the hand of God pushing them, they were helpless. Their vessels might sit for days or even weeks in the area known today as the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). It stretches from 5 degrees above to 5 degrees below the equator. As the broiling heat beat down upon them, their sails hung limp, lifeless – mirroring the direction their lives seemed to be heading. 

When there is nothing to occupy the mind, it becomes like a fertile field where our sinful fleshly desires and thoughts begin to take root. We’ve all heard the phrase, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” It is here, in the empty void of life that our wanton, wayward thoughts begin to fill the space where once an occupation, a job, or a study once filled. The news media, if we allow it, is happy to provide us more than enough constant chatter to overwhelm even the most ardent theologian. Then there is the social media, where a thread of distrust can become the next great conspiracy to add to the overflowing closet of skeletons in our mind. Those empty, lifeless ocean experiences were not only deadly because of the physical limitations. Here where the mind became one’s worst enemy, the mutinies were formed and men began to doubt not only themselves but their creator as well.

One description held by nautical experts is as follows, “Doldrums holds a distinct place in maritime history, having developed a reputation as a potentially deadly zone which could strand ships for weeks on end, causing them to run out of food and drinking water. In those days, with supplies running low, and scurvy setting in, delirium, starvation, and cabin fever could all set in – and getting through this mysterious patch of Atlantic Ocean quickly wasn’t just a matter of first or last place, but life and death.[5]

Today, we seem to be in a similar predicament. Many of your friends, neighbors, and even family are facing perils that remain hidden until it’s too late. The isolation created by this perceived pandemic has in a sense, made us all drift into the doldrums – some say, the effect being more deadly than the cause. The ship in our world can take on various forms: our country, our daily lives, and even our soul. 

Our nation has become mired in turmoil and panic, held captive by those that want to seemingly halt our way of life using the foil of a pandemic with which to incite fear – cause it to stall until the point it falters, and some might even say, fail. In this epic of ever-growing restrictions and confinements, the feeling of being held captive in our own society begins to seep into our psyche. With each growing day, we find a new restriction dictated by “science” forcing us to obey or else. We find fear beginning to seep into the most educated minds to the point they seem consumed to follow the rules, whereas; heretofore, they were some of the most liberal types seeking rebellion of societal norms at every turn. Those that are held in esteemed positions begin to spread the fear in their implication of pursuing the “science” while disregarding those who might find a different mindset all together; one of fearing not. For many, they do not know what it is to find comfort in the arms of a Savior. Their lives, like so many who remain lost until the day of judgment, find themselves glued to the media, like a junkie waiting for the next hit, looking for the next “aha sound bite” that will send shockwaves through our culture, sending yet another wave of fear over our nation.

It is in these moments of doom and gloom we should seek the calm and peacefulness of the Comforter, the Word of God. Sadly, many find the darkness growing stronger rather than the day of jubilation when Christ’s return sounds the final trumpet. The torment permeates their being until it becomes real. 

The dread doesn’t stop there, at the curb of society, rather it penetrates our very nature. 

The imposed isolation has revealed cracks in even the most perceived solid of relationships. Some may feel that they are trapped in marriages whereby they have no recourse. For whatever reason, the days of intimacy have evaporated like those prevailing winds on the ocean. They quit counting the days of quarantine – the novelty lost at sea. Now, their relationship is distant, cold, and anything but bliss. For some, these are the “worse” parts of the vow. Unrelenting to yield to divorce, praying that God will find a way to replace their spouse’s heart of stone, they remain – trapped and disheartened – their life has become nothing more than a dead sea, upon which no breath of wind dare cast a ripple of hope.

Afflictions of the flesh can come in all shapes and sizes – drugs, alcohol, or sex. Each person has their own inner struggles. Once, when there was a society of normalcy, one might compare their daily grind to others. Yet, now, kept to themselves, the questions begin to creep inside the dark confines of the heart. The darkness feeds upon these. Allowed to grow, they become more than thoughts. They begin to manifest themselves into actions that might otherwise have abated had the flow of life been allow to continue. It is in the trials that we discover who we really are. For those without faith, it is as if all hope is lost. If we allow Satan to enter in, giving in to temptations, we deepen the despair by which those afflictions feed – like sharks circling our languishing ship, watching, waiting to whom they may devour, so is the devil. 

Others find that their spiritual lives have become stagnate as if God is not listening. They pray and seek Him day after day, but it’s as if they’ve been abandoned. What they miss is from where they are praying. Rather than fully relying on God, they are seeking help from the very thing that they have given into, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.[6]

When there is no answer we must wait. Yet, there is learning in the waiting. While we seek immediate answers, God’s timing is not our own. In the trials and tribulations, we are made stronger in our faith, whether we like it or not. It is much like when a baby chick is born. When it first begins to pip out of the shell, it is difficult to sit and watch. When you can’t take it any longer and begin to help the newborn by pulling the shell away. You suddenly find a wet, damp miserable little creature. Although your instinct was to simply help, part of the birthing process is to make it struggle through the shell which creates the muscles that it will need later to survive. Meanwhile, the chick you just “saved” begins to weaken, and in most cases, will die from fatigue for lack of muscle tissue. If we are left to never struggle in life, our spiritual muscle will become atrophied to the point, it is unable to support our being – it is then we too find a spiritual weakening unto the point of death.

When mankind faces the end, as in being distraught within the doldrums, it is then most often they finally seek God – when it is too late. Life passes before one’s eye in the blink of an eye. While an eternity may seem to pass when the flesh is suffering, it is a mere momentary heartbeat when the end arrives. The once seemingly immortality of youth gives way to the reality of age, and with it, time begins to race. As the heart yearns for those days of youth, that are gone forever, it is then too late many realize their choices were in vain. The rust and tarnished life has led them only to a bitter end to where they cannot escape. It is then they realize, their doldrums began long before any pandemic started.

Yet, we can find hope beyond the ITCZ, and this time of COVID.

Our hope is in the one that gives us spiritual strength. Our hope is in the one that gives light to the darkness. Our hope is in the one that can free us from all earthly desires and shackles of the flesh. Yes, our hope is in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior.

Where once there was delirium and despair, there can be life once more. The breath of life, the winds of change are coming and soon, the trumpet will sound. Soon the creaking of the ancient ship’s masts will begin to bend under the gales that will take us to that far distant shore.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you…”[7]

Thanks be to God.


[1] Psalms 34:19 KJV

[2] 1 Peter 4:12-13 KJV

[3] Romans 12:2 KJV

[4] 1 Peter 5:8 KJV

[5] Internet: https://archive.theoceanrace.com/en/news/10308_Seven-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-Doldrums.html

[6] James 4:3 KJV

[7] Matthew 7:7 KJV

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In Spirit and in Truth

The flap of the wings belied the size of the animal, as the wild turkey left its roost from the night. They stand a little over three feet tall on average when strutting on the ground. Their wingspan is just over four feet. The sound thereof beating the air with such great force that I could hear it from where I sat on my porch made me wonder just how much more would that of an Angel’s wings sound? And since I had not seen the bird leave its night’s perch, it was my assumption, based on what my senses told me, that it was indeed air being moved by a winged creature. So too, wouldn’t I be able to discern a more exceptional being than this should it be in my presence? The thought of an angelic being visiting me came to mind. Just the idea of such a moment caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand, being in the presence of one of God’s messengers. “Thou shalt see heaven open and the angels of the Lord ascending and descending on the Son of Man,”[1] Jesus told Nathaniel. Yes, what a scene it would be.

All of these thoughts ran through my mind as the dawn’s early light began to glow upon the pages of my Bible. Before me lay the gospel of John, which was part of today’s morning devotional.

The sound of the wind, not that we can see it, but rather we know from the effect it has upon the things which we can see, allows us to know it is there. We see the branches of the trees move, the summer grasses dance to and fro. When we seek shelter in the shade during a long, hot summer’s day, we pray for its caress upon our skin. Our natural senses allow us to perceive its existence. We never see it, but we know it is there. Yet, unlike the wind, it is our spirit that senses the Holy Spirit of God. It is this innate ability which we are creator has endowed us with, that allows us to worship him in Spirit. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”[2]

It was then the verse of scripture came to mind. Jesus had a late-night visitor, Nicodemus, who questioned what it was to be born again. Jesus told him not to marvel at what he said, that a man must be born again to enter into the kingdom of heaven. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”[3] And then he went on to compare knowing the Spirit to knowing there is a wind, and that we cannot see it, but we hear the sound thereof and know it exists. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.[4]

Suddenly, there came upon my continence a profound statement made at the wedding in Cana of Galilee to which Jesus had attended. There was an inexplicable connection that I had never noticed before; a paradox of divine nature.

When they had run out of wine, we all know the miracle that happened when Jesus turned the water in the water pots to wine. When the servants drew the water-turned-wine out of the pots and bear it to the governor of the feast, he knew not whence it came, but they did. It was this “knowing” of the servants versus that of the ruler of the feast that gave the moment an irony I had missed before.

Here we have the man of stature, reigning over the wedding feast. He obviously has a position of authority in their daily lives, and as such, has probably tasted some of the most excellent wines mankind had produced. Yet, when the drink was given to him, he was impressed by that the family of the bride had kept the good wine until now. His perception was that of what our earthly desires are aware; that which our senses allow us to understand from the world around us; the obvious.

Meanwhile, the servants, knowing that Christ had turned the water into wine, bore their gift to the governor with shaky hands. At this point, we wonder, “Had they tasted the water-turned-wine or were they blindly taking a substance that had simply changed color to the governor of the feast, fearing what he would do?”  Because the scripture states, “but the servants which drew the water knew,”[5] we must consider the former, that they had tasted it and realized the miraculous nature of the drink. Containing their joy of seeing the miracle before it had been revealed to the world, their minds had already been blown away. Here now, they realized they stood in the presence of someone that commanded extraordinary powers, if nothing else, able to change six stone waterpots full of water into wine – not one, not two, but all of them at the same time. As one carried the drink, the others watched, all-knowing from whence it came. Their perception was not of the actual beverage, but the fact that it was not of this world – something far beyond what mankind could ever produce.

Both parties had reality and the supernatural united when the ruler demanded that the family had kept the best wine until last, which was not of the custom. The disciples who were with Jesus at the wedding were assuredly aware once the announcement had been made by the ruler, if not before. We are left to wonder if the governor of the feast ever realized the blessing from on high that he tasted that evening. If only he had known the truth, how much greater would have been his reward? All we can do is speculate. We might compare the ruler of the feast to the rich young ruler whom Jesus told to sell everything he owned and to follow him. He left saddened at what Christ had told him. We are never told what happened beyond that moment, and here too, we are left to wonder.

Like the water turned into wine, the written Word of God to the unbeliever is nothing more than letters of ink written upon a page. Purposeful to them possibly at best in that they are wise sayings passed on from a time when their usefulness had long ago expired. To the believer, they are more than just words on a page; they are the Comforter to which Christ said he would send. Those words speak to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, lifting our own spirit, teaching, leading, and inspiring to all those who believe. Their taste surpasses any of the finest wines man can produce. The scriptures are from the fruit of the vine given by inspiration to man, so that we may continue in his footsteps long after the ascension of Jesus, to sit now at the right hand of God.

Sadly, there are many that will ever only understand the scriptures from the context of knowledge. Even the learned scholars, some who are preachers and teachers, will never fully realize the magnitude of the gift they behold when reading the words on the pages of the Bible. Some spend their lifetime seeking something before them, not realizing that the Spirit is found through the Word, not upon its literal writings. Many wander this life lost, unaware of the fruit of the Spirit, even when it is placed in a cup on a table before them. It is not until they receive the gift of salvation, by the Grace of God, that they will fully comprehend the depth of scripture, and the real purpose behind God’s Word.

Yes, we cannot see it, but the beating of its wings, we can sense when our senses are awakened to our new selves, a new world when we become one with Christ.

Let not your heart be troubled, for if it were not so, I would not have told you so,” Christ said, but even more important, is what he didn’t say, but rather, allowed the Spirit to speak in his silence.

Therein lies the beauty of the irony, for which we can be even more thankful.

Thanks be to God.

And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;)…” – Jn. 2:8-9


[1] John 1:51 KJV

[2] John 4:24 KJV

[3] John 3:7 KJV

[4] John 3:8 KJV

[5] John 2:9 KJV

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The Last Four Minutes…

Dawn had just awakened in the mountains. Walking down the forest’s path, I paused but for a moment. Turning around, I peered into the darkness broken by shafts of light filtering through the canopy above. A sullen mist hung close to the ground. My breath, visibly seen, became one with the morning dew which clung to the ferns that bountifully lay along the pathway from which I had come. As my eyes followed the trail from the light into the depths of darkness beyond, there was so much to reflect upon.

A couple days ago, I met a young man who went by the name Wallace. It was after the culmination of a tour that I had led at the Trail of Faith that we had time to sit down while breaking bread together. Wallace had been mostly silent during the course of the tour. But now, pulled aside from the crowd, he began to open up and share. Wallace leaned in toward me and asked that I pray for him. “What shall I pray for,” I questioned.

“I want to come closer to God. I can’t get enough of Him,” he said with a grimace. “I want to go to that next level of faith,” Wallace pleaded in all sincerity. He had the look in his eyes of someone that sought after something of which they could not find. As his question settled in my mind like the dust on a gravel road, I thought of how each of us, at least those who are believers, yearn for the same thing. Wallace’s eagerness seemed to paint him as if he were a new believer, someone who had not yet realized that the journey is not a sprint but rather a marathon. “Sanctification lasts a lifetime,” I told him. And I then went to great lengths to comfort his worries, in that he wasn’t alone: With each new day, a believer awakens to the creation of God, becoming more aware of God’s handiwork and able to hear his voice through the written word. With each new day, our mind is opened a little more to the understanding of the veritas (truth). “No one comes to the father but through me, I am the way, the truth, and the light,” Jesus would tell his disciples. As I paused to allow the words to sink in, he exclaimed, “Man, you are so cool.”

“No, no, please, no,” I said shaking my head. “It’s God speaking through me that you are hearing.”

It was then the scripture from John 1 came to mind, as I shared with this young man who sought after God with a passion I had not seen in a long, long time.

“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believebecause I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you,youwill see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’the Son of Man.”[1]

The thoughts of Wallace were with me the next day as I climbed the trail to the top of Rough Ridge. Again, the question returned, “How do we get closer to God?” The rocky crags cut deep into my heart, leaving nothing untouched. From up there, the world below seemed so distant, nothing to fear. Sitting on the edge of the earth, the thoughts roll across one’s mind like the clouds across the broad landscape below.

As I stood in front of the washing machine the other night waiting for the spin cycle to end, the time showed four minutes remaining. Then, for some unknown reason, the question arose in my head, “What if you only had four minutes left in your life. What would you think of? What would your final thoughts be about?” I closed my eyes and lifted my head toward heaven and waited. Instantly I was taken back to that old run-down farm house on the edge of New Harmony, Indiana. There, my paternal grandparents had carved out an existence in a life that had been anything but easy. My view was from within the kitchen seated at the head of the table. There on that worn formica countertop my grandparents had seen all manner of life pass. From the earliest times I could remember my grandpa Tron seated in the position of admiration, the head of the table. He was our patriarch. Grandma sat to at his right hand. When grandpa passed, she would move to his seat. It was there in my mind that my journey of what my last four minutes of life began.

You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought to myself, “The last four minutes and I’m stuck in the old kitchen,” as I chuckled silently. But as I sat there, a feeling of reverence washed over me, calming my anticipation. Time slowed. A flood of memories of a lifetime began to pass before me. In those moments, my grandmother’s soft-spoken manner again, and again, warmed my heart. As she spoke, the words she said emanated from where she lived, in God’s word. It was then I realized why it was here my journey began. The words from Peter told of who she was to our family and why my story could not be told without her as its beginning, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”[2]

Before I could finish that thought, I was whisked away and was now standing at the top of Sled Hill, the highest point anyone could find in our flat landscape of southern Indiana. Geologists say that at one time, glaciers pushed the earth ahead of them as they grew into North America. When they retreated, the soil that they left behind became the hills and hollars of exploration of my youth. Those rolling hills, covered in hardwood forests, bordered the Wabash River, creating a utopia for the weary. The rest of the state had been bulldozed flat by those massive goliaths of their time. So, as I stood on this highest vantage point around, my eyes beheld once more the view of our little village from above. Below me, the rooftops and spires of the church’s reached above the trees that lined the streets beyond our little farmhouse that was home. It was then another feeling came over me, one that I had not remembered since the first time my eyes rested upon that scene – The feeling of standing on a mountain struck a chord within my child’s mind. It was as if a light had been turned on. My destiny began at that moment. Little did I know that a calling to return to our ancestry would be driven by the desire to reach for the mountains. None of us knew at that time, but deep within my soul, there was a beckoning to return to a place that I didn’t even know. Even though there overlooking New Harmony, I was barely above the tree-line, the words to the song, “Nearer My God to Thee,” never resonated more.

Likewise, when we accept Christ into our lives, an awakening, a light is turned on and suddenly we find ourselves longing for a home we have never seen –  a place where we can spend eternity in the beautiful, blessed arms of our Savior. When we become Christians, it is then we realize this earth is not our home. We are only passing through.

The last four minutes slowly washed away into a flight like the raptors who soar above in the azure blue skies over those granite peaks. Time, like the tiny rivulets of water that trickle down the pathway after the summer showers, passes without hesitation. We cannot stop it, for if we try, it only dams up into a pool from which we can peer within. Our reflections are all that we see. Letting go, the fluidness continues on as it had before we paused its journey. Onward down the mountain it falls, joining tiny stream after another until they become greater torrents of fluidness. Like the many lives of others, we have met, our experiences becoming one.

The flight continued onward and upward until there was no more ceiling, only heaven above.

Time had expired, but life had not. Once we pass from this world to the next, be it in four minutes, or be it four decades, we will realize that all that we did in this life was a witness to our faith. Whether we realize it or not our journey was seen by those who watched, even when we knew not. If we lived according to God’s word, our life would have been an example, a wonderful testimony, which hopefully would have led another soul to Christ. How great the scene when, “the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

Like a new believer, may we seek to draw closer to God every day. To do so, we must not just read the Word, we must become one with it. When we are saved, we leave our old self behind becoming a new person. In the vacuum of the old self departing, we must fill the empty space with God. To become absorbed with the Bible’s knowledge is one thing, but by taking it to heart, we receive its blessing, and with it the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.  

The journey of faith, once we accept Him into our life, takes a lifetime. A diamond is not formed from a lump of coal in a day.

Yet, when we have run the race, and fought the good fight, not yielding to temptations of this world and pressing always toward the mark, we shall have finally been the light to those around us.  It is then we might expect to hear those fateful words, “Well done, good and faithful son, well done.”

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 1:47-51 KJV

[2] 1 Peter 5:2-4 KJV

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