You prayed for me and my family this Christmas break, we can tell. Aside from a very small stomach bug (which only I had for 24 hours), we were completely healthy for our trip to Arkansas. Thank you for praying!
In addition to that, the Lord gave us some special moments together that I wanted to share with you all. Here they are in no particular order.
1. We had a lot of fun watching our dog, Lola, the 12lb guard-dog extraordinaire, play with her “cousin,” Sally-Lou (remember we were in Arkansas), the 30lb+ golden doodle. They “fought” every day, which resulted in Lola running throughout the house like a gray hound with Sally trying to keep up.
2. We were able to see our two nephews, Grayson and Marshall, sons to Lynsey’s two brothers and their wives. Caroline and Meredith enjoy playing with Grayson, and I’m sure they will with Marshall once he gets a little bigger (he’s 6 months).
3. We learned Lynsey’s brother Matthew and his wife Stephanie are expecting again! (Can you say Irish twins?) This means we’ll have to get another ornament from Bronner’s next year with another kid on it. 🙂
4. Lynsey opened up a beautiful, unexpected gift from her Gran, Mrs. Debbie’s mother. It was her engagement ring. It was so special to Lynsey for her Gran to give that to her. In fact I think it took her breath away a bit! What a joy to watch my wife experience such love from her grandmother. I think we’ll remember that moment for a long time.
5. Caroline and I went on a long walk around the lake (pictured above) near Lynsey’s parents’ home just as it was getting dark. The temperature was upper 60’s without nary a wind. Our sweet girl has been on my heart and I’ve wanted to grow closer to her as her Daddy. Early in the walk I asked if I could hold her hand because “I’m not sure how much longer you’ll let me.” She said “sure,” so we did for a bit. We talked about Christmas, school, and what it was like when I went to my grandparents’ funerals. After reaching the covered bridge we turned around and walked back. Near the end she reached out and grabbed my hand by herself. Boy I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more special.
6. The Lord gave me a clear vision for what we need to focus on as a church at least for the first quarter of 2022. I took my Bible and notebook with me on a walk before I laid down on a dock on the lake and talked to the Lord. There, what to preach for January—March became crystal clear, as well as an initiative for us to focus on.
Life has been so crazy that I feel like we’ve all been a little distracted. So much has been fighting for our attention. Much of it has made us feel unsettled. As a result, I see us retreating. We’ve stepped away from reaching out to the lost, and huddled together with what is comfortable for us. At the same time, while I haven’t seen animosity, I do see division in our church during this time. So, as I’ve been praying about what to focus on in my preaching for 2022, the Lord led me to this:
We need to spend a lot of time focusing on Jesus in order to unite us as one church.
So, starting Sunday I begin a series of sermons about Jesus. The series will have three sections, with several sermons in each section. Each section will focus on one question related to Jesus. They are, “Who is Jesus?” “What is Jesus doing?” And “What does Jesus want from us?”
The Lord impressed on me that if we focus on Him, seeking Him, and drawing closer to Him, then unity, and hopefully living on-mission, will take care of itself. We need to take our eyes off of the world and get our eyes back on Jesus, church.
Today I ordered a banner I intend to hang on the short wall in front of the baptistery on stage that reads: “the closer we follow Jesus, the closer we come together.”
7. In addition to that, I’ll be introducing an initiative that will last for the first three months of the year or so called “Project One Church.” The initiative will include several things we’ll do in order to get out of our comfort zones and focus on Jesus together.