A Little Bummed in Bethlehem

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As Christmas once again approaches, you can almost feel the anticipation in the air along with perhaps panic, dread and impending doom on the part of those last minute procrastinators.  It is the time of year when the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the holiday beckon you once again to experience Christmases past.  For lying dormant in the souls of adults is their inner child anxious to burst forth and once more relive the Christmas magic of their childhood, even if some of the memories were less than memorable.

When I was very young, my family lived in an old clapboard house, the back of which faced the massive black railroad trestle that spanned the Hocking River which we lovingly called the “Black Bridge”.  The house was small for a family of seven and had no running water.  One coal stove sat in the middle of the living room and served as the heating source for the entire structure, even though it more than fell short to heat the “boy’s room”.  Every year a few weeks before Christmas, our mom would ask her kids to write a letter to Santa and list what we would like for Christmas.  Being the youngest of six children, I would need assistance in drafting this “special” letter.  After our letters were complete, we would put the “messages of hope” into the coal stove so that the smoke and sparks would lift the special delivery upwards and straight to the North Pole…at least that’s what our Mom and older siblings would tell us.  We knew the true meaning of Christmas was the birth of the Christ child but Santa had to be real too…right?

One year, my sister Jennifer and I had finished making our lists and had just tossed them in our version of Santa’s mailbox when Jennifer exclaimed, “They’re just burning up!!  They aren’t going to Santa!  There’s no such thing as Santa Claus!!”  I sheepishly looked around the room as the others tried to assure my bratty bigger sister that there really WAS a Santa Claus; meanwhile, a sinking feeling hit the pit of my stomach as the possible realization set in…bummer.  I found out later that Santa indeed had a distribution center in town at Maurer’s Five and Dime; Mom would go there every week to give them a little money to secure our gifts and make sure Santa still brought our toys…sounded like extortion but I played along…

Fast forward just a few years and we had really moved up in the world.  When I was around eight, my parents bought a house that actually had running water and flushable toilets!  There were three of us kids left at home and our Christmas traditions continued.  Glitter dusted pine cones suspended by red satin ribbons adorned the front door.  The pungent aroma of pine filled the air as pine sprigs decorated the mantle of our oversized fireplace.  The Christmas tree was decked out in fine garland, multicolored lights and ornaments before being embellished with thin strands of silvery icicles which clung to everything but the tree.

It was during this time that I got a little savvier about the gifts under the tree.  I knew surprises would eventually show up on Christmas Eve but I just KNEW what some of those presents already nestled under the tree were.  The dreaded socks and underwear…bummer!  Our family had Christmas on Christmas Eve each year and we would gather in the living room and turn the overhead lights on which were only to be used for special occasions.  When it came my turn to open gifts, I would try my best to find and open the lowliest of gifts; socks, underwear and a fresh pair of flannel pajamas first to get them out of the way.  The pajamas would last until early spring when there would be holes worn in the knees and the legs would then be cut off to make “spring” pajamas.  Don’t get me wrong, I did appreciate my parents’ efforts but I wanted the FUN stuff and besides, I could pull the end of my socks out and tuck them under my feet to avoid the toe holes and to make them last a little longer, right?

Let’s go back a couple thousand years to a little town called Bethlehem where the Christ child was born.  Sure, there were shepherds wowed by angels and later, wise men mesmerized by a star, and of course Mary experiencing not only the miracle of birth but bringing forth the savior of the world?!  That would surely be something to celebrate but yet there were others milling around that just didn’t have the same mind set and enthusiasm.  You see the Jews were awaiting their promised Messiah, the one that would bring an army of angels and completely annihilate their enemies.  They wanted a super action figure that would raise his mighty sword and smite their opponents but instead, what they received was a tiny little swaddler that couldn’t raise his own head, let alone an impressive rapier.  They wanted the latest and greatest toy and ended up with their version of…well…socks and underwear…bummer.  And so they systematically tossed their hope and salvation aside like some unwanted gift and walked away.  They rejected the perfect gift of God, what they really needed and had prayed for; instead of embracing this priceless gift of Love, they nailed it to a rough hewn wooden cross…

As I have gotten older, hopefully I’ve gotten a little wiser.  Sure, I’m still like a kid at Christmas time.  And we all want something cool, exciting, different and stimulating in life as well.  We want to ignore the mundane and go straight for the latest and greatest, the flashiest and finest.  But life isn’t as much about the flash as it is about the gift of the everyday and ordinary moments, the trials and the learning times that God puts in our lives to make us stronger and better for Him.  Here’s an example of what I am talking about.  Earlier in the year, I somehow injured my lower back which really compromised my day to day activities.  I finally sought out and found a good chiropractor who began my treatments back to eventual health.  I had been deaf in my right ear for approximately fifteen years prior to this treatment from Meniere’s disease.  Through the neck manipulations as part of his treatment protocols, the nerves going to my ears were stimulated to the point of causing a sixty-seven percent restoration of my hearing in my right ear.  With the use of a hearing aid, I now have complete use of my “deaf” ear once again.  Some may call this a “happy accident” but I call it God working in our everyday to bring good from a bad situation; my “socks and underwear” moment became a gift of restoration and thanksgiving.

Just something to think about as we head into Christmas week.  So what do you say?  Isn’t it time we appreciate the gift of life, love, family and memories this Christmas?  How about giving the gift of time to spend with a loved one, you know the gift of your presence?  Oh, and by the way…I’m sure we have kept the tradition alive and well in our family for I know for a fact that our granddaughter has some pretty pairs of Paw Patrol panties and sport socks in her stocking…

James 1:17–Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Wilson Christmas Letter 2016

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It’s December 1st!  The turkey has been tossed and the pumpkin pie pitched.  The credit cards are still very warm and flexible from Black Friday.  Yep, we are firmly snuggled in to the holidays.  But what comes next you might ask?  Well, the annual Wilson Christmas letter of course!  So curl up with your favorite large mug of stimulant and enjoy!

                                                                                                                                                                Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas from the Wilsons!!

 

A big welcome from the state of confusion; from wildfires to floods, riots to bathroom laws, not to mention a political swing state!  And it is going to take more than Bath and Body Works to remove the stench from this election year.  But alas, I digress…

This year has been fairly uneventful family wise.  I am still adjusting to being “Stevie Homemaker” as I have not yet started back to work.  This doesn’t mean I’m sitting around all the time; every day seems to bring on a new set of “opportunities” that keep me quite busy.  In fact, I’m not sure how we got everything accomplished when we both worked.   I am still writing as I am led and inspired so if you have a burst of courage or curiosity, log in to www.lifesimplyspoken.com and take a peek!

Jenny celebrated (tolerated) her twenty-fifth year working for OneAdvanced which used to be Vista which used to be Advanced which used to be CSH Group which used to be Iris, which used to be Transoft, which used to be Easirun which used to be Sinc, Inc.  No wonder she answers the phone with “UHhhh?”  One of the big highlights for Jenny this year was being called for jury duty to serve as a juror on a murder trial this fall.  All of her prayer efforts seemed to pay off as they suddenly had to postpone the trial and she was off the hook.

We managed to take a couple of vacations during the year; we went to North Myrtle Beach in April and to the Shenandoah Valley in September. Alison, Justin and Crystal were able to meet us at the beach for an extended weekend and it was great watching Crystal experience the sand and surf for the first time.  I also sneaked back up to Ohio in late September to say “HEY” to former coworkers and family as well as pick up “Buckeye supplies”; items we crave but can’t get in North Carolina.

Jenny and I are also fully embracing our roles as grandparents for there is no role more rewarding.  Crystal will turn two on January 31st of next year and I know Alison and Justin can’t wait to wander into the “terrific twos”!! Watching little Crystal grow and swinging-crystallearn is pure joy in action.  Looking back at this past year in pictures of Crystal’s life, there has been such a dramatic change in appearance, abilities, and personality.  Crystal loves to analyze every little thing that goes on around her so many times, she has a very serious looking face which makes picture taking a challenge.

Crystal has a great little sense of humor, loves to try new things, and doesn’t forget anything.  Her favorite color is purple which thrills her grandma to death.  One of her favorite toys is a Minnie Mouse scooter car we got her last year.  She just loves to fly up and down the hallway on it.

One of the highlights during the Thanksgiving season was three generations working together to make pumpkin pies.  Crystal’s attention span was waning just a bit but I’m sure Grandma Wilson won’t be deterred and this will become a regular learning time.

As I bring our Christmas letter to a close, I am reminded of how divided our country is as we approach 2017.  We will have a new president at the helm and we need to lift this new administration in prayer as they attempt to unite our broken country and move forward with one identity—Americans! There are many who would love to see our nation fail and fall but I would like ALL of us to disappoint these factions and begin the healing process from the inside out.  Believe it or not folks, we are all on this same boat called the USS USA and whether you consider this a battleship, a cruise ship, a party boat, or a simple houseboat we are ALL in this together and if we don’t get this right, we will ALL go down with the ship.  What better time of year to put into practice “Peace on earth, good will toward men”.  But it starts with me…and you…2 Chronicles 7:14  If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!!

From Jenny, Steve and Izzy the dog

I Have to Go Now

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Photography and words by Stephen R Wilson

“When you gotta go, you gotta go”…how many times have you heard this phrase?  It could mean anything from “I’ve got to get going” to “I have to use your facilities”.  The phrase describes action; moving from one place to another.  There are several verses in the New Testament that reflects Jesus telling his disciples to “go and do”.  Mark 16:15 states — He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”   If we are believers in Christ, we are indeed tasked to go and do, to reach out and minister to those around us.

But have we forgotten that Jesus was sent first?  Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Where would we be if God had not sent His son to “seek and save” the lost?  That is what the poem reflected below is all about; Christ leaving His perfect kingdom to save our condemned world…

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I Have to Go Now

Walking around my Father’s place

In heaven’s magnificent splendor,

This is the only home I have ever known

His light, love and blessings are mine forever.

 

But I desire to do His will

My full heart yearns to obey,

So I must leave this home I know

To save the lost in another place.

 

I have to go now to do my Father’s will

You see the world below is hurting and needs some saving grace,

I know it won’t be easy but these souls are well worth pain

So I will become a little child and one day take their place.

***

It has been over three decades that I have walked here on earth

My ministry is almost over but my very being throbs and hurts,

For there are so many needs, the sin is great and life here is very hard

Even my disciples seem to be discouraged and think our work here is cursed.

 

But as my Father has led me on and kept me spotless still

The love my Father has for these helpless souls will soothe my pain to come,

For I am here to teach and love, to share my Father’s promises

And now I am to lay my life as an unblemished lamb to by all means save some.

 

So I have to go now to do my Father’s will

To take on the sin of all, to climb Golgotha’s hill,

And as they pierce my hands and feet, and lift me to the sky

My love for you has not diminished, as I cry out “it is finished” and I die.

***

I open my eyes, it is cold and dark, I can’t hear my Father’s voice

But I hear the demons hiss and sneer, “you’ve done it master!” are their cries,

“I have you now” Satan screams “All humanity is mine!”

Everything seems lost in this pitch black hell but I know it’s only lies.

 

All at once the ground is shaking as I hear my Father’s cry

Arise, my son the time has come, now leave this grave behind,

Satan shouted “that’s not fair”, his death was the final blow

“You fool”, God stated, “through my Son is salvation to all and death has been denied”.

 

I have to go now to share that I’m alive

To show my disciples that I beat death’s eternal sting,

Now I go to prepare a place for all those who believe

But I will send a Comforter friend that will encourage you just like me.

 

I will be back someday soon to complete my Father’s plan

To collect my beautiful faultless bride, to take her lovely hand,

When my Father gives the call, I will break the eastern sky

And gather to gather the faithful, those who will never ever die.

John 20:21-23 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Revelation 22:20   He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Who Are You…Really?

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“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” Jeremiah1:5

Have you ever had what you thought was a great idea, but when that idea actually went into fruition, had second thoughts?  It was late October of 1980, I was twenty-two and working in a not so major retail chain as the manager of a shoe department.  We had just received the head nod from management that we could in fact dress up on Halloween day for the store.  I’ve always had somewhat of a penchant for creativity and this green light gave me the opportunity to be “somebody else” for a day.  I thought and schemed about my transformation until I landed on what I thought would be the perfect disguise.  What would be the direct opposite of a white man than…a black woman.

Convinced as I was that this was a great idea and undeterred from the hesitation of others, I set my plan in motion.  I borrowed an old house dress from someone and a black wig from another; the dress was long enough to support long wool socks and work boots so my legs were covered.  A fellow coworker, we’ll call her Pearlene, just happened to sell Mary Kay cosmetics and let me use her sample ebony make up.  What can I say; the transformation was a long leap of faith in a short amount of time.

The day arrived for the great “unveiling” and I hurriedly got myself ready and out the door.  Complete with pillows for my bosoms and a bandana on my head, I rushed over to Pearlene’s house to show off what “we” had done.  I arrived and stepped on her porch, knocked on the door and stepped back so she could admire the “complete package”.  Pearlene opened the door and her mouth flew open, her eyes grew wide as she uttered “what do you want?”  I took a step forward while replying “it’s me, Pearlene!”  My step forward triggered a guttural scream and Pearlene uttered something unintelligible as she jumped back and slammed the door in my face.  I sheepishly knocked on the door again and announced that I was Steve…remember?  Her response behind closed doors was…”is it really you?”  That was the first time I really doubted my decision to be something I wasn’t and knew the day would become quite interesting.

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I arrived at the store before opening and received the obvious responses I was expecting from my coworkers, but when the customers started to arrive, I was met with a completely different set of reactions.  The stares, glares and finger pointing was beginning to take its’ toll on me as I attempted to spend the remainder of my work day either in the stock room, break room or lurking around between shelving units in the aisle ways.  Who could blame the customers though; they innocently came in to buy their package of paper towels and toilet plunger and were met in the aisle by a hazel-eyed drag version of Mrs. Butterworth!

Fast forward to present day and real life.  I guess it is just human nature to not be satisfied with who you are but to be someone or something different.  People have a tendency to weigh their own attributes before peering over the fence at their neighbors so they can covet or desire what they feel is lacking.  “I want to be taller, shorter, have more money, less body mass, a beautiful body, a great personality, work less, play more, to be married, to be free, the list goes on and on.  The problem is, God made us just the way we are; He LOVES us just the way HE made us, and His intent is to use us with all of what we would consider our “shortcomings”…for His glory.  In Psalm139:14 (NIV) David exclaims, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  How many of us are prepared to drop our self deprecating, degrading attitudes and embrace ourselves fully and unconditionally as God see us, warts and all?

Here is another train of thought…if you are truly supposed to love yourself “Just As I Am”, shouldn’t you love the ones around you just the way THEY are?  Matthew 22:35-40(NIV) reads, “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Hhhmmm…could that even include the acceptance of your neighbor’s own political lean or preference?  Yep, it is a lot harder to implement that commandment than to embrace it but is essential if you want to successfully play in life’s sandbox.

So, look in the mirror.  Who are you really?  Are you someone walking through life wishing you were someone else?  Or have you fully embraced the one you were meant to be?  If you have committed your life in Christ, you are God’s child (John 1:12), you are a member of Christ’s body (I Corinthians 12:27), you are a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20), and you should have confidence that God will perfect the work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6).  Just something to think about the next time you are tempted to surf the web for a plastic surgeon.

So go ahead and explore who you were meant to be.  As for me this Halloween season, I’m going to dress up and become what I have been for many years now; a character from Dennis the Menace…Mr. Wilson…

What Love Is

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I have a confession to make…I’m really getting a hair past tired of all the news and social media blasts concerning everything from the upcoming election to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding recent gun violence in America. And who can’t forget the two so called presidential debates where a couple of geriatric juvenile delinquents take turns digging into their diapers of deception and throwing out a handful of libelous crap from one another’s recent and/or not so recent pasts. While attempting to avoid the visual and auditory stench from such a display of inappropriate behavior (perhaps a lesson to your older children on how not to act?), I am reminded of how far down the dark path of destruction our country has taken.

Don’t get me wrong, we still live in the greatest country on earth but for how long? It makes me think of one big thing we lack now…love; a love for country, a love for family, a love for one another and sadly enough sometimes, a loving relationship with God. Right now we are truly reaping what we have sown; we have taken God out of our schools, homes and hearts. 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) reminds us of what love is. John 3:16 (For God so loved…) reminds us of the ultimate love in action.

Reflected below is my take on love based on those scriptures. May it be a reminder to you as well that we must put God’s love in action through us…DAILY! Our very souls may depend on it…

What Love Is

Do not pace but patient be

Show kindness to those who exhibit cruelty,

Do not envy and do not brag

But be humble and thankful for what you have,

 

For Love is patient Love is kind

It does not judge, it does not lie,

Love always perseveres, always trusts

God has more than enough love for each of us.

 

Have the same respect for others as your own self-respect

Put the interests of others before your own selfish sense,

Keep your anger in check and your resentments to zero

If you want God’s love to burn in you then you must learn to love all others.

 

For Love is patient Love is kind

It does not judge, it does not lie,

Love always perseveres, always trusts

God has more than enough love for each of us.

 

For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son

That whosoever believed in Him would never walk alone,

His perfect plan, His perfect love from death to victory

All so we could turn from sin and find His love complete.

 

God is patient, God is kind

But one day His judgment will be in line,

When we stand before Him and our deeds are revealed

For those who trust in Jesus, may His love, grace and mercy prevail!

 

Oldies But Goodies

Hour glassSometimes it’s good to just take a look back at your life and what you have gone through and/or what you have accomplished so you can properly appreciate where you are now or perhaps make life adjustments as you continue on down life’s road.  That’s probably why Throw Back Thursdays are so popular; you get to see snippets of your own or someone else’s past in pictures.  Sometimes those snapshots take you right back to where you were, what song might have been playing, or who you were with.  At times, however, it could just be one big old embarrassing blast from the past that you would just as soon forget about.

I have been going through some of the older blog posts I had posted over the past couple of years.  Reflected below are ten that may make you smile, grimace or even ponder…enjoy!

Getting High and Loving It
Heads Up!
Illuminate Us O Lord
Living The Trashy Life
Lookie What I Did!
Perfect Imperfections
Squirrel!!
Sshhh…Listen
Trapped in an Antique Mall
Well, That’s Not Fair!!

Forty

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The number forty has always been a very significant number in biblical history.  Moses was up on the mountain with God for forty days and nights and came back down with ten little laws to live by…well, at least to keep the Israelites in line–the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28)  It rained for forty days and nights and flooded the earth.  Can you imagine what the dew point level was when Noah landed on Mount Ararat? (Genesis 7:1-24) The grumbling Israelites wandered through the desert for forty years until the entire generation of grumblers had perished. (Numbers 14:26-35)  Prior to the beginning of his ministry, even Jesus fasted and prayed forty days while being tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  Just think what will power Jesus must have had to fast for forty days while the devil is holding up their version of a Big Mac and fries?! (Matthew 4:1-11)

Fast forward to the 21st century and the number forty is still a major milestone in our lives for it marks the unofficial “end” of our chronological youth and a large misstep into maturity.  That’s right boys and girls; it marks the end of your association with the “in crowd” as you cross over to the “Over-the-Hill” gang…It begins so innocently with all things black and unique gift ideas that include: Preparation H, denture cream, denture cleaner, walkers, canes, wheelchairs…I don’t have time for an exhaustive list but you get the idea.  This “special” birthday usually ends in a severe case of depression, re-evaluation of your life and staring directly into the bright light of the oncoming train called midlife crisis.  It’s that time of life when things that happen to “other people” begin to happen to you!  The sad thing is, I’ve already had that special birthday plus enough years to make up a legal high school graduate…(OK, for those of you who are trying to figure this out…40+18=?)

Hhhmmm…where was I?…Oh yeah…high school graduate and another “forty” event.  This evening on August 12th, 2016 at Burr Oak lodge in Ohio, folks will be kicking off the Fortieth high school reunion for the Nelsonville-York class of 1976—GO BUCKEYES!  This weekend is sure to be packed with a lot of fun memories and life stories and even though I won’t be physically present, I WILL be there in spirit.

The year 1976 was of course our country’s bicentennial year and even though our school colors were brown, off white, and orange (blame my brother’s class for picking those stupid colors minus the orange…) we had to graduate in bicentennial red, white, and blue.  It was the age of vinyl records and vinyl platform shoes, of bell bottom jeans and leisure suits.  And as I look back, it was also an age of confusion.

I have to smile as I think back of how serious we were in high school; trying to make those good grades, attempting to fit in and just survive until graduation day came along.  We had our jocks, cheerleaders, brainiacs, bandy’s, the cool kids, and of course “the others” which had to be placed in the miscellaneous category.  We had the ones that were “all that”…I didn’t know what “all that” was but I was sure I didn’t have it, didn’t know where to find it, and didn’t even know whether it was contagious…

I remember vividly thinking on our special day, after the diplomas were handed out, “oh crap, what now”?…life my friend…and so it was that our graduating class was dispersed in the winds to work, go to college, start raising families and to find out who we really were without a secure support system.

The first few class reunions after graduation seemed to be a five year regrouping of the jocks, cheerleaders, brainiacs, bandy’s, the cool kids, and of course “the others”.  By now, reunions seem to be more like survivalist camps for we have all survived a few decades of life with all its’ possibilities, realities, pain, joy and regret.  Many of us have been forever changed by illness and loss but have also been able to smile and continue on with the support of our loved ones.  Most of us by now have had children and grandchildren and are thrilled to watch the next generations play their part in this big family called humanity.

But guess what Class of 76?  We are not dead yet!  We are not finished playing our role in this dramatic play called life.  Only God knows what He holds for our futures but I bet we have a few more “forty” experiences ahead of us.  Our careers may be winding down in the next few years or so but our responsibility to be good examples for our future generations still needs to be as strong as ever.  As for me, God willing, it will be a fortieth wedding anniversary in a few years.  I’m just trying to make sure the number forty doesn’t pop up around the waist…

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 Psalm 103:17-18 (NLT)  But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!

Luke 1:50 (NLT) He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.

Observations on life and Spiritual Implications