Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

The Fruits of the Spirit

Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

– Mt. 7:16-19

As Thanksgiving approaches, we should reflect on the many things we should be thankful for in our lives.  This story is meant to do just that.  Hopefully, it will allow you to step back and think of life through another lens.

Our story begins at the weekly Bible study known as the Men’s Connection.

As brother Richard recently spoke at our morning Bible study, he spoke of what it was to sacrifice, to serve without expectation of receiving.  His dear, beloved Ann had passed earlier in the year, and he was leading us in a study of death and how we should face it.  But more than the discussion of terminal illness, his message invoked the feeling of how we should not be more than we ought to think of ourselves – to be humble, with all gentleness in our servitude.  On this last day of his series, he brought to light the importance of Spiritual Gifts and the Fruit of the Spirit.  Again and again, those in attendance were moved by his message.

As Richard spoke, my mind began to drift to other moments reinforced by his words.

It was the middle of the summer, July 18th, to be exact.  My journal recorded the event because of the profound nature of the encounter.  It was an unseasonably warm day for Boone, which made me yearn for a cup of ice cream.  Sometime in the middle of the afternoon, I took a break and made my way up to King Street to one of my favorite snack shops.  Walking out of the establishment into the bright, sunshine a thought occurred to me, “How are you going to reach others when you came alone?” Usually, I try to find a student or faculty to walk and talk with, but there wasn’t anyone around that could go on this day, so I was alone.  Feeling a bit guilty in my singular pleasure, another thought arose, “Why not head over to the shady spots on the hill?”

So, with these thoughts in play, my feet began walking toward the old, refurbished gathering place in the middle of Boone, The Jones House.  It is a natural oasis in the middle of all the hustle of downtown.  There sitting on a hill, girded by massive Oaks and Ashe trees, overlooking the comings-and-goings of the small town below, sits an old home with a wide front porch littered with rocking chairs that invite you in with welcoming arms.  Usually, it is the headquarters for the Junior Appalachian Musician program, along with other Old-Time music and various music events in the community.  But on that particular day, it was merely the quick stop for visitors looking for a public restroom or just a quiet place to sit and rest.

View from the porch of the historic Jones House on King St., in Boone, NC.

As I found my way up the steep steps from King St., it was there that the realization of my hopes to sit alone on the porch to savor my sweet treat was not going to happen.  For there, in one of the rocking chairs was another person, seemingly well planted, for his belongings were comfortably resting next to him, and his phone was plugged into the outlet by the window charging.  Beside him was an empty rocking chair that beckoned.  The words came back to me as I approached the porch, “How are you going to reach others when you came alone?” Walking up the front steps of the porch, I asked the young man if the other chair was taken, to which he replied, “No.”

Thankful to find the shade of the large porch, I eased back into the weathered wood, that like a glove, embraced my weary soul.  Looking out at the town below, through the whispering breeze that blew the leaves on the trees, we two strangers sat.  For what seemed an eternity, we said nothing but continued to watch the world go by.  Eventually, the calm overtook me, and I had to speak, so I asked, “Beautiful day isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” he replied, nodding as he spoke.  His dreadlocks were a bungled flurry of contradiction.  He was not of traditional college age.  His eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses, so to fully grasp his demeanor was even more difficult.  Trying to think of how to approach one such as himself, I surmised his situation.  He appeared homeless and was using the porch as a temporary abode, but one shouldn’t judge others too quickly.

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t introduce myself.  My name’s Tim.”

“I’m Adrian.’

“Are you from around here,” I probed, not trying to be too personal.

“Yes and no.” He then bent over from his sitting position, reached into his backpack, and pulled out a cheese stick.  As he unwrapped it and began to chew on its sustenance, it became evident to me that my inability to share with him had manifested itself into his own realization of hunger.

Curious to understand what “Yes and no meant,” my questioning continued, like the seasoning on the meal before you begin to eat.  “Have you served in the military?”

“Yes, in the Navy.”

“I was in the Air Force,” I responded, and he shook his head in confirmation.  From there, it was as if a door had been opened.  Adrian shared with me, in broken terminologies, of what the world around him had become.  His life was dark and lonely.  When I asked what he did in the service, he said he couldn’t tell me.  Acknowledging that I understood, he continued on.  He said that the “Eaters” are revealed to him in his dreams.  When I asked for clarification, he pointed to the food we were just finishing.  It was still unclear what he meant, for his mind seemed to drift in and out of consciousness.  It seemed as if the soul in this man was battling demons that no one could see but him.

Thinking of a way to bring faith into the conversation, I asked a pretty bold question, “Do you read the Bible?”

“Do you,” he replied, almost in self-defense.  Granted, I deserved his response, but it made me take a step back about my own attitude.  How self-righteous of me to imply that he should read a book of my faith when in fact, he may belong to another religion entirely.

“Everyday,” was my answer, but now I was feeling almost guilty for putting him on the spot.  Thankfully, he continued.

“I couldn’t go to church for ten years while I was in the Navy,” he answered.  “Now they won’t even let me into their temples because I smell so bad.”

This was the confirmation that I had suspected of Adrian being homeless.  It was then that I realized he hadn’t asked for anything, no food, no money.  He simply needed rest and time to be himself.  It was as if he had allowed me to join him in his home for that brief moment in time.

“You don’t have to go to a church to worship the Lord.”

At this, he looked at me over his sunglasses with a curious glance, then I continued.

“Jesus spoke of the temple of his body, and that after the great temple was destroyed, the new temple is now our own bodies, in which God can dwell if we let him.”

Before I left him, I asked if he had any prayer requests.  He lifted with an outstretched arm, palm down, to the yard before us, as if he were calming the seas.  I didn’t understand the gesture entirely, except to mean that he wanted to pray for everything and everyone beyond where we existed.  Nevertheless, it touched me in a way that I hadn’t expected.

There, on a sunny afternoon, in what seemed like a wasted break from work, my world met someone of the world of those that fall through the cracks of our society.  Their lives are a cloud of confusion and darkness.  Most cannot find adequate help or refuse it for fear of being institutionalized.  Instead, they live off the support of charities and the kindness of strangers.  Me with my cup of self-righteousness, eating in front of a man that probably only got one meal every other day if he is lucky, was like those Pharisees who touted their own religiosity.  In retrospect, it was very humbling.

From what brother Richard taught us, when we are blessed with gifts of the Spirit, we should learn to use them to help those in the world around us.  If we do, we find that the fruits of the Spirit begin to manifest themselves.  Without using those gifts, those fruits, those trees become barren.  It is up to us to recognize those gifts and not let them lie dormant and waste away.

So, it was on that July day, there on the front porch, two strangers met.  A world in chaos met another seeking to help those out of chaos – each wanting to find a way to the other.

Before I left, I asked Adrian if I could pray for him.  He nodded yes.  When we finished praying, God indeed was listening, for something quite unexpected, at least on my part, happened.

Adrian said, “Thank you,”

As we said our goodbyes, the feeling that God had just done something in spite of myself seemed to echo my departing footsteps.

C.S. Lewis said, “A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.”[1]

As we go through our days, let us not miss an opportunity to reach out to someone in need.  It isn’t always the material or the sustenance of organic goods that are needed, but simply the comfort and compassion of a loving heart are all that is required.

As the time of Thanksgiving approaches, once more, let us reflect on our many blessings.  At the same time, seek those who are less fortunate in this world, those who need comfort, or those who just need someone to talk to.  Share those gifts and give someone the fruits of your spirit.

It will make all the difference in the world.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, 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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational

In Spirit and in Truth

The flap of the wings belied the size of the animal, as the wild turkey left its roost from the night. They stand a little over three feet tall on average when strutting on the ground. Their wingspan is just over four feet. The sound thereof beating the air with such great force that I could hear it from where I sat on my porch made me wonder just how much more would that of an Angel’s wings sound? And since I had not seen the bird leave its night’s perch, it was my assumption, based on what my senses told me, that it was indeed air being moved by a winged creature. So too, wouldn’t I be able to discern a more exceptional being than this should it be in my presence? The thought of an angelic being visiting me came to mind. Just the idea of such a moment caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand, being in the presence of one of God’s messengers. “Thou shalt see heaven open and the angels of the Lord ascending and descending on the Son of Man,”[1] Jesus told Nathaniel. Yes, what a scene it would be.

All of these thoughts ran through my mind as the dawn’s early light began to glow upon the pages of my Bible. Before me lay the gospel of John, which was part of today’s morning devotional.

The sound of the wind, not that we can see it, but rather we know from the effect it has upon the things which we can see, allows us to know it is there. We see the branches of the trees move, the summer grasses dance to and fro. When we seek shelter in the shade during a long, hot summer’s day, we pray for its caress upon our skin. Our natural senses allow us to perceive its existence. We never see it, but we know it is there. Yet, unlike the wind, it is our spirit that senses the Holy Spirit of God. It is this innate ability which we are creator has endowed us with, that allows us to worship him in Spirit. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”[2]

It was then the verse of scripture came to mind. Jesus had a late-night visitor, Nicodemus, who questioned what it was to be born again. Jesus told him not to marvel at what he said, that a man must be born again to enter into the kingdom of heaven. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”[3] And then he went on to compare knowing the Spirit to knowing there is a wind, and that we cannot see it, but we hear the sound thereof and know it exists. “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.[4]

Suddenly, there came upon my continence a profound statement made at the wedding in Cana of Galilee to which Jesus had attended. There was an inexplicable connection that I had never noticed before; a paradox of divine nature.

When they had run out of wine, we all know the miracle that happened when Jesus turned the water in the water pots to wine. When the servants drew the water-turned-wine out of the pots and bear it to the governor of the feast, he knew not whence it came, but they did. It was this “knowing” of the servants versus that of the ruler of the feast that gave the moment an irony I had missed before.

Here we have the man of stature, reigning over the wedding feast. He obviously has a position of authority in their daily lives, and as such, has probably tasted some of the most excellent wines mankind had produced. Yet, when the drink was given to him, he was impressed by that the family of the bride had kept the good wine until now. His perception was that of what our earthly desires are aware; that which our senses allow us to understand from the world around us; the obvious.

Meanwhile, the servants, knowing that Christ had turned the water into wine, bore their gift to the governor with shaky hands. At this point, we wonder, “Had they tasted the water-turned-wine or were they blindly taking a substance that had simply changed color to the governor of the feast, fearing what he would do?”  Because the scripture states, “but the servants which drew the water knew,”[5] we must consider the former, that they had tasted it and realized the miraculous nature of the drink. Containing their joy of seeing the miracle before it had been revealed to the world, their minds had already been blown away. Here now, they realized they stood in the presence of someone that commanded extraordinary powers, if nothing else, able to change six stone waterpots full of water into wine – not one, not two, but all of them at the same time. As one carried the drink, the others watched, all-knowing from whence it came. Their perception was not of the actual beverage, but the fact that it was not of this world – something far beyond what mankind could ever produce.

Both parties had reality and the supernatural united when the ruler demanded that the family had kept the best wine until last, which was not of the custom. The disciples who were with Jesus at the wedding were assuredly aware once the announcement had been made by the ruler, if not before. We are left to wonder if the governor of the feast ever realized the blessing from on high that he tasted that evening. If only he had known the truth, how much greater would have been his reward? All we can do is speculate. We might compare the ruler of the feast to the rich young ruler whom Jesus told to sell everything he owned and to follow him. He left saddened at what Christ had told him. We are never told what happened beyond that moment, and here too, we are left to wonder.

Like the water turned into wine, the written Word of God to the unbeliever is nothing more than letters of ink written upon a page. Purposeful to them possibly at best in that they are wise sayings passed on from a time when their usefulness had long ago expired. To the believer, they are more than just words on a page; they are the Comforter to which Christ said he would send. Those words speak to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, lifting our own spirit, teaching, leading, and inspiring to all those who believe. Their taste surpasses any of the finest wines man can produce. The scriptures are from the fruit of the vine given by inspiration to man, so that we may continue in his footsteps long after the ascension of Jesus, to sit now at the right hand of God.

Sadly, there are many that will ever only understand the scriptures from the context of knowledge. Even the learned scholars, some who are preachers and teachers, will never fully realize the magnitude of the gift they behold when reading the words on the pages of the Bible. Some spend their lifetime seeking something before them, not realizing that the Spirit is found through the Word, not upon its literal writings. Many wander this life lost, unaware of the fruit of the Spirit, even when it is placed in a cup on a table before them. It is not until they receive the gift of salvation, by the Grace of God, that they will fully comprehend the depth of scripture, and the real purpose behind God’s Word.

Yes, we cannot see it, but the beating of its wings, we can sense when our senses are awakened to our new selves, a new world when we become one with Christ.

Let not your heart be troubled, for if it were not so, I would not have told you so,” Christ said, but even more important, is what he didn’t say, but rather, allowed the Spirit to speak in his silence.

Therein lies the beauty of the irony, for which we can be even more thankful.

Thanks be to God.

And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;)…” – Jn. 2:8-9


[1] John 1:51 KJV

[2] John 4:24 KJV

[3] John 3:7 KJV

[4] John 3:8 KJV

[5] John 2:9 KJV

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Religion

Open Your Eyes

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”

 – Heb. 10:19-20

Under the overcast, grey sky, a chilly wind blew across the John’s River. The water, a fluid tepid green, like the lifeblood of the forest, flowed past our church’s parking lot. We were setting up for another “Parking Lot Preaching,” at Rocky Springs Baptist Church. Yet, another one of the new “normals” since the start of the lock-down of social distancing by our State government. Each Sunday since the beginning of this COVID-19 crackdown on social gathering, we have had our church services outside. No two times are ever the same.

Rocky Springs Baptist Church alongside the John’s River, Collettsville, NC.

On the mountainside across from where we stood, the trees were now all springing for the fresh greenery of new leaves. This past month, we’ve been blessed to watch the progression of seasons unfold. As Pastor Joe speaks, my eyes wander through the forest across the narrow body of water. Like the many passages of scripture, each limb, root, and leaf reveal another mystery yet to unfold. Slowly, like the buds giving way to leaves, our outside church has evolved, becoming better each week. Below the fauna, under the shadows of the overhanging undergrowth, a momma wild duck and her brood of ducklings floated past. The signs of spring were showing their bountiful glory even within the unprecedented times in which we were living.

Regardless of what mankind was experiencing, the earth was returning to life.

I awoke this past Sunday morning with the feeling that our outdoor services were like a string of Easter Sunrise services. Typically, once a year, to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, congregations shed the walls of their church for that of an outdoor sanctuary. Once churches were allowed to provide the safe-distancing option of staying in their cars during preaching, we’ve been hosting the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services out-of-doors, under the open sky in our parking lot that adjoins the scenic John’s River in Collettsville, NC. Although we’re not hosting the services at dawn, there is always the nostalgic feeling of those pre-dawn preparations for when we did. Probably more than anything, one gets a sense of worshipping God within the element of his creation, the earth. To feel the chill of the crisp morning air upon your countenance brings an absolute reality to the message. The physicalness of holding the page of your Bible down, lest the wind, like a silent hand, turn it for you, reminds us that we are not alone. “The wind bloweth where it may, yet we cannot tell from whence it came, neither where it goeth.”

As we live in the flesh, we experience life through our terrestrial being. We are only capable of understanding what we have seen or learned through what limited abilities with which we are born. To know any more than that requires intellect. Even when Nicodemus inquired to Jesus under the cover darkness how these things could be, Jesus replied with, “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?” [1]

It is our innate mental capacity that allows the Holy Spirit to dwell within our human spirit. It is within this spiritual realm that we rise above all other God’s creations. It is because of our ability to read the message given over 2,000 years ago, and through it, that we may receive the divine Spirit of God. When we find ourselves removed from the man-made structures in which we usually spend our Sunday mornings, we are then brought closer to the rest of our Creators magnificent works. Like those meals cooked over the open fire, food seems to always taste better prepared outside. Likewise, the bread of life when received out of doors is more delectable than honey. Yes, the Word of God takes on a whole new perspective when one worships under the canopy of clear blue skies rather than a painted ceiling.

The actor, Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus of Nazareth in the YouTube TV series, “The Chosen,” was interviewed about his role and how it affected him as a person. He replied that although he felt comfortable acting the part of the “human side” of Christ, that it was far beyond his abilities to convey the divine side of Jesus. Roumie said that he did his best to fulfill what he perceived of Christ’s human actions, but left it up to God to work through him to allow the viewers to see God through his character. In other words, Roumie could take care of the physical nature of his role of Jesus, but knew it was beyond him to act out what God was doing through the real Jesus Christ; that was up to the Holy Spirit.

Similarly, it was through the death of Christ in the flesh, which took away the curse of Adam upon the world. Through the blood of Christ, the door was opened once again for all of God’s children. Because of the sacrificial lamb upon the cross, we can with, “boldness enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”

It was because of Christ’s flesh that we were saved, and it is through our flesh that we experience the temptations to sin. The irony is purely God. When we receive salvation, we are made anew, and we no longer seek those fleshly rewards. When we are changed, we are then more capable of connecting to God’s earthly creation, and to His living word. When we have received Christ into our lives, we can see God’s handiwork more readily, and because of it, we see with new eyes. When you see with open eyes, the world in which we live changes. The colors of the flowers seem brighter, the sounds of the forest birds more animated, and the sunsets appear more grandeur. In some small way, we get a tiny glimpse of heaven on earth.

While we face challenging times like never before, we must know that God has a purpose in everything.  

Embrace that new normal and let God open your eyes to those things which we have taken for granted too long. Seek, and ye shall find Him, knock, and the door shall be opened. Enjoy those outdoor services while you still can and look upon them with a renewed appreciation.

May each day be another sunrise upon the empty tomb.

Rejoice because He lives.

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 3:10-12 KJV

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Uncategorized

The Cup of Faith

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”- Phil 3:17

It was an early Sunday morning. The air had the feeling as if it could snow at any minute. In an uncustomary manner, my morning devotional was actually upon the steps just outside the front door of our church, Rock Springs Baptist. There, I opened my Bible, journal, and thermos, pouring a hot cup of coffee to accompany my communion with the Lord. Before beginning, the steam from the coffee caught my attention. Swirling from the depths of my cup, the vapor rose, swirling as it ascended, like a spirit rising to meet our maker. On my walk, the bone-chilling air had eventually found its way into my very core. Taking a sip of the hot, bitter brew, I could feel the warmth invade my body, slowly recapturing that which had been nearly frozen.

It was then the similarity hit me; the steam; the Spirit, warmth of my body; us accepting Christ into our hearts.

A car passed and broke my focus for a moment. Taking another sip, I closed my eyes and prayed. The sound of the vehicle dissipated, and soon, the voice of the John’s river began to speak, which lay just beyond our church’s parking lot. The soothing sound and the warmth of my coffee began to erase all the toils, and struggles of the week as the hand of the Lord wrapped his arms around my being. As I exhaled, my breath made another pathway of steam into the air. It was then the thought of how much better coffee tasted when you were partaking of it out in the open, especially on a cold, winter morning. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more everything seemed to taste better when eaten or drank in the outdoors, where all that was man-made was removed, and you were one with the elements; purity begets purity.

Then my mind turned toward the devotionals on my Sunday morning hikes to church and how they always seemed more powerful, more meaningful than those of which I partook every morning before heading up the mountain while sitting in my home. It was as if the materials of man’s creation removed, allowing for a purer experience, a cleaner connection to the Almighty if you will.

There, I had done it; allowed myself to find something of God in merely drinking a hot cup of java on the front steps of the church.

Then my mind took a quantum leap, back, many years to my youth.

The ground was covered in snow. It was the dead of winter in Indiana, a place where Boy Scout Troops wouldn’t cancel a camping trip for the weather, regardless of the conditions. Fortunately, the camporee was at a camp where our tents were the heavy canvas permanent type built on wooden floors; surplus from a not so distant war. It was Friday night when we arrived. The routine was that we were to build a fire and then cook our supper while we made camp. From experience, we knew that in this weather, the fire was the key to everything; warmth, food, survival. Yet, everywhere we looked the snow had covered everything; not one stick of firewood was left untouched. Everything was either frozen or soaked with water. Knowing that we might face a challenge for which we may not fair too well, we began to build our wood in preparation for a valiant attempt, nonetheless. By good fortune, one of our patrol members found an old mouse nest in a hole in one of our tents’ floor. Thankfully, we shoved the dry tender in amongst all the other shoots of Sassafras, Cherry, and Pine, knowing that once the moisture burnt off, we would have the start of a roaring fire. One of the patrol leaders went to the cook box to find matches. When he returned, he held open the small cardboard box, with the little drawer, pulled out. The look on his face said it all. With a look of shock and dismay, we all quickly realized, there was just one match left. We gathered round, each of our young faces had a look of fear and anguish. One of the new scouts almost began to cry, “Oh no, we’re going to starve,” he stammered as tears welled up in his eyes.

“No, we’re not,” I bit back, the steam from my mouth shot into the air like a blowtorch. “You have to have faith. We’ve been through tough times before, and if anyone can make a fire with one match, it’s this patrol.” Ricky, the Scout Master’s son, who was also my good friend, stuck up for me at that moment, and reiterated what I had just conveyed.


“You gotta trust us man, if anyone can get a fire going, we can make it happen. We’re going to show them all, with one match, we’ll keep this fire going all weekend.”


There, he had done it; Ricky had unknowingly made the vow that we would all gladly have given our last breath to uphold. It was an unspoken word of truth and honor, nearly as revered as the Scout Law.

Delicately, like marooned sailors on a deserted island, we made all the preparations and double-checked each other’s work to make sure that the one match would work. Then, with a shaky hand, someone struck the match. The smell of sulfur and warmth filled the space before us. Immediately, we all gathered around, holding our hands as a shield to prevent any breeze from extinguishing our flame before it could take. Slowly, the flame touched the old mouse bed, and steaming smoke began to spread through our pile of tender.

“Nobody breath,” Ricky commanded.

We all stood, feet in shivering in the snowbank that we had created digging out the fire pit so that it would be clear of any moisture, and watched as the smoke seemed to almost disappear. The skeptical scout almost began to whimper once more. “Have faith,” I breathed again.

Then, as if prayers had been answered in unison, a flame nearly 12 inches tall leaped from the center of our woodpile. Smiles spread across our faces as we older scouts looked and nodded at one another. The younger scouts then realized they were with someone who would take care of them.

That weekend happened to get so cold, below zero, that they made us stay in the chow hall one night, for fear we might freeze to death in our cots. Meanwhile, we had stoked and prepared our fire, so that no matter how long we were gone, it would continue to keep a hot coal bed. We needn’t fear that the fire would spread since the ground was covered in almost a foot of snow. So, unlike other times when we would have to put out a fire when leaving our campsite, that particular weekend we were allowed to keep it going. Memory also recalls that the other patrols had not been so lucky when trying to strike their fires. More than one patrol visited us that weekend to warm themselves because of their own inabilities to keep a fire going. We learned a lot about ourselves in the process, not only that we had possessed a knowledge which provided for our own, but that we were able to pass on this to others while sharing with our neighbors.

I don’t remember anything else about that weekend, other than our parents came to stay with us the night we stayed in the chow hall. But the one thing I do recall, even to this day, was that by the time to pack up Sunday evening to head home, we had a fire that had never gone out. Meanwhile, other patrols had problems just getting theirs started, let alone able to keep them going.

We had struggled through adversity, but already in our young lives, having experienced hardship campouts before the one just mentioned had allowed us to have faith. It is the same in our walk with Christ. Those who are new to the faith struggle with knowing that the Father is with them always. By providing them examples of our own steadfast faith, we can give them the courage to face the struggles in their own walk.

The Apostle Paul had faced many trials and difficulties in his life once he turned to serving God instead of persecuting Christians. He was an encourager to others in the faith, and with confidence, not arrogance, as brother David said this morning, he told his disciples to ““Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ[1] He had faith enough to know that if they were to become believers, that they would have to have faith in what he said and to know that through believing him, they too would come to know Christ.

Once they had faith, they would find the love of Christ working in them, warming them, imbuing them with the Holy Spirit, lighting the flame within and starting the fire. Like that hot cup of coffee and a cold winter day, God envelopes you with His Spirit and warms your very soul.

Each day, as I begin to climb the mountain, either figuratively or physically, I ask the Lord to help me find my way. Each day, he answers me in the most unexpected ways.

Nearby, the river speaks to me, and a song begins to play in my head:

“Once I stood at the foot of a great high mountain
That I wanted so much to climb
And on top of this mountain was a beautiful fountain
That flows with the water of life

I fell down on my knees at the foot of this mountain
I cried, “O Lord what must I do?
I want to climb this mountain, I want to drink from this fountain
That flows so clear in my view.”

Then I heard a sweet voice from the top of this mountain
Saying, “Child put your hand in mine.”
I started climbing slowly, “Watch your steps at the edges
And take one step at a time.”

I started climbing upward taking one step at a time
The higher I got the harder I climbed

I’m still climbing upward and my journey’s almost ended
I’m nearing the top and you ought to see the view
Oh the water flows freely, there’s enough to make you free
So friend, if you’re thirsty climb this mountain with me.”[2]

In the gospel of John, Jesus said on the last day of the feast, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”[3]

While these may or may not be my last days, the harder I climb, the more beautiful things I see and reveal, seeing with eyes anew. From walking in faith, although I will never achieve the level of the Apostle Paul, I can, with deep conviction share with others that with faith, all things are possible. In sharing that belief, may it light a spark within their own soul, one that will make within them a desire to seek Him.

With one spark, a fire can be built, and with it, the light of life can begin

That particular campout of which I shared earlier was one where our parents were invited to come spend a night camping with us. It was one of only two times that a parent of mine came to a campout. My mom, of all people, came to stay Saturday night. She, along with the other parents, stayed in the chow hall with the rest of our troop. Looking back, I wish I had done more to interact with her, but it was a treat just to hear her voice talking to the other adults and to know that someone who loved me was present. Now that she is gone, those few glimpses of the past are ever more precious.

She, along with the other parents, more than likely had no idea of our fire struggles, but rather, took it in stride that we had learned how to survive and were doing well enough. I don’t remember anything else about that weekend, but the one thing I do recall, even to this day, was that by the time to pack up Sunday evening to head home, we had a fire that had never gone out.

From all of this, we can surmise that we are a constant work in faith. We may never achieve the level of faith of an Apostle Paul, but we can share our testimony with others, and with that, provide them the knowledge that they are not alone. Through our faith, shall we lift up others, and in the end, give them hope of the Father.

Like steam from the coffee cup, the Holy Spirit will warm us through and through, and our walk of faith will continue to grow as we climb that final mountain and drink from the eternal fountain.

Thanks be to God.


[1] 1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV

[2] Ralph Stanley, Great High Mountain, lyrics © Bug Music, Z77ss, Z77ss Music

[3] John 7:37 KJV

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational

A Butterfly Cloud of Faith

We awoke this morning to a blissful 64 degrees here in the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains. It was indeed a long-awaited respite from the summer’s toils. Although the sky was overcast, the soothing temperatures allowed for a more leisurely feel to the walk to church. Along the way, the bountiful colors of the wildflowers began to catch my attention. “Had they been there all summer and I just missed them amid the turmoil of heat and fatigue,” I pondered as my walking stick continued to make the rhythmic knock upon the trail? At first the red of the Cardinal flower caught my eye, but the farther I walked and became aware, the more colors that began to reveal themselves until the full spectrum of the rainbow was pulsating within view; the Vincas, Violas, Orchids, and Lilies of all shapes, sizes, and varieties. Pausing to catch my mental breath, my mind began to drift back to another hike in a far distant land. The place where the 23rd Psalm seemed to come alive; the Germanesca Valley in Italy.

The Germanesca Valley on the trail approaching Col-du-Pis.

My heart began to race as my thoughts returned to the life-changing scenery we had experienced on our Alpine journey.

Like a wounded warrior returning from battle, my body fought to keep the path of descent. In our unencumbered ascent up the mountain, we had seen with beholding eyes unspeakable beauty, flowers of every color of the visible spectrum. We had just scaled up the Germanesca Valley in the Cottien Alps to a point not far from the summit of Col-du-Pis. The altitude was challenging alone, reaching slightly above 9,000 feet in elevation. The thin air caused us to breathe while we walked as if we were running at full speed.  Each new turn in the trail unfolded another revelation of God’s creation, one that we had heretofore never witnessed. But in our haste and unimagined divine adventure, we had not accounted for the human element which so often detains us, shackling us to man’s law; time. From unimaginable heights we now scurried, our bodies weakened by the lack of oxygen battled to keep pace with the spirit within. In our haste, we pressed the pace around another massive boulder only to find a spectacle beyond comprehension. Looking back, had we not been suffering from the consequences of poor planning, or rather, spontaneously inspired destinations, we might have taken the moment we were about to encounter more slowly, more diligently. We are often reminded in those fleeting few seconds before death that events you thought could never be captured return in one glorious review. What was thought lost returns with a voracious message of what was most important.

How many times had the disciples asked themselves the same thing? Had they only taken more time to appreciate the precious little time they were allotted to spend with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, how much more would they have understood? Jesus had tried to make them realize again and again.

“Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand…. I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am.” – John 13:7,19.

How many more questions they could have asked? How much more faith they might have found had they only known?

“Why weren’t they warned,” you ask?

Jesus foretold his death and resurrection on more than one occasion.  “Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” – Matthew 20:17-19

Yet, they too were so pressed for time of this world, trying to make it day-to-day in circumstances under which they had little to no control. Albeit they were in the presence of Jesus, they too found it difficult, seeing so many miracles and hearing so much, that there was little time to take it all in and absorb it fully. After a while, their human bodies began to tire. The weariness of the journey was more than many could physically take; the emotional and spiritual strain alone of having one’s mind stretched beyond belief each day would be enough to cause a mental breakdown. Yet, Christ afforded them through his divine power the ability to understand, as he opened their minds as only God could do. “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”-Matthew 13:9-11

Enthralling scenes that no human could imagine took the disciples breaths away; again and again. They could never dream of what was just around the bend.

Just beyond the shadows of the granite edifice from around the curve in the path lay a patch of grasses covered with wildflowers, colors as vivid as the cloudless azure blue sky above. Yet, unlike anything we had yet to discover this day of miraculous discovery on the mountain, there was something unreal; something that pulsated from this patch of living color. As we neared, our shadows ran before us, touching the breathing spectrum of life. Without warning, the colors began to rise in place, as one. Our mere mortal eyes couldn’t understand what we were seeing; yet, we saw something beyond explanation. We inched closer and soon realized the cloud of flowers were hundreds of tiny butterflies, each matching the fauna of their selected petals below. As if their spirit could sense our breathlessness, before we could capture the image for all to see, the cloud of cuspid elegance dispersed into nothingness in a cloudburst of flight. Pausing, my traveling companion and I simply looked at one another in awe of God’s unending magnificence.

Numb from our weakened physical condition, we shook our heads and pressed on. Had we been less hurried, less concerned about our fear of missing the bus, would we have been able to capture the magnificent event? Would we have found the moment more impressive at that instant than we had otherwise seemed to feel considering our weariness and exhausted conditions? Each of us had witnessed something that would forever be part of something special, something that would allow us to forever change our perspective of life.

It would take many months for the scene to return to our minds in as an epiphany of revelation.

How do you describe the indescribable to someone?

How do you share a vision or testimony to someone that hasn’t shared the same path as yourself or has walked in a field of wildflowers?

More than likely, your answer is that it is nearly impossible. If the person you are sharing with has never had a similar experience in life or has never found themselves able to question their own spirituality, then they probably will not understand how to relate to what you are describing. Just as Jesus fought to make his disciples aware, against even the most obvious, in-your-face statements, they continued to be confused. Up until the very day of his capture and eventual crucifixion, they had yet to come to the understanding of all that he had said. It was until after his death and resurrection did they finally begin to fathom the trail of clues their Master had provided during their earthly time together.

Likewise, we must be aware of those around us that are either knew in faith are or those who have yet to accept Christ at all. They will look at you with ears unable to hear, with eyes unable to see, and with hearts often hardened from years of hearing the very words you might say to them. It isn’t until they have walked the trail of wildflowers and seen the cloud of flowers burst open into a prolific spectrum of colorful butterflies will they finally be able to comprehend your words. In the end, it isn’t us that can come into their hearts and minds, but Christ who must be the one. Alone we are only mouthpieces. It isn’t until Christ speaks through us in spite of us can we reach the lost souls of our world.

Yes, we can never do it alone, nor are we ever alone.

Open that back door and take a walk down the nearest trail and search for God in all that you do.

You will never be disappointed, and most importantly, you may find a miraculous beauty made by our Lord that will forever change who you are.

Thanks be to God.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Religious Experience

The LORD Is My Shepherd

The crisp cool air hit his flesh, biting into the fingertips that grasped the walking stick. The wind on the peaks had yet to cause anything more than a stirring of the fading leaves here in the holler through which he trod. A fateful night of harsh wins left the trail littered with pine cones and limbs. Up ahead, a fallen flock of trees lay across the path, like obstacles in a steeplechase, over which he must straddle. Onward, like the current in the stream that flowed nearby, his body moved; silent and steady. In his mind, the words of the 23rd Psalm swirled like falling leaves upon the gentle breeze. Their parallel to the model prayer of which Jesus taught his disciples teased his curiosity. Lost in thought, he ambled on, as memories as clear as the crystal waters that gurgled in his ears echoed their distant reply.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

The air that day had been as crisp, with a matching breeze. The brilliance of the sky was only enhanced by the majestic snow-capped peaks which reached to heights of which he had never seen; at least not from the foot of the mountain. With a small satchel upon his back, he began his unknowing ascent upon the footpath that had been well worn from centuries of pedestrian traffic. To be in the presence of such imagery caused him to pause often and stand in awe. Likewise, the reverence for which he watched became increasingly intense with each footstep upward. Like climbing to the Father, our approach to God the Father, each new day living in Christ, we come nearer to Him. In that manner, we humbly enter into his glory, and by his Grace, we are saved. It is at that point we can boldly say, He is my shepherd.

The burdens of the week began to drift back into the man’s train of thought. Instinctively, he began to prioritize the list, then stopped. “I shall not want,” he said to himself, “God’s got this.” He reminded himself once again that he was trying to do it all. “I must decrease so that He may increase,” he whispered into the chilly air, his breath drifting ahead of his pace.

Once we are aware, the awakening of our spirit allows to know him and He us. In that manner, we can then know that He will care for us as a shepherd to his flock. There shall no need of want. No worries shall cause our brow to cross. All we will ever need will be provided if we only trust in Him.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

Give us this day our daily bread.

As the man returned to his journey up the Germanesca Valley, he recalled standing along the rushing waters of the mighty torrent that tore through the rocks. Like the sound of a roaring freight train, the angry waters thundered past into each falling abyss below. Thirsty, he longed for a drink. Around the next bend in the terrain, a waterfall fell from up above into the pearl blue basin. There, in the foreground of that thundering cascade swirled a beautiful pool of still waters. They beckoned him to come and sup. Bending down, the reflection of a bearded image stared back. He was not the young man he often thought of; rather, this man was aged, but his features showed an internal strength. Cupping his hands, he pulled up toward his face the fresh ice, cold water from the colorless liquid. He drank deeply, as the sweet water poured down his throat, overflowing his chin, it began quenching the deepest desires. He felt a fullness at that point, unlike ever before. The words came to mind, “He who drinks of this water will never thirst again.” The chill of the frigid water touched the core of his body as if his soul had drunk from the well; his spirit was likewise fed; “Restoreth my soul,” he said.

He leads me down paths of righteousness for his namesake.”

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

It was at this point that the man ran into another traveling companion that had ventured upon the same trail. His name was Stanley. He was the Pastor at a church in the Michigan area. He too was here with the same group with which the man was traveling. “Are you thinking about going further,” he asked.

Looking up at the distant peak, they both questioned the challenge that intrigued them both.

“Yes, but you know that the bus leaves at 4:00 pm,” the man replied. They both looked back up at the seemingly impossible climb.

Deep down inside, each man could hear the voice of one calling.

“How about we set ourselves a time limit, and when we reach that point, we have to agree to turn around; regardless,” the man said to the younger traveling companion.

“Okay,” Stanley quickly replied, “you got it.”

“We have to both agree that no matter what, no matter how beautiful it gets, we can’t keep going.”

“Agreed, the young pastor smiled broadly.”

Shaking hands, they took off and began the arduous climb.

Each winding turn in the goat trail that led upward kept turning back pages of scripture. It was as if God were rewinding each page of his life with the turn of each fragile page of the Word of God. Hand in hand he had lived his life with God watching over him, sometimes unknowing, other times purposeful; always led by the hand of the Lord. He literally had been led down God’s path of righteousness, but not of his own accord.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

When the two men had finally reached the peak. There was little time to commune with God. Sitting down, they both knew that this may the only time in this life that they might have the opportunity to reach this point on earth. Praying, they both sought His Majesties presence such that they would feel the Master’s place at their table. Around them, a gentle breeze blew, as raptors soared before them, floating effortlessly upon the unseen currents, slowly drifting past where they sat. Like a parade of God’s creatures great and small, the display of His creation came alive. Not far from their vantage point, wild mountain goats pranced in the snow, while nearby mountain ferrets chased one another in play.

Once they caught their breath, turning, their eyes followed the long dark chasm from which they had emerged. From this valley that had climbed. Below, in the shadows of the massive peaks upon which they now sat, the farthest reaches of the sunlight strained to find the earth. Where there was light, there was no darkness. Yet, even in the light of the midday sun, there were shadows upon the land. Like stains of memories returned, so many countless lives lost; blood scattered upon those very valley floors from whence they trod. Now, far beneath the soil, their memories not forgotten as the word from which the men quoted had remained alive; preserved by those martyrs of ancient times; the ancient Waldensians.

He preparest a table before me in the presence of thine enemies.”

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Death was merely a shadow, and as such, they feared it not, for to live as Christ was as death, each a gain either way. The rod and staff of God had provided for them even in the darkest of times. When the soldiers came to eradicate them from their homes, they fled to this point, there where the two men sat, and beyond. To the upper reaches of the earth, where if not for safety, to be closer to my God and thee. There the angels carried many to their final resting place.

The pair sat solemn silence. The awe-inspiring scene before the two men left them speechless. Here, the closeness to God was unmistakable. As they dined on the meager fare from which they carried, clouds chased their images upon the nearby snow-capped peaks as the multitude of waterfalls spoke in hushed whispers.

The vantage point from above, so close to Him, so far from that terrestrial countenance that resided in the shadows of the peaks from which they had now climbed. Their apex but merely temporary achievement, but for that which they truly awaited was one far above this point.

There was nothing more one could say, so divine was the beauty before them.

“He anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over.”

Each man finished and sat in repose; their thoughts inward and upward.

“Stanley,” the man said turning to his newfound traveling companion, “we may never make it here again. This may be the only time in our earthly life that we see the world from this vantage point. Let us give thanks to God for all that we have and for this opportunity to share our meal in his presence.” Stanley nodded in agreement. It was then they both knelt in prayer and praised His holy name as one.

Silently and stoically they stood, walking back to the direction from whence they came. Back down to the lower reaches of that distant valley. There was little to say at that point. No words could encompass what they had just felt.

The man rounded the bend in the road, to the place where he had crossed the river many times. The water today was gray and angry. Its reflection was cold and forbidding. Inside, his heart he had been warmed by the memory of that journey now so seemingly far away. For a moment he wondered about Stanley and where it might be in life. Like strangers upon the road who travel along for a while, their union would become a memory for life; a shared point in time. Until that day when we shall all be called to Glory, then we shall reunite with those momentary acquaintances once more and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Yes, as the psalmist wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”

 

Matthew 6:9-13, The Model Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

 

23rd Psalm

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

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

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

 

2 Comments

Filed under Inspirational, Religious Experience

Winter of our Content

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear[b] when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-9

Sitting on the bank of the river, below me swirls the cold waters of winter. The fluid motion spins by, never stopping, never ceasing its continual movement. Like time passing, there but for a moment then gone. Around where I sit there is only the stark, gray reminder of winter. Life has not yet returned to the branches of yonder bough; death in slumber.

It has been a long week.

My mind ponders as the countless days pass, from one seeming earthly struggle to the next, one never ceasing, nor stopping to give pause. All around me, others seem to be facing similar earthly challenges and trials; cancer, sickness, and stress. Like the tributary before me, they come in waves, sometimes flooding all that we are. We become overwhelmed with what we must do in order to survive from day to day until there is nothing left of who we are. All that was the light seems all but extinguished. Too often, in our weakness, we feel we must carry it all on our own. It is in these moments, we as Christians must remind ourselves and those around us, we are not alone. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” Yes, we are not alone, if only we will allow the Holy Spirit to walk with us.

As these thoughts flow through my head, there passes within the never-ending stream, a dark figure; a solitary oak leaf. It tumbles helplessly along. Its greenery long since faded into the bitter winds of autumn. Now, caught in the chaotic turbulence, it is helpless to choose its path; rather, the substance of which it is now part controls its destiny.

Sometimes, in my moments of weakness, I feel like the leaf.

There was a time when it too was part of the greenness of life; that of the tree that stood beside the stream. There, the life was good. It had no worries, but the waters below beckoned. Knowing not what it missed, the solitary leaf yearned for the mystery of what flowed beneath. On the tree, the leaf had sustenance from the roots that supped the life-giving force. There was no fear in the time of draught, no fear of the world around it. But as we often find in our youth, we are not content with the sanctuary in which we were raised. Like a taboo darkness, the leaf wanted to be free of this safety of which it was reared. When the strong storm winds blew, the leaf wished for its release so that it might be free. One night, when the flashes of lightning thrashed around the sturdy tree, the leaf was finally granted the sole desire; it was set free.

Torn from what seemed like its bondage, it was loosed into the world.

From whence it came it departed and was never to return. Soon the leaf too late realized that without the nourishment of the father tree, there was no hope, no life eternal. Lost, the foliage joined the others who also were blown as the gusts of unseen forces tossed them to and fro. His greenery soon turned to a golden hue, brilliant as the sun; the last rays of hope escaping. In his mistaken glory, he pranced about joyously celebrating the new life of earthly gratification. However, after a couple days, brown stains began to appear on his body. Before he knew it, the leaf’s brown spots connected. To his horror, his flesh had turned to the color of the soil. The countless days of life abundant, those living in the home that taught the precepts of faith now were gone, forgotten as the lost ones ran from all that they had known seeking the fleshly desires of the earth. For it is written, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The leaf too late found, like those around him, had been mistaken and given up on what that had been promised. Lost in their sin, they now gave up and scattered neither knowing whence they were going, nor whence they came. In their desire to be of the earth, they had unknowingly succumbed to the desires of their flesh. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Many of the leaf’s friends, those that had joined in his revelries had now succumbed to the earth, lying in repose as their bodies began to decay, becoming one with the earth from which they came; ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Yet, the lone leaf had not forgotten the bidding, that it had wished so long ago.

Haplessly, the leaf was finally blown one morning into the waters below the tree from which it once called home. At first, the leaf fought to remain afloat, fearing to sink below the surface. But eventually, its dried skin became full of the cold wetness and began to sink. As he floated down, the world above began to fade, and he could feel his life beginning to pass. As that former life began to ebb, the water began to swirl him around. The light of the sun sparkled upon the waters, casting colors of every hue about him as the current pushed him on. Suddenly, he was no longer alone, but part of a greater body of being than ever before. There was a renewed sense of hope, a life-force from within, the fluidness of the spirit, began to flow. As the leaf became one with the water, he was made anew. Together, the leaf and the crystal waters were made one. His Baptism had been complete, and now, he was one with the Father. As he floated along, he no longer cared to whence he may go, only that he may do the will of the Father who hath sent him. For once, the leaf had found the glory for which he had so long ago sought but could not know; truly to be one with the Father.

And so there he was, passing before me as I sat that evening, as the sun slowly sat beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains. The leaf eventually tumbled and tossed along in the current until it faded from my view into the shadowed bend of the yon waters.

Somewhere in the distance a night bird called.

Soon spring would come, but for now, the winter of our content has arrived.

Thanks be to God.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational

Somebody to Love

“Can anybody find me, somebody, to love….?”

The strains of the electric guitar were screaming to the wailing of Freddie Mercury’s nearly falsetto pitch. The singer with the one-of-a-kind voice echoed in my ears as he kept repeating the refrain, “Can anybody find me, someone, to love.” For something different for my run tonight, I picked a playlist a little outside of my norm; Queen was on the docket. Back when I began running in the late seventies, at the tender age of 15, they were one of my favorite rock bands. Naïve, I had no idea of their lifestyle. To me, they made music that was challenging and inspiring. My own musical talents were limited to the organ. The combination of opera with rock genres that Queen had become known for, resonated within my young being. It was all that mattered at that time. Besides, who didn’t remember listening to “We are the Champions” in at least one High School pep rally?

That was many years past, at a time when the words teen and trouble went hand in hand. Like so many youths of our world, then and now, who seek someone to love them, so it was in mine.

As ancient legs churned below my thoughts, my mind recalled those pathways so many years ago. Thousands of miles would pass beneath my feet before my running career would end. The body may forget, but the mind relinquishes the memories less. Slowly, the pace increased until there was a smooth cadence. My fingers pressed the speed button on the treadmill up until it felt this was the proper altitude for tonight’s flight.

Some call it the runner’s high when the body’s endorphins are released to protect our muscles from pain. Call it another one of God’s little miracles. When our muscles are torn in the process of exercising, the endorphins buffer the pain, allowing us to push ourselves farther than we might otherwise. The more we become physically fit, the greater the number of endorphins are released. Once we become one with our body, we can almost achieve a feeling of running on air. So it was this evening, at least for a few sparse moment, when I had finally found a rhythm that matched its pace and was back in the groove. It felt good, but I knew it wouldn’t last. The belt on the treadmill flowed beneath as the gray sky outside the fitness center faded away.

“I’ve got to get out of this prison cell,” Freddie sang. The image of this earthly body came to mind, and the day when we meet Jesus in the sky, in our new bodies, made whole and anew. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”-1 Thess. 4:17

It felt as if I were being lifted beyond that cursory station in life, away from the toil of keeping that decaying shell fit. Before me was the image of the cross. His body, abused, flayed, and bloody, hung limp. It felt as if my approach was on hand and knees. Beyond me, the song continued, “Somebody, tooo, toooo, love.”

There before me hung that precious life, the Son of God. I had found him, somebody to love, and what was made all the more precious, He loved me more. As the ancient rock song played behind me, the love of Jesus began to wash oer my soul. His love flowed through my veins like a river of the Spirit descending from on high.

I was unworthy of such love.

There was no compassion on earth combined that could match the feeling that poured from the cross. My humble being crawled beneath his, looking up at the shattered human form, where once abode God in the flesh. Tears formed in my eyes as I looked upon his image.

“Come and see,” he would tell the disciples when they asked where he dwelt. Yet, He was no longer here. We could not go and abode with him on that day for he had begun his crossing of that great strand. He would fall into the depths of hell, and then rise from the dead and become the resurrected Christ. My mind could see the lifeless, blue-tinted foot hanging limp. Blood crusted upon the grayish image. The ground below him stained with his precious blood. His own life source that was to be used to wash away my darkness. He had given all so that my sins could be forgiven, so that someday we may abode with Him, not just for the tenth hour, but for all eternity.

My hand reached to touch him, but before there was contact, the voice of the song screamed again, “Find Me Somebody to Love.”

And I had.

He was there, He was always there. The guitar wailed, the strains flooding together until their voltage surged through me, uniting with the other from above until all was one. I received Him, wholly, without question, and he flooded my soul with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was with me.

The black ribbon flowed underneath as the overwhelming feeling of God’s love warmed my entire being within. My heart panged for Freddie, for his lifestyle caused his death; AIDS. Had he come to know Christ before he passed this life? Had he found somebody to love? His memory lives on today in the form of music, a gift from God. But more importantly, had he received the most precious gift before dying?

Had he too received Christ?

“Someday I’m gonna be free,” his voice rang out, and yes, we will be, free of this earthly prison cell, called a human body.
I pray that Freddie did find somebody to love him more. Someday we shall find out the answer, but for now, I know for certain I had found Somebody to Love, and His name is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

“Can anybody find me Somebody to Love?”

No, you’re not going crazy because everybody’s trying to put you down, you only have to believe. Once you find Him, you have found Somebody to Love, and in return, someone who will love you beyond your understanding. You will finally be free. Death will hold no sting.

Can anybody find me Somebody to Love?

Yes, I can Freddie, Yes, I can.

His name is Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God, again and again.

Forever and ever, Amen.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Religion

Sevenfold and the Vehicle…

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” -Acts 20:24

Singularly I matter not.

Swirling over the rocks, like the eddies within a swollen river, we smash against all that prevails before our paths; blinding, racing fury, hurling down the mountainside. Alone, we are but a single drop of fluid but combined as one, we become a force to which incredulous powers are bestowed.

At times, my life feels like it has become one with the mountains.

There is no scene before the eyes from which I look anew each day that does not thrill within my heart. For if it were not one cascading tributary, then it shall be yet another, each providing inspiration, a renewal of spirit, an encouragement to the being within. Like the sweet strains of the melodic voice echoing from the fiddle string, uniting with one in the chorus of the evening calls of yonder whippoorwill. Below us, the sun sets in a spectacular display of God’s handiwork, painting the heavens in colors too numerous, too capricious for one to espouse. The tongues of fire leap from hidden shadows to dance in the sky above, as eyes follow the enchantment until bluebird pastels darken into a Prussian blue chasm, deep dark depths of the void above us, where distant stars twinkle like the frost covering the ground on a chilly sunrise.

Everywhere, the crisp new green leaves of spring sing their sweet songs. Whispers of ancient tones, while stem, bark, and root below seek the heart of a mountain beneath. Through the crevices of granite strands, rich forest loams, one after another savoring the earthen riches within until their sap is nourished and sent once more to rejuvenate those so far away, so close to the outer limits, yet, so reliant upon those below.

We are nothing alone, living in solitary remorse, we cannot be what we have been created to be; our purpose unfulfilled. Only when we come to the awareness of life, can we begin to understand all that there is and how thankful we must be for what we have been given. It is then, perhaps for some too late, that we finally find our purpose, our calling. It is then many come to the solemn conclusion, the race has yet begun. At that moment, in that awakening of the soul, we ultimately realize that we have been put where we are for more than one reason.

Often, when there seems to be an obstacle facing what lies in my path of everyday life, it is then I am aware that struggle is merely the vehicle to get me where God wants me to be, for a purpose unbeknownst to myself or anyone else. Sometimes it is made clear once that vehicle has reached its terminal point, what the purpose was; sometimes we may never know why. But when we do suddenly fathom the thought, “This is not the real reason I’m here, but that this issue is merely the means to get me to this point,” it is in that moment that we suddenly reach a new level of communication with our Heavenly Father, if only for an instant, we reach into the complexity of all that surrounds us. It is then that we, in the blink of an eye, find the Holy Spirit among us and then we can fully appreciate with open eyes, and arms, that which is about to happen.

Thus, was my recent experience.

One cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of all that had transpired to lead up to the point that I heard myself exclaim out loud, “This is not the real reason I’m here. This is just the vehicle. Something else is about to happen. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it; no, this is just the vehicle to get me here.”

To understand the complexity of the problem would require more than this article could stand.  Yet, it cannot go without saying that the depth to which the problem prevented me from going forward was as if a granite boulder had been placed upon my shoulders and my legs had been set in chains. I had mentally struggled, made numerous phone calls, and spoke with multiple people who might be able to help; all were unable to find a solution. It was then, I knew something greater than myself was needed.

Coming down the mountain on my daily drive home, I literally called upon His name, and asked Him to take the steering wheel of my life, for it was beyond me to figure out. At that moment, there was silence; no radio, no words, just the sound of the car slipping down the winding road. Outside my window, the blue-green vista beckoned as the sun began its slow decent below the distant peaks.

Sevenfold,” came the voice.

I instantly knew what He meant.

Yes, there was comfort in knowing where He wanted me to go. Melanie’s store located in downtown Lenoir, named “Sevenfold,” is a place that makes you feel more than good when you walk through the doors. While she may not have a bustling tourist icon in one of those fancy mountain town locations, her humble store has a feel much more special; God is there.

I should swing by the bank, get my address changed, then if there is time, I’ll swing by Sevenfold,” I thought back to myself, keeping in mind what He had said.

Sevenfold,” came the voice once more.

Yes, yes,” I thought, shaking my head, “Yes, of course, I’ll go. For certain, yes, I’ll go.”

At the bank, I tried to use my own intellect to figure out the problem once more, and once more, He stopped me cold.

Sevenfold.”

Guess I’m still going to Sevenfold after all,” I thought to myself.

Moments later, as I walked through those old Walgreen’s glass and metal door, I was instantly filled with warmth. The home within the office building grew on you. One after another, tiny treasures lay about the store, including some of my own work. Combined, it made for a jewel in the rough, some place yet to be discovered by the world; a littles piece of heaven. Melanie was in the back of the store at the lunch counter holding court with two older black men, debating details about grass, or so I heard, when I walked up.

“Do you know that grass that they spray along the steep banks to keep the dirt from washing away. I think it starts with an “S,”” she said, squinting and smiling at me at the same time. I had met Melanie when she first showed us the house we now live in. She was a realtor back then. I don’t know if she had already begun her calling when we met, or if it was something that came later. All I know is that she was now fully upon her journey, and like so many of us was finding the fury of the wind in her face. In that, we knew she was on the right path.

“Centipede,” I answered, in more of a question than an answer?

“No, it’s not that,” she said, smiling.

“I said it was bluegrass,” said the younger of the two men, his name was Craig Perkins, the son of the Councilman, Ike Perkins. He seemed older when I first looked at him, but later found out he was about my own age. He skin was weathered, but his eyes were bright. I would also learn later that he too was an artist, and dabbled in various forms of mediums.

Once we got past the grass situation, I began to share my conundrum with the group. Melanie began to shake her head yes, “I’ve got this,” she answered. About that time, customers came walking in the front door. She scooted off to them while Craig said, “I’ve got an idea,” so he and I slipped out the door and across the street to track down someone he knew. We came back shortly afterward without success. When we walked back in, the thought hit me, “God wants you in the store, and in this, you will find that something else awaits; this issue is just the vehicle to get you here.”

“Thank you,” I said to Craig, “I appreciate your help, but I now know why I’m here. This is just the vehicle to get me here. Something else is about to happen.”

I actually had the nerve to say it out loud,” I mused within my aching head. The toll of the day’s mental struggle was building to a crescendo, and the pain was becoming a gentle throb at the base of my skull.

About that time, Melanie called us to the back of the store to the lunch counter. “I’ve got somebody coming that will take care of everything.”

“Wow,” I said shaking my head. I then began to share with her my revelation of the vehicle.

“She’ll be here in about twenty minutes.”

“Not a problem, unless you have to be somewhere,” I answered back.

“No, we’re here as long as it takes.” She and Craig smiled back. We then began talking about what all had been going on and what was happening in her world. Her father had been in the hospital. It was then the phone rang. It was her daddy on the other side of the line. “He’s coming home from the hospital,” she whispered while holding the phone away from her mouth as she spoke, smiling gleefully.

“That’s great news,” Craig replied, “Tell him I said hello,” he followed up.

“Okay,” she assured him.

About that time, a lady came racing through the front doors holding various implements of writing and office materials; my angel had arrived. We quickly went through the details, which she knew every answer, every angle to cover, and in the blink of an eye, the problem that had seemed impossible to solve was done.

Yes, in the blink of an eye, the unsolvable was wiped away.

Then came the real reason we were there.

I don’t recall how, I don’t know why, but for some reason, the lady mentioned that her mother was an artist also. “Yea, she painted the mural on the bridge abutment at the park in Collettsville.”

“You mother is Mary Lou?”

“Yes.”

“And Ray your father has cancer?”

I paused. As the solemnness of the moment hit me. It hadn’t been that long ago that my own mother succumbed to her disease after a twenty-year battle. Ray’s battle was something I didn’t take lightly and here stood a daughter whom I never met. My mind was full of questions, but this was not the time.

“I pray for him and your mother almost every day,” I said to her, as I looked her in the eyes. I could sense she wanted to say more, but was holding something back; an emotion, a feeling that couldn’t be spoken.

“Thank you,” she responded. Her shoulders seem to sink a little as a shadow passed over her countenance; there was a hidden pain within.

I could feel the emotion welling up inside myself as well. From the corner of my eye, I could see Melanie was also becoming affected by what was transpiring. I knew at that moment that the lady before me did not go to church with her own mother and father. I had never seen her before, even on Easter Sunday. It was then I realized the vehicle’s purpose and why I was there.

“God put me here for a reason today…to meet you.”

As she smiled, not sure of what to say, I walked over and hugged her, “I’ll continue to pray for them and you,” I said.

From that point on, it was a blur.

There was something about a painting of a horse, whom the lady had owned, and a painting that Melanie had owned for a long time, but suddenly felt God telling her to give it to the lady. There was such a flurry of emotion it was all difficult to keep up with and understand. It was as if a tsunami of the Holy Spirit had flooded the store and we were awash in his glory.

Our heads were buzzing with thoughts, emotions, and joy.

After she and Melanie had gone outside to say goodbye, I sat on the stool looking at Craig who sat at the other end of the counter. I felt drained like I had just been through a boxing match; a fight with myself mostly, and had won. The headache was gone, and the weight had been lifted.

Craig sat there looking back at me. “God put us here for a reason Craig, he put us here for a reason,” I said in half sigh of relief.

“Amen,” he smiled, “Amen.”

Alone we are nothing, but with Him, we can do all things.

Thanks be to God.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational

The Promise of My Father…

Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem[i] until you are endued with power from on high.”-Luke 24:49

Nothing excites me more than when someone brings up the power of the Holy Spirit.

In my life, there has been nothing as real and as powerful as the feeling when one is endued with the power on high. It is understood that for some, this statement is only that, a statement of words that are indescribable since there is nothing for which they might perceive to compare it with. Now before I go any further, I want to reiterate with the utmost integrity, that this is not being boastful or prideful; it comes from the perspective as one awakening to a new feeling that until now, might have been missed or even overlooked. To understand what I mean, I must begin at the beginning. Then, and only then, we might come to have a basis for what it is to “Receive” the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus time, he repeatedly spoke to the disciples of how they would receive the Holy Spirit, the Helper, as he called it, who would be with them after he was gone. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”-John 14:26

Their eyes seemed to always be on the present, unable to grasp the prophecy to which Jesus was constantly alluding. Who can blame them? Here they were in the midst of the true Son of God, the Messiah, the miracle worker. Daily they witnessed the unbelievable, every day they saw gross deformities become healed, the demon possessed cleansed, and the dead arise from their deathbeds. How could they look beyond when there were so many amazing things happening right before them? It’s ironic that today, unlike those of the disciples, we are distracted by the plans of the coming day, the week ahead, the calendar, and all that must be done in the days’ time. We are so focused on what is next, we too often miss what is right before us, and this is where we begin to overlook the obvious, the miracles in our lives that appear and are gone before we take the time to reflect upon them. Unlike the disciples, we cannot focus on the present, when all we do is look ahead. They were the opposite, unable to look ahead due to what was before them.

Call it the irony of God.

What is the common thread between the two ironies; the presence of Jesus Christ of course?

When He is with us, we are relieved of our daily burdens. The future is a distant memory. Those distractions that kept us from our daily scripture slowly fade to dark as the light of the Word illuminates our hearts with the truth. Like those disciples, we have little concern for the future when all we need is here with us.

Yet, too many times, we slip in our walk of faith and fall back into that daily rut of trying to keep pace with the world around us. At this same time, we also miss the opportunity to accept and to recognize when we are in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We rush from one appointment, one event to the next and miss what often matters most. In these precious moments, we too often fail to accept the power from on high. When, and only when, our minds are one with God, can we fully embrace and receive Him. It is then when we are still and listening to that small voice, are we suddenly flooded from head to toe with a power so incredible, so electrifying, that one can barely keep their feet upon the very ground upon which they trod. It is then when we are overflowing with the Spirit that we find ourselves at a new and higher ground in our spiritual walk with God; greater than ever before.

Yet, this is not just something we can call upon, for it to happen. It is a power from on high, and as such, is only Heaven sent. That’s why Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait; wait for the Holy Spirit. They were instructed to call upon the Spirit, but to wait. Although their eyes had been opened to the scriptures, they still were required to wait for the Spirit.

One can have all the knowledge, knowing, and understanding of the entire Biblical encyclopedia but without the Holy Spirit, it is just that, only knowledge. The true power to go and do His will is when the two are combined as one: The Holy Spirit with the mind of the disciple. This is what Jesus had prepared his followers for once he was gone. He knew that without the Helper, they would be fearful of what they did not know, they would be hesitant to journey to those distant lands; therefore, they needed something that was greater than they were capable of conceiving, the Holy Spirit.

Walking with Jesus each day, we now have Him within us, as we carry the Word. With our understanding comes wisdom. Yet, it only takes us so far, we must also wait for that Spirit to be endued within each of us, lest we fall and stumble before we are ready to set out on our mission.

So now we are ready to speak of what it is to receive the Holy Spirit.

As we continue our daily walk in faith, we learn more and more about what it is to be a Christian or Christ-like. When we do, journey in our faith, we slowly awaken or become aware of things we might have overlooked that we now understand. Scriptures we once read as a matter-of-fact take on new meanings. The world around us becomes brighter, for in everything we see, we the Creator’s hand. Our senses become heightened to new realities we never understood. One of these is when we are filled with the Holy Spirit; whether we believe it or not.

Now for some, the realization, or the indwelling of the Spirit comes as a shock. For them, it is an instantaneous blast of heavenly power that is absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt, the Holy Spirit. Sometimes these people, in that moment of receiving the Spirit, lose their conscious minds and fall to the floor. In these cases, there is no mistaking when that person has received the Holy Spirit. I’ve witnessed these before and just to be there in their presence is as powerful as their receiving; it is a moving and emotional experience for all.

Then there are the subtler occasions when we have only been induced from without by the power so subtlety that one might mistake it for a chill, rather than the Spirit. Those moments when we see the unexplainable, like the light from spirits moving before a camera when there were just seconds before and saw nothing. Or the time when someone spoke a word, then the door blew open and a cold breeze wisped across your feet. Or the time when you felt the hand upon your shoulder pull you back, just as you were about to step off the curb just as the out of control car blew passed where you were about to step. When you turned to thank them, there was nobody there. These are the events that might escape our perception if we are not one with Him. Many explain them away as mere coincidence while others bring in the pagan beliefs of ghosts or hauntings. The realization of the truth escapes them. It is not until they call on His name, do they start to realize what it is to be overcome with the Spirit.

In time, we eventually awaken to the Holy Spirit. It is then, in those rare moments when we finally recognize that surge of voltage through our core, that shakes the nerve endings into a tingling sensation that almost lift us off the floor; these are the God knowing moments when your world changes forever; the enduing. Those who have felt it sometimes cannot explain it. Like Ezekiel trying to explain what he couldn’t understand in the vision of the Heavenly being, there are God things that are beyond our comprehension. We only can explain what we know, and in that manner, our words are sometimes not enough.

Many have felt the presence of the Lord, and in various forms. Their stories are a testimony to the power of believing.

A good friend and brother in Christ, Doug Stuart, experienced the power of the Spirit at a time when he needed it the most; his mother’s funeral. Doug was preparing to sing and speak at her service when he was suddenly overcome with doubt and fear. I’ve known Doug for several years, and to hear him say that he would be unable to speak or to perform would be unbelievable, yet there he was, moments away from failing his mother’s dying wishes. At that moment, he knew there was only one thing he could do; to pray to God for strength. It was then he described what it was to feel the power of the Holy Spirit come over him, like a gentle warmth of the Heavenly Father, wrapping him in love, lifting him up and giving him the strength to carry on. Yes, God was with my friend, and within my brother. He not only sang but spoke at length of his mother’s wonderful life. The son testifying for his mother, a love known like no other.

My cousin Davetta got the phone call from her mother telling her that my father had awakened out of the coma he had fallen within during one of the later hospital visits in his life. I remember that day as well. It was a miracle in and of itself. The doctors had said that they should call the family in since the end was near. Davetta said that she felt the power of the Holy Spirit come over her after that phone call. She remained lifted up from that feeling for the remainder of the day. The same thing happened when her Aunt had the same experience, she once again was endued from on high and was renewed with a feeling of Spirit so great that it literally changed each of those days in her life. She was blessed each time by the hand of the Lord.

Personally, I had felt the power of the Spirit before, but it was something that I didn’t understand or able to recognize. It wasn’t until I openly committed my life to following the Lord that I became aware of when the Spirit was with me. It started when I was serving at the Trail of Faith. Again, and again, there would be the tour where we would be witnessing about the story of the Waldensian people, when suddenly, never at the same place, never at the same time in the tour, the power of the Holy Spirit would come down upon myself and those around me. It wasn’t something that I singularly felt because those before me would speak, shout, or sometimes cry with joy. It was an utterly rapturous experience, time and time again. There was one tour in particular that I will never forget. Pastor Rick was there with his wife and a friend. We started out early that day because the visitor had to be heading back to Michigan. Something about the tour was different from the start. We began the tour at the map inside the Visitor’s Center, which was not uncommon. For special guests or tours, we often would begin the tour with a prayer. That day, the Holy Spirit came on us immediately. We continued feeling blessed already, but it wasn’t the end of the story. Sporadically as we made our way down the trail we would stop and pray, each time, once again, the Spirit came down. Each time it happened, the power grew greater. The final time, we stopped in the parking lot as they were about to depart and said a final prayer. It was then I felt as if I were being lifted off the ground, so great was the electric surge through my body. The hands of those I held could feel it through me as well. It was something to behold, and something that I’ll never soon forget.

However, this was not to be the last. God’s plan was not yet finished.

Before I knew it, the place I thought was to be the fulfillment of my calling turned out to be just a stepping stone.

Whenever, and wherever God leads, once you begin the journey, you must go. No matter the circumstance, no matter the location, there is purpose in everything we do.

So, when they day came that I found myself employed part-time at the Ski Slope in Blowing Rock, I had to shake my head in bewilderment. Somewhere in that place, there was a purpose for my being there other than to pay for affordable ski lift tickets for my children. Within a few hours of my second day, the purpose was unveiled, and eventually, I would find a brother in Christ in need. Week after week, we came to know one another and in that time, when we would spend extended lunch session studying scripture, there He was once more with us. In that dimly lit corner of the ski lodge, brother’s in arms became united in spirit, being filled from on high by the one true Spirit. We found purpose and another brother found his calling. More than once as we witnessed to each other, and soon, those around us, we both felt the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the one of the most unlikeliest of places.

In my journey, there is one thing I have discovered. You may never know when and where it will happen, but one thing is for sure, to witness to others is one of the best ways to make it happen.

As one of the last final commands by Jesus to his disciples was to fulfill the great commission, to go unto all foreign lands after having been endued with the Holy Spirit, making disciples for Christ. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

We too, are to go out into the world once we have truly received Christ into our hearts, and having been filled with the Holy Spirit. It is our purpose and our calling as Christians to go and witness the wondrous truth of God’s love and the victory we have over death when we follow the one who died for all our sins.

We have a choice. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you to overflowing, and when you have received, go forth and share.

You’ll never look back.

Thanks be to God.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Inspirational, Religion, Religious Experience, Uncategorized