Tag Archives: love

The Gift of Love

Yesterday, I witnessed something that tore my heart right out of my chest. This morning’s scripture spoke to that event. “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: And he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.” – Proverbs23v24

Our Ratio Christi group was holding their end-of-summer retreat. It was a day filled with activities focused on faith, fellowship, and God’s word. One of those planned events was a trip to Elk Shoals New River State Park. The park was packed. But we managed to secure a spot on the white sand beach. Our group set up camp by the water’s edge and began to enjoy God’s creation while breaking bread together.  After eating, some of our group read, some played in the river, and some just sat and talked while reading their Bibles.

It was a pretty chill time.

We weren’t actively seeking out those whom we could save. We weren’t standing on a platform shouting out Bible verses. We were simply enjoying our time together. It was the first time some of us had seen each other all summer.

It was when I was teaching a couple of members of our group how to skip rocks across the river that she showed up. A young preteen girl, who will call Olivia, came up and asked us to show her how to skip rocks too. So, without skipping a beat, we began showing Olivia how to spin rocks off your fingertips, treating her just like one of the gang.

From there, we blended back into various activities; some took naps, some played volleyball, while I worked with a group on a crossword puzzle out of the Blueridge Christian News. As we did, I noticed the young girl gravitating toward one of our group’s young ladies, whom I will call Beth. Beth and Olivia began walking and talking while wading in the water, exploring the small rapids not far from our beachhead. Later they joined the volleyball game. In amongst those trips back and forth, I caught the eye of Beth, and she gave me a thumbs up – she was making progress, meaning she was finding out about Olivia’s faith while building a relationship.

Later, Beth and Olivia came over and lay down with the others working on the crossword. Olivia was really taken by our diverse group and said, “You guys are so cool. You have the neatest group, how you just hang out and play together.” Then she asked what we were doing. Meanwhile, Beth had pulled me aside to share what little she had learned about our new friend; she was visiting from Winston-Salem with her brother’s family. Olivia had also shared with Beth how she felt she was a Christian but that all they ever told her about God was baby stuff, treating her like a child. It was then that God began nudging me.

Curious, I asked Olivia as she lay down beside Beth on a blanket, asking about our puzzle work, if she had a Bible to read. She answered, “Yes, but it’s a baby Bible. They don’t give me anything grown up to read.” Again, the nudge grew stronger. My mind began racing through where I might have a spare Word in my car. Beth looked up at me, and we could read each other’s thoughts. “I’ll be right back,” I said as I quickly returned to the car. Beth joined me a short time later, realizing what I was doing, and we looked through all of our belongings for anything we could share with Olivia. All that was there was a track about Jesus. So, thinking the best, I suggested Beth put down her contact information so that, hopefully, Olivia could write or call her when she got home. “Who knows, you could plant a seed.”

So, we went back to the group where Olivia was still hanging out, now trying to help the others solve the puzzle. Beth lay back down next to her and began showing her the track and the information she had written on it in red ink. The preteen’s eyes lit up. She was very excited to receive the small gift and got up to take it back to her family, saying, “I’ll be right back.” Meanwhile, Beth got up and said she needed some time alone. The nudge came gain, but I tried to ignore it.

Time passed. Olivia hadn’t returned since we gave her the track but instead was back out in the river with her brother and his family, enjoying playing with the little kids. “It is as it should be,” I said to myself, not giving it a second thought. My thoughts echoed, “Hopefully, we hadn’t offended her or got her in trouble with her family.” Beth returned and assimilated back into the fold, and we moved on to other things, even though she seemed troubled by something. “Maybe she was feeling the nudge too?”

After about an hour, the sun was quickly casting long shadows across the beach. People began leaving in droves, and soon, we found ourselves mostly alone. Then, from across the way, on the edge of the tree-lined parking area, Olivia shouted goodbye, naming out a few of the names in our group, especially Beth’s. We all waved and happily bid her farewell. Then, out of the blue, Beth grabbed her Bible and yelled, “Wait.” Immediately, I thought that she would share the Gospel of Christ with her, maybe leading her to salvation. My heart was warmed by the thought, “This college student with the heart of a missionary, reaching out to this preteen on an unassuming casual afternoon.” The rest of us went on talking about the unique child and how she had been so open and seemingly wise beyond her years since she told us she was only eleven.

Before we had finished discussing the encounter, Beth returned, her head down but eyes swelled with moisture. I went over to her, and the tears began rolling down her cheeks. Something had happened in the parking area that deeply affected her. Had the family been mean to her? Had they possibly done something to Olivia when Beth tried to speak to her? These questions began racing through my mind as I hugged her trying to comfort her. She then, through the crocodile tears, smiled and said, “I gave her my Bible.”

My heart nearly stopped.

To understand the magnitude of this comment, one would have to know Beth. She wasn’t just a “Go to Church on Sunday” kind of youth. She is one of the most rock-solid believers I’ve met yet for her age. Already in her twenties, she’s been a driving force in our Ratio group, constantly pouring over scriptures, sharing her family’s mission work, and helping others to grow in Christ. All throughout her Bible, she meticulously makes notes and references, which she can later go back to and help others. To know Beth is to understand how important the Word of God is to her. So, when she said those five words, “I gave her my Bible,” it almost tore my heart out of my chest.

But then the nudge reminded me that my hesitation to do the same was perfect. Olivia needed something she could understand, something that would guide her. My thoughts were to do the same, but that good old King James Version would have been too stand-offish. Beth’s Bible version was much more user-friendly in that regard. No, Oliva needed something comforting, something she could sink her teeth into, not a childish or “Baby stuff” type of Bible, but something that she would treasure – a gift from a mature young lady on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the park. The countless hours of devotion and prayer that had been poured out over that Bible would now be there for that young girl to consume into her heart.

That tiny seed we had meant with the little scripture track had suddenly become a giant seed of hope.

Later, after our evening meal, we gathered on the edge of Jefferson Mountain and watched the sun slowly sink into the horizon. Silent, reflecting, we all pondered over the day’s events. All were special in their own way, but the one sentinel moment which stood out, the one that we will never forget, was that most amazing unselfish act of love, as Beth gave her precious Word of God to a total stranger. We didn’t need to shout it from the mountain tops. We didn’t need to put on some fancy revival camp meeting service. All that was necessary to witness to the world was just to be ourselves, and allow God’s light to shine through.

It was there in the golden glow of the setting sun that we understood what the love of God looked like, and we were blessed beyond measure.

Thanks be to God.

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The Blood of the Martyrs

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” – Mt. 24:7-14

Visar Kryeziu/APVisar Kryeziu/AP
A father hugs his daughter as the family reunite after fleeing conflict in Ukraine, at the Medyka border crossing, in Poland, Feb. 27, 2022.

What you are about to read is based on a true story. The name of the mission and its members have been changed or omitted for safeties sake. May the Lord speak to you through this message.

The men walked with their families, wives, children, and the elderly. Some held hands with their loved ones. Others carried babes in arms, cherishing the last moments that would forever be etched into their hearts. As they approached the border crossing into Poland, they could see up ahead the checkpoints created to secure those passages to freedom, to safety, a place beyond the horror of war that they had just escaped. Yosef could feel the lump in his throat grow as he watched those with him become ever more anxious. Everyone knew that when they reached the border, Yosef would have to return to their village, leaving them, possibly forever.

Each able body man was asked to return from escorting their family to the border to fight for their country, their freedom, their lives. Yosef was no different. He knew that he could not escape with the women and children, that he and the other survivors of his village would do all they could to defend their country, their homeland, and their faith. Standing up for what is right was easy back in their town when they still had a home. But now, the shelling and destruction forced them to abandon all they knew and loved. It seemed that all they had left of their former life was their faith, for everything else had been stripped away.

Yosef and his brother Caleb had both worked with missionaries from America, training to become evangelists in Ukraine. Their work was to seek out others and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although they had worked regular jobs during the day, their eventual goal was to become full-time evangelists traveling around their country and becoming missionaries in their own way. But weeks before Russia attacked Ukraine, the American mission teams were asked to leave for safety’s sake. The missionary leaders and their families were as heartbroken as were their trainees, but everyone knew it was for the best. Besides, it would just be a precaution, and they would all be back together continuing their ministry before they knew it.

That was over a month ago. For Yosef, it seemed like an eternity.

It was Friday morning, the day before Sabbath, and Yosef could remember getting ready to go to work. The small hospital where he and his brother worked continued treating patients even though the attack on their country had begun. Yosef and Caleb were only orderlies, but due to the recent influx of war injuries, they were asked to help bandage and care for the less severe wounds. He was just about to go out the door when his daughter rushed up to him and begged him to come back and help her put on her boots for school. “Mommy’s busy with little brother,” she said, pointing to the back room of their small but modest home, “I need you to help me, Papa.” Yosef knew his wife, Evette, was busy with their newborn son, so he was happy to oblige.

“It’s okay, baby. Papa’s got you covered.”

She smiled as he knelt down to the ground, pulling the boots up as she pressed her little feet into the pink unicorn galoshes. Her hand rested on his back, and he could feel the tender touch of her sweet disposition, warming him through and through. When he finished, he lifted her up and gave her a big hug as she wrapped her little arms around his neck, returning the embrace.

“Now, I am off to do God’s work. You be a good little girl and have fun at school. You hear me?”

“Yes, Papa,” she smiled ear to ear, waving as he turned to walk out the door. Across the street, near the newly constructed apartment complex, Caleb waited in his car. He and Yosef always rode together, and today was like any other. Although Caleb was always there, always on time, he hated being late. So, when he saw Yosef emerging a second time from the house, he waved toward him as if to say, “C’mon, we’re going to be late.”

Yosef smiled and waved back. It was all too funny. His brother could never relax, even when they were witnessing to others. He seemed to never be content with just learning the verses their mentors had asked them to memorize. No, Caleb had to push himself, learning entire chapters that contained those verses. He was always driven to give his all. It was just who he was. It was this thought of his dear brother that remained when the flash of light suddenly erupted before him.

Out of nowhere, a sound like thunder ripped through the air. The ground folded under itself as the rumble of the earth shook Yosef to his core. One minute, Yosef was waving at Caleb, the next, he was blown backward, his feet trailing behind him as he watched his body being lifted up by the force of the blast. All Yosef could see was the image of his brother, smiling and waving, and then it was as if the screen on the television had gone blank, and the silhouette of the ghostly image of Caleb remained. His brother’s soul was burnt into his eyes.

Clouds of smoke, dust, and debris began raining down. The light was broken, and darkness had prevailed. Somewhere a dog barked as car alarms started blaring. Yosef didn’t know how long he had been unconscious, nor where he was, when he finally sat up. People ran before him in all directions. There was no sound in this landscape of destruction, just the images running through the fog of silence, interspersed with mouths that had no voice. Across the street, the entire structure of the apartment complex that once stood was now gone. The road beside it was a crater. The cars there were now either blown to pieces or burning embers. Yosef realized that Caleb would not be waiting anymore.

Painfully, he turned to look at his own house. The entire front of his home and all the others on their side of the street were caved in. People poured out, frantic, screaming, yet their lips were muted by the searing pain that shot through Yosef’s head. It was as if the world had gone insane, and nothing made sense. Softly, and gently, from behind him, he felt the touch of a little hand. He turned to see his daughter, still wearing her little pink unicorn boots. Her eyes were rimmed with fear as tears fell down her rosy cheeks.

“Papa, papa,” she sobbed. Yosef’s hearing began to return like a wave of emotion as he reached for his baby girl wrapping her in his arms as she sat on his lap. Soon, Evette emerged with their son in her arms, weeping and crying. There they sat amid the rubble as the world around them spun out of control. It was then Yosef realized he only had one thing left he could do and began to pray. His heart poured out to the Lord as the tears fell down his face.

From that day forward, their lives were never the same. It seemed that each day, more lives were lost, more arbitrary destruction, none of it made sense. Finally, when the shelling became so dire, they realized to stay would mean certain death for everyone, so Yosef did what all the others in their village had decided, to take the women, children, and elderly to the border then return to fight, until the end.

Yet, each day, since they had begun their painful march to exile, they felt the hand of God on them, protecting them, delivering them from harm. Yosef knew that had he not listened to the voice of his daughter that fateful morning when Caleb was killed in the bombing that he too would have died. It was as if God had spared his life for a reason. God had spoken through a child to save his life. How much more could he do to return the favor? Each day, Yosef could feel the faith inside him growing. Evette seemed to sense it as well and encouraged him by reading from their tiny Bible she had brought along. The scriptures spoke to them more and more each day.

Reaching the crossing, Yosef turned and embraced Evette. He didn’t want to let go, for he knew when he did, it would be the last time. “Yosef, you will make a difference. Don’t forget who you are, and take this,” she passed the little Bible into his palm as she leaned into him; close now, face to face, “You’re going to need this more than ever before,” she whispered as they kissed goodbye.

Down by his side, he could feel the tiny hands holding onto his pant leg. As he bent down, his heart began to melt. The tears filled his eyes, and he realized this would be their last time.

 “Papa, you are going to do God’s work, right,” the little voice said, sincerely and without fear?

“Yes baby, yes, papa will…,” and he stopped, choking back the flood of emotion.

He hugged one last time and turned to leave.

It was his time. This would be the end.

He would not look back.

The Bible in his hand reminded him that this was all that made sense. So, mustering every ounce of strength he could find in his weeping soul, Yosef silently began to pray. As his voice lifted up to the heavens, a tingling sensation began to rise from the earth, pouring through his legs, up through his spine, until it reached the top of his head. It was an energy that made him want to shout, Amen! It was a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose. It was something that finally made sense.

It was time to do God’s work.

Unexpectedly, those strained, war-weary faces became the pulpit, their souls became the fields white ready to harvest, and his voice began speaking words of faith and encouragement. The voice of God began speaking through Yosef like a runaway freight train. He was a man on fire for the Lord. If he were to die, he would go out doing what he was meant to do. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain.

From the corner of his eye, as he made his way through the crowd, loving, praying, and finally evangelizing like he always hoped he and his brother would do someday, the flash of a familiar color caught his eye. A tiny flame of hope. The diminutive form in the bright pink unicorn boots was waving her encouragement from the top of the steps of the train station.

Like a man in the middle of battle, he paused, and he returned the motion. The little face smiled and gave a thumbs-up gesture and turned to leave. His heart melted in two. In the pause of the moment, Yosef heard a voice from somewhere up above saying, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

And onward he pressed…until the end.

Pray for Ukraine, Pray for the World.

Thanks be to God.

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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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Open the Doors and See All the People


by Timothy W. Tron
Feb. 7th, 2021

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25


Darkness was all around. The car’s headlights could barely make out the tracks in the snow-covered roadway before me. I was heading home after having assisted in officiating a memorial service for a young lady. Another soul having passed too soon from this place. Her life had ended in tragedy, making it a difficult service to lead. Yet, even before the chill of the day’s air had left my coat from the graveside, the message of another friend’s passing reached my phone. Unlike the previous, his new home was certain. In this thought, my mind rejoiced in knowing that another brother had gone to be in that place that cannot be described in earthly terms.


As my drive home neared the mountains, the snowfall increased until, at one point, my car literally slid out of control for at least fifty yards or more. Thankfully, the tires never left the surface of the roadway. Unspoken prayer was answered once more. Afterward, my attention became ever more focused on driving carefully and slowly.

Oddly enough, without trying, a Sunday School rhyme of my youth began to play in my mind. As the lyric was spoken, we would act out the words with our hands. We would interlock our fingers together, palms facing upward, we would then turn them inward until our pointer-fingers touched and the heels of our thumbs pressed together. The rhyme went something like this, “Here is the church, look at the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” Our little pointer-fingers would wiggle at the sound of the steeple, the thumbs would part when the doors were reached, and then the wrists would turn so that the interlaced fingers were once more pointing upward. That was the moment when you made your fingers wiggle around as if the congregation was visiting, sharing, and rejoicing together as one. It often made me chuckle to see my fingers wiggling and thinking of the congregation doing the same.


Looking back, my thoughts on that dark, judicious drive home were not of the mourning of my friend’s passing. They weren’t memories of the fact that we would miss his jovial, sometimes prankful demeanor. Nor were they the fact that this would be another COVID death in the records of the state’s annals of those that had succumbed to the pandemic. No, what was really troubling my soul was that my friend attended a church that had shuttered their doors because of COVID. There are all always seems to be a never-ending, creative, and thoughtful precipitous stream of reasons given when asked why a church would stop holding in-person services, but the most widely accepted excuse cited is, “Because we care about our elders and those have predisposed illnesses that make them susceptible, we are closing our doors to protect them.” Sadly, my friend’s church is not alone in this decision. Yet, neither of these practices adopted by “Caring” churches protected my friend. He had a stroke. He was 86. It happens. When he was finally recovering, he was taken to a rehab facility where it was certain that he had contracted the illness. He had lived a full life and had often told me he was ready to go on home. Well, my friend had made it, but then it was no fault or had not been prevented by the very church to which he had belonged. Before my friend left us, he had shared with me how he wished they would open back up because he missed those brothers and sisters who were like family to him. Sadly, my friend was never afforded that opportunity here on earth. In essence, his well-meaning church had somehow failed him. First Peter warns us of this, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” In other words, God entrusted his people’s care to those who would become the leaders of the church. It is their duty to feed the flock until the day the Lord returns. As a farmer, I can tell you that you can’t ignore your animals, or they will die of starvation. Jesus told the Pharisees, “I am the bread of life. He that believeth in my shall never hunger, he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”


Hebrews 10:25 says it clearly, “Not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”


In some cases, the church puts the blame on the state or local government authorities. In some instances, they are literally being forced to close by the threat of litigation. But in most cases, it was merely the threat of what “might” happen that shuttered many a sanctuary’s entrances. While many shut their doors saying that it is Biblical to follow the rules, the Apostle Peter would have to disagree, “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” – Acts 4:19 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29 In other words, man must live by God’s direction and not that of any man, regardless if it breaks the law or decree that is insidious in nature toward Christians.


As the children’s rhyme says, “open the doors and see all the people,” we are meant to be together, gathering in one place. The Greek word for Gathering is episunago, which means to be in one place physically. It doesn’t read episunagoge, which is the other meaning of Gathering, which so many like to say that this verse actually means. The latter form means to be together in spirit, 2 Thess. 2:1, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming o our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,” One could say that a Zoom meeting, or the prerecorded online sermons we see so many conceding too, have become the way forward for so many congregations. Sadly, some say that because of the virus’s ability to mutate, that this will never end. Does this mean that those churches that have closed their doors will remain closed forever? Does this mean that so many of those who have left the church out of fear will never return? And then the question that one must ask at a memorial service of someone that died due to a tragic event, “What is the greatest tragedy?” Yes, sadly, the greater tragedy, the effect of those well-meaning decisions by so many boards of elders, those deacon’s members who had thought it best for the greater whole, to close their doors, were causing a greater tragedy to occur than the one they had conceived. You see, my friend, the greatest tragedy is not dying in a natural disaster, it is not dying in a horrific accident, nor dying of COVID – the greatest tragedy is dying without knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior.


Disease, persecution, or any other reason that beguiles humanity is, nor has ever been a reason to stop providing a service whereby the Word of God can be preached. The Bible states this clearly in many ways and many passages.


Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” – 2 Timothy 3:12-13


Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” – John 15:20


As I was recently afforded the opportunity to attend another tour at the Trail of Faith, it was that dark, overcast evening, again with the threat of possible snow showers on the horizon, that I became intensely convicted of a thought that would not go away. It came to me while we were standing in the replica of the Barbi College. The original structure is in Pra Del Tor, located in the Waldensian valleys of the Cottien Alps, nestled in the northwest corner of Italy. The original structure is estimated to be well over 1,000 years old. There, the elders (known as Uncle – Barbi) would teach the younger students. They would commit the entire New Testament to memory while learning Hebrew, Latin, Greek. They would also learn how to heal, using ancient methods of homeopathic remedies and cures passed down from one generation to the next. Their education was not complete until they had memorized the entire New Testament. When it was sure that the student was ready, and most importantly, had received the Holy Ghost, they were then paired with an elder and would go out across Europe evangelizing the Word of God. It was against the law to own a Bible or even to have scripture in your procession. The penalty for being caught with either was death, following an arduous, painful torture. The life expectancy of those early evangelists was 2-3 years.


It was there, standing in that dimly lit room of the Barbi College, gathered around a large single granite slate tabletop, that the feeling hit me. “We must open our church’s doors and impart into those in attendance the dire warning that came out of the ancient Waldensian history – God’s word can only survive in the hearts of men.” The only safe place for God’s word is not on a piece of paper, not on your Google Drive, nor stashed away in the cupboard of your kitchen – it is in your heart. Both the pastor leading the group and myself admitted to the group that although we had not spoken of it to one another, nor mentioned it at any other time, we both suddenly felt this conviction of purpose. We must impress upon our parishioners the impetus, the impending need to commit as much scripture to the heart, for the day is coming that it may all be taken away. But this is was not the only conviction that came through that still small voice. The other was that we are doing our congregations a great disservice by shuttering those church doors. It is the very nature of what we were meant to be in a church, what every church’s goal for existing – saving lost souls. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” – 1 Corinthians 5:45


There are factual reports of an increase in deaths resulting from society’s isolation due to COVID. It is these people, those that have been kept away from the very place they needed to be, that we are losing. Satan seeks to destroy and devour whom he will. It is with great joy that he sees those church doors closed. It is with great pleasure that he hears of another person dying, not having known Christ. It is with great satisfaction that Satan knows that those in most need cannot reach their sanctuary of hope because either their local government or, worse, their church leaders have eliminated their only path to salvation. Yes, the greatest tragedy is not the one that makes the nightly news, for it is one that is being fought every day, from one end of this planet to the next – saving the lost before it’s too late.


Friends, let this passage be a warning. May you feel the quickening of the Holy Spirit. As we draw nearer to the end times, there should be a quickening in your own heart, one that makes you wake up gasping for breath in the dark of the night, for fear that you have not done enough for those in your life that need God’s word.


Say ye not that in four months, then cometh the harvest? But I say to you, lift your eyes unto the fields for they are white with harvest.


Here is the church, there is the steeple, open the doors and see all God’s people.


Thanks be to God.

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A Gathering to Remember

by Timothy W. Tron, Nov. 2020

As the coming holidays approach, Thanksgiving and Christmas, there seems to be a sense of melancholy that has begun to permeate through the din of the incessant roar of this tumult our society has become. In my mind, there is a desire to reach back in my memories and dwell upon a time when life was simpler when the so-called advances in technology had yet to be developed. Because of the threat of lockdowns restricting these beloved reunions, those distant memories have become even more cherished. One such date that comes to mind coincides with a memory that our family holds dear to their heart.

It was the late 1960’s. Back then, we survived without non-stop news coverage, without updates from our social media accounts, and without the fear of dying from a virus, let alone anything else that existed at the time. It’s not to say there wasn’t death nor dying, for there had yet to be the advances we have today in the fields of heart disease and cancer. Both of these maladies took many lives before their time, and still do today, but not nearly as severely as in those days. No, we feared not because we had a faith that was the bedrock of our existence.

That faith was taught to us through our elders, passed down from one generation to the next – a thread of belief that was built upon an unending truth – Christ is indeed the Savior of the world. So, it is in this vein that once more my heart reaches for a well-worn story that is based on an actual event whose legacy has lasted for many years in our family. It is like the cup of an instant drink, void of the liquid to make it real – once the hot water is added, the story being recalled becomes the sustenance that warms our being. Like that beverage, the Spirit enters into our soul, and we are warmed from within to that which is without. Herein lies the beauty.

Looking back through the shadowy fog of time, those distant memories are like the passing clouds overhead. They are here but for a moment, and then cross over the mountaintops before we realize they are gone. As we near the season of holidays and family gatherings, it seems that those ancient days of yesteryear are ever more treasured. Like the value of a tattered cloth that once was held in the dying grasp of a loved one, its price to most would be nothing, but to those who knew its connection to the soul of the other – it becomes a priceless object.

That year when the snow fell around Christmas would become one such moment in time for me.

The classic event which unfolded is still known to this day, by all that attended, as the Sled Hill Christmas. Of all my childhood holiday experiences, it will forever be the most memorable in my mind. To read the entirety of the original story, you can find it online at https://timothywtron.dreamhosters.com/sled-hill-life-more-abundantly/ But this article looks at that event from a different perspective; one of how the warmth of a loving family and faith carried us through what may have been considered just another dark winter.

Like a revival, a truly epic event can only unfold when it is least expected. So it was that overcast December day so many decades ago. Several of us grandkids were staying at Grandpa and Grandma Tron’s house, there on the outskirts of New Harmony, Indiana. The town itself was in the season of slumber. Farming was still the driving industry, and the fields were now silent in their winter sleep. The hay had all been stored in the barns and the silos were filled to capacity with grains and silage to last until the next growing season began.  A feeling of hibernation overtook one’s soul, making those opportunities to warm by the woodstove or to huddle close around a cup of hot chocolate all the more permanent upon the creature within. Gathering with others was the only natural thing to do in a time such as this – it was who we were, it was what we were. In those precious slices of time, we fellowshipped without knowing that’s what it was called. Visiting with others when the work in the fields slowed was just as natural as splitting your firewood by hand – we all did it.

Tron House, New Harmony, Indiana.

When those first few snowflakes began falling the night before what would become the day to remember, we went to bed not expecting anything more than just a typical Midwest December dusting. When we awoke the next morning to the sounds of someone rattling around downstairs in the kitchen, it was as if Christmas had come early. Jumping from underneath the multiple layers of quilts, which weighed nearly as much as another cousin, we raced down the icy narrow stairs from the unheated upstairs bedrooms down to the kitchen where the pot-belly woodstove in Grandma’s kitchen was already red hot. We shivered and shook the remnants of chill from our bones, as our bare feet fought to find the warmth emanating from the scant linoleum floor by the stove. Excitedly, we peeked through the threadbare kitchen curtains that hung over the sink. The window faced grandma’s kitchen garden. Outside, the world was no longer the muddled gray of winter, but instead, was a brilliant whiteness, even in the pre-dawn, early morning hours.

About the time we had settled down around the table, after getting out of our bedclothes, Grandpa came in from the morning milking. We could hear the creaky old porch door slam behind him as he walked down the long back porch, from the barn end, up to the door of the kitchen, where he paused and took off his boots. The confines of that narrow passage clothed in clear plastic, a feeble attempt to thwart the cold winds of winter. The repurposed material was clouded with age, giving off a soft sheer grayness within the tomb of the veranda’s confines. The oft sound of rippling plastic slapping the screen made thoughts of warm summer nights, fresh tomatoes, and fireflies come to mind. Needless to say, those were but a distant rumor as the snow continued to fall.

With all eyes upon his entry, the vacuum of anticipation cut the air, like the cold wind that followed him inside. Snowflakes fell off his outer coat confirming what we already knew. Before he had time to take note of his unexpected audience, the questions began to roll off our lips.

“How deep is it grandpa?”

“Does it look like more’s coming?

“Where are the sleds?”

“Were the cows cold?”

He turned and smiled, looking toward grandma. Victor Tron never was a man of many words, So, when he replied with, “It looks like it’s gonna be good,” rest assured, that was all we needed to know. Grandma already had his breakfast ready, along with ours, and we sat down for an unusually early start of our day. We all instantly grew silent when grandpa bowed his head and reached his hand over to grandma. She grabbed his outstretched weathered hand with hers and we all joined hands and bowed our heads as grandpa said the blessing for the breakfast meal. In my mind, I can still hear that strained voice, barely above a whisper, thank God for what grandpa said was an abundance of blessings. Before us was a meager meal by worldly standards, but to us, it was Heaven sent. For we knew, even as children that every bit of it was from those two pair of withered hands that grasped one another in a love that never ended, even upon their death.

Victor Tron Sr.

 Grandpa’s first milking was at 3:00 AM and he usually finished up around 5:00 AM. His second milking was at 3:00 PM, every day of his life. He never took a vacation that I could remember. Usually exhausted from rising early, he would routinely drift off to sleep no matter where he sat, so finding time to talk with him was rare. He milked the cows until that night he died peacefully in his sleep, never to milk again. What we didn’t know as children, was how precious those few moments were with him when we were able to visit, especially that snowy morning on a cold December day so many years ago.

As soon as we were able to clear the table and bundle up, we were headed out the door. Eventually, someone asked if we could check out sled hill. An okay was given and like a herd of young calves heading for new pasture, we bolted out the back gate. Past the woodpile where grandpa’s ax and splitting log were shrouded in snow we raced. Heading for the opening to the lane, we quickly found ourselves wading through the knee-deep snow toward the iconic destination; Sled Hill. Past the milking barn, the bullpen, and Ms. Wolf’s house we trudged. Each one of these structures held a plethora of memories and stories that one could sit for hours and share. Like a life of living, their collections, like the holdings of stockpiled hay for the winter, waiting for one to return and use for the giving.

The bushes along the Labyrinth were blanketed in a sweet frosting of white. Our panted breaths billowed before us and were quickly whisked away in the falling snow.  In our rush to find out how well the sledding was going to be, we didn’t realize how hard the snow was continuing to fall. Nor did we realize how deep the snow had already gotten since sunrise. In the overcast grayness of the day, it all seemed like a dream, even when it was live.

Labyrinth, New Harmony, Indiana

As the story, “Sled Hill: Life More Abundantly,” conveys, the rest of the day was a multitude of adventures and excitement. With each passing moment, the tempo of the day’s delight reached a fevered pitch. The enthusiasm of the children soon bubbled over into those of the adults, igniting in them the feelings of youth. Gone were the aches and pains of age. The adrenaline of living purged those boundaries of limitations that had kept them hostage. Soon, parents, Aunts, and Uncles were joining in the merriment of sliding down the hill so aptly named.

As the sky began to darken as night approached, the thrill of the day and the feeling of being one with something greater than ourselves overwhelmed us. Fearing that it would end in darkness, the men created torches on the fly from used old tin cans (which we also used as drinking vessels), nailing them to poles and placing them along the sled run, all the way to the top of the hill. What started out as child’s play quickly turned into a major production. In essence, a cow pasture had turned into our own ski-slope far removed from any mountaintop.

When the last vestiges of daylight gave way to darkness, there along the sled run was a perfect row of home-made flaming lights shedding an ambient glow of warmth. Off to the side, a pile of wood was set afire and a massive bonfire became the gathering spot between runs down the hill. There we regained strength to carry on from food and drink the family had brought in at a moment’s notice. There, the entire family that was able to make it collected. The sentinel image that remains with me to this day was seeing both grandpa and grandma’s faces glowing in the reflection of the firelight. To know that grandpa had a milking coming at 03:00 AM, and yet, he was here foregoing precious sleep, standing alongside us kids around the bonfire said something more that than words could fathom. Even then, the whispers of the children could be heard, “Look, even grandpa and grandma are here.” The statement was a confirmation of the significance of that moment in time, one that made a profound statement on all that were present.

That night, once our bodies had been worn to a frazzle. There was barely enough strength to make it back to the house. As we pulled off our wet, nearly frozen clothing and briefly warmed by the fire, a numbness of exhaustion began to overtake us. The enormous featherbed never looked so welcoming. Shortly thereafter, after our bedtime prayers were said, there was little more than the sweet, “Goodnight children,” from grandma as she tucked us under the pile of quilts before we fell asleep.

For once in a lifetime, there was no sweeter sleep.

As the snow continued to fall outside that night, there was a warmth within that was more than physical – a love that transcends all understanding. There was something created that day that would last forever in the hearts of those who had been privileged to experience it. It became an inexplicable thread of life that would weave its way into our souls which would become part of who we were. The similarity of a feeling such as this can only compare to that of Christ’s disciples.

Like those followers of Jesus who had walked and talked with Christ after his resurrection, they too had a story to share. One that was so inexplicable, so earth-shattering that they would live the rest of their lives pursuing the mission to share it with all that would hear, even unto the point of death. It was who they were.

As we go forward in this holiday season, let us come together as a family, and may the hope of Christ, and Christmas be with you, until the end of time. May it someday become who you are as well.

Thanks be to God.

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The Voice of Melody

The voices of the distant past return.

Like haunted echoes through the canyon walls, their cries of mourning and anguish retell the story of old. There in the northwest corner of Italy, they were forced into isolation. They were hunted like animals, labeled as heretics: their crime, merely sharing and evangelizing the Word of God. In that foregone time, the troops could be seen coming from afar. Standing on the abyss of the mountain tops, the faithful ancient Waldensians, or people of the valleys, knew their only hope of survival, other than having faith, was to retreat to the upper mountain passes; to the places where even Angels feared to tread. There, in those high, Alpine meadows and caves, they survived. Their legacy, the very Word of God. For through their faithfulness, they had planted the seeds of the reformation.

Today, those voices are once again crying out. Unlike before, their torment is not from man, but rather, from an unseen enemy, a virus. The sickness has permeated their region to the point that the government has called for a total lockdown; nobody can be on the streets without justification. Even vending machine use is forbidden. Again, the people of the valleys, the descendants of the ancient Waldensians, face a darkness that slowly invades their land. Like armies of death marching to seek and destroy, they find once more their hope of survival is that of finding refuge in those high, solitary lands. The remote valleys once more become the perfect setting for isolation and self-quarantine. Having lived through past invasions, plagues, and economic strife, their heritage has taught them to be complacent with impoverished life. Yet, we must decrease so that he may increase, as the Apostle Paul would say.

Forced isolation caused those ancient people to learn how to cope with less. While eeking out a meager existence just to survive, they turned inward to find solace in the scriptures, and in those pages, found hope. Their fears had been diminished by knowing that their trials were only preparing them for a more magnificent journey someday. In those dimly lit stone caverns, they found comfort in the gifts that their Creator had bestowed upon them. Using these blessings, they would use them to pass on their faith, culture, and heritage. Today, one can find a more significant percentage of those ancient Waldensian descendants with all manner of creative talents than in typical societies. It is no wonder that their time in isolation had proved beneficial in not only keeping them alive but also it afforded them the time to enrich their souls.

Last night, as we passed the time in our own home, thousands of miles from those battling to survive in Northern Italy, I was reminded of how when we turn our thoughts to our brethren, our real gifts begin to be seen for what they were intended; to lift those up around us and to be the light for our world. As my eyes scanned through various social media platforms, a message began to emerge.

Musical artists of all ages began to stream live free music. From the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, and Brad Paisley played and sang to an empty Ryman Auditorium. Meanwhile, across our country, various bands played in front of phone cameras to professional-grade videography. In some cases, husband and wife duets performed for the world after having put their children to bed. It was an evening of sharing and uplifting songs. As the performers played, they all spoke in like tone; prayers for our country and for those people facing the uncertainty of tomorrow. Unlike traditional performances, the platform of social media allowed people to give instant feedback to their entertainers. Those of us watching could see a much-needed catharsis taking place as people would praise the singers and lift family members up in prayer.

In all my years, I had never witnessed anything like it.

But it didn’t stop with music. Poets were reading their works to the public to enlighten others. Individuals were sharing inspirational words of encouragement and scriptures. It was as if the world of social media had turned off the news and found themselves once more.

Then, this morning, after I had begun my morning coffee and finished my devotional, I once more wondered what the rest of the world was doing for Sunday morning worship. Once more, scanning through the pages of social media, I was once again blessed to find all manner of preachers, congregations, and individuals finding creative ways to share the Word of God. In my heart, there was a renewed feeling of hope. Gone was the negativity of the new media, and in its place, the true spirit of our country began to emerge, a voice of love, faith, and determination.

Bear the puppy.

Today, as my own family found time for a walk together with the newest family member, Bear the puppy, a sense of purpose, a restoration of hope began to return. In my mind, I tried to drink in the moment. Just being in their presence was enough.

Sadly, there are those in our world that don’t have the ability to receive help from all of those bands on social media. Some have no family with which they can find solace. Many sit alone in the solitary confines of a dark room waiting, listening to the sound of their own heartbeat. Some wishing that it would end.

Reading over the scriptures this evening, I asked God to send a message; to show me the scripture that would help to give hope to the world. It was then the voice said to look upon Isaiah. It was then the words over the recreation of the Church at Ciabas on the Trail of Faith came to me.  The inscription reads, “Le Petit de Sion,” meaning, “God will surely find comfort on Zion,” taken from Isaiah 51:3.

Turning to the scriptures, I read once more, “Hearken ye to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD; look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and to the hole from the pit whence ye are digged…For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places: and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; o and gladness shall be found therein thanking, and the voice of melody.”

I was reminded of those ancient people of the valleys. They didn’t allow their solitude to destroy their faith. Their heartiness, their ability to live and survive at high altitudes of long periods, as if hewn from the granite upon which they trod, came to mind. Much like the spirit of the American people today, beneath the ambiguity and divisiveness that some would want to portray, we are a hearty people. When we are pushed into a corner, the true American spirit begins to return; one of faith, hope, and charity. Satan wants nothing better than to see us fight over rolls of toilet paper and to hate our neighbor. The fear and despair that Satan preaches can only be spread by those who have no hope of tomorrow. It is up to us who know the truth, those of us who share a belief that God has a purpose in all that we do, to share our faith and hope of tomorrow with those around us. We must be reminded that although we face an unseen enemy, it is no different than any other day we face the same enemy, except it usually isn’t called a virus, it is called sin.

This next week, I urge each of us to lift up your family, your brethren, and your neighbor. Seek to use the gifts God has bestowed upon you to bring light to someone’s dark world. Make someone’s wilderness an Eden; their desert a garden of the Lord. There, when you share with those souls abandoned to dark rooms of despair, you will find hearts floating in the air, and the smile of gratitude spread across their faces. In that moment, when the happiness begins to shine in their hearts once more, listen for the voice of melody, and you will know God has spoken through you.

Yes, gladness, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody will return.

Thanks be to God.

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The Cup of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

“Nobody breath,” Ricky commanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


[1] 1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV

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

[3] John 7:37 KJV

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A Love Like no Other – to Barney and Otis

Their shadows raced across the ground, fleeting patches of darkness. Like spirits nearly visible, “…the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.” Their existence being enough to block the light, but not enough to be seen. Above, in the brilliant Carolina blue sky, their sharp cries pierced the morning air. Slowly, the pair of Red Tail Hawks made their way up the river, twisting and turning in figure-eight patterns; seeking, searching, hunting for their next meal. So many times, the river has been a source of my inspiration, a bridge for which God sends to me the words with which I share.

The morning chill had given way to a welcoming warmth, despite the frigid air. It was just a couple days into February, yet it felt more like the beginning of spring. My weekly walk to church had culminated in the parking lot as Ms. Dorothy had picked me up just yards away and carried me honorably the remainder of the way. Each time she stops to beckon me into her vehicle, we make a quick rearrangement of her week’s collections in the passenger seat before I jump in, backpack, walking stick, and all. Encouraged from our encounter, like the first few sips of a morning coffee, we eagerly chatted about the reorganization and plethora of oddities she had collected in her life that week.

“Those boots I’ll probably use for firewood after I take out the laces,” she said with a wink and a grin.

I laughed, “Firewood?”

“Yeah, look at em, they’re not much good for anything else. Somebody dropped them off, and ain’t nobody gonna want a pair of boots that look like that.”

Looking at the well-worn boots, I had to muse about Dorothy and her take on life. That would have to wait for another story, another time.

In the back of my mind, I too had many items to share, but unlike hers, mine had no tangible evidence. Memories are said to be like smoke in the wind, they are seen but for a moment and then are gone. Just the week before, as I once more sat on the picnic table by the General Store, I had written in my journal about the two town dogs, Barney and Otis. Each had made an impression upon me, although they never graced my presence for more than just a few minutes each time we met. It was in my reflection of how each had their own character. Barney, with his unrivaled enthusiasm, would follow me to the picnic table and jump up on it, so eager he was for affection. Otis, meanwhile, would patiently sit upon the ground and lean against my leg where I sat. He would gladly take the petting that would follow in time.

It was during my thoughts the previous week that I realized it had been many months since the last time we had shared our time under the broad elm by the river. Both Barney and Otis had been up for many hours as was evidence of their wet, muddy coats. It was something out of the ordinary, in a way, since they usually were clean and reserved. Each had been in the river and looked to be quite animated that particular morning from my recollection. After our brief time of greeting, they soon ran across the bridge and down on the other bank to where they continued their hunt. Evidently, they had found a den of groundhogs and were bent on capturing the remainder of the brood. I watched as the two friends worked together, Barney sniffing them out and then chasing them toward Otis who would patiently wait at the far end of the rock pile where their prey kept quarters. It was a fascinating adventure to observe. Had I known it was to be my last, I might have filmed it rather than merely observing it.

Not long after that chilly morning together, Barney was struck and killed on the road somewhere near the bend in the road above his house. We all knew it was just a matter of time. Barney had grown so old and careless that he would sometimes lay in the middle of the parking lot at the store while cars and trucks would haphazardly pull in, not realizing a dog was sleeping in their path. After Barney died, Otis wandered around town, like a lost soul, looking for his buddy. He was never the same afterward. We all, too were changed in seeing the poor dog missing his old friend. Who could blame him; we all did?

So, with a heavy heart last week, my thoughts turned toward Otis and what may have happened to him since I hadn’t seen him in quite a while. The last story I had heard of him was that he saw some people going down the river in kayaks. They petted and spoke to him, kindly giving him some much-needed attention. Otis was so happy to been shown affection that he followed them, swimming and running when he could down the river; and not for just a few yards either. He went with them all the way down the river to a point they eventually put him in the boats with them for fear of him tiring and drowning. Finally, when they reached their destination, they carried Otis back to Collettsville, his home. The lady that brought him back told the people working at the store about his adventure and that she figured it was best to bring him back to where he first started following them.

It was true. Otis, the dog, was home again.

Oddly, as my thoughts had turned toward them last week, it was this week that I learned of the sad news. Otis had been put down. He had developed a brain tumor and, toward the end, couldn’t even open his mouth to eat. It was a bitter end to an old hound dog that had blessed the hearts of so many in the community. Like the sauntering old Otis from the Andy Griffith show, you couldn’t help loving him, even though he nor Barney may have been the cutest dogs around, they were definitely the most loveable.

Once more, my mind still goes back to another morning of our time together. It was a cold, wet morning when I rounded the bend in the road, and there the two town dogs stood, eagerly waiting on me at the edge of the store parking lot. At first, they were hesitant to acknowledge me – a stranger walking down the road in a coat and toboggan. But when I called to them, greeting them, they instantly knew me by the sound of my voice and began to bounce on their front legs, whispering quiet barks of fog into the chilly morning air. Their tails beat so violently that they were quite literally the epitome of – the tail wagging the dog. They were cold and wet, so when I reached our bench at the front of the general store, I could sense that they wanted to share a moment or two together. Years on the farm had taught me to sense an animal’s demeanor, be it good or bad. That day it was one of welcome relief. Thankfully, I had left home early enough to afford me plenty of time before Church started. Enough time that I sat petting my two friends while seated on the bench in front of the Collettsville General Store as they both drifted off to sleep. It was a heartwarming moment, knowing that they had eagerly invited me to join them and then, in their comfort with me, fell asleep on my lap. Their trust and instinctual love allowed for them the presence of mind to let down their guards and to rest in peaceful sleep. In life, there are those rare times that you are aware that your presence is actually making a difference. Sometimes, those moments come in unexpected ways, and when they do, we should take comfort in knowing that God is giving us an example of our love for him, allowing us to find peace in his presence, and when we do, we can finally fully trust and relax in his arms; giving all our cares up to him so that we have nothing to fear. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.[1]

And for a few minutes, one cold, chilly Sunday morning, two dogs and an old man come together to find solace in one another’s presence, each being cared for by God’s loving hands.

These are the days that sometimes pass like the shadow of the hawk upon the ground, fleeting, but when we look toward the sky, we know from whence they came.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Isaiah 41:10 KJV

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Hope and Wait…

But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. 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”-Romans 8:25-27

Through the lush vegetation, he pushed. Behind him, darkness and danger had pursued him like demons from another realm. There had been many near misses; moments when it felt as if the very life had been sucked from his lungs. As he neared the edge of the jungle, the light from beyond beckoned, like a welcoming host waving their guest home.

He was so close.

Each day as he had neared the edge of the dark realm, he could feel the grip of death lessen. Each new day, there was an increased hope, like that of a child expectant of the excitement of opening their gifts on Christmas morning. At first, the feeling was barely noticeable, but as the sound of release from beyond the infirmaries of bondage slipped away, he could feel a growing anticipation of eagerness stir within his blood.

Yet, he could not see what was to come.

He thought back to the verse which echoed in his mind like the raptor’s call off the nearby canyon walls, “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” A chill passed through his bones as its meaning resonated with his soul.

Evil had stalked him like a dark predator, walking in the shadow of each footstep. The multitude of workload and stress it placed upon his life was nearly to the point of an unbearable burden. Yet, he pushed on; praying for strength, guidance, and wisdom every waking moment. There were times when his foot would slip on the path, and the weight of those shackles would throw him to the ground. Each time he would moan under his breath, gritting his teeth, as he pushed upward, looking for what little ray of hope that flickered through the somber canopy above. Questions clouded his mind as Satan attempted to confuse him, trying to distract him long enough to make him lose his way and give up. When the roar of tumult would overwhelm him, he would pause, bending over and holding his knees as he sought air to breathe, like the fighter pausing between rounds; then he would drag his weary frame back into the fray.

Each time he gained momentum, as if the clouds overhead had parted and a slimmer of light would escape to the forest floor, the darkness would slam him once more, like a mule kicking him in the stomach. Nauseating helplessness would momentarily overwhelm his spirit as he would stumble backward; dazed, confused, and humiliated by what all was said of his inescapable ineptitudes as Satan tried to make him lose courage. The taunts would cut him to the core, as if the prince of darkness knew what mattered most, and would use those words to slice his soul to the very marrow of his existence. As he lay upon the sod, barely breathing, the darkness would leave, feeling accomplished for what it had done. Behind it, the man closed his eyes and prayed in a whispered breath, “God, I need you like never before. If this is the path you want me to take, then show me the way. If this is not, then show me the door to take, for I cannot do this, nor have I ever done this without you.”

As the man’s face looked up from the earth, overhead a fluorescent butterfly lit upon a branch of forest fern nearby. Amongst the deep recess of the darkness, its radiance lifted his spirit momentarily, like the wings of that insect, fluttering upward, then gently floating away. He could feel his on soul rise upon the occasion and a temporary moment of repose warmed his being. He closed his eyes and pressed it into his memory, for it was the only reprieve from the oppression he had known it some time.

The days would turn into months.

Each new month brought the repeated episode of the man being beaten down, again and again, until his health began to deteriorate. It seemed as the darkness was winning. But the man had not lost faith, and in his faith, there was eternal hope; a strength greater than the darkness could compete, for the gates of hell could not prevail against it. Each day, his journey brought him closer to the end, and each day, victory was nearer than before.

Satan knew he had won, but as he watched in earnest, he could not stop the man from continuing to move onward, never stopping, never giving up. He used every means possible to stop his progress, but nothing seemed to dissuade the man from his point of focus. It was if he had another life within that the darkness could not penetrate; a light within.

As the pathway neared the end, the man felt his spirit begin to soar. Each new day, each new breath, the life he once thought had gone was now returning, but unlike ever before; more clear, more vivid, more alive than ever before. It was as if he had died and was born again.

Death had lost its grip, and his victory was with God, through Christ Jesus.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the edge of the deep wood opened, and there before him lay the vastness of eternity. The glory, in all its splendor, was more than his mind could grasp. Tears filled his eyes as the expanse of beauty flooded through his eyes, warming his soul from without, to within. The marrow of his being had been infused with something greater than any feeling he had previously known, as if an agape love, charity for which no expression could be summoned, touched an inner precept that he had not known until now.

The words flooded his soul like the voices of a thousand waterfalls, whispering a roar into his being, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The man sat and wept as God welcomed him into the fold, for his heart was now healed.

We may never know the journey someone is on in this life, nor the tribulations through which they are struggling. We can each in our own way be a ray of hope, a brilliant butterfly to their being with nothing more than a smile, a warm welcome, or just simply a kind hello.

Seek to empathize with your neighbor, colleague, or family member. Remember, “. 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.”

Smile, and be patient, for, in the end, hope will guide you.

We may not see the next door, but with hope, and faith, we will know that when it opens, it will be the will of God.

And most importantly,

Thanks be to God.

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The Coat of Many Colors

Introduction:

Joseph’s coat of many colors came to my attention yesterday while working on the fireplace in my Spiritual Retreat. As I work, I like to listen to music. My selection for the day was classic country. Dolly Parton’s like-named song was playing through the speakers, and the thought of my Action Research project for Learning Theory class came to mind. When Dolly proudly wore her coat of many colors to school, made from rags her mother had carefully sewn together by hand, the other children teased her to the point she felt ashamed. In other words, they bullied her. Trying to fight back, she tried to explain how her mother had told her the story of Joseph while she painstakingly worked on the coat each night. Unable to convey the full context of the story from Genesis 37 to her peers, they continued to mock and deride her. It was no use; they just couldn’t understand.

As in the story of Joseph, his father, Jacob, gave him a coat of many colors. This was the story Dolly’s mother had told her about while making the special coat. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son since he had been born in his old age. Giving him the coat of many colors was viewed as giving him the birthright, which was against tradition. Normally, the birthright went to the firstborn son. This act of giving the coat to Joseph enraged his brothers to the point that, “They could not speak peaceably to him.” – Genesis 37:4[1] In other words, they began to chide him with hurtful rhetoric, much like Dolly experienced; however, this was harassment was driving the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum; that of jealousy.

Not only do we see how peer pressure can cause children to become introverted[2], but we can also see how appearances and dress too often dictate what is the social norm for the school culture. Sadly, this ethos can be influenced by negative factors such as Gangster Rap, social media, and overly aggressive video Games, such as Soldier of Fortune and Fortnight. When perceptions turn into actions, either verbal or physical, they have gone too far. In the story of Joseph, we find the extreme result that we fear most; when bullying becomes more than painful words.

Poverty is still prevalent in our school district. The poor of the Appalachians is unfortunately very much alive and well today. However, today they exist from diverse backgrounds; they are paradoxically the human coat of many colors. In my own classroom, I have seen bullying against the socioeconomic (both poor and rich), social status, and sexual orientation. All have come in a variety of forms and from often, the most unexpected antagonist.

Although these lyrics in Dolly’s song and the story of Joseph’s coat appear seemingly simple, if we look at them more deeply, we can find the effects of bullying on several layers (both victim and perpetrator), their triggers, and the culture they breed in our classrooms.

 

Triggers:

In an interview[3] about the story behind the song, Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton revealed that the song was indeed autobiographical; the small girl in the song was her. We find in the song how Dolly was hurt by the teasing of her fellow students. Some people may conclude that this is only a natural attitude; just children being children. Yet, when we take a closer look at their actions, we can see how this type of teasing can be construed as bullying. A new step between teasing and bullying has been identified as a ‘micro-aggression.’ It can best be described as this, “Trigger material is barely a whisper away from ‘trigger words’—many of which supply the content of ‘micro-aggressions,’ and all of them might readily be placed under the aegis of bullying.”[4]

However, even though she had been shamed, Dolly didn’t give up. Trying to overcome her attackers, Dolly took the high road and tried to convey to them a higher purpose in the coat’s meaning. As the lyrics tell us, “that a person is only poor if they choose to be.” This likely was a response to them accusing her family of living in poverty because of her coat made of rags. In high school, social status often dictates what click or circle of friends you keep. Even in Dolly’s childhood, children were already being taught, whether at home or through advertising, that it wasn’t popular to be poor. Rather, they were already trying to shed their rural traditions for the sake of “appearing” to be more city-fied. Today, we still see some of that, students trying to hide their poverty. A new status of being proud of your rural roots has risen in the past decade. Some students purposely where their square-toed boots to school, with camouflaged coats and hats to match. However, rural boots and belt buckles can lead to triggers for some students as well.

In my own classroom there is another trigger in our day that was not an issue in Dolly’s school; sexual self-identification. The rainbow colors of both Dolly’s and Joseph’s coat could easily be seen as a metaphor for the rainbow symbol used by the LGBTQ community today. Hate groups and related mentalities often seek out these representations as targets to whom they are repulsed, and subsequently attracted to attack. What is often said at home is ingrained into the child’s mind. Acting out these aggressions, as so often we find in bullying, the multi-colored coat could then easily be seen as a representation of something it was not intended; regardless, the actual intent of said clothing.

In Joseph’s situation, the coat represented their birthright being given to the “favorite son.” This trigger brought out the most vehement personalities of sibling rivalry.

Who’s to say that the students at Dolly’s school weren’t jealous too because of Dolly’s special coat? We could easily discern from the language of her song that the more she tried to tell them why it was special, it just added fuel to their fire, flaming their jealousy all the more. How many of those jealous students came from broken families and never had anyone love them enough to make something for them; especially a coat that took many hours to sew together? To cover for their own insecurities, they took it out on the poor, little pretty country girl who glowed in her new coat.

Another trigger that is often missed is that from cultural ignorance. In my class, there was an incident when one of my impoverished students, one that was known for struggling academically, said something to one of my other impoverished minority students. Each child was from poor families but had dramatically diverse ethnic backgrounds. The one non-ethnic male student made an off-handed statement to the other while working on a project together. The student was so ashamed, she wrote a note and gave it to me after class. It was a shining moment for her, in that although afraid to meet her bully head-on, she still had the courage to come forward. The male student who had said the remarks had only repeated words that he had heard in his home environment so many times, that he didn’t see them as hurtful. Sadly, being from some of the remote sections of the mountains doesn’t afford the opportunity to know people from other parts of the world, except through the lenses of their own rural backgrounds, which more often than not include stereotypical ideologies. After I had the opportunity to talk to the perpetrator about his language, he then understood how his words had been painfully received, and he was sorry. The victim eventually forgave him, but in her own time, and not as a result from any persuasion on my part. In a loving environment, forgiveness is possible when we set the example for others to follow.

 

 

Perpetrator (the Bully):

In both cases of Dolly and Joseph, we don’t actually know the bullies first-hand; rather, we only are aware of the consequences resulting from their actions. In each circumstance, we can make some valid assumptions based on what we know about how bullies are created and how their actions are perpetuated onto their victims.[5] As we learned in the video, bullies often take out their frustrations on easy targets. By the time most adolescents reach the secondary level of education, the bully has found the “Chronic Victim.” Both are rejected by their peers; the bully for being aggressive, the victim for being introverted and strange (the latter a more self-imposed extraction than the former). Looking at the social atmosphere from the outside, both victim and bully become connected due to their polar opposite personalities.

Personally, I can attest to this syndrome; opposites attract. Early in my own personal High School experience, I was very introverted and shy. This outcast of society mindset made me a target for bullies in school. Appearing as an easy target, they began to harass and torment me to the point I began to think of either escaping or retaliating, a common result of bullying. I eventually reached a breaking point one day when one of those bullies pushed me too far. I snapped and literally succumbed to a blinding rage that had built up inside of me for so long. At that moment, I had become like Ralphie, in the movie, “Christmas Story.”[6]

However, unlike Ralphie, who pummeled his bully, I simply hit my tormentor once, square in the face. The blow was so great that his head snapped back, then he fell forward into his plate of food on the table; out cold. I calmly walked back to my seat and sat down. It was then I began shaking from the adrenaline rush, realizing what I had done. Eventually, the bully recovered and then ran out of the lunchroom. I was horrified. I knew in my heart that at that point I was going to be called to the office and from there, all manner of trouble would ensue. The prospects of punishment from my actions began to consume me. Fearing for my academic life, I too left the lunchroom and hid out in the stairwells until the bell rang for classes to begin. Amazingly enough, I was never called to the office. None of the teachers monitoring the lunchroom reported the incident. Mind you, this was 40 years ago, back when paddling was still a valid course of corporal punishment. It was also very likely that the teaching staff attending to the lunchroom that day saw someone, the bully, finally get his just reward; one can only guess at this point.

Regardless, looking back, it was as if God had watched over me that day.

Not long after that incident, the bully began to change. He began to say hello to me in the hallways; being nice instead of intimidating. In fact, the other bullies in the school that had previously targeted me now treated me with a renewed sense of respect; not something I had looked for, but rather, something that was a result of something which I am not proud of, even today. That former bully, a year later, became a friend, and in a positive way. It was as if that moment had also transformed his life. It was much like that point in Joseph’s life when he looked up from the bottom of the well, realizing he could have easily been killed by his brothers, he realized that his life was about to change for the worse. However, as we know the rest of the story, through his forgiveness, he eventually was reunited with his brothers in dramatic fashion; one of best tear-filled scenes of the Old Testament.

Unfortunately, not all victim’s incidents turn into happy endings. Eventually, both victim and bully reach a breaking point. The bully releases their frustrations out on their victims. Meanwhile, the victim has nowhere to release their anger but inward. This combustion of emotions leads to greater “breaking points,” which we have seen turn into deadly consequences in recent years (most of the school shootings were a result of bullying victims acting out their aggressions.)

In my own classroom, I’ve seen bullies of varying degrees. One that I came to know was haunted by the loss of his father. As part of literacy in Math exercise, I had students write a Glide-Reflection of their lives. We were covering the unit on Transformations. As part of the assignment, the students were asked to write about something in their life that they lived through, that when they looked back (reflected), the could see where they were changed. The bully wrote about losing his father only a couple years before entering high school. When I read it, the stories of how he acted out against other students and teachers in other classes began to become understandable. As time would go on, I would notice days that he would appear agitated. On these days, I would pull him aside and take him out into the hallway where we would “Go for a Walk.” These are the moments that students often think they are in trouble, but after we walk out the door and I tell them they aren’t in trouble, rather, we need to walk and talk, they are instantly relieved and sometimes become emotional. It was the latter with this young man the day we took a walk after I had read his story. From that day forward, I was able to address his aggression from a different perspective. Often giving him someone to open up too allowed his frustrations to be released instead of having them build up and then vent them on another victim. We began to see a change in his attitude, and eventually, his academics began to improve.

Victim:

The victim in all of these stories, Dolly, Joseph, the minority student in my class, and myself, eventually, partially, if not fully given the time, come to understand why they were being harassed. In Joseph’s case, he finds himself at the bottom of a dry well. From the very start, he had to have felt uncomfortable when their anger began to seethe over into their language toward him. He fueled their flames, even more, when he told them of his dream, in which their sheaths made obeisance to his own sheath in the field.[7] It was at that point that their anger reached critical mass. We might ask ourselves, “Was Joseph blind to their anger?” “Was he perhaps afflicted with some form of behavior deficit, like Asperger’s or ADHD,” or was he simply so trusting in God, that he feared nothing to the point he cared little if they were mad or not? Had he reached the point of giving up, like the video, “How to Make a Bully (from Scratch)” depicted?

Consider Joseph’s plight further when he was sold into bondage and carried away into a strange land (Egypt) to become a slave to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, a captain of the guard. The essence of the victim hitting bottom could have easily been expected at this point. He could have given up. Yet, unlike what is expected of the typical victim, that of reaching a critical point of snapping, we see an unexpected twist. “And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” – Genesis 39:3.

In the case of Dolly, we don’t know if she continued to be bullied by the other students or if someone stepped in to stop it. We know that although she was victimized not only for her socioeconomic status, the color of her coat, and the fact that she was loved by her mother, she did not give up. Like many victims, she fought back by trying to explain the reason why she proudly wore her coat of many colors. Yet, like most situations of being bullied, they had no intention of listening to what she said; it wasn’t the point. Their feelings of insecurity were taken out on the poor, country girl who was loved enough for someone to hand-sew together a coat made of many pieces of cloth.

Psalms 82:4 tells us, “Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

In my classroom, the poor minority student I had mentioned previously that had been inadvertently bullied by the other impoverished student was not left without being supported in her reporting of the incident. She had been aware of the harassment and wasn’t going to take it. As was necessary, and prudent, in my school’s administrative process, I made a discipline referral for the bullying student. Before turning in the paperwork, I met with both students separately and talked to them. As expected, the male was unaware of what he said. Yet, we followed through with the punishment to be consistent (our certainty) with our severity. Each student understood that what happened was avoidable, but each child had learned from the incident, knowing that Mr. Tron was going to stand up for them, and reach out to them when they made mistakes in an effort to help them grow and to feel loved.

 

Reflections:

From Joseph’s story, we might examine how a child caught in the downward spiral of being bullied might recover once they are removed from the caustic environment. In other words, Joseph began to blossom and flourish to his potential once he was removed from the impact of being bullied.

Sadly, the bullies in Dolly’s school likely had lives torn to shreds, like the rags of Dolly’s coat had once been. Unlike Dolly, they had no one to sew their lives back together. Lost in a loveless home environment, they became bitter at the world and sought to take out their pain upon an easy target.

In Joseph’s story, we explore the context of bullying within the family and how it is not just an academic institutional problem. In Joseph’s case, we see the extreme of a mindset that not only physically acts out on their victim but further perpetuates their aggression on their victim by seeking to destroy his life and his father’s connection to his most beloved son. In so doing, they unknowingly are doing the will of God, placing Joseph in a place that will eventually save their family from starvation. Unlike many victims of bullying, Joseph’s story ends in triumph rather than tragedy.

In my own experience, I was fortunate. The effects of bullying are complex, “How bullying impacts a child is holistic.”[8] My life could have turned out differently in many aspects; had that incident been reported, had the bully been seriously injured, or if the bully not changed. At the time, it made me painfully aware that I was not in a healthy environment. Although the bully changed, my home life did not. Eventually, I would move to a strange land, like Joseph, where I too would begin to blossom. The removal from the caustic environment, which was most of my own making, would allow me to start over. I was and am blessed beyond measure.

In my own classroom, when my co-teacher and I identify the bullying activity, we address it from both perspectives. We support the victim and offer them the guidance they need to recover. We also seek to prevent them from feeling as if they might experience the issue again by creating an environment of safety and love. In the same token, we also reach out to the bully, not only to correct the behavior but find the source of the aggression and disarm it before it grows into something that cannot be controlled. In both cases, we offer a new seating arrangement if it is necessary. If counseling is needed, then we offer those resources. If simply showing love to both parties, then we do that as well.

The Response in Our Classrooms:

As teachers, being made aware of the effects of bullying, we can become the intervention for our students before they hit rock bottom, and before they reach that deadly snapping point. When we notice bullying, we can seek out each party, reaching each student, both bully, and victim, and provide the element which they both have so often been neglected: Love. To reach beyond the curriculum, we teach and seek to know the person behind the face sitting in that seat each day can make all the difference.

Often, those victims of bullying seek refuge. Our classrooms can become that safe-haven; a place they know they can find shelter from the storm of life. The cycle of being bullied can be broken, if only we seek measures to stop its continuation. It is imperative that we not only make ourselves aware of this monstrous epidemic but also educate our peers and those around us. As it has been said, “It takes a village to educate a child,”[9] we must also come together as an academic community to halt this disorder for once and for all.

My path in life has led me back to the place that I once struggled socially; high school. From having been a survivor of bullying, in some respects, I have a keen awareness of those “micro-aggressions” as Dr. Martocci pointed out. However, my role now is not that of a victim, but that of being the light to those who live in a world of darkness. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesians, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”- Eph. 5:8.

In my own classroom, being cognizant of all aspects of bullying, I’ve sought out the approach of loving both parties: bully and victim. Correcting the problem while show compassion for each has led to quick resolutions and an attitude of respect. My students know where I stand and appreciate that they are protected and loved.

My passion is my position in life; to serve. In that capacity, I now seek to be the light to those who are facing the darkness of persecution from aggressors, be that at home, school, or anywhere in between. In essence, God has put me in a place to help those in need.

 

 

 

Summary:

In summary, bullying, if allowed to go uncorrected, can have devasting, if not deadly, results. “Inability to develop socially and emotionally is affected by the bullying and impacts the child’s life in a holistic way, which is expressed in this quote, ‘It is the impact on the target and not the intent of the aggressor that matters.’”1 In today’s “Zero Tolerance,”[10] environment, my personal experience would have resulted in me having a minimum of three days Out of School Suspension (OSS). The results from that type of punishment would have had an extremely negative, and possibly tragic, rippling effect on not only my academic world but my home life as well.

In the stories of the coat of many colors, the victims had a wide range of targets upon which bullies could prey. Sadly, in many cases, our children in today’s world are the coats. There is no one simple fix for a problem that has become pervasive throughout all levels of our society, from the home to the workplace, and everywhere in between. What we should be concerned with most is how to break the cycle. The creator of “How a Bully is Made (from Scratch), probably said it best when they said that we must show both the bully and victim love; something they have lacked. Jesus tells his disciple in the Bible when asked, “What is the greatest commandment,” “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like, unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”- Matthew 22:37-39

As educators, we face a myriad of issues daily in our classrooms. Our primary focus is to educate our students. To do this, we must provide an environment that is not only safe, which allows for the Deficiency Needs of Maslow to be met[11], but also one that is free from all outside influences and distractions, which includes the effects of bullying. Beyond the curriculum we present, we must seek to understand and appreciate the background behind each soul that sits behind a desk in our rooms. There, before us, each day is the future of our society. We must learn to read, like a quarterback behind the center reading the defensive configuration before him, our students and be ready to act when we see inconsistencies in behavior. When we intervene, we halt the progress of the illness that could become a greater tragedy if left unattended. It is up to us, the teacher, to show love to all of our students, regardless of how much they test us. When we truly walk as Christ, we love unconditionally, and for that, there is no conqueror.

Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

Coat Of Many Colors

by Dolly Parton

 

Back through the years I go wanderin’ once again
Back to the seasons of my youth
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us

And how my momma put the rags to use

There were rags of many colors
But every piece was small
And I didn’t have a coat
And it was way down in the fall

Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin’ every piece with love
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of

As she sewed, she told a story
From The Bible, she had read
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore and then she said

“Perhaps this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness”
And I just couldn’t wait to wear it
And momma blessed it with a kiss

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly

Although we had no money
Oh, I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school

Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
And my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

 

And oh I couldn’t understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told them of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch

And I told ’em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes

But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be

Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me

 

 

References:

 

Unknown, “The Effects of Bullying on School Age Children,” https://effectsofbullyingonschoolage.weebly.com/index.html

Laura Martocci, Ph.D. (Dec. 8, 2015). Trigger Warnings, Micro-aggressions and Bullying. Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/you-can-t-sit-us/201512/trigger-warnings-micro-aggressions-and-bullying

Today Show, (2015) Dolly Parton On ‘Coat of Many Colors’: ‘I’ve Been Very Blessed’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9oE9qohieM

Unknown (2014) “How to Make a Bully (from Scratch), Conscious Discipline, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzftHNh7xP8

Jean Shepherd (1983) “Christmas Story,”  Directed by Bob Clark.

Holy Bible, KJV, Bible Gateway, https://www.biblegateway.com/

Reva Smith, (Mar. 6, 2013), Today’s Parent, “It take a village to educate a child.”, https://www.todaysparent.com/family/it-takes-a-village-to-educate-a-child/

Robert E. Slavin (2015) “Educational Psychology, Theory, and Practice,” Johns Hopkins University, Pearson,11th Edition. Pg. 345.

“Coat of Many Colors,” Dolly Parton, https://search.azlyrics.com/search.php?q=coat+of+many+colors

Curwin, R. E., & Mender, A. N. (1999). “Zero tolerance for zero tolerance.” Phi Delta ICappan, 81(2), 1 19-120

 

 

[1] Holy Bible, KJV, https://www.biblegateway.com/

 

[2] Unknown, “The Effects of Bullying on School Age Children”, https://effectsofbullyingonschoolage.weebly.com/index.html

 

[3] Today Show, (2015) Dolly Parton On ‘Coat of Many Colors’: ‘I’ve Been Very Blessed’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9oE9qohieM

 

[4] Larua Martocci, Ph.D. (Dec. 8, 2015). Trigger Warnings, Micro-aggressions and Bullying. Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/you-can-t-sit-us/201512/trigger-warnings-micro-aggressions-and-bullying

 

 

[5] Unknown (2014) “How to Make a Bully (from Scratch), Conscious Discipline, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzftHNh7xP8

 

 

[6] Jean Shepherd (1983) “Christmas Story,”  Directed by Bob Clark

[7] Holy Bible, KJV, Bible Gateway, https://www.biblegateway.com/

 

[8]Unknown, “The Effects of Bullying on School Age Children”, https://effectsofbullyingonschoolage.weebly.com/index.html

 

[9] Reva Smith, (2013), Today’s Parent, “It take a village to educate a child.”, https://www.todaysparent.com/family/it-takes-a-village-to-educate-a-child/

 

[10] Curwin, R. E., & Mender, A. N. (1999). Zero tolerance for

zero tolerance. Phi Delta ICappan, 81(2), 1 19-120

[11] Robert E. Slavin (2015) “Educational Psychology, Theory, and Practice,” Johns Hopkins University, Pearson,11th Edition. Pg. 345.

 

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