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As the year, 1974, was drawing its final curtains of history over its troubled self, there was a day I set me down to do some meditating. Because I was created with a contemplative mind, now and again I have to take time for this. If I don't I become frustrated.

I had been writing Christmas notes and letters, for days. They were climbing toward the hundred mark. Friends had almost become burdensome to me. And never do I want to feel that friends are a burden. They are precious, exceedingly precious. I sighed as I picked up another card, and tried to set the wheels in my head to turning again. And then IT HAPPENED!

This particular card portrayed all the special joys of the Christmas season . . . the Baby Jesus in the manger, Mary, Joseph, The Star, Choirs of Angels. There were others as well. . . holly, poinsettias, colored lights, pine boughs and cones, Christmas trees. The list seemed endless.

Through all of these glowed the face of friendship. And with tremendous impact I came to the realization that for the Christian FRIENDS ARE FOREVER. This, my dear readers, is an eternal relationship. We may stand by gravesides weeping, but if both the deceased and the remaining trust in the eternal truth of Christ it is only temporary.

While I knew that the manger birth foreshadowed the cross it never had come home to me with such emphasis before. It may well have been the difficult experiences of the past months for which I needed reassurance. But it surely came, pressed down and running over. God is so good!

During October and November bad news came crashing at us as though it would never end. It began with the accident I wrote about in the last column. As I write this, our eldest son, Paul, is still undergoing cobalt treatments for Hodgkins Disease, or cancer of the lymph glands. He and his family live two thousand miles from us, which doesn't help. His spleen was removed during October as a precautionary measure. He was dreadfully sick. Doctors are hopeful of a complete cure, but only time will tell. There are two daughters, fifteen and thirteen.

Our youngest daughter is having to adjust to living with an underactive thyroid gland. Goiters have been a problem of some concern in my family. The results have not always been good. Mary has a baby, seven months old.

Just before Thanksgiving another blow fell. Our oldest daughter almost lost her life from an infection when a pregnancy didn't carry through to fulfillment. She is six hundred miles from here, and has three young sons.

About that same time I learned that one of my dearest friends was also battling a malignancy and had undergone surgery following five weeks of x-ray treatments. We went to see her in a local hospital, and she was just a shadow of her usual buxom self. Add to all of this an aged next door neighbor who is living with heart trouble and edema day and night. Our dooryards join. Night after night I see her light. She can not lie down to rest.

So, you see, the world had just sort of caved in around us. I couldn't seem to find any cheer from any source, and I hate being a dragged-out sourpuss. I don't think I was wallowing in self-pity. I hope not. But it was the kind of consuming sorrow one could not get rid of. Those we loved were suffering, and we could not split ourselves three ways, so we stayed here and prayed and waited it out.

The Christmas correspondence had to be truthful, and it was a heavy task. Then it was that the illuminating thought came straight from God. FRIENDS ARE FOREVER! That goes for loved ones too. They are the nearest and dearest of all. Didn't God send His Son, His only Son to die for us? And the beautiful thought of Him loving us that much set the joybells of Christmas ringing and reverberating in my heart.

Last Sunday night we had a church filled with young and older folks, all singing carols. When we came to 'Gloria In Excelsis Deo' I have never heard anything so beautiful in my entire life. 'Joy To The World' also echoed from rafter to rafter and 'Silent Night, Holy Night' sent us back out under the stars and going back to our own homes rejoicing.

What can life ever do to us that will completely throw us off balance? Nothing ... if our faith is strong enough. The deeper the water, the more we need the Eternal Rock of Ages.

One piece of really good news is that I have a new book coming out this week. It is in the mail now. This manuscript for a devotional type small book has lain around the house for fifteen years. It came out of a very hard experience also. The title is 'LOVE LETTERS TO CHRIST' and will sell for $3.50 plus 20c for mailing expense. I will handle them. I trust our editor will allow me this much advertising. If not he can delete this paragraph.

True growth only comes when adversity hits the hardest, that is, spiritual toughness, the ability to withstand. Christ had His rejection, His unjust trial, His crucifixion, and He condescends to call us 'friends.' Yes. FRIENDS ARE FOREVER to the Christian. May we all seek for such blessed company.