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A Misty Mountain Mornin’

There are some days, when the mountain has a mind of its own. Today was one of those days. The air felt as ancient as the granite stones that line one’s trail when ascending Grandfather. Alone, it is remarkable enough, but when you ponder the people that have claimed it as their own, it rings of an even older time. Those early settlers from Ireland, Scotland, and other Norseman-type countries, brought with them a heartiness of spirit and a willingness to survive in the harshest of climates with the most meager of supplies. Many have escaped for survival needs. The great potato famines made many leave their homeland, seeking a place where there could be hope, a promise of a better tomorrow. But, along with them, they brought a culture and a faith as old as the rocks that built their chimneys and lined their hearths. It was this permanence of spirit that flowed forth from the shrouded peaks this morning.

With each breath of life, there is a yearning to seek God in everything – nearly to the point of being obtuse. But through that seemingly endless search, there is a compulsion to love unlike before. When the instinctual sense to judge someone arises, that misguided thought is quickly usurped by an urgency to love them for who they are and not place their exterior before who they really are beneath the façade that is there for the world to see. Who hasn’t looked in the mirror and wondered who was looking back – was it the person we want to see, or are we stuck with something we’d rather not accept? The more we find ourselves immersed in Christ, the less the person in the mirror matters, other than being as clean and approachable in how someone might perceive us so that we don’t deter the opportunity to witness simply based on our outward appearance.

For this reason, we should only care about what we look like; otherwise, we are making an idol of our image, a sin as detrimental as any. In that regard, being aware of the fault of the addiction to personal beauty, one might find it more difficult to look upon that woman at church who cakes on the makeup, who spends hours on her hair and adorning jewelry as we might the homeless beggar that is covered in sores and lesions from lack of proper sanitation and personal hygiene. One has chosen to go beyond being approachable to the point that might as well have wallowed in the hog trough in the eyes of God for all the good they are doing. It is images like this that those who want excuses to avoid God use – the negative aspects of hypocrisy are sometimes more damaging to our ability to share the gospel than anything we could do purposefully to detract someone on our own accord. If we were to really think about the ancestral ties of these mountains, the rugged beauty of those women who crossed the ocean and then found a way to eke out an existence in these rugged mountains, we would find it heartening how they didn’t allow anything to detract from their worship. Their image mattered little when compared to how well they knew the Word of God.

Sitting at the jam in Blowing Rock this morning, it was with these thoughts that I watched many souls pass by. Although we were surrounded by tourists from all walks of life and backgrounds, we could still feel the ancient spirit with us. When our notes found a melody of an ancient song, it was then the world stood still – for a moment in time, notes in the air connected with the stones upon the earth, and they to those souls of days gone by, until all were one. As the shrills of fiddle strains wafted through the marketplace, spirits united in refrains as old as the hills. Suddenly, they wore kilts and woven tapestries from looms as their tam-shays tilted in the breeze. It was something to behold as the sun tried to escape the bondage of the mirth beneath the clouds.

It was in this manner that my day began. From an ancient time to the present, we are most when we are one with Him. Blessings abound in a dark world if only we take the time to notice.

Allow yourself to be approachable, but don’t go beyond that point and turn it into an obsession. There are far greater things to be concerned about within this world. The days are short as the end times approach. Make the most of every breath of life. May your day, your weekend, or even your week find nuances that bring out the best instead of the worse in all that you do and see, and in this, we can always say, “Thanks be to God.”

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Through the Eyes of a Child

Cast into your mind (or click the link) the melody of “Wayfaring Stranger,” playing as an instrumental number. It’s solitude, its loneliness preparing you for what comes next. The words begin to meld into the memory as one and together present a cinematic scene so forlorn, so haunting; you cannot help but be drawn in.

I am a poor, wayfaring stranger…

Gray skies overcast the scene before me.

Like a cloud of disbelief, the entourage of man, cattle, and feline moved slowly into the beckoning opening of the dairy barn. As a methodical procession, in some unforeseen rhythmic cadence, their existence moved as one. Those of whom the urgency was being pressed upon by their natural state, to be milked, another the knowledge of labor from which life itself is sustained, and the latter, the offering of something to which they had not labored, but only entered into another’s toil. The beasts, united by nothing more than the instinctual desire for relief of pressure and the welcoming call of hunger being satisfied therein, came willingly. Their solemn lowing as if greeting the time answered only by the cats’ thirsty meows. The solitary man, his thoughts straggle along like those hooved footsteps before him, recalls the past when so many more had been with him – beast and child. For this day, another young soul, his eyes fixed upon the moment, would unknowingly forever have this scene etched into his young memory. The elder didn’t dwell on what the grandchild might remember, only that he was proud to have him tagging along – another one that he might share the love of being connected to God’s creation through the lifelong servitude to farming – providing for others what they cannot fulfill of their own accord. There had been many other grandkids, many other children to which he had shown this daily routine. Some had helped when they were old enough. Others found it nothing more than a novelty – an exercise in the quainter side of life. Yet, the one that watched with longing eyes had the soul of an old spirit, one that appreciated more deeply the things to which he was shown – reasoning the old man could understand.

The shadow of the barn’s darkness encapsulated their entourage as they entered. The dusty, fly-specked windows added to the grayness of the light. Like spectral images, the cows one-by-one found their own stall. Wandering to the long concrete trough built into the ancient floor, they began mouthing the sweet-smelling grain the grandfather had placed earlier, long before they had been called. Only when he had prepared their table for dining would he step out of the barn and painfully walk to a point where he knew they could hear his call. His high-pitched shrill, “Sook cow,” echoed off the other outbuildings, ringing into the foothills. They would come as if summonsed from another time, ambling slowly, milk bags swaying as their procession made its way down the long lane, which was bordered by matching wooden fencing on both sides. The Catalpa trees shadowed their walk, like pillars to the sky, their gray trunks, now in the midst of winter’s late clutches.

And the song continued, “Traveling through this world below…”

They had heard of Jesus’ healing powers. Like strangers from the midst, they came. The Passover, the feast of the Jews was nigh when Christ went up on the mountain to sit with his disciples. From whence he came, most did not know. For this day, he had arrived to serve those who could not provide of their own accord. Unlike the farmer, he had not beckoned them, yet they came seeking to be healed, misguided by their misunderstanding of his message. For what Jesus sought was to provide for them that they might see the miracles and believe him when he spoke of eternal life, a place where he would go and prepare a place for us; a place where disease and mourning would have no home.

Meanwhile, the melody plays on, “There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger in that bright land to which I go…”

As Jesus sat with his disciples in supposed reclusion, themselves alone and discussed all that had been said, all that had been done, he realized they were not alone. “When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a lad here that hath five loaves of barley and two small fishes, but what are these among so many.?” What came next was a miracle to which none other had yet to be compared, the feeding of the multitude, some say far greater than five-thousand. And yet, what became of the lad who had offered to share his lunch? With eyes of wonder, he indeed beheld the miracle that transpired. For the rest of his life, as a baseline for living from that day forward, he would forever be changed.

The child watched his grandfather continue the routine operation of milking the cattle. His eyes were like a sponge unto his mind, absorbing all that he could, impressing this time with his grandfather upon his soul. Etched into his heart, the scene before them began to unfold.

One by one, the dairy herd would enter their spot, as if on cue, and begin eating the grain that the farmer had already prepared for them in the concrete trough. Calmly, in the memorized routine of the bi-daily chore, he would slip up alongside each one of them, patting them on the back, speaking assuredly to them, like a life-long friend, and then gently latch their harness in place to keep them honest during the milking. After all his girls were stationed, he would then grab the two buckets, again prepared in advance, one of the cleaning solution, the other for the harvest of their offering. Their teats would be swollen, some dripping, in anticipation of the service their owner provided – their relief would be short-lived, for the dairy cow must be routinely milked twice a day, as long as her supply remains “fresh,” as they say.

Sitting his short-legged stool near her side, the man grabs the well-worn rag from the edge of one bucket, washes it around in the solution, wringing it out with hands of age and firmness until it was only damp to the touch. He would then wipe down the underside of the cow’s bag and all four of her milking teats. Placing the rag back on the edge of the bucket, he would then grab the milk bucket, the stainless still container, and put it underneath. Those ancient hands, so strong but so gentle, would then begin the process of milking. Here and there, the old girl’s tail swats instinctively at an unseen fly. The elder reaches up to remind her of his presence, and the rhythmic process continues. The streams of bountiful creaminess are seen and heard as their initial crescendos pulsate into the pail, like beacons of hope to the ears of those feline onlookers, the cats come running to the backside of that man and beast coupling. There they sit, licking their whiskers in anticipation, some yawning as if to say we are tired of waiting. When the milk bucket is nearing capacity, the supple hand gently begins shooting streams of the rhythmic pulsations to the furry onlookers. Their faces become plastered with the creamy goodness. The grandfather’s aim is perfect. The years of practice have served him well, as those receiving ungraciously their welcome entrustment. Some, so overwhelmed with the delectability of that fulfillment, the cats begin to stand on their hind legs, reaching for the whimsical ever-rising stream the farmer playfully spreads. Finally, the last remnants of her utters contents are relinquished into the pail, and once more, he wipes down the flesh of her underside. Before moving onto the next beast of the field, he reaches up and unhooks her collar from the bindings.

Meanwhile, she continues to chew the delicious grain as grandpa slides over to the next stall and repeats the process. Eventually, the cats, being filled with their beggar’s meal, wander off. Some stop nearby and begin the cleaning process, their faces first, wiping the bounty from their whiskers with wide-tongue swipes. Lazily, they find their favorite nook within the confines of the barn – their sanctuary from the world.

“I’m going there to see my Father and all my loved ones who’ve gone on. I’m just going over Jordan, I’m just going over home…”

Frantic to be in his presence, to be fed once again, the crowd of witnesses took shipping over the sea of Galilee to find Jesus on the other side of the sea. When they found him, they had yet to realize the significance of the miracle. They only saw it through the natural eyes of man, the instinctual existence of being fed for the profit of the flesh, unbeknownst that they had just received a feeding of the spirit – the true intention of Christ. “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” So often, those who pursue the concept of Christianity without seeking the relationship with God are merely acting as those barn cats or those who had witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the multitude. Their commitment was simply at face value – they had no skin in the game, as the saying goes. Unlike the disciples, those on the periphery of belief were there for the freebies, for the show, and for what they could get out of it that would satisfy their earthly needs.

And the haunting strains of the song continue, “I know dark clouds will gather ’round me, I know my way is hard and steep. But beauteous fields arise before me, where God’s redeemed, their vigils keep…”

The children would never forget the things they saw that day. One, a poor farmer’s grandchild, the other possibly an orphan looking to find comfort in the loving arms of a new Father – each having scenes of life unfold before them so that they would be forever changed. Their recollection of that time etched into their souls would be recalled once more to those that would listen. In the autumn years of life, they would speak of a time before, a moment when what was perceived as the simple task of feeding and being fed would become much more than the visceral study, but a lesson of how God’s love for us transcends anything we can comprehend. One would speak of a miracle so profound, so evident that it would be told for centuries to come. Another would speak of merely a simple day in the life of a peasant dairy farmer. Each would tell of a similar moment when compared in the essence of life being provided by God so that the eyes of a child could capture that moment and realize its significance. Their memories would save that event to share with those who would never know that moment in time personally. Still, through their eyes, the retelling could enrich the hearer’s belief, and they too would be fed like that multitude on the hillside so long ago.

And the last refrain of the song concludes, “So, I’m just going over Jordan, I’m just going over home. I’m just going over Jordan, I’m just going over home.”

As time passes, the children age and become old men. The image in the mirror is not the one in their heart. With backs bent from a lifetime of toil, they look forward to that day to join those gone on before. But before they go, they too will tell their own grandchildren their stories. Their testimonies will become part of another’s life. They will impart upon those who remain the knowledge of the precious gift of Grace to which they have been given. And the story will continue until the day Jesus returns.

In this we can say without a doubt, “Thanks be to God.”

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Spirits in the Sky

This evening, the news of a famous retired basketball player dying in a helicopter crash has caused many in our nation to take pause. He was only 41. His life, one of a truly, gifted and amazing athlete, was followed by wealth and fame. Sadly, it is now all gone. What will remain are the memories and legacies to which he may have imparted; be they good or bad, as a two-edged sword, we may never know.

Each morning we awaken, we are afforded another precious gift; another day of life. We should never take one of them for granted, for we never know when this may be our last.

Today I was afforded the blessing of meeting a friend at a church on the mountain, one that he was looking at possibly joining in the future. As I drove along the winding road, there was much to reflect upon. Overhead, the skies were a crystalline clear as the John’s river’s icy waters. Their reflection of earth’s outer sphere, like a deep cerulean blue, gave the rising sun something with which to compete for the beauty and majesty. As my car drove up the mountain, the sunrise cast long shadows behind me, forcing darkness in pockets upon the eastward facing slopes; behind them, the veil of white lay waiting. As I made the crest of the mountaintop, the morning’s first light made the snow-covered forest come alive. Like a multitude of angels at Jesus’ birth, so too were the trees enshrouded by the luminescence of an untold number of diamond-like snowflakes.

Here and there around each bend, chimneys spewed forth slender columns of woodsmoke, each rising like tendrils into that azure blueness above. Each a signal of life within. Inside the humble cabins, the morning coffee had begun to percolate as the fire cracked and popped. Somewhere nearby, bacon sizzled in a cast-iron skillet. Some would be preparing for church while others would simply be rising to live another day of life, one with the hope of a tomorrow and the other just wishing there was one.

For every portion of living, there is a double-edged sword with which we must contend. One side of the blade, as my friend put it, is Mercy; the other side Justice. Life cannot have one without the other. Justice without mercy is a formidable and a fearsome judgment to any who have received it. Mercy without justice is like giving freedom without having any fear of retribution; there is nothing for which to be freed if there is nothing for which to fear. Yet, God hath given us a sword for which the balance between justice and mercy is perfectly balanced. In fact, on the traditional broadsword, the center of the sword is slightly raised, giving height to the intersection of the two opposing sides, taking the high road, if you will.

Through God’s love for us, we are afforded the perfect balance of Justice and Mercy. For with each gradual trial we weather, by His Grace, we grow stronger in our faith. For if we find ourselves facing the proverbial headwinds in our daily walk with Christ, we must know that we are going in the right direction. For faith without trials is a faith untested. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”[1]

Just as each edge of the blade could be considered to stand for justice and mercy, so too could they stand for Thoughts and Intent of the human soul. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”[2]

Just as the word of God is quick and powerful, so too are its intention. Like a playbook on how to live life, its instructions are clear, succinct, and powerful. Yet, to the unbeliever, the words are only that, just printing on the page. As God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.[3] He gave us Christ, with whom we were spared eternal damnation and the expected end we deserved, with that ultimate justice; his death was the punishment for our sins.

To the unbeliever, the Bible is nothing more than theory; conjecture of good intentions.

As I was speaking to one of our department’s professors this week, the difference between theory and application came to mind. While we are immersed in the pursuit of education at our institutions of higher learning, most of what we achieve is theory. It is not until we go out into the “Real” world, get jobs, and start careers that we actually apply that theory. That application becomes the tools of whatever industry we pursue, sometimes for the rest of our lives. However, God has allowed me to return to the place from whence I began so long ago. As I listened to the very well-meaning professor describe the course layout, I found my mind jumping from the theory he was describing to the applications I had used in my nearly two decades of working in the industry. From that life of experience, from the applying of theory, I once more made the jump back to the present and was able to interpret his descriptions, but far from the conventional line of thought to which he was used to instructing.

For those of you who have learned or are trying to learn to speak a foreign language, you can relate. You at first have to think of the foreign word’s meaning in your mother tongue and then speak the foreign word. Slowly, as you become more proficient, eventually, you can skip the literal translation because you just know the foreign word, has finally become one of your own, no longer foreign. So too is the word of God. Like many who are lost and haven’t come to know or accept Christ into their lives, the words in the Bible are only that; words. But Jesus told his followers that they would not be alone; that he would send a Comforter. He also said that he would never leave us nor forsake us. That Comforter, that being with whom he spoke, was to be the Holy Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit, we are made anew, “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.[4]

From whence we came, is to which we shall return. For once we have walked in the way, we are made anew, and from there, we can speak to those who have yet to find the way, the truth, and the light. From our experience in the application of the word, we have become wiser, and with this wisdom, we are then able to help those who are lost. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and unbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”[5] From theory, as some may say, to become one with the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are changed. Walking in Christ, we are no longer living in theory, but rather, in the application of what it was meant to be, where Justice and Mercy meet in that high rounded middle of the blade, to which nothing can prevail; neither spirit nor soul.

As the finger-like wafts of smoke rise into the morning sky from their hand-hewn stone chimneys below, so soar the spirits of many who have breathed their last. Don’t go another day without seeking out that friend, that neighbor, or even that family member who might be lost. Seek them with all your heart.

And remember, for, by the Grace of God, we go.

We are all but a heartbeat away from eternity.

Live each day as if it were the most precious gift. You never know when it will be your last.

Thanks be to God.


[1] 1 Peter 4:12-13 KJV

[2] Hebrews 4:12 KJV

[3] Jeremiah 29:11 KJV

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:15-20 KJV

[5] James 1:5 KJV

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There is Hope in the Storm

Yesterday, as I sat and watched the thick cloud bank slowly envelope Grandfather, I was reminded of incoming tides upon ancient seas. The jetties and rocks of life, like those distant mountain peaks, were soon to be covered by the rising waters of time. Before long, he had vanished, obscured by a billowing blanket of gray, blue, and white. Grandfather Mountain was not gone, this I knew, for I had seen him. It was not necessary to hope for his existence because by seeing, we know that he is still there. Yet, we cannot foretell what the coming storms will unveil. In a manner of hours, or even days, we may see a changed mountain, one blanketed in a snowy, majestic white mantel of winter; this is the wish of many.

With wanted anticipation, some may see the impending storm and look forward to a delay in the upcoming return to school. While others may fear what is to come knowing regardless of the road conditions, they will be expected to be at their posts or jobs. Likewise, those who walk in faith are much like those gladly seeing the possibility of winter storms; the former seeks the hope of life eternal by knowing that regardless of what the storms of life may bring, they have the hope of salvation unto our final dwelling place on high. “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.[1]

But just as a child, torn from their home due to circumstances which have created living conditions so dire that the state has to intervene, they seek hope to eventually return home. Yet, what they don’t fully understand is that in order for them to return home, their parents or guardians must change. The addiction or bondage to the sins of the flesh must be broken. The downward spiral of drugs, alcohol, otherworldly lusts has permeated their lives so deeply that they often have lost sight of caring for their family, if not themselves. We’ve all see the posted mug shots of convicted criminals and seen the effects of meth, just to name one, on their physical being. Inside, there remains a remnant of the human being they once were.

Somewhere within, there is a flicker of a soul.

Like those school children looking forward to the coming snowstorm,  the Apostle Paul wrote of coming storms and afflictions, “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;”[2] His point being, that those storms of life, the daily challenges and trials, only make us stronger Christians. Meanwhile, those of the world suffer greatly because their faith is nonexistent. There is nothing to embolden. In their despair, they seek earthly means to fill the void. The Apostle Peter wrote about them saying, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”[3]

Alone, those lost parents cannot conquer the darkness that holds them captive. It is by prayer and the hope of their children, the faith of which they often do not know, that they can be lifted up. These thoughtless parents reckless abandon for life is conveyed by those whose tender young hearts who are willing to still have faith. In their undying hope that their parents will change, unto the day they may return to a new home, those orphaned children never give up. Similarly, we seek faith to eventually return to our heavenly home because this world is not our home. Yet, we are not left as orphans to fend for ourselves, for our heavenly father awaits.  “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.[4]

Even though the parents of those orphaned children may be so lost in their sin that they don’t even realize the cause of their forced separation, nor do they know how to free themselves from the enslavement of their fleshly additions and afflictions, Christ gives us that answer. Through the power of the blood Jesus Christ shed upon the cross, we may overcome the darkness that seeks to devour our world and flood us with iniquities beyond our comprehension.

We cannot achieve this freedom alone.

In Hebrews 11:1, we are reminded that “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Having held true to my faith in these recent months, I can tell you from personal experience, the harder the clouds of turmoil flooded my soul, the harder I fell to my knees. There were no immediate replies. There was no blinding light that threw me off my horse and into the road. There were often days of silence. Nothingness.

But nothing worth having is ever easy,” – Theodore Roosevelt

As the scripture tells us, “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” From having seen prayers answered, it is then when we start to understand how one can have “evidence of things unseen.” Prayer is one of our most powerful spiritual tools. Daniel prayed five times a day. When his enemies learned of his daily practice, they used it to entrap him which landed him in the den of lions. Daniel didn’t fear but resorted to what he knew best, prayer. His hope of release from the expected doom was his answer to faithful prayer.

As we approach a future that sometimes appears, if anything but bright, we can be reminded that there is “hope.” As we awoke this morning and the clouds had departed, Grandfather was there as the sunlight began to cast its golden rays upon his face. His crown, a mantel of snowy white, now proudly unveiled for all to see.

The storm had been weathered.

There will always be the dawning of a new day. Don’t let the darkness of the light consume you. Although it may feel as the darkest hour is just before dawn, don’t let fear overwhelm you like the storm clouds smothering Grandfather. Let the light of Christ shine upon your life, and through you, such that those around you are enlightened by the Holy Spirit within your own. Choose to be the light in a dark world, like the beautiful snow-covered peaks of Grandfather this morning, their light reflecting the sunrise, like golden shields of hope.

Tomorrow is a new day.  Rise with hope in your heart and let your light shine for all to see.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Romans 8:24-25 (KJV)

[2] 2 Corinthians 6:3-5 (KJV)

[3] 1 Peter 5:8-9 (KJV)

[4] Ephesians 2:12 (KJV)

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A Heartbeat Away from Heaven

by Timothy W. Tron

Each time he returned from the mountain, his life was changed. Another nuance of who he had become was revealed. He was forever changing into the new person to which he had sought his entire life to become. There was no tablet in his arms as he descended from the heights above; no law; no antiquated precept for which to behold; rather, there were pathways to distant memories that had once been buried, now unearthed to become the inspiration for going forward. They had returned as ghosts from his past to help others around him see the light; that which is the true light. He was not that light but was there only to help those, through him, believe. Those scars of life’s experiences became a therapeutic source, something he never anticipated. Through the catharsis of healing, he could now better understand his purpose for which God had intended. Through the new journey, there was more than just the apparent nature of healing spiritually, but physically as well.

Where the spirit is weak, so is the body. One cannot exist without the other.

Each day as the sun arose, the scriptures spoke of new hope, new promises to be found.

Each day, the healing within and without continued.

Jacob, a good friend of mine, had only recently found himself able to once more confidently be himself. His world had seemed to fall apart, one seemingly unbelievable event after another. It was as if anything that could go wrong would. From one loss to the next, it seemed as if bad news were the only guarantee in his life. The stress of so many unanswered prayers continually compounded themselves; dark waves crashing against the bedrock of his soul, one upon the next, until it seemed his heart would break. Pushing it all aside, using every ounce of faith he could contain, he forged onward. “Press on toward the mark,” he could hear the Apostle Paul saying. Every morning he arose, making himself pretend there was a consistency in chaos. The work of the building kept his mind occupied while he communed with the Lord. The blistering heat swayed not his determination. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. When it appeared as if all detrimental events had subsided, a new, more deadly attack came.

Looking back, Jacob could see where the sultry summer solstice had merely turned out to be the calm before the storm.

Out of nowhere, an insect-borne illness struck. Jacob was bedridden for days. The excruciating pain, fever, and chills were like nothing he had known to this point in his life. The doctors were initially dumbfounded by the test results. Eventually, the prognosis became clearer, and medication was finally prescribed; but not after Jacob had seemed to hit rock bottom. At one point, the pain was so intense, the darkness so great, he had prayed God to take him home. There was nothing more he wanted than to be free of his earthly body. Broken and shattered, he lay in the pool of sweat as his body felt frozen. He felt as if he had now found the deepest darkest valley as he lay in the shadow of death.

The painful hours passed, and Jacob contemplated if he would ever be able to reach the top of the mountain again. “The deeper the valley, the higher the peak,” he kept telling himself, through one exacerbating breath after another.

In the course of searching for answers to Jacob’s malady, there was another discover; one that had not been anticipated initially. Jacob’s heart was not functioning as expected. Upon further investigation, there was a concern of the erratic nature of the heart’s beat, to the point he was sent to a Cardiologist. Later, the insect-borne disease he had contracted was found to attack the heart in a way that it would affect the beating. However, God always has a purpose, even when we think we know why we are on a particular path, God’s plan may often be something unexpected, something never imagined.

Eventually, the Cardiologist would find it necessary to perform a heart catheterization on Jacob. In disbelief, he sat listening. “What next,” he thought to himself as the doctor shared with him what to expect. It seemed as if the summer, which he at one time had hoped to be spent on a whirlwind, inspirational mission trip, had turned into the summer of incomprehensible horror. A darkness of the most profound evil had besieged him and his family. In the darkest moments of the storm, he had continued to cling to the only thing that gave him comfort, the Word of God. He placed his mind in the shadow of Christ as he continued to listen and felt his savior envelop him in his arms.  

“We might have to put in a stint, should we find enough blockage, which is what I suspect,” espoused the doctor smiling with the best intentions.

Jacob’s mind wandered back again, back to another place and time to another one of those scars in his life.

He and his wife had visited his hometown. It was nothing more than an opportunity to share with her the place he grew up. Having left it behind so many years ago, it was as if they were both discovering it anew once again. During that trip, they met with family members for supper at a small country diner. In the group was Jacob’s most honored family member, Uncle Markus. Markus was one that Jacob had looked up too and admired for all that he had accomplished in his life. His Uncle had also become the beloved spiritual leader of their family; the outpost of faith since Grandpa and Grandma had passed. His Uncle Markus had been one of the first men of the family to obtain a college degree and then went on to become a high school teacher, and eventually, a college professor. Markus was there along with his wife, Rose, and two sons. It would be the last time Jacob would see his Uncle Markus and Aunt Rose alive.

Looking back, that evening in the St. Joseph’s Diner so many years ago, those in attendance were just a tiny portion of Jacob’s father’s family. There had been seven siblings total in the paternal family; five boys and two girls. Likewise, they were a tiny fragment of the fun-filled, rollicking antics so often characterized by his paternal family. He recalled how he had bought some cast rubber replicas of morels from Wilson’s Furniture Store earlier in the day. They were unusual in that they had suction cups at the bottom. He had guessed at the time they might be fun to stick on the dash of the truck the next time they went morel hunting. Without thinking, he stuck them in his pocket that morning for safekeeping. Hunting morels was a favorite outdoor event that the entire family looked forward to every year. Morels are a type of mushroom that only come up in certain soils at a specific time of the year. Because of their precarious growing season and climate, they are difficult to find. But because of their delicious flavor, when they are discovered, you feel like you are receiving manna from heaven. So, as the course of the evening’s meal ensued; somehow, the topic of morel hunting came up. When someone was describing their prowess at finding the elusive mushroom, Jacob remembered the rubber replicas in his pocket. Quietly, and without garnering attention, he bent his head down and fastened the suction cups to the lens of his glasses. Then when the moment was right, he looked up and said, as the rubber morels goggled before his spectacles, “I would say, that I would be the best Morel hunter around simply because of my superior morel vision.” The entire table, and the rest of the restaurant who couldn’t help to overhear broke out into laughter. The establishment had in a way, become their surrogate kitchen that evening, and everyone shared in the raucous laughter. That memory, along with the fateful journey of his Uncle Markus reverberated in his soul once more; afresh and new, like the recovery of an ancient treasure that blesses the very spirit within.

Not long afterward, his Uncle Markus was told by doctors that they had found blockages in his heart, but there was no dire concern because they had a new way of relieving the life-threatening condition through a new procedure using stints. The family was very much relieved, yet apprehensive when it came time for the surgery. The operation went well, and Markus was to stay overnight for observation, just as the doctor had told Jacob. However, Markus’s surgery was forty years prior, the new miracle cure had only just begun being used. Markus had been warned not to move around, but as was the case, he got up simply to use the restroom during the night, harmless as that may sound. The doctors would later surmise that plaque had broken loose in the artery where the stint was inserted, which found its way to Markus’s brain. Uncle Markus died long before his time. Yet, it was God’s time, not our own.

Jacob’s mind panged once more for his Uncle and knew that God had used the stint to call him home. It didn’t make the memory any less painful, nor did it comfort him knowing that medical advances in the past forty years had made the procedure much less treacherous. In the back of his mind, he couldn’t eliminate the thought of possibly facing the same fate.

Feelings of the recent trials and struggles haunted him in the hours leading up to the operation. “Had he done all that he needed to prepare for leaving this life,” he thought to himself? “Had he done all that he could do to help his family financially once he was gone?” Then the formidable realization of their salvation bore upon him, “Had he done all that he could do to prepare them for life eternal?” He felt in his soul that his work was not over, but if God was calling him home, he was ready either way.

The Lord would provide,” he told himself, again and again.

Yet, he was never alone.

Friends and family had encouraged Jacob on his journey, and many had prayed for him. As the Bible tells us, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” All his life, there were those praying for him even when they had lost contact with him physically; those faithful prayer warriors that lift us up even when we are the least worthy.

Jacob never forgot this, that many had lifted him up in prayer, as the day for the surgery came. As the lights, needles, and monitors flickered and beeped through the operating room, his mind rested peacefully as he felt the hand of God warm him in that cold, foreign place; prayers were being answered. Before he knew it, the medical staff and the lead doctor were wrapping up.

“You’re all done,” the Cardiologist proclaimed proudly.

“Your heart had a major blockage,” he relayed without remorse, as he held his personal device over Jacob’s head.

“But, as you can see,” he said through his operating mask, “Your heart has healed itself by making its own bypass. Better than I could have done,” he said, pointing his purple glove finger toward the miniature screen.

“It’s just beautiful,” the doctor continued, admiring the tiny image before Jacob, as he turned to look at it himself one more time. “You won’t need any stints either, your heart is perfectly clear other than that one blockage which has miraculously healed itself.”

Jacob couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Through the fog of medication necessary for the operation, he struggled to understand all that the doctor had just said.

Miracle,” was all that he could think, “God had performed a miracle. I should be dead,” he whispered to himself.

Prayers had once more been answered; like a thunderbolt, their presence was felt. Warm tears filled Jacob’s eyes as the gurney was wheeled out of the operating room and back to recovery.

As the cloud of the sedative began to wear off, Jacob continued to feel buoyed by the very nature of the miracle that had transpired; unaware, unexpectedly, God had cured him of the life-threatening blockage. Not only that, he had cleared every other debilitating possible blockage so that his heart was like new. “With time, your heart will grow stronger,” the nurse conveyed, as she heard Jacob speak of the revelation in the recovery room.

A gleam of joy shone into his now healing heart.

The next couple of days were spent resting and allowing the medication from the surgery to wear off. But once Jacob was able to get outside, he took a short walk along the ridge where he lived. In the distant, the blue peaks stood majestically; proud and stoic. Never so bright were the flowers. Never so blue was the heavenly blue azure sky above. The trees sounded as if they were singing the praises of the noonday sun. The joyous memory of that evening in the St. Joe Diner sparkled once more in his mind. The flicker of life revived, of happiness and laughter. The old spirit of rejoicing with gladness the moments in life afforded us, no matter the setting, no matter the circumstance had been rekindled. The old spirit had reunited with the new Spirit; together, their energy was more than enough to uplift the weary soul; they gave new life to the body within.

Jacob’s life had been a culmination of learning and finding the way through failure and loss. The sins of his life had kept him shackled to the world of the flesh, and because of it, had prevented him from being to that which he was called. Subtlety, and without any instantaneous change, Jacob found himself seeking direction from something beyond the temporal world around him. Once he did, God began to work through him in inexplicable ways. Some say that God works in mysterious ways, but when one walks through the valley of the shadow of death and someday finds themselves on the mountain top of that remorseful valley below, it is then that they can finally appreciate what it is to receive Christ into their lives.

Yes, my brothers and sisters, God is waiting for you to answer your call. He is ready for you to take him into your life. Not only will your spirit be renewed, but your body will be blessed beyond measure.

Look to the horizon and climb the nearest mountain, leaving that valley below. When you reach the summit, allow all that you experience to fill your cup to overflowing. Allow yourself to be changed. Sup from the spring of God’s mercy while you can for the peaks of our lives never last forever. May He annointest thy head with oil. Share the testimonies and miracles in your life, for you may be the inspiration that someone needed to hear.

Someday, you will descend into another valley, and when you do, take with you the precious gift of God’s grace. By our scars, we can be healed, and by Christ’s scars we can be reborn. Be the light for all, no matter where you are; whether if you are on the highest mountain top, or in the deepest, darkest abyss, let your light shine for all to see.

As Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ.”

So, my friend, live as if living is Christ, and goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.

Thanks be to God.

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Somebody to Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was unworthy of such love.

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

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

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

And I had.

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

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

Had he too received Christ?

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

“Can anybody find me Somebody to Love?”

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

Can anybody find me Somebody to Love?

Yes, I can Freddie, Yes, I can.

His name is Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God, again and again.

Forever and ever, Amen.

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In Memory: Mom, RDHW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

Donate Here Today for High Country Breast Cancer Foundation Support

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Misty Mountains…

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receive the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” – Hebrews 6:7-8

This morning we awoke to a gentle rain falling outside our window. The birds call to one another as they bustle to and fro, carrying on as if nothing changes, their nests protected as they have built them to withstand far greater storms. The water, our life-giving source, soaks into the earth; grass and plants drinking in the coolness, their colors being revived.

Standing looking down at the reflection in the pools of water below the bridge, the clear blue sky of yesterday reflected back. Below the surface boulders, dark crevices, and fissures of time lay hidden. The medium, water, danced about, laughing against the rocks, its voice playing a melody to the ears, a chorus written by only the Master’s hand. Like the presence of God, water, our life source, can take may forms.

Our footsteps walked along well-worn paths, crisscrossed by a network of root, vines, and stones; constantly reaching upward, our climb was an ascent on a nearby peak. Walking in the surroundings of antiquity, time only passes to our awareness, a brief instant to our audience, the granite artifacts of eons gone by. Water has eroded their sharpness, smoothing them to a pleasing shape; soft and gentle. Along the stone surface, cracks and fissures are made; the footholds in time. Generations of life hath searched out the multitude of instances from which their web of limbs and root may find sustenance amongst the precious soil, so sparsely found here on the mountain.

Like those plants seeking life, we often find ourselves seeking the truth. Hidden amid the overload of worldly information, like the solid, formidable stone edifices we pass, our hands touching briefly the cool, firmness; a reality; a truth; we seek out this permanence in life. Yet, many cannot find their way. They have become blinded by the incessant tirade of the information with which we are flooded in each waking moment. The progress of mankind is measured by one’s ability to grasp the technology of the day. We place flat panels of information in every room. In the back of our minds, there has been placed a fear of losing touch, a fear of missing the headlines of the moment. We carry with us devices with which we can remain engaged, even when we cannot be near those screens of connectivity. Can we not live without this constant feeding of noise? Can we not leave it behind, and for once, return to the truth that lies before us since the creation? “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back from captivity…” “Knock, and the door shall be opened.”

Sitting upon the monolithic granite peak, we look out at the vastness that lay before us. In the nearby distance, the mountain they call Grandfather stands; close, dark, and vigilant. We can almost reach out and touch him, his closeness comforting. Before we can think, the scene before us begins to change. Around us, the void between fills with the fluidness of life. Clouds roll through, a mist of the life source we watched and listened to only minutes before now takes flight and passes us by; its destination unknown to us, directed by the Master’s touch. Wisps of whiteness, cool refreshing to our skin, blankets the world below. Closing your eyes, you can soak in the bliss. The whisper of sound surrounds us and tells us to release those burdens we have left behind. Blinkingly, we open our eyes to a new reality. Where once stood the solid image of Grandfather, there is nothingness; he is gone, obscured by the cloud in which we now sit. Surrounded by the whiteness of truth, we are closer to God’s face than before, treading where only Angels tread.

Sound, like the images before us, is gone.

Here there are no voices from man’s world to disrupt our blessing, only the closeness of Him.

There is only so much we can understand and which we can absorb through the senses with which we were given. Our comprehension is as it was intended. We are presented with the world from which we came, as ashes, we have been born, the breath of life given to us through our nostrils, the Spirit. We live as one with that which we are born to live, on God’s earth. Here we are only passing through so that someday, we shall share the heavenly abode with Him. Here, we are only temporary guests in a world in which He created.

In tiny glimpses, in what we can relate, we are shown the majesty of what awaits beyond. Moment by moment, we become more aware of what will await us in eternity, should we choose to do so. It is all up to us. We were given the free will with which to choose.

We can seek the truth, or allow the world to tell us what is granite stone and what is not.

The choice is ours.

Like water that can reflect a clear blue sky, or suddenly take the form of a white mist, shrouding even the most majestic mountain, His magnificence is beyond our human comprehension, as is our ability to know what lieth beyond heaven’s gates. We need not fear Him if we come to know Him, and in the end, it is up to us to choose.

Seek him with all your heart, knock and the door to eternity shall be opened.

Thanks be to God.

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Every Mountain has Two Sides…

His foundation is in the holy mountains.” -Psalm 87:1

For every mountain has two sides, like every story has two tales.

He stood looking as the sunset washed against the granite walls making the monolith perpetuate itself against an azure sky. Long shadows cast about where he stood as the nearby peaks already beckoned the coming night. He had not seen Grandfather from this angle before, facing east. Heretofore, his sunsets were always on his eastern side facing west. Tonight, he was on the other side, in more ways than one.

A few feet from where the man stood, the entrance sign to the Hugh Chapman Center began to flicker, attempting to illuminate the letters. The beautiful YMCA facility set against the backdrop of Grandfather Mountain was a picture postcard scene, one which all of Avery County could be proud. A chill began to blow across the collar of his sports coat reminding him that he had not dressed for the duty to which he was now assigned; standing guard at the entrance of the High School Prom. As the temperature dropped and the sun slid behind distant peaks, his mind began to wander.

Ironically, even after all these years, this would be his first Prom…ever.

Across the many miles of life, the soul hath traveled.

In his youth, he sought to climb the mountain before him, the beast in his mind’s eye, the obstacle in his path which prevented him from becoming what he thought he was meant to be. There were so many unknowns. The mountain before him in his youth was shadowed from the sun, dark and ominous; he seemed to face another uphill battle around every corner he turned. The child fought against himself as much as he clashed against the world around him. Many had sought to help him along his way, and as such, he was no stranger to the Word. Even in the midst of all the struggles, he heard the preacher tell his congregation one Sunday that if you wanted to find a home in eternity, you needed to find the Lord; and at the tender age of 13,  he was saved. Yet, like those finding salvation in their youth, he seemed to lose his way. As a teen, he continued to try to run from God, making bad choice after bad choice, while many times being saved only by the grace of God. However, with time, and the prayers of those who loved him, he eventually found his path, the one that leads to the top; success would eventually be within his grasp.

Accolade after another began to pour in when he finally made something of his life. From nothing to something, this was his story; the world was in his pocket, or so he thought.

One day, after having achieved the summit, the man realized he was still bound to his earthly domain, stuck in a rut from which there was little escape. What once seemed to be the prize had now become his prison. Distraught with denial he had chosen incorrectly, he began to question where he now stood in life. His thoughts turned to his salvation and what it all had meant.

Still the prayers were lifted on his behalf, and at last, his own were added to the chorus.

Many are called, but few are chosen…”

When the realization of who he had become, and who he served, the man realized the truth; he had been following the wrong master, for God was not the center of his life. Seeking answers from the only place he knew, the man turned to the Word of God. In the corner of the bookshelf, he found the dust covered volume he had so long neglected. When he opened it, there seemed to be a voice speak from within, “I AM with you.” Page after page, the light began to shine upon where he must go and what he must do. He was finally awakening to what God had called him to be; following Him, the creator of all, God the Father.

A new world began to open before the man, and with the new world, he found new friends and a new beginning. The prison in which he thought he had been trapped suddenly released him and the mountain of debt was dissolved; the shackles of his life had been removed like Paul and Silas’s; God had set him free.

But where do you go when you are finally freed from someplace you never thought you would escape, let alone survive?

You must begin life anew.

Once the man set out upon his new journey in life, he soon realized, he was now back in the deepest, darkest valley, far below that distant mountain top. He was starting over, like a babe in the woods. Yet, he feared no evil, he feared no darkness, for the Lord was with him. When he tired, he rested, when he thirsted, the Lord provided him nutriment. Step by step, he learned how to survive in this new world. Unlike the struggles he had found in his former life when trying to reach the summit, these new obstacles didn’t dissuade him from his path. Instead of becoming distraught, he sought answers in prayer. When he was overwhelmed with trials, he sought the Lord in prayer. Every new challenge he found he was never alone.

One day, after several months of hiking, he looked up. There before him stood the same mountain as before, but now, he looked upon it from the other side. Unlike before, he could now see the beauty in its splendor for the sunset was no longer shadowed in its path. Alit in a miraculous glow, the glory of the Father beckoned him onward, and upward, calling him to the summit above.

As the night air swirled around him, he pulled his collar up a little tighter. He stamped his slowly numbing feet to keep the up the circulation. However, the elements bothered him little. He was here for a purpose. Deep in his heart, he knew the decision was right; he had finally chosen wisely.

Yes, he had never been to a Prom before, but oh how beautiful it was now that he had finally made it.

The day we step into our Heavenly home, will be the greatest day of all, and then, we shall all rejoice in His glory, the Prom of all Proms.

Thanks be to God.

 

 

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Trust and Obey…

 

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Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea And a path through the mighty waters, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:16,18-19

 

“Trust and obey, there’s no other way,” goes the old hymn. The word “Trust,” is something that is probably the more difficult of the two commands mentioned in the song. Its definition, “reliance on the veracity, integrity, or other virtues of someone or something; religious faith,” from Old Norse traust “help, confidence, protection, support.”[1] Trust is a word that confides in our ability to depend upon something greater than ourselves, and as such, is often difficult to understand or appreciate when it comes to fruition.

In the last year, I have been witness to everything from loss of loved ones to the utterly inexplicable. I’ve felt the presence and heard the voice of heavenly beings, more than once. In that timeframe, the path upon which seemed to be my true calling suddenly took an unexpected turn, altering the course of everything I had come to know and trust, into a wilderness where only faith could sustain a being. Again and again, I sought protection and support from the only place I knew; the Word of God.

He never let me down.

Living between one’s past and the future allows for reflection and projection, something else I experienced in the span of 2016. While still moving a farm from one place to another, we continued to settle into the life that was new, serving at the Trail of Faith. There at the Trail I found more and more calling to help those in need, those seeking God, and guidance from a place that was so aptly named. There I learned how to pray over those making their pilgrimages to a place they had only read about. Some had studied up to the point they came wanting to gain a better perspective, to walk the literal trail of faith. Each time, each new visitor, I found God teaching and leading me in ways I had never thought possible. There were the discoveries of new friendships and with those, a new feeling of trust in knowing that serving Him was the right path.

Then in the midst of what seemed to be the perfect path, my father became gravely ill. Once again I was reminded of those Godly circumstances that provided me the ability to see him before he passed. There is no greater gift than knowing God had given you the chance to hug your mother one last time, or to kiss your father goodbye, but each step of the way, that was my blessing. As I walked out of that hospital room, I knew we’d not see each other until we reach that Glory land above, and so it was. On our way home from the funeral, my sister and I received confirmation that all was right when we saw the most unbelievable, color-filled, double rainbow like none we had ever seen before in our lives.

Another blessing, another circumstance unexplained.

Even while those daily life lessons were being served, both good and sorrowful, He was at work on the next road into a wilderness not yet imagined. Every time my family would ask questions as to how, when, and where, I would ask them to patient and wait, for in time, all of their concerns would be answered. It was in these moments, soon after their questions, I found myself alone with Him, praying and listening for more.

There were times of darkness that filled us with doubt. In the waiting, there was learning. It was all part of the path that was chosen; each subject to the other.

Yet, each time He spoke, I listened. Each time I asked, He answered.

There were was the day we didn’t have enough money to buy food until the next paycheck, and with only a half-a-gallon of milk left in the fridge at the house, I silently asked God for help as I went to the Trail to open up that morning. There was nobody else that new our dire straits; nobody else had been told how close we were to going hungry; nobody. As I opened the door, there sitting on the podium as I walked in was a single white envelope with my name scratched on it, almost illegible. I picked it up, curiously and opened it. Tears filled my eyes as I dropped to my knees.

There inside was $40 cash.

God once more answered prayer.

Knock and the door will be opened, ask and yea shall receive.”

This was just one of many Godsends that we experienced as we learned to trust and obey. Brothers and sisters from all over came to our time aid in our time of need, again and again. This in itself was difficult to understand and accept. We had to learn a whole new paradigm of life, how to receive.

Continually each day, prayers would be lifted up for guidance. One specific prayer that seemed to go unanswered was for Him to find someone to buy our old farmstead. But like all things asked for, one must consider God’s time. For us, in what seemed an eternity but in reality was blinding speed, our home of over twenty years finally sold. It was a bittersweet memory, even now. Looking back, it was when things began to move faster than one could conceive; at God-speed.

In a blinding fury, we cleaned, mowed, and moved the last vestiges of a lifetime in a matter of two weeks. We had moved from the reflection to the immediate. As things began to move along, we still didn’t know where we would finally end up living.

Prayers continued to be lifted up, for we still were housed in a temporary shelter, we affectionately called, “The Shack.”

Then one day we found ourselves driving toward the area of West Lenoir, I wondered why. Deep inside it felt right even though it didn’t seem logical at the time. After all, we had been through; I knew it was a God thing. Again, His will would be done in time. There, through one unbelievable circumstance after another, we found a new home that would soon be our next step in the journey. There too we found new friends that would someday become our neighbors, as well as a brother and sister in Christ.

Something else I learned through the course of the year, unbelievable circumstances are more easily called “Miracles.” In all honesty, we are afraid to use the “M” word for fear of non-believers accusing us of believing in fantasy. “If they could only see what I’ve seen,” I think to myself, “then it wouldn’t be such a stretch of the imagination.”

After the sale of our farm and the purchase of our new home, we had moved from the reflection into the projection of time.

Then came the closing of the door we never saw coming. The loss of funding for my position at the Trail, and then the search for the next “What.” For nearly ten years of my last 23 years at Nortel/Genband, I had feared losing my job and to have to find a new one. We never thought it would happen after we had given everything up to live for our new life.

But alas, here we were.

Faith took on a whole new level of trust.

Once more, when it seemed like all would be lost, the unbelievable transpired. After three weeks of looking for jobs, filling out an untold number of applications, there had not been one phone call, not one interview. One morning I awoke to scripture that read, “Today will be the end of your suffering, your trials will cease today.” That afternoon came the first phone call. Then in a matter of 24 hours, God speed once again took over. Before I knew it, I had two job offers and was quickly hired as a High School Math Teacher in Boone, NC. His plan had been fulfilled.  The realization dawned on me that the move to our new home’s location allowed for a commute to the new job that was manageable instead of inconceivable. God’s hand was in it every step of the way.

In the beginning, the story seemed like I was moving to a place where I could share God’s word from the mountain; the mountain being the Trail. Before I knew it, I was serving Him from the mountain top, but in a way, I had never imagined.  

Every day, new doors open to places I never saw coming. Each day I pray for strength, guidance, and wisdom. Every day God answers prayer.

God will make rivers through the deserts and roads through the wilderness if only we trust in Him.

It has been a year of untold highs and lows, but in the end, it has been a year of serving our Lord, and for that, I couldn’t ask for more.

Thanks be to God.

[1] “Online Etymology Dictionary – http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=trust

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