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To Catch a Shooting Star

by Timothy W. Tron, Nov. 2020

C.S. Lewis wrote, “A blind man has few friends; a blind man who has recently received his sight as, in a sense, none. He belongs neither to the world of the blind nor to that of the seeing, and no one can share his experience. After that night’s conversations, Robin never mentioned to anyone his problem about light. He knew that he would only be suspected of madness. When Mary took him out the next day for his first walk he replied to everything she said, “It’s lovely – all lovely. Just let me drink it in,” and she was satisfied. She interpreted his quick glances as glances of delight. In reality, of course, he was searching, searching with a hunger that had already something of desperation in it. Even had he dared, he knew it would be useless to ask her of any of the objects he saw, “Is that light?” He could see for himself that she would only answer, “No. That’s green” (or “blue”, or “yellow”, or “a field”, or “a tree”, or “a car”). Nothing could be done until he had learned to go for walks by himself.”[1]

Appalachian State University, November, 2020 – photo by Timothy W. Tron

Walking aimlessly about, yesterday found me wanting to breathe spiritually, to take a break from the self-imposed incarceration – chiseling away at the stone within the rock quarry of intellect. In that temporary reprieve, a young man of interest crossed my path. He is a true savant, and at the same time, he’s a broken being, by the world’s standards. For sake of privacy, I will call him Ephraim.

Ephraim is only a high-school-aged student but is attending ASU. His disability, if you can call it that, is Autism. While he is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, it’s effect upon his countenance is obvious. In his daily walk, he is as one that has just received his sight – he has no former friends and has yet to make new friends in this new world in which he has been thrust. It doesn’t help that he walks about often talking to himself and exhibiting the quirks of his gift to the extent others stand off to the side and make comments to one another, reprising the scene before them, thankful they’re not in his shoes. Yet, his burden, as some would suggest, is his blessing. Ephraim flourishes in the world of numbers, and analytical paradigms. In this environment, he is in his element. He has a drive, a hunger unmatched by his rivals. The enthusiasm which he exudes is like that of a burning, shining comet – flaming across the heavens. We observers of this glorious creation are reminded of the double-edged sword for which God often uses us in his life – one is the obvious blessing, the other is the hidden meaning.

For, as a new believer, Ephraim goes forth with much eagerness to seek that which is pure. To him, all the curriculum through which he is presented each day are as flashes of light. To his peers, they are an unending continuum of procedures, methods, and programs. If one were to tell Ephraim otherwise, they would only hear him evoke how marvelous their purpose and what other variations they produce in his spinning world of intelligence. His mind, like that flashing comet in the sky, races from one idea to the next. All we can do is try to grasp the tail of the phenomena and for a moment, feel the magnificence of God’s glory, even upon one so challenged in this world.

Ephraim was looking for the lost and found. Yea, how relevant was this statement at that moment, for as we walked, one had to ask, “Is he a believer, or is he seeking – is he lost or is he found?” Not knowing the answer to Ephraim’s question, I offered to join him in searching for the physical “Lost and Found.”

“It’s near the coffee shop, someone told me,” he said as we began to walk with purpose toward his assumed destination.

“Oh, ok. I’ve never seen it myself, so I guess we’re going to learn together.”

Therein the statement of profoundness overwhelms me as the words slip through my fingers onto the keyboard and onto the screen before me. Being content to, “not think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,[2] should be in our forethoughts each second of every waking moment of our daily lives.

As we walked and talked, Ephraim mentioned a paraphrased quote from C.S. Lewis that had impacted him recently. To one seeking for other believers, there are certain keywords that offer clues as to the mind of those around us. The words, “C.S. Lewis,” instantly gave me hope that Ephraim was either a believer or was seeking answers. As God would have it, earlier that morning I had read the passage presented earlier in this piece. As my mind began to grasp that meaning and its relevance for the moment, a sudden dawning washed over me; Ephraim was possibly as one with the blind man – either from the natural perspective or as the spiritual, each imploring the beauty in the endless opportunities with which to rejoice in the creation around us, which so many of us take for granted each day, to that which we have consoled our minds to accept as the accepted description rather than the unspoken name for which only God knows the answer. To people like Ephraim, the instantaneous revelation of light, that inspirational spark of the moment, excite them and encourage them without need for an end. They are lifted up so that they are unable to understand the discouraged amazement of those in their presence.

As Ephraim listened, which was somewhat unaccustomed to his demeanor, I began to expand upon the Lewis passage. It is important to note that his professors find him challenging as a student since because of his gift, he cannot curb his joy and speaks incessantly. As one may imagine, this also puts him at odds with his fellow classmates. However, at that time, my thought was as only God would have it, toward another meaning of the passage that impressed upon me – the obvious allusion to light and color, and how this can speak to us through a faith lens. As Ephraim listened while we walked back to my office, my presentation included the science of light and how it relates to that of the Computer Science realm of study; an attempt of mine to keep things relevant to Ephraim without scaring him off. Mind you, at the moment, and still, do not know the true nature of his mind. So, with caution, my seed planting ensued. It was in my office, as we shared drink and crackers, the words of John 1 slipped from my lips – “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.”[3] Ephraim accepted the word without flinching, which was an encouragement, and we continued onward as he responded with his own account of the resultant destination, that of programming in a linear format, moving the memory pointer as needed, without using registers or stacks. In other words, he was framing God’s words with a memory location of his own, so that through a serial aspect, he would recall that someday and move his pointer to its location and recall it as needed. Looking back at the moment, it was almost surreal watching God work through Ephraim’s beautiful mind, allowing this child to understand like no other.

In all, the verse, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,”[4] resonated once more. While we cannot anymore control the future, we must be prepared to change and adapt to be ready to give a witness to them around us. The youth of today are not of the same as our own generation. We must understand their perceived meanings of God’s word are as varied as our own, and in this manner, we should not be dismayed or distracted. Isaiah 29:14 says it like this, “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”[5] As our generation passes from this world into that of eternal life, we must find those whom we may pass on the word, for as the psalmist wrote, “the truth endureth to all generations.” In that manner, our own words, our individual understanding may be at odds with them that come afterward. We must find a way to speak to them so that they can relate without putting them off at the same time. Likewise, we must be prepared to hear interpretations that might not be from a perspective of our own. Yet, as we listen, we should also be prepared to direct as God would have us. In another way of speaking, we should ready our minds to hear their perspective of what we know, and through that, guide them to the truth, lest they become lost in the weeds.

Once in a great while, we happen upon something in this world so remarkable, so breathtaking, that we are literally dumbfounded. Sometimes that beauty is a cascading waterfall, roaring a thousand voices as if it were a host of heavenly beings. Other times, the glory emanates from the face of a newborn child, whose innocence and purity remind us of one who knew no sin but died for ours. And then there are times, when we meet that individual that, not by any fault of their own, exhibits an unnatural ability with which only God could ordain. In all, it should remind us that we are aliens herein – only passing through.

Those flashes of light, those shooting stars, those brilliant rays of hope are here but for an instant and then they are gone.

With them, those child prodigies, take our breath away, and in that instantaneous vacuum, we can feel the presence of God. It is in these fleeting opportunities, like the passing of two ships in the night, we must be prepared to give an answer to them that ask, a witness to them that seek, and a light unto the world. “For he that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest which are wrought in God.”[6]

Thanks be to God.


[1] The Dark Tower: And Other Stories. Copyright © 1977 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

[2] Romans 12:3 KJV

[3] Psalm 63:3

[4] Romans 12:2 KJV

[5] Isaiah 29:14 KJVß

[6] John 3:21 KJV

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The Gift in Swaddling Clothes

This evening, Christmas Eve to be exact, the fire in the hearth hisses and crackles at me. The warmth soothes my weary bones, like the stones upon which the firelight flickers against, warming them, bringing them back to life. Late this afternoon I took a break from wiring the Retreat and took a much overdue walk. It was an early Christmas gift to myself, you might say.

The sky was a perfect Carolina blue with the sunlight filtering through the barren branches of the forest. My body felt sluggish, not something I had remembered in recent times. From the recent medical prognosis, it was apparent that I would never be as fast or as strong as I once was physically. Those sub-five-minute miles will only be a memory from now on (unless, of course, I’m driving in a car). In fact, as the saying goes, “I’ll never be as good as I once was.” It wasn’t quite the gift I had expected. As my weary legs finally carried me back to the Retreat, I was thankful just to have been able to walk along the whispering creeks and waterfalls.

The family was still gone on some last-minute Christmas Eve errands. So many spent the recent days hurrying and fretting over preparations for the perfect day when family and friends will fill their homes. I was thankful to be free of that burden and able to relax for a change. Back inside my little cabin in the woods, I stoked the fire back to a roar and sat back sipping on a hot brew As the burgeoning flames cracked and popped, my mind pondered the recent scripture that would not leave my head; from the book of Luke. It is probably the most quoted gospel this time of year.

From the point when Mary has received the direction of the Arch Angel Gabriel, to the immaculate conception, there is a story within itself. “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.[1] Like the spark that lights the fire, the hand of God came upon Mary, and in that instant, the being of God in the form of human flesh began to develop in her fetus. The “Most High” overshadowed her. The Greek word for “overshadow” is comprised of two words, which basically describe a cloud of energy that enveloped Mary, at which point, Christ was literally conceived. To understand in our simple humanness is more than a struggle. Yet, the indescribable doesn’t stop there.

Later, when Mary and Joseph reach Bethlehem, as it was foretold, Jesus would be born in a lowly manger, a trough from which animals eat. Remember the prodigal son and how it was described that he fell so far that he literally ate out of the same troughs as the pigs which he tended. Our Lord and Savior was born in such a condition, in a feeding trough. And when Mary had wrapped him in swaddling clothes, rags if you will, he was ready to receive the many guests that would soon arrive.

Unbeknownst to Mary and Joseph, out in the neighboring fields of Bethlehem, shepherds were standing watch over their flocks at night, when another Angel came to them. Now before I jump into the scripture that you have probably heard a thousand times, allow me to precede it with something that you may have never thought of before.

As I have already alluded, this was not just a common birth. This was literally God being born for the first time ever, in the form of human flesh. It was a sentinel moment in the history of God. This was a moment in eternity in which the significance, although entirely missed by the spiritual leaders of the time, would so impact the entirety of Glory above that it would be as if all of heaven’s Angels, for a moment, would stop everything and come to earth to attend the birth of a Savior, the son of God. For the first time in all of creation, God was coming to earth, to be born of a lowly handmaiden, in a stable. Had those Pharisees and Jewish leaders understood the prophecies of which they supposedly had learned so well, they too could have joined the unimaginable moment with all of creation, but they would not. They would be lost to the moment and forever because of their unbelief. What they would miss would be the gift of a lifetime, of an eternity. God would come to earth to live and die like one of his own creation’s so that he would feel our pain, know our suffering so that when he would eventually defeat death, and his blood would flow freely down the cross, we would know that God had given us the most precious gift mankind would ever know; His Son.

Now, reread the scripture with that picture in your mind, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”[2]

Notice how the shepherds feared the initial Angel and how it comforted them until they were somewhat at ease. It was then, once they had been calmed that the enumerable multitude of Heavenly hosts appeared before them. So great was the light that it could be seen beyond the local pastures of Bethlehem. Luke would later recall, in separate writings, how many philosophers, scientists, and spiritual leaders would recall seeing the bright light in the sky and how each of them would separately interpret the scene. Imagine the lowly shepherds, uneducated, poor, and of simple faith, and how their hearts might have stopped but for a moment in awe at the sight before them; the heavens filled with Angels on high. The angelic illumination was so bright that the mere mortal shepherds would have nearly been blinded, without and within. They literally had been moved beyond belief as can be seen by the following passage.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”[3]

These men, who were in charge of other men’s flock, left their post and ran into town. The mere fact that they abandoned their livelihood to seek out the babe in swaddling clothes would tell you of their sheer panic. Adrenaline rushing through their veins, they sought the length of the city for the child.  They didn’t stop until they found him. When they finally reached the stable, covered in sweat, breathing heavily, they hesitantly entered, knowing that this was no normal child for which they were to admire. There before them, glowing underneath the watchful eye of his mother, was the babe of whom the Angel had spoken. Mary had instinctively picked up her baby to protect him when this mass of strangers began to enter the stables. But to her disbelief, they now fell at her feet and began to worship her child. They would eventually share with her and Joseph the reason for the worship and awe of the infant child. From there, the shepherds would not stop. They would leave the stable and go far and wide sharing their story. Eventually, they would return and share with her the wonderful reactions and praises for which the Christ child had heralded. Mary’s head had to be spinning at all that had transpired in just a matter of months. She had gone from a simple peasant to the mother of the Son of God. She had to be dreaming, she might have told herself more than once. And as you can imagine, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.[4]


Luke’s interview with Mary and her recanting this story, as it was likely shared with her many times by those exact shepherds, so impacted Luke, a physician, that he kept it just as it was told to him. In fact, all of the story, from the immaculate conception to the birth is recounted through the eyes of this glorious and wonderful physician, as he was known in his time. That being said, you can now perhaps better understand the significance of the timeline for which these events took place. Perhaps, even more, that you may think about this precious gift we all have been given, even now, as the realm for which God gave his only begotten Son so that any who should believe shall be saved.

Tomorrow, if not already, you will hopefully have family and friends over to open gifts and to celebrate Christmas. When the wrapping paper is finally collected, and everyone has had time to contemplate their gifts, both given and received, some may take time to reflect upon the reason behind the most significant holiday on our calendar, at least to most people. If allowed, ask them to listen for a moment, and share with them something special. Share with them the greatest story ever told.

In life, we reach a point when we only reduce our biological stability, perhaps maintaining for a while, but eventually, we will slow a few more steps, rise a bit slower, and recall even less. Yet, through it all, we should be thankful in our daily walk, no matter the struggles, and remember that we have been given the most precious gift known to man. Nearly 2000 years ago, a present was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger, not under a tree. Those who were there to receive did not need to unwrap their gift to know its importance.

Tomorrow, pause for a moment and give thanks to God above for the greatest gift of all.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Luke 1:35

[2] Luke 2:8-15

[3] Luke 2:16-18

[4] Luke 2:19

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Music of the Soul…

Tron Family performing at Camel Back Bridge Park, Cumnock NC.

Tron Family performing at Camel Back Bridge Park, Cumnock NC.

This past week I’ve been reminded of the importance of music in my life.

When times seem to close in, painting life into a corner, it’s when I’m usually forgetting to revisit my old friend and love; music.

Music for me does several things; calms my nerves when I’m tense, connects my thoughts into a fluid stream of story and allows the spirit of the Lord to flow through me speaking the words my lips cannot find.

The most obvious use of music is relaxation. There are times when events in life can be spinning out of control, but the moment a favorite song or melody comes on, all the sharp edges of reality are quickly softened and soon forgotten. These silent trips down the road, recollections through family albums, or simply watching the clouds pass over the landscape out a nearby window, all take on a different level of perspective when the right song plays in the background. Suddenly the inanimate object takes on a life of its own, living and breathing into the moment of one’s existence.

Then there are the times when I write, sitting at the keyboard listening to epic movie soundtrack instrumentals. In these quiet reflective moments, the songs become the soundtrack to the story I’m putting into words for the first time, floating over the characters as they spell out the tale on the screen. Their crescendos and monumental waves of symphony heighten the dramatic imagination in which exists; living and breathing in the moment of the saga I am creating. I can begin to write and when the song turns to the dark minor keys, my story takes a turn of unexpected tragedy, mirroring the sounds in my ears. To this extent, writing to the music is like riding a bike down the mountain road with no hands; a thrilling rush, where and how you end up is only up to the twist and turns in the road of the tale being told. I can only trust my Lord has the hand on the wheel as my pen guides us through the winding pathways ahead.

Then there are the times when my mind wants to say so much, yet the stage finds me muted to the point of anger; mad at myself for not being the natural orator I am in my own mind. In many ways, music is the bridge between what I want to say and cannot, finding the connection to an audience that might otherwise go without. When I find myself in predicaments like this, a guitar and a song for the moment break through this barrier, allowing the flood of thoughts and words to come cascading out. There is no better feeling to know you have connected with someone either with speaking or singing something from a message that God has placed upon your heart. To know He can speak and play through us in spite of ourselves is probably the most common phrase I know and use when it comes to calming nerves, for if I know it’s from Him; then I also know it is for Him, not of myself; failure, in this case, is no longer a factor.

All this being said, I was reminded of the need for music in my life as we drove back from the fiddler’s convention this past weekend. I realized that the connection to another part of my soul is only attainable from this gift. It is from using the ability to “make music” that I can reach out to the side of me that sometimes lies silent, waiting and watching the world around; the creative side. Only when the music reaches across the divide within do the juices of creativity begin to burst forth once more. So it was this week, and even more today as we performed at church this morning, again reconfirming my belief that to use our gifts only awakens the more within, the others that lie waiting for those before to be lifted off so that they too may be discovered and shined upon.

May God bless anyone who seeks to enrich the lives of others from any blessing God has given you; never let these gifts lie asleep and do all you can to awaken them each and every day.

Have a beautiful week and Blessings to all.

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” – Eph. 5:19

 

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