Merry Christmas to all

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (New Living Translation)

Today is a day for families … and for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, please get in touch with me (at stoakley [at] swbell [dot] net) or someone you know who can tell you how you may invite Him into your life, or click here and read how and why you should make this most important decision.

Or if you already understand your need, you may simply pray this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

If you just prayed that prayer, know that heaven is having a party in your honor! And I would like to know about it, too. Please post a comment or e-mail me privately to let me know.

Merry Christmas, and welcome to the family.

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Honey, I’m home

People, before it’s over, you’re going to get tired of hearing me say how much I love being back in Batesville, where I grew up.

But two things this morning have made me think that thought all over again!

First, I got an e-mail from Lynn. She told me in a “rambling” (her word, but it wasn’t rambly) e-mail:

I can tell you’re having a lot of fun with your blog. … Moving to Batesville seems to have fufilled you in so many ways.

Then, my cousin Teri posted something on Facebook about making spaghetti, and I told her:

Mom has decided we’re having spaghetti for Christmas dinner this year. 🙂 She makes hers Mexican-spicy, and I haven’t had that in years! She used to make it every year for my birthday.

In all this talk about spaghetti for Christmas dinner (I had told Mom I could make chicken spaghetti – yum!), I had forgotten that she used to make her Mexican-spicy spaghetti for my birthday every year.

What a wonderful thing to remember after all these years!

Yes, Lynn, moving to Batesville has fulfilled me in so many ways I can’t even name them all. But I’m going to keep trying.

I know this euphoria won’t last forever, but in the meantime I’m going to savor every sunrise (pale pink at the moment), every glimpse of the cows in the pasture behind us that drive my furbabies crazy, every dog-walking trip or jog to my brother’s and mom’s houses, every drive down Main Street or up Boswell or College, every new encounter I have with someone I knew way-back-when, every hug from my mom and every visit with my brother and his family.

As I’ve said, God made me wait a long time after Bruce and I decided to move here, and I hope I never forget how gracious He was in finally working it out for us.

Normally I would blame this feeling on the holidays, but I’ve had it bad for seven months now. Bruce has learned to smile and accept it, although he is also happy to be here.

Of course there are things about being here that aren’t perfect (nothing this side of heaven ever will be), but overall it has been very, very good.

Welcome home, Suzy & Spice.

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Introducing “books i love”

I’ve created a page called “books i love.” You’ll find the link at the top left of this page, two clicks to the right of HOME. Once you click on BOOKS I LOVE, you’ll see a submenu, where you’ll see new book-related posts as I write them. Tonight’s, for example, is called BOOKS I’VE READ IN 2010. I’ll be adding to “books i love” as I have new books to report on.

This is a work in progress. There are more “books I love” than I’ve had time to post tonight; the list will grow and grow.

If you’re a book lover, I hope you enjoy this new feature. If you’re not a book lover, I hope it inspires you to become one. If you’re somewhere in between, well, turn off your computer, pick up a good book and start reading!

Let me know what books you love – click on the BOOKS I LOVE tab and post a comment.

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White River Photographers Club minutes – Dec. 9, 2010

Peeps,

I tried to upload the minutes of last week’s White River Photographers Club to Facebook tonight as a PDF, but apparently that’s not possible. Here are the minutes, and I will be linking to this post from Facebook until we figure out a more elegant way to do it.

White River Photographers Club
Meeting Minutes
Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010

The Batesville Camera Club, subsequently renamed the White River Photographers Club, convened at 6:30 p.m., with club co-founder Michael McGaha presiding and Suzy Oakley taking notes.

The main topic was the upcoming photo scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt’s dual purpose is to create interest in club membership and to promote Batesville businesses.

Details: The contest will run Jan. 13-20. Club members will judge the entries Jan. 20 for first, second and third prize.

Michael McGaha and Suzy Oakley will visit Batesville merchants to offer them the opportunity to participate. Participation can involve simply promoting the contest if the merchant prefers not to give a prize or have a clue inside the business.

A merchant who wants to participate actively will offer a prize and be willing to have an item at the business that will be photographed for the contest. An item does not have to be inside the business; it can be a fixture or a permanent object outside, or even a part of nature. We’re looking for unique features around town.

Club co-founder Clayton Cavaness will make fliers that can be posted in merchants’ windows or handed out. Merchants who post fliers will have contest clues on hand to give to contestants. A contestant also may get the clues from the club by e-mailing Michael.

Contest entries must be submitted by Jan. 20. Contestants should bring their photos to the meeting on a flash drive, a CD or some other removable medium.

Suzy will contact Eye On Independence magazine to see about submitting an article about the contest, and Michael will contact the Batesville Guard to promote it.

Club members will have a special meeting Jan. 6 to compile clues for the scavenger hunt.

The club voted to change its name from Batesville Camera Club to White River Photographers Club so that photography enthusiasts outside Batesville would feel welcome. (Immediately after the meeting, Clayton created a Facebook page with the new name.)

Club members showed some of the photos they had taken, and the group discussed techniques and tips.

The meeting adjourned. The next regular meeting is Jan. 20, when contest entries will be judged.

– Submitted by Suzy Oakley

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The birth of John the Baptist

I guess I got the cart before the horse yesterday. I posted Luke 2, which tells of the birth of our Savior. Today I wanted to share Luke 1, which tells of the birth of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and the one who would go before and tell of the coming Messiah.

This isn’t as famous a story as the one that tells of Jesus’ birth, but I read it last night and decided to share it.

There are so many things I like about this story, too – the foretelling of Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age, Zechariah’s disbelief (and its consequences), Mary’s visit by the same angel (Gabriel) and the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary, both pregnant with these babies who would become key players in God’s Redemption story. I love that John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting.

So much drama. Read it here:

Luke 1:5-80 (New Living Translation)

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.[b] 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,[c] and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.

23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![d]

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[e] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.[f]

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise

46 Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.

59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”

61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.

65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.

Zechariah’s Prophecy

67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior[g]
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.

76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,[h]
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”

80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

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The birth of Jesus

My Bible-reading plan got derailed about six months ago, largely because of a chaotic schedule, including a move to a new town and a new job. Those are just excuses, really, but the bottom line is that my morning readings have tended to be more “random” lately. In the mornings I read Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” the best daily devotional book I’ve ever read. My Uncle Bill gave me a copy when I graduated from college, and now I have a version that’s in more-modern language (but I like both versions). And then I try to read a passage of Scripture – some days the Psalms, some days a Proverb or two, other days whatever might relate to my current circumstances.

But as we celebrate the birth of our Savior this month, I am reading Luke 2, the best-known Bible version of the birth of Jesus.

Here it is in the New Living Translation, and tomorrow I may publish the King James version, which is how most of us read or heard it as children. King James may be harder to understand at times, but there are certain passages that are simply more poetic and traditional, and those are the words I want to read (or you can watch Linus recite it on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” tonight at 7 on ABC). But for today, here’s the NLT. I hope it blesses you.

Luke 2:1-20 (New Living Translation)

The Birth of Jesus

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

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