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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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The News Hurts

Screams of the dying fall upon deaf ears until one begins to wonder if all sanctity of life has been lost. These are the thoughts in my head of those that suffer from the disease that permeates our world. One can only sit and wonder what their final moments of time feel like as the soul within extinguishes from this world. The feeling is that of being held captive within a body that is fighting for its life. Hours pass like clouds rolling through a thunderstorm, each heavy with the pressure of the coming torment. One after another, thoughts of where this is going tend to flash like bolts of distant lightning – threatening but not close enough to scare.

Tonight, there are more stories of fear, death, and evil working its way into our society, until a friend of mine said, “The news hurts.”

photo FoxNews: Beirut, Lebanon

We’ve had torrential rain each day. It is as if we are living in a tropical rainforest. The forest and fauna drink it in, like a drunken sailor of old, notwithstanding having to report to duty, washing away the pain of knowing anguish of deadly seas. One tries to focus on what makes life worth living. Some have nowhere to turn – yet, there is a well of hope for which most forget in troubled times; the life-giving water that quenches all thirst – the Holy Scriptures. You can hear it in their voices – the despair. The whispers of calamity that rip across the crests of raging seas, tell them they are doomed.

Last night, as another thunderhead rolled through the valley, I sat on the porch listening to the roar of the water as it fell from the sky. The streams were no longer cute little trickles of water. They had turned into angry torrents, bursting from their timid banks, engulfing everything in their path. The limbs of the trees, heavy with foliage, groaned under the weight of the flood from above. The air was like a mighty wave, washing over the deck of the ship, pulsating and mad with fury. Here and there, bolts of electricity shot to the ground as the earth erupted in moans of travail. 

It was as if the earth had joined in man’s anguish.

Tonight, here in the Retreat, my little ship in the sea of life, there is still the echoes of the stream, still swollen, like red-eyes after a weary ordeal that one has escaped. There are brushes of clouds in the setting sky, some pink, some pale orange, all bequeathing a surrealness to the sullen mood. For every star in the night sky, there is a soul that has been undone. There are too many to count. Feverish frivolities are all that some have found in this life. Their zeal for pleasures has only accounted for an emptiness that now supplies nothing more than deep, hollow caverns of no end. They cling to anything that allows them to remove their pity – even to the point of pursuing another to deprive them of their momentary joy – covering that blue sky with the stain of hate and dread.

We must rise above that which seeks to pull us under.

When Jesus told Peter to come out of the boat, he knew that alone Peter was not capable. Alone, we are nothing. With God, all things are possible. As Peter hesitated, he knew in the natural realm of this world, he could not walk on water, but yet, there before him stood Christ, clearly upon the fluid sea that floated the boat from where he stood. To confirm his fears, he needed Jesus to command him to walk upon the water. “Jesus said to them, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”

And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”

 And he said, “Come.” And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”[1]

Alone, we cannot survive in this world of evil. Christ knows our every weakness. If we wait for him to tell us to come to him, we are admitting our frailty of belief. Just as Peter found that once he began, he soon was buffeted by the storm around him. The same beleaguered typhoon we endure each day as we are buffeted on all sides by every form of media, device, laws, societal shame – there is no escape. Is it any wonder we are easily distracted – it’s all part of Satan’s plan.

And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, “Lord, save me.” 

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…[2]

They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. It seems that we are all waking up before dawn in these perilous times. Although the predawn hours are for many the hardest, we must take comfort in knowing that there will be another day. Remember, Jesus didn’t let Peter drown. 

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…

He is there for you, no matter how difficult the circumstance you face. As the world seems to consume you until it hurts to even hear the news, like the wind and waves becoming boisterous to the point you feel you are going to go under, remember he is waiting for you. All you have to do is ask.

All it takes are three simple words, “Lord save me.”

He is there to catch you before you perish beneath the waves.

God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” [3]

 We must rise above that which seeks to pull us under, yes, you are not alone.

Seek Him with all your might…it is not too late. His hand is outstretched and waiting…

Thanks be to God.


[1] Matthew 14:28-29 KJV

[2] Matthew 14:31 KJV

[3] John 3:16 KJV

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Learning to Lean

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”- 2 Cor.4:17-18

The afternoon storms brought blinding rain, blowing in gales of white sheets of water, tossing the canopy of the forest like waves upon the ocean. From my vantage point on the porch, the sounds of drops of water from that storm still find their path to the forest floor, one leaf after another; a continuous soothing sound of liquid falling in soft echoes. The remnants of the storm that had preceded this evenings chorus, the tumult long ago swept away by the currents in the sky, now are only a mere shadow of its former self. The fearful tempest had given way to the calming collections of water cascading from the treetops in a never-ending cycle of life. What once was a frightening scene had given way to one of peace.

Our lives can be much like this very scene; the incomprehensible tempest that eventually gives way to a calm in its wake. We try to wrap our minds around how out of control our lives can seem at one moment, and then within a few hours or days, it is as if nothing ever happened.

This past couple of weeks, my life has been very much like today’s thunderstorm; a physically debilitating illness so severe that there was no leaving the bed for several days for the sake of the pain. Then afterward, a slow, wayward climb back to normalcy; a calming effect of what life had once been; the new norm.

Sometimes our afflictions seem anything but light.

 The fever that began a couple Saturdays ago was unusual in that there were no other signs of infection; no lymph nodes swollen, no rashes, nothing to indicate a cause. Everyone suggested Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, or even perhaps Lyme Disease. The doctors searched, one blood test after another; nothing gave any indications other than the obvious facts of white blood cell counts falling daily, and blood platelets disappearing faster than my weary body could produce them. Finally, the Oncologists provided insight as he stood before me with a medical chart in hand. Before he began, my thoughts flashed to my friend and brother in Christ, and the battle he still fights daily. Not long ago, that friend sat in an office much like the one I was in at the time and heard the heart-wrenching news of finding out he had Leukemia. He and his wife are always in my prayers, and Leukemia was something that had definitely been on my mind. So, as I sat there listening, the doctor was nearly giddy with the news, as he conveyed that my results did not indicate cancer. We both smiled. The bad news was that the illness was pointing to some type of insect-borne disease; the results of tests that would identify the source wouldn’t be available for several more weeks. What friends and family had suggested had yet to be ruled out. So, finally, with a prescription for an antibiotic, I went home and began to recover within 24 hours of the first dose. It had been a mere precaution from the Oncologists but proved to be precisely what was needed; as the Oncologist would say later, there definitely been some type of infection.

Tonight, as the calming sounds of the raindrops comfort my weary body, the thought of the verse in Corinthians makes more sense. The light afflictions of our daily lives, unlike those that Christ suffered for our sake, are mere stepping stones to what our Savior has waiting for us in eternity. Even the extreme fevers, which may only be for a moment in time, when compared with the extent of our earthly life, are just another trial through which we persevere. Sometimes we survive the tempest to reach the evening that follows of complicit temperatures and pleasant sounds of soothing raindrops softly falling in the forest. When we battle through the spiritual wars in our life, much like the ferocity of thunderstorms, we are left wondering if our boat will capsize and all will be lost. It is in these tempests that we learn to lean on Him.

Day after day, we must remind ourselves that we are not alone, nor does He want us to go it alone. As Paul wrote, “When I am weakest, it is then He, my God, is the strongest.” For myself, the most difficult part is remembering to lean on Him. So often we allow our human nature to take over, and we strive to “make it happen.” I hear friends tell me that they sometimes don’t think they can go another day, that their job is just too demanding, that the workload is more than they can bear. It is then that I ask, “Have you asked Him for help? Are you leaning on your Savior, or are you trying to do it all alone?” I know from my own perspective, I’m guilty of forgetting to ask Him for help and then finding out I’m once again trying to do it on my own.

The old gospel song, “Learning to Lean,” is a perfect example of how we must remind ourselves that we are not alone, and it is our Savior’s desire that we reach out to him and ask for help. What parent has not had their heart melt when a child reaches up to them with open and arms and asks, “Can you help me?” God, our Father, is the same; loving each of us unconditionally, regardless of our faults, our sins, and our past. We are forgiven. All we have to do is confess our sins and ask Him to come into our lives. With childlike faith, we must have a heart that is willing to lean on Him. We battle against powers, principalities, and dark forces that are not of this world, so why would you think you can do it by yourself?

Leaning trees on the John’s River, near Collettsville, NC. in the Blueridge Mountains.

As a teacher, you spend countless hours during the course of the school year, foregoing sleep, family, and often personal time for yourself. It is during the few weeks of the summer that teachers can catch up and find time for themselves. Unlike what I might have wanted or envisioned, this summer has been anything but relaxing. I’m not complaining, for it has been a season of growth; finding my walk with God becoming closer than ever before. It has been a time of finding a level of patience that heretofore I didn’t know existed. In the waiting, searching for the next door to open, I found a sense of peace within that was only possible because of the grace that God had provided.

Were there moments when the thought of no medical insurance, no job, and no hint of future employment would crash into my mind and mentally take my breath away?

Yes, of course.

Did I allow those thoughts to drown me in depression and sorrow, feeling pity for myself?

No, I didn’t.

Each time those fears surfaced, I remembered what the Word had taught me, and I would take a deep breath and feel the hand of God upon me. He builds a hedge of protection before and behind us in all that we do. The scripture says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we truly walk with our Savior each and every day, we learn to think of him being by our side. It is then that I have found that we find we are never alone. People look at the Retreat and are often impressed by the magnitude of a simple little building built by me; me a mere whisper of a man, barely 150lbs soaking wet. It is then that I remind them that I haven’t done it alone. Other than the occasional help from friends and my son, the majority of it was accomplished by just the two of us; God and me.

Now I know, and often when I say this, I can see the skeptical look of most people arise, as you might be thinking at this point. But let me give you just one moment when I learned early on that He was with me.

The floor of the foundation was covered with the first layer of plywood, and I had begun to put up the outer walls. Before starting to build them, I first engineered a system of cables, and pulleys such that I could use my tractor to help raise the enormous weight of a wall. At this point, I can most assuredly tell you that God had given me the insight on how to do this because alone, I would have never figured it out. But that’s not the testimony I wanted to share; that is yet to come.

Once everything was in place, I boldly built the first wall. It consisted of ten-foot-tall 2×6’s complete with a front door and two windows, all consisting of full headers above each. The headers alone probably weighed 300 lbs. When it was time to lift the wall, I attempted to wedge a crowbar under the top plate in order to put the chain around it. There was no budging it. Feeling defeated, I sat down on the far corner and viewed the monstrosity of workmanship.

“Would it have to be taken apart and done one piece at a time,” my mind questioned.

Then I remembered the most important part of all that I was doing: “I hadn’t asked God for help.”

At that moment, I went to Him in prayer, thanking him for all that we had done up to this point. There had been so many other times when He gave me strength, wisdom, and encouragement. Like never before, I needed him now. As my prayer was lifted up, there was that feeling of energy flowing through my weary limbs, as I had felt so many times before. I said “Amen,” and stood up, walked over to the wall and jammed the crowbar underneath the top plate, as I had attempted to do before, but now was successful. Quickly, I snaked the log chain around the top plate and then connected its hook around the other part of the chain.

It was ready to lift.

Once more, knowing what had just transpired, I asked God for his help in this, and that he help me get the wall standing before the end of the day.

A few minutes later, the twenty-foot long wall was standing at a 45-degree angle. It spanned the entire length of the front of the building. As I had learned in construction many years ago, I had placed braces to keep it up, even though the chain held it, but in my excitement, I had missed that the block and tackle had jammed into the chain at the top. There was no more the tractor and cable system could do. Now it was up to me to inch the wall up vertically using the two braces, each held in place by a single nail. It was at this point that with every breath I prayed. Every inch, the wall began to rise. Because the block and tackle were preventing the wall from going any further up, it had to be disconnected. Now, not only was there nearly a ton of wall looming over my head, but there was nothing to keep it from crashing down on me; nothing but the hand of God. Feverishly I worked, praying, sweating, and putting all that my small frame could humanly muster, all the while, the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through my veins.

Suddenly, before I knew it, she was standing tall.

I stepped back and looked. There before me, the entire twenty-foot wall stood perfectly in place, perfectly erect. The two braces were holding tight. To make sure it was finished, I walked over and took the level to make sure it was right.

It was perfectly level.

I leaned the level against the wall and stepped back.

“Amazing,” I breathed, “I can’t believe I did that,” I thought to myself.

Did you hear it? Did you hear when I once more allowed the natural man within, that fleshly part of our being that wants to take all the credit? It’s so easy to forget. But there is always an answer in the word for our stumbling blocks. James wrote, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

Yet, for a split second, the natural man resurfaced and entered the self-gratification he so often seeks. In my haste, not only had I forgotten that “I” hadn’t done anything, but rather, God had done it through me. The verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me,” never rang so true at that moment. In my exuberance, the thrill of seeing what we had done together, I had forgotten to nail the braces to the floor to keep the wall from going any farther in the direction I had been pushing it.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a breeze stirred the top of the trees. My sweat-stained shirt felt the coolness, which was a relief in the autumn heat. The leaves swirled slightly at the foot of the building and then in horror, I watched as the wall eerily, like a slow-motion film, began to tilt the opposite direction. It quickly picked up the speed until it became a crescendo of crashing lumber falling off the front of the building, crashing into the tractor and support structures below.

The once impressive display of engineering was now a broken pile of wood and nails.

In that brief instant, I realized what the error of my ways. In my moment of self-elation, I had merely thought that it was “I” that had done something, rather than giving God the credit. In the blink of an eye, it was all taken away. The testimony at that moment was no longer about the success of the project, but rather, now it was about my failure; yes, my affliction.

How many times has something gone wrong in your life that you’ve had to start over? How many times has what seemed a disaster eventually became a blessing? Time and time again, what seemed to be a failure only allowed another door to open, and with it, something more precious and valuable arose. It is then the line in the verse, “our light affliction, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” comes into focus.

It took three days, and two more men to help me correct the disaster and to redo what God and I had done in just a few minutes. By reaching out to those other men for help, it allowed them to become part of the Retreat construction, and in so doing, also gave them the opportunity to feel God with us. From that point forward, the sharing of the labor of love began to grow, and many more would eventually come to help when time allowed.

In the end, what seemed a momentary affliction worked a greater glory, one that wasn’t visible from the start, but in the end, was something that would go deeper than the temporal; an eternal blessing. Once more, I learned to lean a little more on my Savior.

When the storms of this world crash into your life, hold on tight and pray. Yes, my friend, pray that God is with you. No matter how dark the night, no matter how painful the fever, there is always a dawning of a new day, and with it, the opportunity to rise from the ashes. There is no sin too great that God cannot forgive. Christ died for all men, even those who knew him not, so that we all, yes, all of us could have the hope of eternal salvation.

The tiny droplets continue to fall; one precious leaf after another until their weight gently caresses the forest floor. The mist begins to cover the lower reaches of the valleys below. From the mountain, the vastness of God’s creation exceeds our ability to comprehend, but for a moment, we can inhale the beauty for which we have been created.

Let not the evil of this world encircle you so tightly that there is no light from which you can reach too for help. The pain will pass, the storm will give way, and in its wake, a peaceful assurance will be waiting; your confirmation that God is with you, for now, and evermore.

Thanks be to God.

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The Last Dragon

Here in the woods, the pain seems distant.

All around are the sounds of the gentle hush of raindrops falling on the multitude of leaves. Each tiny patter whispers a secret to its hearer. It is as if God is soothing the recent sharp edges of life that have cut to my very soul; tween bone and marrow. Only He knows the passionate struggles with which the past months had presented themselves. It is not lightly nor without conviction that these memories now torment the heart of one who gave his all to hold onto the belief that this was his calling.

There were choices; there always are.

Like the tale of two roads diverging in the yellow wood, as Frost would write, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

There is not one day, no not one – even those that made you wonder why you ever chose to teach- that I would give back. Their pain made the creases in our soul; etchings of love emblazoned upon our inner being, never gone, never forgotten.

Yes, it is only from the heart that I write this story.

Each day that we walk in faith, we know not where the path will lead. That first day that those keys turned the lock in the door, it felt as if I had entered the den of a sleeping dragon. There was the overwhelming feeling of a darkness present. As the door opened, the emptiness of room 3212 would echo silent cries; a foreboding of things to come. Eventually, that room would become the classroom from which many stories would unfold, both good and bad. I could never imagine how it would have ended. As we are only human, we can never fully comprehend what God has in store for us. When we walk in that journey in which He hath prepared, we are refined by the fires of trials and tribulations. When the love that we share is genuine, it becomes even more painful when a door closes.

The sound of the swollen creek reverberates the feeling of how my cup had runneth over these past few weeks; the culmination of seeds planted long ago had come to fruition; some still waiting; some may never grow; yet, in all, the thoughts of the students left behind return. The image of the expansive whiteboard in room 3212 returns. On it, in its entirety, drawn with dry-erase markers, from one end to the other, is the picture of a red dragon breathing fire on a sword inscribed with one word, “Mathematics.”

It will be the last dragon.

Each semester, from the first to this one, God gave me the message of sharing my gifts through the telling my students of the parallels of the dragon and their fear of Math, the class that I would be called to teach. The first few days of each semester would find the dragon begin, always with the eye. From there, the image would slowly, during the course of the entire semester, grow into the final piece of artwork. To think of this as simply the entirety of this story would diminish the truth from all that there is to convey. It is more than just a picture, but a story of heartache, struggle, and a multitude of life’s blessings to which one may never fully know.

Behind the scenes, Satan would attack, lying in wait ready to strike another blow. When it seemed there couldn’t be any more things that could pummel my life further into the ground, there would be another twist that would sink my life into deeper darkness. Each time, from my knees, my cries would resonate to heaven; each time, God would give me renewed strength to carry on. Each time I drew closer to Him.

Just as I told my students not to fear Math (the dragon), so must we not fear the devil; for whom shall we fear if we have God? Yet, we should not be ignorant of his power and deceitful nature. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”-Eph. 5:12

Whenever there was doubt about the effectiveness of the light within, God would send a confirmation. These would be the moments that will be cherished.

One of the many beautiful memories was when one of my students finished his end of semester review package we called, Dragon Flippers. The purpose was to tie in all the units of the semester into a flip-review package and to also allow students who might not have been as mathematically inclined to shine through their artwork, which was required on the cover. It was part of our end of semester review. Before the student handed his in, he pulled me aside to tell me something that will forever be with me. He told of how he had struggled with his own demons, and that through the light God had allowed to shine through me, he found a new purpose, a new reason to live. If you had known this young man, you would have never guessed that he would have such inner turmoil. He was the model student; always on time with his work, an “A” student, and as gracious as they come.

He then handed me his project. As I fought to regain my composure, I looked upon the picture of a young man facing a mirror. In the reflection was an angry dragon looking back. Inside the package, he showed a pictorial description of Ephesians 6:14-17, and how he had used the armor of God to battle this demon. He then continued. He said that he would not be returning to High School but would finish his studies at home since his family felt the public school environment was not healthy for his wellbeing. He went on to share how he had read many of my devotionals and that because of those writings, he knew that God wanted him to do in life. “Mr. Tron, I want to thank you for helping me to see the demon within me and to show me how to defeat him. You have been the best teacher I have ever known.” The flood gates opened as I watched him leave room 3212 through tear stained eyes, never to return.

The reason God sent me to Watauga High School would never leave my thoughts. Each day, after the pledge of allegiance, I would pray to God for guidance, strength, and wisdom. Behind me, a legion of His angels was there to protect and comfort me. For if it were not true, I would have never made it. Today, as the rains fall all around, it is as if those same angels were crying, knowing that the place to which I had been called has found a way to push me out. In their mourning, my soul is once again warmed; their compassion, a representation of God’s unending love, soothes the rough edges of my broken heart. No longer will I be able to stand before all those troubled teens to convey to them God’s love, through my own, by trying to help them in their life’s journey.

Early before school began during the last week of school when the morning sky had yet to awaken, another touching moment occurred. One of our EC teachers pulled me aside and shared what one of my students had said to her when he had heard the news of my leaving Watauga. In his words, she said, he couldn’t understand why they would be getting rid of Mr. Tron, when I was the only reason, he (the student) made it through Math 2. She continued to tell me that the young man was considering dropping out of school. But once he began to do well in Math, he realized that if he could do that, then he could handle anything else that was required to graduate. She then said what touched her the most, when he said, “We need more teachers like Mr. Tron,” he told her in a very solemn tone. Once more, the tears began to flow as my heart knew the struggles the young man had faced, both in the classroom and at home.

Stories like this one and the countless others made the door closing all the more painful. We are but of the flesh, and with that, we are weak. To know that our Savior has prepared for us a new path is comforting, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. When a door slams on your finger, the momentary pain is almost blinding; when a door slams on your heart, it bemoans your spirit to the core, driving you to your knees. It is from there, kneeling on the floor that we must seek Him most.

Like those dry-erase markers with which the dragon had been drawn, the image could have easily been erased. So too are we here for a short time, as a mere wisp of smoke, here for a moment in time and then gone. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”-James 4:14. To those we encounter we have but one chance to share with them the purpose for which we are called. Many times, we are unaware of the role or the effect we’ve had, as God is working through us, such that on the rare occasion we are told of these influences, then we too know of how much we are needed in this dark world.

Another heart-wrenching moment was when the students were saying goodbye after I had shared with them the rest of the story behind the dragon; how that I was sent there by God and that God was now leading me on. The young man told of how he had been in a deep dark pit, and because of what I had said to him, beyond the limitations of the state’s standards for Math, he had been saved. Quickly I reminded him that it wasn’t me, but rather, God speaking through me.

I remember the day of which he spoke vividly.

He was one of those students who had extreme anxiety for courses in which he struggled; Math was the worst. On one of the days in which not only was Math causing him to question himself, he had also been going through a spiritual battle. When my co-teacher came to the room and beckoned me to the hallway, I was more than a little concerned. She then shared with me how he had called for me and how he had told her he was lost without hope. As my footsteps carried me to the room where he lay, I prayed to God to give me the words to speak; there was no manual, there was no guidance for this sort of thing; yet, all I could think was simply to rely on God, His Holy Word, and that He would speak through me. As those prayers were lifted, a surge of what felt like electrical energy pulsated from my head to my toes.

Looking back, I know in my heart that the Holy Spirit was with us that day.

When I opened the door, the young man was lying in the fetal position. His cheeks were stained from tears. As I walked in, he slowly sat up and thanked me for coming. I don’t remember the words that were said, I don’t know all that God had worked through me, all I know is that from that day forward, there was an obvious change in the young man’s demeanor in my classroom. From that day forward, it was as if he had been born again.

It was just one of many stories that transpired over the past three years.

One cannot look back and move forward.

In the end, the dragon stood for more than a parallel to Math. As we learn in Revelations 12, the red dragon represents Satan, who chases the woman (the church), who has a child (Jesus). The dragon tried to kill the woman and her child, but the earth protected her. God becomes our protector in all things should we choose to believe. “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”-Rev. 12:13-17

For many of my students, they realized that the dragon also stood for their ability to conquer any fear, including that of Satan. Their belief or unbelief was never questioned, rather, the light was present for all to see. In our walk, we can either to simply follow the law, or we can provide more than being the shell of a being living in a world of flesh; we can choose to be the light.

So it is, with this journey upon which I trod, answering His call to march onward, seeking that new shore. Yes, this may be the last dragon, but the story doesn’t end. When this path began nearly five years ago, those fateful words continue to ring in my ears today, “Wherever you say to go, Lord, I will follow.”

When it is your time to answer the call, choose your words carefully, for God will surely lead you to places you never dreamed and because of Him working through you, you will achieve things you never imagine. It will not be easy. There will be moments of incomprehensible pain, just as there will be times of unspeakable joy.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen,” and in that, we will always find comfort.

Let us not dwell on things of the past any more than with which to inspire us toward a better path in the future.

Keep all those in prayer who have had their journey’s door close and now are awaiting the next one to open; for in the waiting, there will be learning and hope.

Thanks be to God. riority

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Hope and Wait…

But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”-Romans 8:25-27

Through the lush vegetation, he pushed. Behind him, darkness and danger had pursued him like demons from another realm. There had been many near misses; moments when it felt as if the very life had been sucked from his lungs. As he neared the edge of the jungle, the light from beyond beckoned, like a welcoming host waving their guest home.

He was so close.

Each day as he had neared the edge of the dark realm, he could feel the grip of death lessen. Each new day, there was an increased hope, like that of a child expectant of the excitement of opening their gifts on Christmas morning. At first, the feeling was barely noticeable, but as the sound of release from beyond the infirmaries of bondage slipped away, he could feel a growing anticipation of eagerness stir within his blood.

Yet, he could not see what was to come.

He thought back to the verse which echoed in his mind like the raptor’s call off the nearby canyon walls, “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” A chill passed through his bones as its meaning resonated with his soul.

Evil had stalked him like a dark predator, walking in the shadow of each footstep. The multitude of workload and stress it placed upon his life was nearly to the point of an unbearable burden. Yet, he pushed on; praying for strength, guidance, and wisdom every waking moment. There were times when his foot would slip on the path, and the weight of those shackles would throw him to the ground. Each time he would moan under his breath, gritting his teeth, as he pushed upward, looking for what little ray of hope that flickered through the somber canopy above. Questions clouded his mind as Satan attempted to confuse him, trying to distract him long enough to make him lose his way and give up. When the roar of tumult would overwhelm him, he would pause, bending over and holding his knees as he sought air to breathe, like the fighter pausing between rounds; then he would drag his weary frame back into the fray.

Each time he gained momentum, as if the clouds overhead had parted and a slimmer of light would escape to the forest floor, the darkness would slam him once more, like a mule kicking him in the stomach. Nauseating helplessness would momentarily overwhelm his spirit as he would stumble backward; dazed, confused, and humiliated by what all was said of his inescapable ineptitudes as Satan tried to make him lose courage. The taunts would cut him to the core, as if the prince of darkness knew what mattered most, and would use those words to slice his soul to the very marrow of his existence. As he lay upon the sod, barely breathing, the darkness would leave, feeling accomplished for what it had done. Behind it, the man closed his eyes and prayed in a whispered breath, “God, I need you like never before. If this is the path you want me to take, then show me the way. If this is not, then show me the door to take, for I cannot do this, nor have I ever done this without you.”

As the man’s face looked up from the earth, overhead a fluorescent butterfly lit upon a branch of forest fern nearby. Amongst the deep recess of the darkness, its radiance lifted his spirit momentarily, like the wings of that insect, fluttering upward, then gently floating away. He could feel his on soul rise upon the occasion and a temporary moment of repose warmed his being. He closed his eyes and pressed it into his memory, for it was the only reprieve from the oppression he had known it some time.

The days would turn into months.

Each new month brought the repeated episode of the man being beaten down, again and again, until his health began to deteriorate. It seemed as the darkness was winning. But the man had not lost faith, and in his faith, there was eternal hope; a strength greater than the darkness could compete, for the gates of hell could not prevail against it. Each day, his journey brought him closer to the end, and each day, victory was nearer than before.

Satan knew he had won, but as he watched in earnest, he could not stop the man from continuing to move onward, never stopping, never giving up. He used every means possible to stop his progress, but nothing seemed to dissuade the man from his point of focus. It was if he had another life within that the darkness could not penetrate; a light within.

As the pathway neared the end, the man felt his spirit begin to soar. Each new day, each new breath, the life he once thought had gone was now returning, but unlike ever before; more clear, more vivid, more alive than ever before. It was as if he had died and was born again.

Death had lost its grip, and his victory was with God, through Christ Jesus.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the edge of the deep wood opened, and there before him lay the vastness of eternity. The glory, in all its splendor, was more than his mind could grasp. Tears filled his eyes as the expanse of beauty flooded through his eyes, warming his soul from without, to within. The marrow of his being had been infused with something greater than any feeling he had previously known, as if an agape love, charity for which no expression could be summoned, touched an inner precept that he had not known until now.

The words flooded his soul like the voices of a thousand waterfalls, whispering a roar into his being, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The man sat and wept as God welcomed him into the fold, for his heart was now healed.

We may never know the journey someone is on in this life, nor the tribulations through which they are struggling. We can each in our own way be a ray of hope, a brilliant butterfly to their being with nothing more than a smile, a warm welcome, or just simply a kind hello.

Seek to empathize with your neighbor, colleague, or family member. Remember, “. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

Smile, and be patient, for, in the end, hope will guide you.

We may not see the next door, but with hope, and faith, we will know that when it opens, it will be the will of God.

And most importantly,

Thanks be to God.

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Lest We Forget…

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1 Thess. 5:18

There was a whisper in my ear this morning as I headed out for my weekly walk to church. “Pay attention to all that surrounds you,” said the still small voice. Fresh from pouring over the lesson plan for our Men’s Bible Study group at church, thankfulness was heavy upon my mind. Just days following Thanksgiving, the reminder of being so blessed with all that we have still rang true in my head.

The night’s crisp, chill was still blanketing the lower reaches of the hollers through which my path did trod. Crossing over the footbridge, the water beneath steamed when compared to the air above, making a mist rise before the trail. There was a surreal, gentleness beckoning. My eye was captured by the brightness of the carpet moss which blanketed the forest floor. Pausing to inhale the breathtaking beauty before me, the suns rays slid across the upper reaches of the mountain, finding their golden fingertips caressing the world in which I stood. Transfixed, my eyes followed the moss-laden tree nearby. My thoughts returned to being thankful for all that was and was to be.

From where I stood, the dark, foreboding tree glowed with an awakening of the dawn. The mist from the stream behind it rose meeting the sun’s rays, like a majestic dragon exhaling gusts of breath. Beyond, like soldiers standing arrayed in solitary posts, the remaining forest hid in the soft, gray air. Each one, coming to view as thine eye hath sought them, like the thanks that we often have to struggle to recall. The first is easy; the most recent, the greatest need met. Yet, then there are those that weren’t as significant; yet, they were obtainable. When we continue to look, more stoic images appear those nearly forgotten blessings; more answers to prayer, more promises that God had provided. In our simple minds, we are unable to keep pace with the graces we are so often provided. When we go to Him in prayer and give thanks, we may start easily, but when we really focus, like those hidden trees in the distance, they soon come into focus.

We’ve all heard the old cliché, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

When we go to the Lord in prayer and give thanks, it’s often like that; standing in a forest. We start with those memories that are immediately before us; the imposing trunks that stand out. If we continue, we can remember another event or blessing to which we were awarded. Someone once said that if we truly knelt in prayer to give thanks, we might not rise again from our knees for days. It is with a devotion so tempered in gratitude to which we must seek each day.

Charles Spurgeon, the great evangelist, once said, “Thankfulness makes much of little.” When we stop to take note of our lives, like pausing deep in the woods in the early morn, we can begin to appreciate all that has been awarded us in our lives; even the most insignificant can be a hidden blessing to which we must give thanks. The depths of our graciousness should be no less than the path of righteousness upon which we trod. Through that dark wooded abode we travel, some only seeking the path before them, while others look beyond that which is before to that which is to come.

The prophet Nathan had a vision given to him by God, which he revealed to King David, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.”

We should be reminded by Nathan’s revelation to David, that we must also give thanks to those things we are to come, not to just those that have already happened. When we go to Him in prayer, like the winding pathway of life, we cannot see all that is before. The twist and turns obscure the distance. When we fully trust in our Savior, we are promised that He will answer our prayers in time; not always our own, but always in His time. As such, as Nathan spoke to David, he was not only conveying to him the things that would be done by his son Solomon, but he was foretelling the prophecy of Jesus Christ. In essence, Nathan was assuring his King, that his prayers for a temple would be granted, but not in his time. As we learn later, the true temple, the one that which Christ indwelleth today, is no longer a building as David had wanted. The last physical Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. Yet, the temple is still alive and well today, as we, those who have accepted Christ into their lives are now the new temple; if only you would accept Him into your life and believe, confessing to Him your sins, so that they may be forgiven.

Yes, it is only as simple as pausing within the morning mist of the sun-kissed mountains to hear and see all that we should give thanks to God.

If only we might listen, lest we forget; giving thanks to all that was and was to be.

Thanks be to God.

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A Shadow in the Mist

images281A76P4What I am about to tell you is totally true, beyond a shadow of a doubt and undeniably without any thread of exaggeration.

I was on the last leg of my Sunday morning run; the sun had just managed to reach the horizon while I had still yet to see its morning glow. The air was thick with humidity and any trace of coolness had long ago evaporated into the sweat that now poured off my tiring body. I turned the last corner of the gravel road, the last mile of my run and was about to head into the thickest part of the forest which made the road upon which I ran a living tunnel. Overhead trees draped across the lane, blotting out the sky above. The recesses of the darkness seemed to go on forever, the air cooler, whispered voices of beings therein. I was well within this domain when the thought of coyotes came to mind. Just as the thought entered a small dark figure of a squirrel raced across the road ahead of me, momentarily causing my heart to jump. I went back to the idea of the wolf-like creature and wondered how I might have reacted had the carnivorous being I had imagined actually passed before me. “Where they watching me even now,” I asked myself, my eyes searching as I ran the inner depths of the forest that lay to my left. The blur of vegetation passed as a movie as my body moved forward, one foot plodding before the other, the taste of salt on my lips. Not long afterward, I turned my focus forward again as I emerged from the wooded section of the road and came out into the growing brightness of the morning, running past the pond and up the last hill of my run, soon to put the images of primeval forest behind me.

After my brief cool down, I found myself on the back porch, looking out upon the pond and road from which I had just emerged. My glass of water in hand, I sat down upon the rocking chair and allowed my bare feet to breath in the cool morning air. I leaned back and closed my eyes, the air, my body becoming one with the world around me, drinking in the moment, blood pumping, my breathing relaxed, all was good.

The sounds of the earth serenaded my soul.wolfinmist

Then suddenly, from the depths of the darkness came the bark and howl of a lone coyote: its voice so close, so clear; so haunting.

My eyes flashed open and noticed the horses standing below where I sat on the porch, their images visible in the gray pasture shadows. Their actions confirming the sound I had just heard; their ears perked and alert as they turned to face the dark woods from which I had just passed moments earlier on my run.

Something from a repressed memory of an ancient time reached my consciousness, something unbelievably real, yet unbelieving in its existence.

Had I known of their presence while through yonder dark woods I hath traveled,” came the voice in my head? “Surely it was just coincidence,” I replied, “or was it?”

I waited to see if there were another call but none came; only the sounds of predawn chorus continued.

My eyes scanned the lower horizon, watching for any signs of movement, but there was nothing.

The padded paw left no trace, its breath a mist upon the morning air and then vanished like the beast from whence it came; nothing left behind but the memory of its passing. A shadow in the mist.

Then I began to wonder to myself, “Was this the way we suppress so many other things in our world, things we recognize but then dismiss when they our outside the realm of our belief?” If nothing more than a physical image can be brushed aside, then what else is there that we understand as truth yet knowingly pass on its belief until we form the space in which we can comfortably exist, one we know and are familiar with, yet one that scares the hell out of us should we venture beyond its borders; the howl of the wolf, the connection to a world beyond our control, one where we are no longer the masters. The padded paw of silence follows us waiting for our minds to stray from the path, ready to pounce upon our unbelieving weaknesses and use them against us before we recover and scamper back to the safety of our predefined borders. How many without faith find themselves in this predicament everyday as they succumb to the evils of the world in which we live, finding themselves trapped in a darkness they cannot control or emerge; lost to the clutches of its demonic fanged breath.

Without the armor of light to protect us, the Word of God, we are mere babes in the woods. It is up to those of us who know better to prepare those who are without; salvation through God’s grace and thus become children of the light. Otherwise, we leave them to become prey to the claws of the world’s clutches.

How many only wish it were just a dream from which they could emerge, or a morning’s run through the early morning mist? How many can we reach before the fangs of this world pull them asunder?

What will you do to escape, what will you do?

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A Flightful Vision…

My first memory of thought was the climatic change.

I could feel the coolness on the back of my neck go from a dry, high altitude feeling to that of a humid-moist climate; sailingshipyet the temperature remained the same. What I saw before me was a loading ramp, reaching out to a dock, upon which the boat we were on had just docked. The boat itself was an old sailing ship with dark timbers for a hull. I was in the middle of a pack of mules, large Percheron types with blonde colored bodies and dark manes. We rode out of the hold of the ship in a thundering stampede, immediately reaching the outskirts of the city in which we had made port. As we ran west, the sunrise was to our backs, ahead the mist of the rising morning dew. There were others riding in our cavalcade but I could not see them; I could only sense that they were riding behind me. As we passed through the countryside, there were fields of pastures on both sides of the road, lined with fences and separated by occasional rows of trees. The road we ran upon was not paved but packed dirt; an ancient thoroughfare worn smooth from countless hoof prints.

wildhorsesThe farther we ran into the landscape the more the mules became horse-like, until they eventually turned into a graceful herd of horses, all thoroughbreds. I was still riding the same animal I began with, the wind blasting past me as we now increased speed as the agility of the animal was became altered. The farther we ran; the closer the fencerows came toward us until the wide open road became a lane. Ahead of me was a wide open pasture that had large towering trees on its backside, up a tall hill. There, sitting on the edge of the pasture, just inside the trees was an old home; weathered and gray.

The roar of hooves shook the ground as we left the lane and ran across the tall green grasses of the pasture toward the darkforesthouse, up the field of swaying green grass to the dark tree line ahead.

Darkness began to fall as twilight began to ebb.

I suddenly began to get concerned for our safety for fear the horses would not slow down and we would be torn to shreds as the panic stricken animals would race through the forest, maiming themselves and us in the process. I looked around and still could not see anyone, but continued to feel as if there were others following. Ahead of me was only rider-less horses, running in unison, their manes flowing in billowing wave behind as they flew across the solemn ground.

I reached down to my horse’s side, touching its shoulder and felt the fear within. My thoughts of calmness sought to speak to the animal as it continued its mad gallop toward the old homestead that was fast approaching. I searched deep within the beast until I was able to grab its attention, speaking to it letting it know there was no need to flee. The calming affect began to ripple like waves from my mount to the other surrounding horses who too now began to slow their pace. The tension from the moment began to release from their nearly expired muscles until they all began to walk cautiously into the dark woods, up the hill, past the old house.

abandonedhouseAs we passed by the old homestead I could see there was nobody there; the windows long ago knocked out, doors missing. The roof was still intact, yet there was no life still inhabiting the home. There was a whinny of a horse nearby I turned to see, but then when I turned back toward the house, it was alive and well with lamplights lit, glowing an amber light into the ebony night beyond; inside were people still making it their home. Confused, I blinked and tried to refocus, but we were now beginning to get far enough into the woods that the trees would block my view off and on; each time the house would change from alive to dead.

Then I noticed the riders coming behind; then ones I had sensed all along. They carried torches and were moving in adarkrider2 very determined manner. The horsemen carried swords at their sides. Those without torches had already drawn their sabers and rode with them raised high, ready to attack. Shadows covered their faces, but their bodies spoke anger as their horses, lathered and tired from the chase, ran with weary hooves, I realized we were in danger and called to the others to run once again; for now I understood the initial flight. I jumped free of my mount and slapped its flank, encouraging it to join the others as they all raced off into the distance, up the mountain and out of sight, beyond the forest in which I now stood. Into the darkness I dove, seeking shelter from the oncoming horde of evil that advanced up the hillside below.

Then nothing…

Quiet stillness…

A glimpse of hiding and the fear of being found as heavy footsteps drew near…

Then I awoke.

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