Wonderland of Lights & Family

Last Friday afternoon our children and grand children joined us in Marshall, Texas for a weekend of sharing meals, laughter, and the sights and sounds of the “Wonderland of Lights” in downtown Marshall.

The citizens of Marshall are to be commended for the great job they do in preparing the city with tens of thousands of lights, for the chance for kids to slide down a snow covered incline in a tube, for ice skating on the square by the Harrison County Court House, and the smiling, friendly Texans everywhere greeting visitors from far and near.

One of the highlights of our trip was eating at Neely’s. For over 80 years they have been serving up the “Brown Pig Sandwich” and I can say first hand, it was scrumptious! The “Brown Pig” is a Carolina style chopped BBQ sandwich with a bit of lettuce, BBQ sauce,  and mayonnaise. Everyone who tried it love it. Neely’s is a Marshall landmark. Next time you’re there stop by and you will be glad you did.

I enjoyed seeing the wares of many interesting shops, a great art gallery, and did I mention good food? Our whole crew ate our Friday night meal at the Jalapeño Tree Mexican Restaurant on Hwy 59. Carol and I have been Jalapeño Tree fans for sometime now. Their place on Eastman Rd in Longview has become a regular stop on our many trips to the DFW area. They only serve up the absolute best Mexican food on planet earth! I promise!

On Saturday night we drove out Hwy 31 to a Presbyterian church and experienced “The Walk to Bethlehem”. As we waiting for our group to take the tour we were treated to wonderful hospitality. Friendly folks offered cookies of all sorts, coffee, hot coco,  and my favorite, hot apple cider.

Soon it was our turn and a lady led us with a lantern down a steep trail dotted with candles in paper bags outlining the sides of the path. One after another we came to stations where someone would read a portion of the Christmas story from the Bible (holding a scroll) and we would see an angel in the edge of the woods, Mary and Joseph, wise men, and shepherds with real sheep. The winter cold was forgotten as all of us listened intently to the story of God coming to us and being “God with us” and for us. Even the children didn’t miss a word. Then at the end there was a petting zoo where the children could touch and pet donkeys, cows, sheep, etc. The church folks were awesome hosts and their hard work to give such a gift to the community is much appreciated.

This fun packed weekend was the perfect way for us to share Christmas with our kids and grand kids. The little ones enjoyed the indoor pool, computers, and cookies that never ran out at the hotel. The staff at the Farimont there right off I-20 were perfect hosts and we are thankful for them.

I am so very thankful for my family. My wife is a devoted mom and grand mother and the best wife a man could have. She is a leader of women, great singer, speaker, and all around wonderful Christian lady. Our children and their spouses are all committed believers and are training our six grand children to love and obey the Lord Jesus.

Below is a sample of the fun we experienced together.

Some Christmas Observations

We have all heard it said “Remember the reason for the season“. Good advice I’d say because for many it is a season without reason. Today as I reflected on this happy time of year and the ever faster approaching day, I thought about these things.

We celebrate Christ’s birth, and that is a good thing. I have little patience with those holier- than- thou types who have decided celebrating Christmas is bad because of some pagan, demon inspired conspiracy to cause Christians to celebrate an evil day. Without regard to how much one loves Jesus or how dedicated one is to him and his teachings, people the world over remember him at this time of year. I am glad.

Jesus’ birth is something to be celebrated. His humble birth though would be virtually meaningless but for his cruel death. His willing dying is what makes his birth so special. Had he not died, been buried, and then raised again to life, his birth would get no more attention than most others who were born in Bethlehem (Except his mom was a virgin, not an insignificant fact) near the time Jesus was born.

Born to die so I can live, my sin my shame to him I give. Immortality is his gift so free, a gracious offer is the gospel plea. I remember well when I heard the story, and bowed my will to the Lord of glory. Merry Christmas to me.

Christmas is marked by giving, pretty presents covered with colorful paper and beautiful bows. But all the giving of ten million Christmases cannot match the gifts by God to sinners. Gifts? Yes, gifts. God gave his one and only Son that he loved to die bearing the sins of the world. Jesus gave himself a sacrificial lamb to die the death for every man. And, God gives forgiveness and eternal life to everyone who will accept.

Looking back to a lowly manger in the City of David so many years ago does not compare to looking forward to the new Jerusalem, a city not built with hands. All who truly love Jesus will inhabit God’s city, feast at his table, enjoy Christ and bask in his glory forever.

In birth God with us, in life on earth God among us, teaching us, at Pentecost God in us, today God shaping us, using us to love others, displaying his holiness in our lives to a watching, hurting world.

The final gift is yet to be fully appreciated. Sin, sickness, sadness, sorrow, shame, separation, are all limited to this fallen world, they have no place in our future with Jesus. There is only Light, Peace, Joy, Praise, Glory, Worship, and …..well, language is inadequate to begin to describe even the microscopic glimpse we have of our certain future.

Why on earth would a Christian not say a hardy and heart-felt “Merry Christmas!“?

I appreciate each of you who read Grace Digest. May God’s peace rule in your hearts as we have a tiny taste of God’s glory in this holy season.



God is With Us…

God came down, down here where we live, and he is still here. One of the prophetic names of Jesus was Immanuel, “God with us”.

He came to save his people from their sins, Jesus. He is still here, Christ in you the hope of glory.

He said to his friends, “When I go away I will not leave you as orphans” “I will send the Comforter” and he did. For some reason I can’t quite explain I am comforted knowing my wife is in the other end of the house. As in the way a child is comforted by the presence of his mother.

I have, we have, you have, a constant companion who will not ever leave you or forsake you. Oh, you might not know he is near but he is. Run away will you? Even if you hide in hell he is still there.

Embrace him, love him, say something to him….he loves you so.

Christmas is when we celebrate “God with us”. It is when God became one of us to redeem us, to make us his own. Celebrate his presence, be comforted by knowing he is here. Trust him, acknowledge him, walk with him,…he is here.


Christmas eve thoughts

Today, Christmas eve 2008, has been a wonderful day. I arose at 5:30 a.m. and drove across town for a weekly Bible study. Several men and I meet at 6:30 a.m. every Wednesday to fellowship, pray, and be challenged from the Word of God. Every week I am blessed by being with those good men whose lives encourage me to be all I can be for God.

I came back home and had a very long nap in my king size Lazy Boy recliner. (How appropriate is the name “Lazy Boy” for my chair?) In the afternoon Carol and I did some last minute Christmas shopping and then went across the river to a Christmas eve service at First Baptist West Monroe. It was a candle light service and we worshiped in song and taking the Lord’s Supper together. It was a warm, inspiring worship experience.

The pastor, John Avant, told us briefly about his visit with Dr. Billy Graham yesterday the 23rd. He traveled to Billy Graham’s home in NorthCarolina, (just a few miles from my family home) with the president of Chic Fillet. He spoke with passion and joy about singing carols for the beloved evangelist who is confined to his bed. Dr. Graham is 90 years old and still an encouragement to all who come into his path. He will soon be gone and there will not be another who will preach the gospel of Christ to so many millions as he.

Last night, my daughter Kelly and her family joined us for food, fun, and exchanging gifts. The boys were excited about bedroom shoes, bath robes, and lazer tag. They played ping pong on their new table, a gift from their grandparents. They are such a joy. Kelly is a gifted, beautiful, funny wife, mom, teacher and mentor to her students. Our son in law Jorgen (pronounced “yawn”) owns and operates an Ace hardware store, a Maggy Moo’s Ice Cream store in the mall, and is also very active in a marketing company. Nine year old twins, Corbin and Kevin, and their older brother Jorgen III who is 12, keep mom, dad, and us grandparents very busy indeed.

We just watched a Christmas special on Fox News channel from Saddleback church and Rick Warren and then the Fox and friends crew had a nice Christmas program too. In today’s politically correct world, what a refreshing thing for the number one news network to actually read scripture and talk about Christ coming to save sinners from their sins! I applaud them for doing so.

Tomorrow we will drive to Keller, Texas to my son’s house where we will celebrate Christmas with him, his wife and daughters. My son Jason recruits doctors for temporary assignments and his wife Trina is a speech pathologist for the Keller school system. They have three daughters, Kelsie 16, Adysen8, and Allie who is 7. Each is unique and precious and we love them very, very much and look forward to spending time with them.

Both of our kids and their spouses are devout followers of the Christ and are active in their churches and leading their children to be people of God. I have much to be thankful for this Christmas season.

This year has been wonderful. Carol and I have had lots of opportunities for ministry through her work with WFRRelief and our Grief Share ministry. Carol, my beautiful and amazing wife, has spoken to women’s groups, leads a Heart to Home group, teaches the Bible, does the public praying for her chorus group and sings with the chorus and her quartet Sweet Harmony. On one Saturday recently they sang at 6 different places. What a delight to have such a talented and gracious wife.

I have had the wonderful blessing of joining God in His redemptive work. God has honored His word and I was blessed to have a part in reaping the harvest. For this and every opportunity to lead others to Him, or to help them more fully trust Him, I am humbled and grateful. It is far, far more than I deserve.

Christ is indeed the gift that keeps on giving. If I have another day, another week, month, or many more years to live on this earth I pray that I will continue, as weak and frail as I am, to follow Him where ever He leads.

I expect 2009 to be a great year. It, like all the years of my almost 63, will be full of problems, difficulties, hardships, and disappointments, but through it all, whether alive or dead, I will be a victor in Jesus.

I am humbled by what God can do with an average country boy with lots of warts and bumps spiritually, but who though oft times stumbling, and sometimes falling, continues to follow, and has for over 45 years.

In the last few days I have had visitors to Grace Digest from several countries around the world and from many states. I am amazed. Soon Carol and I will begin our 5th year of facilitating Grief Share groups for those who have lost loved ones. And, there are many who need to be loved, encouraged, prayed for, and many, many folks must hear about this Christ child who has provided eternal life for everyone who will trust Him.

May God bless you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

His peace,