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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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Just A Pair of Leaves…

by Timothy W. Tron, May 2022

The pair stood on the bridge and watched the clear mountain river flow beneath – one the elder to the other. A chill was in the air, it was still early May, but the night air still lingered in the valleys. As they stood watching, a pair of birch leaves floated past. At first, the leaves stayed side by side, as if walking and talking along a trail or ridgeline. It appeared as if they reflected the demeanor of the two friends that morning. Then, as if time sped up for one, a swifter current navigated past rocks, tiny splashes of white water told of the increased flow, and the one leaf went ahead of the other. Meanwhile, the leaf that stayed behind kept its course, steady and true.

The elder was still talking as the other watched the leaves but didn’t say anything. It felt as if God was telling him something silently so his friend wouldn’t be interrupted by what he was saying. In his mind, he knew that time with his friend would be like the leaves. Their walks and talks together were only for a short while. Before long, his friend, long in the years, would soon leave this world behind. Or was it himself? Whatever the case, each man was well aware of life’s end approaching, but it was something that only came up in conversation when there was little else to ponder. Both knew that the day would come for each of them. Like the current speeding up for one, the Spirit shall quicken within our mortal bodies so that we should then rise from our sleep to meet our creator. It was his pleasure to make us, and when we are reunited in heaven, we shall all be given new, glorified bodies – what a day it will be. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” – Romans 8:17

Yet, as one would become part of eternity, the other would remain behind, steady and true to carry on the faith. It was with this in mind as they found a bench along the river and sat, listening to the songbirds sing of brighter days as the breeze blew the wildflowers that grew in abundance nearby, that the younger of the two mentioned the leaves. After sharing the scene, they both sat for some time. They had found a coffee shack nearby and were both sipping on a hot brew of their choice. It seemed so appropriate. They savored their drinks and, for a moment, sat in silence, relishing in the beauty of God’s creation and discernment.

God created all things for our pleasure. It is up to us to pause long enough to enjoy them. Some moments we wish could last forever, but time flows onward like these mountain streams, and with it, we too will someday pass. It’s not what we leave behind that matters, but hopefully, what others will remember of us will cause them to think of Him, of only Jesus, and for that, we should all proudly say, “Thanks be to God.”

 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” – Revelation 4:11

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” – Romans 8:11

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Only Not to be Lonely

by Timothy W. Tron, May, 2022

A petite young boy, barely four years old, stood just within the entrance to the pasture. His tiny frame had easily crawled between the bars of the tube gate that was shut to keep the herd of cattle confined within. The firmament overhead was an azure blue, clear as far as the eye could see. Before him stood stalks of green, as tall as trees. The sun felt warm on his demure frame. He was smaller than most children his age. To know him, one would understand why. He was lucky to be alive.

For two years, at the tender age of one and then again, at two, he had contracted double pneumonia. Each time, he barely survived extended stays in the hospital, camping beneath a clear plastic tent as oxygen was pumped into its confines. Many prayed for and over the child. Most feared that he would succumb to the illness, but God had other plans. Like the countless stalks before him, a multitude of prayers had been lifted up in his name, supporting, strengthening, abiding in one another until they found their mark. He eventually healed, but his body suffered the ravages, growing more slowly than other children his age. So, as the sap began to flow in the trees, he felt a renewed strength start to flow through his veins. There seemed to be something that beckoned him to leave the old farmhouse and to wander out behind the tractor shed. Something beyond those palisades of fencing and outbuildings – an openness that smelled of freedom from the bondage of death.

 The white cotton shirt beneath the little overalls wasn’t enough to remove the chill of the breeze that wafted the tops of the grasses that swayed before him. A deep, rich aroma permeated the air – it spoke of earth and nature. Earlier that morning, he heard his grandmother speak of prayers being answered for him and how God was great. She went on to share how millions of prayers were being lifted up for their country, seeing as something called the Vietnam conflict was being fought. He didn’t understand the words “prayer” or “war” or what a “world away” meant. It sounded scary. She saw his countenance drop and quickly comforting saying, “nothing to be bothered with, my son. It’s far, far away.” She explained that prayers were people’s way of speaking to God, “like you and I talking now.” But the word “million” made no sense at all. Like the blades of grass before him, too numerous to count, a million was a number that was beyond his comprehension. It was only an entity unto itself, like a living organism, something through which he could only understand if it was tactile. The boy wandered deeper into the tall grass.

A childlike faith, dread of nothing, guided his path as he made his way through the forest of green. Cows making their way had unknowingly prepared his path. A baby cannot know sin, just as there is no reason to Baptize such. So, it is with fear. The child only felt the hand of the comforter. It wasn’t a stranger to him. He had been with him before – like the long empty days when he was held captive in the hospital bed. There were times when he would look to the foot of his bed and see the shadow of one that watched over him, and those suffocating feelings of abandonment would drift away – a love unseen would flood his soul, and sleep would come once more. He was there now, the comforter, walking, holding his hand, watching over him once more. They continued on. The boy followed wherever the trail of grasses led. Surviving the illness had instilled in him a sense of hope, knowing that with each new day, each fresh breath of life, there was always something to look forward to. The Apostle Paul put it like this, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”[1]

To understand a faith like this, one must erase all the preconceived notions that cling to us as we traverse through life. It takes an unfettered faith, one that clings to God as a drowning man does to the one trying to save him. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”[2] This faith, the belief in something unknown, but yet, it was known, that guided the little child. For each new turn, every new wrinkle of light gave hope, a tantalizing offer of something else to come. For a child, heaven is as believable as the friend that talks to them when no one is there. Anything is possible when you can dispense with what we come to know as the natural realm of reality. Matthew describes Jesus calling the little children unto him, saying, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[3]  This faith, this pure belief, guided the little farm boy past the herd of gentle Herefords to the small brook that ran past the farm.

The breeze gently blew the leaves overhead as the little one found his way to the gurgling waters. Before him flowed a small tree-lined creek. Large river birches and pin oaks shaded the oasis below. The bank was worn away where the cows had trod to reach the life-giving sustenance. The little boy sat down on a rock, resting as he wondered about the beasts that soon followed him to the watering hole. He was at home with the herd of cattle as he was with being alone. The animals sensed a purity, a being so gentle, they couldn’t help to wonder. They didn’t speak but gathered, at first hesitantly, realizing the child wasn’t a threat. Then, one by one, they meandered on down to the water and began to drink. Calves followed their mothers, some sniffing at the little boy, their muzzles tickling his neck, causing him to laugh aloud with a cherub-like voice. The sound would cause them to jump, skittering a step away, but continuing on as accepting the tiny human’s presence. He did not know how long they gathered, only that as they departed, he followed like one of the herd. A rumble within his tummy soon reminded him that the grass that the cows were eating wouldn’t suffice, that he needed to return to grandma’s kitchen where the pleasant aroma of something good cooking surely awaited.

Like an old friend, he motioned goodbye to his newfound friends, the cows, and climbed back through the gate’s bars. Somewhere off in the distance, a Redwing chirped as it headed to the pond nearby. A tiny puff of a cloud whisked past as the little boy kicked at a dirt clod in the trail leading back to the house. The dust drifted onward, like his feelings, from one happy sugar cube of thought to the next. His days were filled with what some might call loneliness, but to him, it was just another day in the life he had been given. It was there, alone in those oceans of grass that loneliness and isolation were supplanted by imagination. It would become a voice within that would carry him through all the days of his life. There was nothing for which to compare, and as it was, he was glad to be alive.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Romans 5:5 KJV

[2] Matthew 19:14 NIV

[3] Matthew 18:2-3 NIV

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The Blood of the Martyrs

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” – Mt. 24:7-14

Visar Kryeziu/APVisar Kryeziu/AP
A father hugs his daughter as the family reunite after fleeing conflict in Ukraine, at the Medyka border crossing, in Poland, Feb. 27, 2022.

What you are about to read is based on a true story. The name of the mission and its members have been changed or omitted for safeties sake. May the Lord speak to you through this message.

The men walked with their families, wives, children, and the elderly. Some held hands with their loved ones. Others carried babes in arms, cherishing the last moments that would forever be etched into their hearts. As they approached the border crossing into Poland, they could see up ahead the checkpoints created to secure those passages to freedom, to safety, a place beyond the horror of war that they had just escaped. Yosef could feel the lump in his throat grow as he watched those with him become ever more anxious. Everyone knew that when they reached the border, Yosef would have to return to their village, leaving them, possibly forever.

Each able body man was asked to return from escorting their family to the border to fight for their country, their freedom, their lives. Yosef was no different. He knew that he could not escape with the women and children, that he and the other survivors of his village would do all they could to defend their country, their homeland, and their faith. Standing up for what is right was easy back in their town when they still had a home. But now, the shelling and destruction forced them to abandon all they knew and loved. It seemed that all they had left of their former life was their faith, for everything else had been stripped away.

Yosef and his brother Caleb had both worked with missionaries from America, training to become evangelists in Ukraine. Their work was to seek out others and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although they had worked regular jobs during the day, their eventual goal was to become full-time evangelists traveling around their country and becoming missionaries in their own way. But weeks before Russia attacked Ukraine, the American mission teams were asked to leave for safety’s sake. The missionary leaders and their families were as heartbroken as were their trainees, but everyone knew it was for the best. Besides, it would just be a precaution, and they would all be back together continuing their ministry before they knew it.

That was over a month ago. For Yosef, it seemed like an eternity.

It was Friday morning, the day before Sabbath, and Yosef could remember getting ready to go to work. The small hospital where he and his brother worked continued treating patients even though the attack on their country had begun. Yosef and Caleb were only orderlies, but due to the recent influx of war injuries, they were asked to help bandage and care for the less severe wounds. He was just about to go out the door when his daughter rushed up to him and begged him to come back and help her put on her boots for school. “Mommy’s busy with little brother,” she said, pointing to the back room of their small but modest home, “I need you to help me, Papa.” Yosef knew his wife, Evette, was busy with their newborn son, so he was happy to oblige.

“It’s okay, baby. Papa’s got you covered.”

She smiled as he knelt down to the ground, pulling the boots up as she pressed her little feet into the pink unicorn galoshes. Her hand rested on his back, and he could feel the tender touch of her sweet disposition, warming him through and through. When he finished, he lifted her up and gave her a big hug as she wrapped her little arms around his neck, returning the embrace.

“Now, I am off to do God’s work. You be a good little girl and have fun at school. You hear me?”

“Yes, Papa,” she smiled ear to ear, waving as he turned to walk out the door. Across the street, near the newly constructed apartment complex, Caleb waited in his car. He and Yosef always rode together, and today was like any other. Although Caleb was always there, always on time, he hated being late. So, when he saw Yosef emerging a second time from the house, he waved toward him as if to say, “C’mon, we’re going to be late.”

Yosef smiled and waved back. It was all too funny. His brother could never relax, even when they were witnessing to others. He seemed to never be content with just learning the verses their mentors had asked them to memorize. No, Caleb had to push himself, learning entire chapters that contained those verses. He was always driven to give his all. It was just who he was. It was this thought of his dear brother that remained when the flash of light suddenly erupted before him.

Out of nowhere, a sound like thunder ripped through the air. The ground folded under itself as the rumble of the earth shook Yosef to his core. One minute, Yosef was waving at Caleb, the next, he was blown backward, his feet trailing behind him as he watched his body being lifted up by the force of the blast. All Yosef could see was the image of his brother, smiling and waving, and then it was as if the screen on the television had gone blank, and the silhouette of the ghostly image of Caleb remained. His brother’s soul was burnt into his eyes.

Clouds of smoke, dust, and debris began raining down. The light was broken, and darkness had prevailed. Somewhere a dog barked as car alarms started blaring. Yosef didn’t know how long he had been unconscious, nor where he was, when he finally sat up. People ran before him in all directions. There was no sound in this landscape of destruction, just the images running through the fog of silence, interspersed with mouths that had no voice. Across the street, the entire structure of the apartment complex that once stood was now gone. The road beside it was a crater. The cars there were now either blown to pieces or burning embers. Yosef realized that Caleb would not be waiting anymore.

Painfully, he turned to look at his own house. The entire front of his home and all the others on their side of the street were caved in. People poured out, frantic, screaming, yet their lips were muted by the searing pain that shot through Yosef’s head. It was as if the world had gone insane, and nothing made sense. Softly, and gently, from behind him, he felt the touch of a little hand. He turned to see his daughter, still wearing her little pink unicorn boots. Her eyes were rimmed with fear as tears fell down her rosy cheeks.

“Papa, papa,” she sobbed. Yosef’s hearing began to return like a wave of emotion as he reached for his baby girl wrapping her in his arms as she sat on his lap. Soon, Evette emerged with their son in her arms, weeping and crying. There they sat amid the rubble as the world around them spun out of control. It was then Yosef realized he only had one thing left he could do and began to pray. His heart poured out to the Lord as the tears fell down his face.

From that day forward, their lives were never the same. It seemed that each day, more lives were lost, more arbitrary destruction, none of it made sense. Finally, when the shelling became so dire, they realized to stay would mean certain death for everyone, so Yosef did what all the others in their village had decided, to take the women, children, and elderly to the border then return to fight, until the end.

Yet, each day, since they had begun their painful march to exile, they felt the hand of God on them, protecting them, delivering them from harm. Yosef knew that had he not listened to the voice of his daughter that fateful morning when Caleb was killed in the bombing that he too would have died. It was as if God had spared his life for a reason. God had spoken through a child to save his life. How much more could he do to return the favor? Each day, Yosef could feel the faith inside him growing. Evette seemed to sense it as well and encouraged him by reading from their tiny Bible she had brought along. The scriptures spoke to them more and more each day.

Reaching the crossing, Yosef turned and embraced Evette. He didn’t want to let go, for he knew when he did, it would be the last time. “Yosef, you will make a difference. Don’t forget who you are, and take this,” she passed the little Bible into his palm as she leaned into him; close now, face to face, “You’re going to need this more than ever before,” she whispered as they kissed goodbye.

Down by his side, he could feel the tiny hands holding onto his pant leg. As he bent down, his heart began to melt. The tears filled his eyes, and he realized this would be their last time.

 “Papa, you are going to do God’s work, right,” the little voice said, sincerely and without fear?

“Yes baby, yes, papa will…,” and he stopped, choking back the flood of emotion.

He hugged one last time and turned to leave.

It was his time. This would be the end.

He would not look back.

The Bible in his hand reminded him that this was all that made sense. So, mustering every ounce of strength he could find in his weeping soul, Yosef silently began to pray. As his voice lifted up to the heavens, a tingling sensation began to rise from the earth, pouring through his legs, up through his spine, until it reached the top of his head. It was an energy that made him want to shout, Amen! It was a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose. It was something that finally made sense.

It was time to do God’s work.

Unexpectedly, those strained, war-weary faces became the pulpit, their souls became the fields white ready to harvest, and his voice began speaking words of faith and encouragement. The voice of God began speaking through Yosef like a runaway freight train. He was a man on fire for the Lord. If he were to die, he would go out doing what he was meant to do. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain.

From the corner of his eye, as he made his way through the crowd, loving, praying, and finally evangelizing like he always hoped he and his brother would do someday, the flash of a familiar color caught his eye. A tiny flame of hope. The diminutive form in the bright pink unicorn boots was waving her encouragement from the top of the steps of the train station.

Like a man in the middle of battle, he paused, and he returned the motion. The little face smiled and gave a thumbs-up gesture and turned to leave. His heart melted in two. In the pause of the moment, Yosef heard a voice from somewhere up above saying, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

And onward he pressed…until the end.

Pray for Ukraine, Pray for the World.

Thanks be to God.

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Thank you Doyle Lawson

I awoke this morning from a dream, in a seeming fit of torment, partly from tears of joy and partly from the fact that I had failed to mention something very near and dear to my heart to a person to which I had been speaking.

In my dream, I attended what appeared to be some sort of event. From the appearance of who I was waiting on to speak with in person after the show indicated that it must have been a Bluegrass Festival. The man whom I patiently waited to talk with was Doyle Lawson. Doyle had just announced his retirement from touring the multitude of festivals he and his band, Quick Silver, attended each year. Doyle was a showman. His presence at a festival and his band’s performance on stage were the earmarks of quality and perfection. Someone had posted on social media a photograph thanking Doyle for his contributions to Bluegrass and wishing him well in his retirement. The image showed Doyle walking away from his gold-brown touring bus, rhinestone-studded jacket, and signature cowboy had perched proudly on top of his manicured white hair, at his side, his mandolin case; the image was the icon of his legacy.

As the crowds died away and as the stage workers began taking down the sound system, Doyle lingered speaking to friends and fans, to which he had many. On the side, waiting so that we could be alone, I uncomplainingly waited. The coffee in my white styrofoam cup had long ago lost its warmth. The sips were now more of habit than need which helped pass the time. It wasn’t clear to me what I wanted to say, only that there was a deep, heart-felt gratitude that must be shared – nothing else.

Finally, when my turn came, Doyle came over, and we began talking. There didn’t seem to be words conveyed in the dream, but rather a feeling of sharing of thanks and gratitude. It must have been moving because Doyle began to cry, as had I. A lady came over, who must have been his wife, and joined in our passionate sharing. Eventually, he put his arm around me and thanked me for this fond farewell. He stood by my car as I got in to leave, telling me to be careful and to have a safe journey. We said our goodbyes, and he walked away.

As I got in my car to leave, contemplating the route to take to go home, the stage crew continued their work. Finally, Doyle packed up the last of his own gear and headed off toward the bus with his wife. It was the end of an era, the last of a dying breed. As I drove away, there was a deep sense of finality to it all. But, before my vehicle had traveled very far down the road, the memory of something special, something that had changed the way I thought about Doyle, returned. It was something that I should have shared with Doyle but somehow forgot.

My memory was about something that happened 11 years ago in May when my family and I were attending the Doyle Lawson and Quick Silver Bluegrass Festival at Denton, NC. The week had been a multitude of fun, fellowship, and play. My son Jonathan and I had stayed for the Sunday model church service, where brother Dale Tilley would deliver the sermon. As was the custom, my son and I arrived early so that we could sit up front behind Doyle’s band, who always sat on the left side in the two front rows. There, we patiently waited for the church to fill and finally for Doyle and the boys to make their entrance. Sitting behind them and hearing brother Dale deliver another fiery, enlivened sermon and hearing the most beautiful congregational singing, one couldn’t help to be thankful. But it was toward the end when my son leaned over to me and said that he wanted to stay after and “Be Saved” that my heart melted.

When the time was right, I motioned to brother Dale that my son wanted to speak with him. So, as all the people, including Doyle and the band, filed out, we patiently waited. There in that little model church in Denton, NC., my son gave his life to Christ. It was just he, Dale, and myself. Tears fell from my eyes as I heard Dale walk Jonathan through the texts in Romans 10:9 and to hear my son confess his sins and accept Christ into his life. Brother Dale prayed us out and we rose from our kneeling position off the floor. We walked feeling a renewed sense of life toward the back door, the only exit out of the church. It had been nearly 15-20 minutes. Brother Dale had taken his time to make sure my son was confident and that what he was about to do was something not to take lightly. So, the feeling that we would emerge from the walls of that white clapboard building alone, just us three, was all that I anticipated. However, when we opened the doors to exit, there, lining the steps going down from the front door, stood Doyle and all of his band. Doyle certainly had other destinations to get to and a schedule to maintain, but he stood there at the top, waiting to congratulate my son on his decision. The tears flowed even more.

Yes, that was the day that my previously made image of Doyle Lawson, one of thinking that he was purely a showman and that his faith was simple to make the audience more engaged, was washed away. There outside that little church in a dusty field, a man that spent his life sharing his music with strangers, a man that made it his life to support his family through the difficult challenges of traveling the festival circuit, became a man to me who walked the walk.

That was the feeling that I awoke with, thinking that had I only shared that with Doyle, “Surely it would have made him feel even more blessed about his retirement, that he had done something wonderful for yet another person in his journey of life,” I thought to myself as I realized the sun had yet to rise. So much for all the fanfare, the awards, notoriety. To know that a man made his living around a gift from God, and that along the way, touched people’s lives by quietly sharing his faith, not as a boisterous performance, but as Christ would have done, without pomp and circumstance, but with humility and grace made all the difference in the world.

Yes, this will forever be the real Doyle Lawson to me.

Thanks for all you gave and all that you have done, Doyle. May your retirement be rich with countless blessings from the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

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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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This Little Light of Mine

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

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

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

Night Sky – by Timothy W. Tron, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


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

[2] John 5:44 KJV

[3] Luke 2:9 KJV

[4] Luke 2:13-15 KJV

[5] Eph. 5:8 KJV

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Don’t Live to Regret It

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I say this? Allow me to explain.

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

Moses Cone Manor Trail, Dec. 2020

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

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

There would be no usual drive home that night.

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

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

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

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

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

There is no going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


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

[2] Psalm 139:7-10 KJV

[3] Psalm 37:5 KJV

[4] Psalm 37:6-7 KJV

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

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A Gathering to Remember

by Timothy W. Tron, Nov. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tron House, New Harmony, Indiana.

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

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

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

“How deep is it grandpa?”

“Does it look like more’s coming?

“Where are the sleds?”

“Were the cows cold?”

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

Victor Tron Sr.

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

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

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

Labyrinth, New Harmony, Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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