Monthly Archives: August 2022

The Gift of Love

Yesterday, I witnessed something that tore my heart right out of my chest. This morning’s scripture spoke to that event. “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: And he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.” – Proverbs23v24

Our Ratio Christi group was holding their end-of-summer retreat. It was a day filled with activities focused on faith, fellowship, and God’s word. One of those planned events was a trip to Elk Shoals New River State Park. The park was packed. But we managed to secure a spot on the white sand beach. Our group set up camp by the water’s edge and began to enjoy God’s creation while breaking bread together.  After eating, some of our group read, some played in the river, and some just sat and talked while reading their Bibles.

It was a pretty chill time.

We weren’t actively seeking out those whom we could save. We weren’t standing on a platform shouting out Bible verses. We were simply enjoying our time together. It was the first time some of us had seen each other all summer.

It was when I was teaching a couple of members of our group how to skip rocks across the river that she showed up. A young preteen girl, who will call Olivia, came up and asked us to show her how to skip rocks too. So, without skipping a beat, we began showing Olivia how to spin rocks off your fingertips, treating her just like one of the gang.

From there, we blended back into various activities; some took naps, some played volleyball, while I worked with a group on a crossword puzzle out of the Blueridge Christian News. As we did, I noticed the young girl gravitating toward one of our group’s young ladies, whom I will call Beth. Beth and Olivia began walking and talking while wading in the water, exploring the small rapids not far from our beachhead. Later they joined the volleyball game. In amongst those trips back and forth, I caught the eye of Beth, and she gave me a thumbs up – she was making progress, meaning she was finding out about Olivia’s faith while building a relationship.

Later, Beth and Olivia came over and lay down with the others working on the crossword. Olivia was really taken by our diverse group and said, “You guys are so cool. You have the neatest group, how you just hang out and play together.” Then she asked what we were doing. Meanwhile, Beth had pulled me aside to share what little she had learned about our new friend; she was visiting from Winston-Salem with her brother’s family. Olivia had also shared with Beth how she felt she was a Christian but that all they ever told her about God was baby stuff, treating her like a child. It was then that God began nudging me.

Curious, I asked Olivia as she lay down beside Beth on a blanket, asking about our puzzle work, if she had a Bible to read. She answered, “Yes, but it’s a baby Bible. They don’t give me anything grown up to read.” Again, the nudge grew stronger. My mind began racing through where I might have a spare Word in my car. Beth looked up at me, and we could read each other’s thoughts. “I’ll be right back,” I said as I quickly returned to the car. Beth joined me a short time later, realizing what I was doing, and we looked through all of our belongings for anything we could share with Olivia. All that was there was a track about Jesus. So, thinking the best, I suggested Beth put down her contact information so that, hopefully, Olivia could write or call her when she got home. “Who knows, you could plant a seed.”

So, we went back to the group where Olivia was still hanging out, now trying to help the others solve the puzzle. Beth lay back down next to her and began showing her the track and the information she had written on it in red ink. The preteen’s eyes lit up. She was very excited to receive the small gift and got up to take it back to her family, saying, “I’ll be right back.” Meanwhile, Beth got up and said she needed some time alone. The nudge came gain, but I tried to ignore it.

Time passed. Olivia hadn’t returned since we gave her the track but instead was back out in the river with her brother and his family, enjoying playing with the little kids. “It is as it should be,” I said to myself, not giving it a second thought. My thoughts echoed, “Hopefully, we hadn’t offended her or got her in trouble with her family.” Beth returned and assimilated back into the fold, and we moved on to other things, even though she seemed troubled by something. “Maybe she was feeling the nudge too?”

After about an hour, the sun was quickly casting long shadows across the beach. People began leaving in droves, and soon, we found ourselves mostly alone. Then, from across the way, on the edge of the tree-lined parking area, Olivia shouted goodbye, naming out a few of the names in our group, especially Beth’s. We all waved and happily bid her farewell. Then, out of the blue, Beth grabbed her Bible and yelled, “Wait.” Immediately, I thought that she would share the Gospel of Christ with her, maybe leading her to salvation. My heart was warmed by the thought, “This college student with the heart of a missionary, reaching out to this preteen on an unassuming casual afternoon.” The rest of us went on talking about the unique child and how she had been so open and seemingly wise beyond her years since she told us she was only eleven.

Before we had finished discussing the encounter, Beth returned, her head down but eyes swelled with moisture. I went over to her, and the tears began rolling down her cheeks. Something had happened in the parking area that deeply affected her. Had the family been mean to her? Had they possibly done something to Olivia when Beth tried to speak to her? These questions began racing through my mind as I hugged her trying to comfort her. She then, through the crocodile tears, smiled and said, “I gave her my Bible.”

My heart nearly stopped.

To understand the magnitude of this comment, one would have to know Beth. She wasn’t just a “Go to Church on Sunday” kind of youth. She is one of the most rock-solid believers I’ve met yet for her age. Already in her twenties, she’s been a driving force in our Ratio group, constantly pouring over scriptures, sharing her family’s mission work, and helping others to grow in Christ. All throughout her Bible, she meticulously makes notes and references, which she can later go back to and help others. To know Beth is to understand how important the Word of God is to her. So, when she said those five words, “I gave her my Bible,” it almost tore my heart out of my chest.

But then the nudge reminded me that my hesitation to do the same was perfect. Olivia needed something she could understand, something that would guide her. My thoughts were to do the same, but that good old King James Version would have been too stand-offish. Beth’s Bible version was much more user-friendly in that regard. No, Oliva needed something comforting, something she could sink her teeth into, not a childish or “Baby stuff” type of Bible, but something that she would treasure – a gift from a mature young lady on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the park. The countless hours of devotion and prayer that had been poured out over that Bible would now be there for that young girl to consume into her heart.

That tiny seed we had meant with the little scripture track had suddenly become a giant seed of hope.

Later, after our evening meal, we gathered on the edge of Jefferson Mountain and watched the sun slowly sink into the horizon. Silent, reflecting, we all pondered over the day’s events. All were special in their own way, but the one sentinel moment which stood out, the one that we will never forget, was that most amazing unselfish act of love, as Beth gave her precious Word of God to a total stranger. We didn’t need to shout it from the mountain tops. We didn’t need to put on some fancy revival camp meeting service. All that was necessary to witness to the world was just to be ourselves, and allow God’s light to shine through.

It was there in the golden glow of the setting sun that we understood what the love of God looked like, and we were blessed beyond measure.

Thanks be to God.

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More Than a Feeling

by Timothy W. Tron, August, 8th, 2022

We walked up the mountain top wading through a sea of tall summer grasses. There were no trees, only highland meadows. You could reach your arms out to your side and runs your fingers along the tops of the stalks as you walked, tickling the palms of your hands as you passed. Around us, the clouds had descended until we walked in an atmosphere that was calming and bewildering at the same time. The heat of the day had quickly dissipated as the mist enveloped our small hiking group. It was as if we were walking through a dream. Were we still on earth, or had we suddenly found ourselves walking in Heaven? The Pauline statement came to mind, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”[1]

Hump Back Mountain, Appalachian Trail, North Carolina.

Wading through the tall summer grasses heading to the summit of Sled Hill always provided a sense of achievement. Once there, towering above the little hamlet of New Harmony, one could purvey the entirety of the small village from the height of the hill. While it was only a hill, it felt closer to God. Several years later, I would find myself on a much taller mountain, in the Cottien Region of the Alps, nearly 10,000 feet up. There, for a few minutes of life, a hiking companion and I communed with God. It was a feeling that words cannot adequately describe. To feel his presence and to be so near – yet, so far to go. The sense of touching the stalks of grass to the feeling of being in God’s presence shows us how our body’s translate sensation into emotion. An almost imperceptible path is created from the input of feeling to the emotion of feeling. In our walk of life, the terrestrial realm, our perception of reality influences our thoughts whether we want it to or not.

For in this world, we may find ourselves seeking God but focused on the wrong target, as Paul Washer would say. He compares it to looking through the scope of a rifle. Closing one eye and aiming toward the target, we might find the crosshairs in the scope and errantly focus on them. But the better marksman allows his eye’s focus to go beyond the crosshairs and to fix upon the target. It is the same with how we should perceive our terrestrial life on earth. While we are in the body, we are not where we ultimately want to end up. Our goal – Heaven, of course.

Yet, there is so much to get through to get there. We face so many obstacles, so many challenges, that alone, we cannot achieve them. Our bodies are amazing. God’s creation is not only in everything we see but also in who and what we are. But how does our sense of touch, our feeling of the world around us, affect our ability to reach our goal or to prevent it?

The sense of touch is the only sense not related to a specific organ and is therefore known as a General Sense. All the others, the sense of sight, hearing, taste, and smell, are called Special Senses. To touch something is to feel it with the sensory receptors in our skin. Our skin, the largest organ of our body, is our body’s way of communicating with the world around us. Each moment in our life, we are, in some way, somehow relating to an object or atmospheric presence which we interpret through our flesh.

As we type on the keyboard, as I am doing now, there is a certain tactile feel to the keys on the keyboard. When we read, those of us born before the digital era prefer to feel the palpable feeling of paper on our fingers as we turn the page or hold the book. There is something satisfying about the activity of reading that requires the act of turning a page. Likewise, there are many attributes in our daily life that we take for granted, but they would give us discomfort if they were presented to us without our knowing. One example is the switch from plastic straws to paper. There is something unusual to the feeling upon one’s lips and tongue to a paper straw when all one has ever known is a plastic straw. It is this awkwardness that is similar to how we should always find the things of this world when they go against the will of God, but I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, let’s focus on the fact that feeling and touching things in the world around us is a significant part of our everyday life.

The scriptures clearly warn us, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”[2] It seems that more and more every day, we face obstacles meant to trip us up. Desires of the flesh are constantly bombarding us. When we think we’ve conquered one, the enemy finds another weakness to exploit and tempts us in ways we could have never imagined. How many of you have a phone, also known as your “Device?” Isn’t it odd that it requires seemingly constant attention? Whether it’s the little bells going off reminding you someone has texted you or your need to look something up, to which we now say, “Just Google it,” the battle is real. Those devices can present images that lure us into desires of the flesh or worse. Once again, scriptures warn us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.[3]

We must be ever watchful. But we don’t have to go it alone. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?[4]This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”[5]

But how do we know we are walking in the spirit? Can we feel it? Does it make us feel a certain way? C.S. Lewis put it like this, “The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.”[6]

But being in the body and absent from God creates a problem. Those seemingly limitless sensations we experience each minute of our life can either add to our sanctification or take away from it. It all matters on where you are in your faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.” So, how can we comprehend Heaven as real when all that we know is what we can sense through our earthly context? Of course, it requires one to believe what cannot be seen, which in itself is an act of faith. As Jesus told Thomas when he had just finished inspecting his risen body, touching the holes from the nails in his wrists, to thrusting his fist into the hole in his side, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”[7]

But there is something else that reassures us that we are walking in the right direction through various moments of confirmation; the Holy Spirit. The Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all seek to know us. When we accept Him into our lives, we are made anew. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;”[8]

When we walk as Christ, we learn to hear his voice and direction. It is then we can finally discern when to take those feelings of this world and use them to help us focus on our goal – life eternal.

Although we will experience all manner of troubles and trials to reach those mountain tops in our lives. “The flesh is weak” reminds us that not only does it so easily give in to temptation, but it also fails us as time passes. Age becomes the great equalizer, and the aches and ailments grow in number. But we find as our faith grows that it all fades away when we are in His presence.

For those fifteen minutes of my Alpine journey, sitting on the edge of the world and looking out upon a valley below, we felt washed in the glow of God’s Grace. Those aches and pains that it took to reach the summit had vanished, washed away like our sins by the blood of Christ. Below us, a valley stretched to the horizon. Like the veins of life, the rivers course through its tortuous rocks and cliffs. Waterfalls echo voices of distant saints gone on before. Before us soared a raptor, finding the thermals; at home in his place before us as we sat and watched him as the wind blew past our place of repose. I closed my eyes and savored the multitude of sensations and the feelings that flowed through me at that moment.

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was time to leave, but like those tiny, minuscule glances of Heaven on earth, it was worth a lifetime of torment. If a man were but for a second shown what Heaven would be like, he would forever, for the rest of his breathing days, would gladly shed blood, sweat, and tears to just once more find that moment of eternal bliss. Those moments like these become the confirmation of the truth that our eternal home awaits us. It makes Jesus’ words to his disciples even more precious when he said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”[9]

Stretch your arms out wide and embrace God’s creation every day in your life. Let your fingertips caress the tall grasses of the high mountain meadows, savoring those sensations, but be forever mindful of the ultimate goal. For we must allow our senses to be heightened for all the right reasons and, in so doing, will guide our footsteps ever closer to eternity in the presence of God the Father. And remember, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?[10]

Thanks be to God.


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV

[2] Matthew 26:41 KJV

[3] 1 Peter 5:8 KJV

[4] 1 Corinthians 3:16  KJV

[5] Galatians 5:16,25 KJV

[6] From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

[7] John 20:29 KJV

[8] 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 KJV

[9] John 14:2 KJV

[10] 1 Corinthians 3:16 KJV

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