Living as God’s Man #33

Forty incredible Deerfooters arrived from 15 states for the Joshua Weekend. For me, personally, it was very rewarding. Most had been DL staff members while I was Director and trained in leadership/management. I think all had been Counselors – responsible for the development of the young men under their care. Many had also worked in the kitchen or on maintenance, headed up a program area, been a section chief, a Guide Leader, the Assistant to the Director. Most are working in their chosen vocation, and many continue their formal education. A significant number are leading youth groups and/or providing leadership in other areas of their church. The singing at the Breaking of Bread service was once again incredible! Living In Partnership With God is a reality for possibly all of these men.

Chief Ron gave me two months to prepare, and I felt a heavy responsibility to God, and to these special men, to help make the weekend a significant event in each of their lives.

During the first session I encouraged each to single out the 10-12 most significant areas in his life. Small groups were used, and biblical confirmation was sought for each area. After this initial work, the wisdom of Solomon as stated in Ecclesiastes was considered – and then the results of 3 secular studies were reviewed. At the conclusion of the session each was asked to finalize his personal list, and numerically rate, on a scale of 1-10, where they were in each area.

For the second session they were asked to select one area of importance from the previous night where they would like to move from where they felt they presently were – toward where they would like to be. The focus here was on self-management and the reality that a change in one area would impact other areas of their life – ripple effect.

For the third session I encouraged each person to recognize he had experienced community at DL and that he had helped to provide solid organization and management. These experiences provided part of the foundation from which they could move, and also a “picture” toward which they could work Throughout this session I shared some of the process through which DL worked as it moved from where it was 25 years ago to where it is today.

The singing during the Breaking of Bread service was incredible! As we celebrated God’s gift of eternal life, Jon Redeker summed up the weekend for me. He reminded us that Jesus, before the crucifixion, cried out “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!” Jon said he could imagine God’s response: “If not you, who?”

These words have been burned into my brain as God’s question to me. “If not you, who?”

And so I must recognize what I believe to be of significant value to God – and thus should be of value to me. I must continue to work at living out more of what God desires me to be. I must welcome my responsibility to utilize all that God has entrusted to me – to do the good works which He has prepared for me to do.

Jesus had the time to be with His disciples, the closest He had to a human family. Jesus had the time to celebrate at a wedding and spend blocks of time talking with God. He faced the need to feed, to heal, to answer hostile questions and to teach, yet we never get the feeling Jesus was running around like a mad man.

Every opportunity I face is not a call of God! May I spend sufficient time with God to know what He would have me do before I give myself to any new situation. When I believe I know what God would have me do, I must take the task seriously – while keeping in mind the other responsibilities He has given to me: continued time with Him and my family, in celebration, and getting good exercise, food, and sleep.

As I live as God’s man I will have little continuing stress, a free spirit, a joyous heart. Deerfoot encourages me to do this.

A Turtle on a Fence Post #32

When we see a turtle on a fence post, we know someone put it there.
(A book was written with this title by Allen Emory)

Often Sally Jo and I have felt like turtles on a fence post, that God has put us into a particular situation “to do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10. It is easy to feel that what God created us to do are big, significant, and important as vocationally we have gone from one challenge to the next, seeking to do God’s work in each place. We have been useful to God and to His people! We have come to realize that what we have been able to do has been because God prepared us for the work He had us do. God has given us the privilege of Living In Partnership With HIM. What God has given Sally Jo and me the opportunity to do has been a good match of ability, training, and responsibility. We have not been forced to take on any challenge – the choice has been ours.

It is easy to think that we are only turtles on fence posts when we have the opportunity to do something “significant” – or perhaps “significant” in the eyes of the world, even if just the Christian world. I am increasingly realizing God probably puts us on fence posts much more frequently than we think. God puts us into situations because God has work for us which is important to God, though it may be insignificant in the world’s eyes, even to those within the Christian community.

What else could Jesus mean when He says “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

This morning I walked into the convenience store and saw an elderly woman leaning over, trying to pick up two quarters she has dropped. She just couldn’t do it! I picked up the quarters and handed them to her…and received a smiling “thank you”. Then with sadness, “I just cannot do that any more.” I had brought a cup of water to an elderly, frail woman who obviously had very little of this world’s goods. I could have turned the other way. I had a choice to make. I believe I was a turtle on a fence post, placed there by God, to do His work.

When I totaled the Prius, the first person to my car window was Ralph Souza, a Deerfoot dad. He had no clue who was in the car. In our lives at that moment he was the turtle on the fence post and he chose to let God lift him off the post to do the work that God had prepared for him to do. God put Ralph there for us. Ralph was ready to bring the cup of water, regardless of who was in the car.

When we were ready to move into the Bakerville church parsonage, Bob was the turtle on the fence post when he produced enough cash for the COD bill the mover said we must pay before he would unload the truck (Bob held gambling pool for the people at the factory where he worked). Alice was the turtle on the fence post when she came to the 150 year old parsonage day after day to help Sally Jo clean, paint, and wallpaper. Chris was the turtle when he played beautiful music for a very small, but growing number of people each Sunday morning. John was the turtle when he showed up at our doorstep with a gift of $1,000 for Sally Jo and me when our money was literally used up.

When we Live In Partnership With God, God delights in using us to meet the needs of others. May we be delighted when we realize that God has used us to meet the needs of others.

We will go crazy if we think God wants us to “take care of” every need we are aware of! We will live in peace when we take the time to sort out the needs God would have us meet from the needs others would have us meet. Our time, strength, ability, and other resources are limited. May we never shirk the impossible looking tasks we believe God has given us to do. May we never shrink the small, humble tasks we believe God has given us to do. May neither pride nor fear control me, not if I Live In Partnership With God!

Sally Jo Update

Good Morning

While I was up at the Joshua Weekend, daughter Sea took Sally Jo to the spine Doctor – Dr. Chaney. He said that her bone was healed and that now it was time to work on strengthening the muscles that hold the spine upright, that enable to spine to work. After being in the body brace for eight weeks, there is little strength in them now which, in reality, leaves the spine vulnerable to injury.

Sally Jo does not need to wear the brace while in bed or during the day while being inactive. This was obviously very good news. During the day she must wear the brace anytime she is being very active – and when doing something passive and she feels the muscles getting tired.

Because of the very weak muscles, he thinks it highly unlikely that she will be cross country skiing this winter – which is tough. She missed last winter due to the broken arm. Ouch!

He said that if the vertabra compression had been two vertabra higher, she would be a paraplegic. Sobering!

I feel the Joshua weekend was excellent for the 50 or so that were there. I am sure Chief Ron will send update in some way.

I climbed the dugs….a little frightening for me as my hip was just replaced on May 1. I took my time, the other hikers were incredibly patient and at times, helpful (over big rocks!). The last time I climbed the Dugs was for a Lone Eagle Ceremony during my last summer at DL – and I did not know it, but my pace maker was broken and my pulse was stuck at 70. Ever try to climb a mountain, even a small mountain, at pulse of 70? Don’t. This trip was MUCH easier!!!

This weeks IPWG was written months ago and I have no record that I have sent it to you. I trust you will find it helpful.

I am just too tired to write something new tonight.

A Confrontation Well Done #31

I know I should rejoice and be glad in the Lord each day, but when I learn that my desire to encourage someone has done just the opposite…ouch. This learning process was particularly difficult because it was four months between my blunder – and when Libby (not real name) wrote to me about how I had hurt her. Four months is a long time to carry pain….particularly when it is undeserved pain. The letter was not vindictive, not bitter. It was written in love by a person who highly respects me, and that I highly respect. Our love flows both ways. I am very thankful that Libby had the courage to write.

The situation: On the Saturday before our chance meeting in church I had learned that Libby had decided to get the necessary formal training to back up her natural gifts and interests, to change jobs and to go for it! That decision, that move takes courage – guts!

On Sunday morning, about ten minutes before the morning worship service is to begin, Libby and I saw each other.

In my joy of seeing Libby and the excitement I felt for having learned of a total vocational change, I did not quietly listen. Rather, I began a telling her how proud I was of her – and asking questions. As time was limited, I shared thoughts, and I asked questions too quickly, and I did not listen to responses adequately- or really give her a chance to talk about my questions…My mind was going very fast…and my mouth was going even faster!! . I gave encouragement for things not even in her plan. The result? A person without time to respond… Trapped. And I walked away pleased with our few minutes together!!!!! Incredible insensitivity!

“… take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” James 1:19

I did not live out the verse, a verse I know. Ouch!!!!!

It looks to me like/it feels to me Libby perfectly lived out Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over…” Not only did Libby not get angry, she gathered the courage to write me an excellent letter – a letter that obviously hit its mark!

After receiving the letter I went to Libby to apologize – and we do not live in the same town! My respect and appreciation for Libby is even greater, and our friendship grows. And her new vocational plans! Formal training needed to back up considerable personal experience is in place. A joyful, successful hobby has become an new vocation! Easy….irrelevant question!

All of the above happened several months ago….and I wrote the above several months ago – and because of a friend with gutz, I have had impressed upon me…

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” James 1:19

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over…” Matthew 18:15-17

If the shoe fits…wear it! I will wear this pair for a long time!

Sally Jo update

Friends…tis time for an update

For the first four or five weeks there was not much change –

In these 3 weeks the progress has been remarkable. Sally Jo goes in for her 8 wk check up on Friday afternoon.

Present situation: she get’s herself in and out of bed, can take brief walks outside with a cain, was able to help with freezing peaches this AM, fixing supper with me. She is not on any pain medication. She has now been out of the house into a car twice – once to get her hair cut…and Monday night to go to a book study group from Church.

The limitations are – the back brace which is a velcroed on deal that is the equivelant of a cast. She is now able to shower – thus no brace. The brace/cast prevents her back from bending her spine – this prevents her getting anything off the floor – or any down low location. She has a grabber which helps a great deal. She has little endurance/strength but it is beginning to come along nicely.

Yes, I am encouraged!!!

The doctor told her 10-12 weeks in brace – Sally Jo has heard a few people have gotten them off at 8 weeks – so you know she is hopeful about Friday.

I know some of you have been praying for us regularly – thanks. Some has sent cards – I think she got 2-4 every day for the first 4 wks – from you, other Deerfooters, people in churches we have served, friends, etc. These cards have been wonderful to receive, to read.

If you would like to call….fine. I will leave tomorrow to pick up Jason Weyer who is flying in from Houston for the Joshua Weekend.

Do pray for me as I lead 3 sessions for the weekend. I feel well prepared. What is critical now is responding to the people in the sessions in helpful ways.

I may send you an IPWG that I have already prepared this next Monday morning as I go straight from DL to a 3 hour choral rehersal…to home, half dead? I have 2 or 3 that I have prepared along the way….I like them….hope you do to.

Should be fun weekend. chief chuck

On Marriage #30

For 36 years 30-31% of the population has said they were very happy with their lives (National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Society Survey). 50% of married people of faith with children consider themselves to be very happy, while only 17% of non-religious, un-married people without kids feel the same way. Gross National Happiness Arthur C. Brooks. 2008

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5: “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church… “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. To care for another person to the level that Christ loved the church is impossible – but this gives to husbands a clear picture of what we must seek to do.

When Sally Jo and I married, the two of us became as one flesh, fully committed to each other. That commitment has remained through incredible challenges. Yes, I am to love Sally Jo as Christ loved the church. In reality, if she had not equally loved me, one or both of us would have crumbled during the past 46 years. Seven times we went into new situations, each more difficult than the previous one. In each situation we knew I had the responsibility of getting a ministry on its feet – twice this was within a larger organization. What the Lord has used me to accomplish has, in reality, been accomplished through the work of both of us. Paul introduced the passage above with “Submit to one another.” A good marriage requires this!

So why do I write this now? Because I am gaining a much greater understanding of the work Sally Jo has been doing for me and for our children. My greatest challenge has not been any specific work required – but the endless work required. I just get my mind focused on something and I hear, “Chuck, could you please?” Or like just now. I am focused and then off goes her alarm clock to end her nap – and she is sleeping so hard she does not move! So…up I get. For weeks Sally Jo was unable to get into or out of her hospital bed without help, so during the day and 3 or 4 times at night I would hear her say: “Chuck, I need to…” Which is really saying, “Chuck, stop doing what ever you are doing – I need your help now” Her needs have controlled almost everything I do. What did Sally Jo do when our children were infants, then toddlers, then…? What did she do for me when my heart went crazy and I was in 5 emergency rooms and spent a week in each of 3 hospitals, or when my hip was replaced? Sally Jo’s back was broken because I dozed off – and the car went off the road. How easy it would be for Sally Jo to say “Chuck, I would never be in this situation if you had not dozed off while driving”. (a fact I never forget!!!) But what good would it do? Would saying this be best for me?

Marriage means for me that if Sally Jo prepares a meal, I will clean up after the meal. If she leaves our home for an hour or three days, I work my tail off so that when she walks in the door she sees things to be in better shape than when she left. Her smile is worth my effort! After all, she has been keeping up with things day after day. When home, what a lift it was when I took the children out for a few hours. I have always taken out the garbage, cleaned the garage. Personally, one of my greatest challenges is to listen to her – to really listen! Does she do things that bug me? Really frustrate me? Of course she does – often without knowing she is doing so. Sometimes Sally Jo does not do something I think is fully reasonable! Ouch!! If I am to love my enemy, how can I not love my wife?

I know a husband whose wife does not want to cook or clean…and so he does it. I know a wife who was so angry with her husband that she called for help when she realized she had a butcher knife in her hand and was ready to kill him! They worked through their problems and had a solid marriage until one of them died years later. Alzheimer’s? A stroke? A quadriplegic from an accident? A job loss? Who knows what a marriage will bring.

Jesus did not give up on His church, which is people! I cannot stop loving Sally Jo, stop seeking to do what is best for her, no matter how tough it gets! With both Jesus and me as her examples, she may well love me in the same way.

There is tremendous happiness, joy, security – call it what you will – in knowing we both have someone we can count on, no matter how tough life is!

We are God’s people! #29

Each Sunday morning, during the opening hymn, our church choir processes up the center aisle, then splits and comes down the side aisles. We then sit in the choir loft/balcony. As I walk around the congregation I am reminded that we are God’s people!

The town where the church is located includes more people with graduate degrees than any other town in the state of New York, yet this church of about 600 members is very diverse, very inclusive. About half of us come some distance to be part of this body of believers. I walk by the couple in their late 90’s and several families with young children who like to sit near the front. I walk by the Pakistani family and the Japanese wife. Many men where sport shirts, and there are families where the father wears jeans, one of whom reads the Scriptures from the lectern in jeans. In the back corner of the sanctuary sits one of five mentally challenged young people in the church. Kevin, 11, has both Williams Syndrome (outgoing, totally trusting, poor people judgment) and Autism (likes repetition – words, patterns…flips a book over and over) and is very difficult for his mom to keep quiet. The boy does not miss much, and every few weeks he will loudly call out, at the appropriate moment in the sermon, “Yes” or “I like that!” After music he enjoys, he may clap. Last Sunday I heard him say “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – right mom?”

When the Lord’s Supper is celebrated almost every person in church walks up the center aisle. Dan, a quadriplegic in his mid-thirties, drives his wheel chair to the communion rail. A husband brings his frail, bent-over elderly wife.

In the choir, on my left, sits David, an administrator for a large organization with residential and placement programs for children 1-18 sent to them by the courts. Thirty years ago he was working directly with the children. Each week I ask David “what has happened this week?” His son, Matt, worked at DL for a summer. On my right is Frank, a professor at Albany Med and a research neurologist who has published over 60 articles in scientific journals. Frank has had a busy week when he sleeps except when he sings. The adult choir of 30-40 includes three music teachers, a composer/former college president, two nurses, an attorney, a waitress, a comptroller, house wives, retired people, etc.

The church embodies Romans 12. “in Christ we who are many form one body…We have different gifts: prophesying …serving…teaching, encouraging…contributing…leadership…showing mercy.” The members live out Romans 15:1 “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak” and Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens.”

Though we are 30 minutes from the church, Sally Jo and I are being well cared for! Last December, when Sally Jo broke her arm, people brought food, cleaned the house, and wrapped Christmas presents. In June, when my hip replacement put me out of commission, three men came with a back hoe and planted two large new trees, transplanted pine trees, built a grape vine support, planted four grape vines and, moved compost. Their wives joined us for lunch.

Since our accident in July, members have sent food, brought dinners we have enjoyed together, weeded the flower and vegetable gardens, spent time reading to Sally Jo, taking me to pick up the Jeep, etc. This past Monday night 17 brought salads and we provided a cake to celebrate Sally Jo’s birthday. Knowing this group was coming, a local pastor’s wife and son came over and worked their tails off mowing and trimming the yard, and cleaning the house. Our daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and a Christian neighbor from down the street help freeze vegetables from Sally Jo’s productive garden and our Christian neighbor across the street stores our surplus in her freezer – 40 pt. of blue berries to date (and we have probably given away another 20 pints). Son Dirk picked up a new computer when mine died – and two nights ago Sally Jo’s computer died. Sally Jo has received cards and notes of encouragement almost every day for five weeks!

Without the care and encouragement we are receiving I would not be able keep up with a portion of Sally Jo’s daily needs (daughter Sea carries most of this responsibility), routine work in and outside of the house – and have conversations face to face and by telephone with some of you, write these weekly IPWG to you, begin to catch up on e-mails from a month ago – and continue my preparations for the Joshua weekend.

Being the people of God brings security and blessing. Let us enjoy living In Partnership With God!