Joy Has Dawned

Christmas Carolers at our door Sunday night!

Joy has dawned upon the world,
Promised from creation—
God’s salvation now unfurled,
Hope for ev’ry nation.
Not with fanfares from above,
Not with scenes of glory,
But a humble gift of love—
Jesus born of Mary.


Sounds of wonder fill the sky
With the songs of angels
As the mighty Prince of Life
Shelters in a stable.
Hands that set each star in place,
Shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now to a mother’s breast,
Vuln’rable and helpless.


Shepherds bow before the Lamb,
Gazing at the glory;
Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story.
Gold—a King is born today,
Incense—God is with us,
Myrrh—His death will make a way,
And by His blood He’ll win us.


Son of Adam, Son of heaven,
Given as a ransom;
Reconciling God and man,
Christ, our mighty champion!
What a Savior! What a Friend!
What a glorious myst’ry!
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of hist’ry.

Keith & Kristyn Getty

Cooped Up At Christmas

I am so glad my wife and I like each other.

We have spent many hours together this month due to my bout with covid.

So what have we done to merry up Christmas and keep our marriage on the scenic route?

  1. Trust in forgiveness and the grace of God. When you are not feeling well, you can be demanding and words can have an edge. Throw in our hearing issues, and . . . . Therefore, just like every day of marriage, you must rest in the grace of God and forgive, not apologize.
  2. Give each other space. My wife has taken up the hobby of water color painting. She has received refreshment from going to her craft room in the afternoons and/or evenings and losing herself in a winter scene.
  3. Read Paul David Tripp’s, Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional, that our daughter gave to us.
  4. Go for a drive just for some sunshine and a change of scenery. My wife’s Jeep is good for that. Now that I am gaining ground, I feel like driving. So, I’m her chauffer dropping her off at the door as I wait in the car.
  5. Movies. Denise and I are not TV watchers, but we have joined the ranks as we viewed many Christmas movies as well as some others. In the early going of this bout, I had to just sit and be still. No movement. We enjoyed White Christmas, Mrs. Miracle, The Christmas Edition, Elf, The Christmas Lodge, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Christopher Robin, Father of the Bride, It’s a Wonderful Life (my very first time), etc. Miracle on 34th Street awaits.
  6. 12 Days of Christmas. Denise and I have shared in this way of exchanging gifts several times over the years. For twelve days, before going to bed, we give a gift to each other. In the early days, we kept it to around $1-5 gifts. Of course, inflation has struck and it’s around $1-$20. How did I shop? Thank you Amazon delivery and Walgreen’s curbside pick-up services!
  7. Listen to hours of Christmas music via Amazon Music on Alexa. This has helped with a light-hearted atmosphere all through our home.
  8. Enjoy the fireplace at our meals.
  9. Share with each other what the Lord said to us through our daily Bible reading or sermon podcasts. This has been a blessing of joy, tears, conviction, challenge and encouragement.
  10. Nothing much. A few days, my wife was on her own. Well, she had Liza Jane, family communication, friends and the rigors of being a sweet caregiver. But as for us, some lonely hours.

Well, here it is two days before Christmas, and we still like each other! (And love one another, too!) God is so very good. Merry Christmas!!

The Season That Stole Christmas

The lights went out on the top and the bottom this year!!

There I sat with my car backed into the parking lot at Target in observation mode. Still in quarantine, my wife made her trek into Target to purchase a gift.

What did I observe? A steady of stream of shoppers entering and exiting their cars and the stores with sad, frowning, hardened faces. Some were walking briskly, some on a mission, others at a snail’s pace. And, what season of the year is this?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—Go ahead; sing it! You are hearing it in your head anyway!

It’s the celebration of good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:11)!

Isn’t Christmas all about joy, cheer, good news, giving, laughter, family traditions, get-togethers, etc.?

As I watched, my finite mind could not fathom all the stories in front of me in this “season of joy.” Perhaps sudden job loss, death of a dear loved one, disappointment in not finding the right gift, the general frustrations of life, cancer diagnosis, home life issues, heart-crushing memories, failing marriages, brokenness, fear, rejection, dread, chaos, thoughts of suicide, sorrow, discontentment, etc.

In the midst of these stories of life, many hoping that this season might bring a little good news, a little cheer, a little “Tender Tennessee Christmas” to take off the edge of the pain, my mind considered my own current “covidness” and was once again reminded that this season is only a mere shadow of the Realty. If my heart is fixed on all the ingredients of the season, I miss the preeminent, transcendent Person of this day, this season, this year, and this life. At that point, I have fallen into idolatry; worshiping the creature (and what the creature creates here) more than the Creator (Romans 1:18-25).

You see, the only Story that can completely deal with the root cause of all “the fears of all the years,” which began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), is the Reality of the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Who stepped into your life to be your substitute on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-5; 1 Peter 3:18). Life is the Eternal Story, not a temporal season.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV).

Today, tomorrow, on Christmas Day, and the days to follow, listen to and meditate on the Story of hope and redemption, the salvation of your souls, in exchange for the shadows of the season. No matter how good they may be for now, they are only shadows.

Don’t let the season steal what Jesus came to give and restore!

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Additional links for your encouragement today:

Cancelember

Cancel and debt. Two words that loom heavily over this Christmas 2021.

Debt looks like that long line of overloaded, bulging Sam’s Club carts at the exit door that probably won’t be paid off before next Christmas.

Cancel looks like our holiday season due to Covid.

  • Vacation (Cancelled)
  • Pigeon Forge/Dollywood Lights/Time with friends (Cancelled)
  • Hike (Cancelled)
  • Christmas shopping (Cancelled)
  • Haircut (Cancelled)
  • Perform wedding, Dec. 17-18 (Cancelled)
  • Christmas caroling (Cancelled)
  • Game date to Blackbird Bakery (Cancelled)
  • Getty Christmas Concert, Greenville (Cancelled)
  • December corporate worship with brothers & sisters in Christ (Cancelled)
  • And there is more, but . . .

Cancel and debt are GREAT words at Christmas! Quite frankly, what we would consider to be two negative, disappointing words are instead words that are full of hope and joy!

Christmas is preeminently and transcendently about the Lord Jesus Christ. Due to the sinful condition of mankind (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23), Christ in His glorious humiliation entered into the chaos of our depraved, full of death condition (Philippians 2:6-8) and cancelled the debt of our sin against us that He might reveal God to us (Matthew 1:21-23).

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him (Christ), having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:13-15).

Christ came to experience all that experience, die for our sins, and then return to Heaven to represent us before the Father. He is willing to save and able to save (Warren Wiersbe). [Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25]

Therefore because my life is secure in Christ today and for all eternity, the words “cancel” and “debt” remind me of Christmas, the Gospel!

On this day in “Cancelember” I can sing the following old song of praise and testimony!

He paid a debt He did not owe
I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away
And now I sing a brand new song
Amazing Grace
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay

My debt He paid upon the cross
He cleansed my soul from all its dross
I tho’t that no one could all my sins erase
But now I sing a brand new song
Amazing Grace
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay

O such great pain my Lord endured
When He my sinful soul secured
I should have died there but Jesus took my place
So now I sing a brand new song
Amazing Grace
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay

He didn’t give to me a loan
He gave Himself now He’s my own
He’s gone to Heaven to make for me a place
And now I sing a brand new song
Amazing Grace
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay

2021 Come Quickly!!

And when it does, what will be different?

Will the passing of the dreadful year of 2020 make your life instantly better?

Does the ball dropping in Times Square automatically change everything into a world of peace and happiness?

What does 2021 promise you?

So, let’s stop for a moment and look to the past. What do you see? The same scenario year-after-year . . . joys and sorrows, fulfilled and unmet expectations, life and death, wins and losses, ups and downs, financial gains and losses, strength and weakness, calm and storms, success and failures, and my list could continue.

You see, it’s been this way since the Garden of Eden. We live in a sin-cursed world with deceitful, desperately wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that longs to be satisficed with the “husks of this world” (Luke 15:11-16) and the selfish desires within each of us. It is totally impossible to find lasting satisfaction and joy in this world or within ourselves. Everything around us and within us is temporal, fleeting, decaying and dying.

So, what does 2021 promise you? Nothing. It’s just another year of the same.

What hope then do we have? How will we survive? What do we have to look forward to?

The answer is wrapped up completely in a name, in the Person, the very Son of God . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are still in the midst of celebrating a special holiday called Christmas which is all about the name at the beginning of the word Christmas…Christ.

He is the Good News for today, for 2021, for the past and for eternity future!

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.(Matthew 1:21)

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. . . . He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:16-17, 36)

My friends, John 14:6 spells it out so simply when Jesus said, I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The way, the truth, the life are not things, a better year, a pay increase, being married, having children, or any other ingredient you think you can add to your life to make you happy and/or satisfied. All three of these are now and will forever be a person . . . the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Way to Heaven and the way of everyday life is found only in the Person of Christ. He desires to have a personal relationship with you for all eternity. The Truth is now and will forever be in the Person of Christ. He is the unchangeable, living Standard. He is the Truth Who will personally guide you into all truth, in the paths of righteousness (John 16:13; Psalm 23:3). And, Life is now and will forever be the Person of Christ. There is no life outside of Christ. You will strive and exist in this life, but true living is only found through the Creator, Giver, and Sustainer of life.

Jesus, come quickly today as I walk with you and you with me (Psalm 1, 23; John 15:1-11; 1 John 1).

Jesus, come quickly and take us home to Heaven where we will truly, finally be home! Then it will all be different; it will all be right; it will be one eternal day of basking in your glorious presence, serving You without sin, sorrow, disappointment, pain. . . the stuff of this life that binds us.

I’m not looking for the ball to drop in Times Square. I’m looking for the Savior to return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

How You Doing?

(Slate.com)

As a pastor, as well as for our church congregation, yesterday was a very different day. But then again, it has been a very different two plus weeks!

We were travelling along, for the most part, doing just fine. Our economy was on an upswing. Students were preparing for their final semester and graduation. Many of us were already in the countdown mode for our beach vacation.

Restaurants were booming. Retail stores seemed to be profiting. And, we were going to church . . . just like we always do.

Have you heard the screeching of the brakes? Basically, life has been put on hold. So much of what we would consider the ingredients of life has been removed from us, closed down, quarantined, or reduced.

May I ask, “How are you doing?” We are going into week two of the various levels of virus response in our area. Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee enacted an executive order for statewide closures due to COVID-19. Again, may I ask, “How you doing?”

Are you missing your “normal” life? No sports, no Friday night restaurant trips, no TJMaxx, and no Sunday gatherings. (It seemed so strange to walk into the waiting area of my eye doctor last week to find only three chairs located a 100 miles from each other!!!)

Bottom line is, we have been really good at cramming our 24 hours-a-day with the stuff of life. I am not minimizing the severe threat of the coronavirus, but I must say that it has also caused many of our idols to come crashing down in front of us. So very much of our life has been characterized by being “crazy busy” with a truck-load of temporal things.

Friends, life is not found in the abundance of things or activities or recreation or even people. Everything and everyone around us, as far as this time on earth is concerned, is temporal. We can do all within our power to keep things propped up, running smooth, and filling our lives with what we think really satisfies. All it takes is for a virus or a tornado or some other tragedy to wipe it all out; to remove it from our grasp.

Here’s the true bottom line: Who is Jesus to you? Life is not things. Life is a Person (John 14:6). The Lord Jesus Christ came to save you from your greatest crisis which is your total inability to save yourself from an eternity in hell (John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:1-10). But He did more than that. He came to give you Himself, the only way back into a right relationship with God and the assurance of an eternity in Heaven. For more information, click on this link and watch the four YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsP-etMyUZk

Indeed, God has abundantly, mercifully and graciously given us so much to enjoy here on earth, but if they were all taken away from us, would Jesus be enough? When things get back to “normal,” remember the only true normal is Jesus Christ, first in all things (Matthew 6:24-33; Colossians 1:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Christ is the issue in all of life!

How you doing? Would you pray for me, too, that I’ll keep my eyes and heart fixed on Christ?

A Marriage that is Merry and Bright!

Christmas DateBeing the romantic at heart, Christmas provides many opportunities for strengthening your marriage.  There is enough unnecessary stress during the holidays.  Therefore, instead of bowing to Grinch stress, let me offer some helpful suggestions to make your marriage “be merry and bright.”

Men, take 15 minutes.  Get your December calendar and mark out at least five days you and your wife can have a date.  Come on, men.  Get up right now.  Go get your calendar.  Got your pen?  Now, write “Date w/ _______” in five day boxes on your calendar.  If you don’t plan it, most likely it will not happen.  Furthermore, when someone invites you to another activity, you say, “Sorry.  I have something already planned for that day.”  Your wife will see that she is your top priority, and the mistletoe will become even more special to both of you!!!

“After the Kids Go to Bed” Date:  You did not marry your kids.  You married your wife, and she needs you to spend time with her without interruptions.  So, meet in a cozy place in your home.  Make or purchase your favorite snack and drink.  Play some soft Christmas music in the background.  Play a game, work on a puzzle, watch your favorite Christmas movie, . . . just do something together AND SILENCE YOUR PHONES.  When you are done, read Luke 2:1-20, and pray together.

“Fireplace” Date:  Find a location with a fireplace such as a restaurant (Panera, Chop House, Cracker Barrel), a coffee shop (local) or a hotel lobby (Grove Park Inn; DreamMore Resort, Dollywood).  Sit as close as possible to the fire . . . and to each other.  After securing a coffee/hot tea and pastry, just talk.  Ask each other the questions.  Enjoy each other’s company.  Block out the rest of the world.  Check out this website for some good discussion starters: 50 Question to Strengthen Your Marriage  (Don’t get distracted by the other articles on the blog site.  Stay on point.)

“Book Store” Date:  Locate a table near the coffee shop of a local bookstore or a reading couch.  After you’ve found your spot, then you begin your three to five round search for books.  On each round, both of you look for a book for that round’s subject.  Give about 5 minutes for each search. Once you have found your book, return to your location.  Taking turns you share your findings with each other by reading a portion of the book to each other, discuss it, and then return the books at the same time. From there, go find the next round’s subject and repeat as described above.

  • Round One:  Find a children’s book that was one of your favorites as a child.
  • Round Two:  Find a cookbook that has one of your favorite recipes.
  • Round Three: Find a book that gives info and pictures of a place you would like to visit.
  • Round Four:  Find a book of romantic poetry.  (Be sure to read the poem you found to your spouse.)
  • Round Five: Find a clean joke book.  (My wife and I have laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks.)

When you have completed this fun, romantic, insightful evening, men, share your next date idea with your wife.  Watch her reaction!!

“Grocery Store” Date:  Men, you probably don’t go to the grocery store with your wife.  May I just say, you are missing out! Truth is, every time you’re with your wife, especially alone (if you have children still at home), it should be an event, not just another trip out with “what’s-her-name.”  My wife and I have had more fun over the years shopping together, even at midnight.  And your wife will definitely need to buy groceries for the Christmas season.

As you stroll the aisles, certain food items make for good conversation.  The music played throughout the store can create a dance moment right there on Aisle 8 (It’s ok to dance….it’s your wife!).  The card section makes for some good laughs as you read humorous cards to each other or tender moments as you share the romantic ones with each other (That way you don’t have to complain about the price of cards or wonder what romantic thing you can say to each other!!).

“Light It Up” Date:  Prepare your favorite hot drink, bring along some snacks, warm up the car, and go for a drive looking at Christmas lights.  Be sure to listen to Christmas music.  Hold hands; drive slow; enjoy the moments; stop for a kiss here and there; and if it’s snowing, get out of the vehicle, walk in the snow for a block or two (snowballs are allowed, too)!

God created marriage and expects us to rejoice with the wife of our youth (Proverbs 5:18).  Husbands, brighten your Christmas and your marriage!

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

 

Christmas In the Past; Life in the Present

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The build-up and anticipation of Christmas is unequaled in our country!  As is often said, “The preparation for Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier each year.”  Indeed, Christmas is a very special holiday and one that many folks prepare for throughout the whole year.  But, what about the days after?  Is there a let-down?  After all the planning and performing of cantatas as well as children’s plays, buying and wrapping gifts, preparing for company and meals,  taking family photos, and  celebrating firsts (marriage, children, house, job), is all over, how will you handle the days and the weeks after?

  1. Begin today in God’s Word reading it with the same passion as you did all the “Christmas passages.” Memorize other portions of the Word of God with the same fervor as you did to memorize Luke 2:1-20.  Read books about the life of Christ beyond the cradle with the same zeal as you did all the Christmas books.  Read them to your children, and make Christ’s life BIG to them every day!!
  2. Live with a daily anticipation of the next biggest day of your life as a believer—the Rapture & the Bema (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; 12 Corinthians 5:10).
  3. Enjoy singing songs of praise and worship to our God all the other months of the year with gusto and joy on your face as you did the carols of this season (Psalm 96:1-9).
  4. Be a giver today as you were on Christmas (Acts 20:35).
  5. Open up your home for family and guests today and into next year (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).
  6. Walk in the same grace today that was sufficient yesterday as you dealt with the “tug in your heart” over that special person that was not here this Christmas season (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  7. Be as energetic today about the gospel as you have been prior to December 25 (Philippians 1:27).

2 Peter 1:3-8

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Photo:  Steven Lawson)

A Parent’s Best Gift

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Let’s go back to the Sears Christmas Wish Book I mentioned yesterday.  So many memories..

Here’s a few of them:

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Wow! A banana seat bicycle!  Pop a wheelie!

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Can you taste it?

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This was serious right here!!

How many times I would pour over the pages of the catalog, mark what I wanted, then proceed to my mom and dad and say, “You know what I want for Christmas?”  And how many times did I hear them say, “We can’t afford that.”

What could they afford?  The same thing that every parent can afford—time.

When I survey Scripture, I see God’s instructions to parents taking time not money.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

  • To train, discipline (which is teaching, instructing, and correcting) and nurturing takes time.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

  • Often children get into trouble because they are just crying out for someone to pay them some attention. They want to know where you will draw the line.  It takes time to teach what is right, what is wrong, what to do to stay right, and what will happen if we choose to go our own way.

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

  • Please note again the meaning of discipline and the need to take time to be diligent to fulfill the complete picture of discipline/discipleship. If a child does need a spanking, it should not be a quick strike out of anger, but a time of loving correction and training.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9        And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

  • Once again, you cannot teach, train and disciple on the run. It is your lifestyle.  It takes time.

Parents, your greatest investment on this earth will be your children.  They don’t need you to buy them things to make up for where you have failed.  They need your love, attention, character-training, and fun times.  They need you to teach them the Word of God.  They need to hear how you came to salvation.  They need you to pray with them.  They need you to make spiritual applications of life with them throughout the day.  They need you to teach them how to work, how to eat, how to be hospitable, how to serve others, how to talk, how to be a blessing to others, how to make their beds, how to get up and make the day count, how to cook, how to do life in general by the grace of God.

They need you.  They need you every day.

Parents, this Christmas, rather than spending so much money, spend a lot of your time.  Give your children something that will eclipse that banana-seat bicycle.  Give them the best gift—your time; give them you.

I Want an iPad for Christmas

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Christmas is four days away?  Seriously?  It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated Christmas 2015!  Of course, the older you get, the faster time seems to slide by.  Also, retailers help us get cranked up for Christmas in August each year. So, here we are just days away!

My wife and I have always loved Christmas since our earliest recollections.  My, how I remember waiting for the mailman to deliver the Sears & Roebuck Christmas Wish Book.  By the time December 25th rolled around, it was well-worn with many dog-eared pages.

One of my all-time favorite gifts was in the fourth grade . . . an electric football set with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.  The quarterback could even throw a felt football.  If you hit your receiver with the football, it was a completion!

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Another huge favorite was the seeming miles of Hot Wheel track, supped-up Hot Wheel cars and a Hot Wheel power house to send those cars tearing around the track.  I can still hear ‘em!

Oh how I loved the snowfalls of Christmas in southeast Ohio and West Virginia.  One Christmas in Bluefield, it snowed a foot by Christmas morning!  What a time we had building sled runs and just wearing it out!

Those were simple, innocent Christmases that are etched in my mind and thought of with great joy and thanksgiving.

This Christmas, I am fearful that many parents will unknowingly give their children and teens a gift that could turn simple, innocent Christmases and lives into sinful, indecent, regret-filled Christmases and lifestyles.  Please take time to read the following blog post and take heed.  I am begging you to do so!!

Please Do Not Give Them Porn for Christmas