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The Sky’s Not the Limit

by Timothy W. Tron

Walking in a bleak and forsaken landscape, there seemed little to brighten the spirit within. It appeared the societal oppression had finally reached my soul. Alongside my pathway, the river ran a confluence of grayness, passing over rocks and eddies of congestion. Dark voids formed pools of contention. The sound of rushing water was the same as in the brilliant days of springtime, yet there were no blooms, no sunshine vistas – the world felt trapped in an eternal abyss of despair.

Daylight was quickly fading from the sky above. My thoughts turned to contemplate my return route and which way I should go. It was of little use to take the high ground since the sun was already nearly past the horizon. A blissful sunset was out of the question. Feeling a sudden urge, like a gentle nudge from on high, I decided to return home the way I had come, back through the darkness of the forest, a welcome cover to my demeanor. Turning around to retrace my steps, it was at that moment that the scene before me nearly took my breath away. The words from above suddenly filled my heart, “I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”[1]

There before me was a brilliant orange, fiery sunset in the backdrop of a forlorn winter sky. The glory of the LORD was above and reflected in the waters of the secretive Johns River below. Suddenly, that seemingly dead, distant landscape had come alive, a breathing, living being – a reflection of His almighty omnipotence. As the radiance of that fading image smiled across my face, a reminder of thankfulness began to warm my heart. The words of John’s testimony from Patmos echoed in my mind, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”[2]

We face a new year, and for many, they do so with much heaviness in their hearts. There has been much death and darkness in our world. In a time when it seemed like we could finally leave a recent train-wreck of history behind us, there seems to be no end to the calamities through which we must traverse. Looking ahead, we may only see forests like the bones of the dead underneath dark, foreboding skies. Yet, if we turn around and look, even against an aghast bleak sky, there is still something for which we can be thankful – something that we must realize was Godly; a blazing sunset to remind us that God was and is still with us through it all.

The beginning of a new year is often a time to make resolutions, but maybe we should try something different this year. Perhaps, we should instead think about looking back to the blessings with which we have been bestowed, no matter how small.

Sometimes self-reflection is more rewarding than one might anticipate. We often get so lost in the struggle to make it to the next day we fail to realize what we have accomplished. Sometimes we are reminded of self-reflection in the oddest circumstances.

I was recently walking with a colleague on campus and discussing the state of things. The conversation turned toward recent advances in technology. He asked if I had heard about the latest telescope that was about to be sent into orbit, the James Webb telescope. He told me how it would be so powerful that it could see back through time to the beginnings of the universe. Researching his statement revealed this from NASA’s website, “The James Webb Space Telescope’s revolutionary technology will study every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.”[3]

When I hear about science trying to “look back in time” to find evidence of the “beginning” it somewhat irritates me. My frustration comes from the fact that many people who do not believe in God will do anything to try to prove that creation began with some miraculous spark of combustion out of nothing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying my colleague is or is not a believer – that is yet to be seen. But rather, the lengths to which governments will spend taxpayer monies to research the creation in the name of science are sometimes laughable. It was in this vein of thought that the first thing that blurted out of my mouth when my colleague mentioned this incredible scientific breakthrough was, “What if someone on earth is looking through the lens of the orbiting telescope and sees in the distance another eyeball looking back at them?”

“You mean like another being, like an alien looking at us?”

“Not quite.” My mind was thinking more of God, but at that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.

“Or maybe you mean like us looking back in time at ourselves,” he said with a hint of mysticism in his voice, “Like through a wrinkle in time?”

“Perhaps,” I replied, but my thoughts had already begun to turn to how amused God must be at our incessant desire to disprove his existence by hoping to look back to the beginning of time. Under my breath, I mouthed the first lines of the gospel of John to ward off any more insolence, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”[4]

You see, by the sheer virtue of light, we were given life. Through humanity’s self-absorption, thinking that we can grow wiser than our creator, we can miss the mark. The answers to life, to from the beginning to the end, the alpha to the omega, are all handed to us by the one who we seek to find – God our creator.

Then my mind returned to the words of my colleague, “Us looking back at ourselves….”

It was then that the sunset on that dreary evening made sense. We didn’t need a state-of-the-art orbiting telescope to see it. We don’t need an international space agency to define the beginning of time to know who we are. The great Northern Irish mathematician, bioethicist, and Christian apologist, John Lennox writes, “To the majority of those who have reflected deeply and written about the origin and nature of the universe, it has seemed that it points beyond itself to a source which is non-physical and of great intelligence and power.”[5]

When we seek what we cannot find, we lose our way. But when we seek Him, as the scriptures had said, if we knock, the door shall be opened. When we realize that all we need is merely for our asking, if only we ask, then the concept of realization of our existence begins to make sense. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”[6] And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”[7]

If you can find nothing else in this past year for which to give thanks, believe that there is at least one thing that was there all along. You may not have turned around and caught a glimpse of that setting sun, but then again, you had to turn from your ways before it could be seen. Once our time on earth is done, there won’t be any more opportunities to make restitution with God. Judgment day is at hand, and all will stand before the Lord. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”[8]

Are you ready for eternity?

Seek not things of this world, but seek that which gives life eternal, the salvation that comes only from Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Jeremiah 29:11 KJV

[2] Revelations 22:1-2 KJV

[3] https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/content/webbLaunch/assets/documents/WebbFactSheet.pdf

[4] John 1:1-4 KJV

[5]  John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

[6] Revelations 3:20 KJV

[7] Jeremiah 29:13 KJV

[8] 2 Peter 3:7 KJV

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A Precious Gift

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.” – Hebrews 11:6

The early supply chains in our country were once little more than ancient Native American paths turned into wagon roads. These became the trade routes where the frontiersman and trappers would traverse, hauling their precious cargo to divergent hubs or government forts. Those hunters and traders not only carried on commerce but provided the necessities to which the American family needed to survive. Today, like then, we rely on individuals that take hardship and danger into their daily lives as they continue the tradition of hauling goods and providing services across our country. This story shares a forgotten legacy of a past we cannot afford to forget. In the rush to deliver and provide, let us not forget the purpose behind what we do in this Holiday season. Christmas was not intended to be a time of hustle and bustle, but rather one to seek something greater than ourselves, the one true God – Jesus Christ.

Pause now for a moment and sip on a cup of your favorite hot beverage as you read the tale below. May your heart be blessed by the journey within.

The ominous clouds hung low over the mountains. To most, it was a warning, but to Arden, it was just another obstacle through which he must push. The dust from the Civil War had yet to settle. It was 1871, and there was still great poverty throughout the South.  The roads which were little more than wagon ruts, were filled with weary travelers seeking a better place. At night, the bandits preyed upon the weak. It was a bleak time.

Arden was finally heading home after another grueling trip to livestock trading posts in North Carolina. There, he had taken some of his family’s Quarter horse colts to sell. The Carolina markets paid much more than those on the edge of the frontier, so it was worth the dangerous journey. Besides, Arden Edwards wasn’t just a horse trader; he was the last of a dying breed – a frontiersman.

The farther west he traveled after turning off the Trading Path route toward the mountains, the darker the sky became. Finally, it was as if the heavens couldn’t withhold their bounty any longer. The snow began fluttering down in large goose-down-sized flakes. It was beautiful and foreboding at the same time. A chill ran across the seasoned trapper’s spine. There were many miles to travel before he could rest. Nothing felt right about this. Storm clouds only meant that his arduous journey would become even more difficult. The rugged mountains slowly being blanketed by a cover of whiteness depicted an eerie peace. Arden’s horse Jeb blew breaths of clouds of labor before him as they climbed the Eastern Divide. All around them, the sound was washed from the air as a calm flowed over Arden’s soul. Something made him pause, looking out over the vastness of the earth, slowly turning white. It was as if he was seeing a place to which he had never known, a distant place beyond the clouds. “Will I ever know something greater than this,” he thought to himself as he gritted his teeth against the biting cold. Flashes of the war coursed through his mind, and he winced at the scenes. Angrily, he nudged his spurs against Jeb’s side, and they pressed onward.

Arden was originally from Orange County, not far from what we know today as Chapel-Hill. But now, his home was in a tiny village in the southern Illinois territory, out on the edge of the prairie. It would someday be known as the village of Maunie. After the war, he headed west like so many survivors. He had met a young woman and settled down near her family on the banks of the Wabash River. There, Arden fell in love with a pretty young maiden; her name was Nellie Jane. They married, and he found himself working horses with her family. Before long, her family chose Arden to take the yearlings east for the market. It was only natural, seeing as he had connections back east and was familiar with the open road. So, with trepidation, he headed off in hopes of returning as quickly as possible. But most importantly, his young bride was with child, so there was an even greater urgency to make it back before Christmas.

As horse and rider pushed through the deepening snow, he thought of his mission. His pouch was full of valuable payment for the stock he had sold. These funds would support his and his wife’s family for many months. Yet, Arden knew that carrying such a rich purse meant he was an even greater target. Bandits and thieves were an ever-present danger, but he was no greenhorn to the perils of traveling the Trading Path trail. At one time in his life, he had carried bundles of hides to Raleigh to trade in some of the more affluent markets in his fur trading days.

That was before the war, before Nellie. It was as if an eternity had passed.

Arden’s horse, Jeb, was a hearty breed from good Quarter Horse stock, one that could make such a journey. His gun, a Colt army model .45 caliber, a relic from the war, was snuggled against his side just inside his thick fur coat. It had served him well through many battles, and he knew how to use it if needed. He realized that if he could just make it through the mountains the most challenging part of the journey would behind him.

However, before Arden had cleared the deep passes of the Blueridge, the gentle flakes had become a howling blizzard. Undeterred, he pressed onward. The warrior fought against the cold and hunger, fearing that he might risk freezing or being robbed if he stopped for the night. So, with unprecedented determination, he fought against all of his instincts to stop. Fording across the French Broad, his feet froze to the stirrups, but still, he pushed onward. By the time he reached the Kentucky territory, his body had lost all feeling. The temperatures continued to plummet. Soon the blinding whiteness consumed man and horse.

Once more, the peace, an unearthly calm, passed over his being, one like never before.

There, only five miles from his new home, they found him and his horse, Jeb. They had fallen into a deep ravine. Arden was trapped beneath the weight of steed. His feet were still locked into the stirrups, still frozen in place. Jeb had died – frozen stiff. But buried beneath his horse, somehow barely breathing, Arden was still alive. They later surmised that the body heat of the dying horse sustained him long enough for them to find him. They took Arden home and nursed him back from the edge of death.

When he finally awoke from his ordeal, he was at last able to see his beloved Nellie once more – his journey complete. Arden was there when his son was born a week later. But, as happy as the story may sound, there was still a price to pay.

As was often the case in those days, because of the exposure, Arden came down with pneumonia. The rattle in his lungs that lingered after his son’s birth became a haunting reminder of his near-death experience. Soon, the cough became a fever that sucked the energy from his very being. Slowly, the hardened frontiersman found himself bedridden. Nellie and her family tried all they could to save him, but there was a distance in Arden’s eyes. He no longer had the fire within but instead seemed to be looking at a distant place beyond the walls of their meager cabin. Nellie sat on the edge of the bed, cradling their newborn son in one arm while reading scripture to Arden as he listened with eyes closed.

In her prayers, Nellie begged God to open her beloved’s eyes, to save his soul before it was too late. Time was not on their side.

The family all whispered the inevitable out of reach of Nellie’s hearing. Deep inside, everyone knew it wouldn’t be long.

But there, confined to his bed, Arden began to realize something that before had only been a distant notion. God had been with him all along. Through those dangerous trading trails, through all of the bloody battles, and even through the freezing blizzard He had been there. Arden had never stopped long enough to really seek Him. But now, as Nellie would read the Bible, he found himself yearning to know Christ more than ever before. From one struggle to the next, all through his life he had pushed his body, not thinking of the soul within. He had never slowed down long enough to think about eternity – not until now as he stood on the edge of life and faced it. Here, now in this time that God had allowed, he was given one more chance to realize what he had never sought but had been there all along for his taking.

Then one evening, before the sunset on the distant horizon, Arden knew he had finally found Jesus. Like the last rays of daylight, his life almost gone; he had found Him before the darkness came. The scene from his recent journey returned to his mind. There standing on the precipice in the mountains, he looked out upon vastness of creation. There before him were no more storms, nor more scenes of horrific battles, but a sea of gentle calmness. Arden’s mind could finally see the world with eyes made new, and he silently whispered to himself,  “There was much more to this life.” In Christ’s arms, he could now rest, knowing that his family would be in God’s hands, not his.

Arden continued to fight the sickness in his lungs, but his life had become like water, slipping through his fingers. With each passing day, he faded away a little further.  Nellie could see him struggling with each breath, and her heart panged to watch him suffer, but there was nothing left to do – nothing but to pray for comfort. Then one night, as the full moon crossed over the river, like a spirit coming to beckon him home, he passed away, lying in the arms of his beloved Nellie Jane.

Arden’s journey was finally complete.

They buried Arden Thomas Edwards on Christmas Eve, in the year of our Lord, 1871.

As the last hymn was sung at the graveside, the snow began to fall once more. There in the anguish of death, Nellie felt a warmth, like a comforting arm wrapping around her. The snowflakes fell onto her eyelashes as her tears melted them into the heartache within. Before her, the casket was soon covered with a blanket of white, as if God had come to tuck Arden into bed for his final rest. Yet, she knew he was long departed of this world, and for a moment, realized that she was not alone. Arden was with the Lord, and the Lord was with her.

As the entourage of mourning departed, the snowflakes continued to fall, and silently, as tender as a feather upon the cheek, all the sound was once more washed from the world – and there was peace on earth.

Whatever obstacles you face this Christmas, don’t let them hinder you from seeking the most important thing in this life – God. For without him, we strive for all the wrong things. As Arden found, he had lived his life only trying to make ends meet. It wasn’t until he was forced to face eternity that he realized there had always been so much more, if only he had just taken time to notice.

In all things, no matter what gifts you did or did not receive this Christmas, realize that the gift of life in eternity with God is the most precious gift of all.

Thanks be to God.

This tale was based on a true story, one taken from my maternal family ancestry. While the dates and names were slightly altered, the account of Arden dying after returning from North Carolina to trade horses was true.

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Great High Mountain

As my footsteps made their way up the side of the mountain, one could feel the coolness of the night slowly overtaking the day. It had been another unusually pleasant spring-like day in December. The last rays of the setting sun were up ahead. The heartbeat in my chest, the labored breathing, all signs that it had been a while since last making such an ascension. The trail upward was already in the shadows of the setting sun. But up ahead, like a beacon, the light of life called. As I climbed, the old song, “Great High Mountain,” began to play in my head,

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

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

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

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

I’m still climbing upward and my journey’s almost ended
I’m nearing the top and you ought to see the view
Oh the water flows freely, there’s enough to make you free
So friend if you’re thirsty climb this mountain with me.[1]

Take it one step at a time.

Watch the edges, for there will be danger at every turn. Every decision in life has lasting consequences.

The higher we get to the end of that mountain, the harder it seems to climb. But the water we should be seeking comes from only one source. Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”[2]

Then I heard a sweet voice from the top of this mountain saying, ‘Child put your hand in mine.’” The closer my journey came to the summit, the more the words to the song became real. Giving your life over to Christ is like a child putting their hand into that of their parent, the one that would be there to protect and care for them for the rest of their life. Yet, this was the voice of God, beckoning his child home.

As we pass through this world, we must remind ourselves that we are only here for a moment. The Hebrew writer would say that we are like the “hevel,” a vapor in time. The shadows of the forest pass by, or is it I passing them? To some, hiking up a mountain would seem more strenuous than necessary. “Why not find a flat walkway,” they might ask? But nothing worth having is without a struggle to achieve – so it is in life.

As the Apostle Paul wrote of the importance to face trials to achieve the summit of that high mountain, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.[3]

Footsteps push onward, Breath more labored than before. Chasing sunbeams as they slowly depart before me. Then, finally, at the peak, there is the sweet reward. Sunshine fills the trail before me as the last parting rays of the December sky slide below the horizon. “I’m nearing the top and you ought to see the view.”

Pausing for the moment. There is time to think.

The past few days had been a blur. From the preparations for Christmas, the Church events, the school presentations, the logistical nightmares, and the planning of meals, it all encompassed more than one would accept if given the openness of mind. Yet, we do them and then wonder why the end of the year becomes such a time of stress. It is now, here standing on this mountain top, that one can fully appreciate what was the real meaning behind it all. Stopping, allowing my lungs to catch their breath, the mind is cleared of all the turmoil.

The day’s headlines are swept away as the passing clouds.

There is a certain calmness up here as the distant rapids from the river below echo up the canyon. The pain from the loss of loved ones is washed away, soothed beneath God’s loving hands, making it known that we shall join them in His presence some day. There is so much more to this life than we, mankind, have tried to foment. It is in these moments of solitude with our maker that we can come to appreciate what we have and where we are in the journey, giving thanks to God.

We can reach the end, that final destination, and cherish the view, or we can be of the lot that only has regrets. “Oh the water flows freely, there’s enough to make you free.” When we drink freely from that fountain of life, we know that that final mountain top is only the beginning of the next life – life eternal.

So, friend, if you’re thirsty climb this mountain with me.”

Yes, the view is so sweet to see. Come climb this mountain with me.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Written by Ralph Stanley, Great High Mountain, – version from Jack White – Cold Mountain Soundtrack

[2] John 7:37-38 KJV

[3] Philippians 3:8 KJV

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Be The Lifeline to Others

From C.S. Lewis, From A Grief Observed, “But she was near death; near enough to make a good shot. She used to quote ‘Alone into the Alone.’ She said it felt like that. And how immensely improbable that it should be otherwise! Time and space and body were the very things that brought us together; the telephone wires by which we communicated. Cut one off, or cut both off simultaneously. Either way, mustn’t the conversation stop?”

Howbeit, that once this mortal body was obtained, through the spark of life, it was only a matter of time until the consciousness of being awakened. We, being created from other beings who likewise were created from God’s design, through the conception of copulation, we continue his plan. Further on, as the mind developed fully, or even before, there was a sense of being part of a creation beyond one’s self. This adoption of the soul into the greater being of God became realized fully later in adulthood. All the while, we were in the palm of his hand without realizing it. It is in this time, space, and body, as Lewis put it, that we then learn to communicate with God.

Fraying Rope – Photo Credit: Ropes Direct

This morning, although the sense of others around me finding themselves overwhelmed seems to be more apparent this week than ever before, I feel a deep sense of calm and comfort. For it is God that provideth this peace, not as the world knows peace, but tranquility beyond all comprehension. As the waves of life’s tumult swirl in what may seem chaotic despair, God wants me to be the rock upon which they may crash. Seeing how the Master works through me, their spirits can be comforted using my reactions to life’s challenges to perpetuate his will.

As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

The older I get, the more I can realize how God uses us. Handing over the reigns to his control is never easy, but with time, those of us who have given him complete control begin to understand how things work in this mindset of circumvented power.

I was reading Francis Chan’s “Letters to the Church” last night, and a statement he made really struck a chord with me. “True compassion takes into account far more than what a person feels today; it takes into account what he or she will feel on judgment day!” He was making the point that we allow our acceptance of sin, of how people feel today, to influence our witnessing. When we weaken the message, we weaken God’s ability to reach them fully. Their salvation depends on receiving the true Word of God without filter, without alteration.

Think of this message as a lifeline, a rope used to save a person from drowning. If we manipulated that line in any fashion, say to make it lighter and not so heavy to carry about, and we replaced it with a less sturdy material, its strength becomes compromised. On that fateful day, when the plea for help comes from those dark waters, the new rope is then thrown to save that frantic being. When they go to grab onto the weaker rope to be pulled to safety, it breaks. That soul that we meant to save is now lost and drowns dying a needless death. When we water down the message, we predispose our lifeline to be less than what it is meant to be. Those very fibers we intend to use to pull the victim from the clutches of eternal death are those which the Master’s hand had created long before our existence. How is it then that we feel obligated to alter them, sugar coat them so that they would be more readily accepted, when in fact, we are altering their eternal purpose?

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, he said of this very thing, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.[1]

Simon Peter answered Jesus when asked if he too would go away like those disciples that turned back and walked no more with Jesus when he said, “to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”[2]

We cannot change God’s word, His purpose, or His meaning least we doom the very people he meant for us to reach so that His grace may abound.

When the waves of life begin to flood the boats of those around you, reach out and comfort them with the same comfort which Christ has given unto you. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”[3] Each of us was created for a time, space, and body. Let us use the time we have left wisely.

Your mission field is just all around you. Open your eyes and see that the fields are indeed white, ready to harvest. Gather the fruit of them into life eternal, and know that you are finally doing God’s work.

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 4:23-24 KJV

[2] John 6:68 KJV

[3] 2 Corinthians 1:4 KJV

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Little is Much

Standing in line this morning waiting to prepay for the limited gas at the pump, I listened to those around me talk or shuffled their feet in silence. The sign on the gas pump read, “$20 limit Pre Pay Inside.” Quietly listening to those voices around me, my thoughts turned to how this moment may have been prepared in advance – the unlikeliness of being in the presence of others that normally would not be possible yielding the opportunity to witness. Yet, still finding myself waking up, there I stood in calm repose, not saying a word. It was enough just to watch the lone cashier hurriedly ringing up each person, as most had come in for the same reason. It would have been easy to have been upset that we had been required to come inside to pay before pumping. In fact, the whole issue of why this had happened could lead to a myriad of political to social topics that would only inflame and agitate the parties in close proximity to the discussion. As human nature had advanced itself to the degree of manifestation of greed upon self-preservation, many had begun hoarding gas. The viral videos of people pumping gas into Walmart and trash bags were nearly incredulous. Had people lost their minds? Instead of focusing on the disparaging images of a society gone mad, my thoughts purposed toward how this moment could be used to share God’s love in a world that seems to spin out of control more each day.

When it was my time to pay, I told the attendant which pump, and then she said only, “Okay, now it’s ready,” meaning the card reader had been ready to receive my $20. “Have a blessed day,” I said after the transaction was complete. She quickly replied, “Thank you.” And that was all…

Was the opportunity to witness to others verbally wasted?

Did my sparse, if nonexistent words make a difference in anyone’s day?

Scripture tells us in James, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” It is not always necessary to speak a volume of words to reach those around you. Sometimes, as the saying goes, “simplicity is elegance.” Likewise, as Paul wrote in his letter to Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without.”

Sometime later, as my car rounded the bend on 321 heading into Blowing Rock, the sky was ablaze with a brilliant red-orange sunrise. The light from the weekend campfire at the Denton Bluegrass festival splayed into my thoughts. There, the scripture from Colossians had first hit me. Although my brothers and I were there to enjoy the music, there was another purpose we served as we walked among so many that were lost. As the same sun hit the horizon, the view from the campsite was no less breathtaking. The morning rays poured over the Word of God that lay before me, and it was as if the voice of God spoke. From the chill of the air, the warmth of the words poured over my heart and warmed me within.

Morning Sunrise on the Word of God

Too often, we feel that the mission field is in some far-off land, not there is anything wrong with missions or those who serve in them abroad. We overlook that very thing before us – that need of our family, neighbors, and friends. While enjoying the music and fun of this past week’s festival, it quickly became apparent that there were many, even friends of mine, that were not fully vested. One must promptly remind those reading this, that I do not put myself above others, nor do I consider myself more righteous than any, for there is no not one righteous, no not one. Yet, as we desire to become more Christ-like in our daily walk, it quickly becomes apparent the differences in who we have become versus those around us.

We need not be great orators to reach those with whom we seek to help. Our actions often speak louder than words. From the choice of our attire to the music we listen to or play on, our instruments represent the walk we profess to tread.

As we return to our daily lives, let us be mindful that there are many, too many, who are lost and need a beacon of hope and light. A simple kind word summonsed from a pure heart is far greater than an enlightened speech from the loftiest podium. Let us then share God’s love in all that we do and be ever grateful when we say, “Thanks be to God.”

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” – Col. 4:5-6

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”    – 1 Peter 3:15

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Sometimes You Gotta Stir Up the Water

My journey to church this morning revealed the beauty of God’s creation in the flowers of spring. There is the reminder even in the third week of May that winter’s grasp is not gone. It is Blackberry Winter now in the mountains of North Carolina. Here and there, depending on your elevation, you can find pockets of white blanketing the landscape. Unlike the frozen precipitation, these are the tiny white flowers of the indigenous wild blackberries. They not only symbolize that in roughly two months, there will be the ripe, delectable berries for which they are named, but it also symbolizes that the last cold spell is upon us. To many folks, the temperatures drop far below what is considered normal during this time of year. While there have been many summer-like days with temperatures nearing the 80’s, during Blackberry Winter, there can even be a late frost with nighttime temperatures dropping near freezing or below.

Blackberries in Bloom, Collettsville, NC.

While this seemingly unseasonable weather is not uncommon, it is still a shock to our senses. We quickly grow accustomed to the more leisurely days of warmth and look forward to the summertime, where living out-of-doors is more pleasant.

Why is it we so promptly become complacent in our lives and take the path of least resistance?

One could surmise that is simply our nature. We perceive the world around us through our senses, our natural instincts. When we rely on these alone, we are nothing more than the beasts of the field. Yet, God made us distinctly different from the wild animals of the forests and the beasts of the field. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”[1] Although we are of the earth, we have been given the ability to choose to serve a higher power – Yahweh. But too often, we get caught up in the worries and struggles of living from day to day and forget, if we knew at all, what our purpose is in life. Some never realize this or awaken to know God but live from birth to death in a valley of life where a shadow of death overshadows all that they do. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”[2]

It was in this vein of thought this past week that the scene of Jesus walking on the sea stood out.

First, in the Gospel of John, “And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.”[3]

From the Gospel of Matthew, “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”[4]

Now, there is much to unwrap in these few lines of scripture. But if we focus on the idea of how the natural man perceives the world around him, and from this, either believes or rejects the supernatural, then we can find a greater meaning in this miracle. We see not only that Jesus walked on water, but that he called one out of the boat to do likewise. Yet, immersed in the surrounding passages are concepts that apply to us today.

 “The disciples went down to the sea and entered into the ship. It was dark and Jesus had not come with them.” The ship was their comfort zone. Several of his disciples had been fishermen. Their familiarity with the Sea of Galilee would have made this travel almost routine. Like so many things in our lives, we stick with what is familiar. Going outside of our box is uncomfortable, yet Jesus told his disciples at the end of the gospel of Matthew to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..”[5] He wanted them to leave everything behind, going to the ends of the earth if necessary. But before they were prepared to embark on such a journey, they had to be shown that they were capable. When we sit in our institutional churches and hear the weekly sermon, too often when we walk out the doors to go to lunch, we leave it behind. We put our faith right next to the Bible on the shelf, where it waits until the following Sunday – if at all.

Then there is the point that Jesus did not go with them, “It was dark, and Jesus had not come with them.” As with Philip, when he said that “This he said to prove him knowing himself what he would do,” it is probably safe to say that Jesus knew in advance that he would purposely surprise his disciples. Yet, he didn’t just show up walking on the sea in the dark. It was far worse than that, for, “The sea arose by reason of a great wind which blew.” In the last scene of episode 4 of Season 2 of the series The Chosen,”[6] Peter makes a comment regarding the healing of the man by the pool on the Sabbath when Jesus could have easily waited, and Jesus replies, “Sometimes you gotta stir up the water.”

The disciples knowingly went out on the Sea of Galilee at night. Was this by choice, or was this planned? The winds often pick up on large bodies of water during the day, so the night crossing would have been safer and easier under normal circumstances. But these were anything but normal circumstances. Remember their comfort zone – the boat? Knowing that these seasoned sailors would haven’t been bothered by the night crossing, I like to think that Jesus did a little stirring up of the water that night. When we are shoved out of our comfort zone, it is then we realize we need Him most. So it was, that dark stormy night, after they had rowed 25 or 30 furlongs, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing nigh unto their boat, and they were afraid. Yes, grown men, hardened sailors were now scared, so much so that Christ had to call to them, “It is I, be not afraid.

Now, the Gospel of Matthew next tells of how Peter, possibly not believing that it was really Jesus, calls out to the Spirit, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” We must wonder if it was Peter’s disbelief or was it the fact that he was emboldened by the miracle that he called out to Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus answers and simply says, “Come.” Peter then, fully vested in his belief, gets out of the boat.

Friends, this is the moment that we should all gasp!

For this is the exact parallel to our lives today. We have been asked to go to all nations, making disciples for Christ, yet, we cannot leave the church walls before we are swept back into the boat. We fail to even dare step out of our comfort zone for fear of drowning. Yes, it is a leap of faith. Yes, it is daring and will require more of your dedication and commitment than ever before, but think for a moment of those first few steps that Peter took.

For a few brief seconds, a man was walking on the substance that sustains life. It was not frozen; it was swashing all around; the sea was boisterous, scary, and dark. Yet, Peter stood on the water as if it were solid ground, as did the Son of God! For those brief seconds, Peter was able to walk again where Yahweh stood. When we step out in faith, the impossible becomes possible. When we put God at the center of our lives, we are no longer a slave to the sins of this world. We are set free.

Leaving the confines of our comfort level will never be easy. We cannot expect to succeed at every step. In fact, we will be forced to rely on Yahweh all the more. The next few steps that Peter took revealed how quickly we lose focus. For in that brief instance of time, as he stood on water, Peter quickly realized the tumultuous seas around him and began to sink. As John the Baptist told his disciples, “He must increase that I may decrease.” And so it is with us. The more we give up, the more we rely on Him to provide for us.

Lastly, we see Peter returning to the ship with Jesus. As the Gospel of John tells it, “They willingly received him into the ship.” Soaking wet, having nearly drowned, Peter is now humiliated but relieved to be back into the confines of the vessel. However, he is not alone, for Jesus is with them all. As we picture that dark night on the sea of Galilee, those men once more were shown how the impossible becomes possible when we give it all to God.

But there is one last thought to this story, one final twist – Christ got into the boat.

“So, what is your point,” you ask?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”[7]

Getting into the boat, Jesus entered into their world. He didn’t have to ride in a boat, yet, as God coming to earth in the form of a man, Christ got into the boat so that he could prove he too was the Son of Man.

When the weather turns cold after we’ve become accustomed to the warm, beautiful cloudless days of sunshine, let us not grow bitter, for the landscape becomes white of blooms of the Blackberry Winter. Let not your world be troubled by the change, but embrace it and seek to go beyond what is comfortable.

Take that step out in faith and watch what impossible becomes possible.

And remember, the first step might be the scariest, but it will always be remembered as the best.

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 3:6 KJV

[2] 1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV

[3] John 6:16-21 KJV

[4] Matthew 14:22-29 KJV

[5] Matthew 28:19 KJV

[6] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBXOFnNTULFaAnj24PAeblg

[7] John 3:16-17 KJV

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Journal Update

(December 30th, 2020)

The time passes one plank after another. The labor of love seems to never end, but then in the latter’s sense, it is not labor, for the work toward the Lord is a passion to which the heart gives in wholly; unabated. One must pause and look upon what has been done to fulfill the blessing within.

Shadows were glancing through the barren limbs of the forest, chasing the sun that barely rises above the horizon. The warmth of the fire reminded us that to remove the chills upon one’s back, you must subsequently afford that portion toward the flame. As one finds a void in their spirit, they too must find from whence its vacancy can be refilled, warmed anew as by the hearth. From the depths of God’s word, those empty voids can be rejuvenated – filling the soul so that the spirit may become refreshed.

This morning, the taste of manna from heaven ever more sweeten the taste upon my soul as my eyes read through familiar texts. Like an old friend, they reach out to me and speak to me in a calming voice. Their refrain falls upon my ears like the warmth of that welcoming woodstove or the taste of that slice of fresh bread from the oven. Each, although soothing the shortcomings of the fleshly needs of this world, bemoan the spirit within. Finding God in these moments, sensing his presence through those temporal moments, can relay us into the eternal glimpses that await in our next life, should we choose in this life wisely.

Being alone, the majority of the time while working on the Spiritual Retreat has become the norm. Yesterday, however, was different. My son joined me, and we worked together – something that was not too common. Like my own solitude, our duo worked without interruption from the outside. As if we were on our own island, we toiled together regardless of what the world was mesmerizing over at the moment. There in our little neck of the Blueridge mountains, we had no Covid, there were no threats of lockdown, there was no endless noise of fear-mongering from the media, there were just us two, working in unison as God allowed. Outdoor, the creek gurgled underneath a golden sky.

For all its worth, we were none the worse for wear. Well, mostly.

There were still drawbacks that could not be avoided.

My physical body has more than once found its limitations. Pushing through the pain is one thing, but when one’s back becomes so weary that it is difficult to stand, let alone function, something has to give. You either stop and wait to recover or find a way to struggle onward. Nearly always, the answer is the latter.

Multiple times the pain had to be subdued with ibuprofen in order to push onward – the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Although there are the earthly inhibiting factors, the beauty to which the work has revealed is a testimony unto our Savior. It is through us that his hands worketh. No task has not been managed that God has not provided – albeit in strength, knowledge, or skill. All have been a confirmation of what the LORD can do through us in spite of ourselves when we are one with him. As he asked us to drink of his blood, that he would be in us, and us in him, so it is, that when we fully commit ourselves unto his lifeblood, we too will be like the bride with the bridegroom – uniting as one. “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”[1]

Last night, as my battered, scarred, and beleaguered hands typed these passages, there was a certain feeling of contentment that flowed. While sleep beckoned, these were just a few of the thoughts from which must be scribed so that if one looks back from the future, they will see only a small portion of what a day in the life of this person might have revealed.

So, with heavy eyes, I read over the Gospel of John, visiting my old friend one last time before I say my prayers and finally lay down to rest.

Before sleep overcame me, the last thoughts were, “If I die before I wake, may the Lord my soul to take.”

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 6:53-54 KJV

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Don’t Live to Regret It

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

An old cliché came to me this morning through the words of a song, “You’ll live to regret it…”

Many will look back on 2020 and realize it was more than the year of unprecedented events, but sadly for many, will become a year of regret. Then there is the introspective thought, “How many things have we passed through in this life to only live long enough to regret them?”

Meriam-Webster defines regret as the following: re·​gret | \ ri-ˈgret  \ 1a: to mourn the loss or death of, b: to miss very much,  sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair, an expression of distressing emotion (such as sorrow).[1]

The corner of studio’s past, when God was not the center of my life. – Chatham County Farm circa. 1999

The longer I ponder on this line, the more corollary aspects of it come into play. For it can mean more than not having appreciated someone or something; can it not? Life is a never-ending journey of choices, and with them, we often face missing an opportunity, albeit good or bad. Like a fork in the road, there is always more than one path that we may take. As the saying goes, the one less traveled is often the one that will enrich our soul all the more. I once had a phrase back in my youth when my ambitions were to pursue the lusts of the flesh, that I was the “Unluckiest, lucky man alive.” In other words, God was watching over me even when I wasn’t seeking him. As much as I tried to run from him, I soon found out there was no place to hide. My life was as the psalmist wrote, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”[2]

The studio that God built – no regrets.
Thanks be to God.

Time and time again, when my path should have led to utter destruction, there was another miraculous occurrence that delivered me safely out of the jaws of the lion. In those many narrow escapes of a poor choice, it was as if I could feel the prayers of my family’s spiritual leaders blanketing me when I was woefully unworthy.  They would pray that those early teachings they had sown would someday blossom. Thankfully, those seeds of faith my elders had planted in me took root, and once they began to germinate, God’s plan for me began to come to fruition. But it would take many years and many knocks upon my proverbial door before my hard head would allow him in.

As Christians, is not our pathway more judicious than those who wander like ships tossed upon the sea? “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”[3] While we might ponder those many missed opportunities, we should not live in regret. For there was and always is a purpose in the next step we take. While it may seem as if a choice were a mistake when the longer journey reveals the road traveled, when we look back over the dawn of time, we can almost, if not always, see how that passage through which we endured was one in which there could not have been a more perfect plan provided. These are the moments, when we allow them, that magnify the essence of God. “And he shall bring forth they righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.[4]

Take, for instance, just a couple of nights ago, a decision to remain in Boone and run a couple of errands before heading down the mountain cost me in time but could have cost me much more.

Why do I say this? Allow me to explain.

My own “plan,” if you will, was to leave work a little early and run while the snow was still falling. Besides the novelty of running in the snow, there was the hope that I would be able to capture images for future use in devotional postings to social media. The trails that crisscross the Moses Cone Memorial park offer a never-ending vista of God’s creation. With each changing season, so do those familiar spots where the camera’s eye catches one’s attention.

Moses Cone Manor Trail, Dec. 2020

The run was challenging in that the bitterly cold wind bit into my exposed flesh. But as is most often the case, as I continued quoting scriptures, the pain of the outer body diminished until the point it was only a mild nuisance. Thankfully, there were several good scenes from which to choose. The falling snow’s pace was merely a flurry at best by the end of the run, so it didn’t seem unwise to go ahead and stop by a local store to pick up another Christmas gift. While I was in the spirit of getting things done, I also decided to go ahead and run to Lowe’s for a couple of things on my list. While in the store, hunger began to gnaw at my insides. One who has trained long enough or worked in a physical capacity for an extended time knows the difference between a little hunger pang and one of greater magnitude, for that latter one was one that hit me while picking up those supplies. Seeing that there was a greater need than a want, I decided to go ahead and grab an early supper as well. The hot soup and sandwich hit the spot as I sat in the parking lot of Chik-Fil-A and dined alone. Outside the car, the flurries continued as the last vestiges of light faded from the sky. Street lights seemed hazy in the falling snow, but there was nothing at this point that created any sense of dread. The thermometer on the car’s display read 23 degrees.

Driving out of Boone and eventually into Blowing Rock, there was still nothing to indicate that this was nothing more than a beautiful end to a snowy day on the mountain. Christmas lights were already hung in several stores and homes. Their ambiance warming the soul within as my car drove past. Then, as the curve past the last light in Blowing Rock began to fall behind me, there ahead were the seemingly endless line of red tail-lights. An unending line of cars wrapped around the curve ahead and far below the mountain.

There would be no usual drive home that night.

Later, I would find out that a tractor-trailer had jack-knifed one of the icy curves. With it, several cars were also wrecked and maligned across the roadway. So, for the remainder of the evening, for over an hour or so, there I sat.

Looking back, my first thoughts were of regret for having stopped and run those errands. As the evening wore on, sitting there in my little car, thoughts of thanks began to percolate into my head. Earlier that morning, I had stopped for gas; the car was on full. The heater was working well, even though outside it was a frigid 23 degrees; I was warm and dry. My body had forced me to eat supper early, so I was fed. The longer I sat, the more I realized how lucky it was that my drive home was paused in the manner it was, for my fate could have been much different; either crashed or worse, injured – to the point of death.

The night following, Pastor Greer led us through the study of Romans 10 and, in so doing, mentioned the Roman Road to salvation. The term is often used to describe the scriptures in the book of Romans, which are often used to lead someone to Christ. Along this virtual road, one can find eternal salvation if they so choose to make the drive. As some choices in life afford one the ability to know the result ahead of time, and so it is when one takes this route – the Roman road. Eternal life, one in which you would inevitably be able to live long enough to see if there were any regrets, would ironically allow you also to know that there couldn’t have genuinely been any regrets, for the path you took was the one in which God would have planned.

 However, if we live being regretful, is this not as bad or worse than not forgiving?

Worse yet, think of what the utmost regret might be? If you think of life in terms of eternity, then you are on the right track. In this vein of thought, one would have to say that the utmost remorse would undoubtedly be dying without choosing the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. This choice would culminate after one’s physical life on earth has ended only to only wake up in hell, realizing that, and eternally regretting not having believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

There is no going back.

For in the gospel of Luke, the account of the rich man that died and was suddenly thrust into the midst of hell paints a vivid picture of someone who realized too late that he had made the wrong choices. “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented…Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”[5]

While it may not be evident to some, the Lazarus in this story is not the same one that Jesus raised from the dead. Yet, the name “Lazarus” is appropriately used in this passage, for in the Hebrew tongue, it translates to, “God has helped.” As the beggar Lazarus suffered his earthly life, God knew his heart. Those Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke had hearts hardened like the rich man. They knew the writings of Moses, they knew the law, and they knew the prophets’ teachings, yet they could not be persuaded. And the last sentence, as in typical Godly-poetic-justice, Jesus says, “though one rose from the dead.” Here he analogizes the Lazarus I this story with the one to whom he raised from the dead. Though the beggar Lazarus had died, he was alive in eternity, as though he had risen from the dead.

Lazarus had no regrets, for his reward was everlasting life, unlike the rich man who now felt the full weight of his errors. Wanting to prevent his own family from the same fate, he begged for Abraham to send Lazarus, for him to return from the dead and go to his house to warn his brothers not to fall to the same fate. Like him, Abraham responded that they already knew the answers, but they too were hardened to the truth.

Friend, be not so consumed with your own knowledge that you miss the truth of this story. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye find eternal life. For they are they which speak of me.” In other words, the answer is in Christ. Seek him, and you will find eternal life.

Let the only regrets in your life be those of the past; whereby, you didn’t spend enough time with loved ones, or you didn’t appreciate those who prayed over you, or that you didn’t stop and pause long enough along the journey to appreciate all that God has done for you. Yes, let those regrets be of the past. Going forward, willingly receive Christ in your life and leave all your future regrets behind.

You only have one earthly life to live. Make it count.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Meriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/regret

[2] Psalm 139:7-10 KJV

[3] Psalm 37:5 KJV

[4] Psalm 37:6-7 KJV

[5][5] Luke 16:19-31 KJV

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A Gathering to Remember

by Timothy W. Tron, Nov. 2020

As the coming holidays approach, Thanksgiving and Christmas, there seems to be a sense of melancholy that has begun to permeate through the din of the incessant roar of this tumult our society has become. In my mind, there is a desire to reach back in my memories and dwell upon a time when life was simpler when the so-called advances in technology had yet to be developed. Because of the threat of lockdowns restricting these beloved reunions, those distant memories have become even more cherished. One such date that comes to mind coincides with a memory that our family holds dear to their heart.

It was the late 1960’s. Back then, we survived without non-stop news coverage, without updates from our social media accounts, and without the fear of dying from a virus, let alone anything else that existed at the time. It’s not to say there wasn’t death nor dying, for there had yet to be the advances we have today in the fields of heart disease and cancer. Both of these maladies took many lives before their time, and still do today, but not nearly as severely as in those days. No, we feared not because we had a faith that was the bedrock of our existence.

That faith was taught to us through our elders, passed down from one generation to the next – a thread of belief that was built upon an unending truth – Christ is indeed the Savior of the world. So, it is in this vein that once more my heart reaches for a well-worn story that is based on an actual event whose legacy has lasted for many years in our family. It is like the cup of an instant drink, void of the liquid to make it real – once the hot water is added, the story being recalled becomes the sustenance that warms our being. Like that beverage, the Spirit enters into our soul, and we are warmed from within to that which is without. Herein lies the beauty.

Looking back through the shadowy fog of time, those distant memories are like the passing clouds overhead. They are here but for a moment, and then cross over the mountaintops before we realize they are gone. As we near the season of holidays and family gatherings, it seems that those ancient days of yesteryear are ever more treasured. Like the value of a tattered cloth that once was held in the dying grasp of a loved one, its price to most would be nothing, but to those who knew its connection to the soul of the other – it becomes a priceless object.

That year when the snow fell around Christmas would become one such moment in time for me.

The classic event which unfolded is still known to this day, by all that attended, as the Sled Hill Christmas. Of all my childhood holiday experiences, it will forever be the most memorable in my mind. To read the entirety of the original story, you can find it online at https://timothywtron.dreamhosters.com/sled-hill-life-more-abundantly/ But this article looks at that event from a different perspective; one of how the warmth of a loving family and faith carried us through what may have been considered just another dark winter.

Like a revival, a truly epic event can only unfold when it is least expected. So it was that overcast December day so many decades ago. Several of us grandkids were staying at Grandpa and Grandma Tron’s house, there on the outskirts of New Harmony, Indiana. The town itself was in the season of slumber. Farming was still the driving industry, and the fields were now silent in their winter sleep. The hay had all been stored in the barns and the silos were filled to capacity with grains and silage to last until the next growing season began.  A feeling of hibernation overtook one’s soul, making those opportunities to warm by the woodstove or to huddle close around a cup of hot chocolate all the more permanent upon the creature within. Gathering with others was the only natural thing to do in a time such as this – it was who we were, it was what we were. In those precious slices of time, we fellowshipped without knowing that’s what it was called. Visiting with others when the work in the fields slowed was just as natural as splitting your firewood by hand – we all did it.

Tron House, New Harmony, Indiana.

When those first few snowflakes began falling the night before what would become the day to remember, we went to bed not expecting anything more than just a typical Midwest December dusting. When we awoke the next morning to the sounds of someone rattling around downstairs in the kitchen, it was as if Christmas had come early. Jumping from underneath the multiple layers of quilts, which weighed nearly as much as another cousin, we raced down the icy narrow stairs from the unheated upstairs bedrooms down to the kitchen where the pot-belly woodstove in Grandma’s kitchen was already red hot. We shivered and shook the remnants of chill from our bones, as our bare feet fought to find the warmth emanating from the scant linoleum floor by the stove. Excitedly, we peeked through the threadbare kitchen curtains that hung over the sink. The window faced grandma’s kitchen garden. Outside, the world was no longer the muddled gray of winter, but instead, was a brilliant whiteness, even in the pre-dawn, early morning hours.

About the time we had settled down around the table, after getting out of our bedclothes, Grandpa came in from the morning milking. We could hear the creaky old porch door slam behind him as he walked down the long back porch, from the barn end, up to the door of the kitchen, where he paused and took off his boots. The confines of that narrow passage clothed in clear plastic, a feeble attempt to thwart the cold winds of winter. The repurposed material was clouded with age, giving off a soft sheer grayness within the tomb of the veranda’s confines. The oft sound of rippling plastic slapping the screen made thoughts of warm summer nights, fresh tomatoes, and fireflies come to mind. Needless to say, those were but a distant rumor as the snow continued to fall.

With all eyes upon his entry, the vacuum of anticipation cut the air, like the cold wind that followed him inside. Snowflakes fell off his outer coat confirming what we already knew. Before he had time to take note of his unexpected audience, the questions began to roll off our lips.

“How deep is it grandpa?”

“Does it look like more’s coming?

“Where are the sleds?”

“Were the cows cold?”

He turned and smiled, looking toward grandma. Victor Tron never was a man of many words, So, when he replied with, “It looks like it’s gonna be good,” rest assured, that was all we needed to know. Grandma already had his breakfast ready, along with ours, and we sat down for an unusually early start of our day. We all instantly grew silent when grandpa bowed his head and reached his hand over to grandma. She grabbed his outstretched weathered hand with hers and we all joined hands and bowed our heads as grandpa said the blessing for the breakfast meal. In my mind, I can still hear that strained voice, barely above a whisper, thank God for what grandpa said was an abundance of blessings. Before us was a meager meal by worldly standards, but to us, it was Heaven sent. For we knew, even as children that every bit of it was from those two pair of withered hands that grasped one another in a love that never ended, even upon their death.

Victor Tron Sr.

 Grandpa’s first milking was at 3:00 AM and he usually finished up around 5:00 AM. His second milking was at 3:00 PM, every day of his life. He never took a vacation that I could remember. Usually exhausted from rising early, he would routinely drift off to sleep no matter where he sat, so finding time to talk with him was rare. He milked the cows until that night he died peacefully in his sleep, never to milk again. What we didn’t know as children, was how precious those few moments were with him when we were able to visit, especially that snowy morning on a cold December day so many years ago.

As soon as we were able to clear the table and bundle up, we were headed out the door. Eventually, someone asked if we could check out sled hill. An okay was given and like a herd of young calves heading for new pasture, we bolted out the back gate. Past the woodpile where grandpa’s ax and splitting log were shrouded in snow we raced. Heading for the opening to the lane, we quickly found ourselves wading through the knee-deep snow toward the iconic destination; Sled Hill. Past the milking barn, the bullpen, and Ms. Wolf’s house we trudged. Each one of these structures held a plethora of memories and stories that one could sit for hours and share. Like a life of living, their collections, like the holdings of stockpiled hay for the winter, waiting for one to return and use for the giving.

The bushes along the Labyrinth were blanketed in a sweet frosting of white. Our panted breaths billowed before us and were quickly whisked away in the falling snow.  In our rush to find out how well the sledding was going to be, we didn’t realize how hard the snow was continuing to fall. Nor did we realize how deep the snow had already gotten since sunrise. In the overcast grayness of the day, it all seemed like a dream, even when it was live.

Labyrinth, New Harmony, Indiana

As the story, “Sled Hill: Life More Abundantly,” conveys, the rest of the day was a multitude of adventures and excitement. With each passing moment, the tempo of the day’s delight reached a fevered pitch. The enthusiasm of the children soon bubbled over into those of the adults, igniting in them the feelings of youth. Gone were the aches and pains of age. The adrenaline of living purged those boundaries of limitations that had kept them hostage. Soon, parents, Aunts, and Uncles were joining in the merriment of sliding down the hill so aptly named.

As the sky began to darken as night approached, the thrill of the day and the feeling of being one with something greater than ourselves overwhelmed us. Fearing that it would end in darkness, the men created torches on the fly from used old tin cans (which we also used as drinking vessels), nailing them to poles and placing them along the sled run, all the way to the top of the hill. What started out as child’s play quickly turned into a major production. In essence, a cow pasture had turned into our own ski-slope far removed from any mountaintop.

When the last vestiges of daylight gave way to darkness, there along the sled run was a perfect row of home-made flaming lights shedding an ambient glow of warmth. Off to the side, a pile of wood was set afire and a massive bonfire became the gathering spot between runs down the hill. There we regained strength to carry on from food and drink the family had brought in at a moment’s notice. There, the entire family that was able to make it collected. The sentinel image that remains with me to this day was seeing both grandpa and grandma’s faces glowing in the reflection of the firelight. To know that grandpa had a milking coming at 03:00 AM, and yet, he was here foregoing precious sleep, standing alongside us kids around the bonfire said something more that than words could fathom. Even then, the whispers of the children could be heard, “Look, even grandpa and grandma are here.” The statement was a confirmation of the significance of that moment in time, one that made a profound statement on all that were present.

That night, once our bodies had been worn to a frazzle. There was barely enough strength to make it back to the house. As we pulled off our wet, nearly frozen clothing and briefly warmed by the fire, a numbness of exhaustion began to overtake us. The enormous featherbed never looked so welcoming. Shortly thereafter, after our bedtime prayers were said, there was little more than the sweet, “Goodnight children,” from grandma as she tucked us under the pile of quilts before we fell asleep.

For once in a lifetime, there was no sweeter sleep.

As the snow continued to fall outside that night, there was a warmth within that was more than physical – a love that transcends all understanding. There was something created that day that would last forever in the hearts of those who had been privileged to experience it. It became an inexplicable thread of life that would weave its way into our souls which would become part of who we were. The similarity of a feeling such as this can only compare to that of Christ’s disciples.

Like those followers of Jesus who had walked and talked with Christ after his resurrection, they too had a story to share. One that was so inexplicable, so earth-shattering that they would live the rest of their lives pursuing the mission to share it with all that would hear, even unto the point of death. It was who they were.

As we go forward in this holiday season, let us come together as a family, and may the hope of Christ, and Christmas be with you, until the end of time. May it someday become who you are as well.

Thanks be to God.

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A Cold Mountain River

by Timothy W. Tron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


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

[2] John 4:35 KJV

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