Category Archives: Life

Resisting the Temptation to put it in Reverse

Wow, it’s the New Year already!  But after last year, a new year couldn’t come fast enough!  And, I bet like most folks, you still have remnants of Christmas joy jiggling around your midsection.  This is the time of year when so many people run around with a new gym membership in one hand and a weight loss membership in the other, all in hopes of becoming that perfect specimen of a human once again.  New Year’s resolutions this time of year are as plentiful as political promises and evaporate just as fast.

I personally don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions; I believe they are nothing more than imaginary manmade cliffs used to hurl oneself off upon the craggy rocks of self pity down below after one breaks one’s resolution.  I would rather rely on realistic goals, both short and long term.  But even realistic goals can become subject to neglect; goals can take a tremendous amount of time and energy to achieve the intended results and many times, we just don’t want to expend that kind of energy; we want to go back to where it’s easy and comfortable.  Proverbs 26:11 (NASB) says,Like a dog that returns to its vomit, Is a fool who repeats his folly.”  Even though this scripture relates to Christians who turn away from God, back to their old sinful lives, this could very well describe our own actions when we are on a very productive worthwhile course and for whatever reason, suddenly stop and revert back to our old habits or ways of doing things, whether that be bellying back up to the Double Stuffed Oreos or being a couch potato once again.

Here is another, more graphic analogy I can think of when I turn my back from what I know I should be doing for my own good.  This happens to also involve a dog, MY dog.  We love our dog and we want to make sure she is safe and healthy.  Therefore, we feed her good healthy dog food that does not contain anything that she is allergic to or would harm her.  We even give her wheat Chex as treats because they are healthier for her.  But for whatever reason there are times when she ingests what she just eliminated.  And for those folks who just didn’t understand that, to be blunt, she eats her own poop…there, I said it!  It’s like she sees the invisible “Hot and Now” sign in the yard and away she goes, chowing down on her own backyard Mounds bar.  Unlike others who might appreciate her “recycling” attempts, we as her “parents” are embarrassed to even admit that our own little Izzy could be so disgusting.  I mean, what would the neighbors think?  Not to mention, wet sloppy face kisses are out of the question for awhile…you see, when we regress back to our old bad habits like the above disgusting scenario, it really does stink and leaves a bad taste in our mouths!

So how do we stay on course?  First of all, I think we need to look at the end product, the goal, the prize, the end game.  Is what we are attempting to achieve realistic or just a pipe dream?  For instance, at 63, it may not be healthy for me to go back to what I weighed when I was eighteen because bodies change and mature as we grow older. In fact, at this point in time in my life, I would have to cut off all my limbs and shave my back hair to get to that weight; but I could at least lose the weight I need to be healthier.  Envision the benefits of losing that weight, putting down that pack of cigarettes or bottle or whatever destructive behavior you need to be released from. 

Next, find someone you can trust to be accountable; someone that will have your back through this journey and who won’t let you off the hook, ready to give you that “tough love” when you need it as well as the encouragement to stay the course.  Make sure you communicate to that someone what your eventual goal is as well as the short term goals or markers along the way so they can help you meet those goals and be successful.  And remember, DO NO HARM—your friend/advocate/sponsor is only trying to help and you did select them, right?

Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to dive in to the Bible and devotionals for added encouragement.  There are many encouraging scriptures to meditate and revitalize your spirit.  But saving the best for last, how about prayer?  God always knows what we need, when we need it and the Holy Spirit can guide you through life’s challenges like no human can.  After all, God wants us to be our best as He intended so we can do our best for Him.

So the next time you feel tempted to put it in reverse and once again pick up that “Mounds bar” of a bad habit, just remember; some things are meant to be left behind in the grass, forgotten…just saying…

Philippians 4:8 (NASB)– Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB) — Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Wilson Christmas 2020

A “Healthy” dose of Holiday greetings to you from Steve and Jenny!!

What can I say about 2020?  As little as possible would be my gut answer!  The world as we knew it has been totally turned upside down by everything from COVID-19 to the very corrupt and divisive national elections!  What should I expect from a year that began with a colonoscopy for me and a root canal/crown for Jenny?!  I mean, even our most basic needs have been interrupted by a toilet paper shortage!  (And no, disposable masks are not flushable…)  Jenny and I have either eaten in our car or outside on lawn chairs under the same shade tree so many times in the Hickory Courtyard By Marriott parking lot in lieu of inside seating, we should just go ahead and carve our names in the bark of the beautiful Live Oak tree and call it our own!  But I digress…

We had a great time on vacation at Surfside Beach South Carolina in

Crystal beach

June with Alison, Justin and Crystal.  Of course, we had to modify our plans to seek outdoor dining experiences and less frequented beaches due to COVID concerns, but we were able to really enjoy our time together.  One of the highlights of our vacation was going down to Charleston for a day trip, where we took a carriage ride around the city and scoped out some points of interest; definitely a place to revisit once restrictions are lifted.

Because life hadn’t been interesting enough this year, in July, Jenny fell and broke her right ankle.  After fun with an ortho boot, knee scooter, wheelchair, walker, and cane, Jenny is currently in a lace ankle brace.  Her bone was not healing after three and a half months, so we’re doing an ultrasound bone stimulation treatment every night to promote bone growth.  If this doesn’t work, Jenny is facing surgery, complete with a rod and supper filler!  Even with her limitations, Jenny found the energy to dance with Crystal, which scared both me AND Crystal!  Jenny continues to enjoy cross stitching as an outlet and produced an awesome Christmas showpiece this year that I’m sure will become a cherished heirloom to others for years to come!

I bought something this year that I thought I would never ever buy; a gun.  Actually two; a 9 mm handgun and a 12 gauge shotgun.  The last gun I owned was a 20 gauge shotgun that I traded with my oldest brother for a dinette set right before Jenny and I got married. (Ooh, a shotgun wedding!)  Later, I’m going for my conceal/carry license so that I can officially have the handgun with me when needed and that may come sooner than I think; coyotes are getting worse around here too.

Jenny and I took a very relaxing vacation in October to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, around Harrisonburg.  It was the perfect time of the year to enjoy the magnificent fall colors on the Skyline Drive as well as the Amish area around Dayton, Va.  We even got a great surprise on that Sunday when Jenny’s sister and husband stopped by to visit on their way home!  But in hindsight, we both agreed that we have areas just as beautiful around our neck of the woods and there isn’t a toll involved to see them…

Growing up!

Crystal will be six in January and is now in Kindergarten and officially a Hudson Hornet like her mama!  Until recently, she went to school four days a week and we watched her on Wednesdays, where I did the remote lessons with her among other “adventures”!  For now, she is going all five days, but I’m not holding my breath that that will soon change again.  Crystal is thriving in school and making friends, even though masks are mandatory and there are several distancing restrictions in place which makes bonding a little more challenging.  We have so enjoyed her being with us and as the COVID plans continue to change and morph, there’s a chance she’ll be back with us once again.  I think Crystal really enjoyed learning to bake with Gum Gum and doing some “exploring” with Pops!  Alison and Justin celebrated one full decade of wedded bliss in June!  Oh, and did I happen to mention that Alison was selected as Teacher of the Year for Hudson Elementary after teaching there less than a year?!  Way to go “neighbors”!

As I close this letter, I could go on and on and on about all the horrible events that have taken place here in 2020; for it has seemed like a very long Romco commercial, “But wait, there’s more!”  But instead, I’ll tell you what I’ve missed…the little things.  I’ve missed the spontaneity of going to a movie or grabbing a bite to eat without social distance restrictions.  I’ve missed not being in our church sanctuary, not receiving and/or giving a spontaneous hug when needed, a handshake, of singing in the choir.  I’ve even missed seeing mouths and noses, smiles and frowns, parts of the face that complete a person’s persona but have for now, been masked over.  We even had to cancel our Disney trip with Alison and Crystal that had been planned for early December. 

It matters not whether you think this global pandemic was used to effectively control the masses, a live test on humanity like we’ve never seen before, or just an unfortunate set of circumstances that have gotten us all to this point, we all need to learn from this experience.  We need to appreciate life, family, friends, neighbors, teachers, coworkers, rowdy kids, strangers (and even toilet paper) more, to stop taking every moment that God has freely given us for granted.  Freedom has always had a price attached to it and we’ll all see in the coming years how much we’ve sold our souls to the devil, so to speak, to feel “safe and secure” with a transitioning government IF we have a transitioning government; the jury’s still out, so to speak.  Either way, may God have mercy on our souls; this truly is a troubling time in which we live.

But there’s always hope, which is exactly why we celebrate this season.  For HOPE was born on Christmas Day, in the form of a tiny little baby who became our King of Kings and Lord of Lords; we call Him Jesus!

Love to you and yours this Christmas from Steve, Jenny and Izzy the dog!

Flamingos in the Midst—And Other Christmas Surprises

Christmas has always been a time of surprises and thus was the case at our house one Christmas season. 

One morning we awoke to find a fuchsia flock of three dozen plastic flamingos meandering around on our front lawn.  My wife has always prided herself in presenting tasteful decorations both inside and out so the sight of a potential Griswald Christmas palace sent her into a state of shock.

You see our church youth group had developed a pretty successful scheme to raise money during the holiday season.  The idea was to “flock” a family with the colorful trailer trash version of the more popular tropical birds and hold that family captive until a “ransom” of a predetermined amount was paid to the youth group.  Once the ransom was paid, the embarrassed family could then designate the next “lucky” household to be flocked.  A full two weeks after the stationary stilt legged wonders appeared, they disappeared just as mysteriously.  Our daughter sheepishly admitted to honoring us with their presence; fortunately, my wife has a great memory and we have all the time in the world for the eventual “turnabout is fair play”…

But God has always been in the surprise business, even before the first Christmas was celebrated.  For example, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was “chosen” and was going to have a child even though she was still a virgin.  Talk about a scripted dialogue as she announced to Joseph what was about to come to pass.  And of course Joseph got all bent out of shape and thought of divorcing her before “SURPRISE!”, an angel came to him in a dream and basically told him to put his big boy pants on; this was of God…straighten up and do the right thing!  And then there were the shepherds, just minding their own business as well as their sheep when “SURPRISE!”, an angel came to announce the Christ child’s birth…along with a multitude of heavenly hosts.  Talk about a “Depends” moment!

Thinking back though, it should not have been a surprise to anyone since Christ’s birth was prophesied in Isaiah about seven hundred years before the event.  John 3:16-17 NKJV says,For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  What an ultimate gift, humans!!  And yet, we go through our lives many times as if nothing had ever happened over two thousand years ago or that in our oh so near future a bigger event WILL take place.  James 5:7-9 NIV states, Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!  This doesn’t mean we need to cower down in a corner somewhere, afraid to live out the life that God has mapped out for us.  It just means, like making all the preparations for Christmas Day that we make preparations for Christ’s second and final arrival. 

Are you ready? December 25th comes around once every year and still folks scramble about as if it is a grand surprise on their calendar.  And while we keep an extra gift card tucked away just in case we have an unexpected guest, a $25.00 Big Lots gift card just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to Jesus’ triumphant return…Just sayin…So as you gather this Christmas with your own “flock” of family and friends, just remember that it is better to be surprised by the ugly sweater from aunt Betty than to be unprepared for eternity.

The Devil’s Food Made Me Do It

Author’s note:  I was thinking about this upcoming Thanksgiving and all the things that we have to be thankful for in 2020; just making it this far seems to be a significant accomplishment!  We’ve all been exposed to everything from COVID controversies, to being all wrapped up in toilet paper shortages and experiencing various levels of political paralysis, but by the grace of God, we’ve made it this far!   I know for many, the stress levels have also been through the roof and there doesn’t seem to be very much to smile about these days.  Therefore, I thought a little levity was both in short supply and much needed for a time such as this.  Besides being thankful, I believe most of us associate Thanksgiving with food; lots and lots of food!  And so my struggle begins…enjoy!

It happened just this morning without warning.  I was quietly perusing my e-mails and there it was; a notice from my doctor’s office that I have an upcoming appointment on Wednesday morning.  A sickening sense of loathing enveloped my very being as I mentally went through the clinical dialogue that would occur.  “Oh, it looks like you have gained a little weight since your last visit” the doctor would say with furrowed brow; this profound message coming from a healthcare provider with a physique resembling a pretzel stick with hair.

I know I need to lose weight; this problem is literally right in front of me.  Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” HHhhmmmm…even though I have not embellished this temple with graffiti in the form of tattoos, it appears as though I’m attempting to build on an annex to that temple the scripture was talking about.  Currently, I have the perfect Bubba body.  This body type looks remarkably like a Buddha body, including the distended belly but since I wear a lot of plaid shirts I thought the phrase “Bubba body” made more sense.

I actually took steps to begin an exercise program before Christmas a few years ago.  I purchased a previously owned elliptical machine from my daughter and son-in-law since I was used to using one at the YMCA some time ago.  I climbed aboard and was worn out in no time; then I started moving my legs up and down and really got winded…baby steps, baby steps…I even purchased some resistance bands from Amazon for Christmas.  I always thought the term “resistance band” was an indicator it was time to go up a size in underwear.  Now I know they are nothing more than giant rubber bands with handles that provide resistance to your muscle groups.  They also hurt REALLY badly when you accidentally let go of one of the handles.

It is not like I haven’t been successful losing weight in the past.  I lost almost fifty pounds through Weight Watchers around five years ago.  There were times I even went as far as to schedule my blood donation the afternoon before the “weigh in”.  (Did you know a unit of blood weighs a little more than one pound?)  I also took off my shoes, belt, and contents from my pockets and even got a haircut if I thought it would make a difference at the scales.  I finally reached my goal weight and became a lifetime member which is when the struggle began.  The other participants didn’t really care that you were on the maintenance program.  I mean, how could you share your successes in a room full of scathing looks and snarling teeth?  I guess I could have sweetened them up with a box of donuts…

I blame the Devil for my plumpness as I consider anything that tastes so good but is so bad for me as Devil’s food.  For what pain and suffering must one go through to resist luscious chocolate or the smell and taste of fresh baked yeast bread slathered in butter?  It must be inherently evil to tempt mere humans as it does.  And don’t forget the Devil’s henchmen; the seductress Little Debbie or the conniving Sara Lee or even the sly Sister Schubert.  They are all out to get us!

Of course to be perfectly honest, it is I, who is ultimately responsible for what goes in this mouth of mine.  Paul may not have had weight in mind when he wrote in Romans 7:15 (NIV)—“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”; I find this passage fits in this particular part of my life at the moment.   For it seems so difficult to eat wisely when I know I should, but it’s so easy to slide a Big Mac down my throat. And even though I don’t relish the thought of sitting in front of a plate whose contents look more like a Chia pet than real food, I have to take control of my intake and make better food choices.  It is a matter of being disciplined and accountable, two powerful but seldom used words in our society.  It is a matter of making time for exercise and using portion control to win this particular race.  So here I go, making an effort to make God’s temple once again what it should be; fit and ready for service. So wish me luck!  (…hhmmm…wish…wishbone….wishbone dressing…BLEU CHEESE!!…I’m doomed…)

Forever learning

Mask

The hot humid days that we have endured for so long have finally relented to cooler days and crisp nights.  Another autumn season is upon us with all the sights, smells and tastes that our senses relish.  School is once again in session, but it is anything other than a normal school year for most; the pandemic has changed the complexion on even how teachers instruct and how our children and grandchildren learn and interact.  It’s within that realm of change that I find myself in the role of teacher, instructing our new Kindergartener granddaughter on Wednesday’s in abbreviated studies of learning sight words and correctly writing her ABCs and numbers, as well as basic math skills.  This whole impromptu educator role has me reflecting more on how we learn and grow, beyond our formal education to our life experiences that make us who we are as adults.  Some of those experiences were possibly birthed from embarrassing moments, while others perhaps were more informal in structure, driven home by adults or others we respected that loved us enough to teach us the intangible life lessons that make us who we are.  May I share a couple of embarrassing learning moments that I’ve experienced?

The first occurred around the summer of 1982.  Jenny and I had been married about three years and had a one year old to watch after.  We stopped at the Dayton Mall to visit our JC Penney, the reason why not as important as the lesson I was about to learn.  We got out of the car and I removed the “fold up” stroller that seemed to be a simple chariot for young Alison to ride in but was quite temperamental at times to set up or fold down.  I was pushing the empty stroller toward the curb, lifted the front wheels and proceeded to lift the rear wheels when the stubborn contraption decided to fold up on me; evidently, I hadn’t been a good new dad and made sure everything was locked into place.  Well, the apparatus made a sudden stop but I, however, did not, sailing over the thing like a super hero but landing like a tossed misfit toy.  About that time, two young men had seen what had happened and walked up, not knowing quite what to do until they saw my young bride laughing hysterically which caused the two men to erupt in laughter as well.  They didn’t seem to care that my pride was just lying there, in need of mouth to mouth resuscitation!  Lesson learned: make sure a contraption is in complete working order before using it…

Another “learning” moment came while Jenny was expecting.  Jenny and I had gone to a local steak house in Middletown, which was a rare treat indeed for a couple that seemed to survive on Franco American Ravioli.  I felt really “special” as I waltzed up to the salad bar and proceeded to fill my plate with all kinds of incredible edibles.  One thing I always liked to top my salad with was grated parmesan cheese.  I perused the salad bar until I found what I thought must have been the shaker, so I immediately picked up what I thought was the container and gave it a squeeze, at the same time thinking it was kind of strange that I would have to “squeeze” it.  Immediately, I heard a “whooshing” sound and stood horrified, as I had just sprayed off my salad into the salad bar and half the restaurant!  Lesson learned: be more aware of the tools you attempt to use and understand their intended purpose before using…

For those of you that really enjoyed a taste of self-deprecation at my expense; you’re welcome!  For those of you that are thinking to yourselves, “your mama must have dropped you on your head when you were little; you don’t have a lick of sense”, no she didn’t but yes, common sense is acquired, not inherited.  Which brings me to my next section of life learning: common courtesy and common sense.

Common courtesy should be pretty easy and straightforward but in this day and age, not so much.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines common courtesy as, “politeness that people can usually be expected to show”, thinking of someone else first in a situation, i.e. holding the door open if you see another person coming behind you, etc.  For example, did you know that the turn signal in your car is actually to be used to visually communicate to others of your intentions when you’re going to make a turn? (I’m hoping YOU already know where you’re headed…)  Of course, I do understand that it’s more difficult now, since your hands are either occupied with texting, eating, and such but still, make the attempt!  Another example could be that you have a cart full of groceries and you see someone with two items in their hands; let them go first. 

Or here’s a new one; to mask or not to mask, that is the question.  After all, aren’t my liberties in jeopardy?  Isn’t my personal health at risk more if I wear a mask rather than if I go around maskless; you know, my oxygen level and all?  Believe me, there are times when I’m wearing a mask that I feel more like a hefty carp that’s been tossed up on the river bank, gasping for every desperate breath!  To be perfectly honest, I hate wearing a mask! But then I read, 1 Corinithians 10:23-24 which reflects, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.  That scripture pretty much explains why I do personally wear a mask in public areas.  I wear a mask because it’s a common courtesy to others who don’t know who I am or what kind of risky life choices I may have made, but it’s more than that.  I do it for my wife, who has an immunodeficient system due to medications she takes to combat the effects of Lupus, which she has battled for over thirty years.  I do it because I love her; we’ve been a team for over forty years and we both want to keep going strong; together! It’s only my own personal opinion that wearing a mask just makes sense, common sense; that a person would want to try to protect themselves and their families from something unseen, unwelcome and for some, deadly.  I certainly can’t speak on behalf of everyone; we all have to do what we feel is right on this hot button topic and go forth with our own convictions.  I know I’ve probably just stepped on a lot of toes and if you’ve just tuned out, I understand.  And if you think I’m sharing out of fear, you would be wrong; just trying to be cautious and use a sound mind.  In fact, 2 Timothy 1:7 reflects, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  It’s the same kind of common sense that urged me to pursue a gun permit and subsequent pistol; not because I’m afraid, but because our world has turned upside down in the past six months and therefore, I’m going to make sure my family is properly protected, through our second amendment rights, while we can still exercise that right…

While we still have breath in our lungs, hopefully we are still learning, still growing in Christ, still adding to our common sense and common courtesy lists, still laughing and learning from the mistakes we’ve made, still listening to that still small voice, urging us on to think of and love others as much or more than we love ourselves, to learn to listen more and judge less, to learn to trust God explicitly in all things, not just the easy things in life.  For as long as we’re alive, we should forever be learning and growing.  Now if I could only learn to navigate down the one way grocery aisles…

He Knows My Name

Closer to God

Have you ever watched toddlers and children at play? With all seriousness, they engage their imaginations and become anything their little minds can dream up!  Their minds are little sponges, absorbing information and experiences at an alarming rate.  In fact, by the age of five, their brains are pretty much ninety percent set!  That’s why it is so very important that we instill in these young minds, all that is vitally important; from the basics like what is hot to the touch to their spiritual foundation that God lives in Heaven and made the world and everything in it, that Jesus loves them, to instilling in them the awesome love from their parents.  And don’t underestimate the child’s capacity to understand; for even now, they are interpreting everything they see and hear; perhaps, even what is unseen.

As I look back on my own life, I definitely had a blessed childhood.  We didn’t have all the modern conveniences that most folks already took for granted by then, like running water and an indoor bathroom; if fact, the only running water was the Hocking River that meandered under the black bridge behind our house.   However, we did have clean clothes, good food on the table and there was always an overabundance of love to go around.  And what a playground!  We had the freedom to roam the hills in front of the house, explore the railroad tracks and river behind the house or walk down the dusty gravel road to pay our respects to the neighbors down the way; thus was the enchanted life, living on Robbins Road.

However, when I was around eight years old and in the second grade, my parents purchased a house on Dorr Run Road which was definitely an upgrade from our faded clapboard house, having both running water AND indoor facilities.  By then, it was only the three youngest children out of six that moved with our parents into the two bedroom house.  Dad built a partition in the largest bedroom to separate the “boys” from our sister; the only problem was that the new room was only about four foot wide and could only hold a set of bunk beds and one dresser!  Being the youngest, I had no choice but to take the lower bunk and privacy meant tucking a sheet under the top bunk mattress and draping it over the entrance to the lower bunk.  The one and a half lane road was definitely more populated than the old one with a sprinkling of houses on either side and made complete with a new cast of characters to get to know.

Once again, the area was full of exploration possibilities; from hills and creeks, to strip pits and slag piles, our local “playground” was a child’s dream and a mama’s nightmare.  This is where I learned how thick the creek ice should be to hold my body weight, discovered that baby copperheads could actually swim, that a sulfur creek can turn your underwear orange.  I learned that the much cleaner creek water was upstream from the little creek that spewed raw sewage, that if you wanted to slide down loose sandstone on your backside, you better make sure there weren’t objects sticking up out of the ground first.  This was also the place where I first sensed God’s presence…

I was about nine years old and on one of my “explorations”.  Mom didn’t really seem to care where we were or what we were doing outside as long as we came home for meals and before dark, which varied as Mother Nature changed out one season for the next.  I was climbing up a hill behind John Stufflebean’s property, walking through a stand of tall majestic old growth trees toward the top of a ridge.  It was late spring and the sun was streaming through the trees, illuminating the forest floor below.  As I stood there, absorbing the warmth that the sunrays provided on my face, I felt a presence; not the feeling you get when it seems as if someone is watching you.  No, it was an acute awareness that I was fully known and at the same time, totally loved, enveloped in a peaceful embrace.  There was no audible voice, no angel brushing up against me, no burning bush in front of me; just my soul reaffirming what it already knew.  God was in fact, the almighty Creator and I, his beloved creation.  It was virtually impossible to explain this then and even difficult now, but it happened.

It wasn’t long until the feeling passed and I went on with my life, knowing in my heart with certainty that God was real; He indeed did actually exist and loved me explicitly!  Until recently, I told no one about my experience; instead, I nestled that moment into the recesses of my mind, like a cherished treasure that needed to be protected.  Who would actually believe this tall tale from a nine year old anyway?!  So, life went on and I grew and became a young man who wasn’t necessarily bad but felt lost and knew there was something lacking in my life.  I knew from years of going to Sunday School and infrequently attending church services that I was indeed a sinner and needed to surrender my life to Jesus as my Savior in order to be made complete as God had intended.  I knew that God loved me but that just wasn’t enough; I had to be spiritually restored as his child through His gift of salvation, Jesus Christ.

So, on an evening in May, 1978, at the age of twenty, I attended a revival service with a friend of mine at my home church in Nelsonville Ohio; The First Church of the Nazarene on Adams St.  I don’t remember who spoke or much of anything else that evening except for the relentless tug by the Holy Spirit on my miserable convicted heart.  I went forward to the altar and prayed a pleading prayer of forgiveness; feeling a hand on my shoulder and uttering a supportive prayer was Max Pitts, a longtime member of the church.  I got up and went back to the pew where I had planted myself several moments before but something definitely had changed!  I felt the same but brand new; the colors seemed brighter, the sounds seemed crisper and I felt like laughing and crying at the same time.  After the service, I literally levitated to my car, the lightness of my heart carrying me up the hill.

Once I got home, I immediately told my mom what had happened; she had a pensive, if not, sad expression on her face as she tried to gently tell me that the life I had chosen was a hard one and there would be sacrifices.  I knew that mom was reflecting back on her own life and past, when she accepted Christ and subsequently faced the alienation of family and friends as a result; the constant struggles between her desire to be faithful to God and at the same time, enduring spiritual battles within her own home.  Mom eventually backed off her church responsibilities before I came into this world so I didn’t get to experience that side of mom.  I just know that peering back in hindsight, she was right; I did experience some rejection.  Some friends and family members didn’t know quite what to think of this new Steve or how to interact with me; some chose just not to interact at all anymore.  But I knew in my heart and soul that I was now what I was always meant to be; in a completely restored relationship with my Lord and my God.

Several years have passed and I’m still holding true to my faith in God and cherishing my relationship with Jesus.  It hasn’t been an easy road; there have been many temptations, bad attitudes and blatant sin that had to be dealt with all along this journey, but it has absolutely been worth the trials to experience the joy and peace that sustains me even now.  For the God that knew my name before I was a “sparkle in my father’s eye” as they say, is the same God that met me on the hilltop so many years ago and strengthens me yet today.  So my advice, as time and experience has taught me through the different seasons of my life; if your child comes to you some day with a story that seems farfetched or unbelievable, just listen intently to them, hold them close and pray for wisdom and discernment.  For you never know if/when they might encounter the Eternal in THEIR everyday; for He knows their name as well.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. 

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24

Staged

Staged

Note From the Author:  Even though this piece was written over five years ago, I don’t think it’s relevance can be overlooked.  Life is full of change; some of which is fully embraced and other change, not so much.  If you are familiar with obedience under the Lordship of Christ, you are quite aware that life change is inevitable as God transitions us from where we are to where we need to be…enjoy the journey!

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word TRANSITION is: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: change. Transition is an important part of life and can be both exciting and scary simultaneously.  If we are fortunate enough to live for any length of time, we will go through many “transitions” through our lifetime; from childhood to adulthood, from student to teacher, and if we are truly blessed, from child to parent to grandparent.  As for my wife and me, we are soon transitioning into the grandparent mode.

What makes this transition even more “fun” is the fact we decided to make a physical move to another state which involves my finding other employment.  Since we both have felt a great sense of urgency for some time to make this move, the Saturday after Christmas was a complete tear down, inside and out, of anything that screamed Christmas and/or wasn’t necessary to keep around for the “staging” of the house to prepare it for market.  The word stage seems so innocent but packs a punch as anything that makes a house a home disappears as every room is “staged” to highlight the positive attributes and accentuate the room size as well as to minimize any negative or problem areas.  What was once our safe refuge, our haven of rest has quickly become a sterile model home.

At the same time, my resume has been updated and polished so as to gain the “WOW” factor.  I guess you could say I’ve also been “staged” as I look for employment.

We all try to stage ourselves from time to time, to mask the “real” us from the prying eyes of the public or the hearts of those we love, or even God.  Just ask how someone is doing and you’ll probably have a four letter “F” word flung at you so quick, you’d think a fast ball was thrown at your head.  “FINE!” they would say while deep inside, they were far from it; for inside their hearts the rooms weren’t swept, the beds weren’t made and there was half eaten pizza tossed on the counter top.  It is so easy for clutter to accumulate in the recesses of our soul; but instead of dirty floors it may be resentment, and instead of unmade beds it could be betrayal, and instead of that stone cold stiff piece of pizza it might just be unbridled anger eating away at the peace you so desperately need.

But fortunately for us, Jesus is in the renovation business and he loves fixer uppers.  Jesus doesn’t want us to wait until we are perfect (which we’ll never be in this world) to come to Him, He wants us just as we are; a broken down shack full of cracked walls, leaky pipes, uneven floors and drafty windows.  God wants to make our hearts His home but we have to give Him the permit to do a remodel on us.  And don’t think this will be a painless process; there will definitely be some pain involved as our “stuff” is thrown in the trash bin and walls are blown out to make room for perhaps more love and compassion.

While we allow God to change our hearts and minds, He knows we are a work in progress and it takes time.  Only God knows how much change we can actually take at one time but one thing is certain.  God isn’t “staging” us to impress anyone else.  He IS changing us into what we were meant to be in the first place…an object of His affection.

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ              Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

A Father’s Love

Daddy and Alison

June is a time to celebrate the fathers in your life and being a dad certainly something to celebrate.  There is something about having a daughter that is very special, especially if you are their father. There is such a special bond between a father and daughter that only grows stronger as the years go by. Recently, I was reminded of the importance in telling your children how you feel about them, regardless of how old they are. You see, we men sometimes have a difficult time in sharing our emotions particularly at a deeper level. We may grunt “I love you” from time to time but it seldom if ever goes deeper than that.

I may sound a little biased about having a daughter, yet it’s the only experience I’ve ever had as a dad. My two brothers and I all had girls so we can’t really relate to having a son and heir. But the same sentiments hold true for a father and son as well; and if you have at least one of each, you’ve got to be blessed beyond measure! I guess what I’m attempting to drive home is if you love your kids, and I know you do, tell them! It may be by the nonverbal wrestling around, playing catch or going to their game or school play. It’s all about being available as much as possible; to make the moments count. And if you find no other valid lesson from this Coronavirus quarantine we’ve been living in, it’s this; tell them you love them in your own unique way, but don’t wait! For we never know when that opportunity to demonstrate affection will evaporate like vapor in the wind.

I wrote the following simply to convey to MY daughter how I actually felt about her. If you are a daughter yourself, try to imagine your own father’s voice reciting these words as you read on. I am sure they love/loved you just as much as I love my daughter but perhaps couldn’t express their emotions adequately in spoken words. And just think how much more our Heavenly Father loves us! So as you read through this poem, be thinking about how you can convey to YOUR children how much you love them; they need to see, hear, feel and know that you do…

 

You Will Always Be My Princess

Written by Stephen R Wilson

 

I fell in love with you before you were born

I always knew God would perfectly form,

A little baby girl with brightness and light

That would burst our hearts with complete joy and pride.

You will always be my princess and I’ll be the one

Who will always be your champion to keep you from harm,

Who will always fully love you through whatever life brings

You will always be my princess until the last breath I breathe.

With your tiny fingers wrapped around mine we would walk to the park

“Swing me higher Daddy” you would giggle and bark,

Watching you grow was the highlight of my life

Where did the years go, you are now a beloved wife.

You will always be my princess and I’ll be the one

Who will always be your champion to keep you from harm,

Who will always fully love you through whatever life brings

You will always be my princess until the last breath I breathe.

 

You are now a queen with a princess of your own

And my joy is complete as I watch you move on,

You have a kingdom to rule, a household to run

But if you look over your shoulder you just might see

Your gray haired champion, full of pride and cheering.

You will always be my princess and I’ll be the one

Who will always be your champion to keep you from harm,

Who will always fully love you through whatever life brings

You will always be my princess until the last breath I breathe.

One day when we’re older and my eyes close in death

I ask you’ll remember my ongoing bequest,

That even though I didn’t always say it, I loved you still

And even from Heaven, I always will.

You were always my princess and I was the one

Who was always your champion to keep you from harm,

Who always fully loved you through whatever life brought

You were always my princess, my love will never. ever. stop…

Restoration Day–An Easter Story

Praise

It’s finally spring once again; a time of rebirth and the hope of warmer days ahead. It’s a time when new life bursts forth from the cool damp ground or from the branches of once dormant blossoming beauties. Pollen aside, I love to take in all the newness that envelops our world, transforming our once gray world into a kaleidoscope of colors. Truly, hope blooms alongside the tulips and daffodils, the azaleas and the forsythias! For it reminds us that once, we were wondering around in the icy grips of winter, where there was more darkness than light, where optimism seemed to be swept away by the frigid cold winds of despair. And then one day, the sun came out and restoration began…

I have a confession to make; I’m kind of in to restoration and the shows that are offered on cable, whether it be the popular This Old House reruns or more current shows dealing with taking something old, be it an old Victorian house or an antique gramophone, and restoring it back to its’ former glory. I must look plain silly, sitting there in my recliner, mouth partially gaping open as I’m completely transfixed by these craftsmen who take an old unwanted house and start peeling back the layers, each dusty layer representing one or more decades until they finally uncover the original foundation and floors, the beauty that once was, yearning to be rediscovered once again. Then with painstaking efforts and unique God given talents, these craftsmen begin to restore, brick by brick, wall by wall, the decrepit house into the way it was originally meant to be when it was erected by the builder so long ago.

Did you know that God is in the restoration business as well? What do you think Easter is all about? I know most of you know or even have John 3:16 memorized: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. But what about John 3:17? For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. I’ve always thought that hope was born on Christmas Day, and I still do. For Jesus entered this world, our world, at a very dark time; God knew we needed a Savior because we needed to be saved from ourselves and our sinfulness. And so Jesus began his ministry, recruiting his disciples, simple humans like you and me, ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of the least of these; the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, the downtrodden. Jesus obeyed his Father’s will, up to and including death. They treated Jesus like a common criminal and hung him on a roughhewn wooden cross to die a horrific death and then, to be forgotten. Those who loved him, took his body and laid it in a borrowed tomb. The Romans sealed that tomb and placed soldiers to keep watch, lest his followers attempted to take the body and make unfounded claims. Jesus’ disciples scattered across the winds. While the Romans breathed a deep sigh of relief and the Sanhedrin was doing a happy dance, triumphantly giving each other “high fives” over Jesus’ death, for the bereaved followers of Christ, hope was also sealed in the tomb. And then Sunday came…

And the stone was rolled away, and Christ arose, and everything changed for humanity, and HOPE was restored; for it was Resurrection Day, but I would like to call it Restoration Day; let me explain.

Luke 19:9-10 reflects Jesus coming to Zacchaeus’ house, Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Zacchaeus was a despised man; a tax collector who, because of his diminutive size, had to shimmy up a tree to even see Jesus entering Jericho. Jesus saw something in Zacchaeus that no one else could see; a soul in need of restoration. That’s what Jesus sees in all of us; potential and a need for renewal. All we need to do is trust Him enough to let Him; to ask forgiveness for our sins, our wrong doings, and our bad attitudes, to surrender to the fact that we, indeed, are nothing more than a shabby, neglected and worn down bungalow in desperate need of restoration. And Jesus will do just that! (He IS a carpenter you know…) He’ll strip out the walls of deceit, strip the floors of shame and tear out every unnecessary piece of worn out despair until He lays you bare, to your very foundation on which He can build what you were intended to be all along; to be a child of God and obedient to do His will, not your own, to live with Him forever. 2 Corinthians 5:17   Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

And so here we are, in the present and in the presence of a mortal enemy we call the Coronavirus or COVID19. It’s a virus that has crossed over every continent; across the borders of countries, oceans, neighborhoods, and not unlike Satan himself, is relentless and does not discriminate in its’ victims, despite their color, creed or socioeconomic status. This sinister nemesis has filled humankind with a paralyzing fear and has stripped away our false sense of security we once held on to so tightly, as if it was nothing more than vapor in the wind. Everything mankind has held in importance for so long, whether it be wealth, material possessions, entertainment, social activities or even food consumption seems to be threatened.

But there is still hope! Maybe this is just the wakeup call our world needs today; to help us strip the unnecessary and reset our priorities! Perhaps this is the largest restoration project this world has ever seen since Noah’s time! Nevertheless, it’s time we reevaluate our lives and allow our lives to be stripped of whatever is of little value, until we stand before God, our souls laid bare and ready to be fully restored! Are you prepared to have YOUR own Restoration Day?

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Thought of the Day

Thought of the Day–It’s February 29th: a good reminder that even time needs an adjustment every four years. Who are we, as simple humans to resist God’s desire to make adjustments in our lives? For He loves us enough to want to correct and discipline, so we might become more like Him.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6