Author Archives: Timothy

About Timothy

Timothy W. Tron currently lives near Collettsville, North Carolina, with his wife, Sheryl, and son, Jonathan. He was born in Evansville, Indiana, and spent the next sixteen years in southern Indiana, living in mostly rural areas around the historic small towns of New Harmony and Newburgh. There he established his love for the country, which would eventually lead him back to his roots after graduating college. Along the way, he rediscovered his long-lost joy for writing and soon found God leading him to begin authoring a book, based loosely on the history of his ancestors.

Buried with Hope

It had all happened so suddenly, without warning. The sound of a mighty force inhaling all the air around you, then with one tremendous breath, exhaling – all that was once became naught. The last thing he remembered was the earth disappearing beneath his snowshoes and then nothing. For a long while, he lay trapped beneath the tomb of white, unaware of what had happened. When he awoke, he suddenly realized he was imprisoned by a force beyond his strength to overcome.

For as long as Benjamin Perrou could remember, he had heard tales of men caught up in avalanches and never seen again. That Alpine region was known for its precarious winter dangers. Snow, as beautiful as it appears, can be just as dangerous. Benjamin had seen the evidence of snow slides firsthand. One of the many gorges up in the Germanesca valley had been destroyed by one. Like a mighty hand, the forest, and everything in its path had been erased. Trees as big around as six men holding hands could reach had been snapped off at the root, like a twig on a branch. The earth, rocks, and timber had become one giant wall of death. The snow that engulfed it all concealed the extent of the damage until the spring thaws came. It was then that everyone saw how powerful, how dangerous the word “Avalanche” could mean. Trees looked like grass mown down and then strewn in patterns that looked like water flowing down the mountain.

Benjamin could feel his arms and legs, but something heavy, if it could be called that, was holding them locked in place. There was a sharp pain in his lower back that felt like fire when he tried to move. A small air pocket, space enough before his face, afforded him time. “Maybe enough air to live until they find me?” But then again, he had left his house in the little village of Balziglia before dawn. His wife, Maria, and newborn son were still asleep. His goal was to reach the upper shepherd’s hut and return home by noon. He and his cousin Markus had to flee the upper pastures because of an early winter storm leaving behind precious rations of food they had stored up over the summer.

Christmas was now past; the winter months were now pressing upon them. It was a new year, 1510, yet it didn’t feel like anything new worth celebrating. The cellar shelves were getting bare. Working with sheep wasn’t keeping his family fed. He desperately needed to travel back to the shepherd’s hut to retrieve the much-needed supplies. When he mentioned the trip to Maria, she only became angry because of the danger of traveling up to the higher elevations during this time of year. She had begged him to go into the lower valleys and maybe find a job in Pinerolo, where her Uncle had a leatherworking shop. During the grazing months, Benjamin and his cousin would go to the higher elevations to graze their herds for weeks on end. It was the family tradition. The separation was painful for Maria – her heart longed for her Benji. She often said she didn’t know what she would do without him. She had no idea he was leaving that morning. So, when Maria awoke to feed the baby, she realized Benjamin had gone – her heart sank. Fearing the worse, she began to wonder if he would ever return.

Meanwhile, Benjamin began to wonder if the life of his ancestors was no longer possible. There were still those from the Waldensian Valleys studying in the Barbi College, going out in pairs across Europe sharing the gospel, and facing death and persecution. But Benjamin had not felt that calling. He had grown lazy. It had been weeks since he sat down and went through the daily practice of putting the Word of God to memory. It felt like God was a distant thought as the fear of his family going hungry began to gnaw at his soul. The urgency to act had hit him in the night, and it was foremost on his mind when the coming dawn was still a distant thought. He was already several miles up the mountain when the sun kissed the edge of Mount Piatasse. The sled tied to his waist had made a curious trail behind him in the freshly fallen snow, weaving in and out of his ski trail. He was alone, save for his faithful traveling companion and sheepdog, Jacques. If anyone knew his whereabouts, it was Jacques. But for all Benjamin knew, he too, was buried alive and dead.

Benjamin’s heart was racing as the thoughts continued out of control, fighting for the remnants of any sanity that was left. He fought the fear to panic, but there it was, on the edge of the precipice, waiting to dive into his soul.

What will it be like to die a slow, painful death – buried alive? Would he ever see Maria and Jacob again?”

“Where is God when you need him?”

It was this last thread of mental torment that finally grabbed his attention. In all his worry and despair, he had failed to notice the one thing that meant the most to him and his family – God. Then he again thought to himself, “But truly, was this God’s will – to bury him alive? Was there anything even He could do?

Feeling the end approaching, he began speaking out loud, “I know that if nothing else, I will go to my grave praying for my dear Maria and my newborn son, Jacob.” Around him, the weight of the snow, rocks, and trees began to creak as it settled farther, sealing his tomb all the tighter. Hearing his fate becoming more profound, Benjamin began to pray to God. “Dear Lord, if it is your will to rescue me, I would be forever grateful. But I’m not afraid to die, for I know in my heart, mind, and soul that you will be with me. There is no place that I don’t carry you, nor is there any place that I can turn that you are not there. Please take care of my family should you call me home. They are so young and helpless. My cousins and neighbors can fulfill their earthly needs, but I fear that their hearts will be forever plagued by my absence. Please fill that void with your love.” Tears began to choke off his words as he paused. “Dear God, I love Maria as I love you….” A loud crack above him and another weight seem to be added to the load already upon his chest. He could barely breathe but continued, “Lord, I don’t make many new year’s resolutions, but this one thing I say, that if I survive this, by some miracle, I will seek to serve you in any capacity, in whatever way you choose. My soul is yours, take it and do as you wish. In Jesus’s name I pray,” and at that, the tears welled up in his throat as the air became nearly too thick to breathe, “Amen.”

The frozen mass around him began to seep into his body, and soon even the pain dissipated. Finally, there was no more feeling in his frame. Numb from the cold, he began to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Before Benjamin stood a marble staircase gleaming white in a brilliant light. The weight upon his body was so great that he could only crawl, so he did, slowly up, one marble step at a time. Above him, he could see a shadowed translucent figure lit by a brilliant light from behind. Slowly Benjamin approached the shadowy being. The closer he came, the more fearful of the being he became until suddenly, there was a voice like thunder that echoed into his very core, The just shall live by faith! Get up and walk like a man.” Afraid not to do as the angelic being demanded, he tried to stand, but there was a weight upon his body that held him bound.

“I, I can’t get up.”

“The just shall live by faith! You have made your own bondage. The Grace of God that will set you free.”

“But, my body…it is as if I am tied to the earth.” He strained with all his might, yet, he could barely move enough to twitch a toe. “Help me; that’s all I ask. Please, tell God I need Him.”

Somewhere beyond the Angel atop the staircase came the distant sounds of a dog barking. His mind tried to understand as the stairway dissolved into a cascading waterfall surrounded by a crystal clear pool of water at the bottom, into which it plummeted. Summer grasses, rich and succulent, fed the pearl white sheep that surrounded the oasis. From behind the herd came Jacques racing toward him. For a moment, his heart was overjoyed, and a warmth filled his aching soul.

And then there was nothing.

The sound of barking once more. Scratching. Barking.

Benjamin began to cry; the feeling of suffocation overwhelmed him. He realized he might never see his Maria again. Then something warm brushed away the tear. The hand of God?

Again a bark, the brush from the wings of an Angel, a warm tongue across his cheek.

Blinking, unable to focus, Benjamin slowly realized it was Jacques, and it wasn’t a dream. The faithful dog had dug down to where he was trapped and was now trying to free his master. The fresh air felt alive on his face. Jacques kept digging and soon had enough snow and rocks removed that Benjamin’s face was entirely free. He gasped in large mouthfuls of air but realized there was no way alone that Jacques could lift him out of the twisted maze of limbs and ice which entangled his body.

“Go get help, boy,” Benjamin begged of the dog. But he wasn’t leaving his master. The dog sat and stared blankly, ears tilting at the sound of Benjamin’s voice coming from the hole in the snow. He barked in return and would go back to digging and licking Benjamin’s face. But as the day wore on, so did Benjamin’s patience. He realized this was not the answer and that he might still die a slow death.

He again turned to prayer and once more sought God with every fiber of his being. There was nothing God couldn’t do; this he knew in his heart. As he finished in the silence, with Jacques patiently looking on, a cloud passed over, totally obscuring the setting sun, and for a moment, the pair, Benjamin and Jacques, disappeared in its mist. When it cleared, there stood before them a stranger.

“Guten tag.”

Benjamin blinked, “Huh, hello.” At the sound of a voice. From where he lay beneath the snow, he couldn’t see the man. Jacques began to growl, the hair standing up on his neck. He quickly ran and stood between Benjamin and the outsider.

“It’s ok boy, the stranger said.” Benjamin could hear his footsteps crunching in the snow nearby as he approached. Jacques’s protective stance quickly dissipated. There was something about the man the dog trusted. Benjamin knew Jacques well enough to know this was a good sign.

“I see an extreme misfortune you have had.”

“Yes,” Benjamin could barely feel his mouth move. The numbness was growing, and soon, he would no longer be able to speak if something wasn’t done.

“It seems God has me here just in time placed.”

“Thanks be to God,” Benjamin breathed out.

The stranger dropped his pack, removing a small saber, fell to his knees, and quickly began carefully digging around Benjamin. Jacques joined in, and within an hour, they had freed him from his frozen prison. The stranger started a fire and soon began setting Benjamin’s broken legs with wood splints. Afterward, he quickly wrapped him up in a warm blanket with a cup of some hot, dark warm liquid. As he sipped, the feeling began to return to his broken legs, as did the pain. There was a shallow puncture to his back from a stick, but the stranger had wrapped his midsection in cloth to stop the bleeding. As bad as it was, Benjamin knew it could have ended much worse.

“Did you believe God had abandoned you?”

The words brought Benjamin back to the moment. He shook his head, yes, his hand shivering as he slowly lifted the drink to his lips. The bitter brew flowed down his throat, warming his entire being from within, dulling the pain in his legs. A sense of something greater than the moment began to grow inside. He felt it a first like a slight breeze, one that you can ignore if you choose, but he didn’t. Instead, he welcomed it, and it grew. There was also something strange about his liberator. His language seemed foreign, possibly from Germanic regions to the north, but he wasn’t sure. The man before him asked where he was from, and Benjamin pointed to the valley, “There, down below us in the village of Balziglia.”

The man smiled.

“Who are you and where are you, you…. from,” Benjamin replied.

“Oh, not too far from this place,” he smiled. “But I must return to start a new life.”

“Sounds familiar,” Benjamin said, even more curious. “What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t,” he smiled again.

“I’m Benjamin.”

“Nice you to meet Benjamin, Brother Martin I am, just a simple monk.”

“Where is home, Martin?”

“Oh, over the mountains in the village of Erfurt. I was from my pilgrimage to Rome returning. Many things in my life must now I change. My life’s goal a priest to become was.”

“Oh,” for Benjamin’s family for centuries had been persecuted by the Roman Catholic church, so priests were people that his family tried to avoid. Yet, here he was now, having been literally saved by one. The least he could do was to hear him out.

“What makes you say, ‘was’ to become a priest?”

“Something to me in Rome happened. Something Godly. Let’s just say I now with new eyes can see.”

“What about you, Benjamin? Do you with new eyes see? You were trapped and near death. Surely you had to God prayed?”

Benjamin began to remember the dream and, without thinking, began sharing, “Yes, you can trust I prayed. And yes, I was indeed blessed with a gift from God. Just a few days ago, I felt like my life was nothing, that I was losing my soul to the world. The scripture, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?[1]kept repeating in my head. Then I was buried in the avalanche and feared I would die. In desperation, I prayed to God. Then an Angel of the Lord spoke to me in a vision while I was climbing a beautiful marble staircase. He said that I needed to stand up, that the just shall live by faith.”

Martin, seated across the fire from Benjamin and Jacques, stood up immediately, dropping his mug of liquid and spilling it across the snow-covered ground. His face, almost in shock at the words, scared Jacques enough that he let out a sharp bark. He looked at Benjamin as if he, too, had seen the Angel of the Lord

“What did you say?”

“Did I say something wrong?”

“No, no,” he paused, hands outstretched as if he was trying to keep from falling, “ What was the last thing you just said, the thing that God said to you?”

“That the just shall live by faith?”

Martin stared blankly, looking at something beyond Benjamin, something he could not see. It was a minute or two before Martin recovered and could speak. Finally, he answered in a grave, measured tone, “You have spoken words that can only be confirmation to my soul. God has indeed spoken.

Benjamin Perrou, I don’t know who you are or what is going on in your life right now, but if it is possible if you will allow God to lead your life, I want you with me back to Erfurt to return. There is something special about you that I must learn more about.”

“But I have a wife and child.”

“Great, then them you must bring. We wonderful schools for your child have, and I will help you to become a man of God, a preacher, or at the very least, an evangelist. This your calling is, brother Benjamin!”

Tears began streaming down Benjamin’s face as he realized this was the answer to his prayer, the one he had made when he realized his life might end. God had answered him, but in a way he never imagined. He didn’t know this Martin, but there was something about him that he trusted, something special that he knew had to be correct. That day, Benjamin felt like David being called from the field by Samuel to be anointed, King.

Later that night, Maria had barely drifted off, having cried herself to sleep when she heard the gentle rapping at the door. Fearful and with much trepidation, she held the lantern in one hand as she peered through the ajar door. There she saw a stranger holding onto a rope tied to a sled upon which lay a man covered in a blanket.

“Are you Frau Perrou,” the stranger asked.

“Ya, yes…,” she said, still too scared to open the door beyond a crack. Then out of the darkness bounded Jacques, barking, tail wagging, bounding at the door. Maria, forgetting her fear, swung the door open as Jacques leaped into her outstretched arms, licking her face uncontrollably.

“Maria?”

The voice came from the blanket as Benjamin realized he was finally home, raised up enough to see Maria’s light.

“Benji,” she screamed and ran to him, dropping the lantern at her side and throwing her arms around his neck.

“Careful,” the stranger beckoned, removing the blanket revealing Benjamin’s broken limbs.

“Benji,” she gasped.

“Yes, I was buried by an avalanche, but God sent a couple of angels to deliver me. Let us go inside, and I will tell you the rest of the story over some hot stew and a good piece of your delicious bread for our guest.”

It was then Maria realized her prayer had been answered – her Benji was alive. She would continue to weep with joy as he would introduce her to his new friend and explain to her how their life had been changed by a prayer made in desperation. From that day forward they never had need or want. Benjamin would take his little family to Erfurt, where he would study with Martin, Eventually. They would return to the valleys of his homeland where he would preach the Word of God.

Martin would go on to make even greater history when he would eventually nail his disagreements with the Roman Catholic Church to the door of the church in Wurms. You know the rest of that story, a little something called the Reformation.

But more importantly, two men, once strangers brought together miraculously, would never forget the words of God that changed their lives forever when He said – “The just shall live by faith.”

For Benjamin’s calling became more than a New Year’s resolution – it became his promise to God.

Thanks be to God.

 

[1] Matthew 16:26 KJV

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Filed under Inspirational, Religious Fiction

An Encounter of Love

The rain was falling in ice-cold sheets. February weather can be the harshest in the mountains; rain so cold it should be snow. The wipers on Derrick’s car could barely keep up. The occasional shower of sleet only made his view worse. The memory of the fight he and his wife Heather had earlier that morning kept running through his mind. Her refusal to match his anger only enraged him more. Church just wasn’t working for him lately; it wasn’t sinking in. The harder he tried to understand the sermons, the greater became his disconnect. Earlier that morning, Heather simply asked if he had time to read his Bible. It felt like she had stabbed him in the back. How could she question his faith?

He slammed the door when he left, the echoes still lingering in his mind. Tormented, he pushed the pedal on the accelerator, throwing himself through the curves of the tortuous backroads until they hurt. He had an interview in Louisville for a lucrative position that could take his career to the next level. He only needed to get there in time for the meeting tomorrow morning. Unable to leave home until later in the day, he figured he would take a shortcut through the mountains. That would give him plenty of time to check in at the hotel and still have time to visit the bar before bedtime. After all, he deserved it!

Darkness descends upon the mountain valleys much faster. In the winter months, one cannot tell 7:00 pm from midnight. So it was, as Derrick’s car wound through those hidden roads deep within the recesses of the Blueridge, his GPS soon lost connectivity. Then, without warning, the dashboard lit up – low air pressure, front passenger tire. Shortly after that, the unmistakable sound of a flat tire began thumping. Barely enough room to pull over, he found himself sitting on the side of a narrow mountain road. Aside from his headlights shining into a sheet of water falling from the sky, there was nothing but pitch-black darkness. Slamming his fist against the dash, he cursed loudly, “God d*#&%it, son-of-a-b*#&h.”

With only a sweatshirt hoodie for protection, he angrily threw open the car door and stepped out into the deluge. “Why God,” he screamed, looking up to the pitch-black sky as water poured onto his face, running down his bearded chin, its icy fingers finding their way into the warm spots along his spine. The news wasn’t any better when he opened the trunk. The donut spare was nearly flat. After several minutes of knuckle-banging, slipping in-mud delays, he had replaced the flat tire with the poor excuse for a spare. Drenched to his core, he was back in the car seat but badly needed to find someplace to stop to get air before he was totally stranded. Inching along, after rounding several hairpin turns, he saw a pale light ahead. The wipers were losing ground rapidly, so he could barely make out the sign as he pulled in front of the ancient wood-shingled building. “R.C. Sharpe’s Store,” the weathered sign read. Next to the front porch, he could barely make out a hose hanging from a hook with the words hand-painted on a sign above it, “air.”

Jumping out of the car and running to the hose, he tested the valve, but nothing. “Damn it.” A dim light shone through the porch’s dusty windows – a faint flicker of hope. Leaping up on the porch, he was finally out of the drenching ice bath. Shaking himself off, he started to open the door but froze. He swore he could hear the faint sound of an ancient stringed instrument playing. From his Appalachian Studies class, he had learned about the autoharp but had never heard one played in person. Slowly, grinning to himself, “Here goes nothing,” he grabbed the cast iron door handle and pushed. The door opened with a creak, and he cautiously stepped inside. Lightning flashed, and for an instant, everything went gray. He blinked, the thunder roared, shaking the earth, and then the color returned to the scene before him. The music immediately stopped. From the back of the store, he could hear a radio click on, and some unknown country song began to play.

Derrick had never been in an actual working country store outside of those tourist stores up in Boone. Immediately he noticed the smell of cheese, tobacco, and wood smoke, the latter coming from the pot belly stove sitting in the middle of the store. The rusty old pipe extended upward through the ceiling, lined with bead board wood. On each side of the store were shelves against each wall, with long wooden counters in front of them, all filled with home goods and an abundance of supplies one might need to run a mountain farm. Antique wires hung down from the ceiling, holding light bulbs that appeared as old as the building itself. The sound of an AM radio station was playing an old song he had never heard, but the melody pleased his mind, “Lord, I hope this day is good. I’m feelin’ empty and misunderstood. I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should. But Lord, I hope this day….”

“Come on in, I’ll be right wit ya,” came a strained voice from the back corner. Derrick looked to see its source. In the far-right corner sat a thin elderly, white-haired gentleman. He was bent over yellowed papers on a desk, lit by a lamp that barely illuminated his writing surface. About him, on the wall hung a calendar, the kind that provided the signs for planting and some feed store ad at the top. Next to it hung a tweed jacket and a matching fedora, neatly placed. He appeared to be doing the books late into the evening.

Derrick moved closer to the warmth of the stove. The heat felt good, radiating into his bones. In the background, the radio continued, “Lord, have you forgotten me. I’ve been prayin’ to you faithfully. I’m not sayin’ I’m a righteous man. But Lord, I hope you understand.”

“Go ahead, take that there jacket off, and hang it on the chair by the stove. You’ll get warm quicker that way.”

Derrick looked back toward the old man, but he hadn’t seen him look up yet from his papers, which he thought was odd since he somehow knew he was soaked. He did as the man had said and laid his hoodie over the back of a straight-back chair sitting nearby. He heard the creak of an old office chair as the old man got up and began shuffling towards him while the singer kept singing, “I don’t need fortune, and I don’t need fame. Send down the thunder, Lord, send down the rain. But when you’re plannin’ just how it will be. Plan a good day for me.” Derrick realized the song was somehow intentional – was it about him? Chill bumps ran up his muscular arms. His thought was interrupted when the old man called, “Howdy, I’d ask how ya’s doing, but I’ve seen bullfrogs drier’n you,” he said, half chuckling to himself. He wore an old ball cap slightly cocked off to one side and wire-rim glasses. One of his clean-shaven cheeks had a slight bulge indicating a chew of tobacco at rest.

“Yea, my car got a flat, and the spare is about flat too. I saw your lights and thought I’d see if you had any air. I tried the hose outside, but it didn’t sound like it was working.”

“Oh yeah, I’ll have to turn the compressor on for ya. It might take a spell, but it’ll do the trick,” he said, grinning broadly. “What’s your name?”

“Derrick, what’s yours?”

“They call me Reno,” he said with another broad smile.

“Reno, like the place out in Nevada?”

“Yeah, something like that,” his head shaking in agreement.

Something warm, something inviting about the old guy, made Derrick feel at ease. He felt it the moment he stepped inside, but at first, it was like that chill; it took time to warm him through. Meanwhile, the song finished in the background softly ending with, “Lord, I hope this day is good. I’m feelin’ empty and misunderstood. I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should. But Lord, I hope this day is good.”

“You travelin’ a long ways are ye,” he said, squinting as he looked at Derrick, starting to chew a little more on his cud.

“Yeah, I’ve got an interview tomorrow,” Derrick went on to tell him all about himself, how he had been climbing the corporate ladder since graduating college. He shared how he made a lot more money each time he left one company and went to another. He was happy to boast about his accomplishments. With each revelation, Reno’s eyebrows would raise, showing his impression. “Hey, making money’s what it’s all about, ain’t it?”

The radio was now playing an old Tom T. Hall song as the lyrics drifted into their conversation, “Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, But old dogs and children, and watermelon wine.

Reno didn’t laugh with him but drew up his mouth in a pucker as if he wanted to say something but didn’t. “Well, you know what I mean,” he quickly tried to correct course, “you want to do right by your family so you can provide for them and all.”

Reno nodded but wasn’t smiling broadly, only a slight grimace now shown on his face.

“Derrick, you look like you could use a slice of cheese and a drink. Why don’t you sit in that other chair next to the stove, I’ll get that compressor going, and we chew the fat until you dry out a spell. Sound good to you?”

“Ah, ah, I guess, …but my tire?”

“Oh, we’ll get to that. Don’t you fret.”

The song continued as Reno stepped away, “Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes. God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate. When he moved away, I found my pen and copied down that line ‘Bout old dogs and children, and watermelon wine.”

The old man came back shortly, took a large circular wooden crate out of the cooler, and sat it on the well-worn counter. He removed the lid, pulled out a block of cheese, and placed it on a cutting wheel. He sliced off a couple chunks, laying each slice on a piece of wax paper, and then handed one to Derrick. “Go over to the cooler yonder and grab yourself a cold drink,” he said as he pointed to the ancient Pepsi cooler on the opposite side of the store. Before long, they were both seated, munching on cheese and drinking ice-cold sodas.

“You ever have a dog long enough for it to grow old,” Reno said, leaning back in his chair and taking another bite of cheese?

“No, not really.”

“It’s a painful thing to have to say goodbye to a good dog,” the old man’s eyes turned downward as he spoke as if he were looking somewhere into the past. “They become like family after a while.” The song’s last lines echoed again into their words, “That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime. Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”

Derrick sat feeling the warmth of the stove working on him. It seemed to permeate beyond his core and somehow began numbing the uneasiness and stress from the previous drive. What comforted him, even more was that Reno spoke in a soft-spoken southern drawl that alone kept your attention.

“You got a wife,” he said, pointing to Derrick’s ring?

“Yeah,” he smiled broadly. The ball was back in his court now, and he was more than happy to brag about his beautiful wife, Heather, but before he could start, Reno continued.

“I had a wife once.”

Derrick bit his lip and took another sip of his drink to cover his impertinence.

“Cancer took her too soon,” he turned and looked at a faded black-and-white picture sitting on one of the many shelves nearby.

“If I had just one more day with her, it would be a dream,” he said, still turned as if talking to her through the photo. Then turning back, facing Derrick again, “But I know that where she is, for her to come back here would be akin to Lazarus rising from the dead. You know he didn’t want to leave Heaven, nor would she. It’s selfish to think that way. Sometimes we have to think about life being more than about us.” Reno paused, finishing off his drink, and sat it down. He reached down, grabbed another piece of firewood, opened the stove door, tossed it in, then looked back at the young man and smiled. The AM station had now switched to the evening gospel show, and another unfamiliar tune came drifting into Derrick’s ear, “Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘Neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me, And now I am no longer the same.”

“You know, the good book tells us, ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.’ Do you love her, Derrick?”

“Well, hell yeah, of course, I do.” His thoughts quickly darted back to their argument that morning. Deep inside, he wanted to take back his words. But, like so many times, he had a way of saying things that hurt people. He liked to tell himself that he was honest to a fault. The thought began to convict him, joining the other worries in his life. Once again, he felt like he was being crushed. Heather couldn’t understand, but somehow, here with this stranger who seemed to know his thoughts, something was changing. Even the music seemed to be listening.

“Do you know that it also tells us, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” You know what that means?”

Derrick felt uneasy all of a sudden. It was like Reno could somehow read his thoughts. It was almost as if he knew about the fight that morning. “Yeah, I think so,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck, starting to feel as if there was more than this being just a chance encounter.

“You took that girl away from her family, and you became one flesh. You are now responsible for her, and that face you see in the mirror every day, that person that you show the rest of the world, is how she is seen. You gettin’ what I’m sayin’?”

“Yes, yes,… I’m with you.”

“There is only One who can take away your burdens, my son. There is only one that can make you whole. You gotta quit trying to do it all on your own.”

Derrick’s eyes began to water. His head began to swim. The stove felt like it was glowing red. The hoodie was now steaming, and he could feel something come over him, like a tidal wave, washing against the shore, erasing the clutter, the debris in his life. The Gaithers added the final push with the song’s last lines, “He touched me, Oh He touched me, And oh the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know He touched me and made me whole.” He was so convicted about that morning that he wanted to scream. Softly, Reno touched him on the shoulder and said, “Give it to God, son. Give it ALL to the LORD!”

He pressed a small piece of paper into Derrick’s hand.

Then, through the tears, he read, “Love – 1st Cor. 13….”

The damn burst and tears ran down his cheeks. Something inside him had changed. He didn’t know how long they sat there with him, crying, sharing, being comforted by Reno’s encouraging and loving words. Time passed. The rain stopped. Before long, there was an orange glow in the windows. “Oh man, I’ve got to get going.” Derrick realized he had let the night slip by.

“What time’s your interview?”

“It’s at nine AM.”

“You’ll be fine; the Lord’s got this.”

About that time, Derrick’s cell phone rang. He answered, and it was the company where he was to interview. Unfortunately, they had something come up and needed to postpone the meeting until that afternoon. They apologized profusely and asked if it wouldn’t be a problem, then they talked further about specifics. When he hung up, he looked up to find Reno already outside. The spare tire had been replaced and put away, and the original tire was back on. It was as if it had never happened.

“What the heck,” Derrick said, not realizing he had not uttered a string of profanities for a change.

“Oh, you just had a nail in it. I pulled it out and plugged her for ya. Nothin’ to it,” he said, smiling again like when they first met. Something about the sunrise made Reno seem younger like he had dropped twenty years in the blink of an eye.

“Well, what do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe me a dime. But you need to run on now and make that meeting. That little lady back home is countin’ on ya. Don’t let her down,” and he paused, but the seriousness returned, “But Derrick, more importantly,”

“Yes, sir.”

“Remember when I said give it ALL to Him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I meant every word of it. Serve only Him, and he will change your life.”

They shook hands, and for a minute, he felt as if he could hug the old guy. But instead, he stepped in the car and pulled away as he saw Reno waving goodbye sitting on the old school bus bench on the store’s front porch.

Later that morning, a few miles up the road, he found a little country diner. He had ordered his food and the waitress came back to refill his coffee when he began to tell her about the wonderful evening he had spent at R.C. Sharpe’s store. She shook her head, not understanding. “What store is that?”

“The one just a few miles down the road.”

“There’s no store down that way that I know of.”

“Are you from around here?”

“Why sure, but….”

An elderly man in the booth next to him wearing overalls and a ball cap turned slightly around and said, “Son, she don’t know nothing about that old store cause it closed long before she was born. Reno was a fine man, but he’s been dead almost fourteen years.”

Derrick looked at the waitress, and she back at him. He felt his face go white.

“You going to be ok,” the young girl asked with a concerned look on her face?

“Ya, yes…I’ll be ok, ….I think,” he said. He paused, then turned to the booth next to him, “Thank you, sir, for sharing that.”

“No problem,” the old man said and turned back around, shaking his head in a confused manner. Then, feeling as if he had just seen a ghost, Derrick reached into his pocket to ensure he wasn’t losing his mind and pulled out a tear-stained slip of yellowed paper.

“Love – 1st Cor. 13, love, …your friend in Christ, …R.C. Sharpe.”

Just then, he heard the music playing in the diner’s background, and he had to smile. The sound of that ancient instrument, the autoharp, was playing Amazing Grace, and Derrick realized at that moment he was forever changed.

Thanks be to God.

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[Dream] – Farming Trauma

It was winter and the threat of not being able to get hay out to the cattle was plaguing me, yet again. The tractor wouldn’t start – which happens to be the case in reality which is why I had to move firewood by hand instead of using the front-end loader. The cattle were growing increasingly gaunt from starvation. There was some attempt to start a garden. Why in the middle of winter I can’t say, but then again, it was a dream. The ground was hard and barren (of course, it was the dead of winter). Anything we planted barely came up if at all (again, winter – hello). There was the chicken coop, where somebody was exclaiming how well they had sealed it off from predators. Yet, there before me, with seasoned eyes of having done the same thing, I easily could see gaps in the wire where a chicken-killing demons could enter. A wisp, a blur of shadows, and quickly there was the feeling of some dark force finding what I too could see. It slipped into the outside run through a mere four-inch by four-inch gap, and was soon within the coop. Death was imminent. My mind then reverted back to the cows, now standing at the edge of the pasture under the canopy of barren trees, waiting patiently for food – of which there was none. Their bodies showing signs of great hunger. The desperation of needing to get the tractor running overwhelmed me to the point I awoke. My lower back now a screaming flame of pain. The previous day’s firewood collection was more than I really could handle alone. Aging has taken a toll on my abilities to work alone. Tormented, I got out of bed, knowing that even in sleep, I could not get free of those many years of farming and the emotional trauma it inflicts upon the weary soul.

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Strings of Soul

In a corner of the Spiritual Retreat is an instrument wall – a place where my stringed instruments hang from hooks made specifically for each type of instrument. They are kept there for ease of access, for one never knows when the “mood” might strike when that feeling of creativity and inspiration combine into a single thread wanting to intertwine into a melody.

While these pieces of wood and wire are built to make beautiful music, my budget for said devices has never been of the highest priority. That being said, they are worth far more in sentimental value than anything else. One does one’s best to maintain them though, but with time, things age and dry out. So, it was the other day that that “mood” had struck and as the fiddle was taken down it quickly became apparent that the strings had loosened. With a violin, that is to be expected. Of all the instruments, it is held together by opposing forces. The tension of the strings holds up the bridge, which is supported from within by the sound post. If one of these components weakens and gives out, the entire function of the devices is compromised. In this alone, there is a lesson, but for another day.

So, as I looked over the old “Ole Bull” it was quickly discovered to have all but one string was greatly out of tune. Working through the pattern J.W. Parsons taught me so long ago, I began to tighten each of the four strings. When it came to the “G” string, the lowest of the four, the tuning peg made an odd sound as it was being turned. The wooden peg began to crack and disintegrate as it was turned, literally crumbling in my fingertips – it was gone, useless to hold a string taunt. Distraught but not overwhelmed, my original song of inspiration had long ago escaped my thoughts. Now, there was a new challenge. What songs could be played on only three strings? From there, the fiddle and I walked down memory lane discovering what could and could not be found upon the limited number of wire strands. My fingertips were forced to find comforting notes in places they had seldom touched. It wasn’t pretty.

This morning, as my mind reflected back upon yesterday’s encounter, it occurred to me how life and aging emulate the strings on my old violin.

The aging aspect comes from the memory of that entry-level Electrical Engineering class I took back at the University of Florida so many years ago. Dr. O’Malley, a tall, thin white-haired elderly gentleman, then well past retirement age, walked in and began the first day’s intro quite unlike any that I had heard heretofore. “You will start today with 100 points,” he told the class looking over his wire glasses at a lecture hall full of beginning students. “From this point on, you will only lose points, it is up to you how many you lose. You will never gain them back,” he continued. In his eyes, you could almost tell there was more he wanted to say. Something about time, about a life lived. His words really hit hard. It was a thought that was truthful yet profound, and like it, life in the natural world was so much a parallel.

There are many times in this journey that we find we are faced with a potential game-ending dilemma – either give up or adapt. Sometimes these are forces that are not of our doing. Illness, age, or accidents just to name a few can take away our ability to function as we once were capable. Like that fiddle with now only three strings, we learn that if we are to go on, we must learn new ways to play that old song. Those finger positions once foreign we are now forced to learn. A broken arm or hand of your favored limb makes writing almost impossible. But almost always, those who suffer learn to adapt and begin writing, albeit barely legible at first, and overcome their setback.

Likewise, when we step out of our comfort zone in faith, going to places or mission fields that we once thought foreign, test our ability to adapt and grow.  Jesus never told his disciples to stay put in Capernaum and make each other feel good. No, he told them to go out and spread the good news. “and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.[1] It was painful. Not only were they trying to cope without bringing bedding and food, they also suddenly had to remember what they had, in some cases, only recently learned. Jesus knew this would test them, but in the end, it would force them to grow stronger in their faith. Scripture tells us that through life’s trials we will only become stronger and persevere, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”[2] “…But we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope…”[3]

There are those who once they’ve learned to play beautifully on just the three strings suddenly find that another is taken away, leaving only two. It is then, the more challenged we become, the more we must not lean on our own understanding. Many give in to the feeling of being overwhelmed. They never knew Jesus as their Savior, so life, when it becomes unbearable, feels hopelessly lost. They seek answers in the life around them, but there is nothing that can ease that feeling of emptiness and despair that is of this world – no bottle is deep enough, no drug strong enough, and no emotional escape capable of breaking that spiral of death. It is only when the distraught and lost truly seek God is when they find hope.

Eventually, in some cases, those broken strings are restored. After that soul had learned to dance upon the instrument with fewer strings finds that restored octave or more, their appreciation for what once was becomes all the greater. So, it is with those who are reborn in Christ Jesus – their appreciation for things of God’s creation is from a new perspective.  Their soul is restored. They learned in that absence, in that trial, through the fires of tribulation how much more they were capable. Their strength and faith is renewed. They become a new creature. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”[4] What was once uncomfortable, or unknown becomes possible all because there was something that caused us to have to lean not on our own understanding.

Many return from mission fields, whether abroad or local, and find something about the world around them is not the same. Call it an awakening, or a new awareness. Either way, when we learn to seek Him, we too find these peeling away of layer, after layer of blindness to what we once could not see. We are able to understand something about God a little more. With each step, we learn. With each blunder or mistake, we learn. It is through those painful endeavors that we feel we cannot survive, when we find we grow the most.

When the mood strikes, seek for that thing which allows you to revel in your soul’s ability to thank God. When you find that a string is missing, press on toward the mark and let it not hinder your pursuit of the way, the truth, and the life.

Thanks be to God.

[1] Luke 9 NIV

[2] James 1:2-4 KJV

[3] Romans 5:3-4 KJV

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV

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A Christmas Prayer

The small child lay pale and cold beneath the covers. The color all but washed from her face; she brought tears to her father’s eyes as he sat patiently beside the bed holding her tiny little hand. She was the youngest of seven children that he and his dear wife had brought into this world. But this one, little Mary, was more precious than all the others. To see her suffer was almost more than he could bare. A few months earlier, the darkness descended upon his life when he lost his Molly in childbirth. Now, helpless to do anything, he watched the last part of Molly seemingly slipping from his grasp – a feeling of despair unlike any other.

One hand lay upon the infant’s bed, while the other was across the well-worn pages of the family Bible on his lap. Michael could barely read, but the words that his fingers now caressed spoke into his heart, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.[1]

Outside their meager cabin on the edge of Beech Mountain, the snow continued to fall. Only a couple of days before Christmas, it had been weeks since the temperature had dipped below freezing and remained. Michael Trivette’s livelihood was working the timber. He was a lumberjack by trade, but since the ice had been on the trees, there had been no work. Without income, he was slowly watching the cupboard diminish. The other children, some old enough to help out, were all aware of their father’s broken spirit. Doing their best, they continued the farm chores, but without the primary source of family sustenance, all were beginning to realize something had to be done. Patiently and with as much care as possible, the eldest son, Seth, came to his father’s side. Gently putting his arm around him, he tried rousing him to no avail.

“Pa.” There was no response. The empty green eyes stared back at him. He grabbed both shoulders, gently turning him so he could look into his eyes, and softly shook him as if trying to ease one back from a deep sleep.

“Pa, come back to us,” the eyes blinked once, twice, and then again. Then, finally, a focus slowly returned, and his expression changed. Michael realized his son’s concern and was now thankful that he was aware of his presence.

“I… I’m sorry, son, it’s just that….” The words choked off deep in his throat as moisture gathered in his red, swollen eyes.

“It’s okay. We all understand.”

Michael’s countenance fell, his head bowed down, facing the rough wood floor. By then, a couple more of Seth’s sisters, two of the oldest, joined him by his side, Evelyn and Annabelle. They had their mother’s auburn hair, which fell across their shoulders, one in braids, the other in natural ringlets. They nodded in agreement with their brother, smiling sheepishly, but crossed eyebrows implied a deep concern.

“You need to rest, Pa,” Evelyn said, “We can take care of Mary. You haven’t slept in days. We can’t afford to lose you too.” The last she said as she placed her hand upon his shoulder.

Realizing the gravity of her statement, Michael understood and, with their help, being weak from exhaustion, made it to his bed. The last thing he remembered was seeing his eldest daughter pulling the covers up to his bearded chin and kissing him gently on the forehead. “Sleep well, pa, we love you,” Annabelle said with a voice that beckoned from her mother. Then as he slept, she knelt beside his bed and prayed over him. “Dear God, we are but a poor, humble family. We ain’t got much in this world, but God, we know our momma is up there with you looking down on us all. We miss her more than we could have ever imagined.” There was a pause as the tears began to arise in her throat. Then, as the tiny bits of moisture ran down her rose-colored cheeks, the words continued, “We ask you, Father, to heal our little sister Mary. Pa can’t stand to see her suffer, and we’re afraid he will fall into the grave with her should she die. So, God, please heal her and give us back our pa, for we will all surely die without him.” A hand touched her shoulder, and she looked up to see Seth standing over her, head also bowed in prayer.

“Go on, sis.”

She turned back toward the bed and continued, “In Jesus Holy name we pray,” Their voices spoke in unison, “Amen.”

Later that night, by the light of a full moon, Eustace Sloop was awakened by a loud knock at his cabin door. The howling winds foretold of a coming storm, but the light from the window cast a brilliant blue radiance across the floor. It was not uncommon. Too often, someone with a grave illness would arrive at his door at the most uncommon hours. Eustace and his wife, Mary, had settled in this little mountain village only a year before. Word quickly spread of their welcoming demeanor, serving the community as healers and educators. Their door was always open. The bitter winds that blew outside only spoke of another desperate soul seeking his medical attention. Mary lay sound asleep. The noise had yet to wake her.

The knock came again before he could grab the nearest lantern and make his way to the door.
“I’m on my way,” he spoke softly, hoping not to wake his wife before it was necessary. As the door opened, the yellow lamp light fell upon the bundled-up figure of Seth Trivette, almost unrecognizable if it were not for his radiant red hair that fell from beneath his woodman’s hat.

“Dr. Sloop, we need you badly. Baby Mary is dying.”

“Come in, my boy, come in,” Martin Sloop said, gesturing the boy inside. The wind gusted, almost taking the light with it, as snow blew in, remnants of all which remained on the ground from previous storms. “Step into the kitchen area, and let’s get you a hot cup of coffee.”

As Seth sat at the table, his hands shaking from the freezing temperatures outside, he told of how Mary had started to come down with the chills and then gone into a deep sleep. Listening intently to the boy’s description, it was clear to Doc Sloop that the child needed his immediate care. “And Doc, don’t think we ain’t got the means to pay.” At this, the boy pulled around the pack he had carried in with him and pulled out a bundle. The outer wrappings were burlap tied with cotton string bindings. He opened the package and revealed a beautifully hand-stitched quilt with a note attached that he gently lay upon the kitchen table before them. We ain’t got no money, but this is the most valuable thing my family owns. It was the last quilt my momma sewed. She was going to give it to my pa this Christmas. He don’t know nothing about it cause she died before she could give it to him. So us kids were keeping it a secret for him. But..” His voice trailed off as he choked back emotions. Eustace put his hand on the boy’s shoulder as tears rose in the young man’s eyes.

“Don’t worry, my boy, don’t you worry,” he said as he draped his arm around the lad’s strong, firm shoulders. Already at a young age, Seth was nearly a grown man. The struggles of the mountain folk made them a hard people, and early on, they would be forced into adulthood long before their childhood had ended. “God will surely provide, but first, let’s get you warmed up before we head out.”

Hours later, in the dead of night, the fury of the winter storm was fully upon them. Closing the cabin door behind him, Doc Sloop had done all that was humanly possible. The rest was up to God.

The snow was coming down in sheets as he pulled up his overcoat around his neck. He knew the Elk River would be up, making it difficult, if not treacherous, to cross at this hour. The pale light from the cabin window barely penetrated the wall of white fury before him. To Eustace, Mary’s advanced stage of pneumonia was evident. He had applied the salve, then bound her snuggly in the crib where she lay. At such a tender age, no medicine was available to treat her condition safely. The antiserum was too risky for an infant. As a medically trained physician, he feared the worse. As he tried to prepare to step into the squall, the door opened behind him. Annabelle emerged.

“Doc, we want to thank you for coming out in such dreadful weather. We can’t ever repay you for what you’ve done.”

I haven’t done anything yet,” he thought to himself. The whisper of his fear crept back into his mind. He knew only by God’s will that little Mary would live or die. With all the strength to keep his voice from cracking from the emotion, he responded with, “My child, it is why I’m here.”

“I wanted to pray for you before you leave.”

“Sure,” he paused, removing his wide-brimmed hat.

As Annabelle lifted up Eustace in prayer, the lights from the lantern inside flickered. The wind calmed ever slightly, and as the doctor mounted his horse, barely visible in the gale of blinding whiteness, nobody on this side of Glory knew what would become of the deathly ill babe inside.

Just after midnight, in the wee hours of the morning, Mary Sloop realized Eustace had not come home. Outside in the darkness, the snow was already a foot or more. Bundled up, she made her way by lantern light to the barn to see if the horse was in the stall. To her surprise, the horse was there as she suspected but with Eustace still mounted, sound asleep. His feet were still frozen in the stirrups. He had passed out from exhaustion. Lovingly and with as much care as possible, she freed him from his frozen prison and helped him inside. As she gently helped Eustace into the warm bed, his hand on her shoulder for balance, he whispered in a strained voice, “Mary, please…please pray for the little Trivette baby and the family. It doesn’t look good for the child. But we know it’s all in God’s hands.”

“No worries, my dear, I’ve already done the likes, and for you as well.” He smiled at this, looking into her bright eyes.

“And here, I almost forgot. Get this note to Preacher McCrae as soon as possible. He will know what to do.” Eustace pulled the small slip of folded paper from his shirt pocket, placing it in Mary’s palm.

“Don’t you fret. Now you lay yourself down and get some rest. These mountain folk need their good doctor. It’s your turn to get some pampering. Besides, we got to take care of that frostbite. How will you perform surgery if you don’t have any fingers to work with?”

He grinned broadly at this as she left the room, softly pulling the door behind her. She was so direct sometimes, but her truth was as light to his soul. The last thing he could see as his mind succumbed to the fatigue that overtook his body was the precious face of that tiny baby girl. Her countenance was so pure, so innocent. Eustace then realized it had been as if he had looked upon the face of an angel. The words to his favorite Psalm came to mind as he drifted off, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth….”[2]

As the gray light of dawn was still finding its way into the deep crevices of the mountains the next day, Christmas morning, Michael Trivette was in a far distant land. The battle raged around him. Helplessly he watched; his brothers-in-arms lay about him. Their corpses lay as logs in the woods, fallen, grey and cold. He was on his knees, his body too weak to continue. The armored warrior stood before him, sword in hand, ready to make the last swing that would sever his head from his body. Just as the demon lifted its blade to make the momentous arc downward, it stopped. With the demon’s helmet shield open, Michael could see the expression of surprise and fear written on his tormentor’s face as the last vestiges of life passed from its lips. As the dark force fell to the ground, he could clearly see who had saved his life – standing before him was the image of his Lord and Savior. His face shone like radiance, too bright to look upon. With his outstretched arms, he beckoned Michael to rise. As he did, he felt a renewed strength surge through his body. A sense of peace so warm, so loving, it made his heart begin to weep.

Michael awoke with tears running down his cheeks as his second youngest, little Micah, tugged at his bed shirt.

“Pa Pa,” she said with a huge smile as her other brothers and sisters stood behind her. “Pa, Pa, come look. Jesus has come.”

Michael rose from the bed. No longer saddened, he felt renewed, even if it was just a dream. The children took him over to the crib of little Mary. There smiling, looking back up at them, was his precious baby girl. Reaching down, he picked her up, still wrapped in the blanket that Doc Sloop had wrapped her in. Crying in the embrace, a note silently slipped, almost unnoticed, from between the folds of the material and fell at Michael’s feet. “Look, Pa, a note fell out of the blanket,” little Micah exclaimed as she reached down, picking it up, and handing it to her pa.

“You got to read it to us, …please?”

“What, what’s this,” Michael said, carrying Mary and the note over to the rocking chair beside the hearth. The fire felt warm already. Seth knelt, feeding more wood into it as he watched his pa pause, looking solemnly at the note.

He began reading “Dearest Michael.” The children watched, their hearts matching their father’s, his lips trembling as he slowly rocked the baby in his arms. Then, looking back at the note, he continued, “I know we don’t have much in this world but each other.” He stopped rocking and looked up at the ceiling. Then after a long pause continued, “I hope this quilt will keep us as warm together as our hearts are for each other until the end of time. Love your dearest, Molly.”

Michael looked up from the note at his young family. Tears streamed down his face, but he didn’t mind. He had suddenly realized the blanket wrapped around his little Mary was a gift around a gift, the beauty therein too precious to behold. The children, then knowing the time was right, gathered around their dear father and embraced as one. For a moment, the ice on the trees, the lack of food on the table, or even the loss of their momma seemed to hurt a little less. They could have remained in that huddle of love forever had it not been interrupted by the sound of a horse whinnying and hoofbeats tearing away.

Seth bounded toward the door, grabbed the rifle, and threw on his coat in almost one motion. He threw open the door and froze. A burst of cold air and snow blew in as he stood staring.

“What is it, son,” Michael said from beside the fireplace, having stood with Mary still in his arms.

For a long moment, he didn’t speak. Then when he could finally bring the words forth, they were cracked and muted with emotion. “There, there’s stuff all over the porch.”

“What stuff, son?” “Snow?”

They all hurried over to the now-ajar door and peeked out.

There, covering the entire porch, were crates and feed bags full of food, preserves, dried beans, pintos, taters, and more. In addition, a sizeable smoked ham hung from a rope around the beam on the porch, with a big red bow tied across it. A note hung from the ham with the words “Merry Christmas” written in big letters.

Michael looked down at Mary, the quilt, then back at the porch. There weren’t words to describe the moment. But he knew in his heart that somehow the Lord had provided. Before closing the door, he looked up to the heavens, smiled, and mouthed a silent, “Thank you, Jesus.”

As the little Trivette family drifted off to a peaceful sleep later that evening, their thoughts would turn to gratitude. None of them would ever forget the Christmas when God answered their prayers and gave them back little Mary and their Pa. Their mother’s quilt would become a treasured family heirloom. After everyone was put to bed, Michael lay just looking up at the ceiling for a long time, but his thoughts were far beyond those rough-hewn rafters. He couldn’t help but think God had been there for them through it all. He thought of dear Molly one more time, and before he slipped into a peaceful slumber, he softly spoke the words, “Thanks be to God.”.

[1] Hebrews 11:6 KJV

[2] Psalm 121:1 KJV

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Being There

There we were, standing looking back from where we had come. To us, it was merely a passage to the place – telephone poles, power lines crisscrossing the back street upon which we stood. From our immediate perspective the view was uninspiring. But while my traveling companion was still speaking to me, I couldn’t help notice the people walking toward us, the ones just arriving, were in awe of something majestic, something so wonderful that it made them weep. Some would stop and fall to the ground overcome by their emotion. Ignoring my friend, I turned to remind myself of what it was to which they were being drawn and overwhelmed. For in my heart, I already knew the answer.

“What is it,” the other said to me.

“Oh, I just wanted to see how it looks from here.”

“You know what it looks like,” he said, turning and looking with me now toward those distant peaks. Far beyond the bleak daily surroundings of mankind, those earthly dwellings and facades, there stood a majestic mountain range. Yet, it was no mountain range like any of this world, for it stood, even from this distance, to reach unimaginable heights. Far above, only a cloudless day like this one, it’s fervent peaks, capped in white, were glimmering in the sun, almost too brilliant to look at without shielding one’s eyes.

“See, it’s the same as when we left. It never changes.”

“True, so true my friend, for it is not “It” that changes, but us.”

“Ah, but of course,” the other said, nodding his head in agreement. For we both knew that time in that heavenly abode had already grown on us, making us a tiny bit less appreciative if we allowed our focus to wane. Being there, in His presence, it wasn’t so, but the minute you found yourself around some odd corner, such as now, we found ourselves alone with our own thoughts. It is then, away from the Father, that we give in to our former being, questioning what needn’t be asked.

Just a few hours earlier, while back on the mountain, I had met with some old friends that I knew before leaving for my new home. They were happy to see me and each wanted to share in what they had been doing and to what passion they now attended. One man in particular, the son of one of my friends, was eagerly sharing with me all that had changed or been improved upon. We stood upon weathered, greyed with age wood, something that was once part of an outdoor structure. It looked disheveled and fallen, yet this man, now much older than before my departure, was speaking about it as if it were some grandeur palace. Patiently, and without interjecting any disproval, I listened as we walked around the grounds.

Then, out of the blue, my old friend appeared. He seemed much younger than I remembered, even though he was still advanced in age. He was wearing traveling clothes and had on a large backpack, shoved full. On his head, he wore a wide brimmed versatile hat that looked like something and adventurer would wear.

“Where you off too dad,” said my self-imposed tour guide, obviously speaking to my old friend?

“Headed off across the pond,” he replied, pointing over his shoulder back toward the ever present mountain range.

“Well, have a good trip,” the son said.

“No worries.” At that, he turned and was gone. Immediately disappeared.

Waking from the dream, my thoughts were no longer with the many tasks and challenges that awaited. Rather, it was what all that the dream had entailed.

It was then the verse from John 14 came to mind, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.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.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

We have much to share before our time is done. Reach out today before it is too late.

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Brighter Days

by Timothy W. Tron July, 2022

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new;” – 2 Cor. 5:17

You know the feeling. We’ve all had them at one time or another. It had been one of those spiritual dry spells where it felt as if God was not listening to your prayers. Reading the word seemed difficult. Nothing seemed to be sinking in. It was as if there was a disconnect between Heaven and Earth. Searching for something, a sign, a voice, anything that would awaken the spirit within, my hand reached for the radio dial and tuned to a Christian music station. The gray morning landscape passed by the car windows – looming mountains shrouded in misty somberness slept peacefully.

Image from Hotpot.ai

The coffee had yet to sink in when something on the airwaves caught my ear, “I know there’s gonna be some brighter days,”[1] the voice sang.

Within an instant, my thoughts turned toward today’s youth and how they faced a seemingly uphill battle. For some, they have yet to know brighter days. For the collegiate individual, their time has been spent since their youth in scholastic endeavors, some now in their early twenties, still seeking to find themselves in an ever-increasingly dark and bitter world. But, then, at the same time, in a parallel stream, my mind thought of the elderly and how they, if allowing themselves the pity of afterthought, began to dwell on what once was comparing it today, would likewise find themselves seeking brighter days ahead. It was then the comparative contrast of the two was born and how each should hear of the other and be reminded that they are not alone.

And the song continued, “I swear that love will find you in your pain. I feel it in me like the beating of life in my veins. I know there’s gonna be some brighter days.”

When we think about it, we find two vastly separate age groups with potentially similar dismal or enlightened trajectories, depending upon where they are in life. Two distinct paths for each, both similar and both different but for obvious reasons. In each thread, there exists a level of anxiety, or as the song reminds us, pain: the student and the elderly both fear the unknown, but the latter’s eminent destination is far more grave – death. No one can escape it. One’s fear is far less severe than the other, yet each is embraced with equal resolve, or at the very least, should be. Graduation from an institution of learning is a joyous occasion. Yet, we don’t always perceive the graduation to our Heavenly home as such. For some, without a hope of a greater tomorrow, their earthly existence is all there is. When it stops, so does their hope – therein lies the potential for one’s anxiousness. In each graduation, there can be joy, or there can be anxiety. In life, one can find this contrast often. Like most terrestrial encounters, the life experience is almost always an infinitesimal glimpse of what the heavenly experience will provide. In this vain, we continue the comparison and share how the detrimental aspects can be lessened or completely erased when one finds themselves in the preferred spiritual frame of mind.

The melody continued as the dark peaks slowly emerged from the shadows of darkness, “Oh, ashes fall from burning dreams. On, never lived through times like these. Oh, if you’re trying hard to breathe in the dark, In the dark. I know there’s gonna be some brighter days (yes, I do).

Some say age is the great equalizer. Those dreams of fortune and fame fall like ashes from the burning flames of life. Reality begins to set in and childhood fantasies are replaced with the daily grind of existence. Before you know it, you’ve passed middle age and your body begins to falter. In our youth, we recover from ailments more quickly, but as most know, the more advanced in years you become, the slower those muscle strains dissipate – some become chronic, lasting a lifetime. My earthly father had almost all of his major joints replaced with man-made devices. Yet, even after all that, his pain persisted to the point he would say, “I know the day that I wake up, and there is no more pain is the day that I’ll know I’m dead.” His point was in heaven, there will be no more pain, no more sorrow. The body’s ability to regenerate often becomes the distraction to which many become victims. The soul’s health doesn’t seem as important when you feel immortal. But the day will come when all of that youth has passed away, and then, in those twilight years, some become painfully aware of the fallacy of their childish convictions. To make the point, imagine yourself in a stadium at a rock concert full of college-age students. A band is blasting wailing guitars through mountainous speakers, people are screaming, and you can barely hear your own voice. Meanwhile, your best friend is trying to tell you their most intimate life story. All you see are their lips moving and the roar of the crowd. Here and there, you catch a word, maybe recognizing the formation of the lips into something intelligible, but most of what is said is missed. When you leave, your friend feels like they have poured out their soul to you, but you feel little to nothing. There was just too much in the way. In that sense, many of us found religion in our youth precisely like those two in the concert. God was there for us. Maybe a youth minister spoke to us passionately, but we couldn’t hear them for the interference that surrounded our lives; the hormones raging, the chat texts blowing up, the fast times cruising the strip, or whatever led you astray – they all stood as an obstacle to knowing the Father.

In our youth, we don’t have the life experiences from which to draw. When we are young, the consequences of our actions are buffered by our body’s ability to recover from them if they are minor enough. Yet, in advanced age, those ailments become burdens. On the opposite end of the spectrum, those worldly pleasures are enhanced by our body’s youthfulness. Desires of the flesh are much more gratified by the hormone-induced will than that of the geriatric patient who barely has feeling in their extremities. One can’t help but to want to sin in our youth, while the elderly becomes numb to its sensation, allowing for the reception of the more spiritual aspect of life to become more significant. Here in this comparison, we can find how much more easily an elderly person might become a follower of Christ than a young person. Here too, we can see how much more unique and beautiful it is when we find a young person that is a faithful follower of Christ – because they have found, through God’s Grace, the ability to overcome those earthly temptations with the aid of the Holy Spirit. This is, of course, not meant to diminish the elderly believer’s faith. Likewise, some have lived in sin their entire lives, and to finally in old age, to realize that their whole lives were lived in darkness. Is this not just as monumental? Finding Christ in their later years is indeed as much a blessing as those young folks who find Him. Which brings us to this revelation: Regardless of age, salvation is priceless.

Either way, the act of regeneration of the body and soul is not easy at any age. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”[2] There will always be struggles when one seeks to become a follower of Jesus. The graduate must learn to balance starting a new career while daily reminding themselves who they serve. “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.”[3]

Everything is a new frontier, a new challenge waiting to happen. Like those potential college graduates, the future has much to hold. Like the believer, the one who knows that when they pass from this life to the next, there will be an experience waiting that has no comparison. As a believer, the things of this world take on new meaning, new purpose. Again, these are only minute snapshots of our eternal home. We’ve read throughout the Bible the various prophecies of heaven and all that it holds, but in truth, no one on earth knows. Like those students with whom I recently asked about what their future would be like when compared to an elderly person, they could only see it from the bright side of youthful optimism. In essence, both are saying, as scripture tells us, “Death has no sting.” Christ defeated death on the cross so that we may have eternal life.

Physically, dying is hard. Even if the pain is removed, the eventual separation from our loved ones, that departure, is brutal. To some, the anxiety, whether from losing a loved one to the loved one going on to glory, is by far the greatest of all sufferings. In our own pain of loss, we often wish those that have died to come back, to return into our presence so that we can go on living as before. How selfish is that? C.S Lewis described wanting his beloved wife, Joy, to return from death like this. “What sort of a lover am I to think so much about my affliction and so much less about hers? Even the insane call, ‘Come back,’ is all for my own sake. I never even raised the question whether such a return, if it were possible, would be good for her. I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?”[4]

Herein lies the perspective from the opposite side of the coin. When one doesn’t have the gift of salvation, when all they know is only what this world has to offer, there is a genuine and foreboding sense of dread when facing the end. Whether it’s the end of the college career or the end of life alone, we often feel inadequate or helpless. Some mask their fears with an overabundance of optimism, only to cry themselves to sleep in the loneliness of a long dark night. Through the pandemic, we heard stories of depression and abandonment. Suicide rates skyrocketed as many who based their lives on the secular world’s existence became abandoned, castaways in their own homes. Even the believers who could not fellowship with others felt the pain of what it was to be like Christ on the cross when God seemed to abandon him. The separation from God is a fate worse than death. And so, we can find that without Him, we are nothing. There is no hope, no future, nothing beyond this life. Those who ignore the calls to join his flock, to become a believer, are like those students who quit and give up and find themselves forever regretting their decisions. While their choice to drop out of school is not for an eternity, and some do recover and have a successful life, their choices early in life affect the remainder of their earthly life. However, unlike a career choice, the spiritual decision has much graver consequences. The choice we make here in our short time on earth will impact our eternal life – damnation in hell or eternal bliss in heaven.

Finally, the song concluded as the sunrise broke through the clouds. As I parked my car, the morning’s glow reflected in the lake nearby. The words to the song matched the beauty of the scene before me, warming my heart with a feeling only God can provide. “I know there’s gonna be some brighter days, I swear that love will find you in your pain, I feel it in me like the beating of life in my veins. I know there’s gonna be a brighter day.

In the end, no matter the age, God’s love is there for us. We only have to accept him into our lives, confess our sins, believe that he died, rose from the grave and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and we too can know Him.

Your salvation is up to you.

There is no age limit. Yes, there can always be a brighter day.

Thanks be to God!


[1] “Brighter Days” by Blessing Offor, https://youtu.be/I6lp1Oxb9L4

[2] 2 Timothy 2:1-4 KJV

[3] Colossians 3:23-24 KJV

[4] A Grief Observed. Copyright © 1961 by N. W. Clerk, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Preface by Douglas H. Gresham copyright © 1994 by Douglas H. Gresham. All rights reserved.

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A Moment in Time

By Timothy W. Tron, June 2022

C.S. Lewis wrote about the holy spirit, “It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. 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.”

But to those that receive it, “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.”[1]

If we were to interpret the holy spirit as a sensation, then it would quickly dissipate. Jesus even explained the action like this, “And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” While some say this is speaking of the gospel’s truth, it can easily be seen how it also applies to the receiving of the holy spirit and, with it, the truth. For one cannot have one without the other.

Considering these scriptures and words from Lewis, thoughts, or rather, questions, began to form in my mind. How to encapsulate a testimony in so few words that it could be conveyed to a stranger passing on a twisty, root-covered mountain trail? From that momentary interaction, the planting of a tiny seed begins. How then can something more than a sensation, a feeling, be transferred in that split second of enternity?

 Those are the questions that arose.

The struggle with these thoughts were fully born the other night when my wife and I went to our favorite local ice cream shop for a treat. As we sat on our favorite bench across from said eatery, watching humanity pass before us, a young man and his daughter walked by. The father was dressed in familiar bib overalls, something that is second nature to my heart in clothing. A pair of worn but serviceable bibs with a t-shirt underneath is probably as close to heaven’s robes that I will know on this side of glory. That was the first thing that caught my attention. The other was his intentional stare. It seemed that he noticed something about me that also drew him in. As he slowed to get a better look, our eyes locked, and it was then I realized I knew him from somewhere. My mind raced through the fog of mental cobwebs trying to place him. It was as if we were in a duel, seeking the past. Finally, the young father stopped walking. He had proceeded so far past our point of rest that he had to awkwardly turn his head to continue staring. Then, as if neither one of us could not take the not knowing anymore, he smiled and said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” With that, he turned to face us. The little girl with him turned around and came back toward us, wondering who her daddy had found in a town so far away from home that he knew.

Benny Greenhill on fiddle, Max Burns on mandolin at Sharpe’s Store, Feb. 2010.

“Sharpe’s Store,” I replied in question, “at the music?”

He grinned a little bigger and turned to face us. “That’s right. It’s been a couple Sundays since then.”

“I’ll say.”

 “Are you still playing music,” he questioned, still trying to put the pieces back together.

“Some, in fact, they have a jam up here on Saturday mornings that I go to sometimes.” A vague recollection of him playing banjo seemed to fit

My mind was trying to recover names or faces that he might know, but it was as if my head’s fuel tank had run dry, and nothing would come. He seemed to be doing the same when he brought up a couple names or instruments that they played. But nothing seemed to trigger the right neurons, and so we left it at that and started talking about what brought him to town. He was obviously there on vacation, so we went over the usual suspects of destinations. He was leaving to go back to Bonlee the next day. By this time, my mind was frantically trying to pause time. As I looked upon him, it was apparent that he hadn’t physically changed much at all. He was still slim and clean-shaven. His children, whom I didn’t know he had any, were now old enough to enjoy walking with their daddy down main street in Blowing Rock. While I was still trying to drink it all in, he said, as if to reinforce my look of doubt, “The last time I saw you, you said you were starting to write a book.”

That last statement sent my head reeling into dates so long ago that it seemed multiple rivers had flowed beneath my proverbial bridge. It was over twelve years ago that something like that might have been uttered from my lips.

So much had transpired. It was almost beyond comprehension to put into words how much had changed. In other words, it was impossible to tell him that he was looking at the new me. What he didn’t know, nor do most people in my life, was that the writing of that book changed my perspective on life and my walk with God. It placed upon my heart an urgency, an impetus of motivation born from those ancient ancestors that gave their lives to share the Gospels.

Seven years ago, it had become too much. There was a frustration level in my soul that couldn’t be quenched by serving God just part-time. It was time to take the step off the proverbial cliff and devote all of me to Him. It was an immersion that would take my family and I hundreds of miles away from the only home my children had ever known – our Chatham county farm. My instincts were drawn to the mountains, both physically and spiritually – to a higher calling, if you will. The first year was one that I felt would break us, both financially and emotionally. It was our Israelite forty years in the desert phase. We learned to do without and to suffer. But we learned something much greater through all of those trials – that we couldn’t do it alone. We needed God even more than ever before. But how could I convey this to Matthew, a person who had almost entirely been lost in my memory?

But there, in those precious few seconds, there wasn’t enough time to tell the whole of the story. There weren’t enough seconds to convey what God had done in not only my life but in the life of those around me. Suddenly, as if the breath of life were about to be removed from my chest, an urgency came upon me. If it weren’t for this chance encounter, this momentary pause in time, we would have never seen one another again. There was an instant of longing to want to find a way to spend time with him and his family, but he said they would be leaving on the morrow. There was no way to reach out to him technically because, like so many where he came from, they have spurned those so-called advances, and for many good reasons. It was a finality of a missed opportunity that stung the most. There was so much to show him and his family they would have missed.

But then, if we are true to our faith, isn’t this a feeling that should possess us every day?

The feeling that we sometimes only have a moment in passing a person on the trail, walking past someone on the street, or even meeting someone only briefly in our daily life, to reach out to them to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sense that time would slip by before we could tell them how their salvation depends on the way, the truth, and the light of Christ descended on my heart mightily. This spirit of urgency began to drive me to seek wisdom and direction from the Word. And with it, a determination to seek out those who are lost, not by their own accord but through lack of hearing.

It was in this mindset of fleeting chance encounters that lingered when the sunrise beckoned, and it was time to go to the Bible Study on Tuesday morning. Dan, our teacher for the day, walked us through first Timothy, chapter four. He was enlightening as always, and for that, we were grateful. But the moment which is always desired, but rarely seen, happened after the meeting had concluded. My friend Richard and I had planned to go hiking and were about to head out after all the bustling of departures had ended. But in my heart, that lingering pause, that feeling that we should rush out just yet lest we miss something, seemed to loom over my earnestness to depart.

The chance encounter occurred when one of the elderly men, named Jim, came over to my table and began to share with me the enjoyment of reading that book Matthew had alluded to the night before, “Bridge to Heaven.” He started to ask questions, and as is usual, they brought back the flood of memories, emotions, and spiritual awakening that had transpired through its writing. As we talked, another friend of mine, Richard, joined us. It was just us three in the restaurant’s dining area at that point.

Jim began to open up about his own personal walk and how that very morning, his dear wife had shared with him her point in life when she came to Christ. She told him that he needed to know it because it was something often mentioned at funerals, how the believer came to know Jesus. Tears began to well up in his eyes as we could feel our own heartstrings being pulled.

As he continued to share, his own emotions began to flow down his cheeks. He then said he wasn’t sure if he had ever truly received Christ into his life. We both could hear the despair in his voice. Then, without warning, he continued. The tears of sorrow flowed from his eyes like rivers of relief as my friend, and I felt that moment open, like the clouds after the rainstorm parting and the sun breaking through.

“Do you want to come to Christ right now,” Richard asked.

“Yes.”

“Then let’s do this,” and Richard began to pray over Jim, asking God to come into his life and give him the gift of eternal life through the salvation of his Son, Jesus Christ. When Richard was finished praying, he then, with head still bowed, said, “Jim,” as if to say, “take it away, you know what to do.”

With head bowed and heart in deep contrition, I was blessed beyond measure to hear our friend Jim pray to God, seeking his forgiveness, thanking him for his Son, and asking him to fully come into his life, once and for all. He battled through his flood of emotions so much that we began to embrace him through his change. The Holy Spirit began to flow, and that shaft of sunlight seemed to illuminate that little room until all three of our hearts would almost burst with joy. For a moment, time stood still, and the love of Jesus Christ filled us to overflowing.

Grace for grace became our measure.

As I sit here this morning, the day after, still reflecting on all that transpired in the past couple of days, it is with profound, heartfelt sincerity that I want to share how important it is that we seek those chance encounters. In those brief moments of time, we must find a way to stop time and speak into another’s life. Be always prepared to succinctly and as abundantly tell someone about the gospel of salvation, the story of Jesus Christ. And even more importantly, allow them time to come to Him in their own words.

It is truly a matter of life and death.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Mark 4:20-22 KJV

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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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