Yes, once again the holiday season is upon us and it seems to have arrived on a swifter schedule than last year and all previous years.
Like a line from a song I wrote years ago:
The years they come and go
Like clouds on a windy day
The moments pass so swiftly
Our lives just slip away
I stopped by our local hardware store just the other day and already, in the early part of November, Christmas decorations, trees, lights and all related items were up and ready for purchase.
It really does all come too quickly!
At the risk of having this letter read like one of those blow by blow, diary/travelogue volumes occasionally received at year’s end from some distant relative or friend (who you’re not totally sure you even know), I felt I should update you as to where we are and how we’re doing as a family. Also, I want to share some insight as to our future ministry plans. I do this because we’ve had so many friends email or write us asking about Linda’s health and the health of our daughter and son.
This year has been a tough and challenging one for our family. You may remember that at the first of the year our daughter was diagnosed with a rare cancer. At the same time, my wife, Linda, had a severe reaction to a new immunotherapy trial she was on. It put her in bed and eventually in the hospital. The total “down time” for her was almost six weeks. Then, in the midst of all this, our son began having severe anxiety attacks.
A friend of ours said, “You’re going through a cluster bomb attack!” That’s exactly what it felt like.
I’m pleased to report our son, Jeffrey, is doing much better. He still has occasional bouts with anxiety, but nothing like when it began.
Our daughter, Jennifer, is doing very well. The cancer was completely removed surgically. There were some lingering complications from the surgery that persisted for months, but these issues have been almost totally resolved.
Linda continues to wage war against her thirty-two year nemesis of breast cancer. It’s taken a lot from her through the years, most recently the craniotomy of almost three years ago now. Because of the effects of the craniotomy and subsequent radiation, her mobility and balance have been compromised. This has prohibited her from traveling with me most of this year.
Let me pause here a moment and assure you that God’s grace has indeed been sufficient throughout this “bumpy” part of the road on life’s journey.
I mentioned that much has been taken from Linda through the years of her struggle with cancer. However, I must testify that way more has been given to us because of God’s grace and faithfulness in the midst of the struggle.
A song Linda often sang says it best:
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greaterAnnie Flint Johnson
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase
To added affliction He addeth His mercy
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace
Linda and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on the 27th of this month. We have been abundantly blessed with a wonderful marriage, two wonderful children and five amazing grandchildren.
He has given us the marvelous privilege of being “co-laborers together with Christ Jesus” throughout the years of ministry, particularly through Praise Ministries. Many souls have been won to Christ, lives rescued, and families healed because of God’s faithfulness to use us in ministry.
We will continue to minister. People often ask me, “How long are you going to keep ministering?” I always reply by saying, “As long as I have breath and opportunity.”
Someone asked me the other day if I was retired. I responded by saying, “I don’t think so.”
We’ve had to cut back our traveling dates and will probably continue to do so because of health issues and age. (I turned 71 in November.) Not old, but I can tell you, I can’t do it all as easily as I used to.
Fortunately we live at a time when we can continue to minister very effectively without always having to travel somewhere to do so.
Many have commented how much they love and appreciate our online ministry through our website, Facebook and YouTube.
The newsletter, the daily posts, the “Stories Behind the Songs” have been such a blessing to so many, hopefully to you.
We plan to expand our ministry opportunities online in the coming year. I think you’re going to really like and appreciate that.
I’ll continue to take a limited number of concert dates and speaking engagements, but we’re at a point in our lives where we have to make some changes. Tis the Season of our lives!
I believe we’ll be even more effective in ministering to those God brings into our care, as we steward our time, talents and treasures of God’s grace.
Please continue to pray for us as we seek God for direction, for strength to run the race and for His Spirit’s anointing on all we do in the name of ministry.
I recently read a marvelous verse and comment by Charles Spurgeon that was a great encouragement and blessing to me. I share it here in hopes it will similarly encourage and bless you.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.Isaiah 49:16
“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marvelling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of His hands. “I have graven thee.” It does not say, “Thy name.” Thy name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven thee.” See the fulness of this! I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works: I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; I have put thee altogether there.Charles H. Spurgeon
As you celebrate the Christmas season, whether at a family feast, exchanging of gifts around a Christmas tree or just in simple solitude, remember the greatest gift; that of our Savior.
Remember, God’s great gift in a wooden manger and His great sacrifice on a wooden cross.
Remember the tiny Christ child’s hands that reached up to touch His mother’s face, but also remember these same nail pierced hands that reached out to save sinners like you and me.
And lastly, remember that we are graven in these same hands.
Reflect, Rejoice, Respond.
Tis the Season!