Christmas Greetings

We drove to Iowa City late in the afternoon on Tuesday. The weather forecast was for more snow that night and we didn’t want to try to drive that distance in order to be at the University Hospital at 7:30! We woke Wed to 2 inches of snow on top of a skim of ice. The trip from the hotel to the hospital was interesting. . .

Lois drank the first installment of “glow juice” for the CT Scan at 7:30 and the second at 8:20. By 8:45 we were in the Oncology clinic waiting for her labs to be drawn. Then it was the wait for the CT Scan to be “read” and the lab work to be completed.

When we compared the CT Scan from 8 weeks ago to the new one, there were some slight but seemingly insignificant changes. The lab work indicated the CEA count had moved from 4.8 four weeks ago, to 7.9. However the Drs indicated this happens sometimes during a treatment regimen and they didn’t seem too concerned.

At the last testing and consultation the end of October, it was decided to change the Chemo “cocktail” by subtracting the Oxaliplatin and the bolus of 5FU. Now the Drs. have added the bolus of 5FU back to the “cocktail” for the next four Chemo infusions. That bolos has never resulted in any side effects that we know of and is a relatively quick (3 minute) injection at the end of the three hour drips of Leucovorine and Avastin. Lois continues to have the 5FU pump for 46 hours. Home health care comes to the Infusion unit to “hook” her up and also seems to arrive at our house on time to “unhook” the pump. Or, as we jokingly refer to this, Lois is ported and deported every two weeks!

Thanks for your partnership in prayer.

Have a great celebration of Christ’s birth!


  • Surgically removing your kids from the toy store.
  • Fruitcake.
  • Snow.
  • Visa bills that equal your mortgage.
  • PlayStation Noise.
  • Your 47th viewing of It’s A Wonderful Life.
  • Thoughts of Peace on Earth as you, in one day, visit relatives in four different homes, all serving coffee and fruitcake.
  • A snow storm.
  • Eggnog, candy, cheese balls, punch, cakes with fruit in them, cookies, and a gift certificate for Weight Watchers.
  • A desire to deck a few shoppers instead of the Halls.
  • Invitations printed in red and green ink.
  • Receiving a gift of . . . fruitcake.
  • Pine needles in the carpet.
  • Snow drifts.
  • Getting mauled at the mall.
  • “Assembly required” nightmares.
  • Fruitcake.
  • Jack Frost deciding to actually bite down hard, and not just limiting himself to your nose.
  • More snow.

These holidays can certainly be a non-stop treadmill of activity!

As a pastor, I remember in the not-too-distant past, holiday schedules that were so packed there was no time to be immersed in the wonder of the moment. We often have so many programs to plan and special messages to prepare, that we forget why we are doing this. Christ has come!

Take time this season to enjoy the traditional Carols. Go attend a Communion service at another church – where you won’t be asked to speak or sing or do anything but contemplate the miracle of mercy and grace: Christ has come!

When you lead your own special Christmas service, make sure fruitcake will not be served immediately after. Then, head home, turn off the cell phone and take your land-line off the hook and enjoy the evening with your family! Christ has come!

Make an appointment for your whole family to gather for a reading of Luke’s account of that Holy Night. Choose a translation of the Bible that’s new and read it with all the dramatic inflection you can muster. Christ has come!

Find some time alone – even if its sitting in your car with the engine and heater running – and allow the silence to press into your soul the awesome story of Christmas. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with peaceful confidence that no matter what you face tomorrow or the next day, no matter what happens in this world we live in, Christ has come!

From our family to yours, we trust you will have a wonderful Christmas and that our Savior’s presence will be more and more evident in each day of the coming year.

Jim & Lois Eschenbrenner

P.S. Avoid the fruitcakes!

Christmas 2008

Christ is Born! The manger, the cross and the empty tomb change everything! “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage.” (Galatians 4:4-5 The Message)

This has been an eventful year!

Event #1: On March 3, 2008 (Peter’s Birthday) Brently Owen Latcham joy and bo was born to Joy and Tony. He joins brothers Brady (6), Broc (4), and Brandt (2). They are a busy family! Tony is the CEO of State Bank of Bussy and Joy is a full-time mom.

Event #2: Ten days later, Lois and Jim left for New York City with the Choir and Band from Pekin High School. Even though Kari graduated in 2001 they continue to invite us to be involved. What a wonderful time seeing the sights, attending two shows, a back-stage tour of Radio City Music Hall, and some great food. It was a long motor coach ride to and from NYC but worth it to spend five days with a fantastic group of students and adults.

Event #3: Jim and Lois arrived home from NYC on Tuesday evening, March 18, and woke the next morning to a phone call from Jim’s Mom, Clarice, who had fallen. No one knows for sure what happened but Mom had a broken neck – the C-2. So at 84 yrs old she got her first helicopter ride from Oskaloosa to the University Hospital in Iowa City where she had surgery to inset four screws. There is no paralysis and she is able to move about with a walker for which we are very thankful!

Clarice spent the rest of March in Iowa City and was then transferred to Sigourney for rehabilitation. On April 17th she moved to the Manor House Care Center in Sigourney where she is now a permanent resident. (Clarice Eschenbrenner, 1212 S Stuart St, Sigourney, IA  52591) We were all thankful for Harriet, Clarice’s sister, who came for two weeks in April to help with the transition to the nursing home.

Even though the bones in her neck did not mend, the screws are holding and she only wears a brace when her neck is especially sore or tired. Manor House is providing wonderful care for Clarice and she enjoys all the activities, not having to cook (or cleanup) and being surrounded by a lot of people.

Event #4: Peter resigned from his job as a programmer just before Clarice fell and was able to be with Jim for most of the time family members were hospitalized in Iowa City. He is now a self-employed programming consultant and still living in Des Moines where he continues to be very involved in Point of Grace church in Waukee.

Event #5: Lois, who was helping Joy as she recovered from the C-Section to deliver Brently, was sick the weekend of May 17-18 with what she thought was the flu but the pain in her belly and the fever grandkids Oct08 just wouldn’t go away. On Monday, May 19, she ended up in the emergency room and within hours was checking in to the University Hospital in Iowa City.

The tests revealed cancer of the colon with a large tumor at the cecum with tentacles in the bladder, right ovary and right fallopian tube. Surgery took place on Thursday, May 22. Tests also revealed the cancer had metastasized to Lois’ liver but no surgery took place for that. You can read the whole story with all the details at under the category: Lois. If you don’t have internet access, write or call and we’ll send the narrative.

Lois has now received 12 Chemo infusions and is doing far better than expected! We praise God for this miracle even as we trust Him every day! The tumors in the liver seem to be dead and are no longer throwing off carcinogens to the rest of the body. We will have another day of testing and consultation with the oncology team on December 24.

The words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego keep echoing in our hearts. (See Daniel 3:16-18) We know that God is able to heal Lois and take away all the cancer, but even if He does not, we will still trust Him; worship Him. That is our mutual commitment: Trust in the Lord.

Event #6: Tri State Camp, July 14-19 was, per usual, one of the highlights of the year. Lois was able to attend which became an outstanding testimony to both campers and staff. This is all about God; His power, grace, mercy, and strength. This was Jim’s 15th year at camp and 12th year as camp director.

Event #7: On Thursday, September 25, Natalie Jean Hamilton was born to Kari and Jeremy. She joins her big sister, Sarah (2) who is very The Family pleased to have a baby in the house! Jeremy is an electrical engineer at John Deere in Ottumwa and Kari is a full-time mom.

In Psalm 90:12 Moses pleads with God: “Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!” (The Message) That is our prayer and plea, “Lord, teach us to live!” It would be so easy to just shift into neutral and coast but that is not what we choose!

Look up to the mountains;does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.
God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke.
God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.
Psalm 121 from The Message

Sheep & Goats

Brian stood up in the middle of the discussion and said, “We don’t need to send them any money because we’re supposed to take care of our own.”

The pastor was stunned, offended, and angry that this man with so much influence in the church, who claimed to have been a Christian for many years, would so easily dismiss the church’s responsibility to help the poor in their community.

It was a regularly scheduled church business meeting. The Elders, with the pastor’s encouragement, had presented a motion to send $1000 of the surplus in the general fund to a community benevolence fund which was preparing to give Christmas gifts to fifty families with more than 150 children. The fund was well managed; the recipients were screened and had genuine needs.  This was an opportunity to make a difference.

The pronouncement from Brian brought discussion to a halt. As a major contributor and long-time member, Brian was exerting his profound influence. If he didn’t think it was a good idea there weren’t many in the meeting who would oppose him.

“What do you mean by ‘take care of our own,'” the pastor asked, “Who is ‘our own?'”

“Well, you know,” Brian answered, “people who go to our church.”

The pastor continued, “Do you know anyone who attends our church who is facing severe financial problems?”

Silence. It was deafening.

Everyone intuitively knew the answer. No family in the church would be unable to put presents under the Christmas tree or have an empty refrigerator.

“If there are no needs in our church family,” said the pastor, “let’s help those in our community who do have needs.”

Brian quickly responded – almost as if the answer had been rehearsed: “Those people don’t deserve our help. They smoke and drink and do drugs; some are living with people they’re not married to, others just got out of jail. They’re lazy good-for-nothings.”

Once again, silence.

The pastor knew that some of the people getting assistance from the community benevolence fund had very messy, complicated, and addiction controlled lives. There were others who had needs because of circumstances beyond their control; a local plant had just closed, another had massive lay-offs, and one family had two children with birth-defects. And there were probably a couple of people who were “working the system.”

The motion failed.

How come we so easily dismiss the very poignant parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46? Should we just hit the delete button and pretend Jesus never told this story?

Why have our hearts become so hard toward the needs of people with messy lives? We have no problem helping people we like; people who are just like us. But helping those caught in addiction spirals, or giving a bag of groceries to a gay couple is difficult if not impossible. Why?

The point of the parable in Matthew 25 is clear: We are expected to meet the needs of those around us – no matter how distasteful we find their lives and/or circumstances.

Of even greater importance, Jesus seems to indicate that the depth of our commitment to God will be measured by how we helped and reached out to those with needs. The pastor in the story has openly speculated about whether or not Brian understands that his opinion about who deserves help might actually result in God saying, “I don’t know you.”

This is a true story but some names and circumstances have been altered.