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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 Sky’s Not the Limit

by Timothy W. Tron

Walking in a bleak and forsaken landscape, there seemed little to brighten the spirit within. It appeared the societal oppression had finally reached my soul. Alongside my pathway, the river ran a confluence of grayness, passing over rocks and eddies of congestion. Dark voids formed pools of contention. The sound of rushing water was the same as in the brilliant days of springtime, yet there were no blooms, no sunshine vistas – the world felt trapped in an eternal abyss of despair.

Daylight was quickly fading from the sky above. My thoughts turned to contemplate my return route and which way I should go. It was of little use to take the high ground since the sun was already nearly past the horizon. A blissful sunset was out of the question. Feeling a sudden urge, like a gentle nudge from on high, I decided to return home the way I had come, back through the darkness of the forest, a welcome cover to my demeanor. Turning around to retrace my steps, it was at that moment that the scene before me nearly took my breath away. The words from above suddenly filled my heart, “I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”[1]

There before me was a brilliant orange, fiery sunset in the backdrop of a forlorn winter sky. The glory of the LORD was above and reflected in the waters of the secretive Johns River below. Suddenly, that seemingly dead, distant landscape had come alive, a breathing, living being – a reflection of His almighty omnipotence. As the radiance of that fading image smiled across my face, a reminder of thankfulness began to warm my heart. The words of John’s testimony from Patmos echoed in my mind, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”[2]

We face a new year, and for many, they do so with much heaviness in their hearts. There has been much death and darkness in our world. In a time when it seemed like we could finally leave a recent train-wreck of history behind us, there seems to be no end to the calamities through which we must traverse. Looking ahead, we may only see forests like the bones of the dead underneath dark, foreboding skies. Yet, if we turn around and look, even against an aghast bleak sky, there is still something for which we can be thankful – something that we must realize was Godly; a blazing sunset to remind us that God was and is still with us through it all.

The beginning of a new year is often a time to make resolutions, but maybe we should try something different this year. Perhaps, we should instead think about looking back to the blessings with which we have been bestowed, no matter how small.

Sometimes self-reflection is more rewarding than one might anticipate. We often get so lost in the struggle to make it to the next day we fail to realize what we have accomplished. Sometimes we are reminded of self-reflection in the oddest circumstances.

I was recently walking with a colleague on campus and discussing the state of things. The conversation turned toward recent advances in technology. He asked if I had heard about the latest telescope that was about to be sent into orbit, the James Webb telescope. He told me how it would be so powerful that it could see back through time to the beginnings of the universe. Researching his statement revealed this from NASA’s website, “The James Webb Space Telescope’s revolutionary technology will study every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.”[3]

When I hear about science trying to “look back in time” to find evidence of the “beginning” it somewhat irritates me. My frustration comes from the fact that many people who do not believe in God will do anything to try to prove that creation began with some miraculous spark of combustion out of nothing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying my colleague is or is not a believer – that is yet to be seen. But rather, the lengths to which governments will spend taxpayer monies to research the creation in the name of science are sometimes laughable. It was in this vein of thought that the first thing that blurted out of my mouth when my colleague mentioned this incredible scientific breakthrough was, “What if someone on earth is looking through the lens of the orbiting telescope and sees in the distance another eyeball looking back at them?”

“You mean like another being, like an alien looking at us?”

“Not quite.” My mind was thinking more of God, but at that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.

“Or maybe you mean like us looking back in time at ourselves,” he said with a hint of mysticism in his voice, “Like through a wrinkle in time?”

“Perhaps,” I replied, but my thoughts had already begun to turn to how amused God must be at our incessant desire to disprove his existence by hoping to look back to the beginning of time. Under my breath, I mouthed the first lines of the gospel of John to ward off any more insolence, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”[4]

You see, by the sheer virtue of light, we were given life. Through humanity’s self-absorption, thinking that we can grow wiser than our creator, we can miss the mark. The answers to life, to from the beginning to the end, the alpha to the omega, are all handed to us by the one who we seek to find – God our creator.

Then my mind returned to the words of my colleague, “Us looking back at ourselves….”

It was then that the sunset on that dreary evening made sense. We didn’t need a state-of-the-art orbiting telescope to see it. We don’t need an international space agency to define the beginning of time to know who we are. The great Northern Irish mathematician, bioethicist, and Christian apologist, John Lennox writes, “To the majority of those who have reflected deeply and written about the origin and nature of the universe, it has seemed that it points beyond itself to a source which is non-physical and of great intelligence and power.”[5]

When we seek what we cannot find, we lose our way. But when we seek Him, as the scriptures had said, if we knock, the door shall be opened. When we realize that all we need is merely for our asking, if only we ask, then the concept of realization of our existence begins to make sense. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”[6] And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”[7]

If you can find nothing else in this past year for which to give thanks, believe that there is at least one thing that was there all along. You may not have turned around and caught a glimpse of that setting sun, but then again, you had to turn from your ways before it could be seen. Once our time on earth is done, there won’t be any more opportunities to make restitution with God. Judgment day is at hand, and all will stand before the Lord. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”[8]

Are you ready for eternity?

Seek not things of this world, but seek that which gives life eternal, the salvation that comes only from Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Jeremiah 29:11 KJV

[2] Revelations 22:1-2 KJV

[3] https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/content/webbLaunch/assets/documents/WebbFactSheet.pdf

[4] John 1:1-4 KJV

[5]  John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

[6] Revelations 3:20 KJV

[7] Jeremiah 29:13 KJV

[8] 2 Peter 3:7 KJV

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The Silver Bridge in My Life

For a change, this morning, my dear friend and Music Pastor at Faith Community Church, Kyle Canerday, and I decided to meet at his house in Valdese instead of meeting up somewhere on the mountain for our Friday walk and fellowship. Having had had the week off, it was an excellent opportunity to hike a new route and share in my friend’s usually solo trek. It was a cool but pleasant day for December 31st. There was still a bit of morning mist in the air even at 8:30 as we made our way down the hill and around the curve away from his home.

As we continued up the road, we passed the mailbox of the late Emile Jacumin. I had been fortunate to visit Emile and his family before his passing, thanks partly to his daughter, Lillian, whom I had met at Icard Elementary School when visiting for the Trail of Faith. At her father’s home, she shared with me the research she had been doing into the Waldensian connections to Judaism through Spain. Over the course of our visit, she also shared a piece of history with me that gave me an “Ahah” moment. Looking into the living room, she said that there were no curtains on the windows when they bought the house from the previous owners, original Waldensian immigrants. Lillian noted that ancient Waldensians believe that when Jesus returns, he will come back initially as a bolt of lightning bursting across the sky from the east to the west. She was referring to Matthew 24:27, which reads, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

A few months later, when the opportunity to visit with my Aunt Norma, one of the last elders in my family that had known my paternal great grandfather, I asked her if she noticed anything odd about their home. She replied that she always thought it was strange that they never had curtains over their windows, at least not in the downstairs area, which was all that she could remember. It was then, as before, that the little light came on in my head, and the credibility of a previous statement began to cement itself into my collective beliefs. Again, the connection to scripture was so literal so ingrained, that it was part of who those ancient people were – even in their everyday lives.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The credibility will depend on the extent to which the doctrine if accepted, can illuminate and integrate that whole mass. It is much less important that the doctrine itself should be fully comprehensible. We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else.”[1]

As we continued walking, I began sharing this foundational acceptance with Kyle and how we often take its work in us for granted. To give him an example, I shared this next story with him, which in and of itself could stand alone. But, its telling will share how a minuscule fact buried in time can persist if its points are based on truth, something to which one can be grounded.

It was 1967, my first year at public school. Having been a sickly child, in part due to double pneumonia at one and two years of age, I was lucky to be alive in part due to a miracle drug known as penicillin. That being the case, they, my mother and the authorities, decided it best to hold me back a year, so that little Timmy would be six years old instead of five when beginning Kindergarten at Fairlawn Elementary School in Evansville, Indiana. My first few days were a little rocky because of my excitement just to be with other little children my age. Living on the farm, one was isolated, without anyone with which to play or converse. However, I was finally free to make friends and talk. In fact, one friend, in particular, the only one that I can remember to this day, was a boy named Mark. Mark and I hit it off the moment we first met. I don’t know what it was that gave us such a strong bond, but it must have been significant. The semester was going well, and we were already in December when it was time to say goodbye for the Holidays. When we were asked where we would be spending our Christmas, my little ears heard Mark say something about him and his family going out west. Instantly, pictures of cowboys and Indians, something we all played as children, popped into my head. “Oh, how much fun Mark was going to have,” my tender heart mused.

Everyone was there when we returned from the Christmas break a few weeks later, except for Mark. Nobody knew anything about his whereabouts, so his empty seat stood out like a beacon – “Where was my friend?” A couple of days went by, and our teacher came into the room one morning in a very different attitude than her usual upbeat, perky self. She seemed burdened by something like a weight was on her shoulders that she couldn’t lift. After the regular morning routines were performed, our teacher had us gather around her on the floor. She began telling us that sometimes not everyone makes it back from the holidays. “People move away, or their parents get jobs in other places, or,” her voice cracked, and her head went down to her chest as she dabbed a tissue against her eyes. Another adult was there with us as she had begun speaking. We didn’t know the person, but they seemed to be there to help our teacher. Finally, she lifted up her head, and with tear-brimmed eyes, continued, “Yes, sometimes even children don’t make it back to school.” She smiled at us so sweetly as tears ran down her pretty cheeks. “Mark won’t be coming back to school.” She paused and swallowed. This was very hard for her, but we wanted to cheer her on, even though we didn’t know why. “You see, there was a bridge collapse, and Mark and his family….” She again bowed her head and dabbed at the river that was now flowing from her face. The other adult moved in close to her and put their arm around her as she continued to regain control. The other adult continued in her place by saying, “Mark and his family died when the bridge they were on collapsed into the river below.”

The children sat in silence. The sound of sniffles could be heard. There was a giant pain in my throat, one that I couldn’t swallow away, but for some reason, I couldn’t cry. We watched as the adults in front of us regained their composure and began smiling once again, for our sake, not their own. “Okay, children, we can be thankful that there is a Heaven and that Mark and his family are there today. Let’s all go to our coloring stations get out our crayons. We’ve got some coloring to get done.” And from there, it was back to business as usual. Yet, the moment would haunt me for years to come.

In 2002 there was a movie that came out starring Richard Gere. It was called the “The Mothman Prophecies.”[2] It told the story of multiple sightings of an unusual creature known as the Mothman because of its winglike shape. The being was seen by several eyewitnesses, and each told of the prophetic sayings to which he would allude. Eventually, at the end of the movie, the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, collapsed. It was suddenly that the memory of Mark returned. Was this the bridge? But didn’t Mark say he was going out west, or was that what I heard? Did he really mean he was going to West Virginia? All of these questions and more began to resonate in my mind.

Silver Bridge, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, December, 1967.

Not to be undone, I began researching possible bridges that collapsed in 1967. There was only one of significance where there was massive loss of life; it was, unbelievably, the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where 46 people died that day. Looking over the list of casualties, there was no Mark. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember Mark’s last name, nor if he had used his middle name. The names of those who died also had the states they were from listed, but nobody was there from Indiana; all were either from Ohio or West Virginia. Had Mark’s family never changed their residence?

So, although the tale of my long, lost Kindergarten friend was not solved, the answer to the question was enlightened another step closer to its solution. The credibility of my understanding had grown, and the foundation of belief at advanced. So likewise, in our journey of Sanctification, we gain a kernel of knowledge and at first might be hesitant to accept it, for doing so may alter our previous basis of belief. However, upon learning of other concepts which may enrich that previous suspicious kernel of thought, we find a foundation shift in our own theology – a course correction, if you will. With these miniscule understandings of the greater whole, we must accept and carry on. For we will never know all that God is, nor will be, but must receive it as Lewis said, as the noonday sun sits in the sky overhead.

Did I find Mark – sadly, no? But was my understanding further solidified in truth – yes, to some degree.

Will I ever solve the mystery of what happened to my little friend so long ago – we may never know on this side of Heaven. But Lord willing, when we find ourselves some beautiful day in the presence of the Lord, we then will find the answers to all those things on earth that we were never able to fully comprehend.

What a glorious day it will be!

Thanks be to God.


[1] Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Copyright 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Revised 1960, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mothman_Prophecies_(film)

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A Man and his Bibs

The worn stretched to the point of threadbare T-shirt that he wore underneath his faded, denim bib overalls depicted the man. Victor Phillip Tron was a quiet man but labored as a farmer until the day he died. He never complained about his work, other than that last day, when he told Mildred, his endearing wife of 52 years, that he just didn’t feel well. She would later recall how grandpa seemed to drag about that day and that she told Victor couldn’t eat his supper until after he had fed the dogs. Begrudgingly, he obliged and returned to eat his last supper. He would die that night in his sleep.

Victor Phillip Tron, wearing his next favorite shirt, the winter flannel. Taken in the living room of the farm house, on the edge of New Harmony, Indiana. (note, the work boots, taken when he was preparing to head to the milk barn one chilly winter afternoon.)

To know my grandpa Tron, you would have to understand the schedule he kept. As a dairy farmer, working on K.D. Owens expansive farm, managing the milking barn, Victor kept a 4:00pm, and 4:00am milking pattern. This meant, when we saw him first thing in the morning when we children arose at the first light of dawn, Victor had already put in half a day’s work. Often, we sat while grandma prepared the morning meal at the breakfast table, us still in our night clothes, grandpa in his weary old T-shirt and overalls. The smell of bleach from cleaning up after the milking emanated from grandpa. He would always meticulously lather with Comet at the bathroom sink, from his hands up to his elbows. It was the same cleaning agent he would use at the barn where he processed the milk twice a day. The cleanser had soaked into his skin so that his calm demeanor was always acquainted in my mind with Comet. To this day, I cannot open a can of the cleaner without my mind immediately drifting back to that dairy barn and grandpa so many years ago.

The daily schedule, 365 days a year, twice a day, eventually would wear on him. By the time I had come around, grandpa was nearing his late sixties. He had a slight stroke at one point near the end so that his speech was hindered. A voice barely above a whisper, he would sit on the front porch after his afternoon nap in the living room and tell jokes. They still didn’t always seem funny when we could understand him, but it didn’t phase him one bit. He would carry on some tale, and when he got to the punch line, unbeknownst to the rest of us grandkids, he would rear back and slap his leg laughing hysterically while we grinned, trying to enjoy whatever grandpa was reveling in at the time. If nothing else, his jovial aspect of sharing was enough to make you grin ear to ear. But these moments were few and far between, for mostly grandpa Tron sat and listened, smiling or nodding. For this reason, those few times that we saw him joking were the precious jewels in our collective memory.

Doyle Hines (maternal grandfather) and grandson, Timothy W. Tron, 1963, New Harmony, Indiana – Doyle wearing the T-shirt and Overalls mentioned in this story.

When I was a small child, Victor would wear his overalls to church on Saturday morning. Grandpa and Grandma were Seventh Day Adventists and strictly adhered to the Sabbath, starting at sundown on Friday evening to dusk on Saturday. Later in my life, not many years before he passed, someone bought him a light brown suit which he traded in, at the bequest of my grandmother, to be sure, for his comfortable bibs. That was the same suit he would be buried in on December 2nd, 1977. That was the same year we lost my cousin Michael Kaiser to an accident. Michael was electrocuted to death when he, my other cousin David Paul, and his father, my Uncle David, were putting up a new T.V. antenna at my Uncle David’s house. Unfortunately, the antennae hit the power line before the transformer. Being the tallest of any family member, Michael took the lethal portion of the shock. His heart continued to beat all the way to the hospital in Evansville, pumping blood out the ends of his fingers and toes, which had burst because of the impact of the bolt of electricity. There was nothing they could do to stop it.

Grandpa was there to see Michael laid to rest, next to the spot where he and grandma had planned to be the first in Maple Hill Cemetery on the edge of New Harmony – “it wasn’t supposed to be this way,” he would whisper.

Michael was only 21.

Michael and my mother (Rita Hines Tron Wiscaver) in the kitchen of the old farm house on the edge of New Harmony, Indiana.

Michael’s death impacted all of us. Grandpa didn’t talk much after the passing of Michael. We all felt a sense of guilt, none more than Uncle David. But nobody blamed David, or his son, David Paul. But self-imposed blame can be like a cancer. Their lives would be touched with struggles that one has to wonder if they weren’t still carrying that burden all those many years since.

But, there were always fond memories of Grandpa. Like when he taught us how to milk the cows by hand. He would easily squeeze out a gentle handful of rich, creamy froth into the stainless-steel bucket. Occasionally, the odd barn cat sitting behind the cow would catch an unexpected mouthful and, satisfied, walk away, wiping their chin with tongue and paw. Grandpa would chuckle at the sight, and we kids would nearly roll with laughter.

Victor taught us that the cream that settled at the top of the glass jar of milk in the fridge was best when shaken before pouring into our drinking glasses. The Ovaltine was resting at the bottom, waiting to join the frothing liquid to make a treat nearly indescribable in earthly terms.

He would walk with us out into the lane and teach us to call his cattle – his girls, he would say. Grandma swore that he named after all of his old girlfriends. “Suuuuuuuuk-cow,” he would holler with a high tenor shout. His voice would echo off of Sled Hill and back, answered shortly by distant lowing. His girls never missed a beat to come to the milk barn. We would wait for them to wander down the long, tree-lined lane, and one by one, we would follow the parade, in tow behind grandpa. Each cow knew her stall and would go up to the concrete trough to wait for Victor to harness them into place. He would then pour a scoop full of the sweetest smelling feed imaginable in front of their muzzles, which they would instantly begin nuzzling their noses into the rich grain.

Tim at Denton Farm Park, May 2021 – seriously trying to be serious.

Victor was a man of few words, but he loved to whistle. We all knew when he had found the mother-lode of berry patches, though. Back in the day, we would all pile into the back of the pickup truck and head for the fields to pick blackberries. When Victor’s whistling stopped, we knew he had found more blackberries than he could gather. The trick was to find where he was hiding.

But the most cherished memory would be catching him and grandma sitting at the kitchen table before breakfast. There they would read the Bible together, sharing in God’s word, starting their day together in the Lord. It wasn’t something they advertised. It was who they were – people of God.

Not many days go by that I don’t think of those days more and more. Recently one of the students on campus asked me if I could be 20-something again, would I? Of course, my answer was no, thinking that they were attempting to portray me as someone at college, doing all the college things. But truthfully, if I could go back in time, it would be way before then, to those distant days of my youth when all my grandpas and grandmas were still alive. There, I would ask so many more questions. There, I would sit and record as much as was humanly possible for my age. There, I would cherish once more those words of wisdom and wit. There once more, I would ask them to lead me in the ways of the Lord evermore.

But to know all of this is to know that someday soon, I will be able to do just that, but for all of eternity.

And once more, that soul in the worn T-shirt and those bibs will be like an old friend greeting me home.

Thanks be to God.

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A Morning of Rejuvenation

The long-awaited time of recompense has begun.

In life, there are seasons.

One must traverse through these one at a time.

Old Blue at the Collettsville General Store

Some may feel like they have entered into the valley of the shadow of death. Others may feel as if they have reached the summit of life’s journey. Through each day, we are seeking a means to an end. For some, their grasp reaches no further than what is just before them. Many people today are self-absorbed in the many distractions of this world so much so, that they think no more about the consequences of their actions than that of a passing of a swift cloud overhead. It is because of the choices of the first humans, Adam and Eve,  that we live in a fallen world – thus, the reason for death and destruction. What we choose today can alter the course of our life for not just this lifetime, but for eternity.

Think about that for a moment!

My own journey has just passed through some very turbulent waters. While they are nothing compared to many people I know, they were at least some of the more challenging in recent years. To that end, my extended passions, art, music, and writing had to take a back seat. It was as if part of me had to be cut off for the whole of me to be fully engaged in receiving, and absorbing the information necessary to make it to the next stage of the journey. In some ways, it was as if the fruits of the spirit were slowly dying on the vine, withering away due to neglect. It was not something that I wanted, but it was the only way to make it through the valley in which I had traversed. Did I think about my choice as to why this was happening? Oh yes, frequently and often. Did it give me solace in knowing that my trials were making the path more difficult? Yes, for when we often are serving God, there are certainly times of trials and struggles, to which the Apostle Paul attested, again and again.

So, it was this morning, as I walked to church that once more, my consciousness was as clear as the air was cold. The trail I was on ran beside the John’s River. The frigid waters were a gray, forbidding froth as the mountain shed the previous night’s rain. The forest is now like a living graveyard, bones of the tree trunks barren and gray offering little comfort in their winter gloom. In the bountiful days of summer, their foliage provides a canopy of shelter from the sun. Yet, as my footsteps carried me forward, the sunlight was my welcome companion. My mind was free to recite scriptures, something else that had been derelict in my daily life, much to my chagrin. But today, as I walked, the words of the Lord flowed from my lips, like the waters cascading over the rocks in the torrent below.

It felt as if my blood was flowing once more.

Even before my journey had made it to my mid-way stopping point, the Collettsville General Store, there was the deep-throated howl of the hunting dog. “Odd,” I thought to myself, “Did I just hear a hound dog wailing this early in the morning?” Sure enough, as my footsteps rounded the bend in the road and the parking lot of the store came into view, there standing near the picnic table was the familiar Blue Tick Hound. We’d met before, and he seemed comfortable with my presence. So much so before, that when we sat together on the porch of the store, he sat next to me, as if we were old friends.

Today was no different, as he seemed to recognize me as much as I did him. I shuffled on over to the weathered picnic table and unloaded my pack and walking staff. Old Blue came over and greeted me, and I him. As I sat down, he continued to check out each car that pulled into the lot, either seeking his owner or a morsel of food. Either way, he kept coming back to me and eventually leaned over my shoulder as if to say, “Hey, how about some attention fella.” Reluctantly, for fear of coming away smelling like an old hound dog, I began patting the back of his head. to which he seemed to smile. He rather enjoyed it all the more, so much so, that it invoked his instinctual voice of glee to erupt into a punctual, “Baaaaroooooooof,” in my ear. It was the unmistakable howl of the bear-dog that I had heard earlier, and it had definitely been from my newfound friend, Old Blue.

It is in these simple moments of respite that one feels life’s vessel beginning to refill. As we sat there, me pouring a cup of coffee to go along with my devotional, and old Blue keeping watch, the morning sun continued to warm us, both inside and out. There are times when man’s best friend, even if he’s not your own, can be one of the best companions; and so it was today.

The traffic to Wilson’s Creek had almost entirely diminished so that the area of repose beside the general store was somewhat peaceful this Sunday morning. Old Blue and I chatted some more before he decided to go check out the visitors at the Ruritan’s Building across the road. I took the opportunity to continue likewise on my journey. But before I left, I thanked God for affording me the time to sit and be rejuvenated from one of his creatures.

Sometimes, it is the simpler things in life that make all the difference.

Thanks be to God.

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Grandma’s Root Cellar

[The demon Screwtape writes:] The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future.

Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”[1]

Natural food storage | Root cellar, Farm life, Cellar

After reading this excerpt from C.S. Lewis recently, it made me think of how my family all had the habit of putting up food for the future. Now you might ask, “How does reading Lewis’s commentary on living in the moment and focusing on eternity make you think of preserving food?” Herein lies the story of how preparing for future meals and prepping to survive come what may, you can better appreciate these comments.

My grandparents all canned and put up food, so that’s where we, their offspring, learned those survival skills. Not only were they all from Agrarian backgrounds, but they were also of the generation that had survived the Depression. My paternal grandparents were especially devoted to this lifestyle, seeing as my dad had six siblings. More than anything, it was a labor of necessity. But there was one elder in particular that made it more than just about food.

Grandma Tron was always preparing for the future by what seemed like a never-ending job of canning, tending the garden, and toiling on the farm. Yet, each morning, there alone in her later years after grandpa had passed, sitting at the end of the table closest to the stove, she could be found; Bible open, studying God’s word by the dim, soft glow of light from the overhead bulb in her kitchen. Before the light of dawn had lit the hills beyond the farm’s pastures, she was already preparing for the coming day – alone with God. It wasn’t an act of canning; it was preparing for the next meal to eat. It was much more.

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you:” – John 6:27

Outside her kitchen window was the “Kitchen Garden.” There were the foods necessary to season and allow for more flavorful meals, in addition to those plants that had a shorter shelf life and required closer attention. The other main and much larger garden was across the pasture behind Ms. Wolf’s house. That was where the bulk crops – corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and all the other canned goods that required an army of workers to process-were located. Here, we found that deep rich topsoil, black, rich dirt that could grow anything if only you dropped the seed into its berth.

Like those two gardens, Grandma used that never-ending seasonal flow of life to guide and teach her children, and then eventually us multitude of grandkids. Like her Kitchen Garden, her tattered, worn Bible was always close by. Although it was present, we rarely saw her open it, for there was no need. Those words within that weathered binding were no longer captive within its cover, for they were planted deep within her heart. In those daily routines, where some would find mundane, tedious actions that repeated into infinity, there was the conversations, the sharing of life over the snapping of beans, or the peeling of potatoes. In those moments, as your hands became numb from holding the paring knife as you tried to keep up with grandma’s aged agile movements, the scriptures would emerge through words of encouragement and loving-kindness. It seemed like you could never peel as thin nor as fast, no matter how hard your focus. And as she worked, she spoke to us, entreating a sense of wholesomeness that was never found on a T.V. show or in a book, other than the one she kept nearby. Although you might struggle with the physical act of trying to imitate her agile yet succinctly purposeful labor, you didn’t realize that like that rich, deep topsoil of the garden, we too were being implanted with something far greater. As she would tell us the words of Jesus, “And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.”

As we lived in the present so long ago, we prepared for a future we did not know. Yet, through those agricultural experiences, we learned that planning and preparing for the future lessened the sense of worry of what was to come. Knowing that down in the root cellar, where we stored the canned goods, the potatoes, dried herb, and spices, there was a sense of accomplishment mixed with a feeling of security. So, while we worked with grandma, learning those agrarian skills, we also learned how to prepare for another future – a life eternal.  Likewise, in our hearts, we knew that if we allowed Him in, God was with us, giving us a sense of security like no other.

In that comfort of knowing for what we had collectively prepared, there seemed to be a never-ending supply. Each time we would go to visit grandpa and grandma Tron, we never left empty-handed. There was always that last trip down into the earthen root cellar beneath the back porch. There grandma would load us up with armloads of that delicious bounty from the warmer months. As we piled into the car to leave, crowded in amongst the jars of canned peaches, green beans, and corn, we felt as if part of our grandparents were with us. Waving goodbye, as we passed beneath those ancient oaks and sycamores that lined their short, curved driveway, one never thought that it would never end.

As time passed, so did those countless gardens. Like the autumn of life, the fields grew brown and withered. The seasons of harvest had ended, and the Lord eventually called our grandparents home. Grandma finally joined grandpa; their bodies were laid to rest up there in Maple Hill Cemetery, just over the holler from Sled Hill. Yet, while their physical remains have an ending point, their lives had only just begun. Somewhere in that land that is fairer than day, they will await us that received their counsel. Someday, with open arms, they will greet us in that Heavenly home. Like those tearful goodbyes off the tattered back porch of the humble farmhouse on the edge of New Harmony, there will someday be a joyful reunion that will surpass in feeling all of those emotions but in a joyous regard on the steps of that house of many mansions on high.

As the sun crests the ridge of the mountain this morning, that vision of that humble kitchen table with its worn Bible once more comes to mind. Across the decades, those lessons resonate even more today. In the moment of the past, where we prepared for a future in eternity, the seeds of faith had been planted, and with those tiny grains of hope, eternal life was given. Sitting around that battered kitchen table, we found peace in the present as we heard about how to find a life in time without end.

Like going down into grandma’s root cellar, we can reach into our hearts and retrieve those words which the Lord hath given. Live each day as if you are preparing for eternity, and let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. We have but one life to live here on earth. Make the most of what you have been given, and may your root cellar be filled to overflowing so that you may share with any and all who come in need.

In all these things, we can say with Blessed Assurance, “Thanks be to God.”


[1] The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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Lean On Me

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

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

Fencerow on the Blueridge Parkway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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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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An Unexpected Friend

The brain is considered to be the primary generator and regulator of emotions; however, afferent signals originating throughout the body are detected by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and brainstem, and, in turn, can modulate emotional processes.”[1]

There were blue patches between the clouds as the sunrise sought to find a hole through which to shine. As my footsteps reached the landing behind Anne-Belk Hall to start my morning run, raindrops began to fall. The warmth of the season was still distant, but the air, humid and close, was welcoming, so the sparse rainfall was likewise a comfort.

Belk Library – Appalachian State University

Running on campus is not one of my favorite locations. It is much more visually rewarding and inspiring to find oneself on those trails leading up our nearby mountains. Yet, today was a short day, so the pavement and sidewalks of the urban jungle were my forests this morning. As is my new tradition, I began quoting the Gospel of John as my legs began to propel me forward. Yesterday’s run was still lingering in these old joints, but the joy of finding oneself welcoming the dawn while in the Word is something to behold. So, pushing on, the words began to overwhelm the pain, and soon it was more of an emotion, the spirit, if you will, carrying me onward.

The sentences laced together like a vine weaving its way up a majestic oak until these words escaped my lips, “Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.”[2] At that moment, just before me, was a young man running in my direction, smiling broadly. At first, it appeared that he might know me, so welcoming was his smile. My eyes searched the face but could not place it. As he drew close, he said, “Mind if I join you?”

“No, not at all,” was my reply. We were just opposite the street from Stick Boy Bakery.

He turned around and began running alongside me on the sidewalk. I quickly introduced myself, and he said his name was Max. I mentioned to him that he caught me in chapter 2, and so I repeated the verse in which he had suddenly appeared. When I got to the line, “But he spake of the temple of his body,” my new friend literally leaped as if he had just hurdled over a log in the path. “Wow, I was just meditating on just such a philosophical aspect of training; how the body and the mind are connected. Keeping the body fit helps the mind remain active, alert, and able to grow.” He looked at me with wild eyes in amazement at the confirmation and the rarity of occasion that someone had spoken of something upon which he too had been thinking.

Likewise, as he spoke, my mind was trying once more to wrap around the Godly coincidence to which I had been afforded. “Where does that come from,” my new friend asked, with regard to the scripture.

“Chapter 2 of the Gospel of John,” came my measured breath as we made our way up the hill toward Daniel Boone Inn.

“What’s that,” he asked?

In my mind, the words, “OH MY LORD,” were screaming, followed by, “Thank you, Jesus, for sending me someone to whom I could share this morning.”

At this point, I want to stop and make a point.

No matter where we go, no matter what our course of trajectory the day’s plans take us, we should always be ready to give an account of the Gospel. 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Earlier in the week, it became apparent that I was going through one of those despondent episodes of sanctification; whereby, you find it challenging to remain in the spirit, and God seems to be ignoring you. This sense of being alone seemed to convey something I recently read about what C.S. Lewis wrote, “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.”[3]

And so, as my new friend began to chime in with his interpretations, it became apparent that God had created the calm before the storm. How much more remarkable is the dramatic production when there is a sequence of acts in which little to nothing happens before the climaxing scene? For in these moments, the tension slowly builds so that it has a greater impact upon the senses when the dramatic conclusion erupts. The same was the case on this particular day so that as the sun was slowly rising above the distant mountainside, in the dusk of those shadowed roadways, a day full of fellowship, sharing, and evangelism had just begun.

As we continued our way up King Street, heading south, Max mentioned how Rappers, with all of their gold jewelry, were saying that, yes, all of this was nothing compared to being here and now, to the legitimacy of life regardless of wealth and pleasure. Some of the things he related to scripture were very strange, and repeatedly I had to ask him what he meant. He would then reword his comments until they were along the same lines of language that I could follow, for it seemed as if we were from different planets regarding how he spoke and to what I could comprehend. The voice of today’s youth, imparted upon by the worldly attributes of music, social media, and video, lends to another realm of interpretation that I never cease to stop learning – it is ever-changing. To reach this generation, we must learn to speak in their voice, as strange and foreign as it may sound.

The farther we ran, the more it sounded as if my new friend was speaking from a background of faith, but it was difficult to fully know, so relegated were his words in that alternate word speak of his. When he got to the point where he mentioned how we were like beings surrounded by dark forces, it triggered my thoughts, and from my mouth, like a well springing up into eternal life, the scriptures of John 1 began to flow, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” Max remarked how what he just heard was so powerful and true. He went on to continue to speak in his own words the scripture he had just received. Knowing that this was his way of comprehending, I remained mostly silent and listened, correcting by suggestion only when he had completely fallen off track.

By now, we were making our way back to my office, moving up Howard Street toward Peacock Hall, the School of Business. Our conversation was moving along faster, especially since that stretch of roadway went downhill, affording my lungs the extra space with which to literally gasp for air. Max continued to seek more of what he had heard, and as time would allow, we continued to cover as much as possible. But before we knew it, we were standing back at the base of Ann-Belk Hall. It seemed as if our train had abruptly pulled into the station, and for a moment, we stood staring at one another, wondering if we wanted to get off or not. Feeling like this was one of those moments where Jesus had said, “Herein is not the saying true, one soweth and another reapeth,” it was difficult to say goodbye so soon. God had provided an opportunity, and it was in that instance of time that He allowed me to share with one that was ready to receive.

So often, when we feel as if nothing is happening in our spiritual lives, God is there, working out something in the background. In times of isolation and quiet, we must remind ourselves that He is preparing a way even when we feel like we are disconnected. When those periods of isolation seem to be a deafening roar of silence, focus on what you can control; like your own being. Like the temple of the body to which Jesus had meant, we must remain mindful of how we treat this vessel. Not only should we think in the manner of things to which we ingest, both materially and spiritually, but how we care for in our physical strength. Not only should our bodies be kept whole through consumption but also through activity. If we care for what God has endowed us with, how much greater will be our ability to focus on Him because of a strong mind and body?

Lastly, keep in mind that seeds are planted at the times we least suspect.

Remember to always carry your parcel of seeds with you, for you never know when God will break the ground and ready the soil for planting.

Continue always in prayer and supplication for that day when the time is right, when those prayers are answered or when you are asked to step up and speak His word.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Jerath R, Crawford MW. How Does the Body Affect the Mind? Role of Cardiorespiratory Coherence in the Spectrum of Emotions. Adv Mind Body Med. 2015 Fall;29(4):4-16. PMID: 26535473.

[2] John 2:20-21 KJV

[3] The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.

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