The children hopped out of the cars and ran toward the house; they couldn't wait to see Grandpa Langley. Regardless of their age, each of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would listen to him tell stories of his childhood and life as a young man in a world foreign to them. Even the teens in their difficult years found reason to consider his words--there was something about him that drew young people in, opened their hearts, and gave his love entrance.
New Years Day has always been as much a family celebration as Christmas. To our family, Christmas is a celebration of the birth and gift of Jesus Christ; New Years has always been a celebration of new beginnings and old traditions only made possible through Christ.
Every year, aside from the unrivaled taste of Grandma Langley's cooking, the family came to hear the story Grandpa would share. Immediately after dinner, after the last dish was put away, the entire family would put on their coats and scarves and take a walk to the cabin out back, down by the river...the cabin where Grandpa grew up. The stove had been lit earlier in the day so the scent of burning wood filled the one room house. Folding chairs were arranged around an old hand-carved rocking chair situated in front of the fireplace; a small table with an old oil lamp sat close by. Grandpa took the place of honor in the center as everyone found a seat close enough to their beloved elder to hear his traditional New Year's Story.
Last year, Grandpa appeared to be struggling; the walk to the cabin took a toll on him we hadn't noticed in previous years. Grandma reassured us that he was fine, just a touch of bronchitis lingering from the month before.
Grandma and a few of the older girls passed out hot chocolate and homemade cookies while Grandpa helped the little ones find a place to sit. We always wondered how the toddlers knew to sit so still; we figured it was the dim lights and the smell of the firewood that kept them calm.
As soon as everyone was seated, Grandpa signified his readiness by clearing his throat. His voice was gruff and now it began to quiver due to his old age, but his words...oh the words he spoke and how he spoke them, such an incredible man!
"Children, Grandchildren, and Great-Grandchildren. There is a story that must be told and into your ears and hearts it is spoken. Listen, and hear the heart of this old man."
He always began his stories the same way, even if he had stopped there we would have experienced his heart and passion for his family. His words, spoken with such reverence and authority, almost like the words were from the portals of heaven itself.
"Many years ago our family was not as it is now. We lived in a time when there were no televisions, no radios, no computers. There were no cars, no busses, no subways. Your great-grandfather, my father, worked the land-this land, where we live today. The harvest was sparse this year; the cattle were lean and underfed. But such a man as he was, his family never went without food. He worked hard! Not like we work today, but his hands were calloused from the work of a farmer, hand on the plow and the hoe, and the reins of the mules."
"My father never missed a day of work when he was sick. He persevered when the weather was good and when it was frightful. He never stopped to take a rest when his body was weary. The work had to be done; he had a family to feed. He was a good man who feared God."
"One day he came in for lunch and after he washed up in the basin you see in the corner there, he called me to him and sat me on his knee in this very same chair. This was a special day-a day he told me what I will tell you know. You'll not find such a story in your history books, but it is as real as the white beard you see on my face."
"I remember looking at his hands as I sat on his lap, tracing those large, calloused hands with my tiny fingers. I dreamed of the day my hands would be as large and strong as his. He took my hands and cupped them between his and spoke something to me I'll never forget."
"'Son, never allow your foot to tread outside the door of your cabin, never allow your hands to touch the plow, never allow bread to pass your lips until you give thanks to the Almighty. Never doubt the Lord is with you; acknowledge Him in all you say, in all you do, and everywhere you go.'"
"With that said, he wrapped his huge arms around me and began to pray."
"'Oh Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth, keep this lad only to yourself. Make him into a fine, strong man, a God-fearing man, and give him many children and grandchildren to teach Your ways.'"
"And, that, my beloved family, I have done to the best of my ability. Although I was like some of you sitting here today, not understanding what those words really meant, I remember them as if he spoke them yesterday. Today, my heart is such that I am compelled to pray with you those same words. Come here, and gather in close around me. Stand reverently as I taught you, and close your eyes."
Everyone in the cabin moved in close to Grandpa Langley. Even the little ones stood quietly as he prayed. Those who understood will testify to this day that their lives changed that night Grandpa prayed. There was a divine impartation from the heart of a wise and Godly man who loved his family, but loved God in greater measure...his life proved it. Grandpa Langley passed away that night in his sleep.
This will be the first New Years Day at the old homestead without that dear precious man, but his words of wisdom will never be forgotten. This year my husband, his oldest son, will carry on the tradition and one day our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will talk of the day when their Grandpa prayed.
Jan Ross, President and Co-Founder of Heart of God International Ministries, is a passionate and outspoken defender of the Word of Truth and the Great Commission. http://heartofgodinternational.com. For more devotional material by Jan, please take a moment to visit www.hgdevotions.com.