Tag Archives: new life

The God of Second Chances

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 Little Bummed in Bethlehem

nativity-retro

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.

Little Hands and Tiny Feet–One Year Later

Happy birthday little Crystal!  I can’t believe it has been a year since you arrived into our adult little world, changing us all and breathing in new life.  How the time has flown as you have grown from newborn, to infant and now toddler.

We call you the chameleon child for you have so many facial expressions that change in an instance, making you appear as different little girls; sometimes you look just like your mommy did at your age and sometimes more like your daddy in the eyes but you are always your unique self.  I cannot believe you still have your beautiful dark blue eyes while both of your parents have brown.  God truly made you special.

It is such a joy to see your little personality come forth, like a tightly wrapped rose bud beginning to open.  Your mischievous smile and those twinkling eyes betray your gentle persona.

Your grandma and I both count it a privilege to be able to live so close now and enjoy all the special little AND big moments in your life.  We will try hard not to spoil you too much but smother you with love and kisses…for one thing is crystal clear…you are loved…even more as the days go by!!

Crystal basket

Reflected below is the original post from last year…enjoy!!

On January 31st of 2015, I added another hat to life’s hat rack; that of being a new grandfather.  And as I ponder on what has transpired this past month, it has been nothing short of amazing how one small life can change the lives of so many others.

As this new twig has formed on our generational family tree and as this beautiful fragile bloom has blossomed in the dead of winter of our ordinary lives, so blossoms the hopes and prayers we all have for little Crystal Nicole.  For in the miracle of birth, all things are new, a blank slate presents itself to be scribed by the hilarity of life’s experiences.  And as a side benefit, we adult humans get to relive our childhood through the eyes of the child, to be rejuvenated by a simple giggle or an innocent goo.

The following lyrics were inspired by this beautiful imp who has completely imprinted upon my heart.

 

Little Hands and Tiny Feet

Written by Stephen R. Wilson

You came a little early but just in time for you

With reddish brown hair — eyes of deep blue,

From your small safe world to one filled with love

In your mama’s warm embrace and your daddy’s gentle hugs.

       Chorus:

Little hands and tiny feet

What will your future be,

For God has so much for you

His promises He brings,

For your journey has just begun

And your life is full of hope,

This one thing is crystal clear

You are loved.

Maybe you will follow your mommy

And try to fill her big shoes,

Influencing young lives and growing minds too

A teacher with grace and so much love to give,

Knowing we only have one life to live.

 

Perhaps like your daddy you will be

Inquisitive about life and all that it brings,

Embracing the riches of life’s simple things

Whether it is fishing, shooting or digging for treasure

His devotion to you cannot be measured.

 

Chorus:

Little hands and tiny feet

What will your future be,

For God has so much for you

His promises He brings,

For your journey has just begun

And your life is full of hope,

This one thing is crystal clear

You are loved.

You see it really does not matter who you turn out to be

As long as you follow in the steps of the One,

For He will direct your paths and lead the way

To make you the woman you are destined to become.

 

So enjoy your little life with all its’ pleasures

Run and play, giggle and laugh, be a kid inside forever,

Love with all your heart, your loved ones around you

For with wrinkle-wrapped eyes we are watching you too,

With broad smiles, love-filled hearts and high hopes for your future

It has become crystal clear—you are loved!

 

Chorus:

Little hands and tiny feet

What will your future be,

For God has so much for you

His promises He brings,

For your journey has just begun

And your life is full of hope,

This one thing is crystal clear

You are loved.

Just chillin

 

Photograph by Joy Davis Photography