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.

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.

I love winning!

Whether in a basketball game, card game, trivia contest, or any other competition, I have always loved winning. All five of our children are the same way. They desire to win, and they get upset when they lose. I was reminded of this recently with a “friendly” game of basketball with some of their cousins in Windsor Valley (above). The winners were much happier than the losers when the game was over, and to be clear, there are no ties in the great game of basketball.

Really, don’t we all love winning? Sure, there are various levels of competitiveness, depending on the person, but no sane person ever says (or thinks), “I love to lose!”

God created us to love winning, I believe, because we were made in His image, and He never loses. He wins for eternity, and the only way we can experience such victory is in and through a right relationship with Him.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Zechariah 13 – 14 on being “Renewed and Victorious.” When you experience new life in Christ, you are promised eternal victory in Christ. No other victory is so sweet and satisfying!

This is especially true when considering that what we actually deserve is eternal defeat and death and destruction. We are not worthy to share in the Lord’s victory, but the gospel makes it possible for us to win and win forever.

I have always loved winning, but no victory is more exciting than the victory of experiencing the forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. This is true when we experience such victory, and it is true when we see others experience such victory. Praise the Lord!

Have you experienced victory in Jesus? If so, your pursuit of other victories will pale in comparison to your pursuit of victory in Him – victory for yourself and victory for others.

If you have yet to trust in the Lord for everlasting victory, would you consider checking out The Story and turning to Him today?

Merry Christmas from the Drakes!

The calendar year is almost complete, and we want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

We are thankful for God’s continued grace, mercy, and provision in our lives – especially the good news of the gospel – that God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to take on flesh, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins, and rise again to defeat sin and death for all eternity. We pray you experience a closer walk with Him this coming year and prioritize Him above all else.

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His name is Jesus. Praise the Lord!

Below are some specific ways you can pray for our family headed into the new year, as well as some short updates on each of us. Marsha and I share our primary hopes, followed by each of our kids’ requests. Thank you for praying for us! If there are any specific ways we can pray for you, please let us know.

Marsha and I ask that you pray God will give us wisdom to shepherd our children’s hearts to love and honor Him. Also, please pray that we will grow in our relationship with Jesus and help others to grow closer to Jesus. Finally, please pray that our church family will grow in our commitment to be disciples who make disciples. Thank you!

This coming year, we will celebrate 20 years of marriage. Praise the Lord!

Marsha is staying extremely busy with getting our kids to their various school events and extracurricular activities, serving in children’s and women’s ministry with our church, doing various tasks around the church property, volunteering in various roles, and being an amazing wife and mother.

I have been pastoring Richland for more than eight years now, and I love what I do! In my free time, I like to walk the dog, be outside, play basketball, and watch high school sports.

Noah asks that you pray for the rest of his final exams (coming up after Christmas break). Also, he asks that you pray he would be a faithful Christian witness and invite more friends to Richland services and events.

A sophomore at North Callaway High School, Noah is helping with student-led Bible studies there. He is also actively involved in our church’s youth group, and he likes watching football and basketball and playing video games in his free time. Since June, Noah has been working at Arby’s, too. They have the meats!

Levi asks that you pray for school and final exams and also that he will be a light and witness to his friends.

A freshman at North Callaway High School, Levi also attends the weekly student-led Bible studies. He is actively involved in our church’s youth group, and he loves playing high school basketball and taking care of our dog, Lottie. In the spring, he plans to run mid-distance events in track again. Since getting his driving learner’s permit in November, Levi is constantly (it seems) wanting to practice driving.

Silas asks that you pray that he will do better in school and that he will read His Bible every morning.

A fifth grader at Hatton-McCredie Elementary School, Silas likes playing football and basketball, as well as watching movies and using his creativity outside. He is actively involved with our TeamKID children’s ministry with our church family, and this past spring he publicly professed His faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and was baptized in May. Praise the Lord!

Zoe asks that you pray she will do well in school and be nice to people. We would also ask that you pray for Zoe to truly surrender her heart and life to Jesus.

A fourth grader at Hatton-McCredie Elementary School, Zoe loves being around people, is involved with student council, and is always wanting to be on the go. She plays basketball and also hopes to be involved with volleyball and track. Like Silas, Zoe is actively involved with our TeamKID children’s ministry with our church family and just began taking piano lessons.

Micah asks that you pray that he can be with his mom as much as possible. Yes, he is still a mommy’s boy and is not afraid to admit that. Will you please also pray for Micah’s spiritual health and salvation in Christ?

A first grader at Hatton-McCredie Elementary School, Micah enjoys reading, drawing, doing various projects, and playing Minecraft. He is also actively involved with our TeamKID children’s ministry with our church family and loves playing with his friends.

Lottie, well, she is a dog. We love her, though, and she is doing well. She loves being around anyone who will play with her and give her attention – people, other dogs, and/or any other living creature. Lottie is great at playing fetch, going on morning walks with me, and swimming. She will also wrestle and play tug-of-war with anyone who is willing.

December 2021 Family Picture
December 2021 Drake Kids

Hopeful Assurance

Wednesday was Silas’s 11th birthday, and the day before his birthday, a memory popped up on my phone from the day before he was born. Marsha’s parents, her sister Amber, and our niece Emery were visiting us in Istanbul in preparation for Silas’s birth. Surprisingly, Silas was a few days overdue, and on November 23, 2010, we decided to visit a famous attraction – the Rumeli Fortress – along the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. As you can see in the pictures, this 475-year-old fortress has a lot of steps, so we did a lot of stair-climbing that day.

Over nine months pregnant, Marsha did not sit out the adventure either. She joined us, climbing those steps, and there were some in our group who wondered aloud if that was very wise. “What if she goes into labor while we’re up on one of these towers?!” Well, she did not go into labor then, but it was just hours later, early in the morning of November 24, that labor began. Silas was born a healthy boy, and perhaps that hiking adventure helped ensure his birthday was not after November 24. God only knows.

When we were well-over an hour from the hospital and climbing those steps on November 23, 2010, there were certainly no guarantees that Marsha would not go into labor. Of course, I was confident she would not, and more importantly, she was confident she would not – at least not so quickly that we would not have time to get to the hospital. Based on her understanding of her body, having given birth to two sons already, and how she was feeling that morning, there was enough assurance that we could safely explore Rumeli Fortress. Okay, perhaps I remember things slightly differently than Marsha, but all went well.

Still, no guarantees. In thinking through all of that this week, I was challenged by what I will be preaching on this coming Sunday, Lord willing. As we begin the Advent season with Richland Baptist Church, I hope to talk about the “HOPE” that only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ (looking specifically at Luke 21:25-36).

Everyone wants hope. We all need hope. We long for hope and assurance, especially regarding things as important as the birth of a child. Yet, we are unable to assure hopefulness in most things. Only the Lord can do that, and He secured that hope by taking on flesh, living a perfect life, dying on the cross for our sins, and rising from the dead for the salvation of all who call upon His name. One day, He will come again – His Second Advent – to bring to completion the salvation of all who know Him.

Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near!” (Luke 21:28).

Are you looking forward to that day with hopeful assurance? If you have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you can and should and will. Without Jesus, though, that will not be a day of hope but rather a day of fear and devastation. Be certain of hopeful assurance by turning to Him today.

We cannot be certain of good health, safe deliveries, smooth circumstances, etc., but we can be certain that God never fails to keep His promises. Like only He could, Jesus declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33).

Happy 11th birthday to Silas Stephen Drake!