Tag Archives: Jesus

More Than a Feeling

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

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

Hump Back Mountain, Appalachian Trail, North Carolina.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how do we know we are walking in the spirit? Can we feel it? Does it make us feel a certain way? C.S. Lewis put it like this, “The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.”[6]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV

[2] Matthew 26:41 KJV

[3] 1 Peter 5:8 KJV

[4] 1 Corinthians 3:16  KJV

[5] Galatians 5:16,25 KJV

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

[7] John 20:29 KJV

[8] 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 KJV

[9] John 14:2 KJV

[10] 1 Corinthians 3:16 KJV

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Only Not to be Lonely

by Timothy W. Tron, May, 2022

A petite young boy, barely four years old, stood just within the entrance to the pasture. His tiny frame had easily crawled between the bars of the tube gate that was shut to keep the herd of cattle confined within. The firmament overhead was an azure blue, clear as far as the eye could see. Before him stood stalks of green, as tall as trees. The sun felt warm on his demure frame. He was smaller than most children his age. To know him, one would understand why. He was lucky to be alive.

For two years, at the tender age of one and then again, at two, he had contracted double pneumonia. Each time, he barely survived extended stays in the hospital, camping beneath a clear plastic tent as oxygen was pumped into its confines. Many prayed for and over the child. Most feared that he would succumb to the illness, but God had other plans. Like the countless stalks before him, a multitude of prayers had been lifted up in his name, supporting, strengthening, abiding in one another until they found their mark. He eventually healed, but his body suffered the ravages, growing more slowly than other children his age. So, as the sap began to flow in the trees, he felt a renewed strength start to flow through his veins. There seemed to be something that beckoned him to leave the old farmhouse and to wander out behind the tractor shed. Something beyond those palisades of fencing and outbuildings – an openness that smelled of freedom from the bondage of death.

 The white cotton shirt beneath the little overalls wasn’t enough to remove the chill of the breeze that wafted the tops of the grasses that swayed before him. A deep, rich aroma permeated the air – it spoke of earth and nature. Earlier that morning, he heard his grandmother speak of prayers being answered for him and how God was great. She went on to share how millions of prayers were being lifted up for their country, seeing as something called the Vietnam conflict was being fought. He didn’t understand the words “prayer” or “war” or what a “world away” meant. It sounded scary. She saw his countenance drop and quickly comforting saying, “nothing to be bothered with, my son. It’s far, far away.” She explained that prayers were people’s way of speaking to God, “like you and I talking now.” But the word “million” made no sense at all. Like the blades of grass before him, too numerous to count, a million was a number that was beyond his comprehension. It was only an entity unto itself, like a living organism, something through which he could only understand if it was tactile. The boy wandered deeper into the tall grass.

A childlike faith, dread of nothing, guided his path as he made his way through the forest of green. Cows making their way had unknowingly prepared his path. A baby cannot know sin, just as there is no reason to Baptize such. So, it is with fear. The child only felt the hand of the comforter. It wasn’t a stranger to him. He had been with him before – like the long empty days when he was held captive in the hospital bed. There were times when he would look to the foot of his bed and see the shadow of one that watched over him, and those suffocating feelings of abandonment would drift away – a love unseen would flood his soul, and sleep would come once more. He was there now, the comforter, walking, holding his hand, watching over him once more. They continued on. The boy followed wherever the trail of grasses led. Surviving the illness had instilled in him a sense of hope, knowing that with each new day, each fresh breath of life, there was always something to look forward to. The Apostle Paul put it like this, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”[1]

To understand a faith like this, one must erase all the preconceived notions that cling to us as we traverse through life. It takes an unfettered faith, one that clings to God as a drowning man does to the one trying to save him. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”[2] This faith, the belief in something unknown, but yet, it was known, that guided the little child. For each new turn, every new wrinkle of light gave hope, a tantalizing offer of something else to come. For a child, heaven is as believable as the friend that talks to them when no one is there. Anything is possible when you can dispense with what we come to know as the natural realm of reality. Matthew describes Jesus calling the little children unto him, saying, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[3]  This faith, this pure belief, guided the little farm boy past the herd of gentle Herefords to the small brook that ran past the farm.

The breeze gently blew the leaves overhead as the little one found his way to the gurgling waters. Before him flowed a small tree-lined creek. Large river birches and pin oaks shaded the oasis below. The bank was worn away where the cows had trod to reach the life-giving sustenance. The little boy sat down on a rock, resting as he wondered about the beasts that soon followed him to the watering hole. He was at home with the herd of cattle as he was with being alone. The animals sensed a purity, a being so gentle, they couldn’t help to wonder. They didn’t speak but gathered, at first hesitantly, realizing the child wasn’t a threat. Then, one by one, they meandered on down to the water and began to drink. Calves followed their mothers, some sniffing at the little boy, their muzzles tickling his neck, causing him to laugh aloud with a cherub-like voice. The sound would cause them to jump, skittering a step away, but continuing on as accepting the tiny human’s presence. He did not know how long they gathered, only that as they departed, he followed like one of the herd. A rumble within his tummy soon reminded him that the grass that the cows were eating wouldn’t suffice, that he needed to return to grandma’s kitchen where the pleasant aroma of something good cooking surely awaited.

Like an old friend, he motioned goodbye to his newfound friends, the cows, and climbed back through the gate’s bars. Somewhere off in the distance, a Redwing chirped as it headed to the pond nearby. A tiny puff of a cloud whisked past as the little boy kicked at a dirt clod in the trail leading back to the house. The dust drifted onward, like his feelings, from one happy sugar cube of thought to the next. His days were filled with what some might call loneliness, but to him, it was just another day in the life he had been given. It was there, alone in those oceans of grass that loneliness and isolation were supplanted by imagination. It would become a voice within that would carry him through all the days of his life. There was nothing for which to compare, and as it was, he was glad to be alive.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Romans 5:5 KJV

[2] Matthew 19:14 NIV

[3] Matthew 18:2-3 NIV

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Rapping At My Chamber Door

by Timothy W. Tron – April, 2022

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. To those who knock, it is opened.”[1]

A long time ago, in what now seems like another life, I spent the summer of 1976 working in a trim shop in Evansville, Indiana, called Vessels. It was the kind of place where people would bring their cars to get their seat covers repaired or replaced with new ones. They also specialized in vinyl roofs and boat covers. It was my first job off the farm, where I had worked most of my teens. This would be the first job where I didn’t receive payment in cash but instead received a real paycheck. My stepdad was the foreman, which was more than comforting because I always had the feeling that someone was looking out for me. That was important because Vessels employed a pretty rough crowd – from Vietnam vets with PTSD to recovering drug addicts and everything in between.

New hires were paired with more experienced employees, so when they put me with Raphael, I didn’t know what to expect. He was a young black man, probably in his late twenties, shorter than me, but had massive biceps and forearms. Rafael kept his hair cut short, and he had a long scar on the side of his face that ran from his cheek to his jaw bone – its existence of which was never mentioned. Rumor was that he boxed on the side, mostly street, bare-knuckle events, and from the looks of it, could handle himself pretty well. Being just a new kid off the farm, it was a very daunting atmosphere. However, it was there that I learned to listen, imitate, and adapt, a trait that would serve me well for the rest of my life.

Raphael and I worked at a large, very worn table grounded to the concrete floor; he on one side, me on the other. There was no air conditioning, only fans that blew the hot summer air around, making for a sultry, fluorescent, dimly lit ambiance. The atmosphere was intoxicating, with odors of fresh vinyl and glue, both ingredients necessary for the work. Raphael and I used hog ring pliers to staple the new seat covers on the frames of the seats after we had removed the old, nasty, torn covers. It was a tedious job, but we were both thankful to have one for our own reasons, so we kept to ourselves mostly. Yet, as one does with anything that challenges your paradigm of life, you slowly learn about the person in the trench next to you, whether you want to or not.

Off and on, Raphael would slowly share glimpses of himself with me in odd ways. We didn’t speak much at first, mostly because he was always whistling. Those melodies he chose were something to which I could relate; old church hymns, songs that I had known all my young life. Yet, instead of my grandma Tron singing God’s praise through pursed lips, it was a young black man. Looking back, he probably knew those were something I could relate to – an unspoken welcome if you will. But my introduction to the world through Raphael didn’t stop there. He would often go into long recantations of literature. At first, they seemed to be mere ramblings of thought, but the more I listened, the more I realized that they were quotes from works of poetry. It wasn’t simply the words he spoke, but more than that, it amazed me at how much he had seemingly memorized. One day, after reciting another lengthy prose, I finally inquired about the piece he had just mentioned. Something about rapping at a door caught my ear.

“The Raven,” he replied, smiling through his thick shadowed mustache. A single gold tooth gleamed from the broad smile. The sweat glistened off of his dark, chiseled forearms.

“Can you teach it to me?”

“Sure, I guess we got plenty of time.” He finished the seat he had just tightened, sitting it up on the table across from me with a loud thump. “Let me get this in that Chevy out there, and we’ll get started.” He dashed off to the parking lot, returning shortly afterward, smiling more than ever. “Now, where do we begin?”

Raphael spent the remainder of the summer sharing various works of poets he liked to memorize with me, but Edgar Allan Poe was by far his favorite. Over and over again, he would work with me learning, line after line, until we could finally repeat them together. “The Raven” seemed to always be our “go-to” piece.

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“ ’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door —

Only this and nothing more.”

To each of us, there was something special about the words we shared. To Raphael, it was the heartache of the man in the tale. The most poignant section of the verse that always stuck with me was the rapping at the door on that bleak, dark night by the raven. In many ways, a broadsword and a door are the same, each having two sides. The blade’s two meanings are as opposing as night and day – one to save lives, the other to take lives.

Similarly, the door has a dual purpose, the inner and the outer. From each side, one can have a different perspective from the one standing on the other side. From whence you stand makes all the difference in the world. Alone, the man in the poem is distraught over his love, and one can surmise that he is slowly drifting into insanity. But who wouldn’t find a knock on the door of one’s house in the middle of the night a bit more compelling than just a curious tap? The same rapping upon the chamber door in the middle of the day is far easier to accept; the other is a sense of impending doom.

Yet, are we not to be prepared for the Lord’s return at any time? As Jesus told his disciples, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”[2] It is this proverbial rapping at our chamber door, deep into the night, which we most dread. For, it is not the known that beckons our fears, but the unknown. Likewise, unless we have the foresight to know who is on the opposite side of that last bastion of barrier between us and the world beyond, we cannot know to whom calls upon us.

Trepidation awaits if we allow it. Yet, when we truly know in our hearts that we can be called upon at any time, therein itself lies a comfort, erasing the mysticism of the unknown. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”[3]

But there is the other side, the portion from which we are the ones to be the caller. It is when we seek God that we are requesting permission to enter into his presence. Before Jesus, only certain priests were allowed to enter into the holiest of holies, and then only at specific times of the year. When Christ shed his blood on the cross, the veil that separated the holiest of holies from the world was torn from top to bottom. It was then, if we have requested permission that we were finally allowed to enter into God’s presence; a gift from God to those whom he loved enough to give the life of his only Son. “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”[4]

But as clear as the Bible is on seeking Him. But sadly, many will never listen. Their own will, earthly desires, and self-purpose will prove stronger than their desire to know God. Jesus made it perfectly clear when asked about how many will be saved, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.[5]

The summer of 76 eventually ended, and with it, my time at the trim shop. School was about to start up my full-time summer job had concluded. I never saw Raphael again. It is sometimes odd to think of God working in us, even when we knew him the least. So often, in times of torment and persecution, when we go to God in prayer, we feel him with us, but oddly enough, it is the times we least expect him that he is with us the most. So, it was in my youth.

Time has passed, and like all memories, one wonders how the other acquaintances in their lives faired. God’s path for us is never expected, and through it, when we look back, was there for a purpose. Such is the case for me. For in the shade of the shop lights, in a hot July summer, a young white kid just off the farm and a street-savvy young black man formed a bond over the most unlikely of poets, sharing the words penned some 100 years before them both. Through it, I learned how others, unlike me in so many ways, had riches to share with me that would enhance my journey through life.

Even a secular poem can remind us to seek God, to knock upon his door. When we enter into His presence, we are then within him and He within us – inside God’s dwelling place. From there, we can then perceive the knock from within – the call to serve. So, when that gentle rapping comes at your door, don’t hesitate to open it. “Many are the called, but few are chosen.” So, when your time comes, be prepared to answer, “Yes, Lord, it is I, take me.”

Live your life so that when your judgment day comes, it won’t be your will that had been done, but rather His.

Yes, then you will know you are finally home.

Thanks be to God.


[1] The Great Divorce. Copyright © 1946, C. S Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed 1973 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:2 KJV

[3] Revelation 3:30 KJV

[4] Jeremiah 29:12-13 KJV

[5] Luke 13:23-30 KJV

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We Do Nothing of Ourselves

I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. He that sent me is with me. The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” – Jn. 8:26-29

As I write these words, again trying to put them to memory, the thought of the past week haunts me -sickness. Lying upon one’s bed for agonizing hours gives one too much time for reflection and agitation of not being capable of doing what is needed. Yet, it is in these suffering minutes of eternity that life’s focus once again becomes clearer.

What we do in this life, how we stand before those doing the same thing, making it through each day the best they can, makes all the difference. We can go about moaning and complaining, or we can go about letting the radiance of what gives us hope to shine through our aged, withered skin. Though our façade may be falling away, that twinkle in the eye, that gleam of spirit within, can give someone else a shimmer of hope in a world that might otherwise seem lost. But alone, we cannot make that happen. It is because, as Jesus said, “I do nothing of myself.”

Dr. Richard Hines Jr. walking with Aaron Israel, sharing the word of God.

How much more we all could take away from those few letters that formed his response? “I,” the Christ saying of himself, “do nothing of myself.” To hear the Son of God expel this sort of mindset, to hear he, who is God in the flesh, admit that alone, he is nothing, should give us all a shaking to our very marrow. The humility, to put one below his station, and to praise his heavenly Father in such a manner is to admittedly pronounce an even greater appreciation for who Jesus was and for his ministry here on earth.

To know that in his short three years of evangelism, those twelve men to whom most of his focus was upon left an indelible mark upon humanity. The story of Jesus alone was of an earth-shattering revelation, but alone, had the enemy had their way, it would have slowly died off like those Apostles. But because of their steadfast faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit, they were able to achieve far beyond what was humanly possible. This alone, to understand the early church’s fragility and the great danger it faced, is to understand the miraculous growth and creation of the faith we call today Christianity.

In today’s world, the thoughts of last week seem ages ago. Take into consideration what you were doing at this time three years ago if you can. Then, as you stretch your mind to recover those frames of time, imagine what it might have been like to have been walking along with Christ, to have seen all that would have transpired during his earthly ministry, and see if you could begin to recall each day, let alone just a week living in that moment. It must have been nearly mind-altering for those disciples to keep up, let alone retain just portions of what Jesus was trying to tell them. We see in scripture, again and again, as if Christ is repeating himself but using different metaphors or parables to enlighten them as to what is coming. Yet, although it’s easy for us to see, they never seem to grasp what Jesus is trying to convey to them. It isn’t until the cold, steel door of death slams shut do they finally realize the grim mortality of what it was Christ tried to say. It was in the silence of those three long days that their minds must have retraced every step of every dusty road they had traveled, trying to understand what had happened and if it was all for naught? How so like those three days are those when we are forced by illness or injury to lie in repose, held captive by our recovery as our mind is free to roam.

Do we ever consider what our past lives have been for and if we too had lived all for naught, but in a very different manner than those early disciples? Or maybe, you’re one of the few that have lived your life already living for God. What would you give to relive an hour in your memory’s history, to be with that dearest grandparent one more time, to hold that child that left this world too soon, or perhaps to hold the hand of that loved one that slipped away in a tragic accident? These are all the things we can understand, but to know what it was to walk with God, there were only twelve that knew that feeling. Imagine what they would have given to go back one more time? What would you give to spend a minute in the presence of Christ himself while he was fully human and fully God?

But they were blessed to have a second chance.

The grave could not hold the Son of God, and from the day of his resurrection to the day of his ascension, you can bet there wasn’t a moment with him that wasn’t cherished beyond measure by each of the surviving disciples. Yet, it couldn’t last forever.

There in that upper room, when the last of the forty days of His resurrection had come to an end, when they all waited for something Jesus had said would come, but again, they could not understand still. It was when the day of Pentecost came, and the tongues of fire came down from Heaven, landing upon each of them, empowering them beyond what was mortally possible. They left that chamber changed men, never to fear the world around them again. It was from this revelation that understanding that they could never go back, nor should they, for their future was preaching the story of Jesus Christ. It was from that blast of the Holy Spirit, a whirlwind of a revival, that the news, story, and faith of Christianity burst forth, spreading across continents, to finally circle the globe.

As we face a world that seems to spin a little more out of control every day, know that we needn’t look back for comfort anymore. We have also, like those Apostles, been given a second chance. Our hope is in the future. So, if you don’t know Jesus Christ, find someone that does and ask them to show you the way, the truth, and the light, and watch what happens to your world.

If nothing else, open the Bible to the book of Romans and read chapter 10, preferably starting at verse nine. Maybe then, you will finally read why Christ died for us, and perhaps then you will see why true believers do nothing of themselves.

Thanks be to God.

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The Silver Bridge in My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a glorious day it will be!

Thanks be to God.


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

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

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Lean On Me

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

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

Fencerow on the Blueridge Parkway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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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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An Unexpected Friend

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

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

Belk Library – Appalachian State University

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s that,” he asked?

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

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

No matter where we go, no matter what our course of trajectory the day’s plans take us, we should always be ready to give an account of the Gospel. 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Earlier in the week, it became apparent that I was going through one of those despondent episodes of sanctification; whereby, you find it challenging to remain in the spirit, and God seems to be ignoring you. This sense of being alone seemed to convey something I recently read about what C.S. Lewis wrote, “The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise, when they go, and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.”[3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


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

[2] John 2:20-21 KJV

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

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Little is Much

Standing in line this morning waiting to prepay for the limited gas at the pump, I listened to those around me talk or shuffled their feet in silence. The sign on the gas pump read, “$20 limit Pre Pay Inside.” Quietly listening to those voices around me, my thoughts turned to how this moment may have been prepared in advance – the unlikeliness of being in the presence of others that normally would not be possible yielding the opportunity to witness. Yet, still finding myself waking up, there I stood in calm repose, not saying a word. It was enough just to watch the lone cashier hurriedly ringing up each person, as most had come in for the same reason. It would have been easy to have been upset that we had been required to come inside to pay before pumping. In fact, the whole issue of why this had happened could lead to a myriad of political to social topics that would only inflame and agitate the parties in close proximity to the discussion. As human nature had advanced itself to the degree of manifestation of greed upon self-preservation, many had begun hoarding gas. The viral videos of people pumping gas into Walmart and trash bags were nearly incredulous. Had people lost their minds? Instead of focusing on the disparaging images of a society gone mad, my thoughts purposed toward how this moment could be used to share God’s love in a world that seems to spin out of control more each day.

When it was my time to pay, I told the attendant which pump, and then she said only, “Okay, now it’s ready,” meaning the card reader had been ready to receive my $20. “Have a blessed day,” I said after the transaction was complete. She quickly replied, “Thank you.” And that was all…

Was the opportunity to witness to others verbally wasted?

Did my sparse, if nonexistent words make a difference in anyone’s day?

Scripture tells us in James, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” It is not always necessary to speak a volume of words to reach those around you. Sometimes, as the saying goes, “simplicity is elegance.” Likewise, as Paul wrote in his letter to Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without.”

Sometime later, as my car rounded the bend on 321 heading into Blowing Rock, the sky was ablaze with a brilliant red-orange sunrise. The light from the weekend campfire at the Denton Bluegrass festival splayed into my thoughts. There, the scripture from Colossians had first hit me. Although my brothers and I were there to enjoy the music, there was another purpose we served as we walked among so many that were lost. As the same sun hit the horizon, the view from the campsite was no less breathtaking. The morning rays poured over the Word of God that lay before me, and it was as if the voice of God spoke. From the chill of the air, the warmth of the words poured over my heart and warmed me within.

Morning Sunrise on the Word of God

Too often, we feel that the mission field is in some far-off land, not there is anything wrong with missions or those who serve in them abroad. We overlook that very thing before us – that need of our family, neighbors, and friends. While enjoying the music and fun of this past week’s festival, it quickly became apparent that there were many, even friends of mine, that were not fully vested. One must promptly remind those reading this, that I do not put myself above others, nor do I consider myself more righteous than any, for there is no not one righteous, no not one. Yet, as we desire to become more Christ-like in our daily walk, it quickly becomes apparent the differences in who we have become versus those around us.

We need not be great orators to reach those with whom we seek to help. Our actions often speak louder than words. From the choice of our attire to the music we listen to or play on, our instruments represent the walk we profess to tread.

As we return to our daily lives, let us be mindful that there are many, too many, who are lost and need a beacon of hope and light. A simple kind word summonsed from a pure heart is far greater than an enlightened speech from the loftiest podium. Let us then share God’s love in all that we do and be ever grateful when we say, “Thanks be to God.”

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” – Col. 4:5-6

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”    – 1 Peter 3:15

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Sometimes You Gotta Stir Up the Water

My journey to church this morning revealed the beauty of God’s creation in the flowers of spring. There is the reminder even in the third week of May that winter’s grasp is not gone. It is Blackberry Winter now in the mountains of North Carolina. Here and there, depending on your elevation, you can find pockets of white blanketing the landscape. Unlike the frozen precipitation, these are the tiny white flowers of the indigenous wild blackberries. They not only symbolize that in roughly two months, there will be the ripe, delectable berries for which they are named, but it also symbolizes that the last cold spell is upon us. To many folks, the temperatures drop far below what is considered normal during this time of year. While there have been many summer-like days with temperatures nearing the 80’s, during Blackberry Winter, there can even be a late frost with nighttime temperatures dropping near freezing or below.

Blackberries in Bloom, Collettsville, NC.

While this seemingly unseasonable weather is not uncommon, it is still a shock to our senses. We quickly grow accustomed to the more leisurely days of warmth and look forward to the summertime, where living out-of-doors is more pleasant.

Why is it we so promptly become complacent in our lives and take the path of least resistance?

One could surmise that is simply our nature. We perceive the world around us through our senses, our natural instincts. When we rely on these alone, we are nothing more than the beasts of the field. Yet, God made us distinctly different from the wild animals of the forests and the beasts of the field. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”[1] Although we are of the earth, we have been given the ability to choose to serve a higher power – Yahweh. But too often, we get caught up in the worries and struggles of living from day to day and forget, if we knew at all, what our purpose is in life. Some never realize this or awaken to know God but live from birth to death in a valley of life where a shadow of death overshadows all that they do. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”[2]

It was in this vein of thought this past week that the scene of Jesus walking on the sea stood out.

First, in the Gospel of John, “And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.”[3]

From the Gospel of Matthew, “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”[4]

Now, there is much to unwrap in these few lines of scripture. But if we focus on the idea of how the natural man perceives the world around him, and from this, either believes or rejects the supernatural, then we can find a greater meaning in this miracle. We see not only that Jesus walked on water, but that he called one out of the boat to do likewise. Yet, immersed in the surrounding passages are concepts that apply to us today.

 “The disciples went down to the sea and entered into the ship. It was dark and Jesus had not come with them.” The ship was their comfort zone. Several of his disciples had been fishermen. Their familiarity with the Sea of Galilee would have made this travel almost routine. Like so many things in our lives, we stick with what is familiar. Going outside of our box is uncomfortable, yet Jesus told his disciples at the end of the gospel of Matthew to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..”[5] He wanted them to leave everything behind, going to the ends of the earth if necessary. But before they were prepared to embark on such a journey, they had to be shown that they were capable. When we sit in our institutional churches and hear the weekly sermon, too often when we walk out the doors to go to lunch, we leave it behind. We put our faith right next to the Bible on the shelf, where it waits until the following Sunday – if at all.

Then there is the point that Jesus did not go with them, “It was dark, and Jesus had not come with them.” As with Philip, when he said that “This he said to prove him knowing himself what he would do,” it is probably safe to say that Jesus knew in advance that he would purposely surprise his disciples. Yet, he didn’t just show up walking on the sea in the dark. It was far worse than that, for, “The sea arose by reason of a great wind which blew.” In the last scene of episode 4 of Season 2 of the series The Chosen,”[6] Peter makes a comment regarding the healing of the man by the pool on the Sabbath when Jesus could have easily waited, and Jesus replies, “Sometimes you gotta stir up the water.”

The disciples knowingly went out on the Sea of Galilee at night. Was this by choice, or was this planned? The winds often pick up on large bodies of water during the day, so the night crossing would have been safer and easier under normal circumstances. But these were anything but normal circumstances. Remember their comfort zone – the boat? Knowing that these seasoned sailors would haven’t been bothered by the night crossing, I like to think that Jesus did a little stirring up of the water that night. When we are shoved out of our comfort zone, it is then we realize we need Him most. So it was, that dark stormy night, after they had rowed 25 or 30 furlongs, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing nigh unto their boat, and they were afraid. Yes, grown men, hardened sailors were now scared, so much so that Christ had to call to them, “It is I, be not afraid.

Now, the Gospel of Matthew next tells of how Peter, possibly not believing that it was really Jesus, calls out to the Spirit, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” We must wonder if it was Peter’s disbelief or was it the fact that he was emboldened by the miracle that he called out to Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus answers and simply says, “Come.” Peter then, fully vested in his belief, gets out of the boat.

Friends, this is the moment that we should all gasp!

For this is the exact parallel to our lives today. We have been asked to go to all nations, making disciples for Christ, yet, we cannot leave the church walls before we are swept back into the boat. We fail to even dare step out of our comfort zone for fear of drowning. Yes, it is a leap of faith. Yes, it is daring and will require more of your dedication and commitment than ever before, but think for a moment of those first few steps that Peter took.

For a few brief seconds, a man was walking on the substance that sustains life. It was not frozen; it was swashing all around; the sea was boisterous, scary, and dark. Yet, Peter stood on the water as if it were solid ground, as did the Son of God! For those brief seconds, Peter was able to walk again where Yahweh stood. When we step out in faith, the impossible becomes possible. When we put God at the center of our lives, we are no longer a slave to the sins of this world. We are set free.

Leaving the confines of our comfort level will never be easy. We cannot expect to succeed at every step. In fact, we will be forced to rely on Yahweh all the more. The next few steps that Peter took revealed how quickly we lose focus. For in that brief instance of time, as he stood on water, Peter quickly realized the tumultuous seas around him and began to sink. As John the Baptist told his disciples, “He must increase that I may decrease.” And so it is with us. The more we give up, the more we rely on Him to provide for us.

Lastly, we see Peter returning to the ship with Jesus. As the Gospel of John tells it, “They willingly received him into the ship.” Soaking wet, having nearly drowned, Peter is now humiliated but relieved to be back into the confines of the vessel. However, he is not alone, for Jesus is with them all. As we picture that dark night on the sea of Galilee, those men once more were shown how the impossible becomes possible when we give it all to God.

But there is one last thought to this story, one final twist – Christ got into the boat.

“So, what is your point,” you ask?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”[7]

Getting into the boat, Jesus entered into their world. He didn’t have to ride in a boat, yet, as God coming to earth in the form of a man, Christ got into the boat so that he could prove he too was the Son of Man.

When the weather turns cold after we’ve become accustomed to the warm, beautiful cloudless days of sunshine, let us not grow bitter, for the landscape becomes white of blooms of the Blackberry Winter. Let not your world be troubled by the change, but embrace it and seek to go beyond what is comfortable.

Take that step out in faith and watch what impossible becomes possible.

And remember, the first step might be the scariest, but it will always be remembered as the best.

Thanks be to God.


[1] John 3:6 KJV

[2] 1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV

[3] John 6:16-21 KJV

[4] Matthew 14:22-29 KJV

[5] Matthew 28:19 KJV

[6] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBXOFnNTULFaAnj24PAeblg

[7] John 3:16-17 KJV

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