Tag Archives: prayer

This Little Light of Mine

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

Tonight, as I pray for all those people in my life, both within reach, and those distant, it is as if there is a never-ending list. Yet, as countless as the stars are in the sky, the Lord knows each of them by name. For each soul that finds its way onto my finite list, there are so many more that our Savior knows, and his grace emanates forth like one star shining onto the next until his list to us appears infinite.  And in this manner, we are found like the newborn foal in the dewy morning grass, helpless, ambling into an unknown future. Our ship’s sails may be full, but the rudder, the part with which we steer, seems inadequate for the vessel for which we have been endowed. The greater the berth, the more we are expected to manage – yet, even in the best of times, we can be overwhelmed with the blessings upon which we have been bestowed. The cargo for which we carry is that of being someone to whom others can turn, the light which shineth forth as does the natural world, also attracts that of the spiritual. Those with darkened hearts, those with diminished souls cling to us like a life support. We become the flame to the moth, so to speak. We know deep inside this shell of humanity that we are not worthy, and if we are even more abound in our faith, we know that it is He that worketh through us whom they seek.

Night Sky – by Timothy W. Tron, 2020

On a dark night, over 2,000 years ago, the stars above played an integral part of our Messiah’s birth. As part of our Men’s Connection Bible study, this morning we watched the very well written and presented movie, “The Star of Bethlehem.”[1] As we marveled at the details with which the show’s presenter depicted his case, in the back of my mind, there was a little voice wondering about all the other brilliance and imagery to which he did not mention. While science and mathematics can depict with uncanny accuracy the actual account of how the star of Bethlehem came to be, there is another side of the story where man’s intuition can never reach – that of the un-natural, the spiritual, and the Godly. For as Jesus told the Pharisees, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only.[2] There in that night sky, not only was the star of Bethlehem showing the way, but there was another phenomenon taking place. As the shepherds stood with their flocks, there was, as they put it, a multitude of angels that illuminated the sky beyond their ability to describe in human terms. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”[3] As those men in the field would later testify to Luke, not alone, but several eyewitnesses would attest, a luminescence far beyond that of what said star was already providing shone about them. It was so brilliant that it literally wrought their hearts with fear and trembling. We can see this again throughout scripture when man finds himself in the presence of an Almighty being, be it an Angel of the Lord or God himself.  But Luke goes on to reveal how much more these shepherds were afforded that precious night. As if heaven had taken pause and the entirety of heaven ascended to earth to witness the birth of God in the flesh, the multitude of angels filled the sky. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven,[4] As those lowly shepherds stook quaking in amidst their flocks, in awe of the presence of something no one before, nor anyone since had ever witnessed, they were given the message of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

If you lived the rest of your life after such an event, that moment, that place in time and those words would surely never leave you. Had those ancient Jews been more mindful of the scriptures and voices of the prophets, they too would have been standing alongside those men in the fields. But alas, as God would intend it to be, their hearts would be hardened, and the image of the Almighty in the form of a helpless child, not the conquering King they had imagined would be the order for all time.

While we often find comfort in science and numerical evidence when it can back up those words that are encased within the covers of the book with the inscription, “Bible,” we must be reminded that this is only a minutia of detail to which we are afforded. The natural order and what man can fully understand are, but an infinitesimal part of all that God can do and provide. When we seek out those stories of old and find the infinite being allowing himself to become finite, the flesh, we for a moment can comprehend what he speaks. But as those Jews of old discovered, there was much more to that earthly mission than what humankind had anticipated.

There amongst those beautiful deep space nebulae from which the Hubble Space Telescope can provide to our vast array of scientific academia, we can find tiny lights that appear to be stars. They are, in fact, billions of other galaxies with billions more stars within them. There seems to be no end to what God’s creation can and will reveal. When we take the time to study the word to which we were given, the Comforter as Jesus told his disciples, we can find traces, vague footprints of angelic beings for which there is no understanding, no mathematical equation that can explain within the scope of human interpretation. It is then, when we realize the limits of our own being that someday our soul may inhabit a place we cannot begin to imagine, that we start to fathom the endless capacity of God. It is then that we understand how faith really works.

He must increase that we may decrease. And when we finally come to understand this, we will then begin to open our eyes to a new realization – we are nothing without Him.

Give thanks for all that you have, my friend, and pray for those whom you know and for those who don’t. From our little lights, we emanate out to others until we eventually become a greater light that makes all the difference in this world. So that someday, we too shall be one with the light of the world.

For we were once darkness, but now we are light, live as children of the light.”[5]

Thanks be to God.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OaVLA27V0s, ITN Movies, 2007, From Producer Stephen   McEveety (The Passion of the Christ)

[2] John 5:44 KJV

[3] Luke 2:9 KJV

[4] Luke 2:13-15 KJV

[5] Eph. 5:8 KJV

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Don’t Live to Regret It

by Timothy W. Tron, Dec. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I say this? Allow me to explain.

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

Moses Cone Manor Trail, Dec. 2020

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

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

There would be no usual drive home that night.

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

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

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

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

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

There is no going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.


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

[2] Psalm 139:7-10 KJV

[3] Psalm 37:5 KJV

[4] Psalm 37:6-7 KJV

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

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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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Are You Blessed?

 “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”-John 20:29

We stood in a circle. Our right hands made into fists as our arms were extended into the middle of the circle, like the hub of a human wheel, one placed upon the other as each of us bowed our heads in prayer. The boys like to call the configuration the “popcorn prayer,” a term they coined on their own. With the first of the young men that began, the next would continue the prayer until it came around the circle to the last person.

Crossnore Children’s Home

In the past, we would have had a morning devotional before going to breakfast, followed by a closing prayer. But this day was different, it was late Sunday afternoon. Unlike the times before, today they asked that we all pray together before we said our final goodbyes. In unison, they asked that I close us out by saying the last prayer.

It was one of the most poignant moments of my life, humbling to the core; it was their last request.

I had come to say goodbye, a goodwill gesture that was sincerely from the heart. It had been a tumultuous month, one that had left me more than tired. Several weeks earlier, when I had shared with my supervisor that God was leading my life’s journey away from Crossnore, I also asked that if they needed any extra help, I told him that I would be willing to fill in if needed. He thanked me for that offer.

At Crossnore, there is always a need.

And so, after many sleep-deprived and beleaguered days, my footsteps carried me one last time from one end of the Crossnore campus to the other. Those young men had left an undeniable mark upon my heart. For many of the children at Crossnore, their pasts are much like our own, better left behind. Many are at the home because of no fault of their own, and with that, you immediately seek to find the source of the mindset that acts out in ways that are not normal; because if anything, the trauma through which they have survived are anything but normal. It was because of this and much more that I couldn’t leave without at least letting them know that I would miss them.

Along my path that somber Sunday afternoon, the majestic oaks that had at one time provided comforting shade during the hotter months, had now given way to become barren, twisted towering bones, reaching to the azure blue sky above. They too, showed empathy for my departure, like elders who had seen so many come and go, telling me in their own way that they would forever be with me. The chilly winds blew leaves across my path as I made it to the all teen boy’s cottage. Many would prefer another assignment than to have to deal with young men at their age.

My own experience was quite different.

From the outset, once they realized I wasn’t going to be a push-over, we began to connect. One might wonder if it had been the many years of working with the Scouts that allowed me to understand them? Perhaps you might ask, was it because of the time spent working with the Junior Appalachian Musician program? Or, maybe, you might conjecture, it was teaching High School math to teens their age that helped me cope? Whatever the reason one might attribute my connection to those boys, I believe it was the hand of the Lord who had put me there for that season, as short as it may have been. The reason I felt it was God, was because it wasn’t until I asked to share the devotional with them that I could see something new; a change in their demeanor toward my presence. It was when one of the young men-(the one that had been there the longest, over 6 years to be exact)- opened up to me, that their reactions began to make me take notice. They said that because of his years of tenure at the home, he had become so hardened that he would purposely keep you at bay, knowing that before long, you too would fall by the wayside.

Who could blame him?

He had seen so many come and go. And up to that point, he could have just as well said the same thing about me. But when he would purposely make it a point to greet me or go out of his way to tell me to have a nice day, it became apparent that God had moved him, through me, in spite of who I was. All of these thoughts swirled around in my head like the fallen leaves upon the ground that cold, blustery afternoon.

There had been so much to contemplate. For if the walk had been days, there would have been enough recent memories and experiences to occupy my thoughts the full breadth of the journey.

Recently, one of my new colleagues at the college asked, “How are you today?”

I replied, as I so often do these days, “I am blessed, I hope you are?”

He then later asked what I had meant by the word “Blessed.”

The question stopped me in my tracks.

My mind flashed back to the beginning of the summer and the terrible drought, and trials that my life had encountered. Through the loss of a job, loss of income, loss of medical coverage, to the near-fatal illness, to the days of unanswered prayers. The doubts and troubles piled up like logs against the bridge when the river rises. One by one, their pressure building until they either burst through or until they are swept over the bridge by higher waters. My life had become that bridge, inundated by the flooding trials that seemed to come, one after the other, each one building upon the other. At one point, the bad news had become so common that it became laughable. “Just how much more could one take and still survive,” I began to ask? My life began to feel a little like Job in the struggles, and a lot like Joseph at the bottom of the dry well; there was nowhere to go but up.

Then, like once before in my life when it seemed as if all hope was lost, God answered. I don’t recall the exact day or time, but there was a sense that only a few may know or understand. Like a warm wave cascading over your soul, the feeling of things that are about to change washes over you, and it is then that you know deep in your heart that it is going to be okay. It’s moments like that when Hebrews 11:1 makes perfect sense, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

My sweet co-teacher, Mrs. Rush, said it best last year when she was trying to comfort me about having to leave the school when she said, “God is going to answer your prayers in a way that is going to be far greater than your wildest expectations.” She continued, “The answer won’t come soon, but rather, it will probably be at the last moment when you feel like all hope is gone. It is then that He will finally give you an answer.”

She was as prophetic as anyone I have ever known. Was God speaking through her? I don’t know, but to this day, I have to believe he was.

To answer my colleague, my mind dug through those countless days of anguish and despair, and the words began to form. They had to pass through the filter of that prayer with those boys in the Cottage as we all stood around in the circle and prayed. The memory of what happened during that prayer still lingered in my soul.

From the bottom of my feet, the sensation began. As God poured the words through my lips, the Holy Spirit began to fill my body like a pitcher is filled from the bottom up. The electricity began to rise through my legs, torso, and eventually put my arm into the pile of hands. The words continued to speak as my entire body began to tremble. Attempting to retain my composure, I pressed on, asking God for this moment to never end. “They have to feel this,” my mind reflected while scriptures began to flow from my heart and out my mouth. The warmth of tears streaming down my face began to mix with the emotions in my voice until we finally said, “Amen.”

As I stepped back, wiping the tears from my eyes, the emotional toll was not just my own, for it was apparent in their eyes as well. My head was spinning as I tried to find a way to say goodbye. Once more, there was yet another reason to never forget, as they asked for a hug. In my heart, the pain of saying goodbye was a burden that must have shown. One of the boys raced to his room and brought out one of his most cherished items, a UNC flag. In the spur of the moment, I asked if we could have them all sign it, “As a memento,” I said. They all happily agreed, and each one took great care to make sure their name was visible. In a way, it was as if they wanted to make that indelible mark upon my heart; one, like the permanent marker upon the flag, that would never fade away.

Those multitudes of thoughts swirled around in my head as my colleague must have wondered why it was so difficult to answer a simple question about what I meant by being ‘Blessed.’ It was as Jesus had said to Thomas at that moment when he finally realized that he as standing in the presence of our risen Savoir. After putting his hand through the hole in Jesus’ side, his head suddenly became faint. The room began to spin. Stepping back, trying to regain his balance, he stared in awe at Son of Man, God in the flesh, who had now defeated death. He was speechless. Jesus said to him, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Yes, blessed are we that have not seen and yet have believed. But this was only one part of being blessed to which Christ spoke The sermon on the mount was full of blessings, enough to know that when we walk with Him, when we realize we have found our path only because He has led us upon it, it is then we truly know that we are blessed.

To my colleague, I finally said that one should be thankful for being in a place to which they had never realized they would be in life, by no cause or fault of their own.

He respectfully nodded in response.

To live or die is gain, and to know Him, Christ, our Savior, is to be blessed beyond measure.

To all things we should be grateful, and most importantly,

Thanks be to God.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”-Matthew 5:1-11

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A Small World…

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” -Mark 9:35

The cold rain fell from the dark sky. It wasn’t nightfall, but it might as well have been. As I pulled within eyesight of the Ruritan’s

building, I could see the line extended out past the overhang of the entrance. People were literally standing in the rain. I had seen the signs earlier that morning for the Chicken Dumpling Dinner starting at 4:30, but here it was only 4:38, and there was already a line out the door. I nearly turned around but something said to just buy some time, so I pulled into the General Store. I needed to drop off some newspapers anyhow so it wouldn’t be that far off of my to-do list.

Barney and Otis were at their usual spots, Otis by the bench and Barney curled up in the flower pot by the door. The store’s overhang protected the dogs as they passed the dreary day in stride. There was lots of activity for the little town. “More than usual,” I thought to myself.

I stepped inside and placed the April copy of the Blueridge Christian News in the place where papers were to go; they had run out of the previous month, a blessing for sure. Trina, the store’s proprietor, was busy with several customers, so I didn’t want to bother her. Instead, I walked over to the wall where there were several old-timey photos of Collettsville back in the hay days, before the flood that nearly erased all existence from the valley back in 40. As I scanned the images, I started looking at the huge map that covered most of the wall. There were the names and places that the elders of the church often spoke about, Edgemont, Mortimer. Then I started to notice all the schools listed, most with a “col.” after the name. There seemed to be more schools than churches. Then I tried to find the name of the roads on which they sat and realized there was no Hwy. 321. Confused, I looked for a key for the map, and then it dawned on me, the date of its publication was 1931. This map was from the pre-flood days of antiquity.

Another item of interest I must return to someday,” I mused as I looked out the window to see if the line had dissipated; it had not. As the customers began to leave the store, I was finally afforded the chance to speak to Trina about the papers being in the right spot. She assured me that they were fine and that they had run out.

“Several folks have been in picking them up,” she reported with a smile.

“That’s great,” I replied, then continued, “I thought I’d drop them off while I wait for the line to go down.”

“Oh wow,” she responded, “We were lucky, and somebody brought us ours,” she said pointing at the styrofoam to-go containers behind the counter.

“Good for you.” I looked out the window again to see if I could get in now without having to wait in the rain.

“They’re having a fundraiser for the little girl with cancer.”

At the sound of her answer to the question I had not asked, my heart sank.

“There’s probably a lot of folks coming from out of town that normally don’t come which is why it’s so busy.”

All I could do was shake my head yes. I thought of little Sam Holt back in Goldston and how I had come to know his family through the JAM program. When he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, many thought we’d never see him grow to become a young man, but the community of Goldston came together, not only in fundraising but as a community of believers in prayer.

Sam is still with us today, thanks be to God.

“Looks like I can make it now without getting too wet. Have a blessed evening I called back,” as I headed out the door.

“You too,” she said, waving.

The parking lot was full, so I parked over by the old medical center and walked. The front door of the Ruritan building was open with a few more people still filing out the door, but at least now the line was well within the shelter of the porch roof. Back in the day in Goldston, I would have already seen or spoken with several people I would have known, but now, in this new place, I rarely know anyone. So I stood, scanning all the faces within, thinking of all the stories and testimonies that awaited to be told. There was nary an empty seat.

At this point, I still didn’t know who the little girl was we were raising money to help. The thing that stood out was the number of people wanting to come to her aid. Not only were there people there to eat, but there was the army of volunteers working to provide the food, serve the tables, clean up, and to take the money. As the door swung open wider to allow guests to leave, a familiar face appeared who happened to be standing in the line; finally, someone I knew. It was one of my Facebook friends that had come out of a connection back to Chatham County, through his cousin Sam Cooper; John Fletcher Church and his good friend, Anna.

The first and last time we had met in person was when they came to the last Lay Speaking engagement I had given in Sugar Grove, NC. There we formally introduced ourselves and John told me that most of his friends just call him “Fletch.” It was an honor to know someone that I had only seen on Facebook had shown up to hear me speak. But when I find myself thinking in those terms, I try to remind myself, that it is God writing through me, and that it would be God speaking through me that they come to hear. In all that we do, we should always know that when we truly serve the Lord, we do all for him and not for self. Thus, when I decided to give every family a copy of my book, “Bruecke to Heaven,” as part of my presentation that day, it was almost amusing when I ran out before I got to my new friend.  We both laughed. In my mind, I knew it was God’s way of saying, “You’ll be seeing him again.” It was then I said, “I guess I owe you a book.”

So, when we shook hands in our brief reunion of sorts nearly standing in the rain in front of the Ruritan building in Collettsville, the first thing I said was, “Great to see you and yes, I’ve got your book.”

As we made our way to our seats, it was heartening to find some of the members of the church I attend, Rocky Springs Baptist Church, seated and enjoying their meal. Their patriarch, Ray was there, a man that had been diagnosed a year ago with stage four lung cancer. His story alone is one of faith, miracles, and the healing power of prayer. We spoke briefly, as we often do at these type of functions, and then I moved on to try to catch back up with Fletch who was now also trying to find empty seats.

Once we were finally seated and squeezed around the table, Fletch’s friend Anna asked the rest of the table if they wouldn’t mind if we said grace. They all were more than happy to oblige. From the corner of my eye, I could see hands reaching out to hold others. It was then I began to see the world of connections open for my new friends. It seemed that nearly everyone in the place had been part of their lives at one point, yet they had never lived in Collettsville, which made it all the more surreal.

It all began innocently enough when Anna asked the lady across from her if she used to drive Brownies to a camp in a station wagon. The lady was still chewing her Chicken and Dumplings when Anna asked, so it took her a minute to swallow. You could almost see the wheels turning in her mind as she thought back through the many years. “Well, actually I drove Girl Scouts, she finally said, and that would have been when I was at Zion U.C.C.”

“Are you, Mrs. Lloyd,” Anna continued.

“Yes, I am.”

“Oh, my goodness,” Anna replied almost dropping her fork. She was immediately transported back in time to when she was a young girl in 2nd grade. Mrs. Lloyd had only driven her once to a day camp for Girl Scouts, but they had brought Brownies along for the experience. You could see them both connect back to a time when their lives were much different. The elderly lady explained how she would drive them to camps in that old station wagon. From that point on, there were so many things to catch up with, children to share, and a lifetime of living.

As people passed by, either Fletch or Anna would wave to people they hadn’t seen or spoken too in years, each barely recognizing one another.

As Anna was sharing with Mrs. Lloyd, the lady next to her spoke up that she thought she remembered Anna from somewhere. It wasn’t long before Fletch’s friend had rediscovered Mrs. Eunice Watson, a former EC teacher at Patterson Elementary School. The myriad of tiny one-room schoolhouses came to mind on the map that I had seen earlier in the store as they continued to recall their shared work experiences. It was as if God had given me a glimpse of what was to come.

Then a lady, who was obviously related to the elderly lady Anna had made the connection too, sat down next to me. Her plate had been there for some time, untouched. She began to eat as she shared with Mrs. Lloyd how she had done all she could do to help.

At this point, I noticed Fletch intensely gazing at the lady that had sat next to me. He finally broke his silence when he called to her, “Mary?”

She looked up, again almost as stunned as Mrs. Lloyd had been when Anna had reconnected with her.

“Yes,” she paused.

“Well, my apologies for seeming like I was staring, but I thought I knew you.”

“John,” she replied, smiling broadly.

“That I am,” he grinned from ear to ear.

“I thought I knew who you were, but I wasn’t sure,” she said laughing. Later I would learn that it had been two years since they had worked together and not seen each other since.

Meanwhile, Anna, Mrs. Watson, and Mrs. Lloyd were still racing through the years of life.

Again, my mind drifted off to Goldston and all the families lives that were connected either through their church, their school, or their neighborhoods. Then in my new world, the school at which I teach, and how when we come together as one, we make all the more difference, not just in one life that might need help, but in all of those that become part of the greater being.

Mary and John went on to share with me their work at the LEOS in Lenoir, where homeless people were being taken in and the ministry they serve in that mission. They told me of the early days and how they had met while working the night shift for LEOS in the old high school gym and all the trials through which they had struggled. Mary went on to tell me about the problems they now face, most homeless either being addicts or alcoholics. “We still try to help those that really need the help, especially families that are in need.”

About that time another couple women sat our table, Jennifer, and Ginny, and once again, they called out to John; more connections, more people who knew each other in a community that went beyond the four walls of the Ruritan’s building.

Fletch turned to me at one point and said, “A small world,” he said, half chuckling, “That would be another great story.”

I nodded, “Yes, it would.”

At that point, the room became a buzz of conversations and fellowship. Each story that was told had a connection to another, and with time, a shared memory was created, all for a cause that would ease the medical burdens of a young girl’s family. We may not know Johanna, or we may not know her family; we may not know the stranger who we give a warm bed on a bitterly cold night, or we may not know the child that receives the gift box in a time of need, but in the end, when we come together as a family of faith, we become greater than we might ever know individually.

Jesus had taught his disciples that we cannot stand alone, but our calling is to serve those around us, to be the least of these. “Tend my sheep,” he told Peter upon his last response to being loved. Then Jesus went on to help them to understand their position in His ministry as it was written in the gospel of Mark, “And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

When we put ourselves last, we put Him first, and in the end, serving as Christ is all that we should endeavor in this life. For this earth, God’s creation, it but a tiny existence in all of the heavens unto which we are born. In the massive scale of the universe, we are but a tiny speck; yes, a small world. For, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Tonight, we dined for a cause, to serve another. In essence, tonight, we broke bread with one another, and in so doing, shared the body of Christ.

Yes, we might live in a small world, but we serve a great God.

Thanks be to God.

For more information on donations for Johanna Hayes Cancer Fund, please contact Craig Styron, Principal of Collettsville School, at (828) 754-6913, or email at cstryon@caldwellschools.com You can also follow her story on Jo’s Journey Facebook page.

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A Visitor from Afar

And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” – 2 Kings 6:17

He looked down at his worn, weathered hands as he told his story. His voice barely above a whisper, hoarse and as cracked as those calloused palms to which he spoke. “They would not listen,” he recalled, the clear blue eyes glazed over as he looked into the distant past. “We tried to warn them, but it was of no use.” He shook his head as he looked up at me, wanting to say more but emotion had gripped his throat. He lowered his head and ran his fingers through his course gray-speckled hair, relenting to the pain within until he could speak once more.

When he had finally recovered, his demeanor had changed. Like that of an ancient warrior who had finally prepared for battle, he had returned to the front to continue the fight and tell the rest of the story.

“We had known that they were coming, but we didn’t know when. I was with my brother in the upper pastures. It was late spring, and our sheep were hungry for any new growth. A couple weeks earlier, all the men had met one evening to discuss what we would do if they came. We knew that God was with us, but we also knew from the past, that we would need to do more than to kneel and pray when their swords began to swing. There were arguments on both sides of the faith, but eventually, we of the warrior clans ruled out. We wanted to believe that God would lead us, and we always will, but then again, we knew in the ancient times, God also fought on the side of the Israelites, and we as them, believed in our Heavenly Father; now so probably more than then. So when we heard the rumble of the hoof beats echoing up the canyon walls, we knew it was time. I raced along the ridgelines trying to watch as I flew through rock and tree, trying not to slip to the depths below. As we raced back to our farms and villages, the ancient men of faith felt their hearts in their ears. The pounding of blood pulsed through our veins as the spirit drew neigh. We had been told that overwhelming forces would come, but we feared not, for in the days of Elisha, Gideon, David, and all the other biblical kings of old who needed God to help them win, we too knew that without Him, we would surely meet Him sooner than later.

In the distance, I could see some of the families already beginning to flee to the upper reaches of the valleys. Their belongings and animals in tow. There was something about the sight of family and friends fleeing for their lives that made your insides turn into fire. We no longer felt our legs as we were at once lifted from the ground and seemingly placed into our positions of defense awaiting the onslaught of deranged armies. Their purpose had been prepared by those who had lied about the truth, swaying even the most ardent believer into thinking that they were doing the Lord’s work by attacking these meager hunters and farmers. We would find out later that we had been described as devil worshippers, practicing occult rituals, holding worship of our own accord and slandering God’s Word to make it fit our demonic worship. Those lies stung as bad as the flames that would consume most of our kin, the lucky ones that had been captured.

The rest of us would live to find a worse fate.

That day could never be erased from my mind, as we stopped one advance after another. They came like swarms of locusts, too many for the few of us to shoot with arrow and spear. We turned to rolling boulders from above to both crush them and to block the passes through which they had been attempting to pass; some only wide enough for one or two men to pass through at a time. By nightfall, we had secured our border, but with only a handful of men, the new dawn would bring more soldiers from below. Our families had for now made some good time, but the climb to the nearby peaks was slow and grueling. The elderly moved at their own speed, not fearing what was to come, but instead, welcoming it, for they had already asked for the Lord to deliver them.

Knowing that they needed more time, we stayed to buy them at least one more day’s travel. That night I watched as the stars came out and all of God’s creation was on display for us. The pitch-black sky was the perfect backdrop for the multitude of stars that lit the heavens above. The night air was cold, for it was still spring. Pockets of snow still clung to the shadowed sides of the mountains. The woolen overcoat I had carried was barely enough to keep me warm. We dared not light fires for fear of being discovered and giving away our positions, so we huddled close to one another and did the best we could, falling asleep praying to God above.

I felt as if we had barely fallen asleep when the glow of the coming morn began to light the eastern horizon. The sun had barely touched the skyline when we heard the sound of footsteps echoing again up the valley. Our hearts began to beat in time as we knew we were the only thing between our loved ones and death. Before we picked up the sword and shield to begin possibly our last day on earth, we gathered together in prayer.”

“Brother,” the old man said to me as his eyes began to well up once again, “I can tell you I had never known anyone or anybody that had prayed a prayer before that day that came true as it did that day. I must say to you before you think it, that this must just be an exaggeration, but I tell you as the Father in Heaven above sits on the throne of God, it is true. That day we prayed as one, and we said this, “God, please Lord if it be your will, give us the strength to do what is right, to save our loved ones, to defeat this force. God we know we cannot do this alone, for as in those days of Elisha, we need you now, oh Lord we need you. We beseech you, God, to send us down angels from on high to aid us in this battle if it be your desire. We seek your guidance, we seek your love, we seek you in all that we do from the very day we are born until the day we die. Lord hear our pleas, for we are the keepers of your word, from the beginning until this day, Thanks be to God, Amen.”

“We turned from that moment and took up our positions, the few of us that remained.

As we knelt behind rock and crevice waiting and watching until they were within range, the clouds began to cast shadows on the lower vestiges of the valleys. We could see the winds swirling them over the peaks behind us. Some of our younger men began to pray out loud, asking for the safety of those family members still trying to reach those distant summits before the storms hit. Distant thunderclaps shook the ground as dark, ominous clouds began to shroud the peaks that heretofore shone like brilliant golden statues in the morning sunlight.

It was then as if God had truly stood with us, that the unbelievable happened.

Shrouds of blinding ice and rain began to rush past us, like embodied beings of another realm. Lightning strobed in sequenced flashes, striking objects below our cover, shaking the earth until we thought we too might be thrown into the hell that had become the onslaught of man and beast below. Screams of horror and death could barely be heard over that of the wind, like a horrific banshee of hades, all had been obscured from anything we could determine to be human. There was no describing the scene below us, other than we could only determine in blinding sequences of scenes; men, beast, and other, intertwined in a battle that no mortal could withstand.

Time passed, and the sound of our own heartbeats in our ears drummed to the sound of the throng of echoes which combined into a siren of prayers which had been answered. I grasped onto the granite boulder before me to make sure I was still alive, so surreal was everything else around me at the moment.

We don’t know what day if it were the same or more than one, but eventually, the squalls ended, and we could rise from our places of battle refuge.

Below us on the mountain, there were only vague remnants of what had been a sizeable army. Pieces of shields, fragments of weaponry, and human remains all littered the landscape. It was as if a mighty beast had torn them asunder, limb from body, head from torso; the death was complete; not one had survived.”

The old man looked up at me and smiled for the first time.

“You see,” he nodded as he spoke, “God be with us.”

I sat in silence and in awe.

For a moment, I could feel his hand upon my knee as he wanted to say more, and then he was gone.

The day had been long and my brief rest in the chair had turned into a nap. Little did I know that it was more than just a peaceful rest I would encounter. Outside in the nearby woods, a woodpecker tapped out his vibrant melody.

I had not expected it nor known he was coming, but it was a blessing to have been visited from afar once more.

May God be with us.

Thanks be to God.

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The Pre-Reformation Celebration…Lux Lucet in Tenebris

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” – 1 Peter 2:9

This morning’s scripture was heavy on my mind as my little blue car ascended the mountainside.

Just two days ago, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation was celebrated. The tiny footnote of those that had gone on before that had made that day, 500 years ago possible was barely mentioned, if at all. For those to know the truth, the light must have been passed from the Apostolic times until that date, but by whom? The truth was made known in Peter’s writing which, if the rest of the story were known, would make perfect sense. For to know the truth, the Word of God becomes all that much more significant.

Where once inhabitants of the remote mountain valleys were known simply as barbarians, they eventually, by the grace of God, became known by another, which eventually made them targets for centuries to come. Their firm belief in the Word of God, their strict adherence to its every letter would lead them to be Apostolic in belief, but make them an object of aberration by the corrupted state Church because of their faith’s immovable tolerance for anything beyond the truth, the way, and the light of Jesus Christ. They would be sought for annihilation, purposeful extinction by the Church of Rome. In essence, theirs was the holocaust of the Alps.

The people of whom I speak are those of the Waldensian Valleys, located in the Cottien Region of the Alps situated in the northwest corner of Italy. They became a people, known as the “People of the Bible,” because of their memorization and preservation of its original content. Their families, generation after generation, would pass down these teachings until they would become one with them. In a sense, they would become a “holy nation” without borders, without a king, without a distinct leader. They would turn from pagan worship to that of the most ardent believers of Christianity; truly, they were called of the darkness and into the light, yes, the most marvelous light.

Although many shunned the spotlight of notoriety, they would become preachers, missionaries, and evangelists of the Word.  Their ordination was by God, a royal priesthood if any. Yes, they were chosen by God for a reason, for a purpose, for a time, and thanks be to God, I have been blessed to have been born into that lineage, to which I now try to uphold some substance, some modicum of forbearance of what those that gave their lives so vividly upheld in their time. We are called into a time such as this to carry on the truth, to shed light upon the world wherever we may go.

My fervent prayer is that I may be able to continue to be a light to those around me in all that I do, each, and every day until my last breath on this earth.

Lux Lucet in Tenebris, The Light Shine in the Darkness.

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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The Lamp of the Body…

img_20160229_185127The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.” – Matthew 6:22

The laser lowered closer to the eye, all the while, the doctor reassuring his patient everything was going well. “You’re doing great,” he calmly spoke in a second thought sort of tone, obviously focusing on the surgery at hand. Closer the beam of the green light came until there was contact, a brilliant light, and then complete, utter darkness.

Nothing but black, coal, nothingness.

In that moment of doubt, a world of questions flowed through that portal into the unknown abyss. Patterns danced about as my mind raced to understand how and why. It was as if the light in my soul had been extinguished, so permeating was the blackness before me. Streams of energy passed through the channel as I silently prayed. Scenes of childhood, patterns of imagery, and all manner of beautiful images played out before me as the void enveloped everything.

I prayed for calmness and the steady hand of the surgeon to do his work.

Then it was done.

The light re-emerged, fractured and confused.

“Close your eyes now and rest,” were the next words the doctor spoke. “We’re all done. You did great.”

“Amen,” I whispered.

For months, my right eye had nearly been blind, except for the blur of figures that I could discern through its milky covering. The vision was like looking through waxed paper. Driving in the dark was the hardest, as glare would blanket my eyesight, often causing me to whence with pain. The cataract had grown quickly; too quickly. Our previous Market Place Insurance premium was so high there was no way we could have afforded the surgery. In fact, that was why we had waited as long as we did; we just couldn’t afford it. But Jesus told us, “Ask and you shall receive, knock, and the door will be opened.” So I prayed, again and again.

Our prayers are often answered, but never in the manner in which he had imagined.

From one door closing to the next one opening, there was no thought as to where it would all end. The only guiding principal was that the Lord was leading us, and where He willed us, we would follow. Never understanding, even now, as to why He was leading us where He did, we kept following. Eventually, that next door found us in a place where the medical benefits would finally pay enough to allow us to afford the eye surgery.

Another prayer answered.

After weeks of waiting, preparation and scheduling, the day had come. After what seemed a lifetime, my surgery was complete. The worse of the two eyes was now repaired. There would be no immediate satisfaction. Knowing just how good the changes were would have to wait until the next day when the swelling and incision had time to heal. There was no lingering pain or side effects, only the question was, “How big a change would I experience?”

Exhausted and spent, I went to bed early that night. Although I was wearing an eye shield, sleep came easily and soundly.

The next morning, gray shades of the dawn began to creep into our bedroom. Unthinking, I arose from bed and dressed, making my way to the bathroom. I had forgotten to pick up my glasses. As I neared the light, something twinkled in my eye. I started to go back to retrieve my glasses to see better but stopped. There was something clearer that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Nearing the nightlight, I looked and could see bursts of clarity that took my breath. Suddenly, I felt like a child on Christmas morning, rising before the dawn to find the presents under the tree. My heart raced as I neared the mirror, slowly peeking at the shield. Underneath, my eye blinked and cleared away the sleep. I stared in disbelief at myself, looking through gauze and plastic, at a much clearer picture than before. Careful, according to the doctor’s orders, I removed the shield, inserted the prescribed drops and timidly made my way to the kitchen. Outside, the sunlight was just beginning to warm the treetops in the forest behind our home. The brilliant glow sparkled like a thousand stars. Up above, the sky formed a brilliant blue that seemed to leap from the air into my soul.

I pushed the button to start the coffee brewing then stepped into my house slippers and opened the front door. Like a newborn walking for the first time, I slowly stepped out into the vibrant world of colors that I had nearly forgotten. Everywhere I looked, things sparkled and shone like ripples on the surface of the water. There was no comparison. It was as if my eye was as clear and crisp as the morning air. Emotion began to overwhelm me when I thought about how we had come to this place and that now, God had once more answered prayer.

Again, and again, the impossible had been made possible.

Tears welled up in both my eyes and I looked toward the heavens. There up above, the most beautiful full moon still shone, in glorious detail. The light from within had once more found the light from without, and the two were one once more.

“Thanks be to God,” I breathed out loud, my breath emitting a fog in the frigid dawn, taking on a shimmering orange glow from the coming sunrise.

As I looked skyward, it was as if God filled my cup to overflowing, as tears began to flow down my cheeks.

There is no more greater gift than that of sight. For we were once blind, but now we see, that when we receive His glory, we can have eternal life.

If only we see.

Yes, the eye is the lamp of the body, and through it, we may seek Him. For to receive Christ into our lives, is to receive the light, and through the lamp, so doth the light flow.

Prayers were lifted, prayers were answered, and once more, the Glory of God shines for all to see.

Thanks be to God!

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The Dark Road We Travel…

“Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord And rely upon his God.” – Isaiah 50:10

 

The dark clouds loomed over the mountain as I turned onto the back road, taking the one less traveled. As I made the sharp right turn, I could see the storm brewing ahead. The map had indicated a quicker route to my destination, well below the highlands, so I knew in advance that there would be many twists and turns. Initially, it was nothing more than an overcast scenic drive until rain began to fall lightly. As my little car and I traversed farther and deeper down into the depths of the valley, the light above continued to fade until it was nearly night. To add to the deprivation, rain began to fall harder. I crossed over an ancient bridge and then it was as if I had passed through a time warp. The pavement gave way to a dirt road that was quickly turning into a muddy slush. It was then I noticed that the world around me seemed to slow to a crawl. Instinctively I began to look for signs of life, something to show me that my sense of time warp was only that; just a feeling.darkroad

Suddenly, the darkness became more prevalent and thoughts of horrible movies depicting people of this region as monsters began to surface in my head.

No, don’t give in,” I told myself as the path ahead began to grow more tortuous, “Trust in God.” The water was now falling in torrents from the sky, and my wipers were doing all they could to splash a path on my windshield big enough for me to catch glimpses of the deteriorating roadway ahead.

The creek that ran alongside the roadbed was swollen and in places, massive rocks stood protruding out from the wall of the mountain. Dark, sullen trees towered above the walls of boulders, all blanketing the road like a tunnel. For a split second, I looked down at my phone, and it was literally dead, no connection, nothing. “If something were to happen to you, it might be weeks before they would ever find your body,” said the voice in my head as I watched a dilapidated shack pass as my little vehicle and I continued on

Darkness and death surround you. Surely this is the psalmist wrote about,” I mused inwardly.

Around another couple turns it looked as if my sense of time change had been correct. The house that abruptly appeared around the bend seemed to confirm that I had gone back in time several centuries. Its outer shell was weathered, barely clinging to the shards of paint that had one time made it look new; a time long, long ago. Vines and weeds nearly obscured the base of the home from sight making it seem as if it floated in space and time. I carefully made the hairpin turn around the old house and then I noticed her watching. Up in the gable end of the weathered abode was an open window. The rain had abated enough to be able to see the ghostly figure of a person sitting and watching through the thin, threadbare curtain that danced in the breeze. From the whisper of the image of the old woman that sat in the darkness watching me pass I could only imagine the stories that lay hidden; the life left untold. If one were to stop, would they be accepted? If one were to stop, would they ever emerge back into the real world or would they become one with this isolated people? If one were to stop, would their body ever be found? Again and again, darkness kept trying to pull me down, but I fought on.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”

darkhomeAlthough the old house was covered with wooden siding, it caused me think of those stone houses in the pictures of the Cottien Alps. “This could just as easily have been like the valleys from where my ancestors came,” was the next thought. There were places there, like here, where stone structures were tucked back in places where no human would be expected to live, yet there they existed, even today. From there it wasn’t too hard to imagine how those French and Savoy troops marching up into those dark, foreboding valleys to persecute the Waldensians might have felt when they reached gorges and passes deeper and darker than this. The fear that must have run through their minds would have been compounded by the forces who awaited them. God had knowingly put a people in a place where they would be protected. Yet, there I was in the safety of my car but could still sense a hint of fear. How much better would the early settlers of this region of North Carolina and those invaders of the Waldensian valleys, have felt when facing unfriendly natives? Although outnumbered, both those indigenous Alpine mountain people of old and those native Americans would have known their land like the back of their hand granting them a certain advantage. Switchback after switchback, the images only became more and more primitive. It felt as if any moment, I would make one last turn and my headlights would find a solitary figure standing in the middle of the road, waiting for me.

The pathway soon opened up, and I came to a “T” in the road. There was no sign, no GPS, only my memory of the map I had seen earlier. As I paused thinking of which way to turn, my mind again reflected on all the tasks that I had unsettled earlier in the morning before leaving for this trip. There was no way for anyone to get hold of me so if there were a question that needed to be answered, it would have to wait. The whirlwind of duties, tasks, and to-do lists came to a screeching halt.

As the wiper kept time, back and forth, I quietly sat in the car at the empty intersection somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There was no one coming from behind, no cars passing before me; I was alone in the wilderness. The scriptures tell us when we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will listen. So, as the rain poured down, the rivulets of water washed beneath the tires, I bowed my head and prayed to God.

The raindrops on the rooftop made a calming pitter-patter as my thoughts went to the Lord.

There were so many that needed healing, so many that needed comfort in their hour of loss, and all those things that I had left undone. “God will take care of it all in His time,” I told myself. My prayers were lifted up to Him. Yes, I turned to Him in prayer, seeking Him and found Him and He listened.

I finally closed with an Amen and began to drive off in the direction that felt right, the path that He said to take.

So I listened and obeyed. I vowed to trust in the Lord and to let Him work out all the details.

He’s delaying you on purpose,” I told myself, “slowly, surely, and certainly in His time, it will shall be done.”

As I finally reached a semblance of civilization farther down the mountain, the phone began to reconnect to its communication signals and a flood of updates arrived. One of the updates was about an unsettled problem that I had left undone, the one that I had left it up to God to work out; it had actually been resolved due to a cancellation which allowed my request to be entered. It needed a miracle to happen. In Godly fashion, He prevailed once more.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of our lives and hopefully, yes, hopefully if we listen and choose correctly, someday we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Thanks be to God

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