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Reflections of 2001 evoke images of joy, pain and God’s mysteries

The first official year of the third millennium has almost run its course. This time last year, Joyce and I were just returning from nearly six months in Europe and the Pacific. We felt safe, comfortable and at peace as we anticipated time with family and connection with colleagues, friends, church family, classes and students.
Now life seems upside down and chaotic because the world is at war with a faceless enemy not connected with any concepts or ideals that relate to Western traditions or roots. Fear has become a constant in every life. Fear dampens holiday shopping: Is it safe to go to crowded places or is the economy so fragile that buying gifts may use resources the family may need for necessities? Parents worry about the safety of their children. Holiday packages are viewed with suspicion. The times are out of joint, and we all feel powerless to set them right.
For the McBrides 2001 has provided many landmarks. We spent a week with our oldest granddaughter Jennifer Roe as she began evaluating colleges on the West Coast. Her brother Luke is only a nanno of an inch from being taller than his father. Their sister Savanna Bailey was on the championship soccer team in a major Tennessee tournament for 11- and 12-year-olds. Kailey Joyce Brown read more books than any other second grader in her Oklahoma school district. Her sister Ashlyn developed into a social creature extraordinary for a 2-year-old, reaching out even to strangers. Brady McBride became an excellent underwater swimmer for a 4-year-old. He also celebrated the birth of his brother Connor Riley on Oct. 5. The landmarks of grandchildren easily fill the mind and heart, but those landmarks are not greater than the spiritual and personal development of family, but they are harder to document to others who are not watching with the same caring heart.
February brought the anxiety of seeing Joyce undergo surgery to clean out and enlarge her right carotid artery. Her swift and complete recovery demonstrated again our human inadequacy to understand God’s working, and the value of our trust in Him.
The death of my long-time friend and fellow-elder’s wife Ramona Dobson just about four weeks earlier during a heart surgery overshadowed the surgery. Our fears were replaced with rejoicing. Death claimed many special friends and precious souls who enriched our lives and influenced our family — Mary Helon Fletcher, the wife of Oklahoma Christian University’s first faculty member; Robert McMillan, former student and then colleague and parent of children very close to my children; and John Beckloff, a college friend who altered mission work in the country of Nigeria.
My life with The Christian Chronicle has changed as Glover Shipp, our senior editor, retired to begin a new chapter in his colorful story. Then in September Gwen Antwine, long-time Chronicle office manager, decided to take advantage of an early retirement package and is now recuperating and caring for her health and the Antwines’ passion for German missions. But God blessed us with Erik Tryggestad, a professional journalist with extraordinary skills, to help gather and report news. As an administrative assistant, Tonda Stafford is learning the procedures to help with the business of the staff. 

The evolving life of the Chronicle and the McBrides, although personally significant, does not matter as much in the grand scheme of things as occurrences touching nations and the Kingdom of God. The U.S. had a change in leadership early in the year, but that change was minor compared to what occurred following Sept. 11. Since then all the rules have changed in international politics, and future events are totally unpredictable. We are definitely in a mine field: every step is dangerous.
Although churches responded cooperatively to terrorists’ actions and to natural disasters, churches continue patterns of self-absorption. Even with a seeming flood of messages about connection, most churches proceed their individualistic ways with almost no knowledge of what the congregation down the street is doing.
Flurries occur over patterns of worship and leadership styles, but few leaders know or care about the brotherhood. Despite the disconnection, individuals seek understanding of God’s spiritual callings. Many people talk about enhancing their prayer life, building stronger families, having more time for meditation and devotion, and knowing God more fully. Concern for the lost seems to increase.
Reflecting on 2001 evokes impressions of joy and pain, but the sum total of all the images reminds us that the mysteries of God are too great for our human understanding. We belatedly recognize the pattern of God’s work and the boundless challenges for God’s people to live in the Kingdom’s power.

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