Tag Archives: Blueridge Mountains

Lean On Me

Driving in the predawn hours along the winding road that leads through the mountains, the cold gray light of dawn ages everything. Outbuildings and barns appear centuries old, if not close to it in reality. Then the aged fence row, that corner where the rusted barbed-wire is intertwined with honeysuckle vines, comes into view. The wood of the posts, rough-hewn from trees long forgotten, now cracks long furrowed brows of age, leaning one against the other for bracing or sheer moral support. To the passerby, the entirety of the corner is a jumble of vines, rusty wire, and weathered wood. But if one were to stop and breathe in the scene, they would find something much more profound.

Having sweated and bled over many a length of ancient wire such as this in my farming days, corners like this one were all too familiar. There, in that forgotten end of the pasture, a strength from nature’s own would begin to recompense into another form – honeysuckle and briars would interweave themselves into that ancient wood making a formidable foe, one relying upon the other for support. In this scene of decay and unfettered growth, one could find a sense of need, a feeling of caring for those that need us to be there for them, day in and day out.

Fencerow on the Blueridge Parkway

As the campus begins to breathe new life, students returning with parents in tow, each seeking a new future, there again is that feeling – a dependency of need, one for the other. Yet, beyond that wild vine growing unabated, there is the aged support. We can all look in the mirror and realize we aren’t the spring chicken we once were. Those lines, those furrowed brows tell a story of worry and woe, some far greater than others. Although they show signs of wear, even if there is strength in their core, the façade is one that we cannot deny. No amount of makeup or plastic surgery can dismiss the truth. Time does not lie. So, as the youth’s vibrancy evolves from a sleeping landscape into a living being, those with memories of yore become the support for those entering this new world. 

In the eyes of the young, thoughts of gray hair and being old are only distant shores, places to cross in some far-off future. For now, they are immortal in their youthful minds. To mention the mere thought of eternity or mortality becomes simply a nuance, a fairytale from whence more exuberant adventure stories can evolve. For in their gaming worlds, you might die, but you quickly regenerate, return to life once again through some superpower. Unlike those weathered locust posts on our fence line, whose demise is slow but perpetual, the young adult only knows of a never-ending repeating cycle of death and regeneration in their make-believe worlds of social media and online games. Their bodies try to mimic this feat, with some pushing the boundaries beyond what is mortal. In the end, their fate can be predicted by those who recognize such patterns of ill-advised decisions. Yet, for one to believe, one must almost always find out first-hand.  

As Jesus spoke to his disciples, they listened and heard every word. Yet, again, for one to believe, sometimes a person must feel the pain of reality before learning sinks in. But like those unruly briars, those disciples’ paths were not retaining the preaching of the Christ, but rather, went off into directions that were inconsequential, of no use. It wasn’t until that day when their leader finally hung on an aged, weathered cross, its furrows deep from years of persisting in the elements, now filling with the blood of Christ. Like the veins of a new being, the wood comes alive as the slain Savior above slowly dies a painful death. His life ebbs as the tree now part of an unbelievable, unfathomable, cataclysmic event unfolds before the eyes of the multitude of haters. Those who persecuted Jesus could not understand how God could come to earth in the flesh as a man. God incarnate was against their law. They despised him from the beginning and sought to take his life only because he spoke the truth. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

As those disciples watched in horror as their Savior, the Son of God, died on the cross, they felt their support slowly eroding, being torn from their grasp. It was too late to turn back and rescind any doubts. It was too late to take back those moments when they questioned his deity. As the bracing of that ancient corner of the pasture was being ripped out, those sweet-smelling vines shredded from the grasp of that olden wood; likewise, their hearts wept bitter tears of pain as his leaving was becoming a reality.

 In the darkest, coldest, bitter nights on a college campus in the lonely corner of a dormitory, often near the latter stages of a semester, students begin to realize how they had mistaken that loving support of their parents or caretakers. Those helpful suggestions from that caring professor come back to haunt them as they face the magnitude of their decisions. Suddenly gone are all those bravado moments of fleeting joy, the inescapable memories of ridiculous expectations of what they thought they were in the light of what they really would become. Those pleasures of the flesh have vanished, and with them, their supposed friends. 

So too, those disciples began to retrace all the words which Jesus had said to them. Those many parables and warnings of his imminent death suddenly roared back like a tidal wave of humility and soul-sucking regret until they ran from the scene of Golgotha. Their hearts were breaking as their chests pounded from lack of oxygen, racing down the mountain hoping to flee all that had transpired. But too soon, as do those students who come to college for all the wrong reasons, all find that there is a day of reckoning. 

But Jesus told his followers that even though he would leave them, he would send a comforter. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”

As those students often forget, when they leave home, they sometimes try to leave everything, including all they had been taught in growing up, there is an answer to their darkness. Like those disciples that ran and hid, there would be an answer. Although it wouldn’t be there the following day, the answer would begin to manifest itself three days later when Christ would arise from the dead. However, it wasn’t until he ascended to heaven that what he had predicted came true. For there in that upper room in Jerusalem where they hid from authorities, they finally received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ had finally been glorified, the mission had been completed, and now, the Comforter had been sent to be with them until their dying days. 

Likewise, those who find darkness overpowering their world don’t have to give up. While their academic or perceived future may have to be redirected or cut short, it is not the end. Those dark, lonely nights when the realization hits home, it is then that we pray somewhere, somehow, they either remember those lessons learned from their childhood in Sunday School, or that somehow, they have heard there is hope in Christ Jesus. Although it may seem as if life is over when those grades begin to slip and those grandiose aspirations begin to fade, all is not lost. There is something much more precious in life that awaits if only we seek it. For God doesn’t make us love him but instead wants us to choose him. It is our option, not our mandate. We can carry on living our lives trying to make it on our own, but in the end, we can never work our way into heaven. It is by God’s grace that we don’t receive what we are due, an eternity in hell. It is by His saving Grace, through the sacrifice of the blood of the pure lamb of God, his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that we can have the hope of life eternal. 

For now, the fence row sits in the shadow of the mountain. That corner continues to stand as the ivy and honeysuckle continue to weave their network of hope around those ancient weathered beams of support. Like the threads of our existence, that rusted wire slowly erodes, but together, wire, wood, and vine continue to withstand the forces of this world as long as possible. The bend of the fence row stood long before my time and will likely continue to do so long after I’m gone. We are only here for a brief moment in time when compared to eternity. It is up to us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. For as old as the story may be, its truth is more vital today than ever before, for it is not of our own hopes and desires but comes from the ultimate woven being, God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. 

Seek God, search him with all your heart, and you will find Him. Knock, and the door shall be opened. For it is by His saving grace that we have the hope of life eternal.

Thanks be to God.

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To Return

“I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.” – Psalm 119:93

Rising this morning, the haunting memory of a thought, like that of a vapor upon a distant hillside, shadowed my presence. It was here, knowing that the past week or so has been a struggle not only physically due to an illness but also spiritually. The latter was due to the former, which had put me off of the schedule that had been developing over the summer. This change put me at odds with the ability to walk in the spirit as much as my daily routine had been allowing. It was troubling to feel this way, knowing how easily we are thrown off course. Thankfully, earlier this week, my footsteps began to return somewhat to that familiar path.

Tanawha Trail, Blueridge Mountains, NC.

Preparing to enter the Tanawha Trail, we parked at the trailhead off old 221, a gravel road stretching from Blowing Rock to Foscoe. There next to the parking area, where Black Angus cattle grazing on the lush green hillside. At the time, only the sight of livestock had quickened my heart. All those years raising them on the farm back in Chatham had ingrained in me a special connection to the beast. Here again on hills above us, those summertime hides, “fat and slick,” as Uncle John used to say, glistened in the morning sun. Suddenly, within a moment, it made one feel home again – that it was as if you had walked through that ancient doorway of memory and entered back into the loving fold of family. It was precisely what was needed to rejuvenate the spirit within.

Inspired as only God can do, we are often amiss without him, as we mistakenly feel, but in these times of isolation, we are drawn ever more close. As the cliché says, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” So, it seems sometimes we need to be reminded that without him, we are like a ship adrift on the sea with no rudder to guide our way.

It always impresses me how God knows what takes us back to our roots, to the place where we first encountered the world. For some, it’s a unique park or vacation spot. For others, like myself, it is the abundant adventures and experiences of our rural childhood. For me, it was exploring those vast pastures, forests, and lands of the farms of southern Indiana. There in those hills and hollers of the Midwest, God’s creation became part of my life. From those early impressions, when all seems confused and lost, there is a baseline, so to speak, to which God knows my thoughts can be reset too. From there, those formational memories, one can once more journey forth to where their next footsteps will lead. The reference to technology is not mistaken but purposeful.

That pasture’s very imagery, the one in which the Tanawha Trail ran through, its slope, the cattle, and the sunrise shedding its morning glow upon its face, reminded me of that long-ago mountain. So often, when we revisit places of our youth, that object which once seemed so massive now has shrunk in size. Yes, that mountain of my childhood was actually little more than a slight rise in the ground compared with where we now stood – we called it Sled Hill. In those distant recollections, it was a place where you could stand on the edge of that tiny town, New Harmony, and survey the entirety of everything below from the rooftop perspective. There interlaced with rising oaks and sycamore trees were the peaks and steeples of homes and churches. It was the first time that the feeling of standing upon the earth and looking out across the vista below felt closer to God. There, in that shadow of where life’s journey would eventually lead, there was no concept from which to compare that scene. It was forever etched into the mind as what it must be like to stand near the top of the world.

In the moment, surrounded by a host of relatives, we feel like this will be where we spend the rest of our days. In our heart of hearts, we are content with that. For decades it was the way things went. But then times changed. The world we knew changed, and suddenly we found ourselves thrust into the never-ending stream of advances in humanity. We were forced to adapt and overcome a very different lifestyle from the life of our forefathers. Secular society told us that we had to “make something of ourselves,” whatever that was supposed to mean. But those of us raised in Sunday School had heard something else, that alone we can do nothing. Thus began the conflict of interest.

Some take it upon themselves to believe that they alone can make “it” happen. Others realize, some sooner than others, that we can never do it on our own. Some go off to college. Others join the military. Some seek to escape the privation of that quiet way of life, seeking adventure or wealth. Either way, very few remained behind to stay in the place where we all thought we would never leave. Those that remained wonder about the lives of those gone on. Those that had to leave, or chose to leave, never forgot from whence they came. The question always burned within them, “What if I had never left?”

There is a saying that of itself seems trivial, but when it is explored more deeply, its truth resonates through the ages, “Once you leave home, you can never go back.” For what we find, is that even though you might physically be able to return, you are never the same once you leave. Your growth through the sheer experiences of whatever you found on your journey changes you. It is then, once you return, you see with new eyes what one could not explain to you before you left. Painfully, as we feel those around us unable to relate to what has changed us, we seek to find connections where there once was no question about relationships. However, we then discover that what is around us is not all that there is in life.

So we take a break from the reunion, walking out to that familiar landmark, whatever it might be, the beach, that old home place, or for me, the crest of Sled Hill, and pause for a moment and think about all that has transpired since we last stood on this spot. We find that the terrestrial has changed very little. Oh, there might be a fallen tree, a sand dune out of place, or perhaps a new roof on the old home place, but that which was physical remains the same. We suddenly realize it’s not the place that has changed, but us.

In Jesus’ day, he tried to convey to his disciples this same message, that once you turn to serve God in the way in which he asked, you would be forever altered. There would be no going back to who you once were, “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”[1] Even as they found their understanding of Jesus’ parables and teachings challenging to comprehend, it was even more so for those Pharisees and Chief Priests. Even when Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, met with Jesus, he too could not comprehend what Jesus was saying even though he sought him out, knowing that something about him was calling him to believe. As Jesus explained, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.      And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.[2]

They could not begin to wrap their minds around God in the flesh, let alone that Jesus told them that they did not know him or his Father. “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.[3]

Like returning home, once we are changed by our travels, there is something likewise that will never be the same to those who have not found Christ in their lives. Until they take that similar path in life, those that stayed behind find it odd that you don’t want to go hang out beneath the bridge, drink beer, and skip rocks across the river. It is difficult, if not impossible, to convey to them that you have changed. You no longer enjoy the things of the flesh but instead find it more desirable to find those who are lost and engage them, striving to bring them closer to the Father.

Since those humble beginnings, God’s plan has led me to stand on the earth and look out upon remarkable vestiges of landscape. From my current home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the mountains in our western states, to those beautiful, inspiring Waldensians valleys in the Cottien region of the Alps in Europe, God has opened my eyes to more of his creation as time would allow, and likewise, my mind to the understanding of his word. Although time seems to be running out, there are many more mountains to climb and much more to realize. Therefore, each day that there remains of this life, it is with a passion and desire that we should seek God in all of what he has bestowed upon us and to go wherever he calls.

From standing atop Sled Hill to walking up the Tanawha trail, there comes a time when we can feel the connection – how our past has shaped our future. Our walk with the Lord prepares us for what is to come. When you can sense a presence more wondrous than your own, to know that when we reach for that fateful day to finally stand, or rather kneel in his presence, we will then know what it has all been about. It is then we can only hope to hear the words, “Welcome home child, welcome home.”

We shall then gladly say, “Thanks be to God.”


[1] Luke 9:62 KJV

[2] John 3:8-15 KJV

[3] John 7:28 KJV

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A Morning, A Turkey, and A Cup of Coffee – Reflections

“Does the mother turkey think about the time she spent on the nest, preparing to hatch her brood?” This morning, the thought came to me as I watched a hen and her hatchlings move through the undergrowth of the nearby forest. Sitting on the porch of the Spiritual Retreat, the memory from three years ago popped up on my social media feed. As humans, we have the capacity to look back and reflect. Sometimes, we are made aware of how far we’ve come, both physically and spiritually. But, more often than not, we are painfully reminded of how far we have to go.

As the picture revealed, the first five or so rows of cinder blocks of the building that was to become the spiritual retreat were just starting. Yet, like that building, my development into how God was to use me in the next few years of my life was just beginning. Although it was just a few rows of blocks, it was a far cry from where my family and I had started our journey. You see, when you make that choice in life to finally quit beating around the bush and choose to finally surrender all to God, it becomes a lot more complicated when you have a family. As the leader, whatever your choices are in life will eventually, if not immediately, affect the ones you love. So, when you decide to give it all in and follow Him – go wherever do whatever He says; your family is right there with you every step of the way.

So, even before the first bag of concrete was poured, before the first tree was cut down to make a place for one to find themselves closer to God, I made a vow – that this project would be for God. It was a personal commitment that each step of the way, my actions, my thoughts, everything that went into creating this building would be of God and with God.

To understand such a vow, one must realize how far we had already come. The verse, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,”[1] had become part of the new me. Something else that I strove to maintain in the forethought as the real work began was this verse from Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Once God took the reins, it was as if the roller coaster ride had just begun. From moving an entire farm, moving our entire household belongings not just once, but twice, to starting an entirely new career, not once but three times in less than a year and a half – to say it was mind-boggling would be an understatement – it was numbing. Through each step, through every valley, there was always another mountain to climb. As Moses was tested through the desert, we were tempered like the steel he wanted us to become. Through it all, we found that alone we were nothing, but with God, all things were literally possible.

As first mentioned, sometimes we look back and see we are at the same place we were years ago. Although this is not always bad, it can also be disconcerting. Stuck in a proverbial rut, trying to change things on our own, we feel like we are on board the grand ship Titanic. To turn the massive vessel around before we crash headlong into the iceberg, we need more than the tiny rudder which corrects the enormous boat ever so slightly. We need more than a rudder. We need an entirely new vessel. Seeing how we can feel trapped, some give up and go on, living the life they think they have been dealt, not realizing that there is something more magnificent, if only we awaken to what God can do for us. For when we truly give it all to God, we find, not because we give it all to him to expect wealth, fame, or fortune – no, quite the opposite. For it is then, when we absolutely commit our lives to serve, it is then the real challenges begin.

It was a very difficult and painful decision to not only leave behind years of sweat and toil but also a lifetime of friends who had come to be part of our extended family. Some of my co-workers, folks that I had known from my beginning at the company to which I had devoted my life’s work, must have wondered if I had finally cracked under the stress of the job? Others must have thought that I had lost my mind. If only they knew. In a sense, it was true. I had been changed. My natural mind was replaced with one mindful of the Lord and how it was to fully give it all to Him – every-thing, yes all!

Some of those friends and neighbors who had known us for years had to wonder in amazement as they saw us leave behind the farm we had carved out of the forest. We literally began a dream from scratch. It was not easy. There were the multitude of memories created; watching my son catch his first fish, seeing my daughter ride her pony at full speed up the road, to those quiet evenings rocking together in the front porch swing. Yes, like that mother turkey with her brood following closely behind, when we are family, we don’t just do anything alone. To make a life change to serve God requires more than your own trust in the Lord, it requires the whole family to follow.

With eyes open, we can see anew. We are changed, and the focus in our lives shifts to not just of things of this world, but the preparation for life eternal through the gift of life given to us because of God’s only Son. When we realize that what time we have left here on this earth has a purpose, if only we awaken to that task. It is then, when we come to the realization we are God’s creation, here to honor and serve Him in everything we do – it is then that the perspective of life changes.

So as the trees were hauled to the sawmill to be cut up to be used in the building, as the dirt was moved to pour the footings, it was quite literally as if God was there watching and helping each step of the way. The tiny abode in the woods next to my home where one could go and commune with God was to become a place where anyone could come and be alone with the Lord. Being separate, in silence, and surrounded by God’s creation – makes a difference. Jesus often retreated into the wilderness, himself alone, to find solitude from the crowds where he could spend time alone with his Father.

So, here I sit this morning, a nice cup of coffee in hand, the stillness of the forest all around me as the mother turkey takes her brood deeper into the safety of the deep woods. She may not think of her past, but I’m thankful that God has allowed me to look back and give thanks for all that he has done and is doing in my life. Although there are miles to go, a never-ending attempt to find Sanctification, there is the comfort in knowing that He is with us each step of the way. It is up to us to ask, seek, and ye shall find, as the verse tells us.

Friend, take a moment and look back in your life and see if where you are, today is where you really want to be? Is this where God is leading you, or have you given up? It is never too late to seek Him. But, once you make that choice, be prepared for your world to change in ways you would never have imagined. It’s the most extraordinary journey of all.

Thanks be to God.


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV

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Serendipity

In the still of the night, the word “Serendipity” came to me. There was no reason for the thought. There had not been any text that I had recently read that included the term. My first inclination was to write it down lest I forget. Unfortunately, I had not placed my journal by the bedside before going to sleep. Assuring myself that it would not leave me, I turned over and went back to sleep.

Of course, when morning came, the expression was gone in the midst, like the vapor of a dream.

Silently, the car made its way up the mountain. The turns in the bends, the fog, and the words of scripture which passed through my lips brought comfort in this predawn hour. Forgetting the day, the course of life, only the moment therein was alive. Suddenly, like a flash of light from the distant horizon, the word returned, “Serendipity!” Putting it in my waking consciousness, I vowed to retain it long enough to get it down on paper – and more importantly, to see what it meant.

[noun]

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

“a fortunate stroke of serendipity.”

Sunday Morning, Collettsville General Store

After reading the meaning, the definition didn’t sit well with my soul. A word within its meaning caused me to wince – “chance.” When we walk in faith, when our journey is fully directed by God, there is no chance. It was here, again as a moment paused in time, that the walk to church last Sunday came to mind.

Rounding the bend in the road, there was the continued reminder of mortality. Someone at some point dumped off a deer carcass in the bushes. Time and weather had aged the remains into a stark, ivory remnant that stood out amongst the gray of winter’s last vestiges. It was not the first time I had seen it. Yet, it remained as a tale of life gone on before, the morbidity of the season – bone against a dreary backdrop of one’s demise.

The thoughts of the journey my life had become began to emanate from those bones, as a subtle suggestion of that likewise, time would end for us all – some sooner than later. Yet, there was the continued push to learn, absorb, and become more than I once was. The season of growth had not just begun but had continued since the long journey began, now six years long.

My eye caught the rushing waters of the river and how they pulsated against the rocks, flowing ever more furious downstream, never stopping, never yielding. As my way continued, my direction was upstream, against the river’s current along which I walked. “So much like the life I live,” were the thoughts that seemed to flow into my head. How much easier my life could be if it weren’t constantly going against the tide. Yet, to serve as I have been called to do, there is no time to waste. There is an impetus to strive for that next hill of knowledge, to seek the wisdom that cometh from God only.

These are the times in which my life’s journey has become.

Then there is the comparison of the natural world, the secularism of man, pursuing itself – washing the multitude of humanity with it downstream to the ocean. We who seek God go against this current. Some can barely stand firm without being washed away, like those rocks wherein the water below crashes violently against. As long as they remain, the water, the worldly current complains in the tempest of thrashing white water. Some give way and are tumbled along, not happy with their displacement, eventually finding footing once more to continue their stance, while others never find a way to resist and are washed away with the multitude.

As my path found its way to the porch of the Collettsville General Store, I discovered that my arrival was greeted by a lonely Blue-Tick Hound, likely a hunting dog that had been lost in the night. He welcomed me as if this was his home and treated me to a gratifying pat upon his neck. Soon, we found ourselves sitting side-by-side on that familiar spot. Once before, two dogs, Barney and Otis, had likewise provided companionship when there was none other. As we sat, watching that tide of humanity rush by, like those frantic waters of the John’s River flowing behind us, we sought the peace of God about us.

Once more, the word pursed its impression upon this reflected scene – “Serendipity.”

May you find the peace of the Lord today, no matter how small the token. Embrace what God hath provided and pause for a moment, giving thanks. As my late father would say of moments like these, “The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the grass is green. What else could be better?”

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” – John 14:27

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They Were Fishermen

Early one morning, as my car’s headlights weaved around one mountain curve after another, a song on the radio caught my attention. The pleasing melody, like the pre-dawn somberness, melded together, finding its way into my soul. As I listened, the words began to speak to me.

They were fishermen, ordinary simple men.
A lot like you, a lot like me.
They were fishermen; Jesus chose to follow him
Go cast your nets out on the sea.
Go cast your nets out on the sea.

Men of few possessions, not men of wealth or fame.
Had no education, no titles by their name.
Yet it was they who answered and left to go with him
When Jesus said, I call you to be fishers of men.

Arriving early on campus, there is a calming tranquility that permeates the early morning darkness. Students sparsely ramble about, some seeking food from the dining hall, others are trying to make it back to their dorms after pulling an all-nighter before that 8:00 AM class. The only sounds are from the facility’s crews that prepare each day like the day before – utility and garbage trucks making their rounds. To be here before the sun rises adds another sense of peace to a place that becomes a pulsating, vibrant community by mid-afternoon on warm sunny days. In this time of respite, there is room to breathe, air to think. Here, the ponderings of living begin to percolate into the consciousness, and the Lord begins to speak.

Once more, in this life, I find myself a college student (albeit part-time). There is a purpose for why I’m here. God’s plans are never our own. The thought of how and why seldom seem to leave the cusp of my thoughts. In so doing, I make it a point to remind myself of the “why.” At my age, one might be looking forward to retirement. But for some reason, God has made me different. I look at the short time I have remaining on this earth and feel the urgency to strive ever more to fulfill His purpose in the path He has set before me.

Appalachian State University, 2021

As a college student striving to fulfill one’s purpose, every day is an unending stream of information, tests, and trials through which one must struggle. We all should strive every day to make the most of whatever we do as if we are serving God and not those who write our paycheck or grading our tests. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” So it is with this in mind that I seek not to complain, not to panic when I feel inadequately prepared for an upcoming quiz, nor to worry about grades. No, my goal is to learn as much as possible with an eye to returning to the classroom, to someday teach once again – for that purpose, to be there for these students is what drives me onward. Those short three years when I served at the High School were a never-ending stream of caring, loving, and nurturing the students who had been placed into my care. Some of them still keep in touch, which warms my heart with each distant hello.

A career of working in the computer/network-based industry had provided me the basis for obtaining my current career position. The landing of that position was as much a testimony as to all the others before it – a story for another time. But before being the System Administrator here at App’s Computer Science department, there were many years in which my career interfaced with technologies and applications that are usually the end-point for someone attending college. My journey has somewhat physically been the reverse. Over time, all of those various computer architectures, operating systems, and protocol languages created in me a wealth of information – knowingly or not.

However, unlike those beginning disciples to whom Jesus called, my slate is not empty. Similarly, the students around me don’t have to wade through years of industry knowledge and similar-sounding acronyms, which now I’m being taught stand for something new. As those fishermen left their nets behind, they had an open mind and weren’t clouded by the teachings and intense studies, as were their counterparts who persecuted Jesus, the Pharisees. No, these were simple men. They were ordinary men who worked day-to-day to feed their families and provide for their community. They had no preconceived interpretations as did their counterparts but were open to the words which Jesus spoke.

In the Air Force Basic Training, we were taught to shoot an M16, the rifle of choice in the early ’80s. As the Training Instructor (TI) was going over the presentation, he clearly stated, “Raise your hand if you have ever hunted or learned to shoot a weapon at home.” Of course, over half the class raised their hands. He then continued, “Those of you who raised your hands will most likely not make Marksman.” Now, the word “Marksman” was a badge of honor to a young man. It meant that, even though you were merely an Air Force serviceman, you would have something to say to the world, “Hey, look at me, I’m a good shot with an M16.” Ribbons, which were the badges of honor to the entry-level airman, were much-coveted, so the more you could earn, the prouder your chest became.

The Sergeant went on to explain why he made such a deflating comment. “You see, when you learn to shoot at home, you develop your own style, your own habits begin to form. When we get out there on that shooting range, those old habits will be hard to break. Although we’ll show you the right way, those preconceived practices will hinder your ability to follow through with the new instruction, and as such, you will fail.” As much as I tried to listen and obey, I too fell short and missed Marksman by a few points. It was the same concept with those disciples whom Jesus had chosen. They were not encumbered with the wealth of knowledge that prevented the Pharisees from seeing who he was. Even if the Pharisees wanted to believe, they could not clear their minds enough to accept the mind-altering concepts Jesus delivered.

Take Nicodemus, for one. He was an esteemed leader of the Jews and one of the Sanhedrin, one of the highest orders of the Jewish Rabbinical Judges. He sought out Jesus at least one recorded evening after dark. Some speculate this was to protect himself from being caught with Christ so as not to tarnish his reputation. Others believe that it was because that most scholars of that time did most of their intense study after dark when the surrounding communities would become quieter and the air was cooler. Here, under the cover of night, the ruler of the Jews met with Jesus and struggled to understand how he, an old man, could be born again. “How can these things be,” Nicodemus asked Christ. Jesus responded with, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” Nicodemus never became a disciple, but we know that he never gave up following the life of Jesus. He was even credited with contributing to the burial of Christ about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, demonstrating a verifiable act of love toward the Savior.

If you are blessed enough to reach advancing years in age, you can be afforded the opportunity to look back and marvel at the journey. In this reminiscent vein, you can see how God has often used not only yourself but also those around you. Myself, being a child from an impoverished farming family, there were never any dreams that could have manifested themselves into the life I now lead.

How many of you would have ever envisioned yourself being where you are now in life?

My family never lacked for anything, but we were not rich by Wall Street’s standards. Our bountiful living came from God’s providence, his creation, and the devotion that endured for generations. From that bedrock faith of my youth to the uncharted waters my footsteps find themselves upon today, there has and will always be that guiding light. As He has spoken to many so many times before, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

We are all made different. Our paths to life eternal are never the same. But we can take comfort in knowing that we don’t have to have credentials behind our name. We don’t have to have an extensive portfolio nor earthly wealth and fame to have a relationship with the Lord. All it takes is that we step down from our pedestals and open our minds so that we can receive the truth and the way to life eternal. In other words, we must wipe our slates clean and humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. It is written in scripture, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Jesus wasn’t looking for supermen when he found his disciples; he was only looking for one thing – simple men who would become fishers of men.

Yes, Jesus chose fishermen; they were a lot like you and a lot like me.

Thanks be to God.

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Journal Update

(December 30th, 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

There were still drawbacks that could not be avoided.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 6:53-54 KJV

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Choose Wisely

by Timothy W. Tron, Nov. 2020

A winding mountain road is the life I live. If living were a straight road, with nary a curve, never a hill, nor a bump what a sorrowful experience it would have been. With each twist, the unexpected arrives – some good, many challenging, and some sorrowful. From breathtaking vistas to cattle grazing in verdant green pastures, there is never a bend in the road that doesn’t reveal another blessing to be alive. All make living one of not our own doing, but in that regard, give testimony to our Creator. By the guiding hand of God, we are kept between the lines. When trials come, they mold our character, develop our patience, and gather our soul into that which becomes better for the perils through which we survived.

Much like the barren, time-worn tree that stands on an outcropping of rocks on a high mountain peak, it too tells a story of a life well-lived. The harshness of existence created a cracked and foreboding skin, that with each crevice is a wrinkle in the tale of its life. Its weathered continence exudes the wisdom within. Whether the twisting road of life or the desolate, weary tree, we are the product of the tribulations which formed us in the fire.

As the seasons change, so do those of our own. From our youth to the nearing of the end of one’s time, and all those many seasons in between, there are countless moments when we could have stopped and considered the moment for what it was. Too often, we allow that fleeting opportunity to give thanks to pass us by before we are chasing the next falling leaf from the tree above. If only we had the peace of mind to stop and cherish those brief respites. Instead, the foliage spirals down into the bed of so many other fallen leaves before it, they all form a collection of memories upon a pallet of life. Their myriad of color, the complexities of those moments in time, each connected through the thread of our being. If one were to connect these, as one might think a pathway is built, their course would intertwine, fold upon one another, and intersect into a countless number of likelihoods. An image of such would look like what scientists have concluded our own immutable DNA resembles. Memory, our collective past, intertwined like the branches of a forest, is the only lasting reward, or curse, that one can carry with them in this world, no matter your position in life. Those memories are a culmination of life’s choices to that which we have been afforded – they can be our heaven or hell.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Every choice reduces a little one’s freedom to choose the next time. There therefore comes a time when the creature is fully built, irrevocably attached either to God or to itself. This irrevocableness is what we call Heaven or Hell. Every conscious agent is finally committed in the long run: i.e., it rises above freedom into willed, but henceforth unalterable, union with God, or else sinks below freedom into the black fire of self-imprisonment.”[1]

From the beginning, man was allowed choices, also known as free will. It was in this context that sin came into the world, not necessarily as a choice to do evil, for there was no evil in the world at that point, but rather was as a decision to make himself equal or greater than God. In essence, it was pride that brought the fall of man, not evil. “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.[2] Satan used man’s own pride to sequester his thoughts into a path that took him to the darkness of man’s soul.

Choices led Judas Iscariot to sell his Savior’s identity for thirty pieces of silver which ultimately led to the trial, and crucifixion of Christ. Choices led David to invite Bathsheba into his bed-chamber, which led to the death of the resultant child and his sons. Choices led Moses to strike the rock in anger which led to his being excluded from being allowed to enter the Holy Land. Time and time again, we see how erred judgment on the part of man resulted in predicaments that could have been avoided had they chose wisely. Each time we allow Satan to enter into our decision making, our minds are contorted into the culpability of choosing on the side of this terrestrial being, rather than on the side of how it affects our life eternal.

As much as we have the ability to choose wrong, we have the same capability to choose right. Though our life’s journey need not be a long course of bad memories, there are hopefully more of the singular instances of hope and light that permeate through the fog of reminiscence than the former. As those thoughts allow us to build upon the past, we must realize that going forward, we have the foresight to become greater than of ourselves, again, if we choose wisely. A life eternal is in the balance. To be tied to an earthly being or to be one with a risen Savior, that guarantees life eternal – this is the only choice in this life that really matters. You can go on living as one that perceives there is “no tomorrow,” or you can start to live a life in preparation for one eternal – the choice is yours.

Some believe they are too far gone. They feel they are beyond the grasp of God’s forgiveness of sins. Many feel their sin is greater than Christ’s ability to forgive – but they couldn’t be more wrong. We serve a risen Savior that died for our sins, even before we existed so that all that come to him might be saved. It is never too late to seek Him.

While we chase after those swirling entities that entice us to forget the thankfulness and forget that we can be forgiven, we must force ourselves to take pause and know that, “God hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pastures.[3] Like those winding country roads that passeth through the highlands of the Blueridge, we cannot know what lies ahead. The afternoon shadows pass upon the landscape, one that passes from autumn into winter. The seasons change regardless if we are ready for them to do so or not. In time, we realize our helplessness in that we cannot control all those things that in our youth we believed were within our command. The decisions which we hath made, we must now live with until our road’s end. No matter how bad they were, they can be forgiven. When you ask Christ to come into your life, your journey’s end on earth is only the beginning of the rest of your life. It is this destination that should help you decide how you will travel the remainder of the journey in time that remains.

Choose wisely, your soul’s eternal life depends on it.

Thanks be to God.


[1] 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] Proverbs 16:17-8 KJV

[3] Psalm 100:3

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What Seek Ye

by Timothy W. Tron, October, 2020

As the sunrise was slowly trying to find a crease through the shroud of clouds upon the mountain, my mind was searching the scriptures for inspiration. To my left, a momentary shaft of light found its way to the earth. There, on a distant peak, among the multitude of gray skies, the golden illuminance caused the lingering fall foliage to burst forth into a breathtaking radiance. In a monotone sea of dreariness, it was as if God had created a bonfire of hope. In that instance, a brief line of scripture erupted into my mind, as if Jesus had said them himself, “What seek ye?”

Rich Mountain, Blowing Rock, NC.

So great was their meaning at that scene and moment, that I shouted out loud, “What seek ye?”

No sooner than I had released the thought from my lips, the voice echoed back across the valleys below. There was no one there to hear- nothing but the mist of the morning air, floating across the trail before me, wrapping itself between the trees, flowing into the pastures above. Like the fog, the words floated into my thoughts, until one had to ask themselves, “What is it thou truly seekest in this life?

Images of all the possibilities wavered in my mind. What was it in the physical training that made me get up before dawn to pursue climbing a mountain? What was it in my daily work that drove me to rise above expectations? What was it that made me feel lost without starting my day with scripture? Yes, what was in all these things that were being sought? In all, the answer for me had become Colossians 3:23-24, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Although, there was what seemed to be a simple answer for myself. It wasn’t always the case. It took many hardships and trials in my life before the realization of what needed to change became apparent. All of those past failed paths, like the dark crevices that linger beneath the caves of the mountains, their memory never seems to fade.  In my misinterpreted gains, when I felt that a work was of my own doing, when it was something that I had accomplished, there was the misbelief of it being my own doing.  Back then, the goals in life were to obtain as much as possible before time ran out. I was truly lost.

An inspirational speaker, and alumnus, once visited one of my college engineering classes at the University of Florida. To us college students, he was the “Real Deal,” someone that had been in the corporate world and had succeeded. In truth, he was probably a significant donor to the department in which I attended classes. Nonetheless, he was a gifted speaker. In all of his inspiring words, the line that he said which stuck with me the most was a quote from Abraham Lincoln that he had altered to fit his persona, “Good things are left to those who wait, …which were left behind by those who hustle.” Sadly, that egotistic mindset was what drove me from that time foreword and for many years afterward.   Unfortunately, with misaligned goals, one’s foundation cannot be properly created. Wealth without purpose becomes a greater burden than having nothing at all. These were the many variations of the doomed concept of mankind’s’ success that had been hammered into my head throughout the collegiate engineering studies. It would take many years of God’s presence in my life to slowly change them and to awaken me to what matters most. But before the transformation could begin, I had to realize there was something on my end that had to be done.

I had to seek him.

But no sooner had the answer to my situation had come, the thought of others around me surfaced. How did others seek Him? How were my colleagues, my friends, and those whom I knew that were still lost, how did they all seek God, or did they?

All around us, there are so many that seek what can never fulfill. From well-meaning goals and rewards to fleshly desires and momentary earthly satisfactions, there are a multitude of choices that can easily go wrong. Sadly, these ambitions and addictions are based on worldly values. While they may perceive that they are climbing the corporate ladder, or satisfying a desire within, what they are leaving behind, and worse yet, what they are not realizing, is that while these attributes provide for wealth and immediate satisfaction, their treasures and thrills are only temporary. For what they sacrifice in the gain of “success and pleasure” they lose in the grand scheme of things eternal.

Either through curiosity or from hearing someone that has planted a seed, when we begin to search for Christ, our real journey begins. John’s disciples found that out when they too sought to find out why their master had called this man that approached them, “The Lamb of God.”

Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?”[1]

In this memorable passage of the gospel of John, we see Jesus approaching John the next day, meaning the day following the baptism. John greets him with the same words as to when he first saw him just before the baptism. Yet, this time, he (Jesus) has come to visit his cousin, John. Yet, we must be mindful that John wouldn’t have been alone either, for he too had built up a following. As his account attests, “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth…He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.[2] In other words, John and his disciples were having the honor of receiving Christ into their presence.

We can guess, that from John’s record and witness of Jesus, that at the moment in which he voiced his exclamation, “Behold, the lamb of God,”[3] he had already baptized the Christ. In that dramatic scene, many would witness the anointing of the Son of Man, as the only begotten son of God. They would have seen the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and abode upon him. Then, the voice that emanated from on high spoke, and said, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.[4] In that inspired crowd stood John’s disciples as well. Whether out of curiosity or reverence, two of John’s disciples heard him speak of the lamb of God, and they began to trail behind Jesus.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, his next words were pivotal – “What seek ye[5]?”

It is here that the two men could have dismissed being caught as an accident. They could have said, “Oh nothing, we were just headed this way already.” But they didn’t, they responded with the honorary phrase of “Master,” which was by interpretation, “Rabbi,” a term used only for the most respected scholars and teachers of their time. Then in true Christ manner, he answered with the most endearing reply, “Come and see.”

When we finally seek him, it is then he graciously invites us in. On that fateful day, the two disciples not only came and saw where he dwelt, but they remained with him the rest of the day, and he within them, the rest of their lives.

 Like most who seek God and find him, when they receive him into their lives, they dwell with him and are forever changed. That very concept is what Paul tells us in Romans, when he says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.[6]

Jesus shared with us his answer to seeking as well. When the Pharisees persecuted Jesus and sought to kill him simply because he had healed a crippled man on the Sabbath day, he rebuked them and shared with them the concept of his ministry when he said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” Christ knew that God had sent him to do his work, and to finish it. In so doing, he was bearing witness of himself and to the fact that he was indeed sent by God.

He went further to show them, that as Moses had written, the answer was already before them, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”[7] In other words, if they had sought him, as the writings had foretold, and believed, then they would know he was indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

Unlike John’s disciples, we cannot physically dwell with Jesus. Yet, through his Grace, we can find salvation, and then when we accept Him into our lives, he dwells within us. It is then, we have sought the truth, that we finally begin to live a full and fruitful life. As the first Psalm tells us, when we delight in God’s word, we become like a tree planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth our fruit in our season. Even the most insignificant things in our lives, as the leaves on the tree, shall not diminish or wither. Whatever we do, shall prosper, as the psalmist writes.

Of course, all will not be sunshine and pretty mountain flowers. There are dark valleys between each glorious peak. We will have to walk through our own valleys in the shadow of death, but we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”[8]

Tonight, look into the mirror and ask with a heart of knowing that there is a God that loves you no matter who you are, what you’ve done, nor where you’ve come from, “What seek ye?”

In the end, what you receive will be a reward far greater than anything of this earth.

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 1:37-38 KJV

[2] John 5:33, 35 KJV

[3] John 1:36 KJV

[4] Matthew 3:17 KJV

[5] John 1:38 KJV

[6] Romans 10:9-13 KJV

[7] John 5:39 KJV

[8] Matthew 7:7-8 KJV

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Cold Rain on the Mountain

by Timothy W. Tron, Oct. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image provided by AllTrails.com

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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An 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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