From the Darkness…


Coldness surrounded her without compassion.  As she opened her eyes, darkness surrounded her, like a cloth smothering life itself.  Why she felt the pressure of fear and terror, she couldn’t understand.

Around her felt cold and wet.  Sounds that placed fear in the souls of men overwhelmed her ears.  Creaking, stepping and scratching could be heard all around.  It was as if nails were carving out the walls as if trying to escape the horror.

“Why is it so dark and cold?” she asked herself.  She didn’t understand where she was or why she was there.

Her surroundings started to feel tight.  Walls closing in at a slow pace and without escape.  The floor and ceiling started to collapse around her.  Fear and terror overcame her emotions.

“Why is this happening to me?” she cried out.  “Help! Someone help me!”

The pressure from above, below and sides crushed not only her mind and soul but her body as well.  If that wasn’t bad enough, drips of water collided with her head.  One by one they smashed her head as if mocking her, torturing her, beating her into submission.

“Help”, she again cried with vigor and fear.  “Someone help me!”

Hours felt like months, days like years and yet her situation never changed.  Darkness, coldness, wetness and terror spent adequate time with her.  She fought and fought, but the more she struggled, the less she could move.  Tighter and tighter her surroundings became.  What was she to do?  How was she to escape?

“Help me, please”, she cried with less vigor and hopelessness.  “Please someone, anyone!”  However, no one ever came.  No one ever heard.

She could feel something move by her feet.  “What was that?!” she cried.  It was as if something or someone else was there, beneath her.  Back and forth, she could feel the thing moving.  “Stop it and leave me alone!”, she exclaimed.  However, the thing continued.  Creeping under her, torturing her mind, tormenting her soul.  Why wouldn’t it leave her alone?

Time passed.  How much, she could not be sure of.  It could have been days, weeks or months but she would never know.  Every moment she stood, never laying down to rest.  Sleep was being deprived by the constant dripping of water on her head.  Even if she tried, she couldn’t sleep.  Not even a short rest was possible.

Then she heard the thing again.  This time it was beside her.  Scratching past her while it passed, the thing never said a word.  “What is it you want?  Why won’t you leave me alone?”, she yelled out.  Crying and struggling to catch her breath, she wept, “Please someone, please help me.”  But no help ever came and no one heard her voice.

One day, she heard a voice say, “Now it is time…” but the rest of the words seemed to be hidden.  “Now it is time?”, she questioned in her mind.  What time?  What did the voice mean?

A few moments later she heard, “Come on out and…” but the rest of the words she couldn’t understand.  She thought to herself, “How can I come out when I cannot move?”  She struggled with the hope and anticipation of hearing the voice speak.  Suddenly, movement surrounded her.  Fear overtook her once again.  It was then she decided to act upon the voice’s words.

She began to move.  Pain took over.  Her body started to fall apart.  The more she moved, the more she felt like something tearing her apart.  Her legs ached, her arms numb.  Now what was she supposed to do?

Suddenly, the dripping water changed.  This time, the drips became a stream.  The small stream was refreshing.  As it poured down her face, she stuck out her tongue to gain some refreshment.  She drank and drank all she could.

Within a few minutes, the refreshing fluids stopped and she could instantly feel strength capture her once again.  She moved her arms and legs once again, except this time with vigor and hope.

In a single moment, she realized she could move both her legs and arms without hindrance.  She began to claw her way.  She felt the walls.  They were soft and moist.  She started to rip away at the walls.  When she realized more room was available, she decided to reach for the ceiling.  It was then she realized it was moist and soft, like the walls.  Hope turned into strength as she pounded her way through the ceiling.

Suddenly, a light peered through the ceiling, like a laser beam steadily pointing in a single direction.  “I’m almost free!”, she exclaimed.  As the light became larger, her struggle became lessened.  It was then she could feel the warmth.  It felt good.  Blanketing her, hugging her entire being.  It was then her strength turned to peace.

Finally, after days of digging and struggle, she felt a wetness overcome her.  Pounding her, beating her as if to push her back into captivity, she struggled all the more.  She refused to go back.  She refused to succumb to the pressure of the water.  “I will not go back!”, she exclaimed with anger.  Her resolve continued as the water pounded.  The warmth of the light continued while the water pushed but she would not give up.

The water stopped its beating and the light continued to nourish and provide warmth.  She enjoyed where she was but realized there was still more to do.  She began to once again to dig her way out.  She planted her feet firmly on the ground, and moved her arms once again to free herself from her confinement.

As she pushed the last of the ceiling away, she could see the source of the light.  It was a big round object in the sky.  Then the voice said, “You see, I have given you life.”

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I am your Creator.  You will give pleasure to the one whom I have given you.”, the voice said.

As she reached for the object creating the light, she tried to free her legs, however she could not.  The more she struggled, the more it took hold of her.  She cried out, “I am not free yet.  Please help me get free.”

The voice then said, “But my dear, you are free.  Your legs are to stay where they are as they will help you in your quest.  Only until you are fully grown will your legs be no longer needed.”

What did the voice mean?  She then looked around her.  It was then she noticed her arms were green.  She felt her face and it was soft.  She asked, “What am I, voice?”

The voice responded, “Your name is Rose.  You will give pleasure to the one who picks you.  Your fragrance will please the hearts and minds of men.”

She thought and thought.  Then why the struggle, why the torture?  She asked, “Why did I feel trapped and afraid?”

The voice said, “Oh Rose.  You weren’t trapped or tortured.  I placed you there.  I gave you water to help you grow.  Although you felt scared and afraid, I was watching over you, caring for you, giving you exactly what you need.”

It was then Rose felt contentment.  She understood the pain was the only way for her to experience the benefits she now had.  Warmth from the sun and nourishment from the water were the only things she needed.  The voice had given her everything she needed, even though it hurt.

Like the rose, we struggle to get out of our pains and hurts.  We cry out and no one answers.  We dig but cannot move.  Remember the Voice knows and will supply everything we need.  It is only through the struggle do we realize our worth in the arms of God.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Among the Thorns…


The sun shone in the heat of the day.  The temperature rose to a limit that desert animals couldn’t bear.  From the heads of men, sweat vaporized into eternity.  Hydration was key in surviving the current day.

In the house, was a young boy who dreamed of spending insanely amounts of time with his father.  He peered out the window to the land which his father sowed and harvested.  He imagined a cooler day with a breeze to satisfy the soul.  He daydreamed about his father trying to find him among the outer rim of trees and forest.  In his mind, when his father found him, he tackled him and tickled him incessantly, until the very breath he bore could no longer be found.  Joy overfilled and overwhelmed the thoughts of the young boy’s mind.

He asked his mother, “Can I go meet father in the field?”

Mother responded, “Not today.  It is too hot for you.”

The boy replied, “But mother, I want to spend time with father.”

Mother said, “When the sun starts to set and father is in the barn, then you may go out and meet him.”

The seconds felt like hours.  Minutes felt like years.  Hours felt like an eternity.  The boys mind wandered from one thought to the next.  Never did the boy have the same thought, but imagined different ways to spend time with his father.

Around midday, Father came into the house to nourish his mind, body and soul.  Mother placed a pitcher of freshly made, ice cold, iced tea, next to a plate filled with a sandwich and Father’s favorite chips.  As Father ate, the young boy sat and stared at his father wondering if they were having the same thoughts.

“What is on your mind, son?” asked Father.

“Spending time with you”, said the young boy.

“You’re spending time with me now”, responded Father.

“Yes.  But I want to play with you”, stated the smiling young boy.

“When the sun goes down and I am in the barn, then come out to see me.  Then we will play a game”, Father told the young boy.

“What kind of game?” asked the boy.

“A game you will love”, responded Father with a smile and a keen look.

Father finished his meal, sighed a deep breath to signal he was satisfied with what Mother prepared.  After a few minutes, Father got up, placed his dishes in the sink and left to go back into the field.

As the sun continued it’s harassment on the earth and water was nothing more than an after-thought, the boy became impatient.  His yearning to spend time with his father took over any sensible thoughts.  The young boy decided to disobey what Mother and Father told him and run out into the field to meet his Father.

The boy carefully and slothfully, made his way to the back door.  He cautiously looked around in order to ensure he was not caught.  His hand placed on the handle, slowly turned it ensuring that no noise was made to signal his disobedience.  The door crept, the boy turned and closed the door with extreme care.

He could feel the heat and decided that even the sun could not stop his eagerness to spend time with his father.  The stairs made no sound as the boy jumped from the top step to the grassy area at the bottom.  Many times before, in many days past, the young boy would jump from the top step and bypass the other three to feel the soft grass on the bottom of his soles.

His legs could take it no more and so the young boy ran as if it were a race for a prize.  A smile on his face was brighter than the sun.  Every stride was one closer to his father.  As he ran, he could see the small distorted image of a man.  He knew it was his father, so the boy ran faster.

As the boy approached his working father, he heard in a cry of terror, “STOP!  NOW SON STOP!!!!”

Excitement took over and the ears stopped working.

“SON, I SAID STOP.  NOW!!!  DON’T COME ANY FURTHER!” cried Father.

Suddenly, sense came back to the boy’s mind which then he realized, his father was serious.  The boy stopped his pursuit and stood in complete shock.  He didn’t understand. Why would his father tell him not to come any further?  Why would his father not want to spend time with him?  He knew he had disobeyed, but also knew his father’s love was greater than his actions, but why was Father screaming so loudly?

“Son, whatever you do, do not move”, said Father with a shaky, scared voice.

“But Father, why?”  asked the young boy.

“Son, do exactly what I say and do no more or less”, Father instructed.

“But Father, why?” asked the young boy a second time.

“Take one full step backward”, Father stated with a look of care and fear.

The boy took the backward step as his father instructed.

“Now son, take two steps to your right.  Large ones.  Not small ones.” said Father with a crooked smile.

The boy did exactly as his father told him to do.

The boy asked, “Can I come to you now Father?”

“Not yet.  Now take three more large steps backwards”, Father said.

Again, the boy did everything his father instructed.

“Son, when I tell you, run into my arms.” said Father with a sense of fear.

“Okay Father”, the excited boy said.

In a matter of a moment, the boy could see his Father bend down, taking some actions in the brush and said, “Run to me son!”

The boy ran as fast as he could.  His father had his arms opened wide.  As the boy and his father bonded, the boy could feel his father’s arms securing him as tightly as they could go without crushing the young boy.

Father cried and cried.  Tears flowed from his face and onto the shirt of the young boy.

“Why are you crying Father?”

“I almost lost you, son.  You almost died”

A confused look distorted the boys face.  Almost died?  It didn’t feel like he almost died and besides, what did death feel like anyway?  As the boy’s mind continued to process the information, Father said with tears in his eyes, “Let me show you why I was so upset.”

Both approached the place where the boy stood before the confusing turmoil.  Father continued to hold the boy and expressed how he didn’t want to let go.  As they approached the place, Father slowed down and said, “Look among the thorns, son.”

The boy leaned over his father’s arms, turned his head toward the ground and peered into the thorny brush.  A noise came from the thorns.  It sounded like a toy, similar to his baby sister’s rattle.

“What is that noise father?”

Father took a long branch and poked into the brush.  A hissing sound was heard as the thorns moved.  Suddenly, the brush stopped movement and several heads peaked out.  It was a family of rattlesnakes.

Father told the young boy, “Had you not stopped when I told you, your foot would have stepped into the brush.  If that had happened, the snakes would have bitten you and you would have died.”

The boy then realized the danger that lurked among the thorns and was glad he was in his father’s arms because the boy understood, it is better to be in the Father’s arms, safe and secure than in the den of snakes and vipers.

Stay in the safe arms of our Father and Savior.

God Bless and encourage someone today.

John McCandlish Phillips Remembered (1927 – 2013)


There once was a young boy, who went with his father to gather the family for a holiday dinner.  He entered the car not knowing where he was going but knowing his father knew the location allowed peace and calm to enter his being.

When the two arrived, both entered the small apartment knowing that the boy’s grandmother was coming with them to dinner.  As the boy turned to climb the last of the stairs, there was a second person there, a man, whose stature exceeded most.  The boy’s father said, “Joey, this is your uncle John.”

This was my first introduction to my uncle, John McCandlish Philips.  As he approached during our introduction, he leaned toward me, reached out his hand and shook mine saying, “How are you Joseph?”

While it appeared his hand encompassed my hand, wrist and forearm, there was a smile that broke all tension.  His smile was always something that eased the struggles of life.  There was a certain peace and serenity that emitted from his very being.  At the time, I could not place my finger on it, but later on, I would discover the source of his peace.

Year after year, my uncle would come from his Manhattan apartment to our home.  The holidays were the times we would spend with Uncle John.  Every holiday, I would hope to sit next to this gentle giant and every year, my hopes came true.  Just to sit and listen to him speak would allow me just a glimpse as to what was important in his life.

Conversations with Uncle John would always be about church, beliefs and politics.  He would talk about and share what he was writing, what projects he was doing and where he was speaking.  The tales of ministering at Columbia University was always something that he was excited about.  Hearing about others coming to know Jesus and how they would impact their world was exciting and new for Uncle John.  Each and every story emanated with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

On one occasion, I decided to ask my uncle a question regarding Scripture.  At the time, I had been studying the prophetic events in Daniel, Revelation and other books of the Bible.  I had heard of various beliefs and aspects but none appeared to be complete.  As we sat there, I asked, “Uncle John, what is your view of the End Times?  Do you believe in Pre-Tribulation Rapture or Post?”

My uncle’s response was quick but loving and gentle.  He turned to me with a look of seriousness that made me feel guilty, even though that was not his intent and said, “What does it matter?  I hold to one truth that is in Scripture.  Jesus will physically return one day.”

I smiled and pondered what he was saying.  Instead of pushing my agenda, I just sat and thought about what he said and how he said it.  It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I realized, my uncle was not upset, he was just making a point.  The synopsis of his directness was the only area of Scripture that matters is Jesus.  If the position takes you away from Jesus, then it is a position that he would not hold.  It was because of my Uncle John, that I decided to study more about the end times and finally take the same position, Jesus and Jesus alone.

We had many years and dinners with my Uncle John.  Christmas appeared to be his favorite holiday.  Each year he would cautiously and carefully handpick each and everyone’s gift.  After wrapping them with perfection and care, Uncle John would, like a craftsman, make riddles that would entertain.  Each and every gift had been labeled differently.  I was certain that he would spend hours just making the gift labels just to see our reactions.  There were times I would keep the labels for months due to my fascination with his writing style.

When my uncle wrote, he did with vigor and style.  I have yet to know or see anyone write like John McCandlish Phillips.  He had a way with words that tickled the imagination and enticed the soul.  One time, I tried to read his book, “The Bible, the Supernatural and the Jews.”  After a couple of chapters, I became lost due to his extensive vocabulary and my lack of understanding.  One holiday I approached my uncle and said, “Uncle John, I am sorry to tell you that I tried to read your book, but could not.  I couldn’t understand it and got lost.”

He sat back on my parents couch, smiled and said, “Joe, don’t worry about it.”  There were no judgmental words, no harsh reaction, no sadness in his heart.  He understood not everyone communicates in the same style with the same words and reaffirmed me with his gentle words and loving smile that everything was going to be okay.

Over the past couple of days, I have been thinking about what to write regarding Uncle John.  I can only surmise that God wanted a gentle literary giant in His presence.  Although my uncle expressed that he wished another five years of ministry for the Lord to my mother, Janet De Clemente, God decided it was time for Uncle John to go home.  I know beyond any shadow of doubt that at the last breath, an angel appeared to Uncle John and carried him to the feet of Jesus and once at the feet of the Savior, Jesus took Uncle John’s hand, raised him to his feet and proclaimed, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  Come and enter into my rest.”

Uncle John, you will be missed in this world.  Your writing style and message is etched into eternity and into our hearts.  You have completed the task and run the race well.  I am sure you are now worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I can only express the sentiment of our Savior as you have heard already, “Well done, Uncle John, well done.”