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The Gift of Love

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

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

It was a pretty chill time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart nearly stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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We Do Nothing of Ourselves

I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. He that sent me is with me. The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” – Jn. 8:26-29

As I write these words, again trying to put them to memory, the thought of the past week haunts me -sickness. Lying upon one’s bed for agonizing hours gives one too much time for reflection and agitation of not being capable of doing what is needed. Yet, it is in these suffering minutes of eternity that life’s focus once again becomes clearer.

What we do in this life, how we stand before those doing the same thing, making it through each day the best they can, makes all the difference. We can go about moaning and complaining, or we can go about letting the radiance of what gives us hope to shine through our aged, withered skin. Though our façade may be falling away, that twinkle in the eye, that gleam of spirit within, can give someone else a shimmer of hope in a world that might otherwise seem lost. But alone, we cannot make that happen. It is because, as Jesus said, “I do nothing of myself.”

Dr. Richard Hines Jr. walking with Aaron Israel, sharing the word of God.

How much more we all could take away from those few letters that formed his response? “I,” the Christ saying of himself, “do nothing of myself.” To hear the Son of God expel this sort of mindset, to hear he, who is God in the flesh, admit that alone, he is nothing, should give us all a shaking to our very marrow. The humility, to put one below his station, and to praise his heavenly Father in such a manner is to admittedly pronounce an even greater appreciation for who Jesus was and for his ministry here on earth.

To know that in his short three years of evangelism, those twelve men to whom most of his focus was upon left an indelible mark upon humanity. The story of Jesus alone was of an earth-shattering revelation, but alone, had the enemy had their way, it would have slowly died off like those Apostles. But because of their steadfast faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit, they were able to achieve far beyond what was humanly possible. This alone, to understand the early church’s fragility and the great danger it faced, is to understand the miraculous growth and creation of the faith we call today Christianity.

In today’s world, the thoughts of last week seem ages ago. Take into consideration what you were doing at this time three years ago if you can. Then, as you stretch your mind to recover those frames of time, imagine what it might have been like to have been walking along with Christ, to have seen all that would have transpired during his earthly ministry, and see if you could begin to recall each day, let alone just a week living in that moment. It must have been nearly mind-altering for those disciples to keep up, let alone retain just portions of what Jesus was trying to tell them. We see in scripture, again and again, as if Christ is repeating himself but using different metaphors or parables to enlighten them as to what is coming. Yet, although it’s easy for us to see, they never seem to grasp what Jesus is trying to convey to them. It isn’t until the cold, steel door of death slams shut do they finally realize the grim mortality of what it was Christ tried to say. It was in the silence of those three long days that their minds must have retraced every step of every dusty road they had traveled, trying to understand what had happened and if it was all for naught? How so like those three days are those when we are forced by illness or injury to lie in repose, held captive by our recovery as our mind is free to roam.

Do we ever consider what our past lives have been for and if we too had lived all for naught, but in a very different manner than those early disciples? Or maybe, you’re one of the few that have lived your life already living for God. What would you give to relive an hour in your memory’s history, to be with that dearest grandparent one more time, to hold that child that left this world too soon, or perhaps to hold the hand of that loved one that slipped away in a tragic accident? These are all the things we can understand, but to know what it was to walk with God, there were only twelve that knew that feeling. Imagine what they would have given to go back one more time? What would you give to spend a minute in the presence of Christ himself while he was fully human and fully God?

But they were blessed to have a second chance.

The grave could not hold the Son of God, and from the day of his resurrection to the day of his ascension, you can bet there wasn’t a moment with him that wasn’t cherished beyond measure by each of the surviving disciples. Yet, it couldn’t last forever.

There in that upper room, when the last of the forty days of His resurrection had come to an end, when they all waited for something Jesus had said would come, but again, they could not understand still. It was when the day of Pentecost came, and the tongues of fire came down from Heaven, landing upon each of them, empowering them beyond what was mortally possible. They left that chamber changed men, never to fear the world around them again. It was from this revelation that understanding that they could never go back, nor should they, for their future was preaching the story of Jesus Christ. It was from that blast of the Holy Spirit, a whirlwind of a revival, that the news, story, and faith of Christianity burst forth, spreading across continents, to finally circle the globe.

As we face a world that seems to spin a little more out of control every day, know that we needn’t look back for comfort anymore. We have also, like those Apostles, been given a second chance. Our hope is in the future. So, if you don’t know Jesus Christ, find someone that does and ask them to show you the way, the truth, and the light, and watch what happens to your world.

If nothing else, open the Bible to the book of Romans and read chapter 10, preferably starting at verse nine. Maybe then, you will finally read why Christ died for us, and perhaps then you will see why true believers do nothing of themselves.

Thanks be to God.

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Red Pill or Blue Pill?

by Timothy W. Tron – Feb. 12, 2022

In C.S. Lewis’ work, “The Weight of Glory,” he asks a very pertinent question that we seem to be facing more and more each day in that, “How do we decide what is good or evil? The usual answer is that we decide by conscience. But probably no one thinks now of conscience as a separate faculty, like one of the senses. Indeed, it cannot be so thought of. For an autonomous faculty like a sense cannot be argued with; you cannot argue a man into seeing green if he sees blue. But the conscience can be altered by argument; and if you did not think so, you would not have asked me to come and argue with you about the morality of obeying the civil law when it tells us to serve in the wars. Conscience, then, means the whole man engaged in a particular subject matter.

But even in this sense, conscience still has two meanings. It can mean (a) the pressure a man feels upon his will to do what he Thinks is right; (b) his judgment as to what the content of right and wrong are. In sense (a) conscience is always to be followed. It is the sovereign of the universe, which “if it had power as it has right, would absolutely rule the world.” It is not to be argued with, but obeyed, and even to question it is to incur guilt. But in sense (b) it is a very different matter. People may be mistaken about wrong and right; most people in some degree are mistaken. By what means are mistakes in this field to be corrected?”[1]

Then, when we contrast Lewis’ words to the account in the Gospel of John, when the Scribes and the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery and placed her before him, planning to accuse him of judging, we see how the conscious can be a powerful force. It is a crucial aspect that many overlook.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”[2]

Why did they depart beginning at the eldest? Were there mistakes they realized that needed to be corrected? When we read this line of scripture we get the feeling that the older Pharisees immediately recognized their own sin and, in so doing, were shamed into dropping their figurative stones of accusation and leaving the temple.

But again, I ask, “Why did the old men leave first and not the young?”

When presentations to an audience are given, it is widely known that the younger the general age of the listeners, to a point, the quicker and more amplified is their reaction to what is being delivered. So, how was it that those who usually took longer to respond would leave first? Should they not have spent time trying to recall all those years of living in sin? Or were they deciding upon the options – fleeing would be dropping the charges on a slam-dunk case, essentially saying that this unlearned teacher was right? Saving face must have been another reason not to exit because doing so was only confirming the speaker’s own reversal of accusatorial questioning.

To answer these questions, we must look deeper into scriptures and understand what those Pharisees would have known and to consider that the power of the Holy Spirit was indeed at work.

We start at the beginning, when God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”[3]

Up until that point, man’s consciousness was only aware that he was alive, awake, and able to tend to the garden of Eden. There was no need to understand beyond what God knew. This freedom of will, the ability to choose between obeying a simple command, was man’s gift – to do with it as he pleased. But when they partook of the tree, “Seeing that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise,”[4] they suddenly became aware of their nakedness, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.”[5]

Not only had they now broken God’s commandment but they also became the cause of the first physical death. God made the first blood sacrifice to cover their sins when he provided them “coats of skins, and clothed them.”[6] As the natural man develops, we can now see how one physically matures. In children or childlike nature, we see innocence. The desires of the flesh are not understood until the age of puberty. When the growth hormones kick in, and suddenly our childhood playmate, sweet little Susie, has curves we men never noticed before, and something inside us starts to smolder, like kindling that was dry and brittle, waiting for the spark to ignite. A beautiful body, free of cumbersome coverings God had made, and with it, a place of such beauty and profound richness that man could have literally lived forever. They were fully mature and with a knowledge probably far exceeding that of today’s man. They understood that God’s command came with a price, for he didn’t simply say “Do not eat of the tree,” but rather, he told them the consequence that would occur if they did, “You will die.” Yet, the disobedience, that choice to decide to go against God’s will, his one and only rule, brought forth retribution for all mankind.

It would take the Grace of God to save us from ourselves.

Those Pharisees who had cornered Jesus in the temple that morning were suddenly made aware of their own judgment of the flesh. The simple statement, “He that is without sin among you, let he first cast a stone at her,” reminded them of their mortal shortcoming. The adultery, the sin of the flesh, brought about an accusation based on the Mosaic law, yet those who judged were no better. A sudden conviction of their own conscious shook them to their core. Alone, a conviction of one’s conscious can be humbling, but when that sense is in the presence of God, it becomes enhanced, amplified to a level that must have been unbearable.

Now, let’s focus on the younger men who were with the accusers. Were they lingering longer because they had less sin to fear? Or were they following the lead of their elders? Or was it possible that the next generation doesn’t have enough consciousness to know when to leave or stay?

“What do you mean by that,” you might ask?

1 Cor.8:7-12 “Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.”

Think about how the world is trying to reshape consciousness. From the video game addictions to just how we are being controlled through social media, we are constantly being bombarded by the growing presence of AI. The movie “The Matrix” has an almost cult following among our youth. In it, humanity exists as a level of consciousness connected by a supercomputer, plugged into every human so that their collective consciousness is one. Our youth have already begun to question if the reality we see is really the real thing – red pill (reality) or blue pill (to live in the fabricated world of The Matrix)?

Which pill do we choose?

When left to the powers of their own natural instinct, men are carnally minded and think in linear terms. They follow their “gut” instincts, allowing the world to influence their decision-making. We can predict from their past behaviors what their future actions will become. Artificial Intelligence (AI)  is based on this assumption. The Oxford Languages definition of AI is “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”[7]

Does the next generation have enough consciousness to know when to leave or when to stay? Those in the temple that day tarried. Did they lack the same level of conviction? Are they representative of our youth today? What will be the driving consciousness to the next generation? Will they rely on AI to give them the answer?

Rosalind Picard of MIT warns, ““The greater the freedom of a machine, the more it will need moral standards.” [8]

Left to our own devices, we will find comfort in those images, songs, and pages of information that AI will feed us. Unfortunately, the more we allow the input, the more we go down that path, being led to a destination that is less than desirable. We become like an opioid addict, requiring more of what the world has to offer until we diminish the very consciousness meant to govern our will.

We need to wake up and realize that we must make our own decisions and not be led as animal is to slaughter. We’ve been given the means to know the truth, for it is by the Word of God that we can find comfort, hope, and truth. The Bible is one of the most precious gifts we have. We must not let the world change that.

God created man in his image so that being human is more than just having knowledge wisdom, but the conscious sets us apart from his other creations. Through our consciousness, we can do his will. Through this God-given capacity, we are capable of knowing right from wrong because each of us is a free moral agent.

Which pill will you choose, red or blue?

When those Pharisees turned and left the temple that day, had they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, and were they suddenly and completely awakened to who Jesus really was, the Son of God?

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,”[9]

Someday, we shall know the answer.

Thanks be to God.


[1] The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses. Copyright © 1949, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

[2] John 8:7-9 KJV

[3] Genesis 2:16-17 KJV

[4] Genesis 3:6 KJV

[5] Genesis 3:7 KJV

[6] Genesis 3:21

[7] https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/

[8] http://truthreallymatters.com/wordpress/

[9] Romans 9:1 KJV

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This Little Light of Mine

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

Tonight, as I pray for all those people in my life, both within reach, and those distant, it is as if there is a never-ending list. Yet, as countless as the stars are in the sky, the Lord knows each of them by name. For each soul that finds its way onto my finite list, there are so many more that our Savior knows, and his grace emanates forth like one star shining onto the next until his list to us appears infinite.  And in this manner, we are found like the newborn foal in the dewy morning grass, helpless, ambling into an unknown future. Our ship’s sails may be full, but the rudder, the part with which we steer, seems inadequate for the vessel for which we have been endowed. The greater the berth, the more we are expected to manage – yet, even in the best of times, we can be overwhelmed with the blessings upon which we have been bestowed. The cargo for which we carry is that of being someone to whom others can turn, the light which shineth forth as does the natural world, also attracts that of the spiritual. Those with darkened hearts, those with diminished souls cling to us like a life support. We become the flame to the moth, so to speak. We know deep inside this shell of humanity that we are not worthy, and if we are even more abound in our faith, we know that it is He that worketh through us whom they seek.

Night Sky – by Timothy W. Tron, 2020

On a dark night, over 2,000 years ago, the stars above played an integral part of our Messiah’s birth. As part of our Men’s Connection Bible study, this morning we watched the very well written and presented movie, “The Star of Bethlehem.”[1] As we marveled at the details with which the show’s presenter depicted his case, in the back of my mind, there was a little voice wondering about all the other brilliance and imagery to which he did not mention. While science and mathematics can depict with uncanny accuracy the actual account of how the star of Bethlehem came to be, there is another side of the story where man’s intuition can never reach – that of the un-natural, the spiritual, and the Godly. For as Jesus told the Pharisees, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only.[2] There in that night sky, not only was the star of Bethlehem showing the way, but there was another phenomenon taking place. As the shepherds stood with their flocks, there was, as they put it, a multitude of angels that illuminated the sky beyond their ability to describe in human terms. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”[3] As those men in the field would later testify to Luke, not alone, but several eyewitnesses would attest, a luminescence far beyond that of what said star was already providing shone about them. It was so brilliant that it literally wrought their hearts with fear and trembling. We can see this again throughout scripture when man finds himself in the presence of an Almighty being, be it an Angel of the Lord or God himself.  But Luke goes on to reveal how much more these shepherds were afforded that precious night. As if heaven had taken pause and the entirety of heaven ascended to earth to witness the birth of God in the flesh, the multitude of angels filled the sky. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven,[4] As those lowly shepherds stook quaking in amidst their flocks, in awe of the presence of something no one before, nor anyone since had ever witnessed, they were given the message of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

If you lived the rest of your life after such an event, that moment, that place in time and those words would surely never leave you. Had those ancient Jews been more mindful of the scriptures and voices of the prophets, they too would have been standing alongside those men in the fields. But alas, as God would intend it to be, their hearts would be hardened, and the image of the Almighty in the form of a helpless child, not the conquering King they had imagined would be the order for all time.

While we often find comfort in science and numerical evidence when it can back up those words that are encased within the covers of the book with the inscription, “Bible,” we must be reminded that this is only a minutia of detail to which we are afforded. The natural order and what man can fully understand are, but an infinitesimal part of all that God can do and provide. When we seek out those stories of old and find the infinite being allowing himself to become finite, the flesh, we for a moment can comprehend what he speaks. But as those Jews of old discovered, there was much more to that earthly mission than what humankind had anticipated.

There amongst those beautiful deep space nebulae from which the Hubble Space Telescope can provide to our vast array of scientific academia, we can find tiny lights that appear to be stars. They are, in fact, billions of other galaxies with billions more stars within them. There seems to be no end to what God’s creation can and will reveal. When we take the time to study the word to which we were given, the Comforter as Jesus told his disciples, we can find traces, vague footprints of angelic beings for which there is no understanding, no mathematical equation that can explain within the scope of human interpretation. It is then, when we realize the limits of our own being that someday our soul may inhabit a place we cannot begin to imagine, that we start to fathom the endless capacity of God. It is then that we understand how faith really works.

He must increase that we may decrease. And when we finally come to understand this, we will then begin to open our eyes to a new realization – we are nothing without Him.

Give thanks for all that you have, my friend, and pray for those whom you know and for those who don’t. From our little lights, we emanate out to others until we eventually become a greater light that makes all the difference in this world. So that someday, we too shall be one with the light of the world.

For we were once darkness, but now we are light, live as children of the light.”[5]

Thanks be to God.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OaVLA27V0s, ITN Movies, 2007, From Producer Stephen   McEveety (The Passion of the Christ)

[2] John 5:44 KJV

[3] Luke 2:9 KJV

[4] Luke 2:13-15 KJV

[5] Eph. 5:8 KJV

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An Evening from the Porch

The evening sky was muted. A serenity had bequeathed the mountainside below the Cone Manor, a living museum that sits above Blowing Rock, NC., just off the Blueridge Parkway. After having just finished my run, it was the cool-down time. Dusk had fallen, and the last vestiges of the golden rays of sunlight had departed from the distant peaks. Now, the gray sullenness that precedes the nightfall enveloped the stately grounds. Gone were all of the holiday weekend visitors. In their vacuum, a welcome stillness permeated the air.

From where I stood on the front porch steps overlooking the vast forest, falling away unto the breath of the shimmering waters of the lake, a calm overtook me. It was as if the place were all my own.

In my mind, my thoughts wandered back to when the house had been occupied by its original inhabitants. Thinking unto myself as if I were one of them, “How might the evening unfold?” Supper now complete, one was free to walk out upon the front porch and purview one’s holdings. Inside, the muffled sounds of the kitchen staff clearing away the table could be heard. Outside, the calls of the night begin to waft upon the gentle breeze – whippoorwills and nightingales begin their evening symphonies.

It is then, in the moment, that you realize the difference between then and now.

There is no T.V. blaring the eternal, never ceasing sensationalized news story. There is no rampant shrill of amplified cacophony coming from various entertainment devices. There are no people with heads bent in apparent submissive prayer – their blue-lit faces reflecting the stolid control as their eyes glaze over from countless hours of overuse.

No, there is nothing here now but a sense of serenity.

Before all this, there was much more.

An evening stroll after dinner allowed for reflection of the day’s work. There, floating upon the mountain air, were the soft, gentle sounds of a piano. The melody of “Ada Plays – from Cold Mountain[1] toils in my head – a simpler time, a gentler time. Later, as the light fails from the sky, one shall retire inside. There, sheltered from the chilly night air, a good book from the personal library might carry one until the bedtime hours approach. Perhaps a letter to a distant acquaintance is necessary, so you sit at your desk, under the flickering light of lamp or candle, and begin scribing pen to paper. You pause between dips of your pen’s head into the inkwell and reflect upon the words freshly poured out onto the page. The sullenness of time grips your heart like the dark reaches of the night, which fast approaches.

Outside your window, a hoot owl calls, and you are reminded of a carriage ride up to the top of Flat Top where you and this friend, to whom you now write, watched God paint another beautiful sunset. Your concentration is broken when the sweet, delectable smells of something baking in the kitchen reaches you. Suddenly, your stomach answers as a momentary frill of joy leaps as if to answer. Later, as you sip warm milk as your palette is being sated by the fresh, hot apple pie, you peruse through scriptures. The late evening snack just before bed refreshes your spirit as the words of the Holy Spirit begin to speak to you. The two combine in your soul, and for a moment, there is nothing in this world that could make you feel any closer to heaven. A warmth envelopes your being as if the hand of God has wrapped around you. The Psalmist words come to mind, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” The hoot owl calls once more as if to confirm those seemingly random thoughts. For a moment, you ponder the future and what it might hold for you and your family. As you lay your fork down beside the remaining crumbs on the fine china dessert plate, your eyes grow weary, and you momentarily nod off.

In the fog of a future time, you can see a world in turmoil. It is as if there is no peace in that far distant place. It is as if mankind has given in to all the lusts of the flesh. Your heart quickens, and God speaks to you, “But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God.”

You awaken from the dream with a start. So troubled are you by the vision that you seek to find comfort before trying to resign to sleep for fear of where your thoughts may continue. Opening the book of Ezekiel, you find the rest of the scripture, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”[2] Your heart is calmed, and you close the well-worn pages of the Bible, retiring to your bed-chamber.

Just before falling asleep, you think to yourself, “How could anyone turn away from the Lord so much so that they would become detestable in their own abominations to the point that God would pour out his wrath upon them?” The white linen drapes gently move from the cold night’s air wafting through your open window. You pull the feather comforter up to your chin and exhale a contemplative, but comforting sigh. The warmth of the bedsheets warding off the crisp coolness of the coming fall reminds you of God’s love. “How much greater is He than we shall ever know,” are the last thoughts you whisper to yourself. Eyes heavy with sleep send you off, and you become one with a peaceful eternity.

While we may not live in a time where we can walk away from the bitter influences of mankind’s own self-demising attributes, be they through media, electronics, or the immediate world in which he lives, we can always seek shelter from the storm where we have always been able to go – to God. Seek out the simpler ways in life, and find time to turn off all that noise.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him,…”[3]

The Cone Manor became the backdrop for a peaceful evening that I had not anticipated, yet was a welcome respite from recent times. Too often, we fail to stop and pause in this busy life. It is when we stop and wait for the Lord that we are most often blessed beyond measure.

Yesterday evening, I felt a calling, a still small voice, if you will, to go back up to that porch from whence this tale began and take a picture to go along with the story. The storms had passed, and there was the chance that I might be afforded an unforgettable scene from which to draw. Upon my arrival, lo, there on the porch, I found a young man scribing in a journal next to an open bible. He was seated in a foldable camp chair he had brought along. The Park Service had removed all the rocking chairs from the porch because of COVID. Curious, I asked as to what he was reading. He responded, ‘the Bible.”

“What book and chapter, I asked further?”

“The gospel of Luke,” he replied hesitantly.

“A great book indeed,” and from there, a conversation began. I soon learned that the young man was searching for answers. His faith journey had hit a point where he knew not which way to turn. It was then, I realized why the voice had said to come. Retrieving a camp chair of my own from the car and a snack, we spent the remainder of the evening until dark, sitting there on that antiquated porch. It was as if the previous tale had come to life. The color slowly faded from the sky as clouds waltzed past us, following the contour of the valleys below. There, two men, previously total strangers, became brothers through a shared faith. Questions were asked, and questions were answered. Like the Apostles to their own Disciples, the passing of one’s knowledge of God’s word onto the next generation transpired in a place fitting for its reception.

It was a blessing far more generous than one might envision on an evening such as this.

No matter the noise around you, seek Him, and he will find you.

Walk away into a place where that still small voice can find you once again.

Thanks be to God.


[1] “Ada Plays”, Gabriel Yared, from the movie Cold Mountain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q94_xysbTQ

[2] Ezekiel 11:20-21 KJV

[3] 1 King 19:11-13 KJV

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A Butterfly Cloud of Faith

We awoke this morning to a blissful 64 degrees here in the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains. It was indeed a long-awaited respite from the summer’s toils. Although the sky was overcast, the soothing temperatures allowed for a more leisurely feel to the walk to church. Along the way, the bountiful colors of the wildflowers began to catch my attention. “Had they been there all summer and I just missed them amid the turmoil of heat and fatigue,” I pondered as my walking stick continued to make the rhythmic knock upon the trail? At first the red of the Cardinal flower caught my eye, but the farther I walked and became aware, the more colors that began to reveal themselves until the full spectrum of the rainbow was pulsating within view; the Vincas, Violas, Orchids, and Lilies of all shapes, sizes, and varieties. Pausing to catch my mental breath, my mind began to drift back to another hike in a far distant land. The place where the 23rd Psalm seemed to come alive; the Germanesca Valley in Italy.

The Germanesca Valley on the trail approaching Col-du-Pis.

My heart began to race as my thoughts returned to the life-changing scenery we had experienced on our Alpine journey.

Like a wounded warrior returning from battle, my body fought to keep the path of descent. In our unencumbered ascent up the mountain, we had seen with beholding eyes unspeakable beauty, flowers of every color of the visible spectrum. We had just scaled up the Germanesca Valley in the Cottien Alps to a point not far from the summit of Col-du-Pis. The altitude was challenging alone, reaching slightly above 9,000 feet in elevation. The thin air caused us to breathe while we walked as if we were running at full speed.  Each new turn in the trail unfolded another revelation of God’s creation, one that we had heretofore never witnessed. But in our haste and unimagined divine adventure, we had not accounted for the human element which so often detains us, shackling us to man’s law; time. From unimaginable heights we now scurried, our bodies weakened by the lack of oxygen battled to keep pace with the spirit within. In our haste, we pressed the pace around another massive boulder only to find a spectacle beyond comprehension. Looking back, had we not been suffering from the consequences of poor planning, or rather, spontaneously inspired destinations, we might have taken the moment we were about to encounter more slowly, more diligently. We are often reminded in those fleeting few seconds before death that events you thought could never be captured return in one glorious review. What was thought lost returns with a voracious message of what was most important.

How many times had the disciples asked themselves the same thing? Had they only taken more time to appreciate the precious little time they were allotted to spend with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, how much more would they have understood? Jesus had tried to make them realize again and again.

“Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand…. I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am.” – John 13:7,19.

How many more questions they could have asked? How much more faith they might have found had they only known?

“Why weren’t they warned,” you ask?

Jesus foretold his death and resurrection on more than one occasion.  “Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” – Matthew 20:17-19

Yet, they too were so pressed for time of this world, trying to make it day-to-day in circumstances under which they had little to no control. Albeit they were in the presence of Jesus, they too found it difficult, seeing so many miracles and hearing so much, that there was little time to take it all in and absorb it fully. After a while, their human bodies began to tire. The weariness of the journey was more than many could physically take; the emotional and spiritual strain alone of having one’s mind stretched beyond belief each day would be enough to cause a mental breakdown. Yet, Christ afforded them through his divine power the ability to understand, as he opened their minds as only God could do. “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”-Matthew 13:9-11

Enthralling scenes that no human could imagine took the disciples breaths away; again and again. They could never dream of what was just around the bend.

Just beyond the shadows of the granite edifice from around the curve in the path lay a patch of grasses covered with wildflowers, colors as vivid as the cloudless azure blue sky above. Yet, unlike anything we had yet to discover this day of miraculous discovery on the mountain, there was something unreal; something that pulsated from this patch of living color. As we neared, our shadows ran before us, touching the breathing spectrum of life. Without warning, the colors began to rise in place, as one. Our mere mortal eyes couldn’t understand what we were seeing; yet, we saw something beyond explanation. We inched closer and soon realized the cloud of flowers were hundreds of tiny butterflies, each matching the fauna of their selected petals below. As if their spirit could sense our breathlessness, before we could capture the image for all to see, the cloud of cuspid elegance dispersed into nothingness in a cloudburst of flight. Pausing, my traveling companion and I simply looked at one another in awe of God’s unending magnificence.

Numb from our weakened physical condition, we shook our heads and pressed on. Had we been less hurried, less concerned about our fear of missing the bus, would we have been able to capture the magnificent event? Would we have found the moment more impressive at that instant than we had otherwise seemed to feel considering our weariness and exhausted conditions? Each of us had witnessed something that would forever be part of something special, something that would allow us to forever change our perspective of life.

It would take many months for the scene to return to our minds in as an epiphany of revelation.

How do you describe the indescribable to someone?

How do you share a vision or testimony to someone that hasn’t shared the same path as yourself or has walked in a field of wildflowers?

More than likely, your answer is that it is nearly impossible. If the person you are sharing with has never had a similar experience in life or has never found themselves able to question their own spirituality, then they probably will not understand how to relate to what you are describing. Just as Jesus fought to make his disciples aware, against even the most obvious, in-your-face statements, they continued to be confused. Up until the very day of his capture and eventual crucifixion, they had yet to come to the understanding of all that he had said. It was until after his death and resurrection did they finally begin to fathom the trail of clues their Master had provided during their earthly time together.

Likewise, we must be aware of those around us that are either knew in faith are or those who have yet to accept Christ at all. They will look at you with ears unable to hear, with eyes unable to see, and with hearts often hardened from years of hearing the very words you might say to them. It isn’t until they have walked the trail of wildflowers and seen the cloud of flowers burst open into a prolific spectrum of colorful butterflies will they finally be able to comprehend your words. In the end, it isn’t us that can come into their hearts and minds, but Christ who must be the one. Alone we are only mouthpieces. It isn’t until Christ speaks through us in spite of us can we reach the lost souls of our world.

Yes, we can never do it alone, nor are we ever alone.

Open that back door and take a walk down the nearest trail and search for God in all that you do.

You will never be disappointed, and most importantly, you may find a miraculous beauty made by our Lord that will forever change who you are.

Thanks be to God.

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The Road Taken…

Robert Frost so famously wrote in the final lines of his poem, “The Road Not Taken,” “…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Plunge Basin Trail, Linville Falls – Blueridge Parkway

As I stand at another crossroads of my own, God has prepared an unusual circumstance, in that both roads in my journey are “the one less traveled,” regardless of which one I choose. Unlike Frost’s divergence, where one path eventually proves morally significant over the other, with my choice, each has the potential to share the Word of God in the duties required. In other words, they both have the ability to become blessings to others, in that I will be serving the Lord on either journey; and that, yes, that fact truly makes all the difference.

As a matter of confirmation, I was afforded an opportunity to interview with a school the first part of this week. I had just got through sharing my testimony with a friend when the phone rang. Like Abraham at the altar, Isaac lying bound below his knife blade, the feeling of his muscles’ s tightening in his shoulders as he was about to drive the blade into his son; my path seemed perfectly clear, the decision to follow through with what God had provided was made, there was no turning back. But then, in my case, the phone rang. In Abraham’s, God sent an Angel of the Lord. The parallel, as it ran through my mind, literally made me laugh as I answered the call. The caller was from a school that I had applied for many months ago, so it was a bit of a surprise when they called Monday morning asking if I could come in Tuesday for the interview. Knowing that God has prepared one path already, I was a bit hesitant, but thought that at least I should perform my due diligence.

Was this God seeing how committed I was to finally accepting the position at the Children’s Home, and then providing me an opportunity to go on to a job that would allow me to more easily provide for my family?” “Was this like Abraham, where he could see that I was going to follow through with it, no matter the cost?”

It was with these questions in mind that I drove to the school the next day for the interview. I felt wonderful, and it was a beautiful day; clear blue skies, low humidity, and a feeling inside that God was with me, no matter what. The interview went very well, and it seemed that I was always one step ahead on the panel’s questions. They told me before I left that they would have an answer within a couple days. By the next morning, Wednesday they had made a decision; one that didn’t include me.

In many ways, the news was a relief. I thanked God out loud, for it was as if He had chosen for me. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and that being the case, would understand how hard it would be for me to decide between the two. Comforted once more that God is in control, I returned to work on the Retreat; there was always one more thing to be done.

Thursday came, and once more, there was another knock on the door.

I opened the email, and there was another opportunity to interview with another potential employer that I had applied for many weeks earlier. They had moved my application to the next round of the selection process, which meant they were giving me 72 hours to perform the interview and submit it for review. Once again, making sure I performed my due diligence, I logged into the web site on Friday and began answering the question. Before beginning, I prayed that if this was God’s way of holding the best until last, then so be it, but that I was already more than well pleased with the choice He had provided. The questions were not of the customary type, but rather, asked things like, “How do you grow and maintain your walk with Christ?” “What was your personal testimony with regard to accepting Christ, and how have you continued that walk?” In each case, there was so much I wanted to share, but the challenge was a one-minute time limit on each response. Needless to say, it took a lot of effort to pare down all that I wanted to say and get it to fit into the concise timeframe required.

Thankfully, there was no limit on the amount of time given to think about each question, and as I peered out the vista before me, I began to reflect on all that had transpired this past summer and how it had been one of the most challenging periods of waiting for God to speak to me in my life. My setting for the interview was at the Lodge, a place in our community that literally sits on top of a mountain that provides a 360-degree long-range view of mountains, as far as the eye can see. From my mountain top vantage, there was the feeling of being literally closer to God. One question after another, my reflection kept reminding me that I had never been alone, even when I felt the loneliest. Looking back, those solitary moments were steppingstones to the answers that would play out. In the waiting, there was the feeling that God was working on something big; something that would make it clear there was much to do in order to make it possible. Because, with God, nothing is impossible.

Finally, after the last question, I hit the submit button.

It was done.

Have you ever completed something and wondered how well it went? Did you get the sudden feeling that there many things you hadn’t said that you could have? These questions and others began to form in my mind, but as they did, there was the comforting hand of God upon me, consoling me, assuring me that this was all that was needed. There was nothing left to be done.

Lowering my head in prayer, I began to thank God for the opportunity, regardless if I got the position or not. In my heart, it felt as if God was allowing me to see that He was covering all the bases. Should I finally, and ultimately land at the Children’s Home, I will have the comforting sense of satisfaction knowing that all the other doors of possible paths had been covered and provided. Each one, even though they chose another candidate, allowed me to see that He was listening and that he had put me where he needed me the most. In the end, although I initially felt like Abraham at the altar, I realized that God was just letting me know that there should be no other questions about his desire for me to be where he wants me to serve.

Talk about a feeling of God’s hand upon your very heart; there is no greater satisfaction in this world than knowing you are being cared for by the Almighty God.

In every step of this long summer’s journey, as my ability to provide for my family has diminished; when there was no more job, when we lost our medical insurance when health issues began to arise, God was with us.  He was providing for us in each time of need; albeit finances, medical insurance, health, and strength.

The scripture from 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 keeps coming back to me. It can best summarize the recent course of events in, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

I must decrease, so that he may increase,” said John the Baptist, and for my walk of faith, it is the same. “When we are at our weakest, he is strongest,” wrote the Apostle Paul, and it has never been clearer in my own life.

Where the next few days, weeks, or months will take me, I cannot say.

But one thing I do know, wherever He leads, I will follow.

And in that, we can most assuredly say, “Thanks be to God.”

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Your Raise Me Up

His hands were calloused from years of labor; working on the farm, and now this, building the Retreat. Scars covered is arms like roadmaps of a tumultuous life. One stone after another he carefully picked from the pile of rocks, rotating it in his hands before finding the match for which it had been chosen. Around him, the forest sang along to the music to which he worked. The man had a special affinity to listening to music while he toiled; it made him slip away from the pain of the job at hand and allowed his mind to float from one life’s precious memory after another.

Music had always held a special place in his heart.

There were times when he was at work, thinking to himself that after the next song, he would stop for a much-needed break. Inadvertently, the next song would speak to him, keeping him enraptured. Unable to break the bond, he pushed his body onward; sometimes to the point of near exhaustion.

Today it was like that once more, as one rock after another was placed onto the chimney. The strains of gospel songs were compelling him to recall scriptures that matched the lyrics of what was being sung. The hum of the cement mixer blended into the background while his mind continued to buoy from the Word of God and back again. It wasn’t until the song, “You Raise Me Up,” came on that he had to pause.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains,

  You raise me up to walk on stormy seas,

   I am strong when I am on your shoulders,

   You raise me up to more than I can be.”

As the captivating voices of the Celtic Woman drifted into his consciousness, he suddenly realized he was being transported to one of the most special places in his heart; those distant Alpine Peaks of the Waldensian Valleys. He paused, looking up through the canopy of the forest to the azure blue sky. In his mind, he was back on that day, when he and a young pastor he still only knew as Stanley, had stood on that peak facing the valley below. The view was of a breathtaking vista in which God’s craftsmanship was on full display. The clear blue sky hung like a shroud above the temple of those fateful valleys below. There, where so many had lost their lives because of their faith, the depth of time and wails of mournful cries combined into a bittersweet scene that stretched as far as the eye could see.

They, both he and Stanley, had felt the hand of God upon them that day; so much so, each took measure to make mention to the other of how this day may never come again in their lives; at least not in this one; not in this manner. Each man knew in his heart that this possibly might be the only time on this side of Heaven in which they would feel the presence of God so strongly.

The feeling that remained in the man’s heart from that day had not abated; but rather, had only caused his faith to grow stronger. The lyrics in the song made perfect sense as the ladies continued to repeat the chorus, “You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.” Knowing that this time in his life was as if he was in a boat being tossed upon a stormy sea. Yet, in his faith, he knew that God was in control. The door to the future would open when God had finished the preparations. The man’s faith in Jesus Christ allowed him to walk upon that stormy sea, fearing not that he may sink. Unlike the Apostle Peter, he was sustained by all that he had learned of his walk in faith from that epic mountaintop experience.

It was then he realized, the work that he did was just as his forefathers had done back in those valleys so many centuries before; laying stone. At one point, they were known around the world for their skill in stone masonry, among many of the other spiritual gifts they possessed. The song interrupted his momentary epiphany with the words, “I am strong when I am on your shoulders.”

It was all becoming clearer. Like the low hanging clouds that had obscured the nearby peak on that fateful day, when they parted, it was as if a new revelation began to take hold. Like their ancient faith, like one carved out of stone, they never gave in to the demands that they relinquish their belief in God. In their hearts, they knew that God had given them a special gift when the disciples made their way to these valleys and spoke the words that gave them hope, the words that gave them salvation. From that day on, they vowed to never let those precious scriptures leave their hearts. Memorizing them so that they could never lose them, they would pass them down from generation to the next until they had become an oddity in the annals of mankind. Fro this they would be sought for persecution and atrocities few have known since. When they had been persecuted, it only made them grow closer in their walk. When their feet were literally held to the flames, they worshipped and sang songs in their dying breaths.

The gravity of the moment made him find a seat and pause even more.

Martin Luther spoke of the power of music in our faith when he wrote, ““We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. No greater commendation than this can be found — at least not by us. After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music.”

When I find myself seeking answers, listening for God to speak, many times it comes in the form of music; either a song or an instrumental piece. Many has been the time when there seemed to be no direction to my journey, or there was no clear sign from which to act, and without intentionally thinking about the impasse, a song would play through the speakers; there would come an answer.

A chill passed over the man’s body- the feeling of the Holy Spirit passing through him- as the next verse nearly took his breath, “You raise me up to more than I can be.”

That morning, the scripture from Hebrews 6:9 stood out, like a beacon. “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

Even though the future was uncertain, he knew that with faith, better things awaited. He again thought of that journey to the distant mountain, one in which he could not afford, yet God provided. A journey in which he never dreamed of making, but there he was. Again, and again, there was the miraculous being played out before him in such dramatic, demanding fashion that there would not be enough time to write them all down.

As he sat thinking of all that had gone on since that day with Stanley, he realized the future was just as unknown today as it was then. But as the Word of God had told us, with the faith of your salvation, we can trust that in the end, God’s will shall be done.

Through all of his life’s trials, God had been continually molding him, shaping him into the faithful believer he was today. There were scars, both inside and out, that were reminders of that journey. Through Jesus Christ, he had been made more than he could ever thought possible. Once he left behind the chains of sin, his world changed. It was as if he had been reborn. All things became new, and with new eyes, he could see like never before.

The man stood as the song ended, and before the next one could begin, picked up the next stone and walked toward the growing wall before him. Where it was to go, the Master’s hand would tell.

With time, we shall know the answers to the journey; with faith, we will persevere to the end.

Thanks be to God.

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An Affliction of Conviction

by Timothy W. Tron

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

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

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

11th Annual Appalachian State Fiddler’s Convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

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

Thanks be to God.

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The Coat of Many Colors

Introduction:

Joseph’s coat of many colors came to my attention yesterday while working on the fireplace in my Spiritual Retreat. As I work, I like to listen to music. My selection for the day was classic country. Dolly Parton’s like-named song was playing through the speakers, and the thought of my Action Research project for Learning Theory class came to mind. When Dolly proudly wore her coat of many colors to school, made from rags her mother had carefully sewn together by hand, the other children teased her to the point she felt ashamed. In other words, they bullied her. Trying to fight back, she tried to explain how her mother had told her the story of Joseph while she painstakingly worked on the coat each night. Unable to convey the full context of the story from Genesis 37 to her peers, they continued to mock and deride her. It was no use; they just couldn’t understand.

As in the story of Joseph, his father, Jacob, gave him a coat of many colors. This was the story Dolly’s mother had told her about while making the special coat. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son since he had been born in his old age. Giving him the coat of many colors was viewed as giving him the birthright, which was against tradition. Normally, the birthright went to the firstborn son. This act of giving the coat to Joseph enraged his brothers to the point that, “They could not speak peaceably to him.” – Genesis 37:4[1] In other words, they began to chide him with hurtful rhetoric, much like Dolly experienced; however, this was harassment was driving the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum; that of jealousy.

Not only do we see how peer pressure can cause children to become introverted[2], but we can also see how appearances and dress too often dictate what is the social norm for the school culture. Sadly, this ethos can be influenced by negative factors such as Gangster Rap, social media, and overly aggressive video Games, such as Soldier of Fortune and Fortnight. When perceptions turn into actions, either verbal or physical, they have gone too far. In the story of Joseph, we find the extreme result that we fear most; when bullying becomes more than painful words.

Poverty is still prevalent in our school district. The poor of the Appalachians is unfortunately very much alive and well today. However, today they exist from diverse backgrounds; they are paradoxically the human coat of many colors. In my own classroom, I have seen bullying against the socioeconomic (both poor and rich), social status, and sexual orientation. All have come in a variety of forms and from often, the most unexpected antagonist.

Although these lyrics in Dolly’s song and the story of Joseph’s coat appear seemingly simple, if we look at them more deeply, we can find the effects of bullying on several layers (both victim and perpetrator), their triggers, and the culture they breed in our classrooms.

 

Triggers:

In an interview[3] about the story behind the song, Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton revealed that the song was indeed autobiographical; the small girl in the song was her. We find in the song how Dolly was hurt by the teasing of her fellow students. Some people may conclude that this is only a natural attitude; just children being children. Yet, when we take a closer look at their actions, we can see how this type of teasing can be construed as bullying. A new step between teasing and bullying has been identified as a ‘micro-aggression.’ It can best be described as this, “Trigger material is barely a whisper away from ‘trigger words’—many of which supply the content of ‘micro-aggressions,’ and all of them might readily be placed under the aegis of bullying.”[4]

However, even though she had been shamed, Dolly didn’t give up. Trying to overcome her attackers, Dolly took the high road and tried to convey to them a higher purpose in the coat’s meaning. As the lyrics tell us, “that a person is only poor if they choose to be.” This likely was a response to them accusing her family of living in poverty because of her coat made of rags. In high school, social status often dictates what click or circle of friends you keep. Even in Dolly’s childhood, children were already being taught, whether at home or through advertising, that it wasn’t popular to be poor. Rather, they were already trying to shed their rural traditions for the sake of “appearing” to be more city-fied. Today, we still see some of that, students trying to hide their poverty. A new status of being proud of your rural roots has risen in the past decade. Some students purposely where their square-toed boots to school, with camouflaged coats and hats to match. However, rural boots and belt buckles can lead to triggers for some students as well.

In my own classroom there is another trigger in our day that was not an issue in Dolly’s school; sexual self-identification. The rainbow colors of both Dolly’s and Joseph’s coat could easily be seen as a metaphor for the rainbow symbol used by the LGBTQ community today. Hate groups and related mentalities often seek out these representations as targets to whom they are repulsed, and subsequently attracted to attack. What is often said at home is ingrained into the child’s mind. Acting out these aggressions, as so often we find in bullying, the multi-colored coat could then easily be seen as a representation of something it was not intended; regardless, the actual intent of said clothing.

In Joseph’s situation, the coat represented their birthright being given to the “favorite son.” This trigger brought out the most vehement personalities of sibling rivalry.

Who’s to say that the students at Dolly’s school weren’t jealous too because of Dolly’s special coat? We could easily discern from the language of her song that the more she tried to tell them why it was special, it just added fuel to their fire, flaming their jealousy all the more. How many of those jealous students came from broken families and never had anyone love them enough to make something for them; especially a coat that took many hours to sew together? To cover for their own insecurities, they took it out on the poor, little pretty country girl who glowed in her new coat.

Another trigger that is often missed is that from cultural ignorance. In my class, there was an incident when one of my impoverished students, one that was known for struggling academically, said something to one of my other impoverished minority students. Each child was from poor families but had dramatically diverse ethnic backgrounds. The one non-ethnic male student made an off-handed statement to the other while working on a project together. The student was so ashamed, she wrote a note and gave it to me after class. It was a shining moment for her, in that although afraid to meet her bully head-on, she still had the courage to come forward. The male student who had said the remarks had only repeated words that he had heard in his home environment so many times, that he didn’t see them as hurtful. Sadly, being from some of the remote sections of the mountains doesn’t afford the opportunity to know people from other parts of the world, except through the lenses of their own rural backgrounds, which more often than not include stereotypical ideologies. After I had the opportunity to talk to the perpetrator about his language, he then understood how his words had been painfully received, and he was sorry. The victim eventually forgave him, but in her own time, and not as a result from any persuasion on my part. In a loving environment, forgiveness is possible when we set the example for others to follow.

 

 

Perpetrator (the Bully):

In both cases of Dolly and Joseph, we don’t actually know the bullies first-hand; rather, we only are aware of the consequences resulting from their actions. In each circumstance, we can make some valid assumptions based on what we know about how bullies are created and how their actions are perpetuated onto their victims.[5] As we learned in the video, bullies often take out their frustrations on easy targets. By the time most adolescents reach the secondary level of education, the bully has found the “Chronic Victim.” Both are rejected by their peers; the bully for being aggressive, the victim for being introverted and strange (the latter a more self-imposed extraction than the former). Looking at the social atmosphere from the outside, both victim and bully become connected due to their polar opposite personalities.

Personally, I can attest to this syndrome; opposites attract. Early in my own personal High School experience, I was very introverted and shy. This outcast of society mindset made me a target for bullies in school. Appearing as an easy target, they began to harass and torment me to the point I began to think of either escaping or retaliating, a common result of bullying. I eventually reached a breaking point one day when one of those bullies pushed me too far. I snapped and literally succumbed to a blinding rage that had built up inside of me for so long. At that moment, I had become like Ralphie, in the movie, “Christmas Story.”[6]

However, unlike Ralphie, who pummeled his bully, I simply hit my tormentor once, square in the face. The blow was so great that his head snapped back, then he fell forward into his plate of food on the table; out cold. I calmly walked back to my seat and sat down. It was then I began shaking from the adrenaline rush, realizing what I had done. Eventually, the bully recovered and then ran out of the lunchroom. I was horrified. I knew in my heart that at that point I was going to be called to the office and from there, all manner of trouble would ensue. The prospects of punishment from my actions began to consume me. Fearing for my academic life, I too left the lunchroom and hid out in the stairwells until the bell rang for classes to begin. Amazingly enough, I was never called to the office. None of the teachers monitoring the lunchroom reported the incident. Mind you, this was 40 years ago, back when paddling was still a valid course of corporal punishment. It was also very likely that the teaching staff attending to the lunchroom that day saw someone, the bully, finally get his just reward; one can only guess at this point.

Regardless, looking back, it was as if God had watched over me that day.

Not long after that incident, the bully began to change. He began to say hello to me in the hallways; being nice instead of intimidating. In fact, the other bullies in the school that had previously targeted me now treated me with a renewed sense of respect; not something I had looked for, but rather, something that was a result of something which I am not proud of, even today. That former bully, a year later, became a friend, and in a positive way. It was as if that moment had also transformed his life. It was much like that point in Joseph’s life when he looked up from the bottom of the well, realizing he could have easily been killed by his brothers, he realized that his life was about to change for the worse. However, as we know the rest of the story, through his forgiveness, he eventually was reunited with his brothers in dramatic fashion; one of best tear-filled scenes of the Old Testament.

Unfortunately, not all victim’s incidents turn into happy endings. Eventually, both victim and bully reach a breaking point. The bully releases their frustrations out on their victims. Meanwhile, the victim has nowhere to release their anger but inward. This combustion of emotions leads to greater “breaking points,” which we have seen turn into deadly consequences in recent years (most of the school shootings were a result of bullying victims acting out their aggressions.)

In my own classroom, I’ve seen bullies of varying degrees. One that I came to know was haunted by the loss of his father. As part of literacy in Math exercise, I had students write a Glide-Reflection of their lives. We were covering the unit on Transformations. As part of the assignment, the students were asked to write about something in their life that they lived through, that when they looked back (reflected), the could see where they were changed. The bully wrote about losing his father only a couple years before entering high school. When I read it, the stories of how he acted out against other students and teachers in other classes began to become understandable. As time would go on, I would notice days that he would appear agitated. On these days, I would pull him aside and take him out into the hallway where we would “Go for a Walk.” These are the moments that students often think they are in trouble, but after we walk out the door and I tell them they aren’t in trouble, rather, we need to walk and talk, they are instantly relieved and sometimes become emotional. It was the latter with this young man the day we took a walk after I had read his story. From that day forward, I was able to address his aggression from a different perspective. Often giving him someone to open up too allowed his frustrations to be released instead of having them build up and then vent them on another victim. We began to see a change in his attitude, and eventually, his academics began to improve.

Victim:

The victim in all of these stories, Dolly, Joseph, the minority student in my class, and myself, eventually, partially, if not fully given the time, come to understand why they were being harassed. In Joseph’s case, he finds himself at the bottom of a dry well. From the very start, he had to have felt uncomfortable when their anger began to seethe over into their language toward him. He fueled their flames, even more, when he told them of his dream, in which their sheaths made obeisance to his own sheath in the field.[7] It was at that point that their anger reached critical mass. We might ask ourselves, “Was Joseph blind to their anger?” “Was he perhaps afflicted with some form of behavior deficit, like Asperger’s or ADHD,” or was he simply so trusting in God, that he feared nothing to the point he cared little if they were mad or not? Had he reached the point of giving up, like the video, “How to Make a Bully (from Scratch)” depicted?

Consider Joseph’s plight further when he was sold into bondage and carried away into a strange land (Egypt) to become a slave to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, a captain of the guard. The essence of the victim hitting bottom could have easily been expected at this point. He could have given up. Yet, unlike what is expected of the typical victim, that of reaching a critical point of snapping, we see an unexpected twist. “And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” – Genesis 39:3.

In the case of Dolly, we don’t know if she continued to be bullied by the other students or if someone stepped in to stop it. We know that although she was victimized not only for her socioeconomic status, the color of her coat, and the fact that she was loved by her mother, she did not give up. Like many victims, she fought back by trying to explain the reason why she proudly wore her coat of many colors. Yet, like most situations of being bullied, they had no intention of listening to what she said; it wasn’t the point. Their feelings of insecurity were taken out on the poor, country girl who was loved enough for someone to hand-sew together a coat made of many pieces of cloth.

Psalms 82:4 tells us, “Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

In my classroom, the poor minority student I had mentioned previously that had been inadvertently bullied by the other impoverished student was not left without being supported in her reporting of the incident. She had been aware of the harassment and wasn’t going to take it. As was necessary, and prudent, in my school’s administrative process, I made a discipline referral for the bullying student. Before turning in the paperwork, I met with both students separately and talked to them. As expected, the male was unaware of what he said. Yet, we followed through with the punishment to be consistent (our certainty) with our severity. Each student understood that what happened was avoidable, but each child had learned from the incident, knowing that Mr. Tron was going to stand up for them, and reach out to them when they made mistakes in an effort to help them grow and to feel loved.

 

Reflections:

From Joseph’s story, we might examine how a child caught in the downward spiral of being bullied might recover once they are removed from the caustic environment. In other words, Joseph began to blossom and flourish to his potential once he was removed from the impact of being bullied.

Sadly, the bullies in Dolly’s school likely had lives torn to shreds, like the rags of Dolly’s coat had once been. Unlike Dolly, they had no one to sew their lives back together. Lost in a loveless home environment, they became bitter at the world and sought to take out their pain upon an easy target.

In Joseph’s story, we explore the context of bullying within the family and how it is not just an academic institutional problem. In Joseph’s case, we see the extreme of a mindset that not only physically acts out on their victim but further perpetuates their aggression on their victim by seeking to destroy his life and his father’s connection to his most beloved son. In so doing, they unknowingly are doing the will of God, placing Joseph in a place that will eventually save their family from starvation. Unlike many victims of bullying, Joseph’s story ends in triumph rather than tragedy.

In my own experience, I was fortunate. The effects of bullying are complex, “How bullying impacts a child is holistic.”[8] My life could have turned out differently in many aspects; had that incident been reported, had the bully been seriously injured, or if the bully not changed. At the time, it made me painfully aware that I was not in a healthy environment. Although the bully changed, my home life did not. Eventually, I would move to a strange land, like Joseph, where I too would begin to blossom. The removal from the caustic environment, which was most of my own making, would allow me to start over. I was and am blessed beyond measure.

In my own classroom, when my co-teacher and I identify the bullying activity, we address it from both perspectives. We support the victim and offer them the guidance they need to recover. We also seek to prevent them from feeling as if they might experience the issue again by creating an environment of safety and love. In the same token, we also reach out to the bully, not only to correct the behavior but find the source of the aggression and disarm it before it grows into something that cannot be controlled. In both cases, we offer a new seating arrangement if it is necessary. If counseling is needed, then we offer those resources. If simply showing love to both parties, then we do that as well.

The Response in Our Classrooms:

As teachers, being made aware of the effects of bullying, we can become the intervention for our students before they hit rock bottom, and before they reach that deadly snapping point. When we notice bullying, we can seek out each party, reaching each student, both bully, and victim, and provide the element which they both have so often been neglected: Love. To reach beyond the curriculum, we teach and seek to know the person behind the face sitting in that seat each day can make all the difference.

Often, those victims of bullying seek refuge. Our classrooms can become that safe-haven; a place they know they can find shelter from the storm of life. The cycle of being bullied can be broken, if only we seek measures to stop its continuation. It is imperative that we not only make ourselves aware of this monstrous epidemic but also educate our peers and those around us. As it has been said, “It takes a village to educate a child,”[9] we must also come together as an academic community to halt this disorder for once and for all.

My path in life has led me back to the place that I once struggled socially; high school. From having been a survivor of bullying, in some respects, I have a keen awareness of those “micro-aggressions” as Dr. Martocci pointed out. However, my role now is not that of a victim, but that of being the light to those who live in a world of darkness. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesians, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”- Eph. 5:8.

In my own classroom, being cognizant of all aspects of bullying, I’ve sought out the approach of loving both parties: bully and victim. Correcting the problem while show compassion for each has led to quick resolutions and an attitude of respect. My students know where I stand and appreciate that they are protected and loved.

My passion is my position in life; to serve. In that capacity, I now seek to be the light to those who are facing the darkness of persecution from aggressors, be that at home, school, or anywhere in between. In essence, God has put me in a place to help those in need.

 

 

 

Summary:

In summary, bullying, if allowed to go uncorrected, can have devasting, if not deadly, results. “Inability to develop socially and emotionally is affected by the bullying and impacts the child’s life in a holistic way, which is expressed in this quote, ‘It is the impact on the target and not the intent of the aggressor that matters.’”1 In today’s “Zero Tolerance,”[10] environment, my personal experience would have resulted in me having a minimum of three days Out of School Suspension (OSS). The results from that type of punishment would have had an extremely negative, and possibly tragic, rippling effect on not only my academic world but my home life as well.

In the stories of the coat of many colors, the victims had a wide range of targets upon which bullies could prey. Sadly, in many cases, our children in today’s world are the coats. There is no one simple fix for a problem that has become pervasive throughout all levels of our society, from the home to the workplace, and everywhere in between. What we should be concerned with most is how to break the cycle. The creator of “How a Bully is Made (from Scratch), probably said it best when they said that we must show both the bully and victim love; something they have lacked. Jesus tells his disciple in the Bible when asked, “What is the greatest commandment,” “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like, unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”- Matthew 22:37-39

As educators, we face a myriad of issues daily in our classrooms. Our primary focus is to educate our students. To do this, we must provide an environment that is not only safe, which allows for the Deficiency Needs of Maslow to be met[11], but also one that is free from all outside influences and distractions, which includes the effects of bullying. Beyond the curriculum we present, we must seek to understand and appreciate the background behind each soul that sits behind a desk in our rooms. There, before us, each day is the future of our society. We must learn to read, like a quarterback behind the center reading the defensive configuration before him, our students and be ready to act when we see inconsistencies in behavior. When we intervene, we halt the progress of the illness that could become a greater tragedy if left unattended. It is up to us, the teacher, to show love to all of our students, regardless of how much they test us. When we truly walk as Christ, we love unconditionally, and for that, there is no conqueror.

Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

Coat Of Many Colors

by Dolly Parton

 

Back through the years I go wanderin’ once again
Back to the seasons of my youth
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us

And how my momma put the rags to use

There were rags of many colors
But every piece was small
And I didn’t have a coat
And it was way down in the fall

Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin’ every piece with love
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of

As she sewed, she told a story
From The Bible, she had read
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore and then she said

“Perhaps this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness”
And I just couldn’t wait to wear it
And momma blessed it with a kiss

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly

Although we had no money
Oh, I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school

Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
And my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

 

And oh I couldn’t understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told them of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch

And I told ’em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes

But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be

Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me

 

 

References:

 

Unknown, “The Effects of Bullying on School Age Children,” https://effectsofbullyingonschoolage.weebly.com/index.html

Laura Martocci, Ph.D. (Dec. 8, 2015). Trigger Warnings, Micro-aggressions and Bullying. Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/you-can-t-sit-us/201512/trigger-warnings-micro-aggressions-and-bullying

Today Show, (2015) Dolly Parton On ‘Coat of Many Colors’: ‘I’ve Been Very Blessed’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9oE9qohieM

Unknown (2014) “How to Make a Bully (from Scratch), Conscious Discipline, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzftHNh7xP8

Jean Shepherd (1983) “Christmas Story,”  Directed by Bob Clark.

Holy Bible, KJV, Bible Gateway, https://www.biblegateway.com/

Reva Smith, (Mar. 6, 2013), Today’s Parent, “It take a village to educate a child.”, https://www.todaysparent.com/family/it-takes-a-village-to-educate-a-child/

Robert E. Slavin (2015) “Educational Psychology, Theory, and Practice,” Johns Hopkins University, Pearson,11th Edition. Pg. 345.

“Coat of Many Colors,” Dolly Parton, https://search.azlyrics.com/search.php?q=coat+of+many+colors

Curwin, R. E., & Mender, A. N. (1999). “Zero tolerance for zero tolerance.” Phi Delta ICappan, 81(2), 1 19-120

 

 

[1] Holy Bible, KJV, https://www.biblegateway.com/

 

[2] Unknown, “The Effects of Bullying on School Age Children”, https://effectsofbullyingonschoolage.weebly.com/index.html

 

[3] Today Show, (2015) Dolly Parton On ‘Coat of Many Colors’: ‘I’ve Been Very Blessed’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9oE9qohieM

 

[4] Larua Martocci, Ph.D. (Dec. 8, 2015). Trigger Warnings, Micro-aggressions and Bullying. Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/you-can-t-sit-us/201512/trigger-warnings-micro-aggressions-and-bullying

 

 

[5] Unknown (2014) “How to Make a Bully (from Scratch), Conscious Discipline, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzftHNh7xP8

 

 

[6] Jean Shepherd (1983) “Christmas Story,”  Directed by Bob Clark

[7] Holy Bible, KJV, Bible Gateway, https://www.biblegateway.com/

 

[8]Unknown, “The Effects of Bullying on School Age Children”, https://effectsofbullyingonschoolage.weebly.com/index.html

 

[9] Reva Smith, (2013), Today’s Parent, “It take a village to educate a child.”, https://www.todaysparent.com/family/it-takes-a-village-to-educate-a-child/

 

[10] Curwin, R. E., & Mender, A. N. (1999). Zero tolerance for

zero tolerance. Phi Delta ICappan, 81(2), 1 19-120

[11] Robert E. Slavin (2015) “Educational Psychology, Theory, and Practice,” Johns Hopkins University, Pearson,11th Edition. Pg. 345.

 

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