2017 … And Not A Moment Too Soon!

It’s here!   2017 … and not a moment too soon!
For my little family, the 2016 calendar year was one of our more difficult.
We entered into the year, knowing that Sheryl’s daddy would not be with us another year.  There were no hopeful New Year resolutions.  Everyday was filled with the grief, pain, and inevitability of yet another goodbye.
Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and the debilitating effects of Hydrocephelus and Neuropathy took their toll.  Gene went Home on June 30, 2016.  Our family would miss him for the remainder of the year.  We still do … miss him.  And, her sweet mom and sister … Jo and Lynne.  What a beautiful Hope we have … in Heaven!
As I type this blog, my dad is now admitted as a long term care patient in a nearby nursing care facility.  Dad has lived a full life here for nearly 80 years, most of them filled with beautiful family memories, but a few filled with the agony of failures, disappointments, and outright near-death experiences.  Still … Dad perseveres, until the LORD says to him, “come on Home”.
But, it’s a New Year!  A new season … a new day.
Today, we begin again.  So do you!  What will 2017 hold for you?  For all of us?
In America, we are preparing for the traditional transition of Presidential power. Only the LORD Himself can know what that transition will bring to the United States of America.  As we prepare … we pray.  And, PRAY more!!
In our small town of Pascagoula, Mississippi … we prepare for the remainder of this school year and all it brings.  Our Cameron is an 11th grader — a Junior classman.  He loves the PHS Band and has excelled on the PHS Drum Line as a multi-talented percussionist.  Sheryl continues to teach 3rd graders, and I continue to grow into my new ministry position with Center Pointe Church in Ocean Springs MS.
Our pastor, Ted Pagel, begins teaching a new series this month … The #NEXTLEVEL.  We have chosen — as a church, as individuals, as families — to GO to the #NEXTLEVEL … in our Worship, in our Spiritual Formation (Discipleship), in expansion as a Church … in every area that the LORD says to GO!
Jaron Tipton, multi-talented Worship Pastor at CPC, preached yesterday about Commitment.  God has wonderful promises to fulfill on our behalf, but He is awaiting OUR commitment.  He is a good Father and He cares for us, but He will not carelessly throw around His blessing to those who are not committed to follow Him.
And .. it’s Football BOWL GAME time!  The boys and I enjoyed the New Orleans Bowl and Southern Miss Football’s very special victory celebration.  The days ahead are filled with even more of the best football of the season.  We love it!  Sheryl is very gracious to allow us our “man-cave” time … if we simply clean up after ourselves.  (( HA ))
So … let’s dive in!  2017 is here.  And, hopefully for you as well … not a moment too soon!

Christmas JOY

silent-nightWhat fills your heart and soul [your thoughts] at Christmas?  Joy .. Peace .. Cheer .. Parties .. Shopping .. Loneliness .. Fear .. Depression?
For some, Christmas is the ultimate year-end high.  The most wonderful time of the year.
For some, Christmas is yet another dark day on the calendar.  An insidious lurking reminder that what was .. is no more.
The Christmas carols that we all enjoy evoke a range of emotions from Joy .. to Reverent Worship .. to human awe and amazement … to deep contemplation.
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing … Joy To The World (The Lord Is Come) … How Great Our Joy … Angels, We Have Heard On High … Good Christian Men Rejoice … What Child Is This? … Silent Night, Holy Night … Away In A Manger … O Holy Night … 
Even the modern pop Holiday songs are filled with a range of emotions from goofy cheer, to despondent sadness.
So, what fills your heart and soul [thoughts] at Christmas?
A recent statistic from 2015 suggests that 1 out of 4 people in the world struggle with mental illness.  Studies show that suicide is the third leading cause of deaths in youth up to age 24, and 90% of those who commit suicide suffer from some type of mental illness.  Depression is the leading cause of suicide among youth up to age 24.  Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is increasing among those in their mid-life and senior years.
I want to urge you to fill you heart and soul with JOY this Christmas.  The Bible says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” – Psalm 94:19
David, or one of his songwriters, wrote this Sabbath song as a reminder that God had filled their hearts and souls with JOY, despite the anxieties and worries of their day.
Chris Tomlin penned a wonderful praise song that we sing at my local church …
Joy, unspeakable joy
An overflowing well
No tongue can tell
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go
My hope for us, for you, this Christmas season, is that the LORD of Hosts fills our hearts and souls with an overflowing well of JOY.