Monthly Archives: September 2017


For days, I had passed over it; the unobtrusive, worn maple stump.

The tires of my tractor occasionally bumped into the hard gray knob, but it was low enough that it didn’t impede the progress of the building site. Back and forth, pushing the soft, red dirt with the front-end loader of my tractor the land began to take shape. The ground was slowly beginning to resemble the start of a foundation for the future out-building.

This wasn’t my first.

I can still hear J.W. Parson’s voice telling me, as he grinned from ear to ear, “Boy, you’re married, right?” We had paused between me trying to play the song on my fiddle he had just shown me and the next few minutes when we would begin the painful process once more. The room in which we sat was lit by one weak bulb hanging down from the ceiling. The string that you pulled to turn it off and on with lay draped across its yellow luminance. Around us implements of killing hogs hung on the walls; saws, knives, and axes. Their clean, sharp edges glowed in the dim light. There was an air of reality in J.W.’s out-building that only aged blood on wooden floors can exude. Reno Sharpe and an elderly friend of mine who had tagged along for the evening’s entertainment sat on an empty upturned five-gallon bucket nearby smiling as he probably already knew what was coming.

“Yes sir,” I replied unsure of where this was going.

“You got you an outbuilding to play in?”

“No, not yet.”

He laughed and winked over at Reno.

“Well, you better git to building yourself one if you want to stay married,” which he followed up with a roaring laugh as he slapped his knee. Reno and I joined in, for it was apparent what he meant.

In a matter of speaking, the lack of having a place to practice as a beginning fiddler was my stump back then. Before I could really go further, that outbuilding had to be built. Yet, to become the fiddler I had hoped would take countless hours of isolated study and practice.

Nothing would come easy.

Not long following that evening’s lesson, I began constructing my studio in the barn where for several years my violin would eventually sound more like that of J.W.’s, but never entirely. In that isolated home-away-from-home, we would find a retreat from which music, art, and writing flowed. It was more than just an out-building; it became our sanctuary of sorts.

To begin, it was necessary to take a step back.

That was then, this is now.

Once more, we are beginning again; starting over; seeking to find that special place where we can feel the hand of our Lord reach and speak through us. What we hope to achieve will not be easy. Yet, there is so much for which to be thankful. In this journey of faith, we are constantly reminded of the world we left behind and how we are made anew.

So, once more, we begin again.

From the forest, the opening was carved. The aged, rotting maple seemed an easy target when the trees were selected to be cut. Its stump remained all through the clearing process, never presenting itself an obstacle other than the occasional bump under the tires. It wasn’t until the land was leveled and the string lines were pulled that it became obvious; the stump had to go. The very foundation could not be set without it being completely removed. What once seemed a trivial matter now halted the entire construction process. It seemed nothing more than a grayish-mud splattered annoyance that would be gone in a matter of minutes.

Then reality struck.

When the blade of the scoop began trying to find the outer edges of the root ball, it quickly became apparent, this was a much bigger problem than first imagined. In essence, I was going to have to take a step back even further than imagined in order to extract the now, unavoidable barrier.

Last week, working with the Christian club students, we found a similar reality check.

There again was the stump; one that at first seemed to have little if no consequence in what we were planning. But as we progressed in what we had hoped to achieve; evangelizing the Word of God to the rest of the student body, it became apparent that there was something daunting sitting in the path of our progress; an unavoidable root ball of sorts; fear.

When we began to do more than speak about what we should do as Christians, when we would actually go out and witness to others, it was then that we realized how ill-prepared we really were. The very act of approaching others in order to speak to them about Christ froze our students, stopping their very progression of growth. Like those students, when we try to evangelize to the world around us, some of us quickly find our shortcomings. We hear that voice in the back of our head reminding us, “You are not ready.” It is then obvious, like the tree stump, we must go back to the beginning and start over, learning what we must do to witness as those early disciples.
Digging deep into the earth surrounding the remains of the tree we would begin to hack away at the tenuous arms that held the once massive tree in place. Like membranes of bone, the ancient arms stretched in all directions. Like embedded fears from childhood, our inhibitions to speaking to others about our faith can only be overcome when we remove the restraints we put upon ourselves; our self-imposed root ball. With time, study, and trust in the Lord, our faith will grow until we understand there is no fear in serving Him; for He is with us in all that we do.

The back-breaking work was eventually rewarded this past weekend when the massive root ball gave way. It was an enormous relief. Once the obstruction was gone, the re-leveling of the building site took only a few minutes.
Likewise, the work with the students will take time. It won’t be easy, and at times it will seem as if we can’t win but in the end, the reward we will obtain will be far greater than that of removing even the most stubborn tree stump. Once they have found their confidence, their personal stumps will be gone, leaving the ground from which to build.

Bringing salvation to the lost will be something they, and each of us will never forget, and the heavenly reward will be for all eternity.

Thanks be to God.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. …” – Proverbs 16

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Religion

Wings Like a Dove…

And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” -Psalm 55:6

Sometimes, these have to be told.

As I pulled my car into the Medical Center parking lot, the reason for the appointment wasn’t really on my mind. The modern brick façade was new enough to make you feel as if there was a certain level of unguaranteed trust, whether or not it was warranted. The entrance was as grand and intricately decorated as any five-star hotel. Lush vegetation covered detailed landscaped gardens that lined the building’s edges. As my eyes followed the beauty of the architecture and fauna, I suddenly spied an opening. There were several spots right up front, but it became clear most of them were handicap. Luckily, there was one just next to the last blue stenciled spot. My appointment was not for another hour, so I backed into the space and leaned the seat back; time for a quick nap.

The morning sun had just reached the top of the trees nearby, and soon I was gone.

It wasn’t long before the next thing I knew, I was on a plane returning from where I had come. The flight was overbooked, so finding a seat was difficult. This airline policy was simply, “First come, first served,” so if you find a seat, take it, no matter where it was on the plane. I pushed through the crowd and eventually found a seat near the front. The businessman seated next to me began to ask me questions about the purpose of my trip. Exhausted, I tried my best to give him my undivided attention but soon found myself drifting off once again. The hum of the jet engines melded with the man’s voice and became one.

Yet, once more, I found myself returning to the previous Medical Center parking lot, or at least I thought I was. This time, I reached the place where my car had been earlier, but now it was gone. An immediate slice of panic swept over my mind. “Had my car been towed,” I thought, trying to recall what had transpired since my last visit. There at the end of the marked spot were signs indicating Reserved Spaces, which only those specific numbered decals were allowed to be used. Again, the anxiety of not finding my car raced through my consciousness until the realization of what I was doing became apparent.

There would be no need for the car.

From that point on, I tried to find the elaborate entrance, but it too was missing. My flight path soon took me from one similarly decorated building after another. The complex all seemed to match as did many of the newer office parks these days. Eventually tired of sight-seeing, I glided into a European style restaurant with stucco rock walls, dark wood chair rails, and white tablecloths. The people dining didn’t’ seem to mind me hovering over the tables. Before long I found a waiter that gave me directions to the correct building. Assuring me that I was not totally lost, he said it was simply up the hill and around the corner. Carefully I turned and began floating toward the door. It was more challenging to fly in a restaurant than you might think. Your arms and legs have to be accounted for because they are now at table height instead of at your side or beneath you as when you walk. In my previous flights across fields and trees, there was no fear of bumping into something. Back in those days, it was simply a matter of maintaining altitude. Where your arms and legs were located mattered little. In fact, most of the time, in those days, I was flapping or kicking them to keep going. If one thing had changed, it was definitely the ability to control my aeronautical maneuvers. Never before would it have been possible to fly so steadily indoors, especially in a dining facility without knocking over a whole table of food. We often take for granted what we use in navigating our way through an eating establishment. It’s nice to have an appropriate aisle through which to walk, but flight paths rarely considered. In addition, you just can’t zip up to the ceiling and be on your way. No, there are ceiling fans with which care must also be taken. When I eventually found my way back outside, it was with a great sigh of relief that I quickly flew toward the correct building for which I had previously searched.

There it was, the grand entrance.

Carefully, I made my way through the automatic doors. The hiss of their opening seemed to pull me in; softly and silently. The foyer was as beautiful as the outside. A splendid chandelier hung over the marble floor. The sunlight through the surrounding glass walls gleamed off the floor making it seem almost like the sky opened up below me instead of above. A wide staircase flowed from an upper room down to the glowing floor, along which an intricately woven metal handrail stood.

“We’re so glad you made it back,” the doctor said as he walked down the stairs toward the bottom step. His voice was like many at once, yet saying nothing out loud.  I hadn’t noticed him when I first entered. He was wearing a typical white doctor’s smock that seemed to radiate with light.

I carefully alit in a standing position from my flying position upon the glass-like floor. In the back of my mind, something said, “That was a first.” Never before had I landed on my feet when having taken flight; at least not successfully without waking myself. Usually, there was an ugly near crash and then that moment when you awaken having shaken yourself out of the dream. Yet, this time was different.

Standing there in the glow of the Great Physician, there was a completeness about it all. Somehow, I didn’t fear what he was about to tell me nor did I seem to want for anything; it was as if all was well with anything and everything.

“You are healed,” He said.

A joy came over me like nothing I had ever known before.

The faint glow of the morning sun was just beginning to filter through the bedroom windows when I opened my eyes.

It was Saturday, and there was so much to do. I sat up on the edge of the bed and thought about what had just transpired. There was an incredible longing to return to that place, that feeling. Turning, I looked back at the softness of the pillow, then turned to face the day.

God would welcome me home, just not today.

Thanks be to God.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Uncategorized

The Rivers We Cross…

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,…” – Isaiah 48:1-3

Before me, the mountains lay shrouded in the mist.

Grandfather remains hidden under dark skies. He doesn’t want to be bothered today. The rain had cleared long enough for a short hike, so here I stand watching as clouds like waves on the ocean, crash against the shoreline. In calm, quiet, but formidable stealth, each one smashes against the bulwark of the peaks yet to be engulfed by the coming storms. Somewhere below the mist lay the sleepy little village of Collettsville. Along its main street lined with mill town houses the John’s River flows, clear and cold. Part of my walk had already taken me past its banks confirming that the water was once more, clear of the day’s rains. My mind thought of the recent journeys to church and how for three Sundays in a row I had crossed the river to reach the other side. It became part of my personal challenge. As I explained it to Pastor Joe, it made me appreciate being able to make it to church. In life, we often take for granted the ease with which we worship and all that has made that possible. This summer’s journey had made me more aware of this fact than ever before. So, as part of my weekly walk to Sunday morning preaching, fording the John’s River became my rite of passage, so to speak. Each time I encountered a new twist, a new challenge. Each time, there were the difficulties making it out of the river and up the steep bank on the town side of the water. It made me think of how we often cross our own rivers.

Both my mother and father have gone on. They have both crossed their River of Jordan to reach that far distant shore. Each passed in their own way, but it was my blessing to have had the opportunity to say goodbye to each of them before they stepped into the current and began their journey across; God made that possible. I was not there on the other side to welcome them home, but in some instance, I know they both had steep embankments up which they had to struggle; death did not come easy. So it is for many who have died, and for those times we pray that the Lord give them comfort in their time of crossing. We would want the same. As Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, he too felt the painful anguish of death’s sting, but he was not defeated by it. From life to death we all shall pass, but where we finish is up to us; a choice that must be made here on this side of that beautiful flowing strand.

A decision many fail to make in time,” I thought to myself, standing there admiring God’s beauty even in the midst of an approaching storm.

The stillness was broken by a shrill snort. Behind me on a tree-covered peak beyond where I stood, a buck huffed irreverently at me; my presence had encroached upon his domain. One couldn’t help to think that perhaps he was as enamored with the scene as was I. The crickets spoke of the coming darkness, so I made my way back down the slope to home leaving the deer to his peace. My thoughts meandered back to the clear flowing waters. Tomorrow I would try once more to find myself wading the waters to reach the sanctuary, challenged but not diminished by what it took to reach that distant shore. The first step is always the hardest.

Likewise, when we decide to take our leap of faith and commit our lives to serving the Lord, the first step is the most difficult. Stepping from the safety of the shore into the unknown can be enough to cause us to reconsider our decision. We think it is all our doing, that we’ll have to make it on our own. What we often fail to realize is that once we begin our journey with Him, that is Him, God, that will be there to help make up the differences we cannot fathom. So when we finally realize that we are not alone, we can make that first step.

The freezing water at first is like burning fire, but with time, we become numb to its pain. As we learn to trust in Him, we are able to carry on, pushing forward, becoming numb to our previous fears. The current is strong, and it takes every ounce of strength to take each new step, yet we are not deterred. In our weakness, we become strong in Him. The reward we seek is far greater than the obstacles that try to dissuade us from reaching that distant shore. The cold has lessened the pains; still, we continue on regardless of what others might say or think. Once we find ourselves committed, standing on the brink of the rushing waters, we still struggle to make the crossing. They never said it would be easy. Trial and tribulation buffet us like the coming storms before me this night. Below the surface, rocks make each step painful as our bare feet seek to guide our way. Meanwhile, we are burdened down by the past life; financially and emotionally. The anchor of our self-inflicted burdens become unwanted drag against the current. Breaking free is in some ways as difficult as dying. In essence, we must die to our formers selves so that we made be made anew in Christ. As Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” We tend to try to bring the past with us, and the problems therein. With persistence, we push on. One by one, we set our burdens free, lightening our load. As we learn to walk in our faith, those restraints that kept us shackled to the past are broken away, and we are set free.

With each step, we find a rhythm to the river’s bottom, and soon, we are beginning to find the nearing distant shore. We know we are on the right path for the current is against us, like those trials through which we persevere, the build our character, and with each one, we become stronger in our faith. Once we make landfall, we wearily climb up out of the river, careful not to slip and fall back in. Looking down from above, we can see from whence we came. There is peace in knowing that you have made it through the storm. There is peace in knowing that with Him, all things are possible, and because of Him, we have that distant shore for which we may strive.
The choice is ours.

Step into the water and begin your journey.

You’ll not turn back, for if it is His will, then it shall be done.

Thanks be to God.

1 Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Religion