Year brought challenges, but still there’s reason to count blessings
Decemer 1, 2005
AlthoughI have lived long enough to know the importance of relishing every day andevery experience, I confess that I am not sorry to see 2005 coming to an end.
Thishas been a year of too much disaster. The tsunami taught us a new word and thedangers of strong earthquakes deep in the sea. Many are still dealing with theloss of that horrible event that ended 2004. Natural disasters have sweptacross the world so often that some are exploiting the events to proclaim thatthe end of the world is near.
Onanother front, the war in Iraqhas been grinding on with daily attacks on coalition forces and the Iraqi menserving in police and army groups. Each morning I awake to the news report ofdeaths and casualties. Recently the 2,000th American soldier died there. Andterrorists have killed nearly 10 times that many Iraqis.
Inmid-summer bombers struck the underground system of London, driving home the lesson that no oneis really safe. Many American cities have had threats on transportation systemsduring the last part of this year.
Recentlyour family was stunned when dear family friends suffered a terrible tragedy.Wayne Russell, whose parents have been family friends for decades, lost hiswife in a freak accident. She was killed when her van backed over her when shegot out to rescue her three boys — ages 14 months, 3 and 5 — from a wasp in thevan. In eight hours Waynelost his wife and the mother of his sons.
Colleaguesat Oklahoma Christian Universityhave faced serious crises with cancer. Kim Gaither, a biology professor, isfacing the third reoccurrence of her cancer. Byron Newberry, an electricalengineering professor, and his wife have nurtured their toddler son, Isaac,through a rare glandular cancer. Jeanetta Sims, a communications professor, andher husband are helping their young son, Anthony, deal with a malignant braintumor.
Sothe passing of this year gives me hope that the coming year will be better fora battered world and for families struggling with life-threatening illnesses. Iam too shaped by eternally optimistic parents — people who could only rarely bedepressed because they so loved the adventure of life.
WhenI contemplate these past months, I realize that the difficulties were far lessthan the blessings. Among the greatest blessings of my life are my six children(three born into the family and three married in) and my eight grandchildren.
Joyceand I had the wonderful opportunity to spend eight days this summer in Londonand Edinburgh, Scotland, with our four oldest grandchildren — Jennifer Roe,Luke Roe, Savanna Roe and Kailey Brown. Showing grandchildren famous siteshelps us see things with clearer eyes. And of course, seeing the light ofunderstanding in their eyes or the smile of joy enriches every experience.
Joyceblesses my life every day. The passing of years has made me aware that Godguided me to love a woman whose positive spirit has enriched my life and thelife of my children and innumerable children she has loved and taught theBible.
Iam blessed by a large church family that grows spiritually and has peace. Myhome congregation has a membership above 2,000 with attendance of 2,500 to3,000 for Sunday worship. Yet I am fortunate to have as my shepherdingassignment a community Bible class with about 35 regular members. That classfeels like a family. Prayer is the hallmark of the group, and the people reallydo love each other. They nurture each other through trials and lapses of faith.
Ifeel extremely blessed to be part of the Kingdom at this time. These are dayswhen the Kingdom is having its greatest outreach in modern times. After decadesof a legalistic approach to Scripture, the church is teaching the transformingpower of the Word. Believers are studying the Bible privately. They belong tosmall groups that meet often to study ways to make the Bible more effective intheir lives. Christian men are forming accountability groups to help them bepure and grow in holiness.
Churchesaround the world are reaching out to others to provide guidance and to addressthe needs of people. The membership of churches in Indiaand Africa is large; each has as many or more church members as the United States.Churches in Latin America, Indiaand Africa are planting new churches. Mostmission fields are experiencing record growth.
Churchesaround the world have hearts of compassion for suffering. Giving for relief hasreached record levels in churches, para-church organizations and reliefagencies. Local churches are meeting their budgets despite all the gifts givenfor relief.
Thenew year is a blank. It is a blessing from God. I am praying that believerswill all make the most of every day to seek holiness and godly service.