“Special Year-End Edition”

December 30, 2015

Kraybill Road sunset
Our neighbor Doug shares this photo of a stunning sunset across our road.

“Special Year-End Edition
Note: This is a longer message that may not be of interest to all readers. Periodically we share the background setting of Daily Encouragement. To sum up today’s message we seek to “encourage one another daily” and this message tells how. Tomorrow we will share a more typical message.
ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).

Weber family December 2015In this special year-end edition allow us to share a lot more background and administrative material than usual. Regular readers know that we generally keep the administration end of this ministry behind the scenes but feel this overview may be of some value, especially to newer readers.

We are grateful for the strength to continue our ministry during 2015 and for the opportunity to provide a small, regular daily dose of encouragement and Bible teaching to many readers and podcast listeners around the world. In 2016 we will celebrate our twentieth year of publishing daily encouragement and will also celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary! Daily encouragement began with a very short email to two people which grew into a list, then a simple website over the next several years.

Hebrews 3:13Our practice is to write these devotionals early each weekday morning or the night before (often it’s begun at night and finished up the next morning). The goal from the very beginning is based on a verse from Hebrews 3 stating that we are to “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). That’s an easy verse to understand but harder to put into practice. For us it includes writing and sharing these messages.

Foundationally one of the main things we want to convey in each devotional is the daily outlook of two ordinary believers seeking to live another day faithfully for Christ. Our email ministry began when I shared a brief message with several friends in 1996. I wanted to offer a spiritual perspective which remains our primary objective.

Each devotional is based on a commitment to Christ and His Word. We share glimpses of our own family life or that of others. We might use an illustrative or humorous story but we always want the major focus to be on our Lord Jesus along with a brief exposition of the daily Scripture texts.

For the first several years this was a supplemental aspect of my pastoral ministry in New England and then I continued it in an abbreviated way (a short text email only) when I worked full-time for Marketplace Chaplains, a company providing chaplain services from 2001-2004.

In late 2004 I resigned from Marketplace Chaplains with a vision of having an independent ministry comprised of half daily encouragement and eventually the other half working directly for companies in providing chaplain care. In the last ten years this has developed quite well for which we give God thanks. However during the first several years we did interim pastoral service as well.

In 2005 I poured effort into developing daily encouragement, learning how to build the website, using email lists with html, blogging and podcasting. I learned this on my own mostly using the “Dummies” series of self-help books! Also during this time Brooksyne and I provided care for my mom, whose health needs were extensive before she passed away in November of that year.

Weber family December 2015Even before our marriage in 1976 Brooksyne has served alongside me since we ministered together during our Bible College years and then in full time pastoral ministry for 25 years. In the early days of Daily Encouragement she would periodically edit a message but that was basically the extent of her involvement. That changed in 2005 when we began to work on each message together. Normally I start the writing and she edits and often adds further insight. We usually read the podcast together. However I do the administrative and technical work, while she is more active in following up on comments and prayer requests.

From the beginning this ministry has been on a weekday basis. We purposefully do not prepare devotionals for Saturday or Sunday, hoping that each of you are active in a local church where the Bible is faithfully preached. The concept of a “cyber or internet church” when one is physically able to connect with the local body of Christ troubles us. Cyber-church and some televised church broadcasts call for believers to essentially forsake the real life fellowship of a local church and be in “virtual” association with their “church” via internet or television. In fact this past year Brooksyne watched a broadcast that was reading the names and locations of new members who had recently “joined” their church by filling out an online form and they were now referred to as church members. Handclapping and “hallelujahs” were extended to these names that were read off as new members as if they were present in the service, though they were scattered all over the country. We believe God calls us all to be in regular fellowship with fellow believers in a local church congregation, if physically possible, making a positive and spiritual difference in our own community. We affirm the ministry of each local pastor as he fulfills his somber calling to “Watch for your souls, as they that must give account” (Hebrews 13:17).

There are several components to our labor in producing each message:

Brooksyne at desk writing a daily encouragement1) Of course we want the main focus to be a well-written message that encourages and provides Bible teaching. This is the most time-consuming effort since we write these messages using our own study and thoughts. We do periodically use resources from other sources such as quotes from commentators, giving proper attribution and many times a link for more study. All messages are prepared fresh although at times we do work from previously written messages from years earlier and revise and refresh them. We do not copy and paste a previous message without refreshing it with new thoughts and study. We have a single Word file of every message from the very first one which now has over 3,250,000 words. Sometimes when we know we have a long day of chaplaincy work we can prepare the message the night before and schedule it for delivery.

Ester taking photo2) We both take photos and enjoy sharing them with our readers. We now have many thousands of photos which are on the site (this is not an exaggeration)! I checked and we have 713 photos in just the Amish photo directory which has driven many to our site over the years, but this is only one of 55 photo directories on the site.

In addition Ester contributes photos as she continues to develop her photography skills. (Somehow she and Brooksyne dressed in the same colors today, so I hope it doesn’t confuse you.) We also have many photos taken by readers who are pleased to share them. However many of the smaller context photos that we place within the message are found using search engines.

3) We post links to other materials that supplement our message including articles and music (usually a video on YouTube or Vimeo). This takes time as I look for well-produced videos that truly relate to our message. We periodically post our own videos and I have a renewed interest in this with the capabilities on our new phones. Sometimes we just post an uplifting video to brighten your day.

Daily Encouragement podcast prep4) We record each message and post as an audio file (podcasting). This audio file is accessible from each message at the beginning (ListenListen to this message on your audio player.) We pray together just before recording the podcast asking the Lord to bless our efforts and use our materials to bless, encourage and challenge each reader and listener. The podcast reading also serves as our final edit and we often further sharpen the message after the recording so don’t be surprised if the text and words in the recording don’t always match! We also add extemporaneous thoughts to the podcast and occasionally Brooksyne just might sing a segment of a featured song. You can hear us laugh together and if we make a blunder we probably won’t start over! By this time we are often tired, time is at a premium, and I still have quite a bit of time in administrative work before we’re finished.

Stephen doing Daily Encouragement admin work5) Admin work following the podcast recording includes preparing the mp3, posting to the podcast site, preparing website and email versions (both text and html) and using ftp to upload our new message to the website and listserve software to send email to mailing list. We also post to WordPress both the message and just the prayer and a Facebook page. Additional admin work includes fixing stuff that goes wrong (almost always me), responding to email and prayer requests (usually Brooksyne) and financial accounting (almost always me).

Regarding the delivery schedule, we normally try to get it out around Noon (Eastern Time), but a phone call, technical problem or other interruptions often hinders our good intentions!

Administratively we want to be easy to reach if there are comments, prayer requests or problems. If you have feedback you can use the “Contact Us” page.  However please use this and our email address only for personal, specific feedback. We do value brief notes regarding how this ministry or particular message touched you, prayer requests or comments prompted by a specific message. Due to time restraints we are not always able to respond, but do so when possible.

Since most subscriptions are anonymous we have little information regarding the background of the vast majority of our readers. As our ministry has grown we know only a minority of our readers personally and of course this percentage gets smaller as time goes on. We are grateful that our messages go all around the world and enjoy hearing from our international readers.

For those who have subscribed to the email list we want the email to be easy to “unsubscribe” if you prefer to be removed from the mailing list. Just use the automatically inserted link below the footers for automated removal.

A weekly version is available with Friday’s message sent out along with the link to previous messages.  This may be a preferable subscription for those who check their email infrequently.  I especially appeal to those who know us personally to consider the weekly list if frequency is a motive for unsubscribing. We are so thankful for the hundreds of people we have maintained contact with through the years who are on this list and would hate to lose contact!

Future plans: We are pleased to continue on and the extent of labor now involved in producing in our current format is sufficient to keep us plenty busy.

In the coming year:
1) You may see more home-made videos as we develop this interest.
2) Regrettably, in our view anyway, is the reality that we now live in a sound bite age with many people having very short attention spans and so much clamoring for our attention. We will continue to produce full version messages but beginning in January will have a sound bite summary at the top of each message. This will be similar to the style seen in many blogs that has a short summary and then a “read more” link. However we certainly hope many will continue to read the entire message since we put a lot of work into it!

Make a donationThe daily mailing and the content of our website and other resources are offered as a ministry without any cost whatsoever. We do not use any advertising since, in our opinion, this would clutter and possibly confuse our message. We merely rely on the Lord to provide for our needs and meet our family living expenses as well as the unique expenses of this ministry as He leads people to support us. Most of the year we place the financial appeal in the footers but in December, like many ministries, we do make special year-end appeal for support. For any desiring information on support please see here. You can give online using a credit card, through PayPal and of course we receive checks!

We truly hope the daily encouragement devotional has been a blessing through 2015 and continues to be a blessing and source of spiritual strength and hope to each reader and listener in 2016! Our desire is that each of you are committed to Jesus Christ, that you stay faithful, and that you impact many others for Christ.

Be encouraged today and have a blessed New Year,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we embark upon another year with Your guidance and presence in all that we undertake, all that we will endure, and all that we seek to accomplish.  May we be mindful not of ourselves first, but of those who journey with us day after day. Let us be eager to encourage, ready to reach out, and faithful to pray for our brothers and sisters.  Above all, keep us growing in Your grace and knowledge as we desire to glorify You in this new year of 2016.  In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.


A word about the extent of our impact: We are wary of using statistics and web metrics since they are prone to being exaggerated and manipulated to the point of being essentially useless. For instance you can buy Facebook likes! But frankly I don’t know how to manipulate and have no interest in learning. Our total “subscribers” are now around 5,000 including the daily list, weekly list, wordpress message and prayer lists.) Our present main website host server no longer provides stats for the website but we do have a widget on the site that records country visits which now numbers about 600,000 pageviews since it was installed and visits from 206 countries. WordPress just sent a handy year-end stat page here (for daily message) and here (for daily prayer). The podcast has an average of over 200 downloads per day. There are also other metrics that help us determine how “engaged” people are such as open rates and clickthroughs. Many visit the website, some do so everyday rather than choosing to subscribe. There are no statistics for these daily visitors or forwards. However the greatest source of fulfillment is feedback through comments.


Special Year-end appeal:

DonateWe want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. Our ministry labor is comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies for which we receive a fee (of course this percentage of time varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job (20+ hours weekly) for each of us. Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and income. If you would like to make a donation to our ministry see here for more information or donate directly online through my chaplain account here. Thank you!

Make A Donation using PayPalPlease Note: Our chaplain agency is unable to provide a receipt if the donation is made through PayPal. However we provide this option due to the convenience, international supporters, and for those who may not be concerned regarding receiving an official receipt. Click here to donate using PayPal.


Nick on Amish farm
Ester had a visit from her friend Nick who lives in Southwest PA. He enjoyed visiting our Amish friends on his last visit so he and Ester visited again yesterday and enjoyed lunch there. Since Nick is a good hard worker, having been a farm hand for several years, he was promptly put to work! Good thing he brought his boots along since it rained over the past couple days and the mud was plentiful.

Horse and buggies at Amish "Walmart" near Bird In Hand, PA 12/29/15
They also went over to the Amish “Walmart” at Bird In Hand PA.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“God Of The Ages”  Video  Charles Billingsley

Sometimes we place a resource up just to bring a smile. Here’s a video of Mollie showing off her frisbee-catching skills. While at it I’ll post the very first video I ever posted almost 8 years ago of Roxie jumping through the wheatfield. Roxie is over 11 now and doesn’t jump any more. Climbing the stairway is a challenge for her these days!


Contact Us
Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne
To receive the “Daily Encouragement” each Monday-Friday through email see this page to subscribe to our email list. You can also subscribe to the WordPress rss feed or through a WordPress email subscription. (See the email subscription on the right side after opening this page.)
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: