December 24th, 2012
May your Christmas be filled with love, laughter, and special moments with family and friends.
May the joyous memories of this past year fill your conversations,
and may any heartache you carry be softened by the Hope brought to earth many years ago in a tiny town called Bethlehem.
Looking forward to sharing 2013 with all of you.
God bless your last few days of 2012.
Praying for all of you as I write this short note,
December 19th, 2012
Men and women have talked about Jesus’ return ever since the Bible was written,
but I feel as if conversations about His return have intensified in the past ten years….
I’m ready for the sky to open and Jesus to come through on His white horse,
rescuing all of us from this evil world.
I’m ready for the line in the sand to be drawn
and for right to be right and
wrong to be wrong……..
and for all who have rejected His name to fall on their knees and finally admit that
He is Lord.
I’m ready for justice to prevail
sin to be erased from our existence.
Not that I’ve perfected this life enough to feel worthy of Heaven.
I mess up every day.
That’s why I’m thankful today for verses that talk about Jesus being our high priest,
interceding for us,
making it possible for us
“to go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him.” (Hebrews 10:22)
So, today, even though I’m eagerly waiting for His return,
I want to keep trying to do the right thing until I worship Him in person.
So, what does God want us to do until that day?
I think Hebrew 10 gives us four great things to do while we wait……
1. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.
2. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
3. Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do
4. But encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.
If you’re ready for His return like I am,
consider focusing on the words of Hebrews 10:23-25.
Imagine a world where this was the focus of every man and woman.
If you’re not ready for His return,
think about what you need to do to become ready.
Have you given your life to Jesus?
Literally laid it down and said,
“I’m yours, Lord, use me to help others learn about you.”
Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?
“I am the way, the truth, and the life..
no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Have you been baptized, symbolically washing away your sin and dying to your old self?
Read the book of Acts and see how the church began,
look at the steps these early Christians took to become part of the family of God.
If you ever have questions about your relationship with God,
read your Bible, seeking answers to your questions,
talk to someone, email me if you have no one near who can help you and I’ll try to find someone near you who can (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here’s what I know.
Jesus will return someday.
We just don’t know when.
As we celebrate His birth next week, let’s not forget that He came with a very big purpose.
Salvation for mankind.
And I believe that His salvation is very near………
Looking up with great expectation as I try to live for Him,
December 18th, 2012
Like a ship lost at sea, tossed around by crashing waves and heading in unknown directions with every storm,
life can leave us feeling confused and beaten up over and over again if we don’t have something to keep us anchored.
We try to find anchors in our careers, but sometimes jobs are lost.
We try to find anchors in our friends, but in their humanness they often let us down unknowingly.
We try to find anchors in our families, but tragedy strikes and the glass covering our family picture frame is forever shattered.
So how can we find an anchor in an uncertain, ever-changing, often scary world?
Hebrews 6 says that God has given both a pledge and an oath, and that these two things are unchangeable.
He promised that those who receive His promise can be perfectly sure that He will never change His mind.
This means that since He promises Heaven for those who accept His Son as Savior, then Heaven is a guaranteed future for Christians.
Because of this promise, Hebrews goes on to say that those “who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.”
When we have this hope, listen to what we have for our souls………..
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”
I don’t know about you, but I need a sanctuary.
I need a quiet place to know I am in the presence of God.
I need peace.
When storms hit, which they will, know that God has promised an anchor.
Hope leads us all where we long to be.
Into God’s presence.
If you’re needing Him today, know that Hope can lead you there……….
and keep you there.
Through every storm, every fear, every question, every tear.
Jesus led the way, conquered death, paid the price, and set us free.
When He came, He became our anchor.
That’s why He’s called our Savior.
He saved us.
Turn to Him today.
December 17th, 2012
“Why????” one woman screamed as she ran down the road near the elementary school.
Uttering the only word that seemed to carry any meaning on that day, she screamed what we’ve all screamed in our minds over and over again since Friday as we’ve watched the story unfold like scenes from a nightmarish movie.
I’m sure God has listened to a lot of heart-wrenching cries since Friday morning.
I’m sure He’s been leaned on, clung to, and cursed from the second the first shot was fired in a small, quiet town in Connecticut.
I’m sure He’s heard longer and more complicated questions than simply, “Why?” since the day so many innocent lives were taken,
I’m sure He’s going to hear many, many more.
I don’t think we’ll find answers on this planet.
I don’t think any amount of research or evidence will be enough to explain the events of Friday.
I definitely know that NOTHING investigators uncover will bring peace to the aching hearts of family members who have faced each morning since Friday with empty arms.
This tragedy has turned Christmas upside down all over the world.
It has caused many in Newtown to take down their decorations.
All I can say this morning is this,
God promises to be close to the brokenhearted.
He walks through the valley with every single crushed heart in Newtown.
His presence in this small town today and tomorrow and the next day is as certain as the rising sun.
God is there.
The Creator of the universe, the Author of every story, the Redeemer of all mankind,
He is there.
We’ll begin to hear stories as the weeks progress.
We may have to dig deep and listen closely,
but we will begin to hear the stories of how God is speaking to the hurting in Newtown.
There are no words this morning that seem adequate.
There are no explanations that make sense.
But, in the midst of all of this confusion and chaos,
stirred by evil and by the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy,
there is a Savior,
who offers peace in a troubled world.
Cling to Him today in your life’s turmoil and questions.
Turn to Him today with your fears and doubts.
Answers can’t always be found on an earthly level,
but God can be found at any level.
Look up with your questions,
and allow Him to be enough for your answer.
One day our faith will become sight.
One day perfection will overcome imperfection.
Until then, put your hope and trust in the One who will overcome.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
December 14th, 2012
only 10 more days til Christmas Eve.
Christmas parties, Christmas plays, Christmas shopping.
The hustle and the bustle of the holiday season can easily get in the way of the true meaning of Christmas.
But there’s nothing like a baby to slow things down.
Make you realize what’s really important.
Cause your heart to stop and consider the miracle of new life.
Our family is experiencing the wonder of “new birth” firsthand this year,
there’s something about this new little bundle of joy that causes all people in his presence to just “wonder” as they look upon his sweet little presence.
My prayer for each of you today is that you will take a few minutes to read the first Christmas story and “wonder” at the presence of our newborn king,
our Prince of Peace,
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.
Mary understood as she treasured all the memories of this moment deep in her heart.
I’m praying we can all grasp the powerful meaning of His life today.
Thankful today for the story of Jesus’ birth and for the birth of a new little member of our earthly family.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
December 13th, 2012
Our family is celebrating this week in an extra-special way.
My brother is a dad for the very first time!
Tim and I can’t help but feel a little heavenly help from Nick as we think of the exciting unfolding of our nephew’s arrival into this world yesterday!
Mom kept me posted all morning yesterday on Maura’s condition at the hospital.
I was three hours away, working in schools, but frequently mom would send word about how Maura’s labor was going.
When I noticed that it was just 40 minutes until 12:12 after six hours of labor, I started wondering if this little guy was going to make his appearance at just the right time,
Just as mom texted and said, “He’s here and he’s crying!”
I glanced at the wall in the second grade room I was in and this is what I saw,
Tears filled my eyes immediately, and all the teachers who were with me at that moment shared in my happiness in such a special way as I took this picture!
Penny and Nick popped right out at me, and I knew without a doubt that Nick was smiling in Heaven as our family was given a new little bundle of joy to love.
Then, as I sat and thought about all of the wonderful things about the day, all the details of my nephew’s arrival hit me in such a powerful way!
12 days before Christmas Eve
David Joseph entered our world!
7 – 12s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
David Joseph is our little Christmas gift this year from Heaven!
Nick will always be our 7-11 gift!
David Joseph is now our 7-12 gift!
I can’t wait to hold this little guy!
Thank you all for your prayers for Maura and Cy!
I love you all so much!
December 12th, 2012
Today, my brother and his wife are expecting their first baby to arrive!
We are all so excited!!!!!
I will hopefully have pictures to share tomorrow, but I wanted to ask you all to pray today for Maura and Cy as they await this most exciting moment in their life as a married couple!
I also wanted to share the exciting news of one of Nick’s best lifelong buddies!
Derek, who will graduate from high school this spring, signed with Pikeville College to play baseball next year!
Derek’s mom, who is one of my dear friends, called and asked Tim and me to come share in the big day,
we were honored!
Derek will always be like a son to us, and being able to stand with him at such a pivotal time in his life meant the world to our hearts!
Derek and Nick became friends when they were barely four years old, so watching Derek grow into such a great young man has been a joy and a pleasure!
Allison made me sit by Derek in this photo……
I was so humbled to share this special moment with one of Nick’s dearest friends.
I don’t know how to say “thank you” to Nick’s friends’ moms for allowing me to be such a special part of their sons’ lives as I miss Nick so much.
My heart just overflows with thanks and love for each of them.
That’s all I can say.
Derek shared with the newspaper about his faith in God and how he wanted to use his time in Pikeville to bring glory to God.
I felt as proud of Derek as a mom could feel as I watched him answer their questions with such confidence and deep faith in a calling higher than the world’s calling.
When everything had finished, I turned around to see Derek hugging Tim.
This moment for me was the most touching of the entire ceremony.
Just as we rejoice with Derek and his family at this exciting time in their lives,
I know they still mourn with us.
Derek misses Nick so much too.
So do his mom and dad and brother.
I can’t even express in words how it feels to know that we do not grieve alone.
Take time to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
And also take time to mourn with those who mourn.
You never know what your hug or kind words could mean to someone today.
Thankful today for Derek and his family!
They are forever part of ours!
I plan to buy a Pikeville t-shirt soon and attend some college baseball games in the future!
I’ll share about the arrival of my nephew as soon as we receive word that he is here!!
December 11th, 2012
We sing songs this time of year with words like,
“Silent Night, Holy Night,”
“Peace on earth and mercy mild.”
Christmas lights sparkle throughout our neighborhoods
in our homes.
I don’t think we can deny that there’s something about the holiday season that causes us all to want to feel a sense of peace and joy in the midst of our hustle and bustle.
Most Christmas movies, even if they leave out the exact message of Jesus’ birth,
somehow bring people together in church scenes where love is felt in an extra-special way.
Christmas is an annual reminder that we are all longing for more from this world than we normally get on a day-to-day basis.
Christmas brings hope for a better life, a better way, a better purpose.
The simply Nativity scene appears on shelves throughout stores and homes,
reminding us that long ago a baby was born that changed the planet…….
whether we have accepted Him or not.
The calendar started moving in another direction.
People accepted Him
they rejected Him.
And today, we are faced with the same decision.
With all of this stirring in our hearts, Christmas can sometimes become a difficult time of year when we realize that our life is lacking.
Maybe we’re lacking someone we use to share the holiday season with,
or maybe we’re lacking the funds to make our loved ones wishes come true.
Maybe we’re realizing that deep inside us something is missing,
and the gnawing sense of restlessness makes us uncomfortable,
causing all the songs, the lights, the joy of Christmas to take us to places of questioning and doubt.
How do we find peace in the holiday season and all year long?
How do we become people who can handle the good, the bad, the happy, and the sad with a sense of joy,
knowing that one day all things will be made right in His presence?
This morning, I was reading Philippians 4,
Paul’s simple formula for peace popped off the page and stirred me.
“Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done……..
you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
If you find yourself feeling a sense of “peace-lessness” today,
try doing these two things:
1. Tell God what you need
2. Thank Him for all He has done
See what happens as you turn to Him today with an honest and thankful heart.
I am thankful for each of you,
I am praying you find peace today.
December 10th, 2012
Sometimes in life, we turn around and realize that we are up against something bigger than ourselves……..
more than we can handle.
Sometimes this very “thing” can get the best of us,
causing us to back down and run the other way.
But many times, the very thing we fear, has no power over us.
Like this dog Dash faced recently,
we realize that what we’re facing isn’t even real.
We didn’t really give Dash long enough to realize that he was up against a stuffed animal.
Dash growled and definitely was terrified,
Putting Dash through the trauma of becoming comfortable in the presence of a gigantic stuffed dog didn’t seem necessary in order for him to move on to the next phase of his puppy life, but I do believe that sometimes God calls us to face our gigantic stuffed dogs “head on,” so we can learn to overcome them.
Lately I’ve sensed God placing me in situations where I’ve been forced to face some of these very kinds of fears in my own life.
Fears of rejection, not being enough, not knowing enough, not pleasing the people I love, not being accepted………..
Deep down I know that these very things I fear are as unreal and meaningless as the stuffed dog above, because God doesn’t measure me through the world’s standards.
If I am pleasing God….
If I am accepted by God…..
If I know God has a plan for my life…….
then I should be able to face all of my unrealistic fears with a smile and with the confidence that comes from knowing Him.
The devil loves to slow me down by placing huge, stuffed dogs along my path.
I love the days when I see them for what they are,
I hate the days when, like Dash, I am caught off guard and find myself trembling.
If you’re facing some fears this week,
remember these truths:
Pleasing God is all that matters.
Being accepted by Him should be our goal.
He has a plan for our lives that is very personal and purposeful.
Lean on Him today.
When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose Word I praise.
In God, I will trust.
I will not be afraid.
What can mortal man do to me?
December 7th, 2012
When Margo and I sat in a high school physics class together thirty years ago,
we never dreamed that one day we would sit on a couch with our daughters, both from India, thirty years later.
But while we were home for Thanksgiving this year, we had the wonderful pleasure of going to Margo’s house to meet her newest daughter, Sanjana!
Sanjana, now 11, has been in an orphanage since she was just a little girl!
Arriving in America just a week before this picture was taken,
I can’t imagine what kinds of things go through her mind every day,
but I’m sure seeing Olivia’s familiar-looking face brought a big smile!
Here’s a picture of all of us who were there that day (Margo has four daughters now!)…..
and yes, that bearded person is really my son, Todd!!
He loves his beard!!
As we were visiting, Margo was talking about the fact that Sanjana reads and speaks Marathi.
Here is something she has written since arriving in America just a few weeks ago…
Margo wondered if there was a Bible in her language…….
and as we were talking Todd found one on His phone!!!
When he handed the phone to Sanjana, she was captivated by Genesis 1.
Having grown up Hindi, I wonder what Sanjana was thinking as she read,
“In the beginning, God….”
She was mesmerized.
She didn’t want to stop reading.
Todd, who plans to work on the mission field someday and who will spend the summer out of the country this next year,
loved every minute of Sanjana’s first Bible-reading moment!
We all did!
Looking at these pictures of Sanjana reading a Bible for the first time reminds me of what a gift the Bible is to each of us.
We should all be drawn in to God’s Words with the same wide-eyed wonder!
I’m thankful today for Olivia and Sanjana,
our Indian girls,
and what they teach us every day about God’s love for all mankind and His desire for everyone to know Him as the ONE TRUE GOD.
Please keep Sanjana and Margo’s family in your prayers as they grow closer every day and Sanjana begins to understand just how much God and Margo’s family love her!