Thursday, January 31, 2013

New and Improved Nursery

On our "Labor for the Lord" (last Saturday), we tackled a number of areas in the church, including the nursery. Lots of junk was cleared away, toys were sanitized, the room was rearranged. Thanks to everyone for helping out!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spirit: Unwrapping the Gift (4)

Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here!

Acts 4.18-31, Acts 9.10-25, with Acts 1.1-9 and Psalm 104.24-35

Review: "Unwrapping the Gift"
body: spiritual gifts, not about the gifts themselves but
fit into our confession of faith in Jesus as Lord
fit us uniquely into the community of faith
follow up: speak w/ me, class leader, staff

Today: zoom out to the gift of the Spirit itself
"filled with the Spirit"
"baptized in the Spirit"

As last week, with the Scripture about the gifts of the Spirit, many of us have assumptions and fears about what this may mean. We’ve seen too much on television and, at least if you are like me, you change the channel as quickly as you can. I want to be a spiritual person, but not like that!

No matter our emotional reaction to the idea of the gift of the Spirit, one thing is sure: It is a gift that remains so often unwrapped in the life of God’s people. As last week, I want to do some teaching, to help us understand the Biblical language and the wonderful gift that is ours to unwrap. First, the gift of the Spirit and God’s people in community

In the gospels,
John the baptizer: Jesus will baptize with the Spirit (Mt 3.11, etc.)
@Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit comes like a dove (Mk 1.10, etc.)
Baptism is linked with the gift of the Spirit (theology & practice)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Global Church -a First!

In 2012, we elected new bishops throughout The United Methodist Church. In Lithuania, Eduard Khegay was elected bishop for the Eurasia Area, stretching across 11 time zones including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazahkstan, and other former Soviet republics. Bishop Khegay is the first bishop in The United Methodist Church to be born in the former Soviet Union.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Who Is This Man?

"Jesus' impact on our world is highly unlikely, widely inescapable, largely unknown, and decidedly double-edged. It is unlikely in light of the severe limitations of his earthly life; it is inescapable because of the range of impact; it is unknown because history doesn't connect dots; and it is doubled-edged because his followers have wreaked so much havoc, often in his name.

"He is history's most familiar figure, yet he is the man no one knows. His impact on the world is immense and non-accidental. From the Dark Ages to Post-Modernity he is the Man who won't go away."

Join us at 6:00 pm on Thursday nights beginning Feb 14 for dinner and our Lent learning theme presented by John Ortberg. On Feb 14, we'll begin with a special presentation on Saint Valentine by Pastor JP. The video sessions will begin the following week. Contact Carolyn in the church office to get your copy of the book Who Is This Man?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Full Circle

Joani, once a student in the Learning Center, is now a high school student serving in the center! Welcome back!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The 57th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service

Adam Hamilton, pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, delivered the message on "Compassion, Vision, and Perseverance: Lessons from Moses". We have enjoyed his video teaching series here at Bethany.

Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, Mr. Vice President and Dr. Biden, leaders in government, business and faith, it is a privilege to be with you today, and to offer the Word on the occasion of your second inauguration, Mr. President. Over the last two weeks I’ve been praying, “Lord, what would you have me say to these remarkable leaders?” The first thing I’d want to share with you is simply, “Thank you.”

A friend once told me that there are three reasons people run for office: 1. Either they love power and all that goes with it. 2. Or, they are a little off in the head! 3. Or they really want to make a difference in the world. . . .

Full text. Video.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Spiritual Gifts

This past Sunday, as part of our series "Unwrapping the Gift", we looked at 1 Corinthians 12, which refers to "spiritual gifts", "manifestations" of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our local body.  If you have not begun the process of discerning your gifts, I encourage you to use this simple free assessment tool (which we also distributed in worship) from LifeWay Resources. Check it out!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

College students fight human trafficking

A great story of college students serving in connection with The United Methodist Church. And, check out their Facebook page.

No one really talks about it. Most of us probably don’t even know that there are more slaves now than ever in human history. Depictions of human trafficking are often seen in movies and television shows, but we don’t think of it happening in the United States.
Regan Kramer, a Florida native, didn’t either.

That was until she went to a Passion conference that highlighted the topic of domestic human trafficking. From there, Kramer said God led her on the path to bringing awareness of the issue to the campus of Florida International University in Miami, where she serves as the associate director of the Wesley Foundation.

“It really burdened me when I came home,” Kramer said. “I knew I had to do something about it, especially when I realized it was happening in Miami.” She soon learned that Miami has the third-largest number of human trafficking cases in the United States.

Check out the FIU 4Freedom Facebook page and read the whole story!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Be it further resolved

Many New Year's resolutions, by now often a struggle to keep, are built around diet and exercise. A couple suggestions for expanding our spiritual lives along with our physical health. Pray a prayer of thanks at each meal. And, listen to the Scripture as you exercise, particularly if you are an iPod or mp3 playing athlete! Check out or YouVersion Bible App for computer or mobile use.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Body: Unwrapping the Gift (3)

Sorry, no audio this week.
1 Corinthians 12.1-27, with John 17.20-24 and Psalm 133

Over the past couple weeks, we have looked at two specific themes that are necessary dimensions to unwrapping the gift of God in our lives. First: emptiness. To unwrap God’s gift, we have to create room in our lives and in our souls. Second: courage. To unwrap God’s gift requires an act of courage. And we looked at the refrain unfolding throughout the biblical story: Be strong, be courageous, and act.

But what is the gift itself? I said, each week, that God has a gift for us. What is it? We know it’s not another new sweater. It’s not movie tickets, or an electronic device, or fine dining. The most important way to describe this gift is that it is God-self – the Father’s approval and becoming part of the family; Jesus Christ offered for us, broken body, poured out blood, upon the cross; the Holy Spirit filling us with love and life. That’s the gift, and that’s the first and most important calling that God offers us – to live that gift every day, at work, in the neighborhood, with our family.

At the same time, there are specific and particular gifts for us, gifts that are unique to each of us. One dimension of this is what the Scripture calls "spiritual gifts", unique "manifestations" of the present of the Spirit of God in our lives. For many of us, this is an entirely new thing. Note that Paul writes, "I do not want you to be uniformed" (1Co 12.1). In some translations, the wording is a bit more assertive: "I do not want you to be ignorant" (see Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians).

The funny thing about this opening remark, at least in the context of the passage itself, is that the Corinthians did not consider themselves to be ignorant. They considered themselves spiritual experts, they felt they were better than other people, better than other followers of Jesus, because they were so spiritual – so spiritual that they were like the angels (Fee, 571-573). "If I speak in the [languages] of mortals and of angels" (1Co 13.1). They spoke in tongues, that is, in languages they had never studied or learned; they spoke in tongues a lot, and really abused the gift and each other (Fee).

So, there’s some satire involved. "You think you are experts. You’re really ignorant. Let me set you straight."

Monday, January 21, 2013

From China

Some pics from Sharon. Her factory was sent there and she is teaching folks to do her old job.

Adam Hamilton to speak at the inaugural prayer service

1 Timothy 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Whatever our voting record, now it is time to pray for our national leaders -- the President, Congress, and courts.  The apostle Paul encourages us to do this "first of all", and for followers of Jesus, our political action should always begin with prayer.

Check out the story from The United Methodist Reporter:

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., and an author of popular books on Christian faith, has been chosen to give the sermon at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service on Tuesday. Mr. Hamilton recently was named the Reporter’s 2012 United Methodist of the Year for his contributions as pastor, teacher, denominational leader and author.

Reached by email about his inaugural service invitation, Mr. Hamilton said: ”I was really surprised and humbled to be asked. Then for two nights I could not sleep thinking about preaching with the president and vice president on the front row and 2,000 of our nation’s leaders behind them.”

Mr. Hamilton said he got the invitation about two weeks ago, from Joshua DuBois, director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama White House.

He will have 15 minutes for the sermon. “My assistant says I can’t even introduce a sermon in 15 minutes, but I’ve timed the message, and if I stick to the script it will be exactly 15 minutes,” he said. Asked what he’ll preach, Mr. Hamilton said: ”In the light of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation this month, I’m focusing on the Bible’s great emancipation story—the Exodus, and three leadership lessons from Moses. Keeping the rest under wraps!”

Mr. Hamilton said he is aware that he’ll be representing the UMC, which has about 7.6 million members in the United States and about 12 million worldwide.

Check out the full story! We have appreciated some of the teaching series of Rev. Adam Hamilton, both in past Lenten seasons for our dinner series and in Sunday School.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Warming up the band

The band getting ready to lead worship in our Celebrations service.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Group Life

Our Sunday night group met at Laura's last week and celebrated Holy Communion. As usual for that group, there was a wonderful meal too! Check out our Groups tab for options for you!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sunday School

Check out our Sunday School classes for all ages! Classes for children, youth, and 5 options for adults (including a Spanish language class).

Courage: Unwrapping the Gift (2)

Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here!
Sorry: No audio this week.
Haggai 2.1-9, with Luke 19.11-17

Walking to school the first time on my own... From the perspective of my imagination, I might as well have been Bilbo on an unexpected adventure – trolls, dragons, goblins, wild dogs could be found behind the next tree or around the next corner. Be strong. Take courage. Words that show up in Scripture like a refrain, over and over. In this passage, they are followed by the word "work". "Take courage, O Zerubbabel; take courage, O Joshua; take courage, all you people; WORK, for I am with you ... according to the promise that I made you" (Haggai 2.4).

Israel had gone into exile, the monarchy and the priesthood decimated, the city and the temple destroyed. Now they have returned and they’ve tried to rebuild the temple, but not tried too hard. It is too expensive, it is too difficult; we don’t have the time and we don’t have qualified leadership. And, because it is nothing like what we remember, nothing like what we have lost, it’s just plain difficult to get started.

Unwrapping the gift, our theme for this series of messages: God has something wonderful for you. It may be an awkward time. It may be a transition filled with uncertainty. It may be a moment without leadership or clarity. It may be a period of depression. No matter what moment we are in, God has a gift for us. Last week, we looked at the experience of emptiness as a spiritual practice to make room for the gift of God in our lives. Today, we are reminded that receiving God’s gift is an act of courage. Be strong. Be courageous. And DO something. Take a step. Like last night’s fog, you may not see 5 steps ahead, but you do see 1 step. Take that one step with courage.

About 500 years before the return from exile, David the king, the greatest leader in ancient Israel, was dying. His son, Solomon, was preparing to take the throne. David says to him, "Be strong and of good courage, and ACT ... for the LORD God is with you" (1 Chronicles 28.20). Succession in the ancient world was bloody and uncertain. David has prepared architectural drawings for the first temple – the one destroyed so many years later at the exile – and gathered the building materials. So much is riding on a smooth ascension to the throne. Be strong. Be courageous. Work.

Twenty-two years ago, I made my first visit to someone in the hospital.... "O God, help me. O God, help me."

Most of the time, we know what we need to do. We know it is right, we know that it may even be good, but we are scared. Sometimes, too scared to do it. Sometimes, too scared to step out into the blessing God offers. Be strong. Be courageous. And act!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tearing Down

Thanks to those who came out last Saturday and helped tear down and put away the Christmas decorations. It was fun to work together!

"Borderline Bordello" to pulpit

Rudy Rasmus, now a pastor in Houston in The United Methodist Church, tells his story:

I have made more mistakes than I would care to remember, and I wish I’d known Jesus sooner.

I was 34 years old before I became a Christian. In all of the years before that, I was in a terrible business, connected to the sex industry. My dad and I owned a business in a tough Houston neighborhood, a motel that catered to prostitutes and their customers. For my entire life, up to age 34, that’s what I did every day. I literally lived in a house of pain.

When I was 5, my dad told me how we were gonna make money. He called me “Big Shot Mister President Boss Man.” He said, “Big Shot, we are going to make money off other people’s pain.”

Every day, in and out of this “borderline bordello,” there were people. There were buyers and sellers, and most of the sellers were female. Because I was raised without a conscience, it didn’t matter. My entire life, I spent every day in that place not caring who got hurt, why, or even the cost. We profited from darkness.

Recently, I was reflecting on just how significant Christ is. I wish I had known about Christ back then. There were people around me who did the church thing and people who said they were Christians, but my dad taught me never to trust preachers and church people. He said they were all full of it. For most of my life, I believed he was right.

Check out the rest of the story.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Newtown and Martin Luther King, Jr

A message from our Bishop, on January 14, 2013:
"And a little child shall lead them....They won't harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, just as the water covers the sea." (Isaiah 11:6c & 9)
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Annual Conference,
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who comes to us as Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world, for such a time as this.
We are haunted by the recent horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut. We can hardly fathom the depth of sorrows and pains of those who lost their loved ones in this indescribable tragedy. As people of faith, we wanted them to know that we were with them in their mourning. We prayed that God's loving arms would hold each of them tight, comfort them and grant them strength for the journey during and after burying their loved ones.
The Newsweek magazine soon after the massacre had these words: "Before long 28 people were dead-among them...20 schoolchildren, none of whom had yet celebrated their 11th birthday. In any sane society, events such as these would serve as a shock to the system. In America, it has become sickeningly routine....half of the dozen deadliest shootings in U.S. history have taken place in the past five years alone. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., 2007, 32 dead. Binghamton, NY., 2009, 13 dead. Fort Hood, Texas, 2009, 13 dead. Aurora, Colo., 2012, 12 dead, Geneva County, Ala., 2009, 10 dead. And now Sandy Hook...where surviving children were told to 'hold hands and close your eyes' as they were led past the bodies of their playmates."
God is the Parent of all parents. Whenever one of our innocent and helpless people, particularly children, fall victim to violence, we know that our God weeps. God claims the person, the child, as God's own. In the midst of the violent deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we hear God's crying out to us, "This is not acceptable, America. God's people, you can do better than this!" There must be a better way to secure safety and protection of all, particularly of our children. There needed to be a time to grieve and to offer the untimely dead back to the One who created them. But there also must be a time for us to speak out on their behalf.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Summer Camp

Church camp for the summer is coming up, with all kinds of options for all ages - music, adventure, sports, general - offered by the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church. Check out the schedule and brochure.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Empty: Unwrapping the Gift (1)

Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here!
2013/01/06 Epiphany
Children, Matthew 2.1-18
Message, Philippians 2.1-11

What do you get for the man, or woman, who has everything? A new car? New jewels? Expensive vacation? It’s a practical question every Christmas regarding at least one person in your family. It’s the thesis that generates a Hollywood thriller (Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in The Game). It’s fodder for entertainment and sports celebrity talk shows. And, have you ever considered that "Twelve Days of Christmas" carol? What do you get for someone who has everything? And, what do you do with three french hens?

Many of us must fall into that category more than we would admit. Have you noticed a pattern to your Christmas gifts? Any of you get a sweater or fleece pullover on a yearly basis, even though you haven’t worn out the old ones? One more tie to add to the collection? A new ring – but didn’t you get amethyst a couple years ago? A new tool? I know that some of us make a living with tools, and the right tool is a special thing. But for the rest of us, a set of screwdrivers, a couple pliers, a hammer and socket wrenches do just about anything. And, if not, duct tape or WD-40 will take care of everything else on at least a temporary basis.

Ties don’t take up much space. But sweaters, fleece, and sweatshirts take up a lot of room. When you run out of space, what do you do? You make more space – buy another dresser, get one of those cardboard boxes to slide under the bed. But, after enough time, you won’t have room for everything. You’ll actually need to get rid of stuff. Whether you already have everything or your family just lacks creativity in their giving plans, to unwrap the gift, to receive the gift, to put it to work, requires making space. And the best way to do that is to get rid of whatever is taking up all the space.

It goes back to the first Christmas. Joseph and Mary come into Bethlehem for the census, she is about to go into labor, but "there is no room" (Luke 2.1). To receive a gift – whether a new sweater, a partridge in a pear tree, or Jesus himself – you have to "make room".

This is where we come face to face with the first step in "unwrapping the gift" – a theme we encounter in the Christmas story as well as in the marvelous early hymn that Paul quotes in his letter to the Philippians. It is the theme of the "empty self". Jesus, "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness" (Philippians 2.6-7). Jesus is the model for the "empty self".

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Lake of Truth: A Fairy Tale About Desire

A wonderful fairy tale from Peter Rollins:

There was once a tragic little field mouse who was out of work and down on his luck. After almost a year on welfare he decided to look further afield for work and discovered that there was a factory located in an enchanted forest just a few miles from his nest. It was expanding its production and was looking for animals to work on the floor putting acorns into shells and checking for defects. He went for the interview and, a few days later, was offered a job.
Pretty soon he got tired of the commute and moved nests. Eventually setting up in a cheap but up and coming part of the forest. Everything ran smoothly as he got to know his job and made new friends. Then one day, quite by chance he was out gathering food for winter and met a beautiful guinea pig. He quickly became infatuated with her and asked her on a little date.
Things went well and pretty soon they were going steady, however this was an insecure little mouse and so he became worried that she didn’t really love him.
He would ask her all the time if she loved him and each she would answer in the same way, “Yes, of course I love you, I loved you from the first day I set eyes on you, I love you this very day and I will love you all the days of my life.”
But this answer never satisfied him because he knew that she could be lying and so his insecurity kept growing until he was so preoccupied he couldn’t concentrate on the job.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Special Olympics - Polar Bears

Bob Lehman will be back in the water soon for the 2013 Polar Bear Plunge, benefitting the Special Olympics of York County. Donations can be made online. The above pic is evidence from 2012. Bob's note is below:

I’ve finally thawed out from last year and it’s time to do it again. The Blue Line Plungers had a great year last year. Our team raised almost $4000 and finished 2nd or 3rd place over all in team fund raising. We had approx. 30 plungers on our team and a lot more supporters.

The Polar Bear Plunge is being held on Feb. 02, 2013 this year and we are once again plunging as the “Blue Line Plungers”. For those of you who were not honored by receiving my e-mail last year, the Polar Bear Plunge benefits Special Olympics of York County.  Our team is made up of active duty and retired law enforcement officers from all over York County. Our team goal is to raise $5000 and be the top fund raising team of the event. My personal goal is to raise $250 and once again I am trying to do so $5.00 at a time. I am not a big fan of begging for money but it only takes one look at the kids who this money goes to benefit and it makes it easy. I’m hoping that you can spare $5.00 for a good cause.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Being Blessed

It was a crazy December. My car, a wonderful old clunker that had been milking us for repairs, suddenly needed a major repair. Instead of going forward with that, we replaced it. Our cell phones, which we had managed to maintain long past their renewal date (since the renewal came with additional fees) were finally winding down and shutting off. We had to replace them. And, the hard drive on my new computer suddenly and unexpectedly died, destroying important data as it did so. (This one, fortunately, was covered by the warranty. But I am still recreating things like church-wide email lists. Let me know if you want to be on our regular update list, our PrayerNet, or the e-Newsletter.) Cars, phones, and computers are such a big part of our daily lives, and all three of them were out of commission at the same time.

At the beginning of Advent, our "Ready for Redemption" theme was "Alarm". We gathered alarm clocks. We were urged by the text to "wake up" to the presence of God in Jesus Christ, to celebrate the signs that God is with us. I found that as I focused on God’s gift, the inconvenience of our situation did not dominate my days. I had one of the best Advent and Christmas seasons I have had in a long time – in terms of the health of my soul – because I chose to focus on what God was up to in my life and in our life together.

I owe thanks to everyone who helped me navigate the season without my typical tools – especially Carolyn and Robin. Beyond that, I want to thank each of you for your flexibility and humor, for our ministry partnership in this season, for the hospitality shown to countless guests who discovered Emmanuel, "God with us" as they were among us. And, I want to thank you for your big hearts for God’s mission in our community and world, through the baby shower for Jesus, the Christmas gifts for our Emergency Relief Fund and for the United Methodist Home for Children, support of the northeast in hurricane recovery, creating and putting up Christmas decorations at the Youth Development Center, and caroling for many of our home bound and the neighborhood around our building. It is such a privilege to be partners in the gospel with you! I am looking forward to a fantastic 2013!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Eve Family Service (1)

Even in the snow, we had a wonderful gathering. And we had a beautiful time of celebrating the gift of God in Jesus Christ!

Christmas at the Grantley Fire House

Thanks to the fire fighters at the Grantley for hosting a simple Christmas Eve service in the ambulance bay! And thanks to Bob Lehman for providing the cookies and beverages for the fellowship time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Answered Prayer

On Sunday December 23, one of the Welcome/Connect cards was from "all the children" and it contained a single prayer request: "a white Christmas". Yes, I read and pray through the cards every week, often more than once. This prayer made me smile, not expect the snow we did receive. But the prayers of many of our young people were answered! In this new year, may your prayers be answered as well!

Warming Up

Not the weather, but the choir, prior to Sunday worship on 23 Dec. If you are interested in music at Bethany, contact Michael!

Our New Year's Resolutions

Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here! This message was from Colossians 3:12-17, on Sunday December 30, shared by Blanca Baker.

Opening: Psalm 19:14 Oh Mighty God, May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer?” In Christ’s name, Amen.

What really is a New Year’s Resolution?

A New Year's Resolution is a commitment that a person like YOU or Me makes to complete a project or we recognize a need for us to change a habit or in many cases, we need to make a lifestyle change. Colossians 3:12 to be read from the Bible.

New Year’s Resolutions are made at this time of the year and typically they are broken by the end of February. Why should we even be bothering with them? Today’s scripture describes the character qualities of disciples of Jesus Christ.

Are we disciples of Jesus? Can we see ourselves in these descriptions, “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience”??  We do not always meet these descriptions, but these are the qualities that God is forming in our lives.

Earlier, in Colossians 3:2, Paul tells us to concentrate on “things from above”, not on worldly things, because our lives are “hidden with Christ in God”. Paul invites each one of us, as God’s chosen people, to live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and become more and more like Jesus.

Paul tells the Colossians that we have, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the knowledge of His divine power and divine glory. It is this power and glory that energizes us in our transformation to become more and more like Jesus. And Paul provides us, here in our focus passage; several practices that shape our souls and make us open to the Spirit of God and the glory of Jesus Christ.

So, I invite you to make a specific New Year’s Resolution for your relationship with God, using one or more of these practices in your daily life. The practices in this passage are: Give Thanks, Love, Unity, and Prayer and study the Scriptures.

Give Thanks. Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Verse 16, “with gratitude in your hearts”. Verse 17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

First and foremost, I want to emphasize my gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ for this past 2012 year. In all honesty, this was not my best year, but I am grateful to God that I am in good health, able to stand here and share his precious word with all of you, and I’m also thankful that God gave me another precious granddaughter, Gabriella Elise.