by Mike Patrick

A middle-aged woman visited with a counselor because of her depression. Joy in life had evaporated over time. She hated her job and had difficulty getting through the day. She started her morning with energy and feeling upbeat. However, it got worse by the hour.

The counselor thought that the way she lived her life at work might manifest itself the same way in other activities. He asked her, “What’s your favorite meal?” After she described the meal including chocolate cake, he asked, “What do you eat first?” She responded that she ate her dessert first. He then said, “Tell me how you eat your chocolate cake.” She said she always used her fork to scrape off the icing and ate it first.

She approached work the same way. She began the day with what she enjoyed the most and delayed unwanted tasks for last. Thus, her day became progressively worse as it went along. The counselor recommended that she use her morning energy to do the more unpleasant tasks, thereby making the day progressively better with the more enjoyable tasks.

The key: delayed gratification requires patience. It means I show a willingness to delay an immediate reward in order to have a greater reward later. This woman’s fun task at work and her chocolate cake in and of themselves remain the same, early or later. But by using patience, she also reduces the amount of depression in her life.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.


By Danny Minton
Pastoral Minister and Elder
Southern Hills Church of Christ

September 21, 1897

Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-Fifth Street.


Danny Minton

Thus begins the most well known editorial ever written in a newspaper. Most editorials are tossed out with the trash or end up at the bottom of a birdcage. Some of them may be stashed away for future reference, but are often lost and forgotten as generations pass. However, this one, written by Francis P. Church, over 100 years ago is read over and over every single year.

There’s at least one movie about it, and thousands of printings can be found folded in books, tucked away in drawers or neatly preserved and brought out every year in sermons or parties or blogs like this one. Search the Internet, and you’ll find page after page of references to it with all sorts of stories behind the story, some true, some fictional, but all based on this one little letter by an 8yearold girl.

In their innocence and purity, children have the uncanny ability to make adults stop and think about things they have ignored, taken for granted or about which they just outright hadn’t given too much thought. How does a lightning bug make light? Where do the stars go in the daytime? Where do babies come from? Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why doesn’t God just keep the old ones? In Bible times did they really talk like that? I was at a wedding, and they kissed. Is it okay to kiss in church?

At what age do we stop believing? At what age do we quit asking questions? At what age do we just become apathetic to the world in which we live? When did church become boring instead of a chance to talk about God? When did Christmas become a chore instead of a time to which we looked forward with eager expectations? When did life become more mundane and less of an adventure?

“You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Jesus told us unless we become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3). Humility, purity, innocence, goodness and seeking to learn are but a few of the traits that are a part of each and every one of us at birth before the world starts to take hold. It is only when we begin to look at the world through the eyes of a child that we can truly see what it looks like.

Christmas is a time to think about what life is all about. It’s a time to focus on a baby born thousands of years ago in a purity that would never be tainted by the ways of the world and man. It’s a time to gather again those things we lost from within our hearts. It’s a time to start believing again.

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a manger.”





By Loretta Fulton

Irena Bytyqi didn’t believe in the resurrection until she experienced it.

Her husband, Burim Bytyqi, found it hard to deny God, although he said he was an atheist.

They took different paths, but both ended up in the same place, as Christian missionaries, thanks to meeting during a training session for Youth With a Mission, (YWAM), an interdenominational missions organization with 1,100 locations worldwide.

Today, Burim and Irena work out of the Tyler office. They were in Abilene Nov. 21 to present the program at the weekly chapel service at McMurry University. The two have been missionaries for 15 years, Irena said, and have been in the United States three years.

Irena is from Albania and Burim is a native of Kosovo. They both speak Albanian and English. In her early life, Irena lived under communist rule in Albania.

“We never really heard about God,” Irena said. “This was the environment I grew up in.”

When Irena was 10, communism failed and the country opened up to outsiders. When she was 12, a group of Christians came to her hometown and stayed two months. They didn’t proselytize, they just played games with the children, leaving Irena to wonder why.

The day before they left, they visited her home with a translator and gave her a New Testament and Christian literature in her native Albanian.

“I was so excited to receive a book from my new friends,” Irena said.

But then they left and Irena didn’t have anyone to process the information with or to ask questions of. When she read about the resurrection of Jesus, she was skeptical.

“That’s a good story” was her reaction.

Then one day she took a bus to church and as she was leaving after the service to get  back onto the bus, she was hit by a car.

“I remembered that I only whispered, ‘Jesus,'” she said.

Her father was incredulous. He told her she should have died from the trauma and that no one could believe she was alive. Then she believed in the resurrection.

“That was the day and the time,” Irena said, “that I decided to give my life to Jesus.”

Burim also experienced communism while growing up in Kosovo, but people had the freedom to practice religion. His family was nominally Muslim, he said. But he struggled with questions about his purpose, his goal and where he was going.

In 1998-99, Kosovo was at war with Serbia and that prompted more questions for Burim. Why were people killing each other? He hated the fighting and he hated life. He considered himself an atheist, but had a realization.

“I was having a hard time denying God’s existence,” he said.

After the war ended, missionaries came to Kosovo, and Burim’s cousin became a Christian. She knew Burim was looking for purpose and answers to his questions. She gave him a copy of the Gospel of John.

“It’s life-changing,” he said. “I read it, and I ran out of questions.”

Burim was 15 at the time. His life started having meaning. He understood that Jesus didn’t promise an easy life, only that he would be on the journey with Burim and other believers.

Burim’s life was so positively affected by his conversion to Christianity that he became a missionary with YWAM. He urged McMurry students and others at the chapel service to share their love of Christ as well.

“If we really know him, “Burim said, “let’s share him.”







By Loretta Fulton

“Happy Thanksgiving! Jesus loves you!

Long lines of hungry diners were greeted with well wishes and a blessing Thursday at the sixth annual Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Robert and Amy Graven in their restaurant on South 27th Street, Lucy’s Big Burgers.

Instead of big burgers, hundreds of guests feasted on the traditional Thanksgiving fare, including pies cooked up by women who are part of Missy Denard’s ministry, New Beginnings.

The women, who have been incarcerated, live in homes sponsored by New Beginnings. The owners of Lucy’s, Robert and Amy Graven, employ several of the women.

Robert Graven and friends smoked 60 turkeys for Thursday’s feast. Lucy’s employees helped with the fixings–dressing, green, beans, rolls, gravy, all the traditional dishes. And volunteers with New Beginnings contributed pies.

“This is our deal,” said Randa Russell, a graduate of the New Beginnings program and now a peer recovery coach at Serenity House.

Robert Graven said the inspiration for the dinner came from his wife, Amy. She grew up in a large family that didn’t have much money. In addition to the large family, her brother would bring home friends from the neighborhood to eat with them.

“Her mom made sure to feed those boys, too,” Graven said.

Amy suggested that she and Robert and their family have Thanksgiving together either the week before or after the traditional day. On Thanksgiving Day, they would host a community dinner.

The first year, 175 people showed up to dine on 14 turkeys, Robert Graven said, and 40 volunteers helped. Now, 600-plus diners isn’t unusual, with 60 turkeys and pans and pans of fixings prepared by volunteers.

Graven said 60 percent of the diners who attend can’t afford a meal and the other 40 percent come because they have no family in town and don’t want to eat alone. Many leave donations. Paying for the meal is something the Graven’s never worry about.

“God has recouped 80 percent of our expenses every year,” Graven said.







By Mike Patrick

Nancy and I decided to get away for a few days at Thanksgiving because of our busy schedules—her grading English papers at the university and me starting a new teaching series at the hospital. We chose simply to go with no specific plans other than to relax—read, watch movies, eat. We left Wednesday afternoon and managed the two hour drive in heavy holiday traffic with no difficulty.

mike patrick2014

Mike Patrick

Originally, we planned to go to a French restaurant that advertised having a Thanksgiving special, reservations required. I thought it might provide an enjoyable new experience especially with their reputation for pies! As time got closer, we both decided we really did not need to eat that much food. So we drove around the area to see what restaurants might stay open for the holiday. As expected, very few did. Luby’s had a long line out the door.

Of all places, we chose to eat at an IHOP. The hostess seated us and we began going through the menu deciding whether to eat breakfast or not for our Thanksgiving meal. Nancy decided on fish and I went for the chicken fried steak.

As we sat there, I noticed a family of six seated at a table toward the other end of the room. Based on appearances, they seemed to live on a pretty tight budget. The four children ranged in age from an infant in a stroller to about eight years old. The father wore a T-shirt, shorts, and a ball cap. The mother, hair slightly unkempt, seemed a little haggard. The older children acted very excited as the waitress brought their meals. I could tell eating out was not a normal experience for them—well behaved but very excited. They all enjoyed a big breakfast—pancakes, eggs, bacon, biscuit, sausage.

As I watched them, I could not help but think about my childhood when our family, also with four children, moved from Texas to Chicago. I know those were tough times for my parents who had both been in school the previous three years. For a while the six of us lived in a two-bedroom house. At times we did not have much to eat; but we always had a meal. On the trip to Chicago we checked out of the motel that first morning and ate breakfast at a nearby restaurant.

All of a sudden, with those memories came a flood of emotion.

I thought I would like to anonymously pay for this family’s meal. I asked my wife if she agreed, knowing she would because she is more giving than I. When Nancy looked at my face, she said, “You’re getting emotional aren’t you.” I had to lower my head as tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn’t speak. She asked, “What’s going on? I couldn’t speak. She added, “You’re thinking about your family aren’t you?” I couldn’t speak but nodded yes.

When I finally got my composure, I told our waitress that I wanted to pay for the other

family’s meal without them knowing who. She later brought me both tickets. When they finished their breakfast, the father asked for the bill. Their waitress told them that someone else had already taken care of it. He asked who and she simply pointed in the general direction of another section of the restaurant. One of the little boys asked, “What did they do, Daddy?”

The couple looked at each other with a degree of amazement. The father didn’t want to risk the waitress missing a tip, so he asked her if she could charge him a penny and then he could add a tip and put it on a credit card. They filed out of the door to their car and were gone.

Of all places, we had eaten Thanksgiving at IHOP. Of all places we were thankful to have eaten at IHOP.

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.