Confirmation that God had chosen Sally Jo to be my wife. #9

Becoming a medical doctor was the logical choice: My father was a doctor and my older brother was in medical school. Sally Jo knew I planned to be a doctor.

A week before the Christmas vacation of my junior year of college, I asked Sally Jo if she would become my wife. She said “yes”! The next week she headed to Alaska where her brother was in the military. She had a great trip…including skiing at Alyeska. She skied! I drove a USPS truck delivering packages!

While Sally Jo was on her trip I made the tentative decision to switch from going into medicine to going into the ministry. This was a huge shift for me…and I really did not know how I should tell her about the change in my thinking – or how she would respond!

When she returned we had dinner together at an excellent restaurant, and somewhere during the evening, with knots in my stomach, I asked “What would you think if I decided to go into the ministry instead of medicine? Sally Jo quickly came back with:

  • “What caused the sudden change?”
  • “Do you think you are tactful enough?”
  • “Didn’t you know…I have always wanted to be a minister’s wife?”

My heart came out of my throat…my heart started beating – fast!
“Let’s go back to the question: “What caused the sudden change?”

Such decisions are seldom sudden. Three factors led to my somewhat tentative decision.

  • For two years I was the paid tenor soloist for the First Presbyterian Church in Oak Park, IL. The beautiful stone church had stained glass windows, a great pipe organ…and good music. The minister, Dr. Watermulder, spoke each Sunday morning for 20 minutes. When he was finished, I got his point! At the end of the service he stood at the door in his black robe and, looking each person in the eye, he shook their hand firmly. One night a week he played basketball with men from the church. I was impressed. The ministers I knew generally spoke for 30 minutes…and to me, either did not make a clear point or what they said seemed irrelevant to my life. Their hand shake was anything but firm…and if they had tried to play basketball? Out of the question! Dr. Watermulder was a minister with whom I could identify.
  • While delivering USPS packages with my crew of peers, who had not grown up in the Christian faith, over our bag lunches we would talk. One young man in particular asked me the most basic questions about the Christian faith/life. One evening he asked if I would tell his girl friend what we had talked about. The story of Jesus Christ was totally new to them. This was a thrilling challenge for me.
  • The pivotal point for me occurred when Mr. Garret Groen, a lawyer I knew, said he would like to talk with me. We set up a time, and I walked the two blocks to the beautiful Groen home. The living room ceiling went up like the front of a ship…perhaps 15-20 feet, and the sides of the “bow” were glass. It was in this setting Mr. Groen said ”Chuck, I cannot get it out of my mind: I think you belong in the ministry, not medicine. I would like to challenge you to bring to people the best product in the finest packaging. So often Christ is presented to the world in shabby packaging.”

God had been preparing me for my meeting with Mr. Groen, just as He had prepared Sally Jo’s heart for my question. Sally Jo’s response finalized my decision: I would go into the ministry.

Are you open to having God change your plans? To become a Sunday School Teacher, change your work patterns, change job, become a foreign missionary, change giving pattern, to present Jesus Christ in better packaging?

Remember: If we desire to live In Partnership With God, we must follow His written instructions and His leading.

IPWG – EXTRA – e-mail response – struggle with what God allows to happen – 3 pg response to e-mail received.


…..I wish I could honestly say something like ‘but God is good,’ but this is a hard place to be. Not that I’m doubting, I have seen too much of grace and power to doubt. But I’m questioning, because this isn’t good. It is hard. And it probably won’t end or get easier until mom is gone. And she’ll leave two high school girls behind, one of whom has questioned ‘mom, don’t leave me like my Chinese mother did’ (she was adopted at 4). God gave my parents, during a trip to china last fall, a vision of service to orphans there- what of that?” That looks pathetic to read. It’s where I am- and I covet prayer (the ability to pray) and peace.


(My response: I am completing this after spending 3 days with Nancy – with whom we have been close friends since 1968. Nancy went through a tough divorce situation…and then soon had to watch her sister die of breast cancer. Sometime after her sister died, Nancy married her sister’s husband – and 10 years later she found out that she had breast cancer…”cured”…and then five years later learned she had pancreatic cancer. After radical surgery and chemo she has lived 2 years – but the battle is very close to over. The day after we returned home I spent two hours with Jan…another close friend of ours. She could die very, very soon. Both of these women – and Shelley Schenkel, whom I will write about in the following, have demonstrated an internal peace…smiles of contentment, of joy.

Bart and Nancy have both read what I have written and both feel it is true. Bart’s actual response: “With certainty! You have clarified the “Big” picture well and the story of my journey fits that picture. Hurting people need to know how (like others before them) to work through tough parts of God’s perfect provision in their life. It’s a journey that always comes before the answers. Bart”}

Through out your life you will have many unanswered questions. I certainly do. But this is where faith comes in…and, to some degree tested. I have learned so much from Bart Schenkel and his kids. For seven years they cared for Shelley -mom/wife – hoping against reasonable hope that Shelly would be healed. And she died….

Bart said to me over the years…”I must have faith, for if my faith fails me now, what good is my faith? He has also said several times….”There is no point in asking why”. Does this mean that Bart did not suffer? When things got too much for Bart, he would get on his bike and peddle and go and go…with the tears flowing down his cheeks –Then Bart would regroup…and go back to his role of husband, caregiver, and father – seldom able to leave their home.

Sally Jo and I new Shelly for several years before the tumor began to grow – continuing to visit with them during the years before she died. Though her body slowly broke down, her spirit, her joy did not! Shelley was given peace that passed all understanding…she radiated joy, even when she could barely be understood – or walk. Bart and the children also reflected this peace that passed all human understanding.

Six weeks after the memorial service Bart was in our home and said…”I must trust God…one thing that cannot be shaken is my faith in God” This sounds like Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” Job 13:15

How does this happen to the believer? Satan is a very powerful force in this world. God does not cause pain, but Satan is continually pulling on God’s people. And we are caught in a tug of war. Satan desires that we turn from God…and turn to him! The Bible, God’s word, begins telling of Satan and his power…and our human weakness.

Why God took his protective hand off Job (except to protect Job’s life) it is difficult to understand. In time God did restore to Job what he had lost…and more (that is if it is possible to replace one person with another). Today we look back at Job’s “story” and have many more insights than Job had as he went through his earthly “hell”. And today we are, at least I am, encouraged by Job’s story. God did not forsake Job.

In many ways Job was like Jesus, for Jesus had everything stripped away from him – except God’s ability to raise Him from the dead. For the disciples, it was incredibly difficult time – watching while Jesus suffered and died. It just did not make sense…until 40 days later.

When pastor of the little country church in Bakerville, CT. Billy Warner died…very suddenly of a brain aneurism/ hemorrhage – pain and death within a couple hours. I remember the evening only too well. Linda and Billy had 2 children with # 3 on the way.

I remember holding Linda the night before the funeral. We stood together on the small porch with northern lights above in the sky. I could feel the unborn child between us…Linda was devastated…we all were! I remember her saying…”once you have had candy, it is so hard to live without it “. Billy was an outstanding young man – I could go on and on about my experiences with him.

Everyone, not only in the church, but in the little farming community knew Billy (area had only a blinking yellow light, a small gas station and the church). We all knew his parents, his family. Billy’s dad was a farm worker, living in a very small house on Hal Glowsky’s farm. They turned to me to pick out the casket. There was almost no insurance money…it was tough on all of us in the church – and in the community.

Two days later we had the funeral. The 200 seat church was jammed with people standing in every spare inch. I remember saying – “Billy died in the Lord – he is now in heaven because Jesus Christ was his Savior….etc. and then I went on….None of us can ever say we have not been warned! Death can come to us at any time.” Billy was 28 years old…I was 28 years old.

The impact upon our little church was incredible…a turning point in the lives of many people….a lasting impact. Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord, was invited into many hearts – seen in many lives.

Some time later I had the privilege of being the minister for the wedding of Linda and John Sear. John had been Linda’s boyfriend in high school – gone into the military…had never married. John was another incredibly wonderful husband for Linda. I have the very large saw blade from Billy’s firewood saw (turned by belt from power takeoff of tractor) hanging on our barn…a thank you gift from Linda and John.

Back to Shelley Schenkel. Shelley died just over three months ago. It will be interesting to see the impact of Shelley’s physical death upon the congregation of which she had been such an active part, to whom she had been an incredible servant. At the memorial service several told how Shelley had shared the message of Jesus with them. She had walked with many others through very tough times. Shelley has gone to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The final chapter has not yet been written.

Bart said to one of his daughters…”Oh that the Lord would have taken me!” And his daughter responded, “Dad, no offence, but if you had died it would not have had near the impact that mom’s death did”.

Where I really struggle personally – with how the love of God plays out is when I look at the suffering of Christians in other countries – starvation, rape, murder, etc. These are the best answers I have found for myself to this point in my life.
Regardless of the hell people live through on this earth – God’s people know God’s presence.

  • It seems that the closer the people are to God…the more they experience His presence.
  • The greater the trauma, the greater the tragedy, the greater the experience of God’s presence.
  • The length of our lives here on earth is proportionally tiny in comparison to the length of our presence in eternity.
  • When we read that all things work together for good, for those that love God, for those that are called according to his purpose ….the Lord must have in mind life on earth AND in eternity. How else can I make any sense out of :

    Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

    Ephesians 6:20 “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Our God sees the total picture…He is the Alpha and Omega….He knows the beginning and the end! We must never forget this. God sees the total picture. God is all loving – of others as well as us. I do not think our physical comfort is of great concern to God.

When (not if) we are caught in an incredible struggle, let us hang on, in faith believing, that God knows what He is doing …and we do not need to know, we do not need to understand. God is God…His ways are not our ways. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts”. Isaiah 55:9

Someday we will see our Lord face to face. God knows this and He knows He has nothing to be ashamed of. Oh to hear Him say at that moment…”well done good and faithful servant!” And He may then explain to us our unanswered questions…or He may not. I have not yet had that experience.

I love you …., you know this…in fact I have tears flowing down my cheeks as I write this. Life on earth can be incredibly tough! – for some, their entire life seems to be tough

God is loving and faithful…yes…even now – with your bewilderment and intense personal frustration and pain. I know this …even as I ache over situations in my life.

If we do not hang onto the truth that is taught in the Bible over and over again, what good is our faith? We would have a God led false hope…and we do not!!!

HEB 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

And this final thought. If we become bitter against God…how can we know the joy of living In Partnership With God? How can we any longer be of use to our Heavenly Father? How can we have the comfort that He says the Holy Spirit is here to bring us? “when the comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father” John 15:26 KJV

And, let’s face it; people on earth do not want to be around a bitter person. We must work through our pain, even if the only resolution becomes…”I just do not understand” and then we get on with our lives. We can remember loss… but we cannot hang on to it, acting as if it did not happen. This process will take time, but we dare not drag it out!

And yes, the loss, the struggle will come back to us. Recently I had a dream about what happened to me, to our family, 26 years ago. I had thought the inner pain, the reality of the unfairness was gone…I was wrong. I was totally surprised! I thought I had forgiven – and I think I have…but this does not remove all of the pain. Life is sometimes incredibly unfair…ugly if you will – as the direct result of sin. We must acknowledge this reality and not abandon the great reality of God’s love. We must move our focus from the one to the other.

chief chuck

A Good Wife…Chosen for me by God #8

Sally Jo and I attended a 200 student Christian high school: Wheaton Academy. The school had both “town” and “boarding” students. We lived in town and during my senior year I often had permission to use a family car. Sally Jo and I would double date, and our dates were dorm students. After we took our dates back to the dorm, we would drive the 6 miles back to Wheaton. That ride began to take longer and longer. After a several months we realized we did not need to drive to the Academy to pick up our dates. I would drive the three blocks to Sally Jo’s home…and we would head out for a great time together.

We slid into our relationship. There was no thought, I assure you, that we were dating because we believed it was God’s will for our lives. None! We wanted to be together.

Sally Jo spent 16 summers at Hills Lake. While living on the South side of Chicago her mom and dad purchased a summer cottage…complete with an out-house in the garage and a pump at the kitchen sink. Each June, her dad would take her mom and the four kids up to the lake for the summer, and he would drive the six hours to be with the family each weekend – and then for two weeks each August.

At “Hoppe Pine Vista” Sally Jo learned to swim, row, fish and clean fish, canoe, water ski – and to take her baths in the lake. She had summer friends – and school year friends. Sally Jo learned to live in two very different worlds…comfortably.

During grade school Sally Jo’s family built a home in Wheaton…and indoor plumbing arrived at the cottage. While in college I had many wonderful days with the family at the lake – learning the world which was so much a part of her life.

Twenty years later we were living in Texas…and each June I would take Sally Jo and our three children to Sky Ranch for the summer. Through the week I lived in Dallas, where Sky Ranch had its primary office…and each Friday I would drive to the ranch to be with our family for the weekend. Twenty seven years later we moved together each summer to Deerfoot Lodge – a wilderness camp for boys. Sally Jo already had the pattern of moving each summer to the lake…and for her to have running water and a hot shower in our cabin was luxury! God had prepared Sally Jo well.

Did Sally Jo and I choose each other…or did God engineer the whole thing? Or both? While we were dating the 5 ½ years before we got married I do not remember thinking that God had prepared Sally Jo to be my wife. I do remember struggling through many differences/challenges during those years – and wondering…”is this the girl I should marry?” Today it is easy to see God’s careful preparation for the work He would give us to do…together. For 45 years we have worked together at Living In Partnership With God. Always easy? Are you kidding? But…God has blessed us, used us beyond what we could ask or think.

Remember how this relationship began – no more planned by us than I planned to go to Pioneer Camp in Canada at age 9 – or prayerfully chose to work on a farm, or wash pots and pans for Young Life, or help build a house in Costa Rica.

May it be that when I say to a girl, `Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, `Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’–let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” — Genesis 24:14

Seek to live your life pleasing to God – and smile!

Spring Vacation Work Week – I was the cook! #7

It was spring vacation and snow was still on the ground at Honey Rock Camp in Northern Wisconsin. Coach Chrouser had taken several of us teenagers for a work week. Coach was the camp’s founder, Athletic Director at Wheaton College, and my craft instructor during Christmas vacation several years before.

We used the outhouse as the camp water system had not been turnd on for the summer. My friend, Dave, was one big boy…and when he stepped on the outhouse floor…down he went! We heard his desperate call for help – and went running. We found Dave hanging by his hands…and started laughing so hard it was a challenge to pull him out – before he was into a really significant problem!

Coach decided I should be the cook for the week…in between my other work. Each morning he would talk me through the menu and tell me how to prepare the simple, but excellent, food. We worked hard, ate well, and laughed much as we worked getting camp ready for the coming season.

Each of us knew that we were important to Coach, and we learned that his high expectations of us were a demonstration of this relationship. With Coach we always learned new skillls – and that we must do our work well.

When we made a mistake under Coach, if we had done our best, we were encouragedd, received further instruction and we continued on with our work. When we did something wrong becaue we were lazy, or because we “broke the rules”, we were soon reminded of the fact…very explicitly, very intensely. When he was sure we realized the folly of our ways …we never heard about the incident again. Coach never changed – we did! It was a privilege to work for and with Coach Chrouser.

When we invite a person to work with us on a project for which they lack the necessary skills and/or self confidence, the person is almost always pleased we thought they could handle the resonsibility – even if they say “no thanks”. Our challenge is to match the person with the right opportunity through which they can learn and succeed. When beginnning a new responsibility, the person needs to know what is expected of them and that they will receive the necessary instruction/coaching. And then encourage…praise…thank! As the person grows into more of what the Lord would have them be, the person feels good about themselves – and appreciative of the person who gave them the opportunity to grow. (NEVER dump work you do not want to do on an unsuspecting person!)

Coach showed me that I could do more than I througt I could through the Christmas vacation craft program a few years before. And so if Coach said I could cook for 8 people, I believed I could…with his help. Coach would not let me fail! Soon I was cooking on the trail at Honey Rock, and a few years later I cooked for 200 college athletes.

When we have the opportunity to work or play with a person who has more knowledge/skill than we do, we should welcome the opportunity. When we have the opportunity of having someone work with us – planting a garden, repairing a car, leading a Bible study, teaching a class, building furniture or a log cabin, painting a barn, preparing a nice meal – let us welcome the opportunity to teach, to encourage, to buid up one of God’s special people. This is part of living In Partnership With God.

Think through the things that Jesus did alone…it will not take you very long!

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land.” — Psalm 41:1-2

Decision Time: “I will be God’s Man” #6

I think I was in Junior High School when I first heard someone share these words of a shoe salesman, Dwight L. Moody: “The world has yet to see what God can do through a man totally yielded to Him. By God’s grace I will be that man.” I thought, very consciously, that if God could use Dwight L. Moody in amazing ways, he could probably use me.

This is where the journey began. This decision did not improve my grades, or change who I was. Through my high school and college years I desperately wanted to be elected to some office – it never happened.

When I made the decision that I wanted to be God’s man, I knew little of what “God’s man” meant, or about how to become one – other than to read the Bible. (I still have the Bible) And so almost every night before I turned out my light I would read one chapter in my Bible, and work at doing what the passage said. Many times the passage said nothing to me! Other times the implications of the passage for my life were very clear…and often I would clearly miss God’s standard. I was no saint, but this pattern proved to be enough to get me started in becoming “God’s man”.

If we seek to be God’s man, to live In Partnership With God, we will live in a counter culture. God’s people must swim against the current of society – until we get to heaven. Fact. Matthew 7:13 puts it this way: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

As we seek to live In Partnership With God, we must always remember that we will continue to sin – to make wrong choices – and we will often feel very frustrated about our own failures. At such times we must not forget that Jesus Christ died on cross that these sins could be forgiven. What is critical is that we repent/turn from our sin and ask for the offered forgiveness. We then begin again, with a clean slate, to work at living out our decision to be God’s man.

Many times at Deerfoot during the After Breakfast Bible Study I would ask two big, strong staff to come stand next to me. I designated one as God…the other as the Devil. Each took one arm – the challenge was to pull me in their direction. The direction I would go was my choice. If I pulled toward “God”…the “Devil” had no chance. If I pulled toward the “Devil”, I could move in that direction.

“I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

And what is your decision?

A Great Man…a simple craft program…a lasting impact! #5

Whereas I was not a great student, I was pretty good with my hands – and my parents did everything they could to build upon this strength.

I think I was 12 (56 years ago!), when, during Christmas vacation, I went to a craft class taught in the basement of the Wheaton College Graduate School. The room was set up to do leather, plaster, cooper tooling, perhaps candles – probably through out the year. The room was not very big; the lighting was not very good.

The bright light for me in that room was Coach Chrouser, who taught the class. Every day he helped perhaps fifteen of us make Christmas gifts for our parents. We could choose what we wanted to make…and he would then work patiently with us.

I vividly remember making two plaster casts of the head of a Cocker Spaniel with which I would make book ends. When I had finished my work, Coach came over and asked if I would like him to help me finish up my project. And he took my plaster casts, already covered with brown paint, and with his magic hands, transformed my crude efforts into beautiful work. On Christmas morning I was incredibly proud of the present I could give to my parents.

Years ago I brought the members of my junior high Sunday school class to my wood working shop and helped each make a beautiful Christmas present of their design for their parents. I remember that Ken built a book shelf; another turned a bowl on the lathe, etc. I was passing on my experience to a few great young people, some of whom were struggling as I had been. The young man who built the book case still lives in our town, is married and has 3 children. Recently Ken came over to help me build a new work bench in my expanded wood shop.

I am sure Coach had no idea of the long term impact that he had – that he would continue to have upon me. (You may read more details of some of this in the months ahead) “Coach” started Honey Rock Camp for Wheaton College – where I was a camper, maintenance worker, counselor, unit leader, waterfront director, and tripping director/assistant camp director. It was for Honey Rock that I earned my American Red Cross Canoeing, Sailing, and Water Safety Instructor certifications. Coach was the head football coach at Wheaton College when I played on their undefeated football team. After I injured my back and we knew I should not play football again, Coach asked me to become the head cook for the two week football/cross country/soccer camp – and I was asked back the next year!

Apart from Sally Jo, and my mom and dad, Coach Chrouser was the person who has had the greatest impact upon my life.

We do not need to seek opportunities through which we can share interests, encourage, and perhaps in time, disciple and mentor. As we seek to Live in Partnership With God, He is bringing these people into our lives. The challenge is to take the time to be God’s instruments of change.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” — Matthew 25:40