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Don’t Live to Regret It

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I say this? Allow me to explain.

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

Moses Cone Manor Trail, Dec. 2020

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

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

There would be no usual drive home that night.

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

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

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

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

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

There is no going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


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

[2] Psalm 139:7-10 KJV

[3] Psalm 37:5 KJV

[4] Psalm 37:6-7 KJV

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

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The Doldrums of COVID

By Timothy W. Tron July, 2020

The feeling of being stuck in the doldrums has slowly washed over me lately. 

My body floated in the water effortlessly. Like a being upon the sea, only the clear blue morning skies above. Here and there were wisps of clouds barely enough moisture to collect to form a whiteness, yet they were there. It was as if time had stopped. My mind drifted to those ancient mariners who relied on the ocean winds to propel their sailing ships. A calm day was not a blessing. A robust sea with gathering storm clouds and gusts of ocean spray were signs of life. 

Likewise, our walk-in faith is like those ancient sailing vessels. When we are facing a headwind, we know we are going in the right direction. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.[1] As the Apostle Paul would remind us, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”[2] It is when the winds cease, those opposing forces suddenly stop, that we should be concerned. For it is then, when you are no longer finding the world against you, that you should take stock and see if you are not going along with the whims and will of the evils that surround you. “And be not conformed to this world:..”[3] “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”[4]

Floating there in the pool, my mind’s eye could see the glistening mirrors of glass surrounding their vessel as the sun beat down on them like a mighty drum. This absolute stillness was their valley of death. The very breath of life hung in the balance. The maritime sailors of old, even in their mighty sailing ships, were at the mercy of the prevailing winds. It was as if without the hand of God pushing them, they were helpless. Their vessels might sit for days or even weeks in the area known today as the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). It stretches from 5 degrees above to 5 degrees below the equator. As the broiling heat beat down upon them, their sails hung limp, lifeless – mirroring the direction their lives seemed to be heading. 

When there is nothing to occupy the mind, it becomes like a fertile field where our sinful fleshly desires and thoughts begin to take root. We’ve all heard the phrase, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” It is here, in the empty void of life that our wanton, wayward thoughts begin to fill the space where once an occupation, a job, or a study once filled. The news media, if we allow it, is happy to provide us more than enough constant chatter to overwhelm even the most ardent theologian. Then there is the social media, where a thread of distrust can become the next great conspiracy to add to the overflowing closet of skeletons in our mind. Those empty, lifeless ocean experiences were not only deadly because of the physical limitations. Here where the mind became one’s worst enemy, the mutinies were formed and men began to doubt not only themselves but their creator as well.

One description held by nautical experts is as follows, “Doldrums holds a distinct place in maritime history, having developed a reputation as a potentially deadly zone which could strand ships for weeks on end, causing them to run out of food and drinking water. In those days, with supplies running low, and scurvy setting in, delirium, starvation, and cabin fever could all set in – and getting through this mysterious patch of Atlantic Ocean quickly wasn’t just a matter of first or last place, but life and death.[5]

Today, we seem to be in a similar predicament. Many of your friends, neighbors, and even family are facing perils that remain hidden until it’s too late. The isolation created by this perceived pandemic has in a sense, made us all drift into the doldrums – some say, the effect being more deadly than the cause. The ship in our world can take on various forms: our country, our daily lives, and even our soul. 

Our nation has become mired in turmoil and panic, held captive by those that want to seemingly halt our way of life using the foil of a pandemic with which to incite fear – cause it to stall until the point it falters, and some might even say, fail. In this epic of ever-growing restrictions and confinements, the feeling of being held captive in our own society begins to seep into our psyche. With each growing day, we find a new restriction dictated by “science” forcing us to obey or else. We find fear beginning to seep into the most educated minds to the point they seem consumed to follow the rules, whereas; heretofore, they were some of the most liberal types seeking rebellion of societal norms at every turn. Those that are held in esteemed positions begin to spread the fear in their implication of pursuing the “science” while disregarding those who might find a different mindset all together; one of fearing not. For many, they do not know what it is to find comfort in the arms of a Savior. Their lives, like so many who remain lost until the day of judgment, find themselves glued to the media, like a junkie waiting for the next hit, looking for the next “aha sound bite” that will send shockwaves through our culture, sending yet another wave of fear over our nation.

It is in these moments of doom and gloom we should seek the calm and peacefulness of the Comforter, the Word of God. Sadly, many find the darkness growing stronger rather than the day of jubilation when Christ’s return sounds the final trumpet. The torment permeates their being until it becomes real. 

The dread doesn’t stop there, at the curb of society, rather it penetrates our very nature. 

The imposed isolation has revealed cracks in even the most perceived solid of relationships. Some may feel that they are trapped in marriages whereby they have no recourse. For whatever reason, the days of intimacy have evaporated like those prevailing winds on the ocean. They quit counting the days of quarantine – the novelty lost at sea. Now, their relationship is distant, cold, and anything but bliss. For some, these are the “worse” parts of the vow. Unrelenting to yield to divorce, praying that God will find a way to replace their spouse’s heart of stone, they remain – trapped and disheartened – their life has become nothing more than a dead sea, upon which no breath of wind dare cast a ripple of hope.

Afflictions of the flesh can come in all shapes and sizes – drugs, alcohol, or sex. Each person has their own inner struggles. Once, when there was a society of normalcy, one might compare their daily grind to others. Yet, now, kept to themselves, the questions begin to creep inside the dark confines of the heart. The darkness feeds upon these. Allowed to grow, they become more than thoughts. They begin to manifest themselves into actions that might otherwise have abated had the flow of life been allow to continue. It is in the trials that we discover who we really are. For those without faith, it is as if all hope is lost. If we allow Satan to enter in, giving in to temptations, we deepen the despair by which those afflictions feed – like sharks circling our languishing ship, watching, waiting to whom they may devour, so is the devil. 

Others find that their spiritual lives have become stagnate as if God is not listening. They pray and seek Him day after day, but it’s as if they’ve been abandoned. What they miss is from where they are praying. Rather than fully relying on God, they are seeking help from the very thing that they have given into, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.[6]

When there is no answer we must wait. Yet, there is learning in the waiting. While we seek immediate answers, God’s timing is not our own. In the trials and tribulations, we are made stronger in our faith, whether we like it or not. It is much like when a baby chick is born. When it first begins to pip out of the shell, it is difficult to sit and watch. When you can’t take it any longer and begin to help the newborn by pulling the shell away. You suddenly find a wet, damp miserable little creature. Although your instinct was to simply help, part of the birthing process is to make it struggle through the shell which creates the muscles that it will need later to survive. Meanwhile, the chick you just “saved” begins to weaken, and in most cases, will die from fatigue for lack of muscle tissue. If we are left to never struggle in life, our spiritual muscle will become atrophied to the point, it is unable to support our being – it is then we too find a spiritual weakening unto the point of death.

When mankind faces the end, as in being distraught within the doldrums, it is then most often they finally seek God – when it is too late. Life passes before one’s eye in the blink of an eye. While an eternity may seem to pass when the flesh is suffering, it is a mere momentary heartbeat when the end arrives. The once seemingly immortality of youth gives way to the reality of age, and with it, time begins to race. As the heart yearns for those days of youth, that are gone forever, it is then too late many realize their choices were in vain. The rust and tarnished life has led them only to a bitter end to where they cannot escape. It is then they realize, their doldrums began long before any pandemic started.

Yet, we can find hope beyond the ITCZ, and this time of COVID.

Our hope is in the one that gives us spiritual strength. Our hope is in the one that gives light to the darkness. Our hope is in the one that can free us from all earthly desires and shackles of the flesh. Yes, our hope is in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior.

Where once there was delirium and despair, there can be life once more. The breath of life, the winds of change are coming and soon, the trumpet will sound. Soon the creaking of the ancient ship’s masts will begin to bend under the gales that will take us to that far distant shore.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you…”[7]

Thanks be to God.


[1] Psalms 34:19 KJV

[2] 1 Peter 4:12-13 KJV

[3] Romans 12:2 KJV

[4] 1 Peter 5:8 KJV

[5] Internet: https://archive.theoceanrace.com/en/news/10308_Seven-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-Doldrums.html

[6] James 4:3 KJV

[7] Matthew 7:7 KJV

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Changed by the Storms of Life

And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”-2 Cor. 1:6

The morning brought about overcast skies; something that hadn’t been part of yesterday’s plan. Contemplations of getting up and finding new subjects to capture to use for future inspirational messages were quickly shrouded over by the gray skies above. From my vantage point, sitting on the picnic table at the Collettsville General store, I sat in humble submission to all that God was trying to reveal to my simple mind. Even knowing what I know about my walk in the Lord, it was evident, His plans were not my own, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”-Isa. 55:8

Blueridge Mountains, Collettsville, NC.

The clouds loomed so closely that one might have perceived it to be dusk; the birds flitting to and fro cared little. Cars going by, crossing the bridge, had their headlights on. For late June, it was a pleasantly cool morning. The John’s River flowing past echoed a constant gentle whisper. Its voice was the blank canvas for all other voices, bemoaning a solitude to any that might listen; a respite from the worldly nature of mankind. If only one could sit each waking hour by such a place, how much more complete would their earthly life be? If the curse had not been placed upon the world, how much more awe-inspiring would this appear?

While contemplating all that was before me, the thought of how much more this might mean to one that had known struggles, darkness, and sorrow came to mind. Many of my friends, colleagues, and even myself included are facing all manner of persecution and trials. To this end, my thoughts began to reflect upon how much I wish each of them were here with me to see what I can see. But even in our afflictions, we must keep mindful of how our Savior is using this to mold us, make us stronger in our faith. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”

Like a soldier having survived the atrocities of war, perhaps even death by his own hands, to then return into the normal society; he cannot help but be changed, forever altered in his perception of the fine line between civility and cruelty. For a moment he can be in the real world, and a split second later, he’s back in the hell from whence his world was forever altered; blood, gore, and mayhem the likes many of us may never know, nor shall we want too. Likewise, a person can return from the depths of struggle and despair so great, that once they do, they too are forever changed, never to look again upon a normal life without understanding how many divine circumstances have attributed to that fragile thread of what is deemed normalcy. Each one of us is so close to the edge of the abyss of having nothing; ever so close to losing it all, yet we doubtfully are aware. Those who comprehend this perilous precipice have the perception of both edges of the double sword. They are keenly aware and feel the sense of urgency unbeknownst to those around them. This difference makes them often seem either distant – when they choose to remain silent for fear of distancing those with whom they wished to be with – or that they appear overzealous in their beliefs to the point they unintentionally ostracize those they love. In essence, they push away those very people who they seek to reach.

When we accept Christ into our lives, when we turn away from the old ways and take on the new, we are also forever changed. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”-2 Cor. 5:17 All of those things in the past are forgotten; those old ways of sin, those old habits of which kept us in bondage are gone. We are set free. At that moment, in that embrace of total immersion into following Christ, we too can become separated from those around us who either never realized our change, or who have yet to come to know Him as we have come to know Him. Either way, we become a different person, one in which we have died to our former selves, and being such, we no longer rely on the old ways.

In that moment, when we are saved, we become a new being. When we do, we face the same circumstances as those who have either lived through traumatic life events or circumstances. We must be mindful of our presence among those non-believers or even those who think they are Christian but are not.

It is a precarious path we walk when we are changed.

Not only that, but our perception of this fallen world changes as well. The world around us takes on a new light. Things once unseen for the sake of chasing after the natural things of this world are now visible. Our senses are like that of a babe, freshly receiving inputs from old receptors but are now seen through new eyes. Gone are those filters of addiction and worldly influences. We are cleansed by His blood, washed white as snow.

Wherefore, he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”-Eph.5:14 When we awaken from that death, we open the door as if to a freshly fallen snowscape; pristine as it had been from the beginning. In our sin, we were too lost to see what was before us all along.

Lastly, when we become one with our Father, we no longer have to question our ability to speak with Him. We know that he listens to all that we lift up in prayer.  Even in our weakness, God will intercede for us in prayer, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”-Rom.8:26-28

We understand that even on the darkest of days, those in which thunder clouds are looming on the horizon, there is still even reason to rejoice. Even when those countless prayers we have lifted up go unanswered, we still know that He is listening. “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”-Ps. 27:13-14

In the waiting, there is learning…and always hope.

When we feel downtrodden in that waiting, take heed and remember, He sends us his helper, the Comforter, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”-Jn 15:26

Yes, even on those days when you expected sunshine and God sends showers, rejoice in all that is given. We only have one earthly life to live. Let us not waste this time in despair, but rather, share the gift of salvation to all those who will hear. Be mindful of your audience and be not anxious. Some are meant to plant while others will reap; often will we see both. The fields are ripe for harvest. Now is the time.

Let your light shine for all to see.

Thanks be to God.

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In Memory: Mom, RDHW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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The Rivers We Cross…

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,…” – Isaiah 48:1-3

Before me, the mountains lay shrouded in the mist.

Grandfather remains hidden under dark skies. He doesn’t want to be bothered today. The rain had cleared long enough for a short hike, so here I stand watching as clouds like waves on the ocean, crash against the shoreline. In calm, quiet, but formidable stealth, each one smashes against the bulwark of the peaks yet to be engulfed by the coming storms. Somewhere below the mist lay the sleepy little village of Collettsville. Along its main street lined with mill town houses the John’s River flows, clear and cold. Part of my walk had already taken me past its banks confirming that the water was once more, clear of the day’s rains. My mind thought of the recent journeys to church and how for three Sundays in a row I had crossed the river to reach the other side. It became part of my personal challenge. As I explained it to Pastor Joe, it made me appreciate being able to make it to church. In life, we often take for granted the ease with which we worship and all that has made that possible. This summer’s journey had made me more aware of this fact than ever before. So, as part of my weekly walk to Sunday morning preaching, fording the John’s River became my rite of passage, so to speak. Each time I encountered a new twist, a new challenge. Each time, there were the difficulties making it out of the river and up the steep bank on the town side of the water. It made me think of how we often cross our own rivers.

Both my mother and father have gone on. They have both crossed their River of Jordan to reach that far distant shore. Each passed in their own way, but it was my blessing to have had the opportunity to say goodbye to each of them before they stepped into the current and began their journey across; God made that possible. I was not there on the other side to welcome them home, but in some instance, I know they both had steep embankments up which they had to struggle; death did not come easy. So it is for many who have died, and for those times we pray that the Lord give them comfort in their time of crossing. We would want the same. As Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, he too felt the painful anguish of death’s sting, but he was not defeated by it. From life to death we all shall pass, but where we finish is up to us; a choice that must be made here on this side of that beautiful flowing strand.

A decision many fail to make in time,” I thought to myself, standing there admiring God’s beauty even in the midst of an approaching storm.

The stillness was broken by a shrill snort. Behind me on a tree-covered peak beyond where I stood, a buck huffed irreverently at me; my presence had encroached upon his domain. One couldn’t help to think that perhaps he was as enamored with the scene as was I. The crickets spoke of the coming darkness, so I made my way back down the slope to home leaving the deer to his peace. My thoughts meandered back to the clear flowing waters. Tomorrow I would try once more to find myself wading the waters to reach the sanctuary, challenged but not diminished by what it took to reach that distant shore. The first step is always the hardest.

Likewise, when we decide to take our leap of faith and commit our lives to serving the Lord, the first step is the most difficult. Stepping from the safety of the shore into the unknown can be enough to cause us to reconsider our decision. We think it is all our doing, that we’ll have to make it on our own. What we often fail to realize is that once we begin our journey with Him, that is Him, God, that will be there to help make up the differences we cannot fathom. So when we finally realize that we are not alone, we can make that first step.

The freezing water at first is like burning fire, but with time, we become numb to its pain. As we learn to trust in Him, we are able to carry on, pushing forward, becoming numb to our previous fears. The current is strong, and it takes every ounce of strength to take each new step, yet we are not deterred. In our weakness, we become strong in Him. The reward we seek is far greater than the obstacles that try to dissuade us from reaching that distant shore. The cold has lessened the pains; still, we continue on regardless of what others might say or think. Once we find ourselves committed, standing on the brink of the rushing waters, we still struggle to make the crossing. They never said it would be easy. Trial and tribulation buffet us like the coming storms before me this night. Below the surface, rocks make each step painful as our bare feet seek to guide our way. Meanwhile, we are burdened down by the past life; financially and emotionally. The anchor of our self-inflicted burdens become unwanted drag against the current. Breaking free is in some ways as difficult as dying. In essence, we must die to our formers selves so that we made be made anew in Christ. As Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” We tend to try to bring the past with us, and the problems therein. With persistence, we push on. One by one, we set our burdens free, lightening our load. As we learn to walk in our faith, those restraints that kept us shackled to the past are broken away, and we are set free.

With each step, we find a rhythm to the river’s bottom, and soon, we are beginning to find the nearing distant shore. We know we are on the right path for the current is against us, like those trials through which we persevere, the build our character, and with each one, we become stronger in our faith. Once we make landfall, we wearily climb up out of the river, careful not to slip and fall back in. Looking down from above, we can see from whence we came. There is peace in knowing that you have made it through the storm. There is peace in knowing that with Him, all things are possible, and because of Him, we have that distant shore for which we may strive.
The choice is ours.

Step into the water and begin your journey.

You’ll not turn back, for if it is His will, then it shall be done.

Thanks be to God.

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The Hand of the Lord Upon Us….

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,”- Acts 4:29

He told my sister and me to follow him, that there was something strange he had to show us. Wetornado made our way down into a room that faced a large rectangular shaft in the stone wall. There was no grate covering the opening, which was about shoulder height tall. The hole spanned six feet across with an aperture large enough for a good size man to squeeze through. The outer lip of the hole was lined with rough shaped stones. Their surfaces facing the interior of the hole were worn smooth as if this once was a source of water or fluid that slowly eroded the ancient surface.

Our guide explained to us that this was where onlookers could stand and safely watch the demons emerge, without fear of being pulled into the hole. There was a convenient mark on the floor where he stood.

“You don’t want to go beyond this point,” he said stretching a crooked finger toward the crack in the stone floor where the toe of his sandaled foot stopped. “Don’t step one inch closer than this,” he demanded, with a glare in his eye. That stare caught my attention. “They can’t pull you back into the hole from here. If you go past this line, then your soul becomes theirs.”

Something about his gaze felt comforting as if we had been acquainted before.

Our focus returned toward the shaft as a soft breeze brushed past my cheek. A chill filled the room, and my skin began to crawl. Something was coming; …the darkness approached.

My thought’s returned to our guide as goosebumps rose on my arm. The man’s voice sounded so familiar. My mind couldn’t let it go.

Yet, the darkness crept closer still.

Turning my gaze from the abyss back to the man pointing out the dangers, I suddenly realized the stranger, was no stranger at all.

He was our late father.

My heart leaped.

The last time we were together, I kissed him goodbye and walked out of the hospital leaving him to God’s care. We were to meet again on heaven’s shore. I wanted to rejoice and hug him in that moment, but that’s not why we were there. The euphoria was quickly replaced with that of sounds emanating from the shaft that caused the hair to stand up on the back of my neck.  Haunting screams of horror jerked my focus back to the gaping hole. There wasn’t a feeling of reunion in our meeting, but rather, a sense of warning instead. There was no time for pleasantries. Just as he had finished speaking, as if on cue, shadows begin to ebb from the orifice, like hands stretching out for someone to hold, they sought our grasp, reaching, enticing, calling us closer. My sister’s eyes widened in horror as the ghoulish images played out before us as if they were taunting us to move closer. Their macabre dance continue for only a brief time then slowly the beasts of hell slithered back into the darkness from whence they came. Their cries of anguish echoed in the hollow of the space from where they had disappeared.

We stood frozen as we listened in horror to their voices retreat.

Darkness, echoes and then silence.

Something inside me suddenly told me to go after them.

There was no sense of fear, no foreboding of danger in my being. Without hesitation, I walked over and began to climb into the opening of the tomb.

“What are you doing,” my sister screamed!

“Get him out of there,” my father called, as they both grabbed at my feet trying to stop my advance into the chamber beyond. Before they could obtain a firm hold, I was submerged into the blackness beyond. All feeling of dread had left me. It was almost as if my fear had been replaced by a rage that repelled the demonic force within the tomb. But it was more than a rage; it was if there was a hand on my soul protecting me. As my eyes adjusted to the dimly lit corridor, I could sense the shadows retreating, fearful of my presence. Feeling empowered by the force within, I continued onward. The ceiling was only a couple feet from the surface that my body scooted along, which then eventually opened up into a taller hallway. Cobwebs and dust portrayed an abandoned dwelling left to decay. Looking for a way out, my eyes caught the rays of muted light passing through cracks in the boards along one wall. Pushing my way through the brittle wood, a large room opened up in front of me. Carefully, I stepped down onto what looked like a rooftop, covered only with tar paper.

“Hmm, no roofing shingles,” came the thought as I timidly walked out far enough that I could look back from where I had come. It was then the realization hit me from where I had just emerged; the old farmhouse of my paternal grandparents, Victor and Mildred Tron. It never occurred to me that there had been a room on this side of the house, yet here I stood, looking back. The black surface of the floor had no dimension. It was as if my footsteps walked upon a void that reflected no light, only absorbed it or trapped it below its surface, held prisoner for all of eternity. The groans of those trapped below caused a vibration that pulsated into the soles of my shoes, sending shivers up my spine.

This is no normal floor,” I thought to myself, “am I standing on hell?”

“God,” I called out turning my gaze to heaven, “Why have you brought me here?”

Overhead there was a sparse rafter system, one that didn’t look strong enough to hold much of a snow, let alone a windstorm. The pieces of wood of that upper framework were pieced together in a haphazard fashion, fastened together at odd angles forming a peculiar dome shaped visage. Had I been in my right mind, I would have been fearful of the entire room’s collapse or being devoured from below by the inequities which I walked upon. Again there was still no sense of doom, no feeling of pending disaster; nothing but a feeling of confidence.

Before I could make sense of where or why I was there, my body was suddenly transported into an RV park in another place and time. Once again danger loomed as neighbors screamed pointing in the direction of the trailer where I had appeared. A massive black funnel cloud as far as my eyes could see, from one end of the horizon to the other, bore down upon us. Those who were faint-hearted were frozen with fear and couldn’t move but rather collapsed into heaps of angst and gnashing of teeth.

Panic was in the air.

Once more, there was a power within that drove the fear from me as the smoke is driven from the fire. One man who had been running from the cloud of death stopped for a moment beside me. He was bent over gasping for breath with his hands on his knees. As the color began to return to his face, he looked up at me with a puzzled face.

“Why aren’t you getting out of here mister? Don’t you know if you stay you will die?”

“No, I’m not,” I calmly replied.

“What the hell do you mean,” his face squinted in question, “can’t you see that,” his weary arm stretched out behind him as if he didn’t even want to face it.

“It’s not coming this way.”

“Like hell it’s not,” he screamed, “all the reports have it coming this way and if you can’t see that,” he now stood and turned pointing with both arms, “Then something must be wrong with you.” He shook his head in utter disbelief and slowly took off, joining the river of people that flowed past on the street next to me.

I turned to face the bleak reality of what he had feared and saw the dark cloud, yet there was still no urgency in my being.

“There is nothing to fear,” I said speaking to the treacherous, twisting serpent cloud roaring in the near distance. “You are not coming here, for He has told me so.”

As I stood watching, the cloud didn’t approach any closer, but rather, continued to swirl and pound the earth in the distance. The deafening roar shook the earth like a thundering herd of wild horses. Furniture, pieces of homes, and shreds of all manner of life spun about in the futile darkness and slowly, ever so slowly crept away, like a scolded dog that had been chastised for misbehaving.

As I watched it fade, the boldness within continued to comfort me.

When I awoke the next morning, there was a serene sense of security, a calmness of being.

That morning my scripture lesson began with the book of Ezekiel, and there before me were the words that said it all. Like Ezekiel before his vision, God placed his hand upon him, and comforted him-“ and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.”

Yes, it was perfectly clear now.

His message was pure and simple; be bold and fear not, for I am with you always.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4: 13

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The Day The Music Almost Died…

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;20160828_074017
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
8 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.”-Psalms 42:7-8

Music is as soothing as it is spiritual. A universal voice that transcends age, race, and time.

There is something about the sound of the crashing throes of a waterfall cascading over rocks that reveal to us the voice of God. While we are subject to our human condition, we can but for a brief moment experience what the Almighty has in store for us on that glorious day when we meet Him in heaven above.

The essence of our soul is moved and caressed by the soothing noise, and if we hesitate long enough, we can allow the Spirit to touch us within, the “Deep calls unto deep.” Like waves crashing against the rocks at the seashore, void of growth or obstructions, we too can be cleansed of our stresses and toils. “All your waves and billows have gone over me.” Waterfalls are the epitome of the multitude of angelic choirs where the combined sound of their magnificent congregation unite as one, their harmonies becoming a single voice, the voice of God. The depths of the bass so deep, it resonates our very being, the ringing of the highest soprano reaching beyond our ability to comprehend in this earthly domain, and every harmony between spread across a spectrum so vast it cannot be seen from shore to shore. There is so much beyond our comprehension we cannot begin to fathom its complexity, so melodies become a door, the opening through which God can speak.

Music is the voice of God.

Martin Luther, in addition to being one of the founding fathers of the Reformation, was also very musically gifted. He was known as the “Nightingale of Wittenberg.” Hymns were so essential to his ministry that he said this about music with regard to our soul and being something to lift us up rather than to bring us down, “In the midst of life we are in death’ shall become ‘In the midst of death we are in life.” Luther felt that music could even allow God to break through even the most hardened heart.

Once in a while, we are given the gift of music, should we choose to accept it. Some do and with it, change not only their own lives but those around them. It is no wonder that those who possess this ability also find other gifts and talents. “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”-Matt 28:29

The soul of a man, born upon the wings of wood, wire, and song, became more than just that which carried them through the darkest of times. Long before and after Luther, many found comfort in the tunes that were passed down from one generation to the next. The spirit through which they endured hardships was buoyed by the sound of voices drifting up in the smoke over campfires and fireplaces in the hidden hollers of this land. Their story kept alive through those tales put to ballad became the very essence of what created the name of this town that I am now visiting; Nashville.

From within the Museum of Country Music, display after display, memories, and tokens of lives lived in front of audiences that only wanted to hear the strains of that ancient spirit keep their own flames of past thoughts alive spoke to us from the past. Words that touched the heart enough to pull us up from the sorrows and pains of everyday life; these are the ones that stood apart from the rest. These strains became the classics that stood the test of time when again and again, mankind’s own greed tried to circumvent what was pure and true. Even today, this battle between good and evil persists; humanity will never learn.

As we made our way through the streets of the big city, we happened upon the essence of the dark side; that which was never meant to be. The evolution of commercialization of sound has created a breeding ground for all manner of inequities. Like the children of Israel that had gone astray, the sin and idol worship of what was meant to be sacred has now turned into the Sodom and Gamora of its day; Honky Tonk Row. The overpowering secular nature of humanity is on display as men and women parade around in drunken debauchery seeking that which cannot fulfill. Their carnal nature on exhibition, nothing hidden as the voices inside these dens of inequity attempt to reach an audience that is only there to take, not to give. The few who survive this world of utter decadence may someday surface to fame and glory, only to find that which they gave up, their very soul, is now lost. Few, yes very few survive unscathed, all are touched by their journey. Walking away as fast as we could, we all felt as if we wanted to shower away this image from our minds.

This was not the world of music we had known. Ours was a more pristine image of a simpler time now seemingly gone. Like those grainy films of Balcomb Lunsford, we wanted to live in the past. This harsh, dog-eat-dog reality was something my children had never seen in person. Yes, this was more of a wake-up call than we had planned. Part of our perception of the world of music died there on those streets; innocence had passed.

But the soul of the music never dies.

Deep calls unto deep inside, where only the Spirit of the Lord can reach, our flame continues to burn. The world outside cannot diminish the blessings within.

Somewhere, far, far away, hidden away below the protection of a mountainside, perhaps near a remote hidden waterfall, a lone fiddler sits playing the strains of ancient songs, simply and purely for the satisfaction of a terrestrial audience of none. The sweet refrains of the instrument unite with those of the heavenly discord and together they rise into the air as one.

God’s moment of glory, for an audience of the heavenly multitude.

Thanks be to God.

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God Be With Us Till We Meet Again…

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..”-Romans 1:16

They come for many reasons.

Today was another first.trail8272015

On another Sunday, I was called to be at the Trail. Last week, a congregation held their church service inside the Church in the Cave exhibit. Today it was a group from the Concord area coming to tour. Although it was a Sunday visit, it didn’t diminish my feelings for being at the Trail on what is most people’s day of worship. To me, it was another way of honoring God, and so, where two or more or gathered, there He would also be; and so it was.

When the group first booked their reservation, they were within our limits of just one tour guide, but over time, the party grew until it was clear by this morning, that I too would get to lead a tour once again; meaning, we would have two separate groups. Brother Barry, our original guide for the original smaller group, had just returned from the valleys, so I was anxious to hear him lead once more and to provide insight only one having been to that faraway place could divulge. So when we began the introduction, I asked that Barry lead that segment for both groups, which he was glad to do. His introduction was so overwhelming, so complete, my heart questioned if I was going to be able to be up to today’s task in the shadows of such a magnificent guide. Silently, as we moved from the topographical map to the movie room, I lifted up a prayer asking for wisdom and guidance for the right words. God would hear my plea and soon, I would be back in the moment.

As we left the movie room to embark on the Trail, Barry asked the visitors who were some of his good friends from the area along with some of John Bradshaw’s family, the host of “It is Written,” to follow me. My heart leaped with fear and humility. Barry had offered his beloved and esteemed guests to my care, and now the honor was placed on my lap. Again I prayed, “Lord, please be with us and help me to allow your Word to be most evident.” In the blink of an eye, there was a surge of energy pulsing through my mind as all of the history and scripture began to surface in my head. Again, He was listening.

We walked through time, …as time stood still.

Moment by moment, God allowed me to share the history of the people of the valleys, the Vaudois. From my sharing of the possible first encounter with the disciples, while standing in the Barbas College to the singing of hymns in the Church in the Cave, my dedicated group of visitors began to learn about the past and their host. Slowly, monument by monument, my heart poured out to them as the story came alive in my mind and the scriptures continued to intertwine the words from my mouth.

Concerned about the time, I was hesitant to share my testimony once we entered the Ciabas Church, but once more God spoke, and I listened. There my story of faith, realization, and discovery allowed for me to tell the tale of how my own understanding of the Waldensians came to be. There I had to ask the question, “If you were never told of Jesus, as I was never told about being Waldensian as a child through adulthood, how might your world be different today?” Then to carry it a step forward, “How can you go into the world and expect those around you who have never heard of Christ, to act any differently?” It was then I explained how many of my own family had fallen away from their ancestral faith. They had never known of it, so what was there any different in their lives to change them? What did they have to stand for? And yet, they had everything to lose. Would they have been different had they known all along? Would they have made the same decisions in life? Had we been told, at least we could have had a choice. Likewise, those who received the invitation to accept Christ, they also have a choice to make once they are asked. Once our conscious mind is awakened, God gives us the free will to select which path we will take.

It is up to us to choose.

The centuries passed and before we knew it, our tour groups were reunited at the Community Oven. My day began just after sunrise, rekindling the fire in the massive stone structure in preparation for the baking of the bread. As weary as my body was, there was no hint of it in that instance. My wife and son met us at the oven, and together we shared the bread with our guests. My heart leaped with pride as I watched Tron’s carrying on the family tradition, alongside our brother in Christ, Barry, under the shelter of the maple tree near the end of the Trail; a nearly perfect ending to the end of a picture perfect day.

As my dad use to remark on such days, “The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the birds are all singing; …beautiful, just beautiful.”

Yet, there was one more special treat that God had in store.

As the tour came to the conclusion, we all made our way back to the Visitor’s Center. Barry and my family had to leave, but most of our guests remained to eat their lunch. Meanwhile, I stayed off to the side cleaning up and providing support as needed. When they finished, the group came toward the front of the Center to say goodbye.

They all gathered before me, united as together as a family would do before bidding farewell. It was then one of them made the announcement that they all wanted to say goodbye to me. They then began to sing the hymn, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” My heart leaped once again. In an instance, I was a small boy once more, back in New Harmony hearing my grandma and my Aunts singing in church, their sweet voices united in one accord. Before I knew it, tears began streaming down my cheeks as they concluded in sweet, blissful acapella harmony. It was another precious gift from God; another first.

The words were gone; I was speechless.

One after another, I shook their hand’s goodbye, trying to apologize through my tear filled eyes.

We concluded with a picture on the front steps, me and my new found family; brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yes, we said goodbye, until we meet again. What a sweet heavenly day that will be.

As one lady reminded me as she left, there are so many without the very thing we are blessed to have because of what Christ has done for us; Hope.

Yes, today I was blessed once more.

There is hope.

Thanks be to God.

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Music of the Soul…

Tron Family performing at Camel Back Bridge Park, Cumnock NC.

Tron Family performing at Camel Back Bridge Park, Cumnock NC.

This past week I’ve been reminded of the importance of music in my life.

When times seem to close in, painting life into a corner, it’s when I’m usually forgetting to revisit my old friend and love; music.

Music for me does several things; calms my nerves when I’m tense, connects my thoughts into a fluid stream of story and allows the spirit of the Lord to flow through me speaking the words my lips cannot find.

The most obvious use of music is relaxation. There are times when events in life can be spinning out of control, but the moment a favorite song or melody comes on, all the sharp edges of reality are quickly softened and soon forgotten. These silent trips down the road, recollections through family albums, or simply watching the clouds pass over the landscape out a nearby window, all take on a different level of perspective when the right song plays in the background. Suddenly the inanimate object takes on a life of its own, living and breathing into the moment of one’s existence.

Then there are the times when I write, sitting at the keyboard listening to epic movie soundtrack instrumentals. In these quiet reflective moments, the songs become the soundtrack to the story I’m putting into words for the first time, floating over the characters as they spell out the tale on the screen. Their crescendos and monumental waves of symphony heighten the dramatic imagination in which exists; living and breathing in the moment of the saga I am creating. I can begin to write and when the song turns to the dark minor keys, my story takes a turn of unexpected tragedy, mirroring the sounds in my ears. To this extent, writing to the music is like riding a bike down the mountain road with no hands; a thrilling rush, where and how you end up is only up to the twist and turns in the road of the tale being told. I can only trust my Lord has the hand on the wheel as my pen guides us through the winding pathways ahead.

Then there are the times when my mind wants to say so much, yet the stage finds me muted to the point of anger; mad at myself for not being the natural orator I am in my own mind. In many ways, music is the bridge between what I want to say and cannot, finding the connection to an audience that might otherwise go without. When I find myself in predicaments like this, a guitar and a song for the moment break through this barrier, allowing the flood of thoughts and words to come cascading out. There is no better feeling to know you have connected with someone either with speaking or singing something from a message that God has placed upon your heart. To know He can speak and play through us in spite of ourselves is probably the most common phrase I know and use when it comes to calming nerves, for if I know it’s from Him; then I also know it is for Him, not of myself; failure, in this case, is no longer a factor.

All this being said, I was reminded of the need for music in my life as we drove back from the fiddler’s convention this past weekend. I realized that the connection to another part of my soul is only attainable from this gift. It is from using the ability to “make music” that I can reach out to the side of me that sometimes lies silent, waiting and watching the world around; the creative side. Only when the music reaches across the divide within do the juices of creativity begin to burst forth once more. So it was this week, and even more today as we performed at church this morning, again reconfirming my belief that to use our gifts only awakens the more within, the others that lie waiting for those before to be lifted off so that they too may be discovered and shined upon.

May God bless anyone who seeks to enrich the lives of others from any blessing God has given you; never let these gifts lie asleep and do all you can to awaken them each and every day.

Have a beautiful week and Blessings to all.

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” – Eph. 5:19

 

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What We Least Expect Sometimes is the Greatest Reward…

ToddNC2Most of the time I feel like the least of the writers in our writing group, the Inkspot’s of GUMC, not that I expect to be great from being the least, as Jesus was saying in the scripture of Luke. Rather, I feel like the least qualified to be writing in a room filled with such wonderful authors.

This past week we took turns reading from our recent writings and everyone seemed to be absolutely wonderful, save for mine.

Thomas read from two book reviews he is doing as part of his PhD studies. Both of the books he was required to read, “Pastoral Theology” and “Open Secrets,” he had the good fortune of having the authors as professors while attending Duke Divinity College. I was impressed to hear as he read aloud at the depth of knowledge he had acquired over time both from not only constantly reading and studying the Word of God, but also from his literary skills as a writer. More than once I had to take notes from what I heard. We learned of the pressures of the daily grind of pastoral work which was exemplified by the statement when he labored over being human when he was supposed to appear as he put it, “Cloaked in a mystery of divinity.” We also learned of Wesley’s Quadrilateral philosophy of scripture, tradition, experience and reason. Wesley believed scripture was the most important but as Thomas pointed out, today we are finding people more inclined to use experience as their base instead of scripture. In all, it was very enlightening and educational.
>ToddNC
Next, Sherry Thornburg read from a story she had written about living in Todd, NC. I believe she called it, “The House Across the Creek.” It was quite a heart-warming story, which took you back in time. At first hearing the name of the story I was taken to Cross Creek Florida, but then that is another story.
Sherry told the story of how she grew up in a four room house in Todd next to Elk Creek. As she read her story, I closed my eyes and could see myself growing up alongside her there in Todd. She talked of how they played house, play acted and even performed on the foot log that spanned Elk creek from their home side to the general store side of the creek. The bridge was their stage and the creek was their audience. A large buckeye tree anchored one side of the foot bridge with a log chain, which kept it from washing away when the creek would get up. Sitting there listening to her read her story I was taken back in time growing up in New Harmony, Indiana at my grandma Tron’s house. There, we too played in the yard and around the farm in similar fashion. We never had a beautiful rushing stream flowing by our front porch as did Sherry, but we had lush green pastures rolling by instead, against the backdrop of the hills that made up the vast forest that bordered the Wabash river which ran past our little town of New Harmony.

Although we were worlds apart in distance, we shared the similar experience of a Spartan existence in our rural lives, cherishing the fond memories of a time gone by when life moved at a different pace, one we too often fail to recognize in our hurriedly rushing lives today.

As she closed, the words she spoke from the pages she had written brought forth emotions, the heart strings that make us who we are. The stories within when spoken often become stronger than we had imagined without forming the words through our lips to be spoken. Once their sounds escape and come back to us through our own ears, we sometimes are overwhelmed with the magnification of feelings previously thought insignificant.
farmhouse
After Sherry read it was Laverne’s turn. He never ceases to impress us with stories from his past, all bringing forth similar recollections as did Sherry’s story; taking us all back in time. However, unlike usual, Laverne had written a poem. It wasn’t limerick in nature, rather, more of a prose, but the story it told was so rich with imagery it couldn’t help but touch your heart.

Laverne talked about past loves and a large Sycamore tree under which he had spent many hours as a youth. Being small in size, he often had prayed for God to either make him large or to give him courage. The latter, he found, was eventually how he was blessed. Over time, sitting under his Sycamore tree there in the middle of the pasture, he had carved the names of many a girlfriend while spending hours looking up at the heavens wondering how his life would someday turn out. Recently when recovering from heart surgery, he was lying in the hospital bed and reflecting back on his life and somewhat bothered about how it might all end. He realized he was becoming agitated, so he tried to find a way to calm himself. His Sycamore tree came to mind and the shade of the great labyrinth of limb and leaf began to shelter him once more. In his mind he was once more seeing the great trunk of the tree, the carved names, the beauty of the place he knew so well, comforting him and relaxing him to the point he realized he had nothing to worry about; it was all in God’s hands. I can imagine sitting under Laverne’s tree, which is no longer there, looking out at the fields spreading away from you, reaching to the tree-lined horizon. There is a certain calming affect one can take away from such a place; a refuge, a place to reflect and gather oneself before marching boldly off into the future. Yes, God gave Laverne courage, but it was not the only gift the good Lord had bestowed upon my dear friend; humility of spirit and love of life are some of his greater gifts.

Cindy went next, reading from a story she had written about the birth of her recent grandson. She called her story, “It’s alright I’ve got this”. She shared with us a touching story of a young woman expecting her third child and deciding to have a “water birth”. The eventuality of the story that struck me most was how as parents we sometimes have to let go and allow our children to be themselves, as was the case in this story. Her daughter was evidently determined to have the birth her way, but in the end, it was as God had intended, and yet in a way she was still able to be proud of; a home birth. In the end, mother and daughter came to a deeper understanding and respect for one another, each finding a strength from the other formed by the bond of unconditional love.

After Cindy, then her daughter Savannah shared with us her ideas for an upcoming novel she would like to write. I won’t share those thoughts at this time for sake of her privacy of subject matter, but suffice it to say, we have a wide spectrum of age in our talented group, one which might help us continue long into the future. To hear Savannah talk it was refreshing to hear the youth of our time alive and excited to create stories. We have much to be thankful for.

Finally, after I had read, the leader of our writer’s group, Sims Poindexter, took her turn. She read from emails she had sent out over Christmas. Sims had spent several days in the hospital, some of which was humorous, but sitting there listen to her tell her story, it was obvious to me, we are very blessed to still have her with us after all she had been through. The feeling of thankfulness was soon rewarded with a revealing story she shared in her final email. It was one she wrote after returning home after her hospital stay, and after all the family had left to return to their own homes following their Christmas visit. She told of simply looking around the room and the moving stories behind each little nuance or reminder left behind by those who would have no idea they had left their impression, albeit from a rock left on the piano, to an overturned ornament under the tree. She had seen or could tell the story behind every essence of actuality which had transpired. Her love for all was revealed in her appreciation for them, even down to the touch of inanimate object remaining long after they were gone.

Each story, each prose I heard that evening was so thought provoking, that in a matter of two hours, we got up to leave feeling as if we had just arrived. Personally, I felt left behind after all I had heard. My story seemed to pale in comparison, at least in my own mind. What I was able to take away was a feeling of being blessed to be in the company of people willing to openly share and support one another in something that is, in most instances, from the heart.
Yes, I feel I am the least with regard to my writing when compared to the others, but I feel most grateful in the reward of being blessed by such wonderful acquaintances and friends, such that it makes my appreciation far beyond the least; for this I am greatly blessed.

“and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”
– Luke 9:48

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