I’m In Love!

Dear friends,

I fell in love at 1:25 am on Saturday! It’s not the first time I have fallen in love. After all, I am a husband and a father. It was at that hour, however, that my sleep was interrupted by the chime of a text from our son to inform us of the birth of our granddaughter, Clara Marie. The text included a picture of Clara lying on the scale soon after she was born. Seeing this first glimpse of our precious granddaughter touched my heart. I fell head over heels in love with her and struggled to sleep for the rest of the night.

Leigh and I are eagerly awaiting the chance to meet Clara and hold her in our arms, but as we have continued to receive pictures and even had video chats with Matt, Lauren, and Clara, I find that I can’t stop thinking about her. I have set the wallpaper on my phone so that whenever I turn the phone on, I see her picture. When a new picture arrives, I just want to stare at this precious little girl. I look for opportunities to share her picture with others and am overwhelmed with a sense of pride in and love for this child.

She is already such a blessing and a source of joy to our family, and I find myself praying for her and wondering what she will grow up to become. I ask God to surround her, protect her, and bless her. I want her to grow up knowing that she is a beloved child of God who is created in God’s image and pray that she will follow Jesus as a disciple and will invest her life in doing God’s work and building God’s kingdom.

While reflecting on my feelings for Clara, it struck me that my feelings for her don’t even begin to compare to the depths of God’s love for each one of us. If this experience of love for a grandchild provides even a glimpse of how much our Heavenly Father loves us, we are all amazingly blessed. In Isaiah 49:15-16a, we are told, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” As one who has sometimes written notes to myself on my hand, what a gift it is to know that God has our names written on the palm of God’s own hand. What a marvelous gift that is.

Fresh Starts and New Habits

Dear friends,

I am writing this article while also preparing for the first Wednesday evening Prayer Meeting and Bible Study of 2017. For the study, we will be examining sections of Isaiah 43. After the chapter opens with a powerful expression of God’s care for us and an assurance that we are precious and honored in God’s sight, God reminds Israel and us through Isaiah that we are witnesses to what God has done in the past, but that we must not focus on the past. Instead, we are told in Isaiah 43:18-19 that we should “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Then, God tells us in 43:20-21 that He is doing these things for “my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

I often find myself drawn to these words at the beginning of a new year. While I get the impression that many people no longer make formal new year’s resolutions, I still think that we often take some time to reflect on what changes we might need to make as a new year begins. There is something significant in being reminded that we get a fresh start and a chance to set new priorities or develop some new habits.

As Christians and as a church, however, we are invited to approach the new year not only reflecting on what changes we might make, but also on what new things or new callings God might have in store for us. I would encourage you to spend some time in the next few days reading and meditating on the words of Isaiah 43, particularly verses 1-5, 10-25. Let us commit ourselves to praying daily that God will show us individually and as a church what new things God can and will do in us and through us this year. Ask God to expand our vision and inspire us to greater faithfulness in discipleship, ministry, and missions, and then listen for God’s still, small voice and pay attention to God’s nudging to see what new things might be possible for you and for Hope Valley Baptist Church in 2017. As you sense God’s leading and guidance, please share those ideas with me and with others in our congregation as we discern together the movement of God’s Spirit. Together, may we then devote ourselves to following, praising, and serving God together.