Thought of the Day—May our hearts be like the Aloe plant—tough enough on the outside to protect us from the turmoil of this world, but soft enough to absorb life giving nutrients. And like the aloe plant, may our hearts have healing properties to apply to the hurts of others…
Thought of the Day—I’m only as far as your next prayer breathed or your next thought realized…God
Thought of the Day—“I sure would like another pay cut”, said no one…ever. Why do we short change ourselves when it comes to God’s resources? He will provide our needs if we would only ask Him…Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Thought of the Day—Do you want to shake up your family tree? Try staying connected with your loved ones and being as much a part of each other’s lives as possible. For love is the sap that keeps flowing through that healthy family tree…
Thought of the Day—Sometimes when life becomes too much and we concentrate on our daily struggles to the point of skewing reality, we need to just take a step back from the cold, dark room of despair, turn around and peer out life’s window for a while; to take a long, hard look at life all around us so we can once again gain a proper perspective and a new appreciation for our own life and the possibilities that God has laid before us…
Have you ever had the opportunity for a second chance in life? The old saying goes, “you never have a second chance to give a good first impression”; but we are also taught to go that extra mile and give others an opportunity to prove themselves. Many times in a young child’s life, perception IS reality; and part of that perception involves a type of judgment. Isn’t it interesting how we judge people at times? Instantly, perhaps harshly, and without merit, we analyze someone’s physical attributes, mannerisms, and verbal signatures; after which we mentally determine whether we want another encounter with the subject of observation. I guess we grandkids were no different in that respect…for we all agreed that our grandpa was mean!
Grandpa Phillips was an intimidating looking old man with skeletal like facial features and a shock of snow white hair on top of that skeleton head. Earlier in life, perhaps at a low point, our grandpa attempted to take his own life. Some would call it a twist of fate and others, a brush of an angel’s wing, but our grandpa missed his mark and blew his left arm off instead. That absence of an arm in an empty sleeve, tucked into his trousers completed the total ”evil scarecrow” appearance.
Grandma and Grandpa Phillips lived in a small hamlet called Doanville, just outside of our hometown of Nelsonville in Ohio. Driving up to their house, I always got butterflies in my stomach and a sense of dread enveloped me. Their small, white house was nestled behind two gigantic pines, standing tall and majestic like two forest green soldiers standing at attention. The walkway led beyond the gate and between the two towering trees. The wind, whistling through the massive evergreens, gave an even more ominous feeling as we approached the dark, dank abode.
Grandpa Phillips was the “watcher” of their front porch when family came to visit. He seemed to delight in brandishing his belt or razor strap, threatening the visiting little yard apes from climbing the expansive banisters, which made the temptation to mount the white, wooden steed just a little more appealing.
Mom would tell us from time to time that grandpa wasn’t always like that. She had fond memories of her dad reading her bedtime stories at night. The only stories I could envision were grotesque fairy tales where wart laden witches devoured innocent little children, lost in the wood…
However, somewhere along the line in grandpa’s life, something had definitely changed. I didn’t know the details, only that grandpa had accepted Jesus into his life. He asked my dad if he could pick up grandma and him for church sometimes at the Church of the Nazarene on Adams St. They both sat toward the front of the sanctuary and I remember a bright smile on grandpa’s face during the service. My perception of grandpa certainly changed as he himself was changing from week to week. John Edward Phillips had been given a second chance at life after his botched attempt at taking his own and now, his entire life had eternally changed as he fully embraced his new life in Christ. I remember going Christmas caroling with our church in 1970 at their house. Both of my grandparent’s faces were just beaming as they listened to our less than perfect voices belting out carol after carol. Grandpa passed away on the same day we celebrate Christ’s birth each year, December 25th of 1970.
There are many examples of God giving second chances in the bible. Jonah’s disobedience to God resulted in Jonah being swallowed by a huge fish where he literally spent three days and nights in the stench of his own poor decision. But God gave him an out, being thrown up by the fish so he could be submissive to God and preach to the people of Nineveh, giving them a chance to turn from their evil ways. God agreed with Abraham to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah from total destruction if only ten righteous men could be found in the cities. Saul, the great persecutor of the Christians in the New Testament was literally stopped in his tracks by God using a bright light that temporarily blinded him and got his attention to the point of conversion. Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul, the great evangelist.
We’ve all been given second chances in life, regardless of circumstance. I guess we could say we’ve been given many chances in our lifetime! They may not have been as dramatic as a near fatal accident and it could have been something as simple as the act of forgiving someone or perhaps the restoration of trust. Regardless of the situation in life, God does not give up on us. He went as far as sending His son to the cross for our sins, so we could indeed be reconciled back to Him and not have to face eternal separation from God. Talk about going the extra mile! That’s the ultimate love in action, pure and simple…
I have always heard that somewhere buried along the fence line of the Greenlawn cemetery, lays my grandpa’s left arm. But I am very confident that his soul is rejoicing right this moment as he worships our God of second chances.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
A few weeks ago, the beautiful rolling hills of the North Carolina foothills were blessed with snow. Not the two to four inches predicted by our spot on Meteorologists, but eight wonderfully fluffy fun filled inches of the white stuff. And while some folks probably spit from utter frustration, the fact that it was a Saturday and we hadn’t seen the frozen crystals in a while made for some authentic excitement.
So what did we do in response to our icy gift? I had always been taught work before play so we got out the snow shovels and went about carving paths through the driveway until we had the pavement cleared enough for the sun to take over. Next was fun time!
Our daughter and son-in-law had taken our granddaughter to “reintroduce” her to the frozen fun. None of us had sleds so I pulled out a boogie board from the garage as a makeshift sled. We proceeded to pull little Crystal up and down their driveway. Meanwhile, Grandma got momentarily blessed with a spark of childhood and fell backwards into the snow, making inanimate snow angels in the yard. During this flurry of activity, the cell phones were out in number, recording these events. I had my phone camera at the ready as well and was capturing different snow scenes when I snapped the one reflected above.
The snow laden statue in its’ current state seemed too familiar. Of course this WAS our statue, named after our daughter, Alison, in our own yard, but there was something else. I’ve seen people throughout the years look exactly like this and I have experienced it myself. But it wasn’t snow weighing heavy upon their shoulders; it was layers of burdens. For just like that statue, sometimes we get so “snowed under” with the very burdens of life, we are frozen in place from fear, grief, pain, worry, doubt, addictions, sin and/or despair. And just like that statue, sometimes we allow the burdens to become so great and we get buried under to the point of not being about to see clearly or hear distinctly.
Of course our mouth is still unhindered and we find ourselves uttering all kinds of cursing and exclamations as we furiously shake our fists at the sky and declare, “I didn’t deserve this!” “Why me Lord?” “Why am I being tested like this?” “Why did God allow this to happen to such a nice person?” I’m afraid I am short on answers but here’s a question for you…why not? If you are human (and I bet every one of you reading this actually is), you WILL have a mixed nut variety of good times and bad times that stirred together, add up to…well…life.
God didn’t promise anyone an easy life or even another hour; He only promised that He would be there with us in the midst of the good times AND the bad times. I think the following may sound familiar to most of you: The 23rd Psalm (NIV) says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Somewhere along the lines, I think we may have forgotten that God truly is our heavenly Father and we need to lean on Him totally, giving all of our burdens to Him and trusting that He is ALWAYS looking out for our good, not for our wants necessarily but our needs. Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) reflects, “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
When we truly give our burdens to God, you can practically feel the weight lifted from your shoulders. Relief melts away the fear and dread of our burdens as we allow Him to put life back into its’ proper perspective. There’s an old hymn chorus that reads, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” (Trust and Obey by John H. Sammis, 1887) One of the verses says, “Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, but His smile quickly drives it away; not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear, can abide while we trust and obey. Such truth in this refrain! For even when the storm clouds of life seem to linger, we know the sun is still shining and burns away the doubt clouds of our hearts.
So the next time you get hit alongside of your head with a snowstorm of worries and you find your joints beginning to cease up from fear, just remember that God is as close as your next heartbeat and the whispered plea from a sincere soul. He can melt your doubts and give you direction as long as you trust…and obey…
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:16-18 (NLT)
“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 20:20 (NLT)