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A Moment in Time

C.S. Lewis wrote about the holy spirit, “It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise, when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.”

But to those that receive it, “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.”[1]

If we were to interpret the holy spirit as a sensation, then it would quickly dissipate. Jesus even explained the action like this, “And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” While some say this is speaking of the gospel’s truth, it can easily be seen how it also applies to the receiving of the holy spirit and, with it, the truth. For one cannot have one without the other.

Considering these scriptures and words from Lewis, a thought, or rather, more of a question, began to form in my mind. How to encapsulate a testimony in so few words that it could be conveyed to a stranger passing on a twisty, root-covered mountain trail? That is the question.

Reno Sharpe’s Store jam, in Chatham County, NC. – around 2005

The struggle of this thought was fully born the other night when my wife and I went to our favorite local ice cream shop for a treat. As we sat on our favorite bench across from said shop, watching humanity pass before us, a young man and his daughter walked by. The father was dressed in familiar bib overalls, something that is second nature to my heart in clothing. A pair of worn but serviceable bibs with a t-shirt underneath is probably as close to heaven’s robes that I will know on this side of glory. That was the first thing that caught my attention. The other was his intentional stare. It seemed that he noticed something about me that also drew him in. As he slowed to get a better look, our eyes locked, and it was then I realized I knew him from somewhere. My mind raced through the fog of mental cobwebs trying to place him. It was as if we were in a duel, seeking the past. Finally, the young father stopped walking. He had proceeded so far past our point of rest that he had to turn his head to continue staring. Then, as if neither one of us could not take the not knowing anymore, he smiled and said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” The little girl with him turned around and came back toward us, wondering who her daddy had found in a town so far away from home that he knew.

“Sharpe’s Store,” I replied in question, “at the music?”

He grinned a little bigger and turned to face us. “That’s right. It’s been a couple Sundays since then.”

“I’ll say.”

 “Are you still playing music,” he questioned, still trying to put the pieces back together.

“Some, in fact, they have a jam up here on Saturday mornings that I go to sometimes.”

Reno Sharpe’s Store, Chatham County, NC. – around 2005

My mind was trying to recover names or faces that he might know, but it was as if my head’s fuel tank had run dry, and nothing would come. He seemed to be doing the same when he brought up a couple names or instruments that they played. But nothing seemed to trigger the right neurons, and so we left it at that and started talking about what brought him to town. He was obviously there on vacation, so we went over the usual suspects of destinations. He was leaving to go back to Bonlee the next day. By this time, my mind was frantically trying to pause time. As I looked upon him, it was apparent that he hadn’t physically changed much at all. He was still slim and clean-shaven. His children, whom I didn’t know he had any, were now old enough to enjoy walking with their daddy down main street in Blowing Rock. While I was still trying to drink it all in, he said, as if to reinforce my look of doubt, “The last time I saw you, you said you were starting to write a book.”

That last statement sent my head reeling into dates so long ago that it seemed multiple rivers had flowed beneath my proverbial bridge. It was over twelve years ago that something like that might have been uttered from my lips.

So much had transpired. It was challenging to put into words how much had changed, to the point, that it was impossible to tell him that he was looking at the new me. What he didn’t know, nor do most people in my life, was that the writing of that book changed my perspective on life and my walk with God. It placed upon my heart an urgency, an impetus of motivation.

Seven years ago, it had become too much. There was a frustration level in my soul that couldn’t be quenched by serving God just part-time. It was time to take the step off the cliff and devote all of me to Him. It was an immersion that would take my family and I hundreds of miles away from the only home my children had ever known – our Chatham county farm. My instincts were drawn to the mountains, both physically and spiritually – to a higher calling, if you will. The first year was one that I felt would break us, both financially and emotionally. It was our Israelite forty years in the desert phase. We learned to do without and to suffer. But we learned something much greater through all of those trials – that we couldn’t do it alone. We needed God even more than ever before. But how could I convey this to Matthew, a person who had almost entirely been lost in my memory?

But there, in those precious few seconds, there wasn’t enough time to tell the whole of the story. There weren’t enough seconds to convey what God had done in not only my life but in the life of those around me. Suddenly, as if the breath of life were about to be removed from my chest, an urgency came upon me. If it weren’t for this chance encounter, this momentary pause in time, we would have never seen one another again. There was an instant of longing to want to find a way to spend time with him and his family, but he said they would be leaving on the morrow. There was no way to reach out to him technically because, like so many where he came from, they have spurned those so-called advances, and for many good reasons. It was a finality of a missed opportunity that stung the most. There was so much to show him and his family they would have missed.

But then, if we are true to our faith, isn’t this a feeling that should possess us every day?

The feeling that we sometimes only have a moment in passing a person on the trail, walking past someone on the street, or even meeting someone only briefly in our daily life, to reach out to them to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sense that time would slip by before we could tell them how their salvation depends on the way, the truth, and the light of Christ descended on my heart mightily. This spirit of urgency began to drive me to seek wisdom and direction from the Word. And with it, a determination to seek out those who are lost, not by their own accord but through lack of hearing.

It was in this mindset of fleeting chance encounters that lingered when the sunrise beckoned, and it was time to go to the Bible Study on Tuesday morning. Dan, our teacher for the day, walked us through 1 Timothy 4. He was enlightening as always, and for that, we were grateful. But the moment which is always desired but rarely seen happened after the meeting had concluded. My friend Richard and I had planned to go hiking and were about to head out after all the bustling of departures had ended. But in my heart, that lingering pause, that feeling that we should rush out just yet lest we miss something, seemed to loom over my earnestness to depart.

The chance encounter occurred when one of the elderly men, named Jim, came over to my table and began to share with me the enjoyment of reading that book Matthew had alluded to the night before, “Bruecke to Heaven.” He started to ask questions, and as is usual, they brought back the flood of memories, emotions, and spiritual awakening that had transpired through its writing. As we talked, another friend of mine, Richard, joined us. It was just us three in the restaurant’s dining area at that point.

Jim began to open up about his own personal walk and how that very morning, his dear wife had shared with him her point in life when she came to Christ. She told him that he needed to know it because it was something often mentioned at funerals, how the believer came to know Jesus. Tears began to well up in his eyes as we could feel our own heartstrings being pulled.

As he continued to share, his own emotions began to flow down his cheeks. He then said he wasn’t sure if he had ever truly received Christ into his life. We both could hear the despair in his voice. Then, without warning, he continued. The tears of sorrow flowed from his eyes like rivers of relief as my friend, and I felt that moment open, like the clouds after the rainstorm parting and the sun breaking through.

“Do you want to come to Christ right now,” Richard asked.

“Yes.”

“Then let’s do this,” and Richard began to pray over Jim, asking God to come into his life and give him the gift of eternal life through the salvation of his Son, Jesus Christ. When Richard was finished praying, he then, with head still bowed, said, “Jim,” as if to say, “take it away, you know what to do.”

With head bowed and heart in deep contrition, I was blessed beyond measure to hear our friend Jim pray to God, seeking his forgiveness, thanking him for his Son, and asking him to fully come into his life, once and for all. He battled through his flood of emotions so much that we began to embrace him through his change. The Holy Spirit began to flow, and that shaft of sunlight seemed to illuminate that little room until all three of our hearts would almost burst with joy. For a moment, time stood still, and the love of Jesus Christ filled us to overflowing.

Grace for grace became our measure.

As I sit here this morning, the day after, still reflecting on all that transpired in the past couple of days, it is with profound, heartfelt sincerity that I want to share how important it is that we seek those chance encounters. In those brief moments of time, we must find a way to stop time and speak into another’s life. Be always prepared to succinctly and as abundantly tell someone about the gospel of salvation, the story of Jesus Christ. And even more importantly, allow them time to come to Him in their own words.

It is truly a matter of life and death.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Mark 4:20-22 KJV

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The Music Returns

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”-Col.3:16

From the depths of the hollar, the strains of the melodies rise above the canopy.

Finally, within the Retreat, the purpose for which it began, the music has begun. Weary fingers, mending from being crushed, broken, and scarred through the many trials of construction still somehow remember their positions on the keyboard. Like long lost loved ones gone but never forgotten, the old songs return.

Outside, the night sounds of the forest rise from the shadows as darkness creeps up the valleys below. The air begins to grow heavy, like gravy running from the tops of the biscuit, finding the crevices through which to yield, until only the peaks of the mountains prevail. Below the mist, the music rises, penetrating the cloud, singing the praises of the Lord.

It had been nearly three weeks since there had been a break, other than Sundays. Today, bodies, worn and tired, cried for a break; so, we listened. Progress is being made on the Retreat, but there is much to do. There are still windows and doors to set in place, but for now, it is a shelter from the storms. As we took time to step back and revive our life outside of the construction zone, we reconnected to the world around us; the mountains, rivers, and forest of the Blueridge. In the process of reconnecting to God’s grandeur, so too were our spirits rejuvenated with the blessings we had so long ago put aside to pursue the many purposes for which we serve.

The old fiddle sits poignantly in the corner of the fireplace as if she has always been there. From those strings, many blessings have been provided in this life, and hopefully, Lord willing, there are many more to come.

Tonight a few minutes were taken to revisit the old friend and to once more rekindle the Spirit within. When we make music, it is as if God can speak through us. His indwelling within us only makes our spirits rise to new heights. Like those notes floating beyond the tiny hollar from where they start, their tranquil melodies become one with the all of His creation. Together, their symphony is His grace singing from our hearts.

Yes, tonight the Word of Christ dwelt richly within, and for that, I have only one thing to say.

Thanks be to God.

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Your Raise Me Up

His hands were calloused from years of labor; working on the farm, and now this, building the Retreat. Scars covered is arms like roadmaps of a tumultuous life. One stone after another he carefully picked from the pile of rocks, rotating it in his hands before finding the match for which it had been chosen. Around him, the forest sang along to the music to which he worked. The man had a special affinity to listening to music while he toiled; it made him slip away from the pain of the job at hand and allowed his mind to float from one life’s precious memory after another.

Music had always held a special place in his heart.

There were times when he was at work, thinking to himself that after the next song, he would stop for a much-needed break. Inadvertently, the next song would speak to him, keeping him enraptured. Unable to break the bond, he pushed his body onward; sometimes to the point of near exhaustion.

Today it was like that once more, as one rock after another was placed onto the chimney. The strains of gospel songs were compelling him to recall scriptures that matched the lyrics of what was being sung. The hum of the cement mixer blended into the background while his mind continued to buoy from the Word of God and back again. It wasn’t until the song, “You Raise Me Up,” came on that he had to pause.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains,

  You raise me up to walk on stormy seas,

   I am strong when I am on your shoulders,

   You raise me up to more than I can be.”

As the captivating voices of the Celtic Woman drifted into his consciousness, he suddenly realized he was being transported to one of the most special places in his heart; those distant Alpine Peaks of the Waldensian Valleys. He paused, looking up through the canopy of the forest to the azure blue sky. In his mind, he was back on that day, when he and a young pastor he still only knew as Stanley, had stood on that peak facing the valley below. The view was of a breathtaking vista in which God’s craftsmanship was on full display. The clear blue sky hung like a shroud above the temple of those fateful valleys below. There, where so many had lost their lives because of their faith, the depth of time and wails of mournful cries combined into a bittersweet scene that stretched as far as the eye could see.

They, both he and Stanley, had felt the hand of God upon them that day; so much so, each took measure to make mention to the other of how this day may never come again in their lives; at least not in this one; not in this manner. Each man knew in his heart that this possibly might be the only time on this side of Heaven in which they would feel the presence of God so strongly.

The feeling that remained in the man’s heart from that day had not abated; but rather, had only caused his faith to grow stronger. The lyrics in the song made perfect sense as the ladies continued to repeat the chorus, “You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.” Knowing that this time in his life was as if he was in a boat being tossed upon a stormy sea. Yet, in his faith, he knew that God was in control. The door to the future would open when God had finished the preparations. The man’s faith in Jesus Christ allowed him to walk upon that stormy sea, fearing not that he may sink. Unlike the Apostle Peter, he was sustained by all that he had learned of his walk in faith from that epic mountaintop experience.

It was then he realized, the work that he did was just as his forefathers had done back in those valleys so many centuries before; laying stone. At one point, they were known around the world for their skill in stone masonry, among many of the other spiritual gifts they possessed. The song interrupted his momentary epiphany with the words, “I am strong when I am on your shoulders.”

It was all becoming clearer. Like the low hanging clouds that had obscured the nearby peak on that fateful day, when they parted, it was as if a new revelation began to take hold. Like their ancient faith, like one carved out of stone, they never gave in to the demands that they relinquish their belief in God. In their hearts, they knew that God had given them a special gift when the disciples made their way to these valleys and spoke the words that gave them hope, the words that gave them salvation. From that day on, they vowed to never let those precious scriptures leave their hearts. Memorizing them so that they could never lose them, they would pass them down from generation to the next until they had become an oddity in the annals of mankind. Fro this they would be sought for persecution and atrocities few have known since. When they had been persecuted, it only made them grow closer in their walk. When their feet were literally held to the flames, they worshipped and sang songs in their dying breaths.

The gravity of the moment made him find a seat and pause even more.

Martin Luther spoke of the power of music in our faith when he wrote, ““We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. No greater commendation than this can be found — at least not by us. After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music.”

When I find myself seeking answers, listening for God to speak, many times it comes in the form of music; either a song or an instrumental piece. Many has been the time when there seemed to be no direction to my journey, or there was no clear sign from which to act, and without intentionally thinking about the impasse, a song would play through the speakers; there would come an answer.

A chill passed over the man’s body- the feeling of the Holy Spirit passing through him- as the next verse nearly took his breath, “You raise me up to more than I can be.”

That morning, the scripture from Hebrews 6:9 stood out, like a beacon. “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

Even though the future was uncertain, he knew that with faith, better things awaited. He again thought of that journey to the distant mountain, one in which he could not afford, yet God provided. A journey in which he never dreamed of making, but there he was. Again, and again, there was the miraculous being played out before him in such dramatic, demanding fashion that there would not be enough time to write them all down.

As he sat thinking of all that had gone on since that day with Stanley, he realized the future was just as unknown today as it was then. But as the Word of God had told us, with the faith of your salvation, we can trust that in the end, God’s will shall be done.

Through all of his life’s trials, God had been continually molding him, shaping him into the faithful believer he was today. There were scars, both inside and out, that were reminders of that journey. Through Jesus Christ, he had been made more than he could ever thought possible. Once he left behind the chains of sin, his world changed. It was as if he had been reborn. All things became new, and with new eyes, he could see like never before.

The man stood as the song ended, and before the next one could begin, picked up the next stone and walked toward the growing wall before him. Where it was to go, the Master’s hand would tell.

With time, we shall know the answers to the journey; with faith, we will persevere to the end.

Thanks be to God.

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An Affliction of Conviction

by Timothy W. Tron

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

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

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

11th Annual Appalachian State Fiddler’s Convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

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

Thanks be to God.

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The Day The Music Almost Died…

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

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

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

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

Music is the voice of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the soul of the music never dies.

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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He Who Endures…Shall Be Saved…

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:11-14

I step out, no longer hiding behind the façade of a life that kept me in the shadows. Now, all will know what and who I serve. There is no shame in who I serve, nor why I do this, but there are many that will seek to destroy all we do. Today I took another step closer to the mission for which I was called. One more step toward the evangelistic journey that God continues to lead me toward. From here, I cannot see the future. From here, I cannot tell whether I will walk or crawl to the finish if I’m to ever make it. The only comfort I can find, in this walk toward a darkness that seems to grow deeper with each passing day is that I am not alone. Those of us who seek the truth do so with united purpose. If we hold on until the end, salvation awaits. What we do, we do for Him, so that all the world will know the truth; the whole truth.

This was my first night off in almost a week. The rest was welcome.

In this time repose, I was able to watch a possible distant relative, Valeria Tron, perform on videos recorded in her home country of Italy. A missionary friend had introduced us on FB knowing that we were likely related since she was from the same valley as my ancestors. She had recently awarded a very prestigious honor, none of which I could understand. So, tonight I took some much needed time to watch her perform. There is such a passion and intensity to her singing, although I cannot understand the words, her music is beautiful. I noticed she had like our Tron Family Band page, and then I wondered how he and my own family might sound someday if we were ever able to make music together. From what little I watched, it appears she sings the mournful, soulful traditional folk ballads like I would prefer, even though their rhythm is something new to me; another distant delight to find someday.

I was about to quit out of FB when I noticed our dear friend Jessica Lang had posted a new video of her picking out Salt Creek with some beta strings from D’Addairio. As I watched the talented young lady pick out the melody perfectly, adding her own breaks within the song, I couldn’t be prouder of how much she has grown musically and blossomed into a beautiful young woman.

Yes, time marches on.

Outside a cold rain falls.

It’s that time of year for the Trail where we are open until 9 pm each night thru 12241337_999839180055337_6872093815838088611_nChristmas. We are manning the Christmas Lights at the Trail with help from volunteers, some of which are there now allowing me the time to regroup and fulfill some of my own wishes; to write. There are times I wonder if I will ever pick up a paint brush again. Musically, I’ve been able to add a moment here and there to the schedule. In all, there is little time for the creative juices to flow. Times like these I have to hope there is a reservoir filling, saving up for when there is time to flow.

And time marches on.

The darkness envelopes the world around us as the drops of water fall from the sky, the abyss from above.

As the evening draws to a close, we prepare for tomorrow. Another day, we know not what awaits but we can prepare as we read the Word. For in this book, we can find truth when the world around us seeks to sway us away from the goal, the finish line.

We seek the finish, for, in the end, we know our salvation awaits.

For now, we must take one cherished moment whenever we find them.

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The Comforting Soul of the Barn Studio…

2013-01-03 21.17.25-1It pretty much started back when the late John W. Parsons said to me, “Do you have an out building you can practice in?”

J.W., we called him for short, was referring to me learning how to play the fiddle and that it would be best if I had somewhere to practice, lest I drive my wife crazy with the horrible sounds of a beginner fiddle player in the house.

“No,” I respectfully replied.

“Well, you better build one or you won’t be married long,” he said, and laughed before refocusing on where we had left off in our lesson that evening.

As a matter of fact, I had already begun adding onto the original section of barn I had built years before, unsure of how it might be used. I now had a reason to make part of the new addition somewhere I could get out of the weather and perhaps practice my newfound instrument. So with the purpose of creating a room to play music in, the studio in the barn began to take shape. I purchased ship-lapped poplar from Foster Rives, who had cut it from local lumber and planed it in his own sawmill just down the road from the farm. I installed it after putting up the walls, roof and outer shell of the barn, completing what would be a welcome retreat. Over time, the poplar becamed naturally aged to the golden hue it displays today. The wood stove came later, moved up from the old cabin, making the studio complete.

IMG_20140101_084557The cold rainy days when the farm work had to be put on hold, I would eagerly retreat to the studio. There I would build a fire in the woodstove and soon, the beautiful aromas of coffee brewing in the old percolator pot mixing with that of the hickory in the fire blending with the faint smells of the sweet hay in the hayloft just outside the studio door combined to make an ambiance that would start my creative juices flowing. There in the studio, I once more revisited old talents I had unintentionally left behind; starting to paint once again after years of leaving my paint brushes in the closet. It was here that I also rediscovered my writing, after years of leaving the pen lie dormant, with the occasional story that might rise to the surface, perculating like the coffee in the pot on top of the wood stove. And, of course, I would practice my fiddle, alone and away from ears that might be bothered by the slowly diminishing sour notes that had once been produced in abundance in my early days of learning.

Inside the upstairs room in the barn, strains of music wafted from the CD player. Songs were played according to the activity I was performing which accompanied my subconscious as I worked either on portraits, landscapes, stories for my book or just playing along on the fiddle. This was my home-away-from-home. Outside the windows, the world would present itself as the farm around me lived out its daily routine, regardless of the elements. As the rain pitter-pattered down, the cows might lie lazily underneath the cover of the trees that stood near the chicken coop. The chickens would cluck and crow, scratching the ground paying no mind to the nearby bovine neighbors as they walked about their runs, safe from the world and uncaring of the weather. Their only cares being that they might find a morsel of protein wiggling about in the dark earth.

Inside the comfort of the studio, I watched the seasons pass; winter, spring, summer and fall, safe from their temperature extremes, yet thankful that each were tranquil in their own right. Eventually, when my children were old enough, they would join me in the room up in the barn to paint, play music or just warm themselves by the woodstove if the opportunity presented itself. At times, I would cook meals in the cast iron skillet on the stove top, making the room come alive with smells of fried sausage or bacon. To me, there aren’t any restaurants to which I am aware that can compare to a home cooked meal on an old wood stove. As I would sit back in the easy chair and savor the delectable morsels of food, the air would still linger with the soothing smell of fresh cooked food, wood smoke and hot fresh coffee still bubbling up in the percolator.

Yes, the barn studio is someplace I will miss once we move. It is someplace that the kids will undoubtedly never forget, knowing that it too became a retreat to which they could go to reinvent themselves and become one with their inner person. We all need a place to go where life can be left at the door, where we may once again turn our thoughts inward and be at peace with our soul; giving ourselves to the gifts with which God has blessed us.

May we never forget our studio in the barn.

See how this studio can become a welcome retreat for you by clicking here.

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Pictoral Journal: Day 3

So much time, so many pages…

In order to try to catch back up on my lapse in blogging, I am continuing to post journal entries for several of the recent weeks. These will include drawings, random thoughts and observations of my daily life.

On another note, I have begun submitting Query letters to prospective Literary Agents and the family and I are also practicing for our performance and presentation at the Festival of Faith in Valdese on Friday, August 8th. Our friends The Lang Sisters and their family will be joining, us as well; sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord is what we do.

May you find humor, comfort and joy in all that transpires.

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Music of the Soul…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a beautiful week and Blessings to all.

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

 

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JAM Camp 2013 is almost here…..are you ready?

I have to admit, I have been remiss in my blogging as of late, but there is a very good reason.

We are deep into the preparations for JAM Camp 2013.bluegrass-640x350

This year’s camp will be bigger and hopefully even better than last year’s. In addition to the great morning instrument classes (which includes lessons in guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and mountain dulcimer with a host of great teachers) we are creating more afternoon activities; meanwhile, keeping the popular ones from last year.

This year, in addition to campers making their own biscuits, they will also learn how to make the preserves to put on their biscuits as well. Joan Thompson from the Siler City Farmer’s Market will teach the preserve making class and Bill and Sims Poindexter will lead the biscuit baking class.

Everyone enjoyed the pottery class last year, so this year we plan to do it again. We plan to add to our pottery experience with Jon Spoon, the Director of the NC Arts Incubator, leading the workshop. We hope to have a JAM Camp 2013 tile for everyone to take home by the end of the week.

We are excited to have Sue Wilson back for a second year. She will hold another workshop in Hammered Dulcimer, which we didn’t seem to get enough of last year. In addition to Hammered Dulcimer, we will also be offering a build-your-own Mountain Dulcimer workshop hosted by Emily Schilling, who is also our Mountain Dulcimer teacher. In this class you will build and decorate your own Dulcimer.

Also back by popular demand is Kathy Schilling and her clogging class. Kathy, a multi-award winning dancer, will be leading afternoon dance workshops in clogging. Kathy will also hold classes on how to square dance, which will be very useful at the Friday Night Barn Dance.

We are adding some new afternoon opportunities with a Native American themed activity by first building a Tepee, which we will then let the campers decorate. Along with the Tepee we will create a sundial, nature boat float and an Orienteering course. Other artistic endeavors somewhat Native American themed, will be focused on a Giant Weaving and Mural project and Jug decorations.

100_1943We will once again hold our Jug Band class on Friday, where our students will learn or be reminded of how to play the jugs they decorated earlier in the week along with the art of Kazoo. Last year, Julie Brown, Emily Schilling and myself led this class for the first time. I think we laughed more than we played music, but we found out the beauty of performing while playing a Kazoo…for sure!!! I also found out that playing a jug required a lot more air than I had anticipated, nearly passing out the first time I tried. Needless to say, we now make sure our students know the hazards of too much jug plaing. In addition to the jug, each student will get their own kazoo to play. We will perform a Jug Band song at the Friday Barn Dance show as part of the evening’s pre-Dance entertainment. Along with the Jug Band performance our students will be invited to come up and perform what they’ve learned during camp; you will not want to miss this.

Along with Jug Band class, other afternoon singing and song writing classes will be held again with Laura Thurston leading our folk singing class and Sarah Osborne hosting our song writing workshop. In addition, Jr. Counselors, Abbey Buchanon and Chloe Lang will lead a Taylor Swift song-sing-a-long session slanted more toward the Old Time/Bluegrass sound of her music.

Along with all the learning there will be lots of physical activity with the return of the ever popular 100 ft. water slide. We will add additional water games throughout the week along with various other games and activities. Zach Tomlinson will host a jump rope workshop. You have to see him in action to believe it…a double-dutch master.

Our story teller this year will be Claire Ramsey. We look forward to hearing Claire weave her tales as no one else can. In Claire’s own words, “Therefore, my first wish as a storyteller is to bring all my listeners — children, teens, and adults — to that place where they remember their first stories… where they find themselves again at their parents’, grandparents’, or babysitters’ knees, pictures filling their minds and hearts. Whoever you are, however old you are, Stories With Claire have moments of joy, excitement, and peace for you.”

We are happy to announce our visiting performer this year is Chatham County’s own iconic treasure, Tommy Edwards. Tommy will be visiting us on Wednesday afternoon starting at 2:00 PM. We look forward to hearing Tommy speak and perform for our campers; he always has lots of inspirational words of wisdom to share and beautiful music as well.TommyBoT3

The backdrop for the JAM Camp 2013 is the wonderfully restored Silk Hope Farm Heritage Park and the beautiful Silk Hope countryside. Along with this beauty we plan to include some farm related activities and learning experiences similar to last years. Farming is a dynamic lifestyle where weather always plays a major factor. So we never know for sure what activity we will be able to promote until closer to the time of the camp but we promise it will be something all the children will enjoy.

In all, this year promises to be bigger and better with a lot of learning with a whole lot of fun thrown in. If you haven’t registered it’s still not too late to do so.

For more information and to register go online to www.ChamJAM.org/SummerCamp2013.php

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