Being led to follow the path God has prepared, I find myself evangelizing in ways I never had imagined. To God be the Glory Proverbs 3:6

Festival of Faith Sermon

Strength in Knowing…

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,’ Says the Lord.”

– Isaiah 54:17


Discovery of ancestral wonders are one thing, but to find that these same wonders where miracles of faith often cause me to take pause and reflect upon what is important in life; thus was the result of my recent journey to Valdese this past weekend. When we decide to led God take control of our lives and allow Him to lead us, the possibilities are often mind blowing and life altering. No matter how many times I hear the stories of sacrifice and torture of those ancient Christians, I cannot help to feel somewhat guilty for not having to struggle to practice my faith, as they did. But as time goes on, I feel led to take up the spiritual arms because whether we realize it or not, our faith is once again under attack.

Last year when attending the festival for the first time, I met and heard stories from people I had never met before; making lots of new friends and acquaintances along the way. This year was much the same, finding more connections and learning new details about our ancient past. My first such encounter was meeting the family of David and torrepellice1Kathleen Pra. They had attended our Festival of Faith after having learned earlier in the day that they too were from the Waldensian valleys of the Cottien Alps. David shared with me how he and his family, had found their way into the ministry, not knowing of their ancestral background. Like my experience last year, they were swimming in the flood of information that hits you when you realize who and where you came from.

The very next day at the “Authentic Waldensian” meal hosted by the Waldensian Presbyterian church, amazingly enough we met again, both us finding a very unique individual in attendance as well, Lucas Pinole. Lucas was here as an exchange student from the College in Torre Pellice, Italy. He was in Valdese to learn more about Valdese Waldensians. Fortunately for the Pras and I, we would soon learn more about ourselves than we had imagined.

As we walked into the vast fellowship hall, with people filling every possible seat at the dining tables, David saw us enter and began motioning for us to join them. He introduced us to Lucas, and explained who he was and where he torrepellice2was from. Mostly all I heard was, “He is from the valleys.” Lucas was still having a conversation with an elderly gentleman as we took our seats, but with the noise of all the voices in the hall combining I could not tell what they were saying. When I finally was able to understand them, they had actually began speaking in English. What I didn’t realize was that they had been talking in the ancient tongue of the valleys, the “Potswa”. Lucas explained to the elderly gentleman the differences between the “Local Potswa” versus the “Germanic Potswa”, with the local flavor being more indigenous to those valleys. The elderly man spoke the local flavor, meaning he had not had the chance to speak to anyone in this native tongue in quite some time and was obviously moved by his brief experience; this was a day of exultations of the moment for many. I wanted to hear more, but the man and the conversation moved on, as did time. I was instantly enthralled by this young man and his obvious linguistic abilities. By the end of the weekend I would realize he was as much a Waldensian as any, like one of the originals, living breathing the Word in his everyday life.

After the introductions, we were seated and continued the informational ride of a lifetime. Lucas told me how he had been reading my book and that he was really enjoying it. He then went on to tell me that I could learn about the “Tron” family even further by contacting the Waldensian Heritage Museum in Torre Pellice. He said that nowadays, there are many Trons, and that finding our ancestral roots would be quite easy once we got to the Museum’s archives. We continued talking about the valleys and how excited we were to meet someone from that region. We then turned back to the linguistics, with Lucas recalling what he had discussed with the elderly gentleman whom I had overheard when first sitting down. He then told David that his last name “Pra” meant “valley of” in Potswa.

Curious, I asked, “Well, if Pra means something does my name mean anything?”

Lucas replied, “Well, in fact, yes it does.”

I grabbed the edge of the table and jokingly said, “Ok, let me brace for this.”

All our lives as children we had grown up wondering what our name might mean in German, since that is where we thought we had immigrated from. One of my cousins teased that Tron sounded like “throne” and that instead of a royal throne; we were more likely from the bathroom throne. We never found our answer in the German-English dictionary. Even after finding Walldorf and the Heimat museum, there was no discussion like this; what our name meant. So here I sat, after a lifetime of not knowing there was even a meaning to our family name, yet with the answer about to roll of the lips of the young man who was just hours away from having left those ancient valleys from which we once had come, sitting next to me.

I closed my eyes and said, “Ok, go ahead I’m ready. Let’s hear it.”

Lucas respectfully laughed, as did the others at the table, and he continued in a sober tone, “We’ll actually the name “Tron” has a very respectable meaning in Potswa. For you see,” he paused to regain the seriousness of the moment, “It was the name they often gave the soldiers, the warriors who fought to preserve the Word of the Lord, for the name literally means, ‘Man of strength’”

I let out a sigh, thinking, “Was he serious?”

“Really?” I said out loud in disbelief.

“Yes, seriously,” Lucas responded.

David responded, “Do you want to trade?”

The table erupted in laughter once more.

I shook my head no, still laughing and replied to David, “Hey, just think, the Tron are buried in your Pra.”

We all laughed even more.

Looking back now, that was my first sentence using Potswa I had ever spoken; unbeknownst to me. What was even more grounding was that the next day, when I attended the church service at the same church the meal was served in, the preacher gave a sermon on the persecution of the Waldensians. At one point, 12,000 men, women and children had been imprisoned. During that time, 9,000 of them died, as many as in all four previous centuries of struggle. Somehow, through all of that our families had survived for us to be here today to carry on the legacy.

To know that we are here because of the strength of those gone on before leads me to want to do more for the purposes for which they struggle. When I hear people discounting Christianity for sake of other religions, I hear the anguished cries of my ancestors echo off those monolithic peaks they called home. When I see Christians converting to other religions for sake of being perceived as hip or cool, another breath from that wind of antiquity is extinguished. With each footstep we allow to trod on our faith, we allow one more reason for the past to be lost. We must take of the sword of righteousness once again, standing up for who and what we are and stop giving into complacency.

We would not be here today and would not be who we are if it were not for those men and women who fought, sacrificing their very lives for what they believed and for the Word of God.

They held themselves accountable to no one but the Father above; shouldn’t we?

The reflections of this past weekend take me to a point in life where I now realize from whence I came. It is up to me to follow where He might have me go, for in his path I will follow. We must not be afraid to speak because in our silence other voices will fill the void; voices who do not share our beliefs, our faith.

Step back in time with me once more and get back to the origins of who and what we are, stop kidding yourselves with the decorations of the contemporary movement and get right with God.

You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.
How Green are Your Pastures…

As I ran the back roads through the country this evening, enjoying the beautiful weather God hath given us on this late summer’s day; I couldn’t help but take comfort seeing my cattle resting peacefully, in perfect solitude with nature and without care or need. My journey took me past two separate farms where I have cows, each herd were reposed in the same manner. To a farmer, there are certain things in life that bring inner comfort; one being a barn full of hay, and the other a healthy herd of cattle peacefully grazing in their own pasture. It struck me that God probably takes us in the same way. Now before you get upset that I’m calling us all a bunch of cattle, what I mean to say is that to God, I can only imagine that we sometimes seem so needy, so unsatisfied that we push our fence lines, never having enough of our own, like a bunch of unruly cattle. How we yearn for the grass on the other side of the fence, which always seems taller and greener. The problem with that, as my good friend Doug Stuart says, “It’s usually got twice as much manure on it too.”

Earlier this summer, you might recall that I had a calf born blind. I called her Helen. She was nearly succumbed to2013-07-21 14.50.17-1 dehydration when I found her. She had been unable to nurse from her mother for the first 48 hours. I had been out of town and was notified of her birth by the caretakers at the farm where the herd she belonged too is pastured. For two weeks I fought to save the feeble calf, using every bit of animal husbandry I knew. I even broke down and called the vet who confirmed I was doing all that was possible. During this time I more than once had to fight off vultures that sensed the end was near and wanted only to gladly to help her on her way. It is not uncommon for buzzards to begin eating an animal before its death, taking the tender parts; eyes, nose and any soft flesh that is unprotected. It was only due to the unending diligence of her mother that the latter did not occur. Day and night Colleen, Helen’s mother, stood guard foregoing her own health in order to protect and tend to her dying infant. In the end, she survived and today is as healthy and vibrant as any calf her age. I guess seeing this act of sacrifice only strengthened my resolve when at times, I felt it was better just to, as we farmers say, “Let nature take its course.” When God is in control, anything is possible.

In many ways, animals can show us more about ourselves than we realize. Our Heavenly Father never abandons us and when it came to sacrifice, he gave us his only begotten son. How much more could anyone care for you than that? Colleen suffered for her calf but she never gave up, even when all seemed lost. At times, when I would pick up the limp nearly lifeless body to try to get her to swallow one more mouthful of fluid, Colleen would fight to keep me away. She never gave in to anyone touching her baby. Likewise, God doesn’t allow “Nature to take its course” with us, rather, he is there with us each step of the way. Do we falter, of course? Do we still make mistakes, yes? But this is all part of the character that makes us who we are. At times, we can be more needful than a dying calf named Helen, but without reason. In the grand scheme of things, it must mean God has a pretty God-sized sense of humor knowing that our petty complaints will be answered in good time. However, when things seem darkest, he is there as well, providing for us when we call and for many, this is the only time that they do.

In a way, it all made me think of the scripture in Pastor David’s scripture this morning, Luke 13:11, “And behold there was a woman who had the spirit of infirmity for eighteen years, and who was bent over and in no way could raise herself up.” Jesus called to her, to come to him, and when he touched her she was healed, able to stand tall. The emphasis today was not on the fact that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, but rather that the woman had been suffering with her affliction for eighteen years; a spiritual, not physical affliction. Like this woman, we too often place the emphasis on things in life that are either addicting or use so much of our time that we don’t leave time for the things in life that are important, bringing ourselves down to the point we become needful of spiritual comforting, a fact only in and of itself. All we have to do to free ourselves of these self-inflicted ailments is to call out to Jesus. The song, “He Touched Me” is all you need to know at this point, for one touch of the Holy Spirit and you will be set free, to relish in the shade under that big oak tree on the edge of life’s pasture; to be at peace for a change with the world.

On these blissful breezy lazy summer evenings, when nothing seems out of place, I can see God sitting back in his rocking chair on that great big porch in Heaven breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that his creation is for the moment at peace with itself.

To this end, I pray that you find peace with yourself and give God the Glory on this glorious day he hath created.

How was your Sunday?

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