Tag Archives: Indiana

The Silver Bridge in My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a glorious day it will be!

Thanks be to God.


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

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

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A Man and his Bibs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael was only 21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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To Return

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

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

Tanawha Trail, Blueridge Mountains, NC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1] Luke 9:62 KJV

[2] John 3:8-15 KJV

[3] John 7:28 KJV

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The Last Four Minutes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 1:47-51 KJV

[2] 1 Peter 5:2-4 KJV

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An Affliction of Conviction

by Timothy W. Tron

The cold gray light of dawn had yet to reach the brink of my window sill. Somewhere over the mountain, the light had yet to reach this side of the morn. Like waves crashing upon the rocks of a distant shore, I could hear, but I could not hear. The words of the young man from the day before returned; thoughts of music and farming combining as one. As he spoke, my mind reflected on the scripture references: ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as we are one with the earth from whence, we came.

I placed my materials at the judge’s table well in advance of the start of the days Fiddler’s Convention. As I returned with a fresh cup of coffee, a young man settled into my left, he too being a judge for the morning’s event.

“William Ritter,” he said as we shook hands.

11th Annual Appalachian State Fiddler’s Convention

To his left, another judge began to sit down. They had known one another from other encounters and began to strike up a conversation of coming events, dances, and such. I casually listened as I watched folks of all ages filtering into the Lynnville Falls ballroom of the Plemmons Student Center at Appalachian State University where we were part of the 11th annual Fiddler’s Convention. Our morning was to start with the youth guitar competition. Voices filled the chamber as I serenely sipped the bitter brew. Eventually, the keywords struck my ear that seemed to be a bit at odds, “Heirloom seeds and music.”

“Did I hear you correctly,” my attention now turned fully to the bearded young man sitting next to me?

During the course of their conversation, I had come to understand that they had connections through Warren Wilson College, where sustainable agriculture was taught and practiced. William had mentioned speaking at one of the events they had been talking about on the subject of heirloom seeds, music, and their connection.

“Tell me more,” I asked, now fully vested in understanding his perspective; my own had already been retrieved and ready to compare. He shared how we too often take for granted those seeds that which are passed down from one generation to the next, and how much richer and sweeter those fruits and vegetables taste when compared to generic, run of the mill seeds purchased at your local farm supply store.

Nodding my head in agreement, I fully understood where he was going. He went on to say how old-time music is much the same, how society doesn’t appreciate the traditional music and how it is passed down from one generation to the next; it too having a much richer and sweeter disposition upon the soul than other forms of music.

“It is our affliction,” I said to him. He paused in reflection, thinking deeply about what I had said. You could tell he wanted to dig deeper, but before we could embark further, the emcee for our judging event called the program into order, and the participants began to perform, one after another. In our short, but rewarding time together, William and I found a common thread and bond.

Reflecting back to that moment, there had been so much more to convey that had sprung forth from that beginning. Like a seed being planted, those purposeful words of heirloom seeds and music, so too was our faith passed down from one generation to the next. Either one of which, that may be dropped, perpetuates a loss to the coming generations; their ancestral ties to the truth become endangered. Someone once said, “We are one generation away from apostasy.”

As surely as I awoke this morning, I knew in my heart that God had planted me next to William Ritter for a purpose yesterday. Inside of me, there was a renewed sense of being and what the Lord had called me to do. The words, “Afflicted to be Convicted,” came to mind. I sat up in bed, searching for pen and paper in the dark before the words left me.

My life had been one of working the land, while soothing music reconnected my spirit to God. A vision of the past began to take hold. In it, there stood a figure in the cold light of day, there were no shadows, only the gray, bleakness of late winter. The boy picked up a handful of the dark earth and crumbled the rich soil through his fingertips. As tiny remnants of dirt slipped through his hand, he pulled his fist close to his face and inhaled, smelling the deep aroma of rich humus. His mind drifted back to the garden just outside Grandma Tron’s tiny kitchen window.

It was early spring, and it was the dark of the moon. Easter was near. The family had been called in for the celebration of Good Friday. The cherry trees would soon be blossoming at the Roofless Church. Whenever the family gathered, they also came to work together. A Tron was not content to just sit; they had to keep busy. It was time for putting in the potato sets for the year’s garden, and Grandma had the troops fully deployed. Most of the blooms on the trees and bushes had yet to come forth; summer was still a distant thought, but we knew if Grandma had said it was time to plant, then it was time to plant. The dirt was cool to the touch as his hands dug one hole after another, placing the sets carefully so that the eyes were facing up. Behind him, a cousin was following, laying straw into the bed, covering the seedlings, as yet, another cousin followed the other, pulling the soil back over both, tucking them into bed for their eventual resurrection. Grandma worked alongside us, whistling old hymns in the sweetest refrains. We often tried to mimic her, but our lips could never sustain the sweetness to which she carried her melodies. One after another, their gentle refrains blessed our ears, calming our youthful spirits. It was back-breaking work, but the reward, spending time with grandma, and then to be rewarded with a fresh plate of her fried potatoes, was well worth any toil.

He looked at his dirt-stained hands, the soil blackened beneath his nails; the sense of accomplishment and family; a feeling he would not soon release. The unnamed melodies forever planted within his soul; the bond of earth and song were inseparable. The two were in his blood forever part of who he was.

God had created man from the earth, breathing life into his nostrils, so that he could have life. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”-Gen.2:7-8 After the sin, man was cursed to work the land, by sweat and toil; yet, again, it was who he was. “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”-Gen.3:17-19

God had intended for us to work the land from that point forward, but not only the land, our humanity as well. His only Son provided us with the path to eternal life through our salvation, but only such that we had been entrusted with the planting of those seeds of faith. Without them, the future generations would be lost to sin, and eternal death. It is our conviction of purpose to plant those seeds. Although we as sowers may never reap the harvest, it is up to us to carry on the Word of God unto the world, for these were Christ’s own words, “18 And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth.19 Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen.”-Mat.28:18-20

Chatham County JAM Students performing on stage at Reno Sharpe’s Store, Chatham County, NC. May, 2010.

As my fingertips glide across the keys, music connects me to another realm whereby God speaks through me in spite of me. The connection is undeniable. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”-Col.3:16

Like that feeling of dark soil slipping through our fingertips, its smell reaching our senses, reminding us of our irrefutable connection to the earth, and God’s love. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Seeds of faith, the far-reaching ability to touch our hearts through music, and the ground upon which we trod; we are never far from the graces of God.

Long ago, the seeds of faith were planted in my soul. Grandma gently watered them with beautiful melodies of faith, which to this day, bring grace to my heart. We may pass from this life to the next one day, but until we do, we too shall break the ground and plant the seeds for those to come; lest they fall to the wayside and darkness prevail.

Preserve those heirloom seeds, music, and faith, if not for yourself, do it for those you love.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Let our affliction become our conviction in all that we do.

Thanks be to God.

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Water Divining: A Good Dousing…

The first time I ever heard of “Water Divining” was at my paternal grandparents’ house in New Harmony, Indiana, many years ago as a child. Actually, the name “Divine” wasn’t mentioned, not that I recall; the learning of that terminology would come later. I don’t remember how it got started or who all was present, except for maybe my cousin Peggy Sue, but when my grandmother called out to the yard full of grandkids, “Who wants to learn how to Witch for water,” she had our undivided attention?

From her vantage point, seated on the weather-worn front porch in the faded white porch swing gently rocking to and fro, she often gave directions or enlightenment to us grandchildren. Her motion in the swing was barely noticeable, so much that, when you sat with her you needn’t bother trying to push. Her motion was so soft that any intrusion into the fluidness was a disruption of serenity.  After we gathered at the corner of the porch under the shade of the majestic Sycamore tree for further instruction, there was the first flurry of questions.

“What is “Witching” for water mean, Grandma,” one of my other cousins would ask?

“Are we gonna turn into witches,” quipped another?

“It means to find water,” grandma calmly replied.

“Like in the kitchen sink,” said another.

“No, like under the ground,” she responded, not cracking a smile.

“Does that mean we have to dig,” said another somewhat elated that we would be allowed to dig a hole in the yard?

“No, there won’t be any digging needed.”

Our fledgling minds were at a standstill. How were we going to find water under the earth if we couldn’t dig? We didn’t have X-ray vision like Superman; or did we?

Before we could drift too far, she began.

First, she told us to go and fetch a branch from the Weeping Willow tree that was in the right corner of the front yard. “Get a branch with a fork in it,” she called to as we raced off to the tree.

It wasn’t one of our climbing favorites, not like the Golden Raintree, but it was fun to run beneath and let the flowing branches tickle your ears as you ran through the curtain of foliage. Looking back, it was as if God was tickling our ears, not the itching of ears that we would seek later in life.

We grabbed as much of a low hanging limb as possible, breaking off a piece and then racing back to grandma for further instructions. As I recall, my stick didn’t have a fork. Her initial detail hadn’t registered in my young mind since the only fork of which I was familiar was from the dinner table. So, after grandma held up to fingers in the sign of a “V,” at which point she said, “with a “V” in it, like Victory in Jesus.” At which point, she began whistling, as she so often did, the sweet refrain while we rushed back to the tree for another try.

When we had all finally gathered green willow sticks with V’s in them, we regrouped back at the porch. Not looking at us as she continued rocking, snapping green beans, she continued our education, “Ok, now take a side of each fork, one in each hand.” Looking at one another as we struggled to grasp the concept, we all finally managed to grab our makeshift fork by its two prongs. Then she looked up from beneath her horn-rimmed glasses and checked for our understanding. “No, not quite,” she said looking at the studious group. “Peg, come here and let me show you.” She took Peg’s branch and grabbed the fork with her hands facing up, then twisted her wrists inward until her hands were then facing down. Meanwhile, the stick had now gone through some sort of torque because the base of the “Y” was now our pointer but oddly tilted upward.

“See how I did it,” she asked?

After a couple of corrections and reproofs, we all seemed ready.

“Now what,” Peg said?

“Now you start walking around until the end of your stick starts to pull downward.”

“Really,” we all shouted?

“Truly,” she answered, and went back to snapping and whistling.

We began running around the yard like a wild bunch of spring heifers turned into a new meadow, our sticks bouncing up and down like yo-yos.

“Hold on,” came the call from the porch. “You need to walk slowly. How else are you going to feel the pull?”

From that point forward, it was as if we were trying to make magic.

We walked, crisscrossing the yard to-and-fro, but nothing. Occasionally someone might think they had a bite on their line as if fishing for water, but mostly nothing. Some cousins gave up and went back to what they had been doing before the lesson, but those of us who were older knew that if grandma had told us we could find water with a stick, then it must be true; so, we kept on. Feeling as if I might have better luck in the backyard, I slowly edged my way past the front porch and was about to turn past the corner of the house when all of a sudden I felt it.

The stick moved in my hand. It was as if someone had grabbed the other end and pulled it downward and to the left. At first, it scared me so much I gave a shout, “Hey, it’s working!” The others came running. Backing up a few feet, I again moved in the same direction, and as I did, we all watched, myself included, as the end of my branch twisted in my hands and pulled downward toward the corner of the house, like a fish pulling one’s line on a fishing pole.

“WOW, it’s amazing,” they all exclaimed as everyone tried their own sticks once more. Sadly, as the others tried, none of them could make their sticks work quite like mine. Amazed at this new discovery, we regrouped back to grandma who all the while had kept slowly working on her pile of beans and had just finished as had we.

“Did you see that grandma, Timmy got his to work?”

“Yes, I did, she smiled looking down at us from her motherly perch.”

“Is he a witch,” asked another cousin?

“No,” she chuckled in reply.

“Is it magic grandma,” I asked?

“Some may think so my son, but I believe it is a gift from God.”

They all looked at me in awe. Suddenly a strange feeling washed over me like I was weird or something. Before the others could react, grandma cut in, “I expected as much since your father could do this as well.”

“Why can’t we do it too,” called another cousin?

“There are a lot of reasons. Perhaps you weren’t holding your stick correctly, or perhaps your limb wasn’t green enough. There are a lot of reasons why. But mostly, not everyone is blessed, or gifted in the same manner,” she answered. “Each of you will find your own talents or gifts in life. Timothy Wayne has just found one of his.”

Then she continued, directing her attention back to me, “As long as you live, you may use this gift to help others. Because it is a special gift from God, you should never make anyone pay you to find water for them. If you begin charging people for this gift, then it will become a curse. Do you understand?”

I shook my head yes.

Her words lingered in my memory ever since.

Years later, I would use the gift only a handful of times, never charging for fear of misusing the talent. One of the most memorable was when a friend of mine in Chatham County, Gary Hart, asked me to douse his well. He was building a new home in what used to be his father’s cow pasture. Finding a Dogwood tree with the proper size forked branch, I grabbed it as grandma had taught us so many years before and began to crisscross his land. Not long into my search the stick was nearly ripped out of my hand sideways. I retreated, somewhat startled at the strength of the pull, then began again, heading straight toward the spot. This time the limb was pulled out of my hands as I passed over the location. Gary, still somewhat skeptical, looked on. At my encouragement, I had him try. He too had the stick move and was suddenly a believer. He had his well put in at that spot and had over 75 gallons per minute.

As stated earlier, I never put a lot of stock in the ability other than it came in handy at times. However, the Bible warns us of such abilities. Many times, dousing is mentioned as a gateway into the demonic word, since only a spirit can control the divining rod, as some people claim. When we allow the spirits of the earth to come into our being, we are welcoming in Satan. As the book of Hosea reads, “My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.”-Hosea 4:12

Then there are the many listings of the word “divination,” which more relevantly refer to things divine in nature, or the act of being prophetic. Regardless, whatever acts we perform, be they supernatural or not, we should be mindful of the power that is working in us and be careful not to follow the temptation to profit from them, lest we fall under the order or prostitution or whoredom, as mentioned in Hosea. To prevent ourselves from being lured into the demonic world, we should always pray that we only be filled with the Holy Spirit and face whatever gifts we have been given with this in mind. In other words, use that with which we have been endowed to serve God.

On a more positive note, there are times when we see magnificent displays of God at work concerning the rod and water, like in Exodus, “The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”-Exodus 17:5-6

When we fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit and walk in the Lord, we have nothing to fear. For as we live, we walk in His way. As the 23rd Psalm tells us, “He prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, my cup runneth over.” When we overflow with the Holy Spirit within us, there is no room for evil; and thus, using a rod to find water will no more hurt us than using a bowling ball to knock down pins.

Whatever you prefer to call it, dousing, divining, or witching, my thoughts will always go back to that innocent time of my life when we learned our life lessons from that battered old front porch on the edge of town. Grandma’s lessons were Christ-centered, and for that, I will always be grateful. I know in my heart, somewhere under the shade of a majestic Sycamore tree, just on the edge of heaven, the old porch swing creaks as she rocks back and forth, waiting; waiting for us to enter in.

Thanks be to God.

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The Tail of a Tale…

Along many trails and paths, I have crossed in my time. Along each trek, there is a special anticipation of what is just around the next bend, a longing to push onward. Someone once said to me that you could only see as far as the next point on the horizon, and once you make it to that point, you can see a little bit farther, to the next point if you will. Some days are like that, finding myself having reached a point that was once a distant speck from that far away vantage point. In that instance, seeing and knowing become one.

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Today, our family cat whom we call “Sky,” journeyed along with me on my walk. Unlike the day before, he was more reluctant than usual. Before we had come to the point of leaving the forest into the first opening of the trail he stopped and decided to stay behind. Knowing I was going at a faster pace than the previous day, I was fine with that and figured since I was returning on the same trail, that I would catch him on the way home.

Overhead, the clouds loomed low obscuring the distant peaks of Grandfather, shrouding him in a blanket of white. All around me, the drops of rain danced on the fallen leaves which abound on the forest floor. My breath was labored, and I soon found that I had not healed from the recent chest cold as my progress slowed to a crawl. It was much later than I had planned by the time I returned to the point Sky and I had parted ways.

He was nowhere to be found.

He’s a cat,” I told myself, “and he will surely find his way back home.”

So I slowly and weakly made my way up the trail and back to the house, sweating and breathing much too heavily for what was my normal routine. Sitting heavily, but thankfully in the porch chair, I began to remove my boots, grateful to be back home. But there was someone missing; Sky was still not home.

He’ll find his way,” again I reassured myself.

My thoughts flashed back to another time on a winter’s day. We had been blasted with a wave of blizzards in the Midwest. The landscape looked like the frozen tundra, not southern Indiana. It became an adventure just to go out and walk the fence rows, and ditch banks, places that were once of little interest took on a whole new image as giant fissures and massive snow banks turned a once boring landscape into a winter play land. On one such day, I took out with the family dog, Missy, on an afternoon exploration. We had gone over a mile along fence rows and ditches, exploring tunnels and all manner of ice formations when we happened upon a bubbling creek. Missy was a beautiful Collie-Shepherd mix that loved to explore as much as her owner, so we were having the time of our lives when suddenly are adventure took a turn for the worse. The snap of the steel on her leg scared me as much as it did her. I hadn’t realized the creek we were wading in was also the trapping line for the local farmer who was also collecting pelts to help subsidize his income. My dog’s screams and yelps tore through my heart as I raced to free her from the pain.

Again, my mind flashed back to another time in my life when I was much younger and caught in a similar predicament. It was the back alley of our little town of New Harmony. I had befriended a stray dog, and I was throwing a ball for him in the alleyway behind my grandparents family diner, The Heritage Trail Restaurant. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the dog began screaming for help. His back leg had gotten caught in the street drain. Unthinking, I reached for him wanting to help pull him out. The dog acted on instinct and reached for anything that he could use to leverage his body from the clutches of steel; my hand. The shredding of my pinky was instantaneous and blinding in pain. The dog bolted around the corner leaving me shaken and scared. Blood immediately began running down my arm as I tried to wrap it up in my sweatshirt. Fearful I would get in trouble for playing with a stray, I never told anyone. I snuck in the back door of the restaurant and cleaned up the wound in the abandoned dish sink. It was late afternoon, and everyone was on break and away from their posts, which is why I wasn’t found out. I was lucky I never contracted rabies or any other disease. God once again watched over me when I needed Him most.

All that flashed through my head as I headed toward Missy trying to soothe her before I reached to her with my hands, even if they were gloved. Fortunately, having learned my lesson, I first reached toward her with a stick. She was nothing like the stray and wanted only for me to help her leg as she stopped and stood still as if she knew what had to be done. Pulling the jaws of steel apart long enough for her to retract her injured limb, it was in the blink of an eye, and she was free. Sadly I watched as she limped on three legs, trying to hold the injured limb above the snow and hop. Knowing we had a long way to get back home, I couldn’t let her go on that way and picked her up. She weighed at least 50lbs. at the time. I wasn’t much more and maybe weighed all of 100lbs myself. Slowly and painfully, I carried that dog until my arms were like lead. We had traveled within 100 yards of the house when I finally collapsed from exhaustion. Missy sat for a minute with me in the snow, me panting and her curious. She licked my face and then much to my amazement, jumped up and ran the rest of the way back to the house ahead of me. There was no sign of any injury or hurt leg after all. I had been hornswoggled by a dog.

This evening, as darkness began to creep up the holler, there was still no Sky back at the house. Others became worried and urged me to please find him.

Fearful that he might not make it home before dark, I headed back down the trail calling for him as I went. The light of day was fading quickly. My path made it all the way to the stables and back, but still no cat. Slowly as I passed our initial point of separation, I began calling and listening. My mind remembered Missy and how I had been humorously tricked before but now it seemed the cat was truly missing. A few more steps and calling I saw the white blur in the darkness before me dash in my direction; it was Sky. My heart warmed at his sight.

He was still not far from where we had been earlier in the day, and he was more than happy to have me pick him up and hold him close.

I carried him all the way back to the house and gladly placed him on top of his little home on our porch.

We were both happy to be back.

I had seen once before and now, knew from the past what to expect. Yes, I had gone farther in many aspects, but knowing from whence we came is just as important. In all that we do, we are never alone; God is with certainly with us, watching and smiling.

As darkness surrounded our little home in the mountains, Sky gladly curled up in his house, and I in mine, safe and sound for another day.

Thanks be to God.

 

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Just a Few Old Memories…

My little body could barely see over the dash of that ancient truck as we rattled across the pasture that cold frosty morning, checking the cows in my grandpa’s herd. Trees stood like stark skeletons along the fence lines guarding against the frozen winds. The ground was covered with a heavy frost that pitter pattered curious mounds of fluffiness from one edge of the field to the next. Below the dusting of white lay grass still green from the summer growing season. It was early winter, and several of the fall calves were struggling with the recent span of bitter weather we’d been having. Grandpa headed the nose of the old Ford slowly into the midst of the herd. As I peered through the side window by breath fogged up the glass causing the cattle beyond to appear as ghostlike images. We were surrounded. The tires made crunching noises on the frozen grass as we carefully pulled ahead. Fearing he might hit one of those massive red and white Hereford bodies, my little hands grabbed the dusty dash bracing myself. To my amazement, the cows parted like clouds passing the peak of a mountain, steady and sure. Mommas with babies in tow, all bemoaning their plight as they slowly moved aside, watched us as we passed. Awestruck with their size, it perplexed me how they could be so easily persuaded to move without any force. Unbeknownst to me, they knew my grandpa and his vehicle well enough that just the sound of him rumbling down the gravel road to the gate would be enough to draw them closer seeking sweet feed or hay. Now, in their midst, surrounding my the heavy breaths seen with each 20140501_181720puff, there was no fear on either side of our consciousness, their or ours.

The familiarity of each was comforting. Like old friends, we felt at ease with one another.

Inside the warm cab of the truck, the smell of leather, sweat, and accumulated oil-covered, diesel-laden rags made for a memory of its own. When the aroma of the cattle surrounded us, the two melded into one forming a panoramic odor unlike any other. The multitude of riches that embraced the senses were too wonderful to forget, the visual, aromatic, and audible.

Grandpa would point to this or that cow and tell me about them, as if quoting from a playbook of their lives and how he might have to do this or that to one of them, none of which made any sense to a four-year-old. All I could understand was that we were “Working the Cows,” as grandma would say, as she proudly shooed us out the back door of their farmhouse as she began to clean up from breakfast and then began preparing the day’s meals. “You men go work the cows, and I’ll have dinner ready for yuins when you get back.” She spoke “Wabash” as we said of folks in that area of southern Indiana. We would eventually return later in the day to rich, tasty smells of freshly baked bread and cakes, along with delectable foods that only now come back to my memory; blessings long passed.

When grandpa had planting or harvesting that would keep him in the fields for hours and days-on-end, grandma would find ways to entertain us. It wasn’t past her to dig up a few fishing worms, throw them into an old Folgers Coffee can, grab a cane pole and then tell me, “Son, let’s go fishing.” We’d walk together hand-in-hand down the lane in front of that old farmhouse to the big pond at the end of what seemed an endless trail. Together, we’d sit on that old wooden dock, bait the hooks, catch the fish, and then joyfully bring back the same coffee can full of bluegill.

One overly productive fishing expedition, Grandma, said we could eat the fish or feed them to the cats. Our coffee can was overflowing with our catch. I looked around at the plethora of cats. None of the feral beasts had ever allowed me to pet them nor to make friends with them. Now all of a sudden, they seemed so helpless. A voice inside me spoke, and immediately I felt the urge to provide for those poor old hungry barn cats, so we opted for feeding the needy instead of worrying about trying to filet the tiny fish. Before the fish hit the ground, the cats had emerged from their hiding spots, blanketing the catch of the day. Within a couple of minutes, the entire feast was devoured. Not one crumb or scale was left behind. My joy was in that moment, watching those cats savor the morsels we had brought home while having had the fun of catching them. Our work had a purpose, and each action was accounted for in the results that awaited.

Lesson after lesson of life played out before me on that farm.

Years later, on the other side of life’s fence, I can look back and see how God had prepared me for the journey. Each snapshot of those moments was special. They taught me everything from interactions with other beings to the frugality of existence. The sheer isolation made you appreciate anything that came to life either live or inanimate. From the round river rock pebbles that made the gravel road to the tall blades of grass in the pasture that grew like a forest in the summer, there was a world of exploration and fascination to keep a young boy entertained for days on end.

But the fondest of all were the times Grandma would read to my from her Bible, often in the evening after the meal was done. Those precious words and stories made me want to know more about this Son of Man called Jesus. I would beg for more, even as I was being tucked into bed for the night, as Grandma kissed me goodnight. There safe and sound in that warm feather bed, I’d drift off to sleep, like in the warmth of the cab of that truck with Grandpa, all cozy and warm. There was a feeling that God was wrapping his arms around me and that there was nothing at all in the world to fear.

Sleep came easily.

Thanks be to God.

 

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A Tree, A River, and the Word…

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““Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear 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 17:7-8

There are the long spells of time when all is well with my soul, and nothing seems to cause me to take pause. But then out of the blue, it’s as if I’ve been woken up from a long sleep, and suddenly there’s the sinking feeling that there is a looming appointment that’s been forgotten; panic and dread begin to well up inside like a cauldron of hopelessness. These anxious moments are my days and nights lately. Like a lone survivor of a shipwreck looking for the matches to light the signal fire, I scramble to find comfort in the Word. The Bible is closer now than ever before and the scriptures more significant. When those days of fighting between despair and trust come to a close, the trails near our new home have become my bastion of solitude.

There is a peacefulness to the forest.

I can recall my youth, growing up amongst the cornfields of Indiana, looking out my window knowing there was another place that beckoned; a place where mountains and dark wooded vistas wrapped themselves around clear flowing brooks. Back then I didn’t understand or know why I felt the calling. All I could see then was a sea of green cornstalks, occasionally broken by a tree line. The flatness was so apparent it now takes my breath away just to think of it. Sullenly, on my last visit for my father’s funeral, my heart ached as I watched the gray, dormant land pass by the windows of the car. There was an endless feeling of loss that panged me then, but it came not just from the loved one dying, but more than that, it was from knowing that I had spent a childhood amongst this. Part of me had known death before it was ever realized. A vast somber landscape that forces one to search for hope, and escape, any way you can to be saved from something so overpoweringly sad that it makes you wonder how you ever survived to this day. In that place, the most insignificant speck of color became the focus; your pleasure was measured by simple things. To that extent, you are made aware of beauty when it is placed before you, and you soaked it in like one drinking from the well for the first time.

From the somber landscape of Indiana to the mountains here in North Carolina, my life has been a journey I could have never imagined. This is my world now; beauty like Eden, so precious and stirring you cannot help to be moved. Yet, like the bends in the river, my life has taken a turn that we never expected once again.

We could dwell on the why, the how, or the what of it all. But like Lott and his family, the angels told them not to look back lest they become pillars of salt. So we force ourselves to go onward, measuring our steps ever so painfully. Again, reaching for the Word can provide comfort when there is none, allowing for the eyes to look up and see the world around instead of looking down and pondering our fate.

Making scripture come alive was something I had found so pleasing in this past year. So with that in mind, I sought the tree mentioned in Jeremiah, the one that stands beside the stream. My strength comes from Him, like the living water through which the tree survives even in the hardest times. Back to the forest and trails that have become my comforter, I returned once more.

On the days when nobody at home wants to go with me, I then seek out my friend and hiking buddy next door, Leroy. Like a child again, I wander up to the door of his house seeking out my brother in Christ. I knock and jokingly greet his wife Annette with, “Can Leroy come out to play?”

“Sure, ‘c’mon in and I’ll get them,” she replies with that big wide Texas grin as she swings the door open. “Yes, he can come out to play,” she laughs.

With a sheepish grin, he emerges around the corner grabbing his walking staff and hat, “Where too,” he quips?

“Wherever the good Lord takes us,” I smile in reply. “Today we have to hurry, I want to catch the river before the light is gone,” I say pointing to my sketchbook in hand. “I’ve got a tree in mind that matches scripture that has been on my mind a lot lately.”

“Great, let’s get going then,” he responds, and with that, we were off to the nearest trailhead as we wave goodbye to Annette.

As our feet find the path below, we quickly jump into the day’s events and happenings. Before we know it, we’re standing on the banks as the golden light of the sunset begins to paint the river a copper glow, as Leroy described it. The trees are standing firm overhead as the shadows start to overwhelm the forest beyond. Over and over again, the scripture from Jeremiah had been resurfacing in my mind as my recent job loss has created a turmoil in my life like never before.

As we scanned the scene before us, we both saw it at the same time and realized, there it is; the one that spreads its roots out by the river, the one that will not fear when the heat comes, the one whose leaves will remain green and not be anxious when the dry weather comes.

Two artists standing in admiration of God’s beauty, and knowing His word was with us, makes me even now feel blessed in so many ways. The Lord puts us in places with people for reasons we cannot fathom or understand. We are asked only to do His will and obey. When we do, we will be rewarded with innumerable sanctifications.

In awe and silence, I quickly sketched and captured as much of the image as possible before the light of day was gone. Leroy and I had shared once more the feeling of the Holy Spirit coming alive as the Word became truth before our eyes. We shall not be anxious in times of drought, for we will find sustenance in Him, and we will continue to be fruitful in all that we do.

Another walk, another trail, and the journey continues.

These are the Words of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”-Psalm 121:1-2

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Graveyard Calling…

It seems a lifetime has passed in the past week.IMG_20160322_193649

Only a week ago today, we had the showing for my father’s funeral.

A gray overcast sky remained above us all day; it fit our mood perfectly. I began my morning long before the sunrise. Through the night rain had fallen, so with trepidation, I faced the coming dawn. Dad had passed Friday and we were there in New Harmony preparing to take his body on its final journey.

The day before, Saturday, had been a long one with my drive beginning in darkness as I headed over the Blue Ridge to meet up with my sister and her family in Lenoir City. Driving over the mountains through the pre-dawn mist I reflected on my dad’s life. In many ways, my mind was like a snowstorm of memories and thoughts all flying about overhead. It was as if I was in a giant snow globe and someone had shaken my world, subsequently scattering all ideas into a blizzard of recollections. All I had to do in order to recall one was simply to stick out my tongue and catch the nearest falling snowflake.

Among the myriad of remembrances, I wondered if he was listening. “God would surely give me a sign if he was,” I thought to myself.

Outside my little car’s windows passed ancient mountain tops who had witnessed countless lives. My passing was nothing more than a blink of an eye in their time. The road descended downward toward the bridge ahead that spanned the deep ravine below, connecting the interstate to the other mountainside. Around me the clouds hung like blankets of silence, the glowing dawn just beginning to bring color to the blue-gray landscape. It was then, just past mile marker 445, a magnificent bald eagle soared over the roadway ahead. I had never seen a bald eagle in the mountains before and as the sun rose behind me, a gentle glow was painting the tops of the peaks before me and like a spotlight, the great raptor was illuminated. He flew from my right to left and soon our ways parted but the memory lingered in my mind.

Was that from him,” I hesitated to believe? “Would that be it?’

Trying not to awaken anyone else in the house, I quietly sipped my bitter brew and studied the scriptures in the dimly lit kitchen I couldn’t help think of the scene from the day before, the eagle so close, so beautiful. We had stayed up late visiting the night before but here I sat. The others were still asleep, which allowed my solitary bleakness to compound upon itself. Alone, the darkness was bigger and our losses tend to be magnified; so it was with me. Outside the warm weather, the week before had been replaced by a bitterly cold rain. The bleakness of missing dad overwhelmed my thoughts again and again until I could only do one thing; go for a walk, regardless of the weather.

I slipped on my jean jacket and gloves then headed out. I wondered if they would be enough, but I had no choice; I had to go. Stepping outside, I was thankful the rain had at least paused for the moment. The air was crisp and fresh. The morning light was just beginning to fill the cloud filled skies above. Lights inside warm, cozy houses greeted me along my path, my destination not yet determined. Something called me toward the old homestead, the remains of the farm we once called home on the edge of town. Through the park where we played as children, the dark, ominous trees stood, vestiges of a time when the park was new; now giants towering above. Past the old farm I walked. It was nothing more than a pasture with the images of the home and outbuildings remaining in my mind, forever etched in place.

I kept heading south, the cold wind at my back.

The graveyard called.

Just past the house that was once Ms. Wolf’s, I heard the rooster crow. The sun had not yet found the horizon and already the cock was crowing. “Would this be my sign today,” I thought, ‘Would this be it?” My mind slipped back to the passages of Peter denying Christ. How painful it must have been for him to realize Christ’s own prophecy was fulfilled by the sound of the rooster crowing at the coming dawn. These were still fresh in my head as I made the turn at the gates of Maple Hill Cemetery.

There before me stood the daunting scene of weathered tombstones scattering the tree covered hillside. The sound of water rushing from the recent rains gurgled by the roadside as I began my ascent up the hill to the top, following the crude graveyard road. At the top, I turned left heading toward our family’s grave sites. All around me massive oaks still dark from their winter slumber stood watch. Their barren branches, like bony fingers reaching for my soul, made an eeriness about this place.  It was then I heard the hoot owls ahead of me, beyond the cemetery boundaries in the direction of the Old Dam.

Was this my sign, was this it,” came the thought again?

Continuing on, I eventually reached the end of the cemetery and soon found myself standing looking down at grandpa and grandma Tron’s headstone; Victor and Mildred Tron. Their lives and memories are a part of who I am and will always be. I gently pulled the weeds away from their dates, then gently wiped off the face of the cold granite stone. Around me, the world was alive with birds of all manner singing the praises of the coming dawn. The hoot owls called again and the rooster crowed once more.

Compelled to spend more time here, I sat down on steps nearby where I could overlook Victor and Mildred. Farther down the hill by the old cedar was my cousin Michael; death called him home too soon. Beyond him was Uncle Bill; a saint to our family. I was there, sitting and reflecting while their souls had been gone for some time. In my solitude, I felt a calming peace come over me.

Then the sound of a woodpecker rang from behind me, over my left shoulder. The rooster and hoot owls called again as if to respond.

Serenity can come in the oddest of places and at the most unexpected times.

As I sat reflecting on the well-being of the rest of the family, my thoughts were interrupted by yet one more woodpecker tapping on a distant tree but in a different pitch than the first. Then oddly enough, the first woodpecker responded. The hoot owls called and the rooster crowed. All around the plethora of birds tweeted and sang. A smile began to creep across my countenance.

As I sat in the lonely graveyard, I listened as woodpecker after woodpecker joined the chorus, each adding their tap at alternating pitches, each as if playing their own notes. It was as if I sat in the middle of a flock of woodpeckers. The tapping began to ring true in my mind as another ringing of a similar sound returned from my childhood.

When I was a young lad, my dad worked in the main telephone office in Booneville, also known as the Central Office (CO). In that day, there was no digital switching equipment; everything was analog. When the phone lines would ring, the relays would chatter, making the sound that would be unique to that line. The chattering of those ancient relays sounded just like the woodpeckers that surrounded me. Phone line after phone line around me began to ring that morning.

It was at that moment I realized, dad was ringing the phones.

A smile came across my face as a tear ran down my cheek while I listened to the miracle taking place.

Yes, there was a calming like I had never known at that moment as the peace of knowing he was still with me. The thought overshadowed even the bitter cold that numbed by fingers.

Walking back to town, into the freezing north wind, I was never farther from being cold while my hands lost their feeling. Deep inside, my heart was overflowing with the warmth and the joy of the life eternal.

In my heart and in my mind, there was finally the answer, “That was it.”

Thanks be to God.

In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God.” -Psalm 62:7

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