Led by the Light

from the pen of Jeff Joyner

Camping was a regular part of my childhood. My dad used to love taking us on family outings, either at a state park, or on our way to Michigan to visit relatives. He always made sure we were fully equipped with the finest gear, to weather the most challenging of environments. I used to watch with anticipation, as he would unload our station wagon, and assemble our camp site. In just a short time, our tent would be up, and my mom would be busy frying potatoes on the portable gas stove.

Although we always had the latest and greatest camping equipment available, there was one simpler item that seemed to capture most of my attention. It was our Coleman lantern. I was completely fascinated with it, and how it could light up our campsite, even on the darkest of nights. If truth be told, there was another reason I was enamored with it. I was deathly afraid of the dark. Actually, it wasn’t the dark that I was afraid of, but what was growling or slithering in the woods around me. The lantern somehow gave me a sense of protection from the surrounding dangers.

One year, my dad decided to take us to a completely different campground we had never been to before. When we arrived, I noticed something that troubled me right away. The nearest public bathroom was a good distance from our campsite, and I would have to walk down a dirt path just to shower, brush my teeth, and get ready for bed. When I expressed that concern to my dad, he said, “Just let me know when you’re ready, and I’ll walk down there with you.”

After we ate dinner and sat by the fire for a while, I knew the time had come. I was going to have to walk down that path. And even though my dad was going to walk with me, I still had a great deal of anxiety regarding the dangers we might encounter. When I finally told my dad I was ready to go, he did something totally unexpected. He grabbed the Coleman lantern instead of the flashlight. As he lifted the lantern over his head, he said quietly, “I will walk in front of you all the way there.” As we walked toward our destination, I began to truly understand, even as a child, that this is exactly what our God does, for each and every one of his children.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?” Psalms‬ ‭27:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Changing the Path You’re On

from the pen of Jeff Joyner

One morning, while on vacation in Michigan, my grandmother asked me and my younger brother, if we would go on a hike with her out in the country. She wanted to gather some wild berries, which she used to make her homemade pastries. She was also an avid photographer, who enjoyed taking pictures of wildflowers. We weren’t really excited about going, but she promised to make us one of her blueberry pies, if we went with her. That was definitely enough to convince us to go.

That afternoon, we hiked out to this beautiful field, where wild berries were growing in abundance. For the next couple of hours, we picked enough fruit to provide ample preserves, for the harsh Michigan winter. As dusk began to set over the countryside, my grandmother asked if she could take a picture of each of us, before we left. When it was my turn, she said, “I want you to stand sideways, and look straight at that fork in the road, where the two paths split. That way I can take a picture of your profile, with the beautiful sunset behind you.”

My grandmother’s comments completely caught me off guard. Little did she know, I was in the midst of a serious life crisis, where I was facing a “fork in the road” of my own. In this case, it had to do with my relationship with God. The first road, led to the one true God, which would require a total surrender on my part. The second road, led to a god of my own making, which would require me nothing. As my grandmother snapped the picture, it had become clear to me, that I had already chosen the wrong road.

The next several years were very difficult. My life was unraveling before my very eyes. The path that had once promised me freedom, had now led to betrayal. One day, while in college, I was talking with a friend about my commute to school. He mentioned that there was a different road I could take, that would substantially cut my commute time in the mornings. The next day, I decided to take this alternative route. As I was driving, a song came on that I had listened to hundreds of times. On this particular morning, one lyric now seemed to tower above the rest:

“There’s still time to

change the road you’re on.”

I eventually did change the road I was on, and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Since then, I have been radically changed, and have seen HIM be the one, to lead me into pastures of plenty. And the fruit that he has produced along the way, can only be attributed to his immeasurable, and awe inspiring grace, which rescued me, those many years ago.

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John‬ ‭14:6‬

Truth and Fiction

Most people will recognize this statue of Romulus and Remus. As the story goes, they were twin brothers abandoned by their parents and set adrift in a basket on a river. Sorry, Moses. They stole your story. It’s not as well known that their mother was a vestal virgin and daughter of the previous king. She was apparently not as vestal virginny as she should have been, though she claims that the god Mars came to her in a sacred grove. When her pregnancy became known, the new king ordered the brothers killed. Anyway, the brothers washed ashore and were found by a mother wolf who took them in and nursed them to keep them alive. Sorry, Tarzan. They were first.

After some months went by, a kindly shepherd took the infants and he and his wife raised them. I’m not sure why the mama wolf allowed this, but I suspect another Roman god was involved. They always seemed to be interfering and causing problems. In time, Romulus and Remus grew up to be great leaders of their people. Like all great leaders everywhere, they wanted more power, so they decided to found their own city. And they wanted to build it at the spot on the river where they came ashore in the basket. Unfortunately, the two brothers identified two different locations. They argued. They couldn’t agree on where they had washed up to shore. Did they come to a reasonable compromise? No, they did not. They fought. One brother killed the other. That brother founded the city of Rome on the spot he identified. The rest is Roman history.

There’s not much about this story that’s historical. We do know Rome was built next to the Tiber River. It was so swampy that the Romans had to build a huge stone drainage system to ‘drain the swamp.’ This makes me suspect the other brother might have been right about the location. We also know the story of Romulus and Remus was a part of the identity of Rome. The wolf image became a part of their culture, appearing in architecture, pottery, drawings, and jewelry. It was a fictional story but it became part of the cultural identity of the Roman world. It may not have been true, but the Romans lived as though it were real.

Which leads to the question: how much of our individual lives is true and how much is fiction? In this post truth world we live in, many would argue that it doesn’t matter. We create our own truth and live out that fiction just like the Romans. My Christian faith says a lot about knowing the truth. It says the truth will set you free. It teaches that denying the truth has consequences. Looking for the truth is painful when you have been living life based on fiction. But we need to look for it and we need to live by it. Truth is better than fiction.