Tag Archives: Heaven

More Than a Feeling

by Timothy W. Tron, August, 8th, 2022

We walked up the mountain top wading through a sea of tall summer grasses. There were no trees, only highland meadows. You could reach your arms out to your side and runs your fingers along the tops of the stalks as you walked, tickling the palms of your hands as you passed. Around us, the clouds had descended until we walked in an atmosphere that was calming and bewildering at the same time. The heat of the day had quickly dissipated as the mist enveloped our small hiking group. It was as if we were walking through a dream. Were we still on earth, or had we suddenly found ourselves walking in Heaven? The Pauline statement came to mind, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”[1]

Hump Back Mountain, Appalachian Trail, North Carolina.

Wading through the tall summer grasses heading to the summit of Sled Hill always provided a sense of achievement. Once there, towering above the little hamlet of New Harmony, one could purvey the entirety of the small village from the height of the hill. While it was only a hill, it felt closer to God. Several years later, I would find myself on a much taller mountain, in the Cottien Region of the Alps, nearly 10,000 feet up. There, for a few minutes of life, a hiking companion and I communed with God. It was a feeling that words cannot adequately describe. To feel his presence and to be so near – yet, so far to go. The sense of touching the stalks of grass to the feeling of being in God’s presence shows us how our body’s translate sensation into emotion. An almost imperceptible path is created from the input of feeling to the emotion of feeling. In our walk of life, the terrestrial realm, our perception of reality influences our thoughts whether we want it to or not.

For in this world, we may find ourselves seeking God but focused on the wrong target, as Paul Washer would say. He compares it to looking through the scope of a rifle. Closing one eye and aiming toward the target, we might find the crosshairs in the scope and errantly focus on them. But the better marksman allows his eye’s focus to go beyond the crosshairs and to fix upon the target. It is the same with how we should perceive our terrestrial life on earth. While we are in the body, we are not where we ultimately want to end up. Our goal – Heaven, of course.

Yet, there is so much to get through to get there. We face so many obstacles, so many challenges, that alone, we cannot achieve them. Our bodies are amazing. God’s creation is not only in everything we see but also in who and what we are. But how does our sense of touch, our feeling of the world around us, affect our ability to reach our goal or to prevent it?

The sense of touch is the only sense not related to a specific organ and is therefore known as a General Sense. All the others, the sense of sight, hearing, taste, and smell, are called Special Senses. To touch something is to feel it with the sensory receptors in our skin. Our skin, the largest organ of our body, is our body’s way of communicating with the world around us. Each moment in our life, we are, in some way, somehow relating to an object or atmospheric presence which we interpret through our flesh.

As we type on the keyboard, as I am doing now, there is a certain tactile feel to the keys on the keyboard. When we read, those of us born before the digital era prefer to feel the palpable feeling of paper on our fingers as we turn the page or hold the book. There is something satisfying about the activity of reading that requires the act of turning a page. Likewise, there are many attributes in our daily life that we take for granted, but they would give us discomfort if they were presented to us without our knowing. One example is the switch from plastic straws to paper. There is something unusual to the feeling upon one’s lips and tongue to a paper straw when all one has ever known is a plastic straw. It is this awkwardness that is similar to how we should always find the things of this world when they go against the will of God, but I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, let’s focus on the fact that feeling and touching things in the world around us is a significant part of our everyday life.

The scriptures clearly warn us, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”[2] It seems that more and more every day, we face obstacles meant to trip us up. Desires of the flesh are constantly bombarding us. When we think we’ve conquered one, the enemy finds another weakness to exploit and tempts us in ways we could have never imagined. How many of you have a phone, also known as your “Device?” Isn’t it odd that it requires seemingly constant attention? Whether it’s the little bells going off reminding you someone has texted you or your need to look something up, to which we now say, “Just Google it,” the battle is real. Those devices can present images that lure us into desires of the flesh or worse. Once again, scriptures warn us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.[3]

We must be ever watchful. But we don’t have to go it alone. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?[4]This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”[5]

But how do we know we are walking in the spirit? Can we feel it? Does it make us feel a certain way? C.S. Lewis put it like this, “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.”[6]

But being in the body and absent from God creates a problem. Those seemingly limitless sensations we experience each minute of our life can either add to our sanctification or take away from it. It all matters on where you are in your faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.” So, how can we comprehend Heaven as real when all that we know is what we can sense through our earthly context? Of course, it requires one to believe what cannot be seen, which in itself is an act of faith. As Jesus told Thomas when he had just finished inspecting his risen body, touching the holes from the nails in his wrists, to thrusting his fist into the hole in his side, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”[7]

But there is something else that reassures us that we are walking in the right direction through various moments of confirmation; the Holy Spirit. The Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all seek to know us. When we accept Him into our lives, we are made anew. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;”[8]

When we walk as Christ, we learn to hear his voice and direction. It is then we can finally discern when to take those feelings of this world and use them to help us focus on our goal – life eternal.

Although we will experience all manner of troubles and trials to reach those mountain tops in our lives. “The flesh is weak” reminds us that not only does it so easily give in to temptation, but it also fails us as time passes. Age becomes the great equalizer, and the aches and ailments grow in number. But we find as our faith grows that it all fades away when we are in His presence.

For those fifteen minutes of my Alpine journey, sitting on the edge of the world and looking out upon a valley below, we felt washed in the glow of God’s Grace. Those aches and pains that it took to reach the summit had vanished, washed away like our sins by the blood of Christ. Below us, a valley stretched to the horizon. Like the veins of life, the rivers course through its tortuous rocks and cliffs. Waterfalls echo voices of distant saints gone on before. Before us soared a raptor, finding the thermals; at home in his place before us as we sat and watched him as the wind blew past our place of repose. I closed my eyes and savored the multitude of sensations and the feelings that flowed through me at that moment.

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was time to leave, but like those tiny, minuscule glances of Heaven on earth, it was worth a lifetime of torment. If a man were but for a second shown what Heaven would be like, he would forever, for the rest of his breathing days, would gladly shed blood, sweat, and tears to just once more find that moment of eternal bliss. Those moments like these become the confirmation of the truth that our eternal home awaits us. It makes Jesus’ words to his disciples even more precious when he said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”[9]

Stretch your arms out wide and embrace God’s creation every day in your life. Let your fingertips caress the tall grasses of the high mountain meadows, savoring those sensations, but be forever mindful of the ultimate goal. For we must allow our senses to be heightened for all the right reasons and, in so doing, will guide our footsteps ever closer to eternity in the presence of God the Father. And remember, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?[10]

Thanks be to God.


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV

[2] Matthew 26:41 KJV

[3] 1 Peter 5:8 KJV

[4] 1 Corinthians 3:16  KJV

[5] Galatians 5:16,25 KJV

[6] From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

[7] John 20:29 KJV

[8] 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 KJV

[9] John 14:2 KJV

[10] 1 Corinthians 3:16 KJV

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To Return

“I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.” – Psalm 119:93

Rising this morning, the haunting memory of a thought, like that of a vapor upon a distant hillside, shadowed my presence. It was here, knowing that the past week or so has been a struggle not only physically due to an illness but also spiritually. The latter was due to the former, which had put me off of the schedule that had been developing over the summer. This change put me at odds with the ability to walk in the spirit as much as my daily routine had been allowing. It was troubling to feel this way, knowing how easily we are thrown off course. Thankfully, earlier this week, my footsteps began to return somewhat to that familiar path.

Tanawha Trail, Blueridge Mountains, NC.

Preparing to enter the Tanawha Trail, we parked at the trailhead off old 221, a gravel road stretching from Blowing Rock to Foscoe. There next to the parking area, where Black Angus cattle grazing on the lush green hillside. At the time, only the sight of livestock had quickened my heart. All those years raising them on the farm back in Chatham had ingrained in me a special connection to the beast. Here again on hills above us, those summertime hides, “fat and slick,” as Uncle John used to say, glistened in the morning sun. Suddenly, within a moment, it made one feel home again – that it was as if you had walked through that ancient doorway of memory and entered back into the loving fold of family. It was precisely what was needed to rejuvenate the spirit within.

Inspired as only God can do, we are often amiss without him, as we mistakenly feel, but in these times of isolation, we are drawn ever more close. As the cliché says, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” So, it seems sometimes we need to be reminded that without him, we are like a ship adrift on the sea with no rudder to guide our way.

It always impresses me how God knows what takes us back to our roots, to the place where we first encountered the world. For some, it’s a unique park or vacation spot. For others, like myself, it is the abundant adventures and experiences of our rural childhood. For me, it was exploring those vast pastures, forests, and lands of the farms of southern Indiana. There in those hills and hollers of the Midwest, God’s creation became part of my life. From those early impressions, when all seems confused and lost, there is a baseline, so to speak, to which God knows my thoughts can be reset too. From there, those formational memories, one can once more journey forth to where their next footsteps will lead. The reference to technology is not mistaken but purposeful.

That pasture’s very imagery, the one in which the Tanawha Trail ran through, its slope, the cattle, and the sunrise shedding its morning glow upon its face, reminded me of that long-ago mountain. So often, when we revisit places of our youth, that object which once seemed so massive now has shrunk in size. Yes, that mountain of my childhood was actually little more than a slight rise in the ground compared with where we now stood – we called it Sled Hill. In those distant recollections, it was a place where you could stand on the edge of that tiny town, New Harmony, and survey the entirety of everything below from the rooftop perspective. There interlaced with rising oaks and sycamore trees were the peaks and steeples of homes and churches. It was the first time that the feeling of standing upon the earth and looking out across the vista below felt closer to God. There, in that shadow of where life’s journey would eventually lead, there was no concept from which to compare that scene. It was forever etched into the mind as what it must be like to stand near the top of the world.

In the moment, surrounded by a host of relatives, we feel like this will be where we spend the rest of our days. In our heart of hearts, we are content with that. For decades it was the way things went. But then times changed. The world we knew changed, and suddenly we found ourselves thrust into the never-ending stream of advances in humanity. We were forced to adapt and overcome a very different lifestyle from the life of our forefathers. Secular society told us that we had to “make something of ourselves,” whatever that was supposed to mean. But those of us raised in Sunday School had heard something else, that alone we can do nothing. Thus began the conflict of interest.

Some take it upon themselves to believe that they alone can make “it” happen. Others realize, some sooner than others, that we can never do it on our own. Some go off to college. Others join the military. Some seek to escape the privation of that quiet way of life, seeking adventure or wealth. Either way, very few remained behind to stay in the place where we all thought we would never leave. Those that remained wonder about the lives of those gone on. Those that had to leave, or chose to leave, never forgot from whence they came. The question always burned within them, “What if I had never left?”

There is a saying that of itself seems trivial, but when it is explored more deeply, its truth resonates through the ages, “Once you leave home, you can never go back.” For what we find, is that even though you might physically be able to return, you are never the same once you leave. Your growth through the sheer experiences of whatever you found on your journey changes you. It is then, once you return, you see with new eyes what one could not explain to you before you left. Painfully, as we feel those around us unable to relate to what has changed us, we seek to find connections where there once was no question about relationships. However, we then discover that what is around us is not all that there is in life.

So we take a break from the reunion, walking out to that familiar landmark, whatever it might be, the beach, that old home place, or for me, the crest of Sled Hill, and pause for a moment and think about all that has transpired since we last stood on this spot. We find that the terrestrial has changed very little. Oh, there might be a fallen tree, a sand dune out of place, or perhaps a new roof on the old home place, but that which was physical remains the same. We suddenly realize it’s not the place that has changed, but us.

In Jesus’ day, he tried to convey to his disciples this same message, that once you turn to serve God in the way in which he asked, you would be forever altered. There would be no going back to who you once were, “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”[1] Even as they found their understanding of Jesus’ parables and teachings challenging to comprehend, it was even more so for those Pharisees and Chief Priests. Even when Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, met with Jesus, he too could not comprehend what Jesus was saying even though he sought him out, knowing that something about him was calling him to believe. As Jesus explained, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.      And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.[2]

They could not begin to wrap their minds around God in the flesh, let alone that Jesus told them that they did not know him or his Father. “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.[3]

Like returning home, once we are changed by our travels, there is something likewise that will never be the same to those who have not found Christ in their lives. Until they take that similar path in life, those that stayed behind find it odd that you don’t want to go hang out beneath the bridge, drink beer, and skip rocks across the river. It is difficult, if not impossible, to convey to them that you have changed. You no longer enjoy the things of the flesh but instead find it more desirable to find those who are lost and engage them, striving to bring them closer to the Father.

Since those humble beginnings, God’s plan has led me to stand on the earth and look out upon remarkable vestiges of landscape. From my current home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the mountains in our western states, to those beautiful, inspiring Waldensians valleys in the Cottien region of the Alps in Europe, God has opened my eyes to more of his creation as time would allow, and likewise, my mind to the understanding of his word. Although time seems to be running out, there are many more mountains to climb and much more to realize. Therefore, each day that there remains of this life, it is with a passion and desire that we should seek God in all of what he has bestowed upon us and to go wherever he calls.

From standing atop Sled Hill to walking up the Tanawha trail, there comes a time when we can feel the connection – how our past has shaped our future. Our walk with the Lord prepares us for what is to come. When you can sense a presence more wondrous than your own, to know that when we reach for that fateful day to finally stand, or rather kneel in his presence, we will then know what it has all been about. It is then we can only hope to hear the words, “Welcome home child, welcome home.”

We shall then gladly say, “Thanks be to God.”


[1] Luke 9:62 KJV

[2] John 3:8-15 KJV

[3] John 7:28 KJV

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Alone – but Not Alone

My dear friend Richard’s wife, Ann Ruffin, passed away a couple of days ago. We all knew it was coming. Her terminal illness had been prolonged by Richard’s total commitment to her well-being. He had told me that being her primary caregiver was his mission in life.

Richard Hines Jr., Dennis Tracy, and I at Hebron Falls, 2021

In this time of mourning, part of me wants to reach out to my friend, to seek to help in this time of loss. Yet, another part of me tells myself, “What can you do? Richard is 86 years old. What can you do for him that he can’t already do for himself?”

Then the voice inside says, “Sometimes, all someone needs is just another person to be in the room with them, silent, but aware, saying nothing at all.”

When C.S. Lewis was grieving the loss of his wife, whom he called H., he wrote these lines, “At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.[1]

From those last few words, “If only they would talk to one another and not to me,” my feeling of wanting to go sit and be with my friend, saying no words, just being in his presence, impress upon my thoughts.

Likewise, we often misunderstand the Holy Spirit. As Lewis wrote in another article, “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.”[2]

God knows infinitely more than we will ever begin to understand. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.”[3] So it is that when he sends the Comforter to us, it will be in ways and in our presence that we comprehend the least. It will be like a silent friend sitting with you in a room with the air as still as a morgue. The only evidence of life is the faint sound of the wall clock ticking in the next room. Time passing, as we too shall someday.

If we genuinely seek to be like God, to walk with Christ, then we too shall understand how sometimes fewer words, or no words, speak volumes more than some of the greatest speeches presented in all of humanity. Our nature is to seek the companionship of others. Mistakenly, we sometimes think we have to spew empty clichés when wanting to console our friends and loved ones in their time of loss. But we are only speaking the reflection of our own empathetic prose. When we find ourselves alone without another being in our presence, it is then, in this void of humanness, that we find we are truly not alone. If we believe in God and know Him, we find that we need others less. Yet, we also find that when other believers are with us, His presence increases. Does Jesus not say in scripture, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them?”[4]

As C.S. Lewis wrote in the grasp of his grieving, he was shaken to his core because of the loss of his dear H. Through his words, we can find a Christian in pain, seeking consolation. Howbeit he, Lewis, being an intellect, it must have been evident to him, either then or later in life, how much more he needed God’s comforting hands upon him. We can read how he sought others in those lines of text, yet he didn’t want their words, only their bodily presence. In this light, we can feel how Lewis, either knowingly or unknowingly, craved the Holy Spirit to come into his life. Yet, there is a part of me that says he might not have fully comprehended the complexity to which his grief had confounded his thoughts, to the point, he sought that which had gone, but in truth, was only passed from this life to the next.

We are but vapors in this life, here for a moment. We will someday spend the rest of this life in eternity. Where we spend it is up to us. When a loved one passes on, if we know of their faith in Christ, if they had received the gift of salvation by the Grace of God, we can then be more than assured, yes, we can be sure that they are there in the presence of the Lord and the host of angels waiting for the day when we arrive.

Pray for my dear friend and his family in their time of loss, but let us also praise God for bringing home another daughter in Christ.

In all these ways, let us say, “Thanks be to God.”


[1] A Grief Observed. Copyright © 1961 by N. W. Clerk, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Preface by Douglas H. Gresham copyright © 1994 by Douglas H. Gresham. All rights reserved.

[2] 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. 

[3] John 14:16 KJV

[4] Matthew 18:20 KJV

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Don’t Live to Regret It

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I say this? Allow me to explain.

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

Moses Cone Manor Trail, Dec. 2020

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

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

There would be no usual drive home that night.

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

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

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

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

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

There is no going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


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

[2] Psalm 139:7-10 KJV

[3] Psalm 37:5 KJV

[4] Psalm 37:6-7 KJV

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

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A Soul in the Middle of Nowhere

They once called it “Nowhere” mountain. Today it’s known to the rest of the world as “Rich” mountain. The slow gradual climb slowly wears at your body, walking or running. The deceptive incline slowly takes you to a secluded overlook. There only the stone remnants of an ancient house’s foundation are all that exist. Leftover from another time, a bygone century. For a moment, above the distant mountain peaks, above the wayward meadows there is a feeling of freedom. The cattle in the fields dispersed amongst the shaded oaks and hemlocks, lowing in the fresh mountain air. Their voices bellow across the ridge. Once this was all that there was of a pioneer outpost, a home in the wilderness. It eventually became the property of the Cone’s. Today, it’s a place where one can go and find themselves a few moments of seclusion from a world that seems to fall out of control a little more each day.

photo by: Sweetwilder

A few days ago, I had found myself atop of Nowhere. Therein lies the story – it was part of my run.

Before I continue, let me say that this is not meant to be any shape or form of bragging. There are times that we must share something in our life that has become a testimony; thus, the sharing with you of how running (or the semblance thereof) has become part of my spiritual journey. Besides, my sister, a practicing Cardiac Nurse, recommended it would help strengthen my heart. Something with which my Cardiologist wholeheartedly agreed. Truly, if you saw me in action, you would know there was nothing to brag about.

Several weeks ago, the Lord convicted me to start running again. At the time, it was as if something inside me wanted to be done with this life. Between the never-ending accusations of our society from one extreme to the other, to the seemingly never-ending pandemic, fueled by every political conspiracy theory you can imagine, one begins to look with joy toward the next life. In a sense, pushing my body to the extremes will either make me a healthier warrior for the Lord or it will take me home to be with him quicker. The options are Pauline in nature, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.[1] Herein lies the rub: many have not, nor have no idea what that “next life” is. They live day-to-day, battling from sunup to sundown without hope. Their lives have little to no direction. For them to find the way to life eternal on their own would be like finding a needle in a haystack. While we want to help them as much as possible, we can only plant the seeds. It is by God’s Grace that we are saved. As Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.”[2] Sadly, there are greater numbers of lost in our world than those who are awakened to God’s plan of salvation. For those who know Him, and have asked Him into their lives, there is that hope of life eternal. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”[3]

I don’t know the exact mileage of each week. I don’t keep track of the miles that my body has been pushed these recent days, but this much I can tell, there is a renewing of the soul. Slowly, my body shifts from the unhealthy cravings as before to now, those of wholesome, natural foods beckon my taste buds. As I had experienced once before, the feeling of how the body changes when it is exercised to the extreme is not new to me. Yet, the reserve with which I can now control my diet and temptations to imbibe in things that only go against not only your body’s health, but the spirit within – these have become the things to which I am now drawn, those things which enrich the body, soul, and spirit.

This journey is not about becoming the fastest. The goal these days is to merely push this terrestrial body to become the best it is capable of being, only so that my soul has a better home. I heard Ravi Zacharias mention a quote from the 19-century writer, George McDonald a couple of days ago. McDonald said in a roundabout way, that we do not “have” a soul, but rather, we are a soul.  “We have a body,” he said, “but we are a soul.” Genesis says it best, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.[4]  This new perspective has really made me rethink the way in which I had been approaching life. 

In the act of pushing my body, I am then making a better dwelling place for my soul to live within. The nicer the home, the better the soul can feel. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “ What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”[5] The more features the temple has, the more possibilities there are for the soul to flourish, and with it, the spirit. When our spirit is awakened, it then is able to welcome the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Then, as we might prepare for an esteemed guest, we would too want our temple to be the most glorious that it can be. It is in this vein that my pursuit of the new day’s dawn, from the time, that the sun hits the horizon until long past its setting – my days are thus filled to serving Him.

Pain in this life is a constant reminder that we live in a fallen world. There is not a run that I take that I don’t have pain. My dad used to say, “The day that I wake up and feel no pain is the day that I know that I’ve died.” Today he no longer suffers. His body was healed when his soul was welcomed into that home above.

In my youth, I longed to train in the mountains; something I was never afforded. Now, in my advanced age, here I am, training in the mountains. There is no pain like that of running up a continual climb at elevations over 3,500 feet. To try to lessen the suffering, I learned a long time ago in those early training years, that if you could talk while you were running, then it would keep you at a pace that was optimal for practice runs. In that vein, my journey has brought me full circle. Since I run alone most days, there is only myself with whom to converse. As I’ve mentioned many times in other writings, today I work as unto the Lord, not unto man, and so it is with my exercise. So now, as I run up those steep grades, my practice of memorizing scripture is put to work, quoting out loud as I run. It is nothing spectacular. A word here, a breath there, and maybe after a few hundred feet a sentence is finished. This is how it goes.

The other day, as my practice of speaking scriptures as I ran continued, I happened past an older lady. She too was out enjoying the beautiful day before the afternoon storms came. As I passed her on my ascent up the mountain, she and I exchanged the usual pleasantry of, “Good morning.” On my way back down, she said something that gave me pause. Before I passed her, she smiled and said toward me, “Thank you for using your gifts.” All I could eke out was a simple, “Amen.” As I was still pondering her words in the back of my mind, I continued through my versus. Just as I was finishing John 1, I rounded a curve and broke out into a meadow filled with a plethora of golden wildflowers. My voice still trailed, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”[6] Suddenly before me above the field of gold, the sky around me was like a throng of white stallions waiting to stampede, yet were held at bay by a mighty hand. In the center of those towering billows of white, was a crystal clear, azure blue sky reaching to the heavens. Yes, the heavens had opened and my eyes searched those ever-changing Cumulus formations for angels ascending and descending. It was at that moment I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit dwell within my soul. For a moment, there was no ground beneath my weary legs, there was no pain, there was only the glory of God.

photo by: Michael Kight

Being afflicted through the sufferings of our daily life, and yes, in our daily exercise, are all part of how God shapes us. As Peter wrote, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.[7] In our youth, our bodies recover more quickly so that there is little time to dwell on the struggles through which we face. As we age, it takes longer to recover and to overcome those once trivial obstacles. Through the tribulations of life, our soul is refined as the sword in the fire. Through these trials, we are made stronger when we learn to lean on Him, and in so doing, find hope for tomorrow. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope…[8]

This morning, the water was still dripping from the trees. The abundance of storms had passed in the night leaving the air fresh, new, and alive.  The sound of the bountiful life-giving fluid made it feel as if I was surrounded by a tropical rain forest. The effect it had upon my body felt good. Like a blanket of comfort, its warmth enveloped my being. My mind drifted back to the Garden of Eden and how it must have felt for Adam and Eve before their sin. It was at that moment that I realized that while we are affected by the world through our flesh (our body), it isn’t always negative. There are moments, as in that instance, where we are blessed by God through his marvelous creation. Through those beautiful sunrises, to the smile of a newborn child, we are given glimpses into his love and majesty; thereby, enriching our soul, allowing the spirit to be lifted. Yes, even when we happen onto the edge of a golden meadow while His words parse through our lips we are blessed. When we are one with Christ, we are then afforded to allow the Holy Ghost to dwell within, and in so doing, find beauty in places heretofore there was only sadness and despair. These precious moments in time uplift our soul, and like the afflictions, strengthen it. 

Not all growth has to be painful, for, at the top of Nowhere, one can be afforded the most gratifying reward – to look upon the distant mountains and valleys and rejoice in God’s glory. As the air slowly returns to our weary lungs, as the heart beats blood to those body parts that are fatigued and ailing, we can be blessed by more than what this world of man will allow. It is up to us to sometimes go to the middle of nowhere and call upon His name.

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”[9]

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”[10]

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[11]

 As you go through each day, beware of the effects the world has upon you through your body. Live each day as if your soul depends on it. 

Eternity is forever.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Philippians 1:21 KJV

[2]  John 14:6-7 KJV

[3] Luke 9:24 KJV

[4] Genesis 2:7 KJV

[5] 1 Corinthians 6:19 KJV

[6] John 1:51 KJV

[7] 1 Peter 5:10 KJV

[8] Romands 5:2-4 KJV

[9] Luke 11:9 KJV

[10] Psalm 23:3 KJV

[11] 1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV

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The Last Four Minutes…

Dawn had just awakened in the mountains. Walking down the forest’s path, I paused but for a moment. Turning around, I peered into the darkness broken by shafts of light filtering through the canopy above. A sullen mist hung close to the ground. My breath, visibly seen, became one with the morning dew which clung to the ferns that bountifully lay along the pathway from which I had come. As my eyes followed the trail from the light into the depths of darkness beyond, there was so much to reflect upon.

A couple days ago, I met a young man who went by the name Wallace. It was after the culmination of a tour that I had led at the Trail of Faith that we had time to sit down while breaking bread together. Wallace had been mostly silent during the course of the tour. But now, pulled aside from the crowd, he began to open up and share. Wallace leaned in toward me and asked that I pray for him. “What shall I pray for,” I questioned.

“I want to come closer to God. I can’t get enough of Him,” he said with a grimace. “I want to go to that next level of faith,” Wallace pleaded in all sincerity. He had the look in his eyes of someone that sought after something of which they could not find. As his question settled in my mind like the dust on a gravel road, I thought of how each of us, at least those who are believers, yearn for the same thing. Wallace’s eagerness seemed to paint him as if he were a new believer, someone who had not yet realized that the journey is not a sprint but rather a marathon. “Sanctification lasts a lifetime,” I told him. And I then went to great lengths to comfort his worries, in that he wasn’t alone: With each new day, a believer awakens to the creation of God, becoming more aware of God’s handiwork and able to hear his voice through the written word. With each new day, our mind is opened a little more to the understanding of the veritas (truth). “No one comes to the father but through me, I am the way, the truth, and the light,” Jesus would tell his disciples. As I paused to allow the words to sink in, he exclaimed, “Man, you are so cool.”

“No, no, please, no,” I said shaking my head. “It’s God speaking through me that you are hearing.”

It was then the scripture from John 1 came to mind, as I shared with this young man who sought after God with a passion I had not seen in a long, long time.

“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believebecause I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you,youwill see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’the Son of Man.”[1]

The thoughts of Wallace were with me the next day as I climbed the trail to the top of Rough Ridge. Again, the question returned, “How do we get closer to God?” The rocky crags cut deep into my heart, leaving nothing untouched. From up there, the world below seemed so distant, nothing to fear. Sitting on the edge of the earth, the thoughts roll across one’s mind like the clouds across the broad landscape below.

As I stood in front of the washing machine the other night waiting for the spin cycle to end, the time showed four minutes remaining. Then, for some unknown reason, the question arose in my head, “What if you only had four minutes left in your life. What would you think of? What would your final thoughts be about?” I closed my eyes and lifted my head toward heaven and waited. Instantly I was taken back to that old run-down farm house on the edge of New Harmony, Indiana. There, my paternal grandparents had carved out an existence in a life that had been anything but easy. My view was from within the kitchen seated at the head of the table. There on that worn formica countertop my grandparents had seen all manner of life pass. From the earliest times I could remember my grandpa Tron seated in the position of admiration, the head of the table. He was our patriarch. Grandma sat to at his right hand. When grandpa passed, she would move to his seat. It was there in my mind that my journey of what my last four minutes of life began.

You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought to myself, “The last four minutes and I’m stuck in the old kitchen,” as I chuckled silently. But as I sat there, a feeling of reverence washed over me, calming my anticipation. Time slowed. A flood of memories of a lifetime began to pass before me. In those moments, my grandmother’s soft-spoken manner again, and again, warmed my heart. As she spoke, the words she said emanated from where she lived, in God’s word. It was then I realized why it was here my journey began. The words from Peter told of who she was to our family and why my story could not be told without her as its beginning, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”[2]

Before I could finish that thought, I was whisked away and was now standing at the top of Sled Hill, the highest point anyone could find in our flat landscape of southern Indiana. Geologists say that at one time, glaciers pushed the earth ahead of them as they grew into North America. When they retreated, the soil that they left behind became the hills and hollars of exploration of my youth. Those rolling hills, covered in hardwood forests, bordered the Wabash River, creating a utopia for the weary. The rest of the state had been bulldozed flat by those massive goliaths of their time. So, as I stood on this highest vantage point around, my eyes beheld once more the view of our little village from above. Below me, the rooftops and spires of the church’s reached above the trees that lined the streets beyond our little farmhouse that was home. It was then another feeling came over me, one that I had not remembered since the first time my eyes rested upon that scene – The feeling of standing on a mountain struck a chord within my child’s mind. It was as if a light had been turned on. My destiny began at that moment. Little did I know that a calling to return to our ancestry would be driven by the desire to reach for the mountains. None of us knew at that time, but deep within my soul, there was a beckoning to return to a place that I didn’t even know. Even though there overlooking New Harmony, I was barely above the tree-line, the words to the song, “Nearer My God to Thee,” never resonated more.

Likewise, when we accept Christ into our lives, an awakening, a light is turned on and suddenly we find ourselves longing for a home we have never seen –  a place where we can spend eternity in the beautiful, blessed arms of our Savior. When we become Christians, it is then we realize this earth is not our home. We are only passing through.

The last four minutes slowly washed away into a flight like the raptors who soar above in the azure blue skies over those granite peaks. Time, like the tiny rivulets of water that trickle down the pathway after the summer showers, passes without hesitation. We cannot stop it, for if we try, it only dams up into a pool from which we can peer within. Our reflections are all that we see. Letting go, the fluidness continues on as it had before we paused its journey. Onward down the mountain it falls, joining tiny stream after another until they become greater torrents of fluidness. Like the many lives of others, we have met, our experiences becoming one.

The flight continued onward and upward until there was no more ceiling, only heaven above.

Time had expired, but life had not. Once we pass from this world to the next, be it in four minutes, or be it four decades, we will realize that all that we did in this life was a witness to our faith. Whether we realize it or not our journey was seen by those who watched, even when we knew not. If we lived according to God’s word, our life would have been an example, a wonderful testimony, which hopefully would have led another soul to Christ. How great the scene when, “the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

Like a new believer, may we seek to draw closer to God every day. To do so, we must not just read the Word, we must become one with it. When we are saved, we leave our old self behind becoming a new person. In the vacuum of the old self departing, we must fill the empty space with God. To become absorbed with the Bible’s knowledge is one thing, but by taking it to heart, we receive its blessing, and with it the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.  

The journey of faith, once we accept Him into our life, takes a lifetime. A diamond is not formed from a lump of coal in a day.

Yet, when we have run the race, and fought the good fight, not yielding to temptations of this world and pressing always toward the mark, we shall have finally been the light to those around us.  It is then we might expect to hear those fateful words, “Well done, good and faithful son, well done.”

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 1:47-51 KJV

[2] 1 Peter 5:2-4 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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Fallen Leaves Upon the Ground…

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”-1Corinthians 2:14

Lately, there has been an awakening in my heart to the existence of the “Natural Man.” As Paul wrote in Corinthians, the natural man is unable to perceive the things which are of God, for they are foolishness to him.

Tonight, while on the “dreadmill,” the old Porter Wagoner song came on my playlist, “Fallen Leaves.” The beautiful melody began to play as the sunset out the recreation center windows bid the bitter, cold sunset adieu. It was then the voice of one spoke to me, reminding me of a natural man I had once known so long ago, and how his end was very much like those fallen leaves, “All the friends that he once knew are not around.”

It was a gray, windy, bitter-cold day. As I walked to the gravesite carrying my fiddle, I noticed there were but just three or four others walking up the hill toward me from their vehicles parked down below. We were at Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City. Preacher Bob Wachs was walking up with the others, mostly the men and women of the family that had hired the dead man to work for them. I don’t recall how I had been notified, but here I was, to do my part. When it came my time, I began to pull my bow across the frozen strings of my violin making the most awful sound. I had never played before in such bitter, cold temperatures and didn’t realize the impact it had on the tuning of my fiddle. Quickly, with nearly numb fingers, I found the proper place to recall the melody, and soon, the hauntingly fitting strains of Amazing Grace found their way onto our ears. The howling icy winds carried the sound away as quickly as it landed. The tiny funeral procession huddled, shivering against the elements while around us, solemn reminders of those gone on stood watch. Brown, withered leaves danced past as the strings played their mournful sound. The biting cold wind caused my eyes to tear up as I choked back the emotions. It was one of the hardest things I had done up to then.

Here lay in the ground, a man without friends or family to bid him adieu. It was like Porter had known the deceased man before us when he penned the lines, “All the friends that he once knew are not around. They are scattered like the leaves upon the ground.”

And so, I played one last song for my friend Robert, one more song to say goodbye.

Robert Johnson was as humble a human being as I ever knew. He lived in an old abandoned camper, the shell of which hadn’t seen the light of day in nearly half a century, so entombed was it from the dirt of the nearby chicken houses. Like the home in which he inhabited, Robert was usually as filthy from working in the poultry barns. His language was often as foul has his outer body, coloring much of what he said. He worked for a farmer as his hired hand, tending to the commercial chicken houses each day and night. Part of his pay was his housing, which didn’t account for much, but at least it was a dry place to sleep.

Our paths crossed when I began renting land from his boss on which I pastured my cattle. Often, I would pull in to the area where he lived to pick up my tractor to take hay to my cows, and there would be Robert sitting and resting in preparation for his next shift of either picking up dead chickens or checking their feed. The houses in which he worked were not up to the modern standards of today’s houses so that there was much more manual labor involved. Each time I saw him, he’d smile that big broken grin, and wave, “Howdy.” He was missing all of his front teeth. He never shared with me if they were missing from a single punch from someone’s fist or if they had rotted out from neglect. Regardless, his smile was one that you would not soon forget.

The more we spoke, the more Robert opened up and shared with me, no matter where we ran into one another. He would often hang out at the local grocery down in Goldston, sipping coffee, smoking his cigarettes, and just shooting the breeze. He told me of the old days of Siler City and how he had grown up, living on the “hill” as he called it. He would share with me some of the antics he had been known to play on folks back in the day. From looking at him, in his worn, dirty rags, you’d never guess he’d have the heart of a joker, but he did. He recalled how one time he took buckshot to a turkey shoot, and when the proprietors of the event weren’t looking, he loaded his shotgun with the heavy-duty ammo. When they gave the word to fire, Robert’s target disappeared from view, obliterated by the number two shot disintegrating it upon impact. He rolled with laughter at that point. When he told such a story, he would break into laughter, then begin coughing uncontrollably; the years of chain smoking catching up with him. It was always a bitter-sweet moment. When he had recovered, he recomposed himself and said with a smirkish grin, “They didn’t like that none too good,” and then broke into another round of chuckling and coughing.

After my family got to know of Robert, we’d make an extra plate for him on holidays. He didn’t have any family that anyone knew of, so we’d take it down to him at his shell of a home. He was always grateful for the hot plate of food. He’d smile that broken grin and hold the food up to his nose and sniff, “Mighty fine, mighty fine,” he’d exclaim, then he’d squeak out in a long southern drawl, “Thank you, …you didn’t have to do that.”

Once in a while, when I’d catch him taking a break, I’d take my fiddle down and play him a tune or two. He liked old-timey music, so I shared with him when I could. While I played, he’d rear back on an upturned five-gallon bucket in the garage next to his home. He’d close his eyes and take another draw on one of his camels, and then wash it down with a long drink of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. He’d smile that chasm of a grin and exclaim, “Mighty fine, mighty fine.” I would usually close his one-man show with Amazing Grace. He would lean his bucket back down square on the ground and solemnly remark, “That was beautiful, just beautiful.”

Robert was as much a natural man as I had ever known. His world was only that of which he cared to obtain through his flesh; his love of beer and cigarettes. Back in that day, no matter how much I offered up faith to him, he never cared to discuss it in depth. To him, the scriptures were just words written on paper in a book that he didn’t have time to open. He believed in God, but that was about as far as he would go. The natural world was all he knew. He could never break free from the simple pleasure of the flesh, no matter how fleeting their effect. Had he been able to do so, he might have found a new body, a new life, one which elicits awakenings to the glory of God. He would have found a place; a sensation that far exceeds anything here on earth. Yet, like the song, he passed from day to day, paycheck to paycheck, stuck in a life that appeared defeated. His story could easily be summed up in these few lines, “Some folks drift along through life and never thrill, to the feeling that a good deed brings until it’s too late and they are ready to lie down, there beneath the leaves that scattered on the ground.”.

On one of those occasions I pulled into the tractor shed area to pick up something from my tractor, I found Robert sitting on a bucket, looking more worn than usual. His leg had a large bandage around where something had cut through his clothing and into his flesh beneath.

“What happened to you,” I asked, curious to know what had slowed him down?

“Oh, nothing,” he said, “It’s just a cut I got on one of the feeders in the chicken house.” He continued on with something else, not worried about the wound. The thought of cleanliness and infection crossed my mind, but I didn’t give it another thought. Not long afterward, I heard that he had been taken to the hospital after passing out at the chicken house. I was told that he had a pretty serious infection from the leg wound I had seen. He continued on in the hospital for quite some time but eventually was released. I’m not sure if he wasn’t truly healed, for not long after being released he was back at the hospital after collapsing once more.

This time, he never returned alive.

We buried Robert in the cemetery located on the hill where he grew up. It was almost fitting. He had come full circle in his life, seemingly alone, but now united with the world in which he lived; the earth. The memory today matched the next few lines in the song, “Lord let my eyes see every need of every man, make me stop and always lend a helping hand, then when I’m laid beneath that little grassy mound, there’ll be more friends around than leaves upon the ground.”

One more gone that we might have never known but save that he never found a way to rise above his natural being. How much greater a journey he would have found had he not been like those leaves scattered on the ground. How much greater would his eternal life abound, had my friend’s soul been united with our Savior’s grace, and then his soul would have not been gone down, but risen with those on high, to live forever not in, but above the ground.

Tonight, I pray that on that final judgment day, Robert will have been saved by the grace of God and that we shall someday meet again. I know it’s possible, for with Christ all things are. As the scriptures say, “Even unto them that believe on his name,” may become the sons of God.

Believe on His name.

This much I pray.

Thanks be to God.

 

Fallen leaves that lie scattered on the ground

The birds and flowers that were here now can’t be found

All the friends that he once knew are not around

They are scattered like the leaves upon the ground

Some folks drift along through life and never thrill

To the feeling that a good deed brings until

It’s too late and they are ready to lie down

There beneath the leaves that scattered on the ground

Lord let my eyes see every need of every man

Make me stop and always lend a helping hand

Then when I’m laid beneath that little grassy mound

There’ll be more friends around than leaves upon the ground

To your grave there’s no use taking any gold

You cannot use it when it’s time for hands to fold

When you leave this earth for a better home someday

The only thing you’ll take is what you gave away.”- Porter Wagoner

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In Memory: Mom, RDHW

The gray, overcast sky hung close to the mountain. The air held a damp chill that threatened to sink into one’s bones, yet he didn’t let it bother him. He stood off to the side, away from the crowd, away from the rest of his team members. The sound of the announcer introducing various dignitaries for the day’s event, the first annual High Country Run/Walk for Breast Cancer, was a distant echo. Like that of when you are about to fall asleep when all the world around you begins to fade. His mind was deep in prayer, for the reason he was really there was more personal than anyone knew.

The vision in his mind was as clear as the sunrise he had seen just minutes before. Her long golden hair floated in the breeze as she walked in the vast garden of vibrant yellow roses, her hands skimming their tops, like floating on the wind. She wore a white linen dress that flowed down to her bare feet; feet that barely touched the pathway upon which she danced. It was his mother in her youth, once again alive and vibrant. The chill in the air wisped across his bare neck, but inside, her warmth made him whole once more.

He remembered those last days, how she insisted they get her mailbox painted. He worked with her on just the right font and color of lettering to use, to the point she made him look through books of fonts she had set aside in some type of craft, but they never found them. He eventually sketched it out for her, and she was satisfied with the result. Then the last thing was to paint a yellow rose, her favorite, on each side. It would be the last thing they would ever do together before she passed. There was that feeling of being alone again, which he tried to push away. Yet, in a way, it felt like she was there.

He didn’t mean for the day to become this.

Moments earlier, inside the hosting facility, all manner of bright pink ribbons, balloons, and decorations brightened the gathering space. Cancer survivors and those participating in the day’s fundraiser warmly and graciously greeted one another. Understanding the nature of the event, he tried to elude the grasp of the thinking of her again, at least not here. As he turned to leave the room before emotion could grab him, there it was, the very thing he was trying to avoid. Near the exit was a wall where someone had placed a small hand-written sign, “In Memory Of.” Without thinking, he grabbed the fluorescent pink sticky note and wrote, “Mom, RDHW,” then peeled it free from the stack and stuck it to the wall. Stepping back and looking at those around it, his eyes couldn’t focus on anything but the one before him. Hurriedly, he walked out, trying not to make eye contact and soon found himself on that distant corner.

Although she had been gone nearly five years, it still seemed like yesterday.

As he sighed Amen in closing, he looked up to the floating pink archway covering the starting line. It had been over 25 years since he last stood at a race starting line. In fact, the year of that last race was the same year his mother had been first diagnosed with her cancer. Countless miles of water under the many bridges had passed since that day.  He thought of how it would feel once more, now that he was no longer the athlete he once was. In truth, he wasn’t really here to race. The real reason he thought he had come was to support the team from his High School, for the courageous fellow-teacher, whom with three children of her own, had been diagnosed with cancer just the year before, Elaine Bishop. The news of her story had struck him so hard, he found himself avoiding the empathy he so often could provide to others. It was someplace he couldn’t go, not yet. Elaine had become a survivor and an encourager to so many. The day she returned to school during their monthly faculty meeting and entered the auditorium he had fought back the tears of emotion; the sting of pain went to the core of his being; yet, here he was.

Moments later, the crowd had amassed at the starting line, and before he knew it, they were off. Before starting, one thing was apparent, he would be running this race for Mom.

Every time the pain becomes too great,” he thought to himself, “remember the struggles she had endured for the twenty years she fought the disease.

When that knot in your stomach from that hill gets to be too great, remember the tumor that grew inside her, pushing aside her organs until the pain became too great to bear,” his mind recalled.

Again, and again, he pulled all that she had suffered into his mind to push away the aching of the moment. He had never raced up a mountain before today. The sting of his lungs pushed his mind to grasp again and again of those final days; the feeling of her slipping away before she had gone, but then she would battle until the end. Before long, he was numb and in agony at the same time.

As he struggled up the last hill toward the finish line, he could hear the screams of those encouraging the runners. The young lad that had passed him in the last half mile was within reach, but there was no sense in catching him. It wasn’t why he was here. In the blink of an eye, the scene of the pink floating balloons passed overhead, and he was done. Body bent double, he gasped for breath as his lungs burnt. “It wasn’t enough, she suffered far more, so much more,” he told himself as he stood there still reeling from the pain.

Gently, as a bird calls from the morning window sill, there was a whisper of voice from beyond, and he looked up to see who spoke. There ahead of him, on the edge of a manicured garden, amongst the myriad of greenery stood a single yellow rose.

For a moment, the warmth of a mother’s love washed over him.

He smiled and thanked the Lord. She had run a good race, she had fought the good fight, and now, her journey’s end was complete; and so was his.

Thanks be to God.

Donate Here Today for High Country Breast Cancer Foundation Support

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