Tag Archives: Chatham County

A Moment in Time

C.S. Lewis wrote about the holy spirit, “It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise, when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.”

But to those that receive it, “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.”[1]

If we were to interpret the holy spirit as a sensation, then it would quickly dissipate. Jesus even explained the action like this, “And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” While some say this is speaking of the gospel’s truth, it can easily be seen how it also applies to the receiving of the holy spirit and, with it, the truth. For one cannot have one without the other.

Considering these scriptures and words from Lewis, a thought, or rather, more of a question, began to form in my mind. How to encapsulate a testimony in so few words that it could be conveyed to a stranger passing on a twisty, root-covered mountain trail? That is the question.

Reno Sharpe’s Store jam, in Chatham County, NC. – around 2005

The struggle of this thought was fully born the other night when my wife and I went to our favorite local ice cream shop for a treat. As we sat on our favorite bench across from said shop, watching humanity pass before us, a young man and his daughter walked by. The father was dressed in familiar bib overalls, something that is second nature to my heart in clothing. A pair of worn but serviceable bibs with a t-shirt underneath is probably as close to heaven’s robes that I will know on this side of glory. That was the first thing that caught my attention. The other was his intentional stare. It seemed that he noticed something about me that also drew him in. As he slowed to get a better look, our eyes locked, and it was then I realized I knew him from somewhere. My mind raced through the fog of mental cobwebs trying to place him. It was as if we were in a duel, seeking the past. Finally, the young father stopped walking. He had proceeded so far past our point of rest that he had to turn his head to continue staring. Then, as if neither one of us could not take the not knowing anymore, he smiled and said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” The little girl with him turned around and came back toward us, wondering who her daddy had found in a town so far away from home that he knew.

“Sharpe’s Store,” I replied in question, “at the music?”

He grinned a little bigger and turned to face us. “That’s right. It’s been a couple Sundays since then.”

“I’ll say.”

 “Are you still playing music,” he questioned, still trying to put the pieces back together.

“Some, in fact, they have a jam up here on Saturday mornings that I go to sometimes.”

Reno Sharpe’s Store, Chatham County, NC. – around 2005

My mind was trying to recover names or faces that he might know, but it was as if my head’s fuel tank had run dry, and nothing would come. He seemed to be doing the same when he brought up a couple names or instruments that they played. But nothing seemed to trigger the right neurons, and so we left it at that and started talking about what brought him to town. He was obviously there on vacation, so we went over the usual suspects of destinations. He was leaving to go back to Bonlee the next day. By this time, my mind was frantically trying to pause time. As I looked upon him, it was apparent that he hadn’t physically changed much at all. He was still slim and clean-shaven. His children, whom I didn’t know he had any, were now old enough to enjoy walking with their daddy down main street in Blowing Rock. While I was still trying to drink it all in, he said, as if to reinforce my look of doubt, “The last time I saw you, you said you were starting to write a book.”

That last statement sent my head reeling into dates so long ago that it seemed multiple rivers had flowed beneath my proverbial bridge. It was over twelve years ago that something like that might have been uttered from my lips.

So much had transpired. It was challenging to put into words how much had changed, to the point, that it was impossible to tell him that he was looking at the new me. What he didn’t know, nor do most people in my life, was that the writing of that book changed my perspective on life and my walk with God. It placed upon my heart an urgency, an impetus of motivation.

Seven years ago, it had become too much. There was a frustration level in my soul that couldn’t be quenched by serving God just part-time. It was time to take the step off the cliff and devote all of me to Him. It was an immersion that would take my family and I hundreds of miles away from the only home my children had ever known – our Chatham county farm. My instincts were drawn to the mountains, both physically and spiritually – to a higher calling, if you will. The first year was one that I felt would break us, both financially and emotionally. It was our Israelite forty years in the desert phase. We learned to do without and to suffer. But we learned something much greater through all of those trials – that we couldn’t do it alone. We needed God even more than ever before. But how could I convey this to Matthew, a person who had almost entirely been lost in my memory?

But there, in those precious few seconds, there wasn’t enough time to tell the whole of the story. There weren’t enough seconds to convey what God had done in not only my life but in the life of those around me. Suddenly, as if the breath of life were about to be removed from my chest, an urgency came upon me. If it weren’t for this chance encounter, this momentary pause in time, we would have never seen one another again. There was an instant of longing to want to find a way to spend time with him and his family, but he said they would be leaving on the morrow. There was no way to reach out to him technically because, like so many where he came from, they have spurned those so-called advances, and for many good reasons. It was a finality of a missed opportunity that stung the most. There was so much to show him and his family they would have missed.

But then, if we are true to our faith, isn’t this a feeling that should possess us every day?

The feeling that we sometimes only have a moment in passing a person on the trail, walking past someone on the street, or even meeting someone only briefly in our daily life, to reach out to them to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sense that time would slip by before we could tell them how their salvation depends on the way, the truth, and the light of Christ descended on my heart mightily. This spirit of urgency began to drive me to seek wisdom and direction from the Word. And with it, a determination to seek out those who are lost, not by their own accord but through lack of hearing.

It was in this mindset of fleeting chance encounters that lingered when the sunrise beckoned, and it was time to go to the Bible Study on Tuesday morning. Dan, our teacher for the day, walked us through 1 Timothy 4. He was enlightening as always, and for that, we were grateful. But the moment which is always desired but rarely seen happened after the meeting had concluded. My friend Richard and I had planned to go hiking and were about to head out after all the bustling of departures had ended. But in my heart, that lingering pause, that feeling that we should rush out just yet lest we miss something, seemed to loom over my earnestness to depart.

The chance encounter occurred when one of the elderly men, named Jim, came over to my table and began to share with me the enjoyment of reading that book Matthew had alluded to the night before, “Bruecke to Heaven.” He started to ask questions, and as is usual, they brought back the flood of memories, emotions, and spiritual awakening that had transpired through its writing. As we talked, another friend of mine, Richard, joined us. It was just us three in the restaurant’s dining area at that point.

Jim began to open up about his own personal walk and how that very morning, his dear wife had shared with him her point in life when she came to Christ. She told him that he needed to know it because it was something often mentioned at funerals, how the believer came to know Jesus. Tears began to well up in his eyes as we could feel our own heartstrings being pulled.

As he continued to share, his own emotions began to flow down his cheeks. He then said he wasn’t sure if he had ever truly received Christ into his life. We both could hear the despair in his voice. Then, without warning, he continued. The tears of sorrow flowed from his eyes like rivers of relief as my friend, and I felt that moment open, like the clouds after the rainstorm parting and the sun breaking through.

“Do you want to come to Christ right now,” Richard asked.

“Yes.”

“Then let’s do this,” and Richard began to pray over Jim, asking God to come into his life and give him the gift of eternal life through the salvation of his Son, Jesus Christ. When Richard was finished praying, he then, with head still bowed, said, “Jim,” as if to say, “take it away, you know what to do.”

With head bowed and heart in deep contrition, I was blessed beyond measure to hear our friend Jim pray to God, seeking his forgiveness, thanking him for his Son, and asking him to fully come into his life, once and for all. He battled through his flood of emotions so much that we began to embrace him through his change. The Holy Spirit began to flow, and that shaft of sunlight seemed to illuminate that little room until all three of our hearts would almost burst with joy. For a moment, time stood still, and the love of Jesus Christ filled us to overflowing.

Grace for grace became our measure.

As I sit here this morning, the day after, still reflecting on all that transpired in the past couple of days, it is with profound, heartfelt sincerity that I want to share how important it is that we seek those chance encounters. In those brief moments of time, we must find a way to stop time and speak into another’s life. Be always prepared to succinctly and as abundantly tell someone about the gospel of salvation, the story of Jesus Christ. And even more importantly, allow them time to come to Him in their own words.

It is truly a matter of life and death.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Mark 4:20-22 KJV

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To Wait Upon the Lord…

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”-Isaiah 40:31

For once, he waited upon the weather; yet, it did not come. It unknowingly gave him time to pause and wait upon the Lord.

Technology had afforded him the foresight to know that storms were brewing in the distance, so he planned accordingly rather than going ahead. In his younger days, he would have gone ahead, not knowing, not caring, for if it were God’s will, then it shall be done.

One can never put man’s inventions before the designs of God. Proverbs 19:21 tells us, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.”

One hot, steamy Chatham County summer, he had started building a log cabin. It was not from a kit, it was not a prefabricated log assembly; no, it was from scratch. Finding a Coleman canvas eight-man tent at a yard sale, he set up camp and worked each day from sun up to sun down. He could go for days without seeing another soul. As he worked, his mind thought about his life and all that had transpired. The world in which he now lived was more of one with the land than ever before. It was as if he could feel a rhythm in the earth around him, one that God had created but man had ignored in the making of a world of his own. It was on one of those sultry afternoons when the work slowed because of the oppressive heat that the rhythm took on another tone; a dark rumble from beneath the soil rattled his awareness. Before he could gather his thoughts to take shelter, the flashes of lightning began to flash around him. Just over the hill, a black cloud pursued as the winds began to pick up tempo, so did his preparations to take cover. As he ran down the hill through the woods, the crashes of lightning hitting the earth were like mortar shells erupting all around him.

His heartbeat in his ears and nothing more.

Upon reaching the safety of his tent, he opened a flap at the opposite end to allow the pressure in the room to equalize. From his vantage point upon the bed made of cedar saplings lashed together, he watched with fascination and fear as the thunderbolts struck closer and closer, the earth-shaking tremors of resonance into his bones. He grasped the edges of the bed and prepared for the worst. The trees bent nearly double outside his little window. The rain was a sheet of water now, as the tent sides began to push in; yet, standing firm. Closing his eyes, he prayed that if it be God’s will to die, that it be quick; otherwise, he prayed that he be allowed to live to serve Him more.

When he opened his eyes, the trees had shifted to the opposite direction as the sound of a massive locomotive passed overhead. For a moment he could imagine himself lying between the steel rails of the train track as the roar of the steam engine passed overhead. In a matter of minutes, the dark clouds had dispersed, and the storm was gone. A mile down the road, it looked as if a bulldozer had gone through the woods, completely leveling massive trees, including the beautiful old oak in front of Jerry Moses’ home. He had survived and rode out the storm on nothing more than a bed made of cedar saplings and in a canvas tent; it has surely been God’s will.

For if it be God’s will, then it shall be done.

Fast forward, the same man, now standing on the edge of the Germanesca valley, high in the Cottien Alps. Around him, multiple waterfalls cascade down from tremendous heights. He is with a hiking companion, who like himself, had not planned on going this far today. The wind begins picking up the roar of the waterfalls, spiraling them around as they became a voice unto their own. They had not checked the weather reports for the day, but there seemed little to fear. The sky was an azure blue as far as the mind’s eye could see. There were no plans to go as far as they had. What seemed as a short leisurely hike had now become a mission; to reach the summit before their allotted time expired. The hiking companion was his junior by nearly 30 years, yet they were both feeling the effects of the altitude. As he paused, it was as if he waited upon the Lord to strengthen his legs. They had started at nearly 4,000 feet in altitude, and before they reached the summit, they would climb another 5,000 feet. He would need more than just his own power to make this journey. Silently he prayed asking God to give him the energy, and fortitude to make it to the top. Before he could finish, there was a surge of electricity that seemed to flow through his core, down through his legs to his feet. Suddenly, it was as if he could no longer feel the growing weariness in his thighs that moments before had made him question this endeavor. From there, it was if he had mounted on wings of eagles as they passed one group after another making their way up the mountain. They eventually made it to the top where they openly confessed thanks to having lunch with God. It was if Heaven’s door was within reach.

He had waited upon the Lord, and his strength had been renewed.

When he rolled out of bed today, before knowing the storms were coming, his body ached. Even though he had taken Sunday off from his labors, his body was worn from the daily toil in the summer heat. Once more he was building another structure, but unlike the cabin before, this one would be much larger and much more challenging. Add to that being nearly 30 years older, it was as if the odds were stacked against him. Although he was up for the task, his aging frame was having second thoughts. His right wrist had already suffered a strain and needed to be kept in a brace while he worked. Both hands had fingertips worn raw from the concrete blocks he was laying since the gloves he wore had long since been worn out. In essence, he needed more than just one day to recover, but the clock was ticking.

Thankfully, the pause of the morning was just enough to give him a chance to feel God’s grace once again. Once the errands had been run, he resumed his work and pushed through until he could go no further. He could walk and not faint, but he was certainly close.

As he covered all the items to be kept in the dry, he looked back and saw that three of the four masonry foundation walls were complete.

It was not the mountaintop, but he was getting closer each day.

Moments later, the rumble of thunder shook the valley below, and within minutes, the flood of the summer rains came cascading down. Like a sigh of relief, he rested once more as the strains of raindrops pattering against the window panes soothing his weary soul.

One step closer, one day more, we reach for the summit of that far distant shore.

In all we do, let us serve Him so that in all we do, God’s will shall be done.

Thanks be to God.

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Our Labor, His Will…

The ice cold, gray rain fell in sheets. Water gathered in pools forming tiny rivulets of motion on theimagesZ6SJD673 black tar of the parking lot that reflected the gray skies above. I continued to work, my hands wet and numb now, my breath visible in the chill of the air. My jacket had long ago soaked through, but at least, my feet were still dry. Inside me, there burnt a drive to finally put this seemingly endless task away; dismantling the Christmas lights and storing them for the year.

I had never intended to work in the rain but merely to get as much done before the storms came this early Friday morning. So, when the first few drops began to fall, I was taking apart the towers and thought, “I’ll just finish this and stop before it becomes a downpour.” As I finished taking apart the last tower, there was just one more thing, then one more and before I knew it, the sky opened up and I continued on.

There was a fire within that drove me onward; to labor in His will.

A distant memory bounced into my head about that time, another memory from the long forgotten past bubbled up, another wet, soggy day like this, only much warmer.

My step-mother always enjoyed buying matching outfits for everyone in the family, whether we were going on vacation, to my father’s work picnic, or just for a special occasion, she liked all our clothing to be the same, including mine. It had to be some inner desire of hers to hear someone exclaim when they noticed, “Hey, look, they’re all dressed the same. They must be a family!”

So one overcast, balmy afternoon following one of those such occasions, we showed up at one of my dad’s friend’s house to visit. We had been somewhere else and had “Dressed” for the occasion, all of us in white shorts with matching button up shirts. One thing led to another, and we soon found ourselves fishing in the friend’s stocked ponds. My family never missed an opportunity to go fishing. Before heading out with fishing poles and tackle in hand, I can still hear my step-mother’s last words, “Don’t get those shorts dirty.”

Yeah right!

We had just barely got our lines cast into the dark, mysterious deep when the rain began. We might have stopped had it not been for a quick hit or two. Once my father got a nibble on his line, we could rest assure we wouldn’t leave until we had a fish in hand, and so it was this particular day. At first, it was a light, touching rain, one that you could easily ignore for the sake of watching your bobber. However, this rain soon began a deluge that began to create streams of water that found the curvature of your spine and then followed it down, down, down into places you’d rather not find cold water running.

The longer we fought the urge to run for cover, the wetter we became. There reaches a point in life when you are so consumed by the heat of the moment that the world around you doesn’t matter; it’s as if your body is put on hold. Soaked to the bone, we were helplessly giddy with our moment under the falling skies. Meanwhile, the banks of the lake had become slick and that’s when we began to fall, one after another. First one of my sisters slid on her bottom while reaching for a hung line, then myself then pretty soon there wasn’t one of us that had not smeared mud, fish entrails, worm guts or grass stains on those pretty white shorts. To make matters worse, we were soaked through and through, from head to toe; nothing was spared of moisture.

I don’t recall how we were received other than the fact it was not a happy reunion when we got back to the house.

So when my friend Heather pulled up and tentatively rolled her window down, squinting against the pouring rain, I realized I had worked past a point of normalcy. It hadn’t hit me until I paused to talk to her just how cold my legs had become. My knees were as numb as my hands, and to stand still while talking made them feel as if they would lock up at any time. In order to keep from falling down I had to shift back and forth to try to regain some sense of circulation in my lower extremities.

After she left, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel with regard to being finished.

Should I stop or go on,” I thought to myself?

If you quit now, you’ll go inside and realize how cold, wet and tired you are and you won’t get anything else done the rest of the day,” I answered. So, I pushed onward.

Later, another friend, Dwayne, arrived just as I was struggling with some of the larger pieces; his timing was impeccable. He jumped out of his dry truck and dug right in. I explained to him how I hadn’t intended on working in the rain, but that I was close to finishing. Now, I had someone to talk with as we worked; the time flew by more quickly as the rain continued to fall.

It’s funny how moments in time appear in your thoughts when you are going through difficult times; flashbacks of your own history, times not forgotten.

Yes, there was another cold rainy day, but for some reason, the one from my past seemed much colder.

We were building our first home in Chatham County. We wanted to get as much wired pulled as we could one particular day when it began to pour a cold, hard rain. We worked through the chill as our clothing became soaked. Unfortunately, I didn’t have adequate shoes of jacket that day and my feet were as numb as my hands; I was frozen down to my core. When we finally stopped, I could literally force water to gush out of my clothes as they were wrung out when we reached the safety of the tiny cabin. There we lay our soaked outer garments on the woodstove. The air was filled with the hiss of instant steam as the clothes boiled at the touch of the red hot stove. The radiant heat from the fire, the steam and the beans cooking on the stove made a special ambiance one cannot appropriately describe; it was special coziness to that tiny abode that felt ancient and good. We sat on the bed, loft and few chairs warming ourselves and eating ham and beans that had awaited us on the cooktop, warming us back up, reinvigorating our bodies and souls.

Yes, my stomach was starting to remind me the pre-dawn breakfast was long gone.

We pushed as far as hunger pangs and freezing cold would allow. Later, from the shelter inside the visitor center, I could look out the windows and see with satisfaction how much that had been accomplished this frigid, raw morning. It would have been easy to write it off and postpone the work until another day; yet, now the task was almost complete.

The temperature outside had been barely 38 degrees for the high and the rain lasted the remainder of the day.

The sense of accomplishment inside overshadowed the bluish hue of my nearly frozen skin. After changing into some dry clothing and eating lunch, the warmth and fullness allowed exhaustion to finally reach me.

I know there are harder days ahead, but knowing from where we’ve come can sometimes make what we are going through more bearable, if nothing else, just by the sheer knowing, “If we could live through that, then we can do this too.’

So, it goes. Another day passes and another unthinkable challenge has passed, with success and with having learned a little more about ourselves. Our labor can be His will, and in that we can rejoice.

I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.

14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. 15 That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.” Eccl. 3:12-15

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More than a Place…We Need a Cause…

As each day passes, there is an image that is beginning to take form before me. swordofGodSometimes I see it in my dreams, vaguely, shrouded in a mist, hidden from full view. I awaken and it is gone before I can write it down. Yet, day by day, ever so slowly I hear a voice saying, “People need the Trail to be more than just a history lesson, people are looking for a Trail of FAITH!” The letters we receive asking for prayer, the people asking for more than just a history lesson and those who show up at the Trail seeking spiritual guidance. Yes, slowly, I can see the Trail of Faith more than just a place, yes, something more.

Then today, as I drove back once more from Chatham County, I was blessed to hear an interview with a young couple who were literally on the front lines of the war against Satan. They were serving  in Iraq as counselors to children who had been ravaged by the war on ISIS. As they spoke it was clear they were living in the moment of what many, including myself, only feeblly attempt to grasp on Sunday morning, the true meaning of discipleship. In all that they said, they were also very humble in their faith and realized that God was with them, because had He not been, there were many times that they narrowly escaped death. When asked what they needed most, they promptly responded with, “Prayer.” They knew that thousands of prayers lifted up daily were part of the reason they were able to do what they do. Their mission was definitely not without cause. Yes, that was it; the missionary’s whose work gives them a purpose, a Cause.

Then it hit me.

The Trail of Faith is begging to become a Cause of its own, a Mission that people seek today.

Why, how is that possible you ask? Don’t we have to go to third world countries to go on a mission?

Week after week I see the same pattern unfold. The same old church story, the same old routine of attending the place with the same old people, is losing its flavor. The world is turning away and leaving behind its youth, we must find more relevant ways to engage them; they are demanding a cause without knowing it. In order to keep them engaged and away from the distractions, there has to be a concerted effort to pull them into something that they can feel taking shape, something that they can be a part of and something that they can make a difference in the world through. Yes, we have to find a path through which these brilliant minds of our next generation can be more than just good, they have to become brilliant icons of our hope for tomorrow.

There is so much work to do in order to prepare.

One cannot go into battle with a dull sword. One cannot walk into the fray without ammunition, yet if we simply tell them to go and do, they will be shredded by the enemy. Darkness will consume their light before they have started, so we must work diligently to create the next wave of disciples for Christ, an army of evangelizing fanatics who want nothing more than to share the love of Christ across the face of our planet, bringing hope to the downtrodden and those left for emotional dead.

Where do we start?

Just as the Trail of Faith was built for those that could not travel to the valleys to see first-hand the place where the birth of the Church in the Wilderness began, we also have to provide our novice evangelists a place to practice before they go into the greater world. Here at the Trail, we can build more than a base of educated Christians; rather, we can build a host of believers who are empowered to go out and be more than just those who sit within a four-walled institution and wait for their Word to be fed to them each Sunday. We must create those who must feed themselves daily on the bread of life so that they are encouraged to inspire others to do likewise. Through their sharing of the Word at the Trail through the story of the people of the valleys, they will gain confidence. With each step they will become stronger until the boundaries that kept them shackled will be loosed.

Each day God sends opportunities to the Trail and each day, when we don’t engage them, they are lost forever. We have many times prayed over those hurting, those needing healing and those who have found themselves intimately closer to God. You see, we are being pulled to lead and where He goes, we must follow.

Yes, there is much to do, and we can begin now. The enemy will not wait and the longer we delay, the greater the challenge we face. Darkness believes the battle is won, but we have not yet begun to fight. Oh wake up sleeping nation and arise, for the battle is at hand, victory awaits.

There is victory in Jesus, and for that we must all strive to bring into our everyday mantra; to live in Christ, to die in Christ, either way, is gain.

Go forth and prepare, the time is now; we must because, there must be a cause greater than our own and He is the way, the truth, and the light forever more.

 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” – Matthew 28:19-20

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Power of Prayer…

 

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” –Psalm 19:14

Prayer connects us to God in ways we as mere mortals beings may never understand.

Each day I find God only tests us with what he knows we can handle; this week was no different.prayer

First thing Monday morning we had our first visitors, a walk-in family of four who were there or a self-guided tour. As I began introducing them to the Trail, I felt led to share with them more than the basic story and soon found myself sharing my testimony. Their children were very attentive and extremely well educated in Christianity; knowing more scriptures than many adults I’ve met. Later we would find that they were home schooled which explained their advanced Biblical knowledge. I specifically recalled the point where it hit me that this was another “God Moment,” as I’ve been calling them lately. That moment came after they had watched our introduction movie and had turned around to ask questions. For some reason, I can’t recall the details, they mentioned something about being from Durham. Perhaps I had shared with them the farm and the fact that we hadn’t yet sold ours back in Chatham County and then they said how they were looking to get out of Durham and move out into the country. It was then the image of God smiling, looking down on us all came to mind. I know God has a sense of humor; knowing all the struggles, showings and lack of getting our house to move at all. Could this be the family that only He could have found and sent to us to start the ball rolling?

As I took them on more of a guided tour than a self-guided tour while I was able, as long as another guest didn’t arrive we can spend more time with our guests, I was able to share with them in more detail the whole story. When we give tours, we can often tell when the Holy Spirit begins to work in our visitors and this particular morning, He was definitely with us. I learned that the mother’s maiden name was “Barba,” as the name of those who taught and led the student’s at the college in the valleys. I encouraged her to seek out more of her family tree, especially since she knew she was of Italian ancestry. Although I don’t need a miracle to believe, there are some who do and what another amazing story it would be if this was the family.

Oddly enough, when we tried to show them our farm that was for sale on the MLS listing, it hit me, that we had taken it off the market temporarily and that it wasn’t available to show them. Instead, we gave them contact information for our realtor and the address, just in case. It was almost as if we weren’t allowed to go too far that day, but just enough.

In God’s time, we shall see.

Then, as if we needed another gear switched, we had a totally different perspective arrive on Wednesday when Ron Long and his wife Donell arrived from New Mexico. For Ron’s birthday, Donell arranged to bring him to Valdese to visit the town from where his grandfather had come. Before finding us at the Trail, they had already gone to the museum downtown. They had also studied the Waldensians somewhat so that I was able to jump right into my testimony and share with them my own spiritual journey. As I did, we soon found our ancestral ties, since Ron’s family tree also included Trons. As their self-guided tour turned into a guided tour, while I was once again able, we found so many connections and similarities in our own journey that we literally could not find enough words to share the moment. Family reunions like this, set apart by centuries of time, require nearly an eternity to allow us all the time needed to pass from one to the other the stories of who, what, where and why. I can only imagine that day when Christ returns and we shall all be called to that eternal heavenly home, to share with all our family gone on before. Eternity awaits, for it will be needed in order to hear every last word of every last tale that each of us has to share.

Ron and Donell felt such a strong desire to be part of the journey that they openly expressed how they wished that God might find a way to move them here someday. I offered them my prayers that it might come to pass.

Before Ron and Donell left, we shared our contact information and let the know about the evening meal at the Waldensian Church later that evening. We hugged goodbye not knowing if we would ever meet again. As fate would have it, we met them at the Church dinner later. They were there along with Marilynn from the museum, who had given them their tour earlier in the day enjoying the wonderful Wednesday evening meal. We had another great visit and soon found ourselves hugging goodbye more than once; family whom you know you might never see again is very hard to see go away, especially after you’ve just met. God only knows!

As if the week hadn’t already been moving enough, then came Thursday.

An older couple came walking in later that Thursday morning. I began the introduction to the Trail for their self-guided tour and it was during that brief intro that I felt something speak to me, to tell me to go on, so I did. As I gave my testimony, I felt myself being drawn closer to God in a way that I had never felt before. Before I knew it, the lady to whom I was speaking began to cry and then said to me that she had cancer. I could feel her need for fervent prayer and I opened my arms, embracing her and her husband at the same time, praying over them, asking God for healing and strength; it was a first for me here at the Trail. It was then that I shared with her how my own mother had fought and battled cancer for over 20 years before passing a couple years ago, and that with faith, anything was possible. From that point on, until I could go no further due to other arriving guests, I stayed with them and felt a connection unlike any other. We didn’t have to be blood relatives to feel a bond, we were brothers and sisters in Christ. Later when they came back in, we hugged goodbye and I prayed a silent prayer for them as they drove away. We may never meet again on this side of Glory, but oh what a glorious day it will be when we do.

And then came Friday.

Suffice it to say, we had our challenges but our staff and volunteers worked like seasoned professionals, meeting every obstacle with undaunted determination. In the end, we served nearly 100 guests who were all able to hear our story, our testimony, smell the wood being cut on the sawmill, taste the fresh baked bread and even allowed to roll a few bocci balls. Yes, Friday was as beautiful as it was blessed, with its azure blue skies and crisp fall air.

We had made it through one of our best weeks to date and survived. My 4:30 AM start date that Friday morning wore on me pretty hard by the time 11:00 PM rolled around at the youth center, but I was quite thankful to be able to go home and have a wonderful night’s sleep.

Prayers had been answered more than once, and some we may never know.

Later that weekend my sister called to let me know my brother-in-law had found a job. I shared with her that after the last time we spoke, about a month earlier, I began making a conscious effort to pray for him to find a job. That had been nearly three weeks ago. I asked her when he found the job, she then paused and said, “It was about three weeks ago.” He had been about to take a job far, far away where he might have to move to temporarily and work making an extreme hardship on him and the family but suddenly before he packed to leave, another company called an offered him a job locally, for more money. That was the job he now had. It was then that we thanked God for prayers answered on both ends of the phone.

As Allen King, the pastor of River of Life Church, continues the prayer revival, we too return to prayer more and more. As we do, amazing Godly things begin to transpire, transforming our reality into answered prayers.

All we have to do is believe, and pray.

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Epiphany Through the Fog of Time…

rainydayThe air hung heavy overhead like a cloud enveloping my mind. As I left work, I knew that I was but a whispered breath away from passing out from exhaustion, but this was my Friday, the last night’s work for the week so I would celebrate with a hot breakfast for the ride home. I had stayed longer at work that morning than was expected due to the strange feeling I had of needing to hang around and talk. When I left the building to go to my car, rain was falling in a thick mist adding to the chill of the gray morning air; sleep would come easily, but I first had to make it home safely.

By the time I had left the drive-thru with my warm breakfast in hand, the rain had subsided, but the overcast sky was dull and foreboding. To visit my favorite drive-thru meant taking the two lane road home; a dangerous option, but one that I took with the understanding my senses had to stay alert. There on the windy two-lane highway of 751 that threaded its way from one major highway to the next past farms and Jordan Lake, the scenery itself was enough to help keep your mind awake if not provide for a reminder of the seasonal world in which we live. I had just turned onto 751 when a log truck pulled out in front of me stabbing my waning energy with the likelihood of being stuck behind a slow moving vehicle. To someone who was well into the throes of sleep deprivation, getting stuck behind a slow moving object is like putting an anchor on your back and running a marathon. However, today was my lucky day, or so I thought for the truck quickly accelerated and I soon found myself losing ground to the heavy footed driver; for that I was thankful. I regained focus on the warm meal and melded with the music that was thumping along as the fields and forests passed by.

I was suddenly and quickly awakened from my trance by the red lights of the logging truck just ahead that had slowed. Not giving it much thought, I figured he or the car just ahead of him was taking a left and we’d soon be on our way; but we didn’t.

We came to a complete stop.

The rain had picked back up, and my windows were slightly fogged as was my mind. I could see the images ahead but like something unexpected when you emerge from a deep sleep, their juxtaposition and shapes don’t make sense, so they don’t register. I sat for a moment taking in the scene before me looking at dark shapes, objects blocking the road where there should be open lanes. Pools of liquid oozed from one pile of metal as fumes escaped. Nearby, the large dark object was still not making any sense. A man walked out, snapped a picture on his phone and returned from wherever he had come. It then dawned on me, the large dark object had wheels, and I was actually looking at the underneath side of a large transfer truck. Then like the slow dawn of a morning sunrise, the gravity of the situation hit me. I felt a pit in my stomach. There before me was a horrific car wreck, and from what I could see ahead of the logging truck in front of me, there was little chance the person that had been in the heap of metal still lying in the middle of the had survived. Something was odd about it all, for I didn’t see anyone walking around other than the lone photographer. I sat unthinking, feeling as sullen as the skies above. The rain pelted my window.  I turned the wipers back on to see cars beginning to turn around; we weren’t going home this way anytime soon. I felt the tug of exhaustion mixed with another feeling I couldn’t describe. I knew I had to turn around and take another route if I were going to make it home this day.

As I drove off, the farther the distance between me and the accident grew, so did the realization of what I had just witnessed. Emergency vehicles began to pass me going the opposite direction on their way to the scene. Totally unaware at the time, I soon realized, I had been one of the first people to arrive.  There hadn’t been anyone walking around because it had just happened.  That feeling I couldn’t recall earlier returned and a sensation of crushing despair flooded my soul.

My mind flashed back to the fateful night in New Harmony when a woman drove past the DOT barricades blocking the road that was a dead end which stopped on the banks of the Wabash river overlooking a small cliff. At that time, as a kid, we looked at it like the woman was just lost and had panicked; thus, flying off the end of the road and landing in the swollen river, where she and her car load of children drowned. It wasn’t until a recent reflection upon the event that I was profoundly struck with the realization that it was more than a possibility that she meant to do what she did. This would be years before another woman in South Carolina would do the same thing and attract national attention, when she climbed to safety from the sunken car leaving her own children behind to drown.

However, like the epiphany of the past in New Harmony where the truth pierces through the fog of time, so did the conclusion I could’ve possibly helped. Yet, I was in no shape with myself being on the verge of passing out at any moment. Then another burst of realization hit me, “Had I not stayed at work as long as I did, that pile of smoldering metal could have been me.” Once again, God had placed his hand upon my life, directing me, guiding my pathway for my journey was not yet complete. I said a prayer for the person or people who might have passed, for something inside told me a soul had departed from us back there on that rainy roadway.

The grayness of the day had now become one with the emotional landscape through which I drove. My mind floated from one past event to the next knowing a moment in time can make the difference between living and dying. God gave us free will, yet when we give our lives to him, we allow his presence to define who we are and how we live. I can’t help to believe that with this faith, we also allow his heavenly hand to reach down and direct our daily paths.

That night I had a dream.

littlechurchI had found a small country church, empty and abandoned. It was nothing fancy on the inside with an interior of pine paneling for walls and the typical red carpet underneath the modest wooden pews. I sat near a window and waited. Soon, as if I had expected them, there came a crowd of people dressed in what first appeared to be robes. As they drew nearer, I could see that they all had extremely pale complexions and snow white hair. Each of them wore suits of fine white linen. All but one were young men; the other being a stunningly beautiful young woman wearing a flowing white gown.. As they filed passed, I inquired to one of them as to where they were going. They told me they were going to a funeral, but they would return for me when they were finished. Something I don’t remember happened when they returned because I tried to speak in my dream, which caused me to shout out in my sleep, waking my wife who would have thrown me out of the bed if she were physically capable.  I don’t remember any more of the dream past that point.

The next morning I was still somewhat bothered by not only the accident but the dream as well. So, I decided that maybe it would help my catharsis if I sketched down what I could recall; the scene in my mind that would not go away.

751crash_sketchAs I began to draw the accident from the day before, another accident scene from my childhood came to mind. I could see the bus over the fiery figure underneath. The high school boy, Scott Knapp was his name, had pulled out on his motorcycle and crashed into the bus, getting trapped underneath. The bus was moved away from the flames, but the boy and his bike remained in the fireball on the road. We all watched from across the road, unaware at the time, there was a kid in that blazing inferno. After what seemed like an eternity, Mr. McKinney came running out of the school with an army blanket and ran to the fire, throwing the blanket on an object and pulling it free; it was the badly burned body Scott. I recall how he survived for a few days but eventually the 3rd degree burns were too much to overcome, and he died. I often wondered after that day if I had known he was still in the fire if I could have or would have done anything different.

I finished the sketch and realized I had drawn the perspective of standing in front of the logging truck that had blocked my view. I figured it was just my imagination, and left it at that. Days later, I spoke to another coworker about that morning, and we found the crash online. Just as I had feared, there had been a fatality. Mr. Harold Sugg of Pittsboro had died at the scene. Then, along with the description of the accident was the photograph. There in the 751crashnews photo was a picture exactly the same angle and direction from my drawing, the one I had done from memory.

I don’t know what all of this means, I don’t know what God is trying to say, but all I know is that I’m thankful to have had another day to hug my children and breathe a breath of fresh glorious air on this side of the green grass.

May your journey’s be fruitful and your travels safe, God Bless.

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