Three Fall Birthdays

Well, 2023 is here, but I already have a throwback to 2022.

Levi and Zoe celebrated their 16th and 11th birthdays in October, and Silas celebrated his 12th birthday in November. If you are wondering why you never get invited to birthday parties at the Drake household, it is because our birthday parties involve sitting around the table as a family and giving each other a hard time. We do celebrate birthdays, but they are simple, low-budget family affairs in the Drake family.

Here are a few pictures from the fall birthdays (except for Marsha’s (October 3), as she is not much for being the center of attention, even on her birthday)…

Christmas Pics

I love Christmas time and am already sad that it is over. Well, almost over (we still get to sing some of the great Christmas hymns of praise in our upcoming Sunday morning service with our church – praise the Lord!). Over the past couple of weeks, though, I have loved time with family, including our amazing church family. God has been so good to us. To Him be all the glory!

Here are some picture highlights from the past couple of weeks…

Joy because…

On January 24, 2018, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Because the game was played on a Sunday evening and we had a special event with our church, I did not watch the game, except for the first drive. In that first drive, the Vikings marched down the field and got a touchdown, taking an early 7-0 lead, and I remember thinking as I headed into our church’s fellowship hall, “My favorite team might be going to the Super Bowl!

I was excited. You see, the Vikings were, at that time, 0-5 in NFC championship games since they had last made it to the Super Bowl in 1976. Yes, zero Super Bowl appearances in my lifetime.

Well, if you know much about the National Football League, you know the Vikings are now 0-6 in NFC championship games since last making it to the Super Bowl two years before I was born. In that aforementioned game back in 2018, the Vikings went on to get destroyed by the Eagles 38-7. Yes, that is correct – the Vikings scored on that first drive and then got outscored 38-0 the rest of the way. Ouch!

Incredibly hopeful heading to our church’s event that night, I was sorely disappointed when I later learned the Vikings were getting demolished. Such is the life of a Vikings fan. Maybe this year will be different, though! That is, after all, what I have been saying almost every single year my entire life. Maybe this is the year!

Looking back on those rare glimpses of hope – including the 1998 season that ended with the Vikings going 15-1, entering the playoffs as heavy Super Bowl favorites and then losing in overtime in the NFC championship game after the team’s previously-perfect-on-the-season kicker missed a seemingly easy game-sealing field goal in the indoor Metrodome toward the end of the fourth quarter – none of those glimpses of hope ended with joy. None.

Why did those seemingly joyous and hopeful seasons not end in joy? Because they ended in disappointment.

Truly, that is how Christmas would be if not for the cross. We would not be celebrating the birth of Jesus if not for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Without the cross, Jesus’ birth would be like the last six NFC championship game appearances for the Vikings – an exciting moment that only failed to bring joy.

Praise the Lord, though, that He did not fail to deliver. He is so much better than the best of victors in this life because His victory is certain and eternal.

On Christmas morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Isaiah 53 on “The Promise of Payment.” Some might think, “Wait, Isaiah 53?! Isn’t that a passage for Easter Sunday?” Yes, typically, but without our suffering Savior, we have no Christmas to celebrate.

The joy of Christmas is not really because of the Baby who was born as much as because of the sacrifice He made. Thus, we are going to fast forward to the end of the story and be challenged to celebrate Christmas by looking to the cross.

He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Christmas is on a Sunday this year! I love it! Let us worship the King (like always), while singing some of the best songs ever written, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Praise God!

To truly know and experience the joy to come, you have to know and follow the Savior who won the victory. Learn more by checking out The Story today.

Power Over Referees

Basketball season is well underway, so this is a busy time of year for our family. With three of our five kids playing basketball and six of the seven of us being big fans (Micah is still a little too young to care much), we enjoy this time of year.

During Levi’s game the other night, I snapped a quick picture during a timeout. In that picture, you can see the ref raising a finger to indicate to the coaches that the timeout is nearly done and this is their first warning to get back to the game.

Do you know what I have never seen in the hundreds of basketball games I have attended? I have never seen a coach yell back at the ref during a timeout, “Hey, I’ll wrap this up when I’m good and ready! Now, leave me alone and let me talk to my players for a few minutes!” Sure, there have probably been many times when a coach might feel like saying that (and many more times when much longer timeouts are needed), but coaches “know their place.” They know the authority the referee has. No one gets to tell the ref to do things that are contrary to the rules, and change the ref’s mind.

On the basketball court, there is really no power over the referees. Yes, referees have bosses, too, and they have associations and expectations, but on the court of play, the referees are in charge. Coaches, players, and fans may yell (and might even influence calls), but the final say as to what goes and what stands – that final say belongs to the referees.

Of course, referees are just one of many examples of authority in our world. Some positions of authority are recognized more readily, some are challenged more frequently, and some are commonly mocked and ridiculed. With all positions of authority, though, comes some degree of power. We all have authority figures over us, and this was God’s intention.

Ultimately, though, we must recognize that only One authority is perfect and eternal. Yes, we must respect people of authority, even when they seem unreasonable (see Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2), but we must also recognize the temporal nature of authority in this life. We must find our hope, joy, and peace in the power and authority of the One who is Lord of all.

On Sunday morning, I will be preaching from Isaiah 7:1-17 on “The Promise of Power.” As I begin a new Advent sermon series, I will be challenging our church to slow down and consider the promises of God. His promises are perfect, and His power is matchless. And, what is more powerful than the promise (Isaiah 7:14) and matchless fulfillment (Matthew 1:22-23) of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?

Far more powerful than referees on a basketball court, God has eternal authority and Lordship over us all. Are you trusting in Him? Do you fear the consequences of disobeying Him? Does your life point to His matchless power? Seek, trust, and fear Him above all!

Whether you recognize Him or not, Jesus is Lord of all. The eternally important question is – do you surrender to His Lordship? If you have yet to do so, would you consider The Story and turn to Him today?

The Only Two Things I Really Dislike About Living in Callaway County

I love living in Callaway County, and the reasons I love living here (family, church family, the community, the schools, etc.) are far too numerous to list and explain. Praise God for this great county in this great state in this great country! Truly, this is a great place to live.

No place is perfect, though, and sometimes that reality sets in more than others. The two things I truly dislike about Callaway County have been on my mind lately for the reasons you will see below.

1. DISTANCE FROM EXTENDED FAMILY

Since nearly all of my family lives in Minnesota, I do not get to see them nearly as often as I would like. Also, one of my sisters, my brother-in-law, and two nieces live outside Chicago. Thankfully, they make it to Callaway County at least a couple of times each year, and we visit them, but we still do not see them nearly as often as I would love to see them.

My grandmothers (pictured below) are dear to me, and I wish I could see them weekly, not to mention a lot more often than once every year or two. Same for my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Well, the distance from family (not the fault of Callaway County) is the biggest thing I dislike about living here. The second thing is very much the fault of this county, though (or at least people making some important decisions).

2. GRAVEL ROADS

I absolutely despise the high volume of gravel roads in Callaway County. We are unable to open our windows in the summer time because the dust from the gravel roads west of where we live is so overwhelming. And, we do not even live on a gravel road, but the roads southwest and west of us are gravel. Furthermore, many people in Callaway County live on gravel roads, and I visit a lot of people. If you have a tire business, this would be a great place for you to live because vehicle tires surely cannot last very long with all the gravel travel.

You might think, “Well, this is a farming community. Of course there are a lot of gravel roads.” Consider, though, that there are subdivisions on gravel roads in this county! There are roads where dozens of homes exist, and yet those roads are gravel. Regularly, there are gravel trucks and road graders “fixing” our roads. I never thought I would long for asphalt so much!

Now, you might be wondering why I am writing such a post. Despite my venting and complaining above, particularly about the gravel roads, I write this to say – this county must be pretty great if those are really the only two things I can think of that I sincerely dislike. And, one is not even the fault of Callaway County but just the reality for me (and some others like me).

So, if you can put up with some gravel dust but want to be around great people in a conservative county with good family values and good churches, consider moving to Callaway County. The cost of living is low (I would be happy to make it much higher for paved roads 😉), and the location is actually really good (rural and yet close to Jefferson City, Columbia, and the Lake of the Ozarks).

Gravel roads stink, but other than those, Callaway County does not. Praise the Lord for my home where I have now lived longer than any other place in my life!

Practice!?

In the past week, we have enjoyed attending training camp practices for the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, the two NFL teams for which we cheer.

During the first one – our trip to the Twin Cities – we were sitting in the stands of the TCO Performance Center (the Vikings’ amazing practice and training facility), when Marsha told Micah, “Okay, it’s almost time for their practice to start.”

Micah’s reply was priceless. He said with exasperation, “Practice?!” He was thinking that surely, with thousands of fans waiting in a packed house, we must have been waiting for something more than practice.

Still, it was fun, especially considering how close we were to the players. Everyone except Micah – not yet much of a football fan – really enjoyed the experience.

At Missouri Western State University, home of the Chiefs’ training camp, Zoe waited by a gate for 2.5 hours with the hopes of getting Patrick Mahomes’ autograph (it was QBs and RBs day for autographs). While she did not get Mahomes’ autograph, she did get a couple others, along with some great experiences, including Jody Fortson coming right up to Zoe, signing his gloves, and giving them to her. Needless to say, we are now huge Fortson fans, as well as bigger fans of Mercole Hardman (Zoe got his autograph on a jersey for Noah), Juan Thornhill, Justin Watson, and Austin Edwards, all who took a lot of time to come over, visit, and sign autographs.

Click HERE for some pictures of both training camps.

Also, HERE is the video of Fortson coming up to Zoe.

Memories in Minnesota

We have had a great week in Minnesota this week, even though we were in the Mall of America when an active shooter was there (Thursday afternoon). Praise God for His sovereign provision (I will have to share more someday about some of the things that happened)!

Below are some pictures of our time in Lanesboro, Chatfield, Rochester, and Minneapolis. You can see more pictures HERE.

Life Is Like Movies

While I do not watch as many movies as I would often like, I really enjoy movies. I enjoy watching movies in the theater, and I enjoy watching them at home. Top Gun: Maverick, which I watched with Noah and Levi a few weeks ago, might be the best movie I have seen in a theater since my all-time favorite movie, Saving Private Ryan, back in 1998. Thankfully, my wife and I usually enjoy the same kinds of movies – action, adventure, and suspense. My kids have a similar taste in movies, and we have also enjoyed some good family-friendly movies with all seven of us over the years.

One of the reasons people often enjoy movies is because of the escape from reality, right? You can immerse yourself in a movie, be entertained, and kind of forget about other things for a while. Although that is not necessarily a good thing, that is the reality for many.

Because of that, though, we tend to think that movies are movies, and life is life. “It’s a movie,” someone might say when explaining or even defending something ridiculous on the screen. Usually, we say life simply is not like the movies, but in a couple of very important ways, life really is like movies.

1. THEY TELL A STORY

Life is a story, and movies tell a story. You have a story. I have a story. Everyone has a story. History tells countless stories.

One of the primary features that makes great movies great is the great way in which they tell their stories. Your story is your life. Movies tell stories, sometimes about the lives of people like you and me. In that way, life is like movies (or movies are like life).

2. THEY FAIL TO SATISFY

Movies also fail to satisfy our deepest longings, as does life. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a second, that’s not true. Life does satisfy my deepest longings.” Or, maybe you’re even thinking that movies satisfy your deepest longings. While I doubt the second is true, I am sure many think the first is.

Please understand, though, that we were created to find our satisfaction in so much more than just this life can offer. Yes, life can be great. There can be many fantastic people and things and experiences in this life, but no person or thing or experience can satisfy our deepest longings for lasting hope, joy, contentment, and peace. And so, life is like movies in this way.

Movies can help us escape, can deeply entertain us, can make us happy, can give us fulfillment, can give us hope, and can even – depending on the story – give us a sense of peace. None of that will remain, though, and so it is with the greatest pleasures of life. We can find so much good, and yet what happens when that person or that thing or that experience fades away? The satisfaction will fade away (or quickly vanish).

When I watched Top Gun: Maverick last month, I was deeply satisfied during the movie. I was reminded of my childhood, when the first Top Gun movie came out, and I got immersed in the story yet again, finding myself entertained and delighted. Even when I left the theater, I am pretty sure I had a smile on my face. Weeks later, I still enjoy reminiscing about the movie with other people who enjoyed it. Still, the benefits of that movie did not last. They are far less now than when I was sitting in the theater.

Top Gun: Maverick satisfied me for over two hours, and while I can get split-seconds of satisfaction with some reminiscing or maybe eventually if I watch it again, the satisfaction has greatly waned.

Life is like movies in this way. There are extremely satisfying moments in life, but then the satisfaction disappears. “Absolute futility,” as Ecclesiastes declares. Things can seem so great, and then everything can come crashing down, like a fighter jet in the sky. That is life. Life tells our story, but life fails to satisfy. We need more.

LONGING FOR SOMETHING MORE

You and I were given life by the Creator of the universe, but we were also created for much more than this life, much more than what this life can offer. This life, like the movies, fails us because life, like the movies, will end. We need more than this life. We need eternal life. We need to know and follow the God who created us and has the perfect plan for our lives – lives that will never end if we trust in His One and Only Son for our salvation.

Sure, enjoy some movies, as long as they have redeeming qualities and do not cause you to stumble into sins like lust, hate, rebellion, gossip, etc. Likewise, enjoy life, as long as you do so seeking the One who gave you life, and the One who is able to give you eternal life. Otherwise, you will never be satisfied, and you will eventually be horrified.

So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

If you have not been “raised with the Messiah,” turn to Him today. Only then will your life (now and forever) be better than even the greatest of movies.

If you have yet to experience resurrection life in Jesus Christ our Lord, please consider The Story and cry out to Him today.

Exciting Relay Finishes

When I ran track in high school, I wished I was fast enough to run in the most exciting race of the night – the 1600-meter relay (4×400). Instead, I usually ran events like the 3200-meter relay (4×800), the 1600-meter run, and the 800-meter run. Levi, like Marsha and me, is probably more suited to be a mid-distance or distance runner, but he has been fortunate to run the third leg in the 1600-meter relay in most of the track meets this year, and his relay team has done pretty well.

He has passed at least three runners in each of his opportunities and has yet to get passed by someone else.

Below are a few of the exciting finishes to his legs in the relays.