The evening sky was muted. A serenity had bequeathed the mountainside below the Cone Manor, a living museum that sits above Blowing Rock, NC., just off the Blueridge Parkway. After having just finished my run, it was the cool-down time. Dusk had fallen, and the last vestiges of the golden rays of sunlight had departed from the distant peaks. Now, the gray sullenness that precedes the nightfall enveloped the stately grounds. Gone were all of the holiday weekend visitors. In their vacuum, a welcome stillness permeated the air.
From where I stood on the front porch steps overlooking the vast forest, falling away unto the breath of the shimmering waters of the lake, a calm overtook me. It was as if the place were all my own.
In my mind, my thoughts wandered back to when the house had been occupied by its original inhabitants. Thinking unto myself as if I were one of them, “How might the evening unfold?” Supper now complete, one was free to walk out upon the front porch and purview one’s holdings. Inside, the muffled sounds of the kitchen staff clearing away the table could be heard. Outside, the calls of the night begin to waft upon the gentle breeze – whippoorwills and nightingales begin their evening symphonies.
It is then, in the moment, that you realize the difference between then and now.
There is no T.V. blaring the eternal, never ceasing sensationalized news story. There is no rampant shrill of amplified cacophony coming from various entertainment devices. There are no people with heads bent in apparent submissive prayer – their blue-lit faces reflecting the stolid control as their eyes glaze over from countless hours of overuse.
No, there is nothing here now but a sense of serenity.
Before all this, there was much more.
An evening stroll after dinner allowed for reflection of the day’s work. There, floating upon the mountain air, were the soft, gentle sounds of a piano. The melody of “Ada Plays – from Cold Mountain” toils in my head – a simpler time, a gentler time. Later, as the light fails from the sky, one shall retire inside. There, sheltered from the chilly night air, a good book from the personal library might carry one until the bedtime hours approach. Perhaps a letter to a distant acquaintance is necessary, so you sit at your desk, under the flickering light of lamp or candle, and begin scribing pen to paper. You pause between dips of your pen’s head into the inkwell and reflect upon the words freshly poured out onto the page. The sullenness of time grips your heart like the dark reaches of the night, which fast approaches.
Outside your window, a hoot owl calls, and you are reminded of a carriage ride up to the top of Flat Top where you and this friend, to whom you now write, watched God paint another beautiful sunset. Your concentration is broken when the sweet, delectable smells of something baking in the kitchen reaches you. Suddenly, your stomach answers as a momentary frill of joy leaps as if to answer. Later, as you sip warm milk as your palette is being sated by the fresh, hot apple pie, you peruse through scriptures. The late evening snack just before bed refreshes your spirit as the words of the Holy Spirit begin to speak to you. The two combine in your soul, and for a moment, there is nothing in this world that could make you feel any closer to heaven. A warmth envelopes your being as if the hand of God has wrapped around you. The Psalmist words come to mind, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” The hoot owl calls once more as if to confirm those seemingly random thoughts. For a moment, you ponder the future and what it might hold for you and your family. As you lay your fork down beside the remaining crumbs on the fine china dessert plate, your eyes grow weary, and you momentarily nod off.
In the fog of a future time, you can see a world in turmoil. It is as if there is no peace in that far distant place. It is as if mankind has given in to all the lusts of the flesh. Your heart quickens, and God speaks to you, “But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God.”
You awaken from the dream with a start. So troubled are you by the vision that you seek to find comfort before trying to resign to sleep for fear of where your thoughts may continue. Opening the book of Ezekiel, you find the rest of the scripture, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Your heart is calmed, and you close the well-worn pages of the Bible, retiring to your bed-chamber.
Just before falling asleep, you think to yourself, “How could anyone turn away from the Lord so much so that they would become detestable in their own abominations to the point that God would pour out his wrath upon them?” The white linen drapes gently move from the cold night’s air wafting through your open window. You pull the feather comforter up to your chin and exhale a contemplative, but comforting sigh. The warmth of the bedsheets warding off the crisp coolness of the coming fall reminds you of God’s love. “How much greater is He than we shall ever know,” are the last thoughts you whisper to yourself. Eyes heavy with sleep send you off, and you become one with a peaceful eternity.
While we may not live in a time where we can walk away from the bitter influences of mankind’s own self-demising attributes, be they through media, electronics, or the immediate world in which he lives, we can always seek shelter from the storm where we have always been able to go – to God. Seek out the simpler ways in life, and find time to turn off all that noise.
“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him,…”
The Cone Manor became the backdrop for a peaceful evening that I had not anticipated, yet was a welcome respite from recent times. Too often, we fail to stop and pause in this busy life. It is when we stop and wait for the Lord that we are most often blessed beyond measure.
Yesterday evening, I felt a calling, a still small voice, if you will, to go back up to that porch from whence this tale began and take a picture to go along with the story. The storms had passed, and there was the chance that I might be afforded an unforgettable scene from which to draw. Upon my arrival, lo, there on the porch, I found a young man scribing in a journal next to an open bible. He was seated in a foldable camp chair he had brought along. The Park Service had removed all the rocking chairs from the porch because of COVID. Curious, I asked as to what he was reading. He responded, ‘the Bible.”
“What book and chapter, I asked further?”
“The gospel of Luke,” he replied hesitantly.
“A great book indeed,” and from there, a conversation began. I soon learned that the young man was searching for answers. His faith journey had hit a point where he knew not which way to turn. It was then, I realized why the voice had said to come. Retrieving a camp chair of my own from the car and a snack, we spent the remainder of the evening until dark, sitting there on that antiquated porch. It was as if the previous tale had come to life. The color slowly faded from the sky as clouds waltzed past us, following the contour of the valleys below. There, two men, previously total strangers, became brothers through a shared faith. Questions were asked, and questions were answered. Like the Apostles to their own Disciples, the passing of one’s knowledge of God’s word onto the next generation transpired in a place fitting for its reception.
It was a blessing far more generous than one might envision on an evening such as this.
No matter the noise around you, seek Him, and he will find you.
Walk away into a place where that still small voice can find you once again.
Thanks be to God.
 Ezekiel 11:20-21 KJV
 1 King 19:11-13 KJV