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Choose Wisely

by Timothy W. Tron, Nov. 2020

A winding mountain road is the life I live. If living were a straight road, with nary a curve, never a hill, nor a bump what a sorrowful experience it would have been. With each twist, the unexpected arrives – some good, many challenging, and some sorrowful. From breathtaking vistas to cattle grazing in verdant green pastures, there is never a bend in the road that doesn’t reveal another blessing to be alive. All make living one of not our own doing, but in that regard, give testimony to our Creator. By the guiding hand of God, we are kept between the lines. When trials come, they mold our character, develop our patience, and gather our soul into that which becomes better for the perils through which we survived.

Much like the barren, time-worn tree that stands on an outcropping of rocks on a high mountain peak, it too tells a story of a life well-lived. The harshness of existence created a cracked and foreboding skin, that with each crevice is a wrinkle in the tale of its life. Its weathered continence exudes the wisdom within. Whether the twisting road of life or the desolate, weary tree, we are the product of the tribulations which formed us in the fire.

As the seasons change, so do those of our own. From our youth to the nearing of the end of one’s time, and all those many seasons in between, there are countless moments when we could have stopped and considered the moment for what it was. Too often, we allow that fleeting opportunity to give thanks to pass us by before we are chasing the next falling leaf from the tree above. If only we had the peace of mind to stop and cherish those brief respites. Instead, the foliage spirals down into the bed of so many other fallen leaves before it, they all form a collection of memories upon a pallet of life. Their myriad of color, the complexities of those moments in time, each connected through the thread of our being. If one were to connect these, as one might think a pathway is built, their course would intertwine, fold upon one another, and intersect into a countless number of likelihoods. An image of such would look like what scientists have concluded our own immutable DNA resembles. Memory, our collective past, intertwined like the branches of a forest, is the only lasting reward, or curse, that one can carry with them in this world, no matter your position in life. Those memories are a culmination of life’s choices to that which we have been afforded – they can be our heaven or hell.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Every choice reduces a little one’s freedom to choose the next time. There therefore comes a time when the creature is fully built, irrevocably attached either to God or to itself. This irrevocableness is what we call Heaven or Hell. Every conscious agent is finally committed in the long run: i.e., it rises above freedom into willed, but henceforth unalterable, union with God, or else sinks below freedom into the black fire of self-imprisonment.”[1]

From the beginning, man was allowed choices, also known as free will. It was in this context that sin came into the world, not necessarily as a choice to do evil, for there was no evil in the world at that point, but rather was as a decision to make himself equal or greater than God. In essence, it was pride that brought the fall of man, not evil. “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.[2] Satan used man’s own pride to sequester his thoughts into a path that took him to the darkness of man’s soul.

Choices led Judas Iscariot to sell his Savior’s identity for thirty pieces of silver which ultimately led to the trial, and crucifixion of Christ. Choices led David to invite Bathsheba into his bed-chamber, which led to the death of the resultant child and his sons. Choices led Moses to strike the rock in anger which led to his being excluded from being allowed to enter the Holy Land. Time and time again, we see how erred judgment on the part of man resulted in predicaments that could have been avoided had they chose wisely. Each time we allow Satan to enter into our decision making, our minds are contorted into the culpability of choosing on the side of this terrestrial being, rather than on the side of how it affects our life eternal.

As much as we have the ability to choose wrong, we have the same capability to choose right. Though our life’s journey need not be a long course of bad memories, there are hopefully more of the singular instances of hope and light that permeate through the fog of reminiscence than the former. As those thoughts allow us to build upon the past, we must realize that going forward, we have the foresight to become greater than of ourselves, again, if we choose wisely. A life eternal is in the balance. To be tied to an earthly being or to be one with a risen Savior, that guarantees life eternal – this is the only choice in this life that really matters. You can go on living as one that perceives there is “no tomorrow,” or you can start to live a life in preparation for one eternal – the choice is yours.

Some believe they are too far gone. They feel they are beyond the grasp of God’s forgiveness of sins. Many feel their sin is greater than Christ’s ability to forgive – but they couldn’t be more wrong. We serve a risen Savior that died for our sins, even before we existed so that all that come to him might be saved. It is never too late to seek Him.

While we chase after those swirling entities that entice us to forget the thankfulness and forget that we can be forgiven, we must force ourselves to take pause and know that, “God hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pastures.[3] Like those winding country roads that passeth through the highlands of the Blueridge, we cannot know what lies ahead. The afternoon shadows pass upon the landscape, one that passes from autumn into winter. The seasons change regardless if we are ready for them to do so or not. In time, we realize our helplessness in that we cannot control all those things that in our youth we believed were within our command. The decisions which we hath made, we must now live with until our road’s end. No matter how bad they were, they can be forgiven. When you ask Christ to come into your life, your journey’s end on earth is only the beginning of the rest of your life. It is this destination that should help you decide how you will travel the remainder of the journey in time that remains.

Choose wisely, your soul’s eternal life depends on it.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

[2] Proverbs 16:17-8 KJV

[3] Psalm 100:3

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A Soul in the Middle of Nowhere

They once called it “Nowhere” mountain. Today it’s known to the rest of the world as “Rich” mountain. The slow gradual climb slowly wears at your body, walking or running. The deceptive incline slowly takes you to a secluded overlook. There only the stone remnants of an ancient house’s foundation are all that exist. Leftover from another time, a bygone century. For a moment, above the distant mountain peaks, above the wayward meadows there is a feeling of freedom. The cattle in the fields dispersed amongst the shaded oaks and hemlocks, lowing in the fresh mountain air. Their voices bellow across the ridge. Once this was all that there was of a pioneer outpost, a home in the wilderness. It eventually became the property of the Cone’s. Today, it’s a place where one can go and find themselves a few moments of seclusion from a world that seems to fall out of control a little more each day.

photo by: Sweetwilder

A few days ago, I had found myself atop of Nowhere. Therein lies the story – it was part of my run.

Before I continue, let me say that this is not meant to be any shape or form of bragging. There are times that we must share something in our life that has become a testimony; thus, the sharing with you of how running (or the semblance thereof) has become part of my spiritual journey. Besides, my sister, a practicing Cardiac Nurse, recommended it would help strengthen my heart. Something with which my Cardiologist wholeheartedly agreed. Truly, if you saw me in action, you would know there was nothing to brag about.

Several weeks ago, the Lord convicted me to start running again. At the time, it was as if something inside me wanted to be done with this life. Between the never-ending accusations of our society from one extreme to the other, to the seemingly never-ending pandemic, fueled by every political conspiracy theory you can imagine, one begins to look with joy toward the next life. In a sense, pushing my body to the extremes will either make me a healthier warrior for the Lord or it will take me home to be with him quicker. The options are Pauline in nature, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.[1] Herein lies the rub: many have not, nor have no idea what that “next life” is. They live day-to-day, battling from sunup to sundown without hope. Their lives have little to no direction. For them to find the way to life eternal on their own would be like finding a needle in a haystack. While we want to help them as much as possible, we can only plant the seeds. It is by God’s Grace that we are saved. As Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.”[2] Sadly, there are greater numbers of lost in our world than those who are awakened to God’s plan of salvation. For those who know Him, and have asked Him into their lives, there is that hope of life eternal. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”[3]

I don’t know the exact mileage of each week. I don’t keep track of the miles that my body has been pushed these recent days, but this much I can tell, there is a renewing of the soul. Slowly, my body shifts from the unhealthy cravings as before to now, those of wholesome, natural foods beckon my taste buds. As I had experienced once before, the feeling of how the body changes when it is exercised to the extreme is not new to me. Yet, the reserve with which I can now control my diet and temptations to imbibe in things that only go against not only your body’s health, but the spirit within – these have become the things to which I am now drawn, those things which enrich the body, soul, and spirit.

This journey is not about becoming the fastest. The goal these days is to merely push this terrestrial body to become the best it is capable of being, only so that my soul has a better home. I heard Ravi Zacharias mention a quote from the 19-century writer, George McDonald a couple of days ago. McDonald said in a roundabout way, that we do not “have” a soul, but rather, we are a soul.  “We have a body,” he said, “but we are a soul.” Genesis says it best, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.[4]  This new perspective has really made me rethink the way in which I had been approaching life. 

In the act of pushing my body, I am then making a better dwelling place for my soul to live within. The nicer the home, the better the soul can feel. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “ What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”[5] The more features the temple has, the more possibilities there are for the soul to flourish, and with it, the spirit. When our spirit is awakened, it then is able to welcome the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Then, as we might prepare for an esteemed guest, we would too want our temple to be the most glorious that it can be. It is in this vein that my pursuit of the new day’s dawn, from the time, that the sun hits the horizon until long past its setting – my days are thus filled to serving Him.

Pain in this life is a constant reminder that we live in a fallen world. There is not a run that I take that I don’t have pain. My dad used to say, “The day that I wake up and feel no pain is the day that I know that I’ve died.” Today he no longer suffers. His body was healed when his soul was welcomed into that home above.

In my youth, I longed to train in the mountains; something I was never afforded. Now, in my advanced age, here I am, training in the mountains. There is no pain like that of running up a continual climb at elevations over 3,500 feet. To try to lessen the suffering, I learned a long time ago in those early training years, that if you could talk while you were running, then it would keep you at a pace that was optimal for practice runs. In that vein, my journey has brought me full circle. Since I run alone most days, there is only myself with whom to converse. As I’ve mentioned many times in other writings, today I work as unto the Lord, not unto man, and so it is with my exercise. So now, as I run up those steep grades, my practice of memorizing scripture is put to work, quoting out loud as I run. It is nothing spectacular. A word here, a breath there, and maybe after a few hundred feet a sentence is finished. This is how it goes.

The other day, as my practice of speaking scriptures as I ran continued, I happened past an older lady. She too was out enjoying the beautiful day before the afternoon storms came. As I passed her on my ascent up the mountain, she and I exchanged the usual pleasantry of, “Good morning.” On my way back down, she said something that gave me pause. Before I passed her, she smiled and said toward me, “Thank you for using your gifts.” All I could eke out was a simple, “Amen.” As I was still pondering her words in the back of my mind, I continued through my versus. Just as I was finishing John 1, I rounded a curve and broke out into a meadow filled with a plethora of golden wildflowers. My voice still trailed, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”[6] Suddenly before me above the field of gold, the sky around me was like a throng of white stallions waiting to stampede, yet were held at bay by a mighty hand. In the center of those towering billows of white, was a crystal clear, azure blue sky reaching to the heavens. Yes, the heavens had opened and my eyes searched those ever-changing Cumulus formations for angels ascending and descending. It was at that moment I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit dwell within my soul. For a moment, there was no ground beneath my weary legs, there was no pain, there was only the glory of God.

photo by: Michael Kight

Being afflicted through the sufferings of our daily life, and yes, in our daily exercise, are all part of how God shapes us. As Peter wrote, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.[7] In our youth, our bodies recover more quickly so that there is little time to dwell on the struggles through which we face. As we age, it takes longer to recover and to overcome those once trivial obstacles. Through the tribulations of life, our soul is refined as the sword in the fire. Through these trials, we are made stronger when we learn to lean on Him, and in so doing, find hope for tomorrow. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope…[8]

This morning, the water was still dripping from the trees. The abundance of storms had passed in the night leaving the air fresh, new, and alive.  The sound of the bountiful life-giving fluid made it feel as if I was surrounded by a tropical rain forest. The effect it had upon my body felt good. Like a blanket of comfort, its warmth enveloped my being. My mind drifted back to the Garden of Eden and how it must have felt for Adam and Eve before their sin. It was at that moment that I realized that while we are affected by the world through our flesh (our body), it isn’t always negative. There are moments, as in that instance, where we are blessed by God through his marvelous creation. Through those beautiful sunrises, to the smile of a newborn child, we are given glimpses into his love and majesty; thereby, enriching our soul, allowing the spirit to be lifted. Yes, even when we happen onto the edge of a golden meadow while His words parse through our lips we are blessed. When we are one with Christ, we are then afforded to allow the Holy Ghost to dwell within, and in so doing, find beauty in places heretofore there was only sadness and despair. These precious moments in time uplift our soul, and like the afflictions, strengthen it. 

Not all growth has to be painful, for, at the top of Nowhere, one can be afforded the most gratifying reward – to look upon the distant mountains and valleys and rejoice in God’s glory. As the air slowly returns to our weary lungs, as the heart beats blood to those body parts that are fatigued and ailing, we can be blessed by more than what this world of man will allow. It is up to us to sometimes go to the middle of nowhere and call upon His name.

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.”[9]

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”[10]

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[11]

 As you go through each day, beware of the effects the world has upon you through your body. Live each day as if your soul depends on it. 

Eternity is forever.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Philippians 1:21 KJV

[2]  John 14:6-7 KJV

[3] Luke 9:24 KJV

[4] Genesis 2:7 KJV

[5] 1 Corinthians 6:19 KJV

[6] John 1:51 KJV

[7] 1 Peter 5:10 KJV

[8] Romands 5:2-4 KJV

[9] Luke 11:9 KJV

[10] Psalm 23:3 KJV

[11] 1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV

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The Work of Thy Hands…

           “For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.”-Psalm 92:4

The roar of the old feed truck jumped to life. Cobwebs and black smoked coughed from her tailpipe as the deep rumble tickled the boy’s feet.

“C’mon around here and I’ll put you up in the seat.”

The skin of the man was tanned from countless hours toiling in the sun, working the land. His overalls worn threadbare in places; badges of honor to this farmer. He lifted his grandson up and put him on the cracked and frayed leather of the ancient seat. Plumes of dust billowed forth from the sand-colored cushion that peaked through the seams beneath.

“Sit right there now until I get in.”

The boy was barely three years old but yearned for every breath of life to be in the presence of his papaw. The farmer reached the open door of the driver’s side, then swung himself into the seat and slammed the door shut. Dust exploded into the shafts of sunlight that filtered through the clouded window before them. The man began grabbing the long-handled gears, and a deep guttural grinding below them shook the truck into motion. The old ford grain truck began rolling down the bumpy gravel road. In the back, their precious cargo. The sun was just reaching the top of the trees along the fence line that clung to the road. The lad stood on the seat and looked through the tiny back window of the cab. Golden harvest grains of corn radiated in the morning sunlight, like those ancient troves of gold once beheld by the Conquistadors in their New World explorations.

“Turn around here now,” the man growled at the boy pointing to the seat behind him. “I don’t need you bumping out the window.” He grinned over at his only grandchild. Doyle had much to be thankful for on this day. This load of corn was headed to the mill in town. It would be enough to feed his hogs and cattle through the winter. If they were lucky, there would be enough to trade or sell for extra supplies so badly needed. The sense of accomplishment of countless hours of hard work was reflected in every grain. Once the seed had been planted, the work didn’t end. Cultivating, spraying, and detasseling took many hours of hard labor. Working the land seemed to be a never-ending job. Then there were the weeks without rain. The boy could often find his papaw bent over in prayer, asking God to send the much-needed life source so that they may continue their livelihood.

Prayers had been answered in abundance that year.

Then there was his grandson; the pride of his life. Yes, there was much to thankful for that day. Not many months ago, the child had remained in the hospital isolation ward for days. Pneumonia had nearly claimed his young life the previous year, and it had returned in his second year with a vengeance. He had barely survived the second time. His tiny weakened frame was only just now beginning to fill out. It was a blessing to see him radiate, like their load of corn, with happiness as they bumped along.

He nodded at the boy once the tot was seated, then turned and spat a timely squirt of chewing tobacco juice out his own window. His head snapped back to the front maintaining his focus on the winding road. The old green truck rumbled along as the dust behind bellowed up like a rooster tail, dissolving everything from view behind them.

As Doyle’s long arms swung madly back and forth on the expanse of a steering wheel, the fields from which they had recently gleaned their precious cargo passed by the windows. The little boy looked out watching the blur precede by, one fence row after another in a uniformity that soon pulsated into a numbing coalescent hum. He had seemingly forgotten the loneliness of that hospital bed covered in clear plastic. The fields of green washed away those painful memories until all that was left was the glow of joy within. A feeling of warmth and happiness flooded his being until he was sound asleep.

The clouds of dust folded over onto themselves and washed across the fields of time. Nothing remains the same on the surface. Yet, beneath, some things can never be erased.

As the sweat poured down my face, I slowly made another trip up the steep grade of the mountain, carrying one more log to the flatbed trailer. One after another, each tree that was cut was measured, then taken with care to the waiting trailer. Slowly, ever so slowly, the logs began to accumulate until there were as much as the tandem axles could handle. My body was drenched in perspiration. The later days of September were not yet cool even though we were in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. But there was no time to wait. The work had to be done and time was of the essence. Winter would soon be here, and our plans were to at least have the foundation to the new spiritual studio finished before the cold north winds began to blow. As I worked, the clouds began to build, and my mind drifted back to those long-ago days.

As I put the truck into gear and pulled away with my first load, 20 logs, my mind could see that grain truck bouncing down those dusty Pose County roads once more. My harvest had not been one of my own doing, but rather, this one was of God. I had not planted the seeds, but I was here to take in the harvest. Why and how I had come to this place were all a part of His plan. I was merely putting into action the next step in the journey. My harvest wasn’t the golden kernels of corn from my youth, but rather, the sweet, aromatic pines of the Appalachians.

Beautiful, straight, tall white pines littered the new land we had purchased, and with them, the perfect location to nestle the new studio that would become a new place of worship. As I worked, I was cautious to only clear enough trees for the new building. Even with being careful not to take down any unnecessary trees, it quickly became obvious that we might have enough to build most of the new building

By the second load, we had 41 logs total taken to the sawmill. Like those golden seeds of corn falling into the collection shaft behind the grain truck at the mill, the massive front-end loader at the sawmill took each load of logs from my trailer like a giant hand of God. The men running the mill told me that it might be a while before they got to them. So, like most things these days, I put it in God’s hands, trusting that when the time was right, they would call.

A few days ago, the sawmill operator called and asked me to stop by on my way home from school. The news sounded promising. When I pulled up, I found Tony, the operator, there waiting for me. Now at this point, to make a long story short, Tony had worked through some challenges, but in the end, God’s hand was in it. There he shared with me his testimony, and once again, I was reminded that no matter what we do, no matter where we go, the Master’s plan is at work. Through our connection, something beautiful had happened in Tony’s own life. He was now back in the graces of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He told me that in a few days, my logs would be finished. Just hearing him share his story with me that evening, I knew that in the end, the harvest was being done, one way or another.

Today, we brought home all those logs. Now not covered in rough bark, but sawn into useable lumber. Tony had masterfully gleaned every ounce of wood from those trees and turned them into a work of art; a massive trailer full of sweet-smelling wood. Their texture painted a golden glow. At that moment, a sense of accomplishment flooded over me, and my papaw’s memory flashed in my head. Yet, this time, the harvest was not just of what lay on the trailer, but also of another that had returned to his faith. The feeling of once more making all the right choices, taking the care needed to bring the harvest to fruition was something that taught a man many things of life. When the crops were ready, you knew. In the journey, you are never alone; God is with you.

Like Jesus telling his disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”-John 4:35 Like the patient farmer, Jesus knew his crops were ready. Then as now, we must recognize what we must do to serve. Jesus told them specifically, “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”-Luke 10:2

Like the farmer of old and the lumberjack of recent days, the feeling of one bringing in the bounty of a season of growth can be one of utter satisfaction. We may not be the ones to plant the seed, but when Jesus tells us to go forth and reap the harvest, how much greater joy can there be than to know you are harvesting the Lord’s crops? As Jesus also told his disciples, “Yea are now fishers of men.” We need only take his message to the world and once again, like in days of old, bring in the harvest, for the fields are white for the taking.

Let us not tarry, for time is of the essence.

Let us reap what He has sown.

Time to harvest.

Thanks be to God.

For specialized, custom sawmill work in the Caldwell County area of North Carolina, call master sawmill operator, Tony Moretz, at 828-493-0400 Tell him the Lord sent you, and he’ll know what you mean.

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Your Testimony may save a life…

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” – Revelation 12:11

There was a refreshing coolness that greeted me at the door this morning when I stepped out onto the porch for my morning coffee and worship. It was hard not to think of being somewhere else. Sipping the dark brew from the cup, I closed my eyes and tried to stay, but that distant land called me back, once more.

How was your trip,” they ask when meeting up with friends and acquaintance aware of the recent journey. A flood of words, scenes, and experiences overwhelm my ability to answer coherently, so most times, the answer is simply, “Great.” Inside my mind’s eye, there is a multitude of moments, vistas, and sheer splendor that would take more time than would be kind to the would-be inquisitor. Most often they seem to be waiting for more, but in honesty, there is too much to tell.

How does one put into words the dramatic landscape that is difficult even now to describe to myself, let alone someone else? How does one convey a deep connection to a place that they had never seen before, until a few days ago? How does one share the emotional roller coaster of a faith journey which reaches the very depths and peaks of comprehension, many times in the same day? How do you share a family’s journey that took three centuries to come full circle? How do you explain how ill prepared to you feel to answer their simple question because, in truth, you know the bottom line is that God had worked a miracle upon miracle for your very existence?

There is a gulf between the here and now; a chasm that separates this world from the one that was left behind. The void is something that only time can bridge. As the water flows over the rocks below the surface, time slips past, beneath the visible there exists those that have been there, since the beginning of creation. Their bones now buried with the stone upon where they once stood. When the torrent shifts, the surface dances exposing for an instant the rocks below. For a brief instant, the flash of what has been becomes known. We are able to perceive something beyond what we can describe, for before our capacity to understand can grasp what is evident, it is gone, hidden once more from view. As if taunting our mind’s ability for conceptualization, we are left with an impression of wanting more. Nothing would satisfy our intellect more than to be able to confirm what we can only now guess.

Soldiers return home from active duty and find themselves having to adjust their mental condition to a pace of life far different from where they had just left. In the worst cases, they have suffered battle scars that will never heal. They are trapped in a world that cannot understand the depths of hell from which they had survived; meanwhile, the reality of living must go on. The trip to the grocery store is no longer a forgettable routine. The images, sounds, and smells can trigger an instant replay of the carnage from which they have come, leaving them shaken and disoriented. As the heartbeat quickens, there is an instinct for survival that returns, and they act out in ways those they have known for a lifetime don’t recognize. These are their battle scars, the acronym known as PTSD.

Similarly, the missionary or peace worker that returns from a war-torn country, a disease riddled death zone, or a horrific life changing event, sometimes face similar, but most often, to a lesser degree, the same experience. There is a gulf created between the world they once knew and who they’ve become from the event. As they try to readjust to the normalcy they once knew, there is so much going on behind the façade they put forth. Deep inside, they are reliving what death and despair can become, while about them, others argue about the difficulty in choosing plain or peanut flavored M&M’s before they find their movie theater seats. In the grocery store, in the next aisle over, a child screams for their favorite Nutella flavored cereal. They blink, and the image of the body of an emaciated child they carried to the medical tent just the week before, sucks the air from their throat. They bite their lip and leave behind the shopping cart, racing for the exit of the store before they must explain to some stranger why tears are running down their cheeks.

In truth, if your journey was severe, if your trip was extremely uplifting, or in the rare case, it really didn’t to seem to change you, a mission trip can leave you feeling more than a little awkward once you return to the life you once had. There is an emotional gulf that cannot be explained to most, and in truth, many really don’t want to hear it. “It’s your choice to go, it was your choice to put yourself through that, so why do we have to hear all about it?” they say.  They may not say it to your face, but many times, they think it silently.

However, we cannot be dissuaded by calloused remarks; it is our duty to share. What our detractors may say and think is the darkness speaking. Satan using their fears of the unknown to keep them frozen in their comfortable lifestyles. As long as the lost can remain afloat in their feeble existence, savoring the brief moments of fleshly pleasures, Satan has won. They’ll never have a reason to change.

Your testimony may be the difference between someone accepting Christ into their lives, or at the very least, making them think twice about why they don’t believe.

When the battle was at hand, we called upon His name, our Father in Heaven. Once more, when we return, we cannot do it alone. To reach the mountaintop and return, there is more than is humanly conceivable one can do, and just like before, we must ask for our Father’s hand. As a disciple for Christ, He prepared you for the journey, and as that disciple returning home, He will prepare you once more.

Miracles made your journey possible, and many more await when your testimony becomes the path for many more to follow. Let your story be told, and with it, the Word be shared, so that others may find their way to the light.

Time is short.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” – Romans 13:11-12

We must not delay.

And in all that we do, give thanks.

Thanks be to God.

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Can You Feel It?…

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -Acts 1:8

We awoke to a cold, gray, overcast sky. In the past, this would be another dreary Monday morning, one that felt so low, you dared notimagesS4F3AIJ4 sing the blues, but rather curse them. Days so bleak it felt as if time was passing through your veins like bitter sarcasm, you life was anything but hopeful. In those times past, I lived only for the sake of others, their livelihood, not my own. Yes, there were bright moments, blessings that I cherished through the pain. Yet, as I reached those segments of enlightenment, the valley floors came crashing, deeper and deeper. Then slowly the realization of a life not lived became a reality. Each morning as I drove home I would lose consciousness behind the wheel, each morning I knew the end was near unless something changed.

God had called me years earlier and in my stubbornness and regret, I had said no. How much more could I take? How much longer would I refuse Him?

Finally, at the end of my rope, I lifted up a prayer previously I would have felt to be selfish, but when you reach that lowest arc of the pendulum’s swing, you must act.

So I prayed as Pastor Thomas had said, “Know that your prayer will be answered if it’s God’s will, don’t be afraid to ask.”

So I did.

My life changed almost instantly.

There are those times when you can feel it, really feel it. Then there are days, those times in the lull of battle, you begin to wonder in self-doubt allowing Satan to sneak in the back door. But through the midst of struggle, there is always the light shining through the fog; the Holy Spirit leading.

Yes, today I awoke to a cold, gray, overcast sky. On the surface, it felt like another lifeless Monday, but instead of a week of dread and malcontent awaiting me at work, there was love and fellowship through God’s grace just around the corner. As I pulled into the drive of the Trail, the front gate was already open and brother Mahorney was ready and waiting for me. My heart had already begun to smile. Soon to follow were our visitors for the day, Pastor Rick Mercer and his lovely wife Cindy along with their special guest, and author, Mr. Hammer.

There would a time constraint placed on us due to Mr. Hammer having to meet his flight, but I never once felt quickened by the clock. There was a special peace floating over us. Something indescribable.untitled

Before starting upon the journey through the Trail we prayed and it was then I felt it, the Holy Spirit. However, like times before, when it would happen once and be gone. This morning was not a typical Monday morning.

Again and again, He was there unlike any time before.

Each time we gathered to pray, each time we lifted up His holy name, He was there.

Words cannot adequately describe the power of the Holy Spirit pulsating through every fiber of your being; yet, the only thing I can plausibly relate the feeling to which is of this earth is that of an electric current vibrating through your body, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head any and all at once, not fleeting in an instance and gone, but continuing on and on until the final “Amen” was spoken.

Not once, but every-time-we-prayed!

Nothing can, nor will ever compare.

Nothing will ever replace the power of the Holy Spirit; no nothing.

We said our tearful goodbyes. Once more, like so many other somber goodbyes, I wondered if I would ever see Mr. Hammer again on this side of Glory, like anytime we meet our brothers and sisters in Christ for the first time. We shook hands once more and I lifted up prayers for his safe travels back to his home and family.

Yes, it was another cold, gray, overcast Monday. But through the midst of the shroud, there was a light shining above.

To God be the Glory.

Amen.

If you have had a similar or like experience, then comment and share with others. Let your testimony be a light unto the world!

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A Bitter, Cold Walk…the Road to Emmaus…

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

Looking back, I knew there would come a time that we would face the valley of the shadow, the darkest hour always being just before dawn. Although this is not the bottom, the possibilities of falling farther into the abyss are closer than one finds comforting to fathom.

Today has been one of those realizations.

The weather did not help with my anxiety, being too cold to get out and put some distance between us and this place that seems to become our prison, day-by-day. There is not enough money to allow us to take a trip, there isn’t enough money to allow us to splurge on a day of fun, no, there isn’t enough resources to allow us to escape other than a walk in the park, if only the weather would allow. The farm still sits waiting to be sold, tying up vital assets forcing us into a budget that is constantly in the red. Our buffer of cash nearly depleted, we are running on fumes.

Yet, I pray more loudly each day, knowing God is listening; it’s just His timing that I cannot understand.

Despite the single digit wind chill, I took a walk over to the Trail and back, just to retrieve some food products so that we didn’t have to go to the store and spend the last few dollars we have for the day’s budget. Walking past small, old mill homes, there was the feeling that this was a life that I had wanted to avoid, one of want and need. Here people lived on meager incomes in houses built over seventy years ago or more. Most are in disrepair, the owners obviously making due with the best they can. Dogs bark angrily as I pass, their demeanor of fearfulness of others that had done the same, others not so well meaning. These neighborhoods are where some turn to illicit activities to aid in the support of their families and their carnal desires. This is not the side of town you want to call home. I had spent years going to college in order to educate myself so that I wouldn’t have to be in this predicament, yet here I am, walking along a street where people are more suspect on foot than they are to be considered walking for their health.

Like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, I now find thoughts of doubt creeping into my mind, even when I know better. Yes, I have even begun to doubt my decision to follow my calling.roadtoEmmaus

As Cleopas and his friend walked, the stranger approached, joining them in their travel. He listened as they explained their pain and fear of having lost their leader, their savior. Jesus quickly rebuked them, “And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” -Luke 24:17

It is hard to keep my humanness behind me. Satan knows if he can gain a foothold, he will win, so I keep the door closed and walk on.

There is so much yet to do in order to make the Trail into the thriving place of inspiration it can be. It will take time. The pace of the visitors is as expected this time of year, as frozen as the weather. There is plenty to doubt, but this is the time of planning and preparation. One cannot lose hope when there is so much fertile ground to plant. Yet, looking at the immediate situation of our own personal finances, there is much to despair. But I have the faith, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen…” When I look to those men on the road to Emmaus, I can easily imagine those that had lost their leader and now faced persecution, there had to be more than sadness. They too were in despair. The immediate situation for them looked worse than bleak. Even the body of Jesus had gone missing, and yet they still didn’t get it.

As Jesus joined the disciples, clearly, he was amazed their unbelief, after all, that he had told them would transpire, they still did not understand. It wasn’t until after they had heard him open the scriptures from the time of Moses, through all the prophets, about what would happen did their hearts burn for the Lord. “And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”-Luke 24:32 Still unaware, they invited him to stay with them for the night and only after He broke the bread at their table, were their eyes opened to whom their new friend really was, Jesus Christ.

roadtoEmmausBreadWhen I finally reached our tiny abode, thankful to have a warm house, a roof over my head and a place to rest, I set down my groceries and gave thanks to God for allowing me to continue on. As my numb fingers began to thaw, I reflected back on the past few month. I have been a witness to amazing things already in the short time I’ve been here doing His will. There has been life changing testimony, there have been prayers lifted up for many, there have been times the Holy Spirit has dwelt among us and much more. Many have beheld amazing testimony of their own as they have watched the Trail begin to breathe a new breath of life. However, we can’t do it on our own. Each day God is my teacher and each day, my studying of the scriptures and what it is to walk in His way continues to grow.

I’ve got so much to learn, but knowing that God’s time is not our own, there is a comfort in that feeling that He’s got it all under control; this I must reassure myself over and over.

Once more, I have to die to myself in order so that He may live through me more.

We must open our eyes and realize what has been set before us, what has been divulged to us even while we thought we were alone, and yet we were not. Let us walk our road to Emmaus with opened eyes and a joyful heart, lest we fail to realize the beauty of what lies before and within us.

He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters, He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me down paths of righteousness for His namesake…”

There is so much to be done, the stone has been rolled away and He is Risen.

Yes, He is Risen indeed.

Thanks be to God

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In Our Midst…

Another day of sharing, growing and belief in all that we do.jesus

There was barely time to reflect on the previous week when another one began. There is no greater joy in ministry than when you get time to fellowship with others of like minds. Yes, there are other times when you are helping others different than ourselves, those who need our help to know the way, the truth and the light; they are important. But then there are times when you can speak as freely and deeply as you want with others and for a few moments, life passes by more quickly than is necessary.

Today was another one of those.

However, before I can expound upon today, let me share with you something of note that happened last week, something that was yet another one of those God-moments.

We had planned on working as a group taking down Christmas lights early on in the week but due to weather and illnesses, most of our staff was unable to be there. As foul weather rolled in, we hunkered down and worked on the things we had put off until this time of year. Like the old time settlers, we turn our focus inward taking on tasks that make us grow mentally and prepare for the future. I had begun working on a proof paper, something that I could take and share with those who may question our ability to reference our Waldensian connection back to the time of the Apostles. The research and study are as much fun as they are challenging. Not only do I get to dig back into archives centuries old, but I also get to reference points in scripture that correlate to those ancient events; a win, win either way. The investigative research and study hours flew by and before I realized it, Thursday was staring us in the face.

Yes, it was time once more to get back to taking down and putting away the lights.

However, many of our volunteers were still down with ailments. So, when Thursday morning arrived, there was only going to be three of us able to perform the work necessary for at least four grown men. Desperate for help, a thought came to mind of a young man that had contacted me on FB about possibly being part of the Trail when he graduated college. Knowing he had just graduated and moved back to the area, I messaged him with a plea for assistance early Thursday morning and sent up a small prayer for help; I had nothing to lose.

We began our work and were just about to try to tackle the most difficult part with one man down when suddenly, into the drive pulled the new grad, Chilo. I thanked the Lord for answering prayer. As Chilo walked up, I thanked him for coming and shook his hand. He replied, “Good to see you once more.” We were in the heat of battle, so to speak, so I let the comment go without question as we rushed to our positions and began lowering the heavy towers. From there, we worked as a team, as if we had known one another for many years, and continued to fellowship as we went. Lunchtime arrived and our stomachs were yelling for attention, so Chilo and I took our reprieve at the local pizza parlor. As we sated our hunger, Chilo asked what brought me to the Trail of Faith. I asked had he not heard the testimony, “No,” he replied. So I began sharing the story of prayers answered, the trail of faith of my own, one that began with the spiritual awakening. As I watched the clock, I realized we would have to get back to the Trail, so we reconvened the story while we continued to work on bringing down more archways along the pathway of the Trail. There I began to share with him the point of the story where I had begun to evangelize through my book. In the back of my mind, I had still continued to search for the “why” or “how” of his initial statement of, “Glad to see you once more.” As if we needed confirmation, there suddenly in the parking lot looking lost was stood a young man. I paused our conversation and walked toward him to ask him if I might help him. He had not driven up, like I said, he had just appeared. As I approached him, he turned toward me and I somehow felt I knew him from someplace before. He said he was just looking around and thought he’d stop in. I asked him if we had met before. He looked at me with a puzzled face and then smiled, “Why yes,” he replied, “at the book signing you had at the library here in town two years ago.

My mind raced back and recalled the young man. He had asked many questions as if he was searching that day for something greater than just the story I shared. At this point, most people are asked to enter through the visitor center and encouraged to take the guided or self-guided tour. However, there was a feeling of this moment, this person, this exact time in my testimony he had appeared as if on cue.

God doesn’t mess around.

Knowing how the Trail has become a calling for many, some without knowing, I began to ask him if he had ever seen the inside of the church. As we all walked toward the temple, I began to ask him if he might need prayer today. He nodded that he might. I unlocked the doors and then began to share a bit of what the church and our ancient faith was about. We took our seats in the front of the church. I explained to him how there was something missing and asked him to look around and see what it might be. Both he and Chilo searched and then realized, there was no cross. I then began to explain what the most important thing to those ancient people of the valleys, yes, the very thing they lived and died to protect; the Word of God.

I then looked at our visitor and asked him if there was anything troubling him, anything in his life that might need prayer. He began to choke up as he began speaking in a hushed tone about his mother who was ailing. He had lost his job and was forced to move back in with his parents. It was obvious God had sent him for a purpose this day. We then combined together to say a prayer, all three of us, who a mere 24 hours before would have no idea we would be there in the church this day, praying together in unison.

We closed our prayer and walked out of the church, saying our goodbyes, but welcoming him back whenever he felt the need.

Suddenly the afternoon took on a whole new light.

It was then, the question of why Chilo had introduced himself as saying, “Good to see you once more,” came back to mind. I asked him, how he could say that and where we might have met. He replied that it was during the Waldensian festival three years ago when I had been evangelizing through my book.

Sometimes you know God is watching and then sometimes you know he is surely in our midst; yes, it was one of those moments. Both men had been with me at a point in my life exactly when we had been interrupted in my testimony, by not only one but two witnesses to my story.

Yes, we serve an awesome God!

From there on, it was if Chilo and I had found an ancient tie, one that distance, space or ancestry could not break; our faith in Jesus Christ. While we may not have agreed 100% on all things, we felt a common bond and by the end of the afternoon, I found I kept having to urge him to keep track of his time for fear he was forgetting as did I, for I had a doctor’s appointment that I nearly forgot had it not been for my dear wife calling to remind me.

Yes, time evaporated, leaving us with only memories of our existence with one another.

Today, the fellowship was the same. I met pastor McDevitt of Morganton First Church of God for lunch and it was one of those experiences where you become so wrapped in the conversation that the food’s importance in front of you diminishes to the point it becomes an obstacle. I love those times with brothers and sisters in Christ that allow your heart to open up and something is moved, ideas are formed and future bonds are created. It’s a walk I’ve come to be blessed with more and more.

Godly fellowship can make time disappear, yet our faith is emboldened and we grow together in our walk with God. I am eternally thankful for the position the Lord has placed me and know that time will pass, but as we grow and age, there are many things that build character and strengthen our faith; these are the things we must continue to embrace and lift up each day, sharing with those around us as much as our lives will allow.

Another day, another walk on the Trail.

Thanks be to God in all that we do.

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Prayer, A Powerful Thing…

Screenshot_2015-11-05-21-52-53The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” –Proverbs 16:1

There were once days in my life that would pass so quickly, so barely noticeable that I was welcome to wake up and find the next calendar date, not knowing at all what had transpired in my life other than a moment of sleep and long hours of work. These two bookends were separated by life-threatening drives home and reflective rides to work. I often prayed that God would deliver from this living hell, dead or alive.

 

That was then, this is now.! My days are much different now.

When we give everything over to the Lord, it’s amazing how fast and quickly the world around us can change.

There’s not a day now that doesn’t pass without another miraculous, amazing, God-like event or moment occurring in my life. This past week was like so many others, one story after another unfolding before us shaping us into who we are and what we will become.

Like this day I’m about to share.

The young woman pulled up hurriedly in a little red pickup as if she might be in a rush to deliver something. I walked toward the door of the Trail to see who it was or what it might be getting delivered. It was then that I recognized the young lady. A couple months ago, she and her boyfriend had dropped by to talk about helping us out at the Trail by donating some lumber to help us repair the bleachers at the Bocce courts. During their visit, I had shared with them my testimony about coming to the Trail. I had not heard from them since and as it often goes, I had wondered if my words had found a place in their hearts or if I had said something to keep them away. In a small way, I had prayed for God to help them if they needed it and if it was His will, to send them back; and here she stood.

She began to share with me that she had returned and that she wanted to help, that she was being led to do something at the Trail. It was almost as if God was pressing on her in order to demand her to do His will, yet she didn’t know how or why. We sat and talked for quite a while and discussed opportunities we had available at the Trail.

Yet, there seemed to be something else, something more that she couldn’t express.

As we continued our conversation, as we walked back to the parking lot, she asked me what it was that she could do to find peace. For some reason, my mind was blocking out what I really wanted to say. For some reason, God knew that there was another purpose for her being here. All I could recall to offer her for support was to pray, read her Bible and to put away all the distractions in her life. The sincerity with which she evoked her emotions made me feel more than inadequate. She had shared with me how my testimony had awakened in her a burning desire to serve the Lord, but she didn’t know how. I shared with her that she might want to visit the prayer service that was being held that night over at the River of Life Church. Pastor King had began a prayer service after he was feeling led to do so. I had yet to go to the service, but knew when it started, which I shared with her. As she drove off, I wondered to myself what purpose I was serving in my life now. What beacon of light was the Trail really becoming? As I walked back into the building, it hit me like a ton of bricks, the fact that I had failed to witness to her, something I had more than wanted to do. Here I had blown the perfect opportunity, yes, the perfect opportunity. How else could she receive peace but to find Christ into her life!

I drove home that evening, thinking how God had sent someone to me to witness too and I had been unable to speak. As I drove around the corner and past the church, I prayed that God might find a way to send her to the there tonight, and if possible, I would go. It had been a long day, and when I got home, the bed was already calling. The 4:30 am start that previous morning was wearing on me. As I lay down in bed after eating supper, I felt as if I could easily drift off to sleep, but something wouldn’t allow me to do so. Something, or someone, said, “Get up and go pray.” So I did.

I arrived early at the prayer service. There was nobody else in the parking lot except me. I walked in and sat on the front row with my Pocket Testament League book of John and my Bible in hand. I began reading passages as my mind would drift from one scripture to the next, praying in between readings as I went, each time praying about things, people and needs in my life and then praying that God might send the young woman here tonight so that we might have another chance to help her in her search for God.

I prayed like I have never done before; intense life changing prayer.

Time passed, my recollection of it was incomprehensible. After what seemed like an eternity I paused and tried to clear my head.

Then I looked up toward the alter …and there she was.

God had answered prayer once more.

She had brought a friend, and together, they were filling out prayer slips to place on the prayer wall. I silently thanked God for his answer and waited for them to come back from the wall. It was then that I welcomed them and the young lady introduced her friend. We briefly talked about their finding the church and it was then that I offered to pray over them, which they accepted. We went to the alter and I shared with them the witnessing I had failed to do earlier that day. As we finished praying, I realized that the young woman who had been at the Trail had known the word I spoke, for she had once accepted Christ into her life. God had purposely held my tongue knowing that I alone was not going to be able to break through. It was then I realized my need for assistance. Thankfully, the pastor’s wife was standing ready to move in and it was then I saw and felt the Holy Spirit move through us all, all four of us as we brought two people to Christ that night. There was a trembling of the earth as sins were washed away. Yes, God was moving in our lives and it was like riding a runaway chariot down the side of a mountain, with God at the reigns!

Before leaving, I handed the young lady the gospel of John I had used to pray with that night, offering it to her to use from this point forward. At least now, it felt right.

Yes, it was just another day at the Trail, one more to carry in my heart forever more.

Yes, just another day.

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