For months I’ve not written on the blog mainly because I was using the “Come to Israel” post as a reference for people to learn about our trip.
This past week we came to the deadline for sign-ups and found ourselves short of the original goal. I was obviously disappointed to have to cancel the trip and to tell the group that had committed that we’d have to wait until next time. Jennifer and the entire team at Maranatha Tours has been a great group to work with and have even provided another tour for those from our group that still want to go.
As I told the group in my letter, I really do trust God’s leading in these areas. Of course I wanted to go, as did they. However, I knew going into it that it was a pretty significant trip. I’m a little bummed but I also know that it’s all good.
When Laurie and I went 2 years ago, I knew I’d love to return, but I also knew that if that was the only time I’d go, I was so thankful. Perhaps someday we’ll return.
This past summer, Laurie and I attended the Weekend to Remember put on by Family Life. This is a weekend conference on marriage that Family Life has been doing for many years. Whether you’re newly married, an old pro, or considering getting married soon, this event will bless you.
From their website:
Great marriages require intentionality and investment—just like a garden that must be watered in order to grow. FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember getaway offers:
- Biblically-based insights from top speakers and marriage experts.
- Relaxing alone time to rediscover the reasons you fell in love, free from distractions
- Helpful tools, projects, and resources for an immediate impact on your marriage.
We first attended the Weekend to Remember 20 years ago. It was okay. Going for only the second time this past June, we both really appreciated the weekend. Our marriage isn’t a mess, we’re not in any trouble, nor are we finished with the whole ‘sanctification process’! We’re pretty average people. Some people think a conference like this is meant for marriages in trouble. Honestly, I was pleased to find people at all stages of marriage: the engaged, the newly wed, the new parents, the empty nesters, and yes, there are testimonies of those barely hanging on. All stages!
I’m writing to encourage you to invest in your marriage, no matter the stage of life you’re in right now.
You can go to our church’s website and register through us for a good discount. The dates are Dec 9-11.
Yesterday was our third study in the Esther series, “The Quiet Work of God”. At the close of the message I shared that I would step away from the series for the next two Sundays so I can give some practical application from our series for our church, Grace Community. In other words, it’s time to have a talk.
The final challenge was asking our church family to pray for Grace, especially as we enter these next two weeks. #PrayforGrace. Esther had the Jewish people fast for 3 days before she would present herself to the King on their behalf. I’m sure that included prayer, though the text doesn’t say that.
This morning I spent some time in my kayak on Lake Mary as I have on several early mornings this summer. I have the entire lake to myself. So I don’t just exercise and think of my day, I get to pray and pray out loud. Not for you or anyone else to know, but to talk out loud to God as though He was in front assisting with the rowing. #PrayforGrace
I’m praying for our church, that we would be as courageous as Esther, even when we don’t know what the next step will look like (more on that in yesterday’s sermon!). If you’re a part of the Grace family, join me in praying for God’s people and the mission He has us on. If you’re from another church, go ahead and pray the same thing for your church, for your pastor and leadership.
Where ever you are, make space for prayer. Just you and God talking. Talking about what’s on your mind, what’s on His. Being thankful. Giving thought to what’s ahead.
He rose from the dead
That’s been our theme this Christmas in “The Wonder of Christmas”. It’s still a wonder that He came to us in a manger. It’s a wonder that He took my place on a cross. He died for me. It’s a wonder that a place where dead bodies lay is found empty. He arose victorious over death. So I,too, can know eternal life!
When you see the manger you must see the cross. He didn’t just come on a silent night. He came in humility to take on my punishment.
When you see the empty tomb, you know He’s alive and He’s coming again.
Join us at Grace Community tomorrow for one of our two Christmas Eve services at Sinagua. The Wonder of the Manger.
Come at 4:30 (with childcare for infants through preschool) or at 5:45 (with no childcare). All are welcomed! Invite family and friends to join you. Arrive early. You don’t want to miss the opening!
My house is full of family and there are about 7 different conversations going on and a few singing and a game is being played and pictures are being shared and others are in the kitchen grazing.
We had a great thanksgiving day with all the traditional treats and accompanying stresses of hurrying up and saying hellos and goodbyes all too quickly. Thanks for all who came and shared the day together.
I woke up this morning feeling lousy. Like sick. I probably won’t die of this, but just enough of a sore throat to keep me somewhat isolated and careful at best. So, here I sit in the other room, listening and checking in with you.
Like some, Laurie and I have a pretty quiet home. For whatever reasons the Lord never gave us children. We love the extended families that we share. But there’s nothing like family actually filling the house.
Our hearts are full.
Laurie would say that too, but now she’s busy playing Christmas songs accompanying a few of the sibs. All is good. Truth is, it’s always good because God is good and His gifts are good. Somedays we get to live in the awareness of His goodness more than others. So, with grateful hearts, let’s never tire of saying Thanks. To God. To each other.
I keep meaning to say something about a couple of new apps. I don’t hear much of people talking about ‘favorite’ apps much anymore. I think everyone is kind of on their own. And there doesn’t really seem to be too much room left for the latest coolest. But in case you still have a little room…
A couple of weeks ago I found two new apps that I really like:
Skyview and GoISSWatch
I’m intrigued watching the International Space Station go overhead usually in good view about once a night.
The Skyview is just cool to get your bearings. Have fun.
I’m hesitant to use the word rest because I usually envision a hammock on a beach, or a carefree stroll through a new place with no obligations or cares. The truth is, rest comes in many sizes and shapes.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. Psalm 23:2–3
For the past several weeks I’ve had a change in my routine. And overall, it’s been restful. Part of my time was spent vacationing with family. Some time was given to study and research. Sprinkled throughout was the occasional meeting with individuals, staff and leaders. But overall, this time has been a good change of pace. Lots of travel. Lots of hiking. Lots of time working from home with my sweetheart nearby. I feel rested. And ready.
The way the travels and study time fell, I was able to be in attendance at Grace for all but one of the Sundays. I was so blessed by the teaching at Grace from our pastors and elders. Thanks men, for feeding our church so well.
Now I’m back in my office preparing for this week’s message from Second Thessalonians chapter one. Read the chapter this week, let’s both come prepared!
- We have the privilege this week to celebrate baptisms at Grace. Always a celebration!
- This coming Monday begins our Vacation Bible School! Let’s all pray for an amazing week for the kids and pray for each of our many workers! God bless each of you, and thanks for your work to make this VBS the awesome week that it is!
- Men of Grace!!! Our annual retreat is just a few weeks away, Aug 7-9. You can go online and register here at our website. If this is your first time and would like more info, please contact Pastor Bob at the office or see him on Sunday. The best way to register is online. Calvary Community Church in Phoenix hosts this retreat each year and we’re thankful that we are invited to come and join them. This link will take you to their website for details and registration. Do it today. And please, bring your sons (12yo and older). They too will have a blast. What a great environment for young men, surrounded by a few hundred men following God! I’m going. Can’t wait to see you there.
Blessings, Pastor Mark