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The Gift of Love

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

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

It was a pretty chill time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart nearly stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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Serendipity

In the still of the night, the word “Serendipity” came to me. There was no reason for the thought. There had not been any text that I had recently read that included the term. My first inclination was to write it down lest I forget. Unfortunately, I had not placed my journal by the bedside before going to sleep. Assuring myself that it would not leave me, I turned over and went back to sleep.

Of course, when morning came, the expression was gone in the midst, like the vapor of a dream.

Silently, the car made its way up the mountain. The turns in the bends, the fog, and the words of scripture which passed through my lips brought comfort in this predawn hour. Forgetting the day, the course of life, only the moment therein was alive. Suddenly, like a flash of light from the distant horizon, the word returned, “Serendipity!” Putting it in my waking consciousness, I vowed to retain it long enough to get it down on paper – and more importantly, to see what it meant.

[noun]

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

“a fortunate stroke of serendipity.”

Sunday Morning, Collettsville General Store

After reading the meaning, the definition didn’t sit well with my soul. A word within its meaning caused me to wince – “chance.” When we walk in faith, when our journey is fully directed by God, there is no chance. It was here, again as a moment paused in time, that the walk to church last Sunday came to mind.

Rounding the bend in the road, there was the continued reminder of mortality. Someone at some point dumped off a deer carcass in the bushes. Time and weather had aged the remains into a stark, ivory remnant that stood out amongst the gray of winter’s last vestiges. It was not the first time I had seen it. Yet, it remained as a tale of life gone on before, the morbidity of the season – bone against a dreary backdrop of one’s demise.

The thoughts of the journey my life had become began to emanate from those bones, as a subtle suggestion of that likewise, time would end for us all – some sooner than later. Yet, there was the continued push to learn, absorb, and become more than I once was. The season of growth had not just begun but had continued since the long journey began, now six years long.

My eye caught the rushing waters of the river and how they pulsated against the rocks, flowing ever more furious downstream, never stopping, never yielding. As my way continued, my direction was upstream, against the river’s current along which I walked. “So much like the life I live,” were the thoughts that seemed to flow into my head. How much easier my life could be if it weren’t constantly going against the tide. Yet, to serve as I have been called to do, there is no time to waste. There is an impetus to strive for that next hill of knowledge, to seek the wisdom that cometh from God only.

These are the times in which my life’s journey has become.

Then there is the comparison of the natural world, the secularism of man, pursuing itself – washing the multitude of humanity with it downstream to the ocean. We who seek God go against this current. Some can barely stand firm without being washed away, like those rocks wherein the water below crashes violently against. As long as they remain, the water, the worldly current complains in the tempest of thrashing white water. Some give way and are tumbled along, not happy with their displacement, eventually finding footing once more to continue their stance, while others never find a way to resist and are washed away with the multitude.

As my path found its way to the porch of the Collettsville General Store, I discovered that my arrival was greeted by a lonely Blue-Tick Hound, likely a hunting dog that had been lost in the night. He welcomed me as if this was his home and treated me to a gratifying pat upon his neck. Soon, we found ourselves sitting side-by-side on that familiar spot. Once before, two dogs, Barney and Otis, had likewise provided companionship when there was none other. As we sat, watching that tide of humanity rush by, like those frantic waters of the John’s River flowing behind us, we sought the peace of God about us.

Once more, the word pursed its impression upon this reflected scene – “Serendipity.”

May you find the peace of the Lord today, no matter how small the token. Embrace what God hath provided and pause for a moment, giving thanks. As my late father would say of moments like these, “The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the grass is green. What else could be better?”

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” – John 14:27

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This Too Shall Pass

Walking along the dirt road, the thud of the man’s walking stick kept time with the beat of his heart. Alongside him, beyond the forest ferns and blooming dogwoods, the river ran clear. Here and there, the rush of white-water pulsating through rocks and ledges as it flowed forever onward echoed the sound of time. These mountains were the home of Fetch’s family for as long as he could remember. They were the clan of Gragg, a remnant of those ancient forefathers known in their mother country as the Clan of MacGregor. They had emigrated from Scotland centuries before to escape the tyranny of England. No longer a young man, his memory spanned the deep hollers and ravines like the morning mist, each with a story of its own.

As the aging Gragg’s eye scanned the distant horizon, the mountainside was shrouded behind curious folds of clouds awash in pink and gold. Tiny birds flitted about as bats dove in the twilight air, creating an orchestra of life, ebbing forward and never ceasing.

Somewhere in the distant shadows, the sound of the Whippoorwill called. With it, an eeriness washed over his mind. A day or so before, he had sat upon the porch of the building he now called his “Retreat.” There, in the shade of the forest along the trickling brook, he sat sipping on some hot, bitter brew and reflected back to the year before when the porch had not yet been built. There had been so much that had passed between the here and now. Like the river that flowed nearby, its current like the movement of time, never stopping, always flowing onward.

When the shadows of the valley of darkness are all about, we cannot seek the end of the ravine fast enough. Yet, when we reach those heights of jubilation, we often fail to remember the struggle that it took to scale those monumental walls to reach our peaks in life.

The beat of the aged Sycamore kept time to Fletch’s legs as he pushed ahead. Somewhere the Whippoorwill called once more. Like a shift in time, his mind was pulled back to the century before, to a time of greater hardship, much worse than today.  The death toll made that of the current crisis seem like child’s play; the 1918 Swine Flu Pandemic.

Just then, the sound of the song, “Wayfaring Stranger,” began to play through his head. The ancient sound of a mandolin tickled the notes to the melody as the sweetness caressed his soul, “I am a poor, wayfaring stranger. Traveling through this world below. There is no sickness, toil nor danger, in that fair land to which I go. I’m going home, to see my mother, I’m going home, no more to roam. I am just going over Jordan, I am just going over home.”

Wilson Poe Sr. had been a little boy when the sickness swept through North Carolina. Born in 1912, he shared the story with Gragg when he was a much younger man, traveling through the Piedmont regions of North Carolina. Poe recalled in his whisper of a voice, how the soldiers had brought it back with them when they returned from the Spanish-American War. The sickness didn’t target the elderly or children, but rather, it killed the working-age population. Wilson’s head bowed deep in thought as he told of how he lost both his parents, all his Aunts, and Uncles and all of his older brothers and sisters. The only family members that survived were him and his younger sister. They were forced to go live with their only surviving family members, their grandparents. Mr. Poe had been in his eighties when he told that story, somewhere around the mid-1990s. When old man Poe finally looked up from the floor, his eyes were rimmed with tears. He pointed to the bookshelf behind him to a framed image of a little boy and girl. Between them, oddly enough, stood a larger than life-size doll. At that moment, through the open window, the evening sound of a Whippoorwill wafted into the room. Fletch could never erase the memory.  

Someone had found the story in a magazine and recognized the name. They looked up Wilson and his family and were thrilled to have been able to connect with a living treasure, once only thought to have existed in the pages of a book. Wilson kept the photo as a memento of his survival.

The melody continued to play, “I know dark clouds will hover or me, I know my pathway is rough and steep, but golden fields lie out before me where weary eyes no more to weep. I’m going home to see my father, I’m going home no more to roam. I am just going over Jordan, I am just going over home.”

Poe said that some photographer who had been covering the pandemic, caught him and his sister standing alongside the road. Wilson remembered how they had watched in disbelief as wagon after wagon carried away the dead. Fletch could only shake his head as the knot swelled up in his throat when Wilson said that he and his sister had cried until there were no more tears left to cry.

Gragg’s footsteps carried him nearer to the shadows of the granite walls, where the river turns, and the mountain laurel grows thicker. He could almost hear the relics of the past echoing off those stone walls. “God has a purpose in all that we do,” he reminded himself as his thoughts continued.

Oddly enough, it was just as well that someone else had found the precious memory. Mr. Poe would have never been able to keep the picture himself. Struggles seemed to follow him all of his life, like the wagon of the dead. His house caught fire one cold winter night and burnt down. His family lost everything but their lives. Up in smoke went all of their earthly possessions, including the family photos.

Fletch stopped. He stood upon the water’s edge, as the shadows of darkness began to envelop the crystal clear river before him. The remnants of the song concluded with, “I’ll soon be free from every trial; this form shall rest beneath the sod. I’ll drop the cross of self-denial and enter in that home with God. I’m going home to see my Savior; I’m going home no more to roam. I am just going over Jordan. I am just going over home.”

. “Yes, this world must come to its senses, and lay down their cross of self-denial,” Fletch mused to himself. “Second Chronicles chapter seven says it the best,” he continued talking to the trees leaning toward the water’s edge as if they appeared to wait for the rest of his quote. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Looking across the river, there was nothing but the cold, granite walls reaching up to the sky

Fletch closed his eyes as if to look beyond what was there, seeking something more profound than what was merely temporal. Dark wagons under thunderous skies rolled past him. The tears of sorrow blended with the rain, each flowing down his soaked body into the mud, which had swallowed his feet. The hushed tones of mournful cries seemed to leech into the grain of the wagon boards, filling the cracks until there was none. Etching the pain of ones being until there was nothing left to fear. The vision then looked to the sky, as if to ask God why. The swirling gray cauldron above looked like someone wringing their hands in tormented anguish. The flash of shadowed lightning turned his head to look away. Then came the answer in the form of a deep growl of distant thunder that shook the ground.

Somewhere nearby, the flash of a photographer taking a picture of two traumatized children standing near the roadway, caused him to flinch. It was as if mankind was trying to mimic the almighty power from above. Forever etched onto his monochrome plate was the form of two souls whose lives would never be the same; generation forever altered by the course of events, not of their own doing.

Gragg sucked in a deep breath as if he had just surfaced from beneath the water.

There before him was the stone walls covered in thick laurels. The darkness permeated evermore as the moon had already risen high above the horizon behind him. “This too shall pass,” he could hear his Granny tell the children as they would sit and listen to her tell them tales of yesteryear, always with giving the sense of comfort of one having survived worse times.

Fletch turned around to go back to his holler from whence he came. As he did, the Whippoorwill sang once more. Its cry echoed again off the canyon edifices bringing a chill up his spine. Up above the moonlight now lit his path and reflected golden rays across the silvery waters of the river nearby. Although some would fear the darkness, Fletch knew he wasn’t alone.

Many had survived worse times than these, and yes, many had gone on home to cross that river of Jordan to a far better place. Someday he would too.

The Whippoorwill called once more, and the voice echoed again, “This too shall pass.”

Thanks be to God.

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Learning to Lean

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”- 2 Cor.4:17-18

The afternoon storms brought blinding rain, blowing in gales of white sheets of water, tossing the canopy of the forest like waves upon the ocean. From my vantage point on the porch, the sounds of drops of water from that storm still find their path to the forest floor, one leaf after another; a continuous soothing sound of liquid falling in soft echoes. The remnants of the storm that had preceded this evenings chorus, the tumult long ago swept away by the currents in the sky, now are only a mere shadow of its former self. The fearful tempest had given way to the calming collections of water cascading from the treetops in a never-ending cycle of life. What once was a frightening scene had given way to one of peace.

Our lives can be much like this very scene; the incomprehensible tempest that eventually gives way to a calm in its wake. We try to wrap our minds around how out of control our lives can seem at one moment, and then within a few hours or days, it is as if nothing ever happened.

This past couple of weeks, my life has been very much like today’s thunderstorm; a physically debilitating illness so severe that there was no leaving the bed for several days for the sake of the pain. Then afterward, a slow, wayward climb back to normalcy; a calming effect of what life had once been; the new norm.

Sometimes our afflictions seem anything but light.

 The fever that began a couple Saturdays ago was unusual in that there were no other signs of infection; no lymph nodes swollen, no rashes, nothing to indicate a cause. Everyone suggested Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, or even perhaps Lyme Disease. The doctors searched, one blood test after another; nothing gave any indications other than the obvious facts of white blood cell counts falling daily, and blood platelets disappearing faster than my weary body could produce them. Finally, the Oncologists provided insight as he stood before me with a medical chart in hand. Before he began, my thoughts flashed to my friend and brother in Christ, and the battle he still fights daily. Not long ago, that friend sat in an office much like the one I was in at the time and heard the heart-wrenching news of finding out he had Leukemia. He and his wife are always in my prayers, and Leukemia was something that had definitely been on my mind. So, as I sat there listening, the doctor was nearly giddy with the news, as he conveyed that my results did not indicate cancer. We both smiled. The bad news was that the illness was pointing to some type of insect-borne disease; the results of tests that would identify the source wouldn’t be available for several more weeks. What friends and family had suggested had yet to be ruled out. So, finally, with a prescription for an antibiotic, I went home and began to recover within 24 hours of the first dose. It had been a mere precaution from the Oncologists but proved to be precisely what was needed; as the Oncologist would say later, there definitely been some type of infection.

Tonight, as the calming sounds of the raindrops comfort my weary body, the thought of the verse in Corinthians makes more sense. The light afflictions of our daily lives, unlike those that Christ suffered for our sake, are mere stepping stones to what our Savior has waiting for us in eternity. Even the extreme fevers, which may only be for a moment in time, when compared with the extent of our earthly life, are just another trial through which we persevere. Sometimes we survive the tempest to reach the evening that follows of complicit temperatures and pleasant sounds of soothing raindrops softly falling in the forest. When we battle through the spiritual wars in our life, much like the ferocity of thunderstorms, we are left wondering if our boat will capsize and all will be lost. It is in these tempests that we learn to lean on Him.

Day after day, we must remind ourselves that we are not alone, nor does He want us to go it alone. As Paul wrote, “When I am weakest, it is then He, my God, is the strongest.” For myself, the most difficult part is remembering to lean on Him. So often we allow our human nature to take over, and we strive to “make it happen.” I hear friends tell me that they sometimes don’t think they can go another day, that their job is just too demanding, that the workload is more than they can bear. It is then that I ask, “Have you asked Him for help? Are you leaning on your Savior, or are you trying to do it all alone?” I know from my own perspective, I’m guilty of forgetting to ask Him for help and then finding out I’m once again trying to do it on my own.

The old gospel song, “Learning to Lean,” is a perfect example of how we must remind ourselves that we are not alone, and it is our Savior’s desire that we reach out to him and ask for help. What parent has not had their heart melt when a child reaches up to them with open and arms and asks, “Can you help me?” God, our Father, is the same; loving each of us unconditionally, regardless of our faults, our sins, and our past. We are forgiven. All we have to do is confess our sins and ask Him to come into our lives. With childlike faith, we must have a heart that is willing to lean on Him. We battle against powers, principalities, and dark forces that are not of this world, so why would you think you can do it by yourself?

Leaning trees on the John’s River, near Collettsville, NC. in the Blueridge Mountains.

As a teacher, you spend countless hours during the course of the school year, foregoing sleep, family, and often personal time for yourself. It is during the few weeks of the summer that teachers can catch up and find time for themselves. Unlike what I might have wanted or envisioned, this summer has been anything but relaxing. I’m not complaining, for it has been a season of growth; finding my walk with God becoming closer than ever before. It has been a time of finding a level of patience that heretofore I didn’t know existed. In the waiting, searching for the next door to open, I found a sense of peace within that was only possible because of the grace that God had provided.

Were there moments when the thought of no medical insurance, no job, and no hint of future employment would crash into my mind and mentally take my breath away?

Yes, of course.

Did I allow those thoughts to drown me in depression and sorrow, feeling pity for myself?

No, I didn’t.

Each time those fears surfaced, I remembered what the Word had taught me, and I would take a deep breath and feel the hand of God upon me. He builds a hedge of protection before and behind us in all that we do. The scripture says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we truly walk with our Savior each and every day, we learn to think of him being by our side. It is then that I have found that we find we are never alone. People look at the Retreat and are often impressed by the magnitude of a simple little building built by me; me a mere whisper of a man, barely 150lbs soaking wet. It is then that I remind them that I haven’t done it alone. Other than the occasional help from friends and my son, the majority of it was accomplished by just the two of us; God and me.

Now I know, and often when I say this, I can see the skeptical look of most people arise, as you might be thinking at this point. But let me give you just one moment when I learned early on that He was with me.

The floor of the foundation was covered with the first layer of plywood, and I had begun to put up the outer walls. Before starting to build them, I first engineered a system of cables, and pulleys such that I could use my tractor to help raise the enormous weight of a wall. At this point, I can most assuredly tell you that God had given me the insight on how to do this because alone, I would have never figured it out. But that’s not the testimony I wanted to share; that is yet to come.

Once everything was in place, I boldly built the first wall. It consisted of ten-foot-tall 2×6’s complete with a front door and two windows, all consisting of full headers above each. The headers alone probably weighed 300 lbs. When it was time to lift the wall, I attempted to wedge a crowbar under the top plate in order to put the chain around it. There was no budging it. Feeling defeated, I sat down on the far corner and viewed the monstrosity of workmanship.

“Would it have to be taken apart and done one piece at a time,” my mind questioned.

Then I remembered the most important part of all that I was doing: “I hadn’t asked God for help.”

At that moment, I went to Him in prayer, thanking him for all that we had done up to this point. There had been so many other times when He gave me strength, wisdom, and encouragement. Like never before, I needed him now. As my prayer was lifted up, there was that feeling of energy flowing through my weary limbs, as I had felt so many times before. I said “Amen,” and stood up, walked over to the wall and jammed the crowbar underneath the top plate, as I had attempted to do before, but now was successful. Quickly, I snaked the log chain around the top plate and then connected its hook around the other part of the chain.

It was ready to lift.

Once more, knowing what had just transpired, I asked God for his help in this, and that he help me get the wall standing before the end of the day.

A few minutes later, the twenty-foot long wall was standing at a 45-degree angle. It spanned the entire length of the front of the building. As I had learned in construction many years ago, I had placed braces to keep it up, even though the chain held it, but in my excitement, I had missed that the block and tackle had jammed into the chain at the top. There was no more the tractor and cable system could do. Now it was up to me to inch the wall up vertically using the two braces, each held in place by a single nail. It was at this point that with every breath I prayed. Every inch, the wall began to rise. Because the block and tackle were preventing the wall from going any further up, it had to be disconnected. Now, not only was there nearly a ton of wall looming over my head, but there was nothing to keep it from crashing down on me; nothing but the hand of God. Feverishly I worked, praying, sweating, and putting all that my small frame could humanly muster, all the while, the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through my veins.

Suddenly, before I knew it, she was standing tall.

I stepped back and looked. There before me, the entire twenty-foot wall stood perfectly in place, perfectly erect. The two braces were holding tight. To make sure it was finished, I walked over and took the level to make sure it was right.

It was perfectly level.

I leaned the level against the wall and stepped back.

“Amazing,” I breathed, “I can’t believe I did that,” I thought to myself.

Did you hear it? Did you hear when I once more allowed the natural man within, that fleshly part of our being that wants to take all the credit? It’s so easy to forget. But there is always an answer in the word for our stumbling blocks. James wrote, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

Yet, for a split second, the natural man resurfaced and entered the self-gratification he so often seeks. In my haste, not only had I forgotten that “I” hadn’t done anything, but rather, God had done it through me. The verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me,” never rang so true at that moment. In my exuberance, the thrill of seeing what we had done together, I had forgotten to nail the braces to the floor to keep the wall from going any farther in the direction I had been pushing it.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a breeze stirred the top of the trees. My sweat-stained shirt felt the coolness, which was a relief in the autumn heat. The leaves swirled slightly at the foot of the building and then in horror, I watched as the wall eerily, like a slow-motion film, began to tilt the opposite direction. It quickly picked up the speed until it became a crescendo of crashing lumber falling off the front of the building, crashing into the tractor and support structures below.

The once impressive display of engineering was now a broken pile of wood and nails.

In that brief instant, I realized what the error of my ways. In my moment of self-elation, I had merely thought that it was “I” that had done something, rather than giving God the credit. In the blink of an eye, it was all taken away. The testimony at that moment was no longer about the success of the project, but rather, now it was about my failure; yes, my affliction.

How many times has something gone wrong in your life that you’ve had to start over? How many times has what seemed a disaster eventually became a blessing? Time and time again, what seemed to be a failure only allowed another door to open, and with it, something more precious and valuable arose. It is then the line in the verse, “our light affliction, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” comes into focus.

It took three days, and two more men to help me correct the disaster and to redo what God and I had done in just a few minutes. By reaching out to those other men for help, it allowed them to become part of the Retreat construction, and in so doing, also gave them the opportunity to feel God with us. From that point forward, the sharing of the labor of love began to grow, and many more would eventually come to help when time allowed.

In the end, what seemed a momentary affliction worked a greater glory, one that wasn’t visible from the start, but in the end, was something that would go deeper than the temporal; an eternal blessing. Once more, I learned to lean a little more on my Savior.

When the storms of this world crash into your life, hold on tight and pray. Yes, my friend, pray that God is with you. No matter how dark the night, no matter how painful the fever, there is always a dawning of a new day, and with it, the opportunity to rise from the ashes. There is no sin too great that God cannot forgive. Christ died for all men, even those who knew him not, so that we all, yes, all of us could have the hope of eternal salvation.

The tiny droplets continue to fall; one precious leaf after another until their weight gently caresses the forest floor. The mist begins to cover the lower reaches of the valleys below. From the mountain, the vastness of God’s creation exceeds our ability to comprehend, but for a moment, we can inhale the beauty for which we have been created.

Let not the evil of this world encircle you so tightly that there is no light from which you can reach too for help. The pain will pass, the storm will give way, and in its wake, a peaceful assurance will be waiting; your confirmation that God is with you, for now, and evermore.

Thanks be to God.

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What the Heart Can See…

I watched the river flow past through the raindrops on the windshield. It was one of those chilly Sunday mornings where you wanted to curl up by a fire and drink your bitter brew of choice. From inside the car, you knew it was the river, but from within the dry confines of the vehicle, it made a curious movement of Van Gogh-ish swirls across the glass; blue-greens, washed here and there by hints of sparkling white. There was confusion of the eye such that one could not discern fluidness from the earth. To one who knew better, it was merely the light through the raindrops creating a titillating joyous pattern of life upon the window pane. To the unbelieving, it made no sense. “…By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:” -Mt.13:14

The pitter-patter soon became a heavy downpour. The comforting sound of rain hitting the car’s metal roof took me back to another time, another place.

The old metal roof of my paternal grandparent’s home was one of the most comforting places on earth. This time of year, the sounds of the afternoon rains would drift across the garden leaves that had just begun to sprout, and dance upon the tin roof. From inside, curled up on your favorite arm of the bedsheet covered old couch, you found your warmth from within. There was a precious ambiance of its own; the safety from without and the soothing wholesomeness of a home surrounded in the love of Christ that flowed within.

Like looking upon a vast landscape, the likes of a view afforded from the mountain top; one can only look upon the breathtaking vastness before you become weary from its expanse. Before long, the intimacy of the holler upon which the Retreat now sits calls, the comfort of that arm of the old bedsheet covered couch in grandma’s front parlor, a humbleness of view and spirit all its own returns; warming, softly caressing. To understand this perspective doesn’t require a formal education, it doesn’t require the memorization of scriptures, it doesn’t take any practiced ritual of faith; it only takes a view from a pure heart; a heart that walks with God.

For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”-Mt. 13:15-16

Each day the believer walks in a world that is not his own. Around them, those who live for the here, the now, force their way into our conversation, our conscious, and our lives. They live non-stop practicing sin; unforgiven, uncaring, and most often, boastful of their earthly accomplishments. One motivational speaker, I recall from college, a man, speaking from his worldly experiences, once told our Electrical Engineering class, “Good things come to those who wait, rather, success is measured by what is left behind by those who hustle.” His point; take it all and leave the spoils to the losers. When we focus on that lifestyle, of hard-driven, climbing the ladder of success, we lose sight of what is most important. From the faith perspective, it is easy to see. As Jesus taught, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven. This mindset can often lead to the blindness, “eyes they have closed,” to which Jesus referred in the scripture. Their hearts become hardened like stone, and soon, they can no longer afford to comprehend sayings of faith and belief. It becomes like a foreign language, one that they cannot comprehend. The world becomes tainted by their hearts that have waxed grossed.

They-the believers in Christ Jesus- see this world through eternal eyes, those that see with a purpose, unlike our sister and brethren who live for the mere existence from day to day. It is not a braggadocious offering, rather, an objective view. The mere existence of tactile images, visions of grandeur, splendid beauty that eyes pure of heart can conceive; these are just a few of the blessings that come with the heart that follows Jesus.

“But these things are seen by the unbeliever just as well,” you might say.

Yes, they may be seen in a certain light, but the believer, the one who truly walks by faith, sees these from the perspective as coming from the hand of God. A creation seen by our eyes that more than speaks to us visually, but also reaches inside us and strikes a chord to our spirit, enriching our being in such a way that we come closer to Him; the Father. Through this means, the Holy Spirit indwells in us, and we become one with Him. Those who don’t know have closed their eyes to the truth, and as such, are merely hollow vessels, constantly trying to fill their void with whatever great, new concept sweeping the globe. This emptiness haunts them until they pass into eternity, lost in their sin, forever seeking what they will never find.

Yet, it is there for all for the asking.

This morning, as my eyes were inspired by the collage of colors sweeping across my simple windshield, in my heart, God was playing an orchestra of thoughts and emotions. To explain this to the one with a waxen heart is merely to express the words of detail, but to the believer, the conceptualization of the moment whispers of their own fruitful living and a time when they too might have felt a common connection.

Jesus told his disciples when they sought to understand his parables, “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”

We can walk in this world, but we may never see this world as those who are of this world. It is our responsibility as Christ-followers to share the truth, and allow those who are lost to find Him.

Those who chose to ignore the truth face grave consequences. As Jesus once more explained to his disciples after the sharing of the parables, “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”- Mt. 13:49-50.

Seek the Master’s hand, confess your sins at the foot of the cross, and invite Him into your heart.

You will be forever changed.

Thanks be to God. o

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Pitter-Patter of Raindrops…

The pitter-patter of raindrops on the deck outside the porch called to me. Donning my camouflage rubber boots, rain vest, and all-weather wide-brimmed hat, I grabbed my walking staff and headed for the woods. The skies were dark even in the middle of the day. All around us the radar indicated dark green, the sign of heavy rain. The remnants of Hurricane Florence were finally upon us.

The worst was yet to come.

East of us folks had already dealt with this storm for over two days. Massive flooding and torrential rains were continuing. Here in the mountains, we were just getting started.

As my footsteps carried me deeper into the forest, overhead the canopy gave me shelter. Large drops would occasionally splatter on my brim bringing a refreshing sprinkle to my chin. The creek was already swollen but not remarkedly so. The treetops swayed by winds gusting sporadically, which would yield another gentle shower.

My footsteps carried me on, like the water flowing past. My mind became adrift.

Those early memories began to flood my mind.

The rain had been falling for days. The Wabash was up again, and for some reason, our family had decided to go exploring the ever-mysterious “Battle Ground,” as we had always known it. As kids, we never knew the truth of its name. The stories that had been handed down over the centuries were from stories created by artifacts found when grandpa had plowed the field for planting. It was when the bottom plow pulled up broken shards of pottery and spear points, the sounds of those ancient tribesmen footsteps could be heard once more. It was a low land piece of pasture that bordered the banks of the Wabash River in Posey County on the edge of the farm where we called home. The swollen river had claimed much of the lower reaches along its estuaries, so the family simply wanted to see if it too were under water.

When we arrived, the water was a milky, brown. It swirled about the trees like ancient warriors seeking a hiding spot from which to shoot their arrows. My father had me safely perched upon his shoulders. From my vantage point, I could see the rest of the family. They waded about in the murky water as if seeking something they had lost; yet, nothing was found. The ground they had known was now engulfed by flood waters, taking with them anything which was exposed. My little body squirmed as my legs burned to seek that spinning fluidness.

“Let me walk,” my mind can recall me saying to my father.

“No, it’s too deep,” he would answer.

The torment upon his weary shoulders must have caused him to give in, because the next thing I remember, I was walking in the coldness. The water sent shivers up my spine. His hand firmly grasping my own. The few steps taken had been enough to quench my desire, for not long after, I was back up on top of my father’s shoulders. Inside, a sick, chill lingered. At that point, all I could think about was being back inside Grandma’s kitchen by the warm wood stove.

Not many days after that walk, my little body would succumb to pneumonia. It was then I learned about solitariness. Alone in the plastic oxygen tent in the children’s ward of Deaconess Hospital my frail, child body would slowly battle that near-fatal illness. There alone for what seemed like days, I would yearn for anyone to come speak to me. The tears of loneliness often were what cried me to sleep. Early one morning or evening, I know not which, only that the light of day was fading, there appeared a figure at the foot of my bed. I never made out his form through the unclear plastic, only that someone was with me. In his presence, the emptiness that had been before seemed to evaporate. A warmth of love washed over my soul as if another spirit had enveloped my little being. From that point forward, I never felt alone again.

Since that time, back when I was barely two years old, He has comforted me in my darkest hours again, and again. Even when I tried my best to run from Him, He never left my side.

The feeling of the Holy Spirit had wrapped his arms around me, and once more, this evening on my walk, I was reminded of that special time in my life.

Many people walk through their entire lives and never find comfort. They seek what they cannot find in places which cannot fill their void of emptiness. It is as if they continue to flounder in a fluidness from whence they cannot escape. Like water, we can either choose to sink or swim. It is our choice. Our spiritual life is no different; we have a choice.

Jesus told his disciples, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

My friends, take the life-line he has given you. Don’t think you can go it alone. Everyone that asketh shall receive, if only you will ask.

Water is an amazing property. When we drink it, we are made well. Too much of it and we can drown. Spiritually, we can be Baptized in it and made anew, once we have found salvation in Jesus Christ. There is no other substance on earth that can compare or replace what it can do for us. Like Jesus, there is nothing to which can compare or replace Him.

This evening, the pitter patter of raindrops fall around me, and once more I am made whole.

Come what may, even tonight should the tempest unfold upon us, His mercy shall give us comfort; even in our darkest hour.

Thanks be to God.

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Living Water…

All around me the soft, gentle foliage blanketed the shoreline of the turbulent river below. The setting sun cast an orange hue into the water, such that the folds of rushing waters against the rocks made a metallic sheen of golden tones. Like ancient Aztec gold flowing down the steps of the might pyramids, the waters below me churned in molten swathes of lava-like folds, one over the other.

For a moment, my thoughts raced back to the tour of the chocolate factory in Hershey Pennsylvania in my youth. Before the trip, I didn’t like chocolate. In fact, I purposely sought food without it, such was my disdain. However, that day we walked through the factory watching swathes of liquid chocolate flow past us in unspeakable volumes, the air became aromatically filled with the rich fragrance of the dark brown substance. By the time you exited the tour, your mind was craving chocolate to the point, you had to taste it now, even if you really didn’t like it before. There, in the massive atrium of the Hershey courtyard, I asked the unspeakable that day, “Yes, please order me a hot fudge Sundae, with chocolate on top.” To this day, it was the freshest, most precious tasting substance I had yet to savor at that point in life. There was nothing that had compared before. All other chocolate had been stale compared to the taste of something this fresh; or at least in my mind’s eye, that was the reasoning at that moment.

As the waters twisted and turned, before me this evening, the sweet taste of chocolate no longer tempted my taste buds. The beauty of that scene was far more savoring than anything that could be eaten. Instead, my eyes drank in the colors which wrapped through the fluid source of life below and brought surreal enlightenment to all the surrounding imagery. It was as if God was beaming through the waters of the John’s River straight into my soul.

Weary from his journey, he came near the parcel of land that Jacob had given Joseph. There, he sat upon the well thus, for his disciples had gone into town to buy meat. It was a very warm, especially since it was nearing noon. It was then that Samarian women came seeking water. Momentarily surprised to find a Jew sitting on the edge of the well, she paused and looked upon the stranger unsure of how to proceed. Jesus, having been looking down at his dirty feet, dusty and tired from the day’s journey, felt her presence and looked up and said, “Give me to drink.”

Startled and confused at the request, she replied, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans.”

He repeated himself again, saying, “Give me to drink, woman.”

Perplexed, she only stood, again unsure how to respond. Jesus then continued, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

 The woman then saith unto him, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?”

Jesus did not hesitate but answered and said unto her, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The woman, now feeling the Holy Spirit coming unto her, saith unto him, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”

As I sat watching the turbid waters boil, the essence of his living water rose in my heart. There must have been no greater joy in this world than to hear Christ Jesus stand before you and tell you, face to face, “The water that I shall give you will be like a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Then, as now, although we cannot draw these mighty forces of fluidness with a mere bucket, they can be as powerful as those waters that Elisha caused to raise the axe head from below its depths. As his servant had been working cutting the wood as we are told in 2 Kings 6:5, the head of the axe had sheared, causing the valuable metal end to fly into the midst of the river. Fearing the wrath of the man from whom he borrowed the tool, he immediately begged Elisha to help. The prophet walked calmly to the water’s edge. There, he stooped over and picked up a simple stick and began to turn it into the clear spring below. Before their eyes, the waters began to boil, and within a minute, the axe head was floating before them, raised from its watery grave, to once again be present before their very eyes. Pulled from the midst of the lost to the saved, the servant was overjoyed to have the valuable piece of equipment returned.

Like the lost Samarian woman, she too had been like the axe head, lost in a watery grave, forever toiling to return from the well with yet another bucket to provide sustenance for her family; yet, it was never enough. It could never satisfy their cravings. Without help from something beyond this world, she would forever be looking for that which she could not find. Yet, why would this Jew help her, a Samaritan, for they had no dealings with her kind?

That night, as I slept, there came to me in a dream, the same scene of the river.

However, as I was watching myself from a distance, I could see myself paddling down the stream, away from where I sat, in the direction that it became narrower and narrower. With time, the world around the river became more developed. By the end of the vision, the entire landscape had been replaced with concrete barriers, stone walls, and all manner of man-made edifices. Gone were the pure, natural settings that God had created. In their place, man had made the world in his image; to his desires. The only remnant left of what was before, was the simple stream, still flowing, still reflecting the golden skyline of the setting sun.

In that image, I paddled away from where my vision was fixed, slowly fading away toward the sunset in the tiny canal of water. Sadly, this was all that was left of the beautiful scene upon which I had sat earlier. The water, having seemed to be the most bold and metallic substance before me, now had become the softest, must subtle of all images within the dark world. The water reflecting the sun was the only light to the otherwise sullen, sinful gray landscape. What once seemed powerful and mighty, now seemed silken and serene; a precious commodity.

All that had been was now gone, and all there was of hope, was the tiny thread of light.

Buoyed by the thread, one, who was filled from within by its essence, kept afloat and continued his search to help those that could still be saved.

To the ends of the earth we should go to find them, and when we do, give them Him to drink.

Drink of the living water and yea shall never thirst no more.

He is the water of life, and in Him, you shall be saved.

In all these things we do, we do for Him.

Thanks be to God.

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Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

By Timothy W. Tron

The expression “…the creek don’t rise” is an American slang expression implying strong intentions subject to complete frustration by uncommon but not unforeseeable events. It presumably evokes occasional and unpredictably extreme rainfall in Appalachia, that has historically isolated one rural neighborhood or another temporarily inaccessible on several or many occasions.” -Wikipedia definition for “The creek don’t rise.”

The rains fell heavy throughout the previous night. When he awoke to overcast skies, it was no surprise. Quietly he pondered over the morning scriptures. He poured the customary tankard of black brew that he carried with him. Once he crossed the divide, he recompensed upon the bench in front of the little town’s only store. His routine was not yet chiseled into time long enough to be considered a “tradition”, yet he was sticking to the pretense as closely as his busy schedule would allow. The weather apps on his device kept warning of areal flooding. In the back of his mind he knew this meant that his normal route for Sunday worship may be altered, but not if he could help it. The air was one of those moist, damp chills, the kind that sunk below the flesh and lingered in the bones. Donning his cap and grabbing his trusty walking stick, he set out, bare legged and sandals for the eventual challenge, the crossing of the river.

As he rounded the curve in the road toward the river’s edge, he could see the water was well above its normal course. “How much more so,” he thought to himself as he tried to find a marker, a log, anything that might convey the true depth. There at his usual crossing, the stone sand-bar was nonexistent. The greenish, brown fluid rolled angrily past as he vied for any familiarity; there was nothing. Knowing the vantage point from whence he usually sought, he stepped into the ice-cold brink. The bottom kept going as he began to sink deep into the mud. There seemed to be no bottom and before he could recover, he was chest deep. Stinging cold chased him back to the bank where he fought back his disgust. Looking back, the water seemed to laugh back at him. “I will not be turned away,” he silently told himself, “I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me,” he spoke through his teeth as he charged back in, this time at the point where he knew the bottom was more solid, yet normally deeper. Contact to the stones below was a welcome relief compared to the episode second earlier; however, the battle against the roaring current of the torrent quickly ensued. Driving his walking stick into the river bed, each step carefully taken. The force of the water ripping at his legs, his body being pushed against its will. One foot, one planting of the cane, another step closer to that distant shore. The rhythm of his course began to match his heartbeat. The struggle was all his own, nothing more than the determination to prove nothing to no one. In his mind, there was a greater purpose for which he sought to serve, and someday, sometime, he might be called to answer that calling. This was his personal boot camp for the Lord; the preparation for what may be required someday to serve in the army of God. Nothing of this world that could render flesh numb could stop his progress as he finally reached the calm waters at the edge of the distant shore. Climbing out, he looked back at the raging torrent below. Another Sunday, another journey through the abyss that would not keep him from his worship.

They would amusingly question him, some in disbelief that anyone would be so detached from the normalcy of life to put themselves through something so arduous, but here he was once more, wading the river, even at near flood stage capacity.

His purpose, not for anyone other than himself and God, was slowly becoming a light to those around him. Around him the chatter of the moment was growing ever more lively, for there was something other than to focus their weekly attention on, other than their usual family calamities and concerns. There was something that captured their imaginations and ran with them, diving into that flowing abyss beyond the church.

Meanwhile, he sat on the bench, seeking the warmth inside that only God could provide. His mind drifted back to the hardship of climbing that mountain. Those mountain rivers in the Germanesca Valley that flowed so icily in the summer air would now be slicing, bitter cold, humanly impassable torrents. For these there would be a day, but not until this simple flow in which he had just crossed could be mastered.

The training would continue, one river, one step, one verse after another until the day the Master calls.

In His time, his will be done.

Thanks be to God.

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Ten Men…

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“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

They had come to visit, the entire team of ten men, all my former GENBAND Emergency Recovery teammates. For whatever reason, I was somewhat nervous and just as they pulled into the parking lot of the rental cabin, nature called. Quickly, I dashed into the bathroom and prepared to sit but found that someone had not flushed the commode. Disgusted, I pushed the handle and carefully found my seat. Soon after, again to my disgust, I found the previous occupant did not replace the toilet paper roll. My guests soon heard my pleas for help upon entering the house and promptly delivered a roll through a hole in the door where the handle should have been; yes, this was a dream and all things were seemingly possible.

The next scene found us sitting around the table sharing with one another supposedly over a meal. Each man had a new haircut and each man, in unison, agreed that they were all going to be in a wreck that very day. Remember, this is a dream. Apparently, each of them had also had a dream of such and were all totally convinced it would be true.

Yes, dreaming within a dream is okay…I guess.

Inwardly I dismissed it. I shook my head as they conveyed their fears and as they did, I attempted to alleviate them by stating it would probably be nothing more than a parking lot fender-bender. In my mind, I could see me inadvertently driving my car into their rental van just to satisfy their mysticism.

The conversation returned to idle chatter and my mind drifted off.

In the next moment, I was driving down a country road through the mountains. Our vehicle was headed up a steep grade, nothing out of the ordinary when suddenly out of the blue, a motorcycle rider passed. His speed was beyond what you might consider safe, especially since we were nearing a peak. When driving in unknown areas on winding roads, it behooves you to have some idea of which way the roadway will turn, especially at the crest of a hill. You don’t want to be caught airborne without being able to turn. So, as we neared the top of the ridge, I held my breath as I watched the motorcyclists go airborne, then he disappeared. I sped up to follow, flooring the van as we too approached the peak. That’s when the world around me immediately transformed into a vista of beauty. An expanse of mountain ranges spread out before us. Beautiful blue-green peaks and valleys lay before us. Our altitude had increased to that of a low-flying aircraft; yes, our mountain had grown.

Far ahead, the lone madman on the motorcycle sped farther and farther away, disappearing momentarily through the clouds below us as he approached the valley floor.

As we headed down the mountainside, I pushed on the accelerator even more. My own speed accelerated until the trees passing out the side windows became a blur. Somehow it didn’t matter; fear was not within me. Way up ahead, the road passed through a valley and over a small river.

A small river with no bridge.

Somehow, the lack of surface over the water didn’t matter. At the speed we were traveling, we would easily clear the ravine. Just then, on the other side of the river, deer began crossing the highway; first one, then another. As I watched more and more came, deer, then zebras then odd colored beasts of the field, all crossing and leaping hesitantly on the road and then jumping the nearby roadside and running off into the nearby woods.

By now, the road below me was a blur and my speed was beyond understanding. There was no fear, only my focus of the impending potential impact of the animals ahead.

From here, I realized the motorcyclist had jumped the river and cleared the crossing animals and was well as I could see him as he vanished over on the next ridge. He was gone, but the impending danger had not. The animals crossing the road ahead beyond the river was an immediate disaster waiting to happen; the river, no bridge, the animals in the road; bad, all bad.

I could sense the feeling of trepidation as I closed my eyes just before we hit the edge of the river. It was then, in disbelief, I realized the vehicle in which I was traveling had left the ground and was now attempting to clear the watery grave below. It was as if I was watching a scene from the Duke’s of Hazard as the General Lee flew mysteriously through the air each episode. From a vantage point outside the van, I could see that the river had greatly swollen and was beyond flood stage. In an instant, it had gone from a simple lazy waterway into a burgeoning fury of rushing, muddy water.

I realized we were in trouble.

The bank on the opposite side had been washed away and exposed massive boulders lining the bank. It was obvious our flying van was not going to clear the abyss below. From a distance I watched as we were about to crash and just before impact, I was back in the seat, behind the wheel.

Then nothing.

God had been in control. I had given it all over to Him and then at the last minute, I panicked and hesitated. Thoughts of Peter on the water and Jesus calling to him to just believe came to mind.  So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous,[a] he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”” My human-ness had blinded me to the beauty of what is possible when we allow God to drive.

Yet, the dream wasn’t over, there was more.

After the impact, the next thing I realized, I was overhearing an elderly lady talking in the next aisle over from me about the wreck and how it was amazing that they had survived. It appeared I was standing in a pharmacy waiting on something. The lady carried on about the flooded river and how it had never before gone to that level of flood stage. Her conversation prattled on in the background as the pharmacist walked up to me. He was dressed in the typical white smock. His hair was dark, but badly thinning on top revealing his balding head. Through his glasses, he was perusing through the stack of papers in his hand. As he spoke to me while still looking down at his disheveled paperwork, he was saying that he would need ten signatures. I shook my head to clear out the cobwebs.

He looked up from his papers. “Are you okay,” he asked?

“Uh, yea…sure,” I responded trying to understand what was happening.

“The insurance requires you to initial each prescription for the men in your party.”

My eyes followed the tiny print on the prescription form, a piece of paper about the size of an index card. There was the line for initials, so I began to sign. “They must be okay,” I thought as I signed the forms, “otherwise, I wouldn’t be signing their prescriptions?”

It was about then the alarm for 0600 hrs went off beside my bed.

Darkness all around me as I sat up in bed.

“Good morning,” I whispered and began my day.

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Living Water…

water“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”-John 7:37-38

To see the water flow from the parched lips of the fountains spout was like a man lost in the desert coming over a dune to find an oasis spread before him; so it was today, another day, another first at the Trail.

In Jesus ministry, it was apparent that the Jews and religious leaders of his time could not fathom the story he was sharing when he said, ““I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.” As Jesus tried to unveil the true purpose of his ministry, the concept was beyond their ability to grasp its concept. So, after the feast, he tried to put it in perspective such that they might be able to understand when he spoke about the “Living Water.” In their world, they were starving for a drink from the fountain of the Holy Spirit. Even as badly as Jesus wanted to give them this, he still would not be able to do so until his glorification while on the cross. Thus, the reason Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come down before going out to preach to all nations.

In the time of darkness, when the Roman Catholic church tried to extinguish the flame of truth, the true Word of God, it was this “Living Water” that kept flowing through the hearts and minds of those who had received his glory from the beginning. Those who came and drank from His well, his living water, never thirsted again. These were the faithful that carried on in times of darkest persecution, the Waldensians.

Against all odds, against all forces of evil, the truth of the Word prevailed so that today, we can behold his Glory of our own accord, without an intercessory directing our thoughts and prayers. Through the darkest hour, the “Living Water” flowed from the valleys of the Cottien Mountains, serving those whose way had been lost, whose spiritual lips were parched and dying for the refreshment of the life-giving Word.

Today, as never before, there is a growing thirst in our land, a parched body of souls, ever-more growing in number who seek for this life-sustaining sustenance and are looking for a fountain from which to drink.

Today, the fountain which symbolized the gift from King Carlos Alberto to the Waldensian people in 1845, came alive. The water finally began to flow. Today, as we watched the fountain come to life, we recalled the scripture in the book of John. It was at that moment that I wondered if the ancient King understood the significance of his gift. I wondered how much he understood that these people of the valleys, those who made His word their primary goal in life, became that “Living Water,” of which Jesus spoke?

Our world increasingly seeks for an answer to the growing despair and darkness that seems to be unabated. How much more today do we need sources of “Living Water”; like never before? As we walk the Trail of Faith, we can once more reflect back on Jesus’ words and seek Him so that we too may become these fountains from which living waters may flow.

May your heart become a river, this I pray.

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