Category Archives: Farming

Peace Be Unto You

It was late evening. The light was gone from the sky, but the air seemed to breathe a hue of compassion, illuminating the scene. The cattle were gently grazing around me. The grass was rich and thick – a lush summer’s growth, one that keeps the cows busy for many days. The sound of a mouth of foliage being torn from the plant reminded me of what it was to have happy cattle. The jaw of the bovine casually crushed the plant as the noise of chewing began, adding to the cud already in tow. A shuffle of hooves, slow movement as another sweet spot of the edible plant was found. An aroma of livestock, something reassuring to the farmer, emanated from the ground around where I stood. Black Angus bodies, my herd of cows surrounded me, accepting me as part of their circle. We had been many miles over the years, from one pasture to another, from one season to the next. There were bitter memories, loss of life, and struggles that come with raising animals. But there were the many wonderful thoughts upon which to reflect, from watching the miracle of birth to seeing a momma instinctively nurse a newborn for the first time. Standing there, amongst my extended family, one couldn’t help to feel blessed beyond measure.

These all played in my mind as the dusk slowly faded into night, and I awoke from the dream – my heart was gladdened. A gentle peace rested upon my soul.

To stand in that place in the dream was the recalling of many times in my journey. Surrounded by those gentle creatures to whom my care upon which they depended allowed for a certain feeling of satisfaction. That comfort in knowing that all that you strived to do, all those many tasks and chores to manage the farm were working – that alone emanated a certain peacefulness. Knowing that the barn is full of hay for the coming winter, that the fields are rich with grasses, a result of preparation long before the warm weather arrived, to planning the birth and rearing of the next crop of calves – there were many facets to what goes into creating that pastoral scene of peaceful solitude. To dream of that moment, that snapshot in time was a reminder of the reassurance God provides to those that serve Him faithfully.

Much like farming, our spiritual lives don’t happen by accident. It takes effort and determination to keep one’s mind centered on Christ. It doesn’t take much imagination to find something that can pull us away from our focus. All we have to do is wake up in the morning and we are almost instantly hit with something that will surely try to pull us away from our prayers or devotions. That sense of urgency that something needs to get done needs to be put aside no matter how grave or essential it is. The need to give God our first priority is as vital as storing those crops for the coming winters or, as in Joseph’s time, the famines to come. Preparing our minds for the day is as essential as a good hearty breakfast.

Many days after work, I would come home and change into my farm clothes, then escape to the barn to find solitude in the herd. Regardless of the time of year, if they saw me approach with a feed bucket, they would come running. The older cows led, the younger, for the elders knew what the bucket meant. As time progressed, the younger calves would quickly learn and follow suit. Once fed, they would return to the grass or the hay, whichever was in season. Then, in their respite and time of rumination, we would all relax and allow time to pass. Around us, the world would continue to spin – the geese flying into the pond on their journey south, the deer would pace through the undergrowth of the nearby woods, or the songbirds would welcome the coming dawn. Yet, there in that bucolic setting, a certain clockwork of life flowed, and the handiwork of God was always present.

As the sun would set or rise, the sky above would paint many colors that the waters of the ponds would reflect. The mirror’s looking glass would ripple as the surface was broken by one of the animals wading in for a drink or the splash from the Kingfisher diving in for a meal. The Swallows would skim along the surface as the steam would rise when the night’s air would begin to cool. Everywhere, the sounds of peepers and bullfrogs told of the coming night.

Meanwhile, a golden glow emanated from the farmhouse’s windows across the pasture. Inside, my wife and children would prepare for bedtime, and my focus would shift to my family. After we all had our showers and were ready to snuggle in our favorite reading chairs, we would blissfully read them a bedtime story. As they drifted off to sleep, I would gently rock them, singing softly the old songs that came to mind. There were many a time that we would fall asleep together, the chair slowing to a standstill, the night’s preparation complete. Sweetly and softly tucking them into bed, we would then resign to finally find rest in our own abode.

As the last prayers were spoken and the lights were extinguished, sleep came quickly and peacefully.

In this mindset, I awoke from the dream, for there was no reason to interpret what had been said or found. It was clear. It was as if God was saying, “My Peace I give to you, and may my Peace be with you.” For it is in God alone that we can find the ultimate tranquility.

And in this, we can always say, “Thanks be to God

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” – Psalm 104:14

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A Man and his Bibs

The worn stretched to the point of threadbare T-shirt that he wore underneath his faded, denim bib overalls depicted the man. Victor Phillip Tron was a quiet man but labored as a farmer until the day he died. He never complained about his work, other than that last day, when he told Mildred, his endearing wife of 52 years, that he just didn’t feel well. She would later recall how grandpa seemed to drag about that day and that she told Victor couldn’t eat his supper until after he had fed the dogs. Begrudgingly, he obliged and returned to eat his last supper. He would die that night in his sleep.

Victor Phillip Tron, wearing his next favorite shirt, the winter flannel. Taken in the living room of the farm house, on the edge of New Harmony, Indiana. (note, the work boots, taken when he was preparing to head to the milk barn one chilly winter afternoon.)

To know my grandpa Tron, you would have to understand the schedule he kept. As a dairy farmer, working on K.D. Owens expansive farm, managing the milking barn, Victor kept a 4:00pm, and 4:00am milking pattern. This meant, when we saw him first thing in the morning when we children arose at the first light of dawn, Victor had already put in half a day’s work. Often, we sat while grandma prepared the morning meal at the breakfast table, us still in our night clothes, grandpa in his weary old T-shirt and overalls. The smell of bleach from cleaning up after the milking emanated from grandpa. He would always meticulously lather with Comet at the bathroom sink, from his hands up to his elbows. It was the same cleaning agent he would use at the barn where he processed the milk twice a day. The cleanser had soaked into his skin so that his calm demeanor was always acquainted in my mind with Comet. To this day, I cannot open a can of the cleaner without my mind immediately drifting back to that dairy barn and grandpa so many years ago.

The daily schedule, 365 days a year, twice a day, eventually would wear on him. By the time I had come around, grandpa was nearing his late sixties. He had a slight stroke at one point near the end so that his speech was hindered. A voice barely above a whisper, he would sit on the front porch after his afternoon nap in the living room and tell jokes. They still didn’t always seem funny when we could understand him, but it didn’t phase him one bit. He would carry on some tale, and when he got to the punch line, unbeknownst to the rest of us grandkids, he would rear back and slap his leg laughing hysterically while we grinned, trying to enjoy whatever grandpa was reveling in at the time. If nothing else, his jovial aspect of sharing was enough to make you grin ear to ear. But these moments were few and far between, for mostly grandpa Tron sat and listened, smiling or nodding. For this reason, those few times that we saw him joking were the precious jewels in our collective memory.

Doyle Hines (maternal grandfather) and grandson, Timothy W. Tron, 1963, New Harmony, Indiana – Doyle wearing the T-shirt and Overalls mentioned in this story.

When I was a small child, Victor would wear his overalls to church on Saturday morning. Grandpa and Grandma were Seventh Day Adventists and strictly adhered to the Sabbath, starting at sundown on Friday evening to dusk on Saturday. Later in my life, not many years before he passed, someone bought him a light brown suit which he traded in, at the bequest of my grandmother, to be sure, for his comfortable bibs. That was the same suit he would be buried in on December 2nd, 1977. That was the same year we lost my cousin Michael Kaiser to an accident. Michael was electrocuted to death when he, my other cousin David Paul, and his father, my Uncle David, were putting up a new T.V. antenna at my Uncle David’s house. Unfortunately, the antennae hit the power line before the transformer. Being the tallest of any family member, Michael took the lethal portion of the shock. His heart continued to beat all the way to the hospital in Evansville, pumping blood out the ends of his fingers and toes, which had burst because of the impact of the bolt of electricity. There was nothing they could do to stop it.

Grandpa was there to see Michael laid to rest, next to the spot where he and grandma had planned to be the first in Maple Hill Cemetery on the edge of New Harmony – “it wasn’t supposed to be this way,” he would whisper.

Michael was only 21.

Michael and my mother (Rita Hines Tron Wiscaver) in the kitchen of the old farm house on the edge of New Harmony, Indiana.

Michael’s death impacted all of us. Grandpa didn’t talk much after the passing of Michael. We all felt a sense of guilt, none more than Uncle David. But nobody blamed David, or his son, David Paul. But self-imposed blame can be like a cancer. Their lives would be touched with struggles that one has to wonder if they weren’t still carrying that burden all those many years since.

But, there were always fond memories of Grandpa. Like when he taught us how to milk the cows by hand. He would easily squeeze out a gentle handful of rich, creamy froth into the stainless-steel bucket. Occasionally, the odd barn cat sitting behind the cow would catch an unexpected mouthful and, satisfied, walk away, wiping their chin with tongue and paw. Grandpa would chuckle at the sight, and we kids would nearly roll with laughter.

Victor taught us that the cream that settled at the top of the glass jar of milk in the fridge was best when shaken before pouring into our drinking glasses. The Ovaltine was resting at the bottom, waiting to join the frothing liquid to make a treat nearly indescribable in earthly terms.

He would walk with us out into the lane and teach us to call his cattle – his girls, he would say. Grandma swore that he named after all of his old girlfriends. “Suuuuuuuuk-cow,” he would holler with a high tenor shout. His voice would echo off of Sled Hill and back, answered shortly by distant lowing. His girls never missed a beat to come to the milk barn. We would wait for them to wander down the long, tree-lined lane, and one by one, we would follow the parade, in tow behind grandpa. Each cow knew her stall and would go up to the concrete trough to wait for Victor to harness them into place. He would then pour a scoop full of the sweetest smelling feed imaginable in front of their muzzles, which they would instantly begin nuzzling their noses into the rich grain.

Tim at Denton Farm Park, May 2021 – seriously trying to be serious.

Victor was a man of few words, but he loved to whistle. We all knew when he had found the mother-lode of berry patches, though. Back in the day, we would all pile into the back of the pickup truck and head for the fields to pick blackberries. When Victor’s whistling stopped, we knew he had found more blackberries than he could gather. The trick was to find where he was hiding.

But the most cherished memory would be catching him and grandma sitting at the kitchen table before breakfast. There they would read the Bible together, sharing in God’s word, starting their day together in the Lord. It wasn’t something they advertised. It was who they were – people of God.

Not many days go by that I don’t think of those days more and more. Recently one of the students on campus asked me if I could be 20-something again, would I? Of course, my answer was no, thinking that they were attempting to portray me as someone at college, doing all the college things. But truthfully, if I could go back in time, it would be way before then, to those distant days of my youth when all my grandpas and grandmas were still alive. There, I would ask so many more questions. There, I would sit and record as much as was humanly possible for my age. There, I would cherish once more those words of wisdom and wit. There once more, I would ask them to lead me in the ways of the Lord evermore.

But to know all of this is to know that someday soon, I will be able to do just that, but for all of eternity.

And once more, that soul in the worn T-shirt and those bibs will be like an old friend greeting me home.

Thanks be to God.

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Grandma’s Root Cellar

[The demon Screwtape writes:] The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future.

Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”[1]

Natural food storage | Root cellar, Farm life, Cellar

After reading this excerpt from C.S. Lewis recently, it made me think of how my family all had the habit of putting up food for the future. Now you might ask, “How does reading Lewis’s commentary on living in the moment and focusing on eternity make you think of preserving food?” Herein lies the story of how preparing for future meals and prepping to survive come what may, you can better appreciate these comments.

My grandparents all canned and put up food, so that’s where we, their offspring, learned those survival skills. Not only were they all from Agrarian backgrounds, but they were also of the generation that had survived the Depression. My paternal grandparents were especially devoted to this lifestyle, seeing as my dad had six siblings. More than anything, it was a labor of necessity. But there was one elder in particular that made it more than just about food.

Grandma Tron was always preparing for the future by what seemed like a never-ending job of canning, tending the garden, and toiling on the farm. Yet, each morning, there alone in her later years after grandpa had passed, sitting at the end of the table closest to the stove, she could be found; Bible open, studying God’s word by the dim, soft glow of light from the overhead bulb in her kitchen. Before the light of dawn had lit the hills beyond the farm’s pastures, she was already preparing for the coming day – alone with God. It wasn’t an act of canning; it was preparing for the next meal to eat. It was much more.

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you:” – John 6:27

Outside her kitchen window was the “Kitchen Garden.” There were the foods necessary to season and allow for more flavorful meals, in addition to those plants that had a shorter shelf life and required closer attention. The other main and much larger garden was across the pasture behind Ms. Wolf’s house. That was where the bulk crops – corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and all the other canned goods that required an army of workers to process-were located. Here, we found that deep rich topsoil, black, rich dirt that could grow anything if only you dropped the seed into its berth.

Like those two gardens, Grandma used that never-ending seasonal flow of life to guide and teach her children, and then eventually us multitude of grandkids. Like her Kitchen Garden, her tattered, worn Bible was always close by. Although it was present, we rarely saw her open it, for there was no need. Those words within that weathered binding were no longer captive within its cover, for they were planted deep within her heart. In those daily routines, where some would find mundane, tedious actions that repeated into infinity, there was the conversations, the sharing of life over the snapping of beans, or the peeling of potatoes. In those moments, as your hands became numb from holding the paring knife as you tried to keep up with grandma’s aged agile movements, the scriptures would emerge through words of encouragement and loving-kindness. It seemed like you could never peel as thin nor as fast, no matter how hard your focus. And as she worked, she spoke to us, entreating a sense of wholesomeness that was never found on a T.V. show or in a book, other than the one she kept nearby. Although you might struggle with the physical act of trying to imitate her agile yet succinctly purposeful labor, you didn’t realize that like that rich, deep topsoil of the garden, we too were being implanted with something far greater. As she would tell us the words of Jesus, “And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.”

As we lived in the present so long ago, we prepared for a future we did not know. Yet, through those agricultural experiences, we learned that planning and preparing for the future lessened the sense of worry of what was to come. Knowing that down in the root cellar, where we stored the canned goods, the potatoes, dried herb, and spices, there was a sense of accomplishment mixed with a feeling of security. So, while we worked with grandma, learning those agrarian skills, we also learned how to prepare for another future – a life eternal.  Likewise, in our hearts, we knew that if we allowed Him in, God was with us, giving us a sense of security like no other.

In that comfort of knowing for what we had collectively prepared, there seemed to be a never-ending supply. Each time we would go to visit grandpa and grandma Tron, we never left empty-handed. There was always that last trip down into the earthen root cellar beneath the back porch. There grandma would load us up with armloads of that delicious bounty from the warmer months. As we piled into the car to leave, crowded in amongst the jars of canned peaches, green beans, and corn, we felt as if part of our grandparents were with us. Waving goodbye, as we passed beneath those ancient oaks and sycamores that lined their short, curved driveway, one never thought that it would never end.

As time passed, so did those countless gardens. Like the autumn of life, the fields grew brown and withered. The seasons of harvest had ended, and the Lord eventually called our grandparents home. Grandma finally joined grandpa; their bodies were laid to rest up there in Maple Hill Cemetery, just over the holler from Sled Hill. Yet, while their physical remains have an ending point, their lives had only just begun. Somewhere in that land that is fairer than day, they will await us that received their counsel. Someday, with open arms, they will greet us in that Heavenly home. Like those tearful goodbyes off the tattered back porch of the humble farmhouse on the edge of New Harmony, there will someday be a joyful reunion that will surpass in feeling all of those emotions but in a joyous regard on the steps of that house of many mansions on high.

As the sun crests the ridge of the mountain this morning, that vision of that humble kitchen table with its worn Bible once more comes to mind. Across the decades, those lessons resonate even more today. In the moment of the past, where we prepared for a future in eternity, the seeds of faith had been planted, and with those tiny grains of hope, eternal life was given. Sitting around that battered kitchen table, we found peace in the present as we heard about how to find a life in time without end.

Like going down into grandma’s root cellar, we can reach into our hearts and retrieve those words which the Lord hath given. Live each day as if you are preparing for eternity, and let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. We have but one life to live here on earth. Make the most of what you have been given, and may your root cellar be filled to overflowing so that you may share with any and all who come in need.

In all these things, we can say with Blessed Assurance, “Thanks be to God.”


[1] The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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Cold Rain on the Mountain

by Timothy W. Tron, Oct. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image provided by AllTrails.com

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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An Affliction of Conviction

by Timothy W. Tron

The cold gray light of dawn had yet to reach the brink of my window sill. Somewhere over the mountain, the light had yet to reach this side of the morn. Like waves crashing upon the rocks of a distant shore, I could hear, but I could not hear. The words of the young man from the day before returned; thoughts of music and farming combining as one. As he spoke, my mind reflected on the scripture references: ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as we are one with the earth from whence, we came.

I placed my materials at the judge’s table well in advance of the start of the days Fiddler’s Convention. As I returned with a fresh cup of coffee, a young man settled into my left, he too being a judge for the morning’s event.

“William Ritter,” he said as we shook hands.

11th Annual Appalachian State Fiddler’s Convention

To his left, another judge began to sit down. They had known one another from other encounters and began to strike up a conversation of coming events, dances, and such. I casually listened as I watched folks of all ages filtering into the Lynnville Falls ballroom of the Plemmons Student Center at Appalachian State University where we were part of the 11th annual Fiddler’s Convention. Our morning was to start with the youth guitar competition. Voices filled the chamber as I serenely sipped the bitter brew. Eventually, the keywords struck my ear that seemed to be a bit at odds, “Heirloom seeds and music.”

“Did I hear you correctly,” my attention now turned fully to the bearded young man sitting next to me?

During the course of their conversation, I had come to understand that they had connections through Warren Wilson College, where sustainable agriculture was taught and practiced. William had mentioned speaking at one of the events they had been talking about on the subject of heirloom seeds, music, and their connection.

“Tell me more,” I asked, now fully vested in understanding his perspective; my own had already been retrieved and ready to compare. He shared how we too often take for granted those seeds that which are passed down from one generation to the next, and how much richer and sweeter those fruits and vegetables taste when compared to generic, run of the mill seeds purchased at your local farm supply store.

Nodding my head in agreement, I fully understood where he was going. He went on to say how old-time music is much the same, how society doesn’t appreciate the traditional music and how it is passed down from one generation to the next; it too having a much richer and sweeter disposition upon the soul than other forms of music.

“It is our affliction,” I said to him. He paused in reflection, thinking deeply about what I had said. You could tell he wanted to dig deeper, but before we could embark further, the emcee for our judging event called the program into order, and the participants began to perform, one after another. In our short, but rewarding time together, William and I found a common thread and bond.

Reflecting back to that moment, there had been so much more to convey that had sprung forth from that beginning. Like a seed being planted, those purposeful words of heirloom seeds and music, so too was our faith passed down from one generation to the next. Either one of which, that may be dropped, perpetuates a loss to the coming generations; their ancestral ties to the truth become endangered. Someone once said, “We are one generation away from apostasy.”

As surely as I awoke this morning, I knew in my heart that God had planted me next to William Ritter for a purpose yesterday. Inside of me, there was a renewed sense of being and what the Lord had called me to do. The words, “Afflicted to be Convicted,” came to mind. I sat up in bed, searching for pen and paper in the dark before the words left me.

My life had been one of working the land, while soothing music reconnected my spirit to God. A vision of the past began to take hold. In it, there stood a figure in the cold light of day, there were no shadows, only the gray, bleakness of late winter. The boy picked up a handful of the dark earth and crumbled the rich soil through his fingertips. As tiny remnants of dirt slipped through his hand, he pulled his fist close to his face and inhaled, smelling the deep aroma of rich humus. His mind drifted back to the garden just outside Grandma Tron’s tiny kitchen window.

It was early spring, and it was the dark of the moon. Easter was near. The family had been called in for the celebration of Good Friday. The cherry trees would soon be blossoming at the Roofless Church. Whenever the family gathered, they also came to work together. A Tron was not content to just sit; they had to keep busy. It was time for putting in the potato sets for the year’s garden, and Grandma had the troops fully deployed. Most of the blooms on the trees and bushes had yet to come forth; summer was still a distant thought, but we knew if Grandma had said it was time to plant, then it was time to plant. The dirt was cool to the touch as his hands dug one hole after another, placing the sets carefully so that the eyes were facing up. Behind him, a cousin was following, laying straw into the bed, covering the seedlings, as yet, another cousin followed the other, pulling the soil back over both, tucking them into bed for their eventual resurrection. Grandma worked alongside us, whistling old hymns in the sweetest refrains. We often tried to mimic her, but our lips could never sustain the sweetness to which she carried her melodies. One after another, their gentle refrains blessed our ears, calming our youthful spirits. It was back-breaking work, but the reward, spending time with grandma, and then to be rewarded with a fresh plate of her fried potatoes, was well worth any toil.

He looked at his dirt-stained hands, the soil blackened beneath his nails; the sense of accomplishment and family; a feeling he would not soon release. The unnamed melodies forever planted within his soul; the bond of earth and song were inseparable. The two were in his blood forever part of who he was.

God had created man from the earth, breathing life into his nostrils, so that he could have life. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”-Gen.2:7-8 After the sin, man was cursed to work the land, by sweat and toil; yet, again, it was who he was. “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”-Gen.3:17-19

God had intended for us to work the land from that point forward, but not only the land, our humanity as well. His only Son provided us with the path to eternal life through our salvation, but only such that we had been entrusted with the planting of those seeds of faith. Without them, the future generations would be lost to sin, and eternal death. It is our conviction of purpose to plant those seeds. Although we as sowers may never reap the harvest, it is up to us to carry on the Word of God unto the world, for these were Christ’s own words, “18 And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth.19 Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen.”-Mat.28:18-20

Chatham County JAM Students performing on stage at Reno Sharpe’s Store, Chatham County, NC. May, 2010.

As my fingertips glide across the keys, music connects me to another realm whereby God speaks through me in spite of me. The connection is undeniable. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”-Col.3:16

Like that feeling of dark soil slipping through our fingertips, its smell reaching our senses, reminding us of our irrefutable connection to the earth, and God’s love. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Seeds of faith, the far-reaching ability to touch our hearts through music, and the ground upon which we trod; we are never far from the graces of God.

Long ago, the seeds of faith were planted in my soul. Grandma gently watered them with beautiful melodies of faith, which to this day, bring grace to my heart. We may pass from this life to the next one day, but until we do, we too shall break the ground and plant the seeds for those to come; lest they fall to the wayside and darkness prevail.

Preserve those heirloom seeds, music, and faith, if not for yourself, do it for those you love.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Let our affliction become our conviction in all that we do.

Thanks be to God.

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The Old Jacket…

Today, in an effort to keep my current wardrobe from becoming too worn from work on the Retreat, I dug through some of the bundles of items tucked away in storage, landing upon my old farm coat. My hand reached into the well-worn pockets of yesteryear landing upon an odd feeling shape. Retrieving the metal objects, the curious figure of T-post wire wrappings came into view. The edges of the coat had frayed, the cuffs torn in places where the barbed wire so often would catch. Many nights, out in the freezing cold, or daytime blistering summer heat, invariably a tree would fall across a fence, and its immediate repair would be required. The jacket had been my comfort from those bone-chilling nights.

Cattle always had a sense of finding a “hole” in the fence line. Anytime the call came in, “You’ve got cows out,” the dagger would hit home and the job of finding the livestock, getting them back in, and then repairing the breach in the wire would begin. Each time, the anxiety of fighting time, fearing the loss of one’s livelihood from the possibility of an animal getting hurt or killed by a car always pressed in upon me. In all, it was not something that I missed of my former life. Yet, it was those times of dread, those tribulations that produced the character of who I am today. Knowing that those things that once created turmoil today provide me contentment in the darkest of times. In a manner of speaking, I fear less of what is to come than I once did, knowing from whence I came.

When the seemingly impossible task looms ahead, do we cringe in fear or do we, as so often referenced to in the Bible, gird up our loins, with faith as our shield, and boldly march forward into the fray? Would we find ourselves, as the Apostle Paul, reflecting back on our lives and finding contentment in all; all being our deepest lows, and our highest peaks?

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound, everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”-Phil. 4:11-12

Pastor Joe’s sermon today spoke to the very thing that I had found myself lacking; contentment.

The past four years, since beginning my journey in Christ, there has not been one day where I have not been challenged; often beyond what I thought possible. To cover the entire length of time and the events therein would take more than a couple pages of manuscript. But to summarize, it began with moving an entire farm of 20+ years and selling a house with land. To add to the complexity, since God never makes anything easier than we expect, my learning curve for becoming the Director of the Trail of Faith only compounded the level of stress, as many would call it. Looking back, it was the moment when we literally stood on that far distant shore and began our journey across; our River of Jordan, if you will.

To imagine the immensity of it all, simply consider what it would take to uproot your family, farm, and life and leave the world you once knew behind, to cross that proverbial river to a new life where nothing was certain. As if blinded, like Saul, and then having one’s eyes reopened, our life began anew in a strange world, in a foreign town, in a job that was anything but simple. Through it all, the ever-present thought was with me, “If it is God’s will, then it shall be done.” The peace of mind that simple saying brought was the saving grace that kept my life sane. In all the struggles, in all the blood, sweat, and back-breaking days of labor to make it happen, my heart was always content to be doing, “The Will of God.”

Again, to rewind and revisit that entire stretch of time would require a story worthy of another novel; perhaps in time. Yet, one of the highlights, or challenges, if you will, that signified all that was yet to come was the final night of working with my previous employer, Genband. For the last two weeks, I had requested to work remotely. Happy to keep me on as long as possible, and because I had a fantastic Director, they approved my offer. From my perspective, it was purely selfish, in the fact that we needed the extra income since I had left that previous life, and as such, there was no severance package. When you leave, you leave it all. Now it wasn’t simply working remotely that made those two weeks a challenge; rather, it was also the fact that at the same time, I was working days in my new position at the Trail of Faith, I was working nights with Genband. The learning curve at the Trail was much more than had been anticipated. To compound the issue, my new employer at the Trail had literally dismissed all the former office help, so that in addition to my new role as Director, I was now left learning how to run the books and manage the office, which had previously been done by two separate individuals, on my own. Mind you, this is not a complaint, rather a reflection of the difficulty presented in those last few days of working two jobs, but more technically, four roles to be exact. Through it all, I remained content that this was God’s will.

When the last week of the final two-week period arrived, as you might imagine, I was physically running on fumes. To add to the level of pain, I had barely four hours sleep in the last three days. My spiritual life had become ablaze with all that was possible. It felt as if there was no night in the day, in that every waking moment something Godly was transpiring. So, when I prepared for my last night of work with Genband as the Emergency Recover (ER) Manager, I literally planned to simply log in, receive the customary hand-offs and then let my team run with it, as I dozed off and on through the night.

Before logging in that night, I went to the altar of a nearby church and prayed. In that prayer, I asked God for strength and guidance, to help me make it through the night and beyond. The next day at the Trail I had two tours booked, and there was nobody to lead them but me. In other words, I needed all the help I could get.

As God would have it; easy was not in the plan.

In ER, we supported equipment not only made by Genband but nearly everything that had once been made by our previous owner, Nortel. This meant thousands of pieces of equipment around the world would have their support go through my team who were located in the Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC; 24x7x365. Yes, we supported the world.

About an hour after our customary start, one of my engineers announced that he heard the smoke alarm going off. At first, I thought he was joking. Soon, others came back acknowledging that he was not joking. Knowing that our ER Teams rarely adhered to the alarms, they kept on working. Not long after, security came through and told everyone to get out; this was not a test, there was really a fire.

In all my 25+ years working in or around the original building in which my team was housed that night back in the RTP, there had never been a fire in any of our buildings; never. Yes, there had been minor alarms, smoldering wires possibly at worst, but never, again, I repeat, never a full-blown fire that caused the overhead sprinkler to engage; but that night was the first.

That was when the world seemed to begin to spin out of control.

During the course of a night, my position was to direct calls, handoff tasks to my team, or reach out to our next levels of support around the world. Meanwhile, I would run conference calls and work on equipment when there wasn’t another engineer available. It was at that moment, as my team told me they would try to reconnect when possible, the realization of what my night would become hit me. If I had not been working remotely, our team would not have been able to perform their job. If God had not put me in this new place, we would have dropped the ball, and our company would have been held liable by hundreds of companies that had our support written into their contract.

Through the entire course of 25+ years, my background through the Telecom Industry had led me from one end of support, research, and beyond. My technical background covered all that was possible in the realm of communications; wireline, wireless, optical, and data. If anyone could run our team solo, I was one of the few individuals capable. At this point, it may sound as if I’m bragging, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My point is merely to emphasize that this was more than a coincidence, this was the hand of God at work.

From the moment my team evacuated the building to safety and then tried to regain connectivity from home, it was apparent things would get worse before they would get better. Because of the configuration of our equipment, my team could not get logged back in because of the equipment to connect with was in the office that was on fire; yet mine was not, it became apparent that the role of supporting the world relied on me. Again, the words returned, “If it is God’s will, then it shall be done.” Eventually, a couple of my engineers would find a workaround that was possible and were able to connect, but it was a far cry from having a full team.

We often joked that it was taboo to use the word “Quiet.” I’ve met other support agencies that had that same thought process. For as soon as someone boasted, “Hey, it sure is quiet tonight,” all hell would break loose. As you might expect by now, the night of the fire was as if someone had shouted from the blazing rooftop, “Hey, it sure is quiet.” Calls rolled in, and it was all I could do to “Rack-em and stack-em,” as we would say. There was no time to worry about hunger or exhaustion, but as the sunrise began to filter through the windows of the shack where I was living, the duration of the night’s toll began to weigh on me. As the day shift ER Manager logged in and was briefed about the night’s events and why he couldn’t come into the office, the expanse of work that had been accomplished in one night began to weigh on my mind. One-by-one, I handed off the jobs to the incoming staff who were slowly getting logged in using the workaround that my team had found through the course of the night. With each greeting, there was not time for bittersweet goodbyes. They had to hit the ground running, so we barely had a chance to say our farewells.

When the last of the handoffs and calls were closed on my end, I stopped and prayed.

This was truly the work of God, “But why,” I asked?

Someday, it will become apparent,” was the reply.

From working nights for nearly ten years, I had learned that when you are exhausted and need to stay awake, it was important not to eat. You could drink water or liquids, but once you ate a meal, the game was over; you would have to crash and sleep. So, after my head was able to clear enough to think about what was next, I realized that it was about time to open the Trail for business. Knowing there wasn’t time for a nap, I took a shower after putting on a fresh pot of coffee. From that point forward, the day became a blur. Each time I felt my body beginning to weaken, I would lift up a prayer for strength, and each time, the feeling of electricity running through my body would flow through my being; each time there was a renewal of the spirit.

By the end of the day, after two wonderful tours and once the Trail was closed, I returned to the shack. There, I made a meal and waited for my family to arrive. They had made another run back to the previous farm to carry more household goods to our new life. I knew that I couldn’t go to sleep and peacefully rest until they arrived. Fighting fatigue beyond belief, it was when the sound of their car pulling up in the drive that I began eating.

Once I went to bed, I didn’t get up for another 16 hours.

Why had there been such a challenging end to a previous life? Why had the struggle been so great? In the end, it was as if God was showing me what it was to “suffer need.” When we reach the end of our physical life here on earth, we see many of our loved ones face those last few days in extreme pain. As we watch and pray for their relief, we learn that to cross over from this life to the next is not easy.

Jesus was tortured beyond belief, dying a painful death on the cross. His ending was anything but easy. It was as if the whole world had been consumed by fire, and in the end, the veil was torn in two on that day. Unlike certain death, we can trust that when we accept Christ into our lives, we and face the end with a promise, that when we pass from this life to the next, we shall live forever more. Yes, to cross that River of Jordan and to reach that far distant shore will be the greatest beginning to an ending we shall know.

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound, everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”

Yes, although what we might face in our not so distant future may seem overwhelming, we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone. We may suffer, we may be sated, we may be abased, we may have plenty, but in all things may we find true contentment. For as someone once said, true contentment is to, “Live above your circumstances.”

The struggles of the past, be they understood or not, teach us how to persevere in the future. God uses each circumstance to teach us what we are capable of, building our character and in the end, giving us hope.

May the challenge you face allow you to seek God in greater affections than ever before.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The old jacket still fits, even though it may not be presentable to wear in public; yet, it says more of who I am than one might know. To live above our circumstances is what life should be about, and in the end, always giving thanks to God for all that is.

Be content in all that you have.

Thanks be to God.

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Water Divining: A Good Dousing…

The first time I ever heard of “Water Divining” was at my paternal grandparents’ house in New Harmony, Indiana, many years ago as a child. Actually, the name “Divine” wasn’t mentioned, not that I recall; the learning of that terminology would come later. I don’t remember how it got started or who all was present, except for maybe my cousin Peggy Sue, but when my grandmother called out to the yard full of grandkids, “Who wants to learn how to Witch for water,” she had our undivided attention?

From her vantage point, seated on the weather-worn front porch in the faded white porch swing gently rocking to and fro, she often gave directions or enlightenment to us grandchildren. Her motion in the swing was barely noticeable, so much that, when you sat with her you needn’t bother trying to push. Her motion was so soft that any intrusion into the fluidness was a disruption of serenity.  After we gathered at the corner of the porch under the shade of the majestic Sycamore tree for further instruction, there was the first flurry of questions.

“What is “Witching” for water mean, Grandma,” one of my other cousins would ask?

“Are we gonna turn into witches,” quipped another?

“It means to find water,” grandma calmly replied.

“Like in the kitchen sink,” said another.

“No, like under the ground,” she responded, not cracking a smile.

“Does that mean we have to dig,” said another somewhat elated that we would be allowed to dig a hole in the yard?

“No, there won’t be any digging needed.”

Our fledgling minds were at a standstill. How were we going to find water under the earth if we couldn’t dig? We didn’t have X-ray vision like Superman; or did we?

Before we could drift too far, she began.

First, she told us to go and fetch a branch from the Weeping Willow tree that was in the right corner of the front yard. “Get a branch with a fork in it,” she called to as we raced off to the tree.

It wasn’t one of our climbing favorites, not like the Golden Raintree, but it was fun to run beneath and let the flowing branches tickle your ears as you ran through the curtain of foliage. Looking back, it was as if God was tickling our ears, not the itching of ears that we would seek later in life.

We grabbed as much of a low hanging limb as possible, breaking off a piece and then racing back to grandma for further instructions. As I recall, my stick didn’t have a fork. Her initial detail hadn’t registered in my young mind since the only fork of which I was familiar was from the dinner table. So, after grandma held up to fingers in the sign of a “V,” at which point she said, “with a “V” in it, like Victory in Jesus.” At which point, she began whistling, as she so often did, the sweet refrain while we rushed back to the tree for another try.

When we had all finally gathered green willow sticks with V’s in them, we regrouped back at the porch. Not looking at us as she continued rocking, snapping green beans, she continued our education, “Ok, now take a side of each fork, one in each hand.” Looking at one another as we struggled to grasp the concept, we all finally managed to grab our makeshift fork by its two prongs. Then she looked up from beneath her horn-rimmed glasses and checked for our understanding. “No, not quite,” she said looking at the studious group. “Peg, come here and let me show you.” She took Peg’s branch and grabbed the fork with her hands facing up, then twisted her wrists inward until her hands were then facing down. Meanwhile, the stick had now gone through some sort of torque because the base of the “Y” was now our pointer but oddly tilted upward.

“See how I did it,” she asked?

After a couple of corrections and reproofs, we all seemed ready.

“Now what,” Peg said?

“Now you start walking around until the end of your stick starts to pull downward.”

“Really,” we all shouted?

“Truly,” she answered, and went back to snapping and whistling.

We began running around the yard like a wild bunch of spring heifers turned into a new meadow, our sticks bouncing up and down like yo-yos.

“Hold on,” came the call from the porch. “You need to walk slowly. How else are you going to feel the pull?”

From that point forward, it was as if we were trying to make magic.

We walked, crisscrossing the yard to-and-fro, but nothing. Occasionally someone might think they had a bite on their line as if fishing for water, but mostly nothing. Some cousins gave up and went back to what they had been doing before the lesson, but those of us who were older knew that if grandma had told us we could find water with a stick, then it must be true; so, we kept on. Feeling as if I might have better luck in the backyard, I slowly edged my way past the front porch and was about to turn past the corner of the house when all of a sudden I felt it.

The stick moved in my hand. It was as if someone had grabbed the other end and pulled it downward and to the left. At first, it scared me so much I gave a shout, “Hey, it’s working!” The others came running. Backing up a few feet, I again moved in the same direction, and as I did, we all watched, myself included, as the end of my branch twisted in my hands and pulled downward toward the corner of the house, like a fish pulling one’s line on a fishing pole.

“WOW, it’s amazing,” they all exclaimed as everyone tried their own sticks once more. Sadly, as the others tried, none of them could make their sticks work quite like mine. Amazed at this new discovery, we regrouped back to grandma who all the while had kept slowly working on her pile of beans and had just finished as had we.

“Did you see that grandma, Timmy got his to work?”

“Yes, I did, she smiled looking down at us from her motherly perch.”

“Is he a witch,” asked another cousin?

“No,” she chuckled in reply.

“Is it magic grandma,” I asked?

“Some may think so my son, but I believe it is a gift from God.”

They all looked at me in awe. Suddenly a strange feeling washed over me like I was weird or something. Before the others could react, grandma cut in, “I expected as much since your father could do this as well.”

“Why can’t we do it too,” called another cousin?

“There are a lot of reasons. Perhaps you weren’t holding your stick correctly, or perhaps your limb wasn’t green enough. There are a lot of reasons why. But mostly, not everyone is blessed, or gifted in the same manner,” she answered. “Each of you will find your own talents or gifts in life. Timothy Wayne has just found one of his.”

Then she continued, directing her attention back to me, “As long as you live, you may use this gift to help others. Because it is a special gift from God, you should never make anyone pay you to find water for them. If you begin charging people for this gift, then it will become a curse. Do you understand?”

I shook my head yes.

Her words lingered in my memory ever since.

Years later, I would use the gift only a handful of times, never charging for fear of misusing the talent. One of the most memorable was when a friend of mine in Chatham County, Gary Hart, asked me to douse his well. He was building a new home in what used to be his father’s cow pasture. Finding a Dogwood tree with the proper size forked branch, I grabbed it as grandma had taught us so many years before and began to crisscross his land. Not long into my search the stick was nearly ripped out of my hand sideways. I retreated, somewhat startled at the strength of the pull, then began again, heading straight toward the spot. This time the limb was pulled out of my hands as I passed over the location. Gary, still somewhat skeptical, looked on. At my encouragement, I had him try. He too had the stick move and was suddenly a believer. He had his well put in at that spot and had over 75 gallons per minute.

As stated earlier, I never put a lot of stock in the ability other than it came in handy at times. However, the Bible warns us of such abilities. Many times, dousing is mentioned as a gateway into the demonic word, since only a spirit can control the divining rod, as some people claim. When we allow the spirits of the earth to come into our being, we are welcoming in Satan. As the book of Hosea reads, “My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.”-Hosea 4:12

Then there are the many listings of the word “divination,” which more relevantly refer to things divine in nature, or the act of being prophetic. Regardless, whatever acts we perform, be they supernatural or not, we should be mindful of the power that is working in us and be careful not to follow the temptation to profit from them, lest we fall under the order or prostitution or whoredom, as mentioned in Hosea. To prevent ourselves from being lured into the demonic world, we should always pray that we only be filled with the Holy Spirit and face whatever gifts we have been given with this in mind. In other words, use that with which we have been endowed to serve God.

On a more positive note, there are times when we see magnificent displays of God at work concerning the rod and water, like in Exodus, “The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”-Exodus 17:5-6

When we fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit and walk in the Lord, we have nothing to fear. For as we live, we walk in His way. As the 23rd Psalm tells us, “He prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, my cup runneth over.” When we overflow with the Holy Spirit within us, there is no room for evil; and thus, using a rod to find water will no more hurt us than using a bowling ball to knock down pins.

Whatever you prefer to call it, dousing, divining, or witching, my thoughts will always go back to that innocent time of my life when we learned our life lessons from that battered old front porch on the edge of town. Grandma’s lessons were Christ-centered, and for that, I will always be grateful. I know in my heart, somewhere under the shade of a majestic Sycamore tree, just on the edge of heaven, the old porch swing creaks as she rocks back and forth, waiting; waiting for us to enter in.

Thanks be to God.

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Peace in the Valley…

Yeah, though sleep death doth linger in my lungs, I once more find my pathway diverging. Tomorrow holds what it may, so I only know what today has brought thus far.

All around me was silence.

Outside the window, spring had barely begun. The trees were just beginning to blossom forth the tender cusps of leaf. There was the occasional creak of the beautiful wood floor that ran the length of the sanctuary.

The church bell chimed breaking the stillness in the air.

Just a few weeks ago, the Reverend Billy Graham’s body had lain in state just feet away from where I sat in the Chatlos Memorial Chapel. In its place now was a long, low table with an exquisite floral arrangement in the center. It was my time to commune with God. The flower in the middle of that grand table caused me to pause.

My mind drifted back to the little country farmhouse on the edge of New Harmony. My grandma Tron’s dimly lit kitchen was quiet. The fading evening light whispered in through the open window. Outside, the kitchen garden spewed forth all manner of color and aroma. Its bouquet of love poured through the threadbare curtains as they danced in the gentle breeze. There was an uneasy silence in the room, save for the only drop of color to be seen; the single white flower placed with care in the cup in the center of the worn table. Outside, the voices of the family coming in from the main staple garden drifted ahead of their beings. Through Ms. Wolf’s gate, then across the pasture, they would trounce, the little ones dancing ahead, chasing butterflies as they ran. Behind them, the elders would come, either carrying buckets of ripe vegetables or pulling wagon loads of produce ready to be canned. Their return was a time of rejoicing and thankfulness. Before long, the empty room would burst forth with laughter, hands of labor, and conversations of so many thoughts and trials.

The light over the ancient table would come on at the flip of the wall switch, and the room would explode with a golden hue. The sagging would floor, precariously covered with well-worn linoleum, would creak under the weight of those entering; none would notice so known was its sound.

As the work was done, the harvest was stored, the bodies would slowly leave. Once the baths were taken and little ones put to rest, the few older parents remaining would gather around the old kitchen table and slowly say goodnight.

In the end, grandma, the last of our family’s eldest, would pause and open the Bible.  Grandpa had gone on to glory many years before. Now it was just her each evening. There under the dim kitchen light, she would read the scriptures that so vividly etched out her life. Looking up, her tired eyes would rest upon that single budding lily. Even now, I can see her smile.

Outside the window, the whippoorwill call would signal the end of another day. From inside the kitchen, the sweet sounds of grandma gently whistling, “Peace in the Valley,” could be heard, joining the nocturnal call of the bird of night.

Nothing could be more serene.

Once more, I was awakened from my vision by the church chimes reminding me it was time to leave.

My commune with God had come to an end for the moment.

In my heart, there is a feeling that I will return.

Thanks be to God.

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The Work of Thy Hands…

           “For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.”-Psalm 92:4

The roar of the old feed truck jumped to life. Cobwebs and black smoked coughed from her tailpipe as the deep rumble tickled the boy’s feet.

“C’mon around here and I’ll put you up in the seat.”

The skin of the man was tanned from countless hours toiling in the sun, working the land. His overalls worn threadbare in places; badges of honor to this farmer. He lifted his grandson up and put him on the cracked and frayed leather of the ancient seat. Plumes of dust billowed forth from the sand-colored cushion that peaked through the seams beneath.

“Sit right there now until I get in.”

The boy was barely three years old but yearned for every breath of life to be in the presence of his papaw. The farmer reached the open door of the driver’s side, then swung himself into the seat and slammed the door shut. Dust exploded into the shafts of sunlight that filtered through the clouded window before them. The man began grabbing the long-handled gears, and a deep guttural grinding below them shook the truck into motion. The old ford grain truck began rolling down the bumpy gravel road. In the back, their precious cargo. The sun was just reaching the top of the trees along the fence line that clung to the road. The lad stood on the seat and looked through the tiny back window of the cab. Golden harvest grains of corn radiated in the morning sunlight, like those ancient troves of gold once beheld by the Conquistadors in their New World explorations.

“Turn around here now,” the man growled at the boy pointing to the seat behind him. “I don’t need you bumping out the window.” He grinned over at his only grandchild. Doyle had much to be thankful for on this day. This load of corn was headed to the mill in town. It would be enough to feed his hogs and cattle through the winter. If they were lucky, there would be enough to trade or sell for extra supplies so badly needed. The sense of accomplishment of countless hours of hard work was reflected in every grain. Once the seed had been planted, the work didn’t end. Cultivating, spraying, and detasseling took many hours of hard labor. Working the land seemed to be a never-ending job. Then there were the weeks without rain. The boy could often find his papaw bent over in prayer, asking God to send the much-needed life source so that they may continue their livelihood.

Prayers had been answered in abundance that year.

Then there was his grandson; the pride of his life. Yes, there was much to thankful for that day. Not many months ago, the child had remained in the hospital isolation ward for days. Pneumonia had nearly claimed his young life the previous year, and it had returned in his second year with a vengeance. He had barely survived the second time. His tiny weakened frame was only just now beginning to fill out. It was a blessing to see him radiate, like their load of corn, with happiness as they bumped along.

He nodded at the boy once the tot was seated, then turned and spat a timely squirt of chewing tobacco juice out his own window. His head snapped back to the front maintaining his focus on the winding road. The old green truck rumbled along as the dust behind bellowed up like a rooster tail, dissolving everything from view behind them.

As Doyle’s long arms swung madly back and forth on the expanse of a steering wheel, the fields from which they had recently gleaned their precious cargo passed by the windows. The little boy looked out watching the blur precede by, one fence row after another in a uniformity that soon pulsated into a numbing coalescent hum. He had seemingly forgotten the loneliness of that hospital bed covered in clear plastic. The fields of green washed away those painful memories until all that was left was the glow of joy within. A feeling of warmth and happiness flooded his being until he was sound asleep.

The clouds of dust folded over onto themselves and washed across the fields of time. Nothing remains the same on the surface. Yet, beneath, some things can never be erased.

As the sweat poured down my face, I slowly made another trip up the steep grade of the mountain, carrying one more log to the flatbed trailer. One after another, each tree that was cut was measured, then taken with care to the waiting trailer. Slowly, ever so slowly, the logs began to accumulate until there were as much as the tandem axles could handle. My body was drenched in perspiration. The later days of September were not yet cool even though we were in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. But there was no time to wait. The work had to be done and time was of the essence. Winter would soon be here, and our plans were to at least have the foundation to the new spiritual studio finished before the cold north winds began to blow. As I worked, the clouds began to build, and my mind drifted back to those long-ago days.

As I put the truck into gear and pulled away with my first load, 20 logs, my mind could see that grain truck bouncing down those dusty Pose County roads once more. My harvest had not been one of my own doing, but rather, this one was of God. I had not planted the seeds, but I was here to take in the harvest. Why and how I had come to this place were all a part of His plan. I was merely putting into action the next step in the journey. My harvest wasn’t the golden kernels of corn from my youth, but rather, the sweet, aromatic pines of the Appalachians.

Beautiful, straight, tall white pines littered the new land we had purchased, and with them, the perfect location to nestle the new studio that would become a new place of worship. As I worked, I was cautious to only clear enough trees for the new building. Even with being careful not to take down any unnecessary trees, it quickly became obvious that we might have enough to build most of the new building

By the second load, we had 41 logs total taken to the sawmill. Like those golden seeds of corn falling into the collection shaft behind the grain truck at the mill, the massive front-end loader at the sawmill took each load of logs from my trailer like a giant hand of God. The men running the mill told me that it might be a while before they got to them. So, like most things these days, I put it in God’s hands, trusting that when the time was right, they would call.

A few days ago, the sawmill operator called and asked me to stop by on my way home from school. The news sounded promising. When I pulled up, I found Tony, the operator, there waiting for me. Now at this point, to make a long story short, Tony had worked through some challenges, but in the end, God’s hand was in it. There he shared with me his testimony, and once again, I was reminded that no matter what we do, no matter where we go, the Master’s plan is at work. Through our connection, something beautiful had happened in Tony’s own life. He was now back in the graces of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He told me that in a few days, my logs would be finished. Just hearing him share his story with me that evening, I knew that in the end, the harvest was being done, one way or another.

Today, we brought home all those logs. Now not covered in rough bark, but sawn into useable lumber. Tony had masterfully gleaned every ounce of wood from those trees and turned them into a work of art; a massive trailer full of sweet-smelling wood. Their texture painted a golden glow. At that moment, a sense of accomplishment flooded over me, and my papaw’s memory flashed in my head. Yet, this time, the harvest was not just of what lay on the trailer, but also of another that had returned to his faith. The feeling of once more making all the right choices, taking the care needed to bring the harvest to fruition was something that taught a man many things of life. When the crops were ready, you knew. In the journey, you are never alone; God is with you.

Like Jesus telling his disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”-John 4:35 Like the patient farmer, Jesus knew his crops were ready. Then as now, we must recognize what we must do to serve. Jesus told them specifically, “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”-Luke 10:2

Like the farmer of old and the lumberjack of recent days, the feeling of one bringing in the bounty of a season of growth can be one of utter satisfaction. We may not be the ones to plant the seed, but when Jesus tells us to go forth and reap the harvest, how much greater joy can there be than to know you are harvesting the Lord’s crops? As Jesus also told his disciples, “Yea are now fishers of men.” We need only take his message to the world and once again, like in days of old, bring in the harvest, for the fields are white for the taking.

Let us not tarry, for time is of the essence.

Let us reap what He has sown.

Time to harvest.

Thanks be to God.

For specialized, custom sawmill work in the Caldwell County area of North Carolina, call master sawmill operator, Tony Moretz, at 828-493-0400 Tell him the Lord sent you, and he’ll know what you mean.

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie…

The rain fell in large comforting drops. It had been a sultry afternoon in our little town of Collettsville. My clothes were soaked through with sweat, so the coolness of the precipitation was appreciated. The rain had stopped my work on the land and allowed me the opportunity to run to the store for fuel for the tractor. Closing the door of my truck, I turned to walk inside to prepay. The first thing that caught my eye was the pair of dogs lying on the porch, one reclining against the wall and the other reposing peacefully upon the bench. Earlier that morning when I passed, they were on the opposite end of the store, sleeping under the shade of the shelter. People passed, coming and going from within the store at an almost constant rate, yet the two seemed none the more bothered. Neither beast stirred from their sleep. Their carefree manner seemed so inviting; it made you almost want to join them.

The first thing that came to mind were the scenes from the Beverly Hillbillies when Jed Clampett would be sitting out in front of the mansion whittling on a stick, while Duke, the old bloodhound would be sleeping nearby. All that was missing was Jed and his carving knife. Then again, other than the fact that the community was in constant motion, there actually plenty of “Jeds” around, they just didn’t have time to stop and sit on this particular day. If one were to pause long enough to take heed, they might see logging trucks roaring past one minute, a landscaping crew the next, or perhaps a caravan of motorcycle riders heading for the winding roads nearby. Yet, amongst all the buzz of the daily grind in the valley, there was also a sense of peace and serenity. Call it the aura of the John’s River that flowed peacefully behind the store, call it the sweetness of the pure mountain air, but it was something that seemed to float over the area no matter the day or time.

One might think of this as a little slice of heaven, where the cool waters flow and the people all say “Howdy,” but it is much more. The history portrays devastation, death, and mourning, but through it all, the hearty mountain people here have survived. The scripture, “My Grace is sufficient for you, we find strength in Him in our weakness,” comes to mind in such moments. Their memories tell of stories of struggle and survival. They seldom shrink from any danger, for their spirits are embodied in the ancient tones of those distant lands from which they traveled centuries before. A hearty breed of people that conquered many lands beyond their own, they now have settled into lives that are more complacent than any time before in their history. Yet, occasionally there are tales that rival those deeds of old.

Today we take for granted so many things.

Ms. Zelma and Ms. Clara shared with me this morning of their Grandmother who was a midwife dating back to the early part of the 20th century. She was so important to the area that she was the only person with a car. She would haul people down pig paths crossed with deep ruts of wagon wheels, car bouncing wildly, while she raced to the next person or persons in need. Ms. Zelma recalled her car doors encompassed both the front and back seats. “Huge doors no child could handle,” she reminisced. Her grandmother was one of the last “Mountain Doctors,” as Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies might say. It was her knowledge of herbs, natural cures, and the “Old Ways,” that made her a true M.D. Today, so much of that past has been forgotten, erased by our failure to communicate that invaluable wealth of information from one generation to the next. So, we rely on pharmaceuticals, food industries, and many other man-made, processed entities we either consume or take to supplement what the Lord hath given. All the while, cases of cancers and heart disease continue to rise to new heights.

In the end, we don’t take what the Lord hath provided, because of what was taken for granted; so much the irony of it all.

If we would only live as God had intended.

Our society’s pace is dictated by the world in which we live, creating little time for the “Old Ways.” We find it easier to justify buying the can of beans rather than canning our own. Meanwhile, the meat we consume has been pumped full of growth hormones, and additives to make it more appealing and sellable in the marketplace. In the old days, the animals would be processed in community hog killings, for example, not only providing the nutrients of protein to live on, but also keeping the purity of the food as it had been intended from the beginning. But not just the food was preserved, so were the ways of the people by coming together as a community. In those gatherings, whether they were snapping beans, putting up hay, or killing hogs, the talked while they worked. There the communication carried on, and in that way, those cures and tales of old would be passed from one generation to the next. Later, in the slower seasons, they would be retold around the winter fireplaces while their bellies would be filled with the foodstuffs that had been prepared in the easy, summer days. When they read from “The Book,” from the faint glow of the lamp light or wood fire, the words would have more significance because the era in which they lived more closely matched those of Biblical times, as God had meant it to be.

If only we’d take the time to slow down and sit for a spell. Like those dogs, let us find ourselves just soaking in the moment. Come join me and sit for spell on a porch somewhere.

“Yep, the rain is good.”

“We been having some goodins’”

“Toad stranglers yesterdee”

“Yep, river come up a bit”

“Let sleeping dogs lie,” they say, and so we will, but not for long.

We must awaken the sleeping fold.

There is much to testify for in this world, and the fields are ready for harvest.

Go yea unto all nations and make disciples for Christ, for this is our commission.

Thanks be to God.

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