Living Apart from Family #72

Family is very important to God. We see this clearly in many passages of scripture including these two:

  • “The Lord then said to Noah, Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.” Genesis 7:1
  • “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the
    land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each
    one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own
    clan.” Leviticus 25:10

As we have lived In Partnership With God, we have believed we should make each move: IL to GA to AL to CT to TN to IL to TX to NY. Our three years in Illinois is the only time in the past 47 years we have lived near any family! For 3 years we had the privilege of having both of our parents, and the families of our three brothers and a sister, within 30 minutes. When we moved to Texas, gone were the gatherings of extended family for birthdays, Christmas, and New Years. Gone were the opportunities for lunch with our parents/grand parents, to have our children play in my parent’s swimming pool, to spend wonderful days at Sally Jo’s family cabin on a small lake in Wisconsin.

Once again we were…alone – a couple day’s drive from any family member. And we were there because we had no real choice. Yes, from a human perspective, we could have enjoyed staying near family and been financially comfortable with me as the CEO of a successful corporation. But we knew that if we did, we would be disobeying God. God said “go”, and so we went – just as all foreign missionaries do. It is tough! We knew God wanted us to go to Texas to build a camp/conference center – and to build a new life. But this type of obedience is painful!

In 201, the total Gieser clan will be together for several days for the third time in 10 years – now there are 53 of us. It helps that, even though we may be very different people, we all like each other. We will enjoy catching up on each other’s lives. We will play together, share many meals, have some very serious conversations, and, undoubtedly, shed tears together. Life is not easy for any of us all of the time. In the end, if history repeats itself, we will all leave with a new understanding, an increased respect, a greater love for each other.

  • Remember how Abraham risked the life of his family to save the life of his brother Lot and his family.
  • Remember how Paul wrote to Timothy, reminding him of the faith of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice – and that now lived in him.
  • Remember how God told Jewish family clans to gather together every 50 years.

If you live near family, I encourage you to make time to share life with each other. If you do not live near all of the members of the family, do your best to visit those some distance away. It is wonderful to know that family is willing to make the effort to come for a visit, to see the context of our daily lives. As my sister-in-law said last summer: “Now I understand”.

And if you know people who do not have family in the area, be they students, particularly foreign students, or people in ministry, or new in the neighborhood or church – or for any number of other reasons – consider welcoming these people into the context of your family. Thankfully everywhere we have moved people within God’s family have done this to us.

Even with rapid communication, being alone is tough! Sharing God’s love with fellow believers who are alone is of great encouragement. Sharing God’s love with those outside of the family of God can be a life-changing experience for them, and for us.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” — I John 4:16

Opportunity or Temptation? #71

Soon after it was announced I was resigning as Associate Pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook to become the Executive Director of Sky Ranch, located in east Texas, people learned that Sky Ranch, a summer camp with an 18 year history, presently had land, but no facility, no staff, and very little equipment – not even any horses. I had the responsibility of designing and putting into operation a radically different camp/conference ministry – in five months.

It was in this context that Bernie Cozette asked if I would consider becoming the CEO of his corporation. Bernie and I knew each other well. He was an elder in the church and had been observing my work. I knew that his business was solid and growing. He assured me that if I choose to become the CEO, I could expect to become a millionaire.

Because I was absolutely certain Sally Jo and I knew God had asked me to assume the leadership responsibility of the Sky Ranch ministry, I was able to tell him what we both knew: It was time to move to Texas.

About 20 years later I returned to Christ Church on a Sunday morning. I was warmly welcomed by many friends from years past. I was in the foyer when up walked an elderly man. “Do you remember me? Yes, you are Bernie Cozette. Chuck, do you remember the offer I made to you after you resigned from your position here at the church? Bernie, yes, I remember the offer – but have often wondered if it was a figment of my imagination. Chuck, my request that you become CEO of my corporation was very real. If you would have accepted, today you would be a multi-millionaire. Are you sorry that you didn’t?”

I smiled as I responded: “Bernie, God has worked me hard and used every gift and ability which I have. We have never been hungry and we have always had a roof over our heads. Ours has been a rich life, and no, I am not sorry that I turned down your offer.” As we looked at each other, I could see the tears flowing down Bernie’s cheeks. “Chuck, I am thankful you feel that way. I just had to ask.”

I have often thought back to the offer. I am not sorry for the decision we made, but I have often wondered, had I become the CEO of the corporation, would the Lord have helped me be successful as a corporate CEO, even as He has enabled me to effective in ministry. I doubt it. I do know that Sally Jo and I would not have had the same opportunity to work together that we have enjoyed in Christian camping.

This opportunity to turn from what we know God would have us do for what would likely have been a more comfortable and secure future was very similar to when I had resigned as Pastor of the little Bakerville United Methodist Church. At that time John Kinsey asked “Chuck, how much money would it take to get you to stay.” When I told him that, regardless of the money involved, we would be moving to Murfreesboro, TN, John responded with “I thought that is what you would say, but I had to ask.”

When we serve in vocational Christian ministry we have the opportunity of seeing and of experiencing the hand of the Lord upon us, upon what we do. Those not in vocational Christian ministry also have the opportunity of seeing and of experiencing the hand of the Lord upon them, upon what they do.

God has chosen those in vocational Christian ministry for the work we do, enriching the spiritual lives of His children. God has chosen others to support those in vocational Christian ministry financially, and in other ways. Those in vocational Christian ministry pay a price for what we do – and the believers who work in other vocations “pay a price” for supporting those in vocational Christian ministry. Together we are an incredible team – to serve for the Glory of God. Let us all see this as our privilege. When either does not carry out his responsibility, a ministry or person can be crippled, even destroyed.

Come back to Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to live In Partnership With God.

God’s Orchestration #70

During my second year at Christ Church, Clayton Bell, pastor of 4,000 member Highland Park Presbyterian Church In Dallas, and the minister for whom I was assistant during my first two years out of seminary, called and asked if I would come develop a camp/conference center for the church. This would have been a great opportunity, a fun challenge, but I had to tell Clayton that I could not come at this time as my responsibility at Christ Church was like Jell-O: all the ingredients were in the bowl, but the Jell-O had not had time to set up.

During my third year at Christ Church the men involved with the church’s family camp came and asked me to look for an previously developed facility, suitable for camps, conferences, and retreats. The senior minister gave his approval. Some time later I located what seemed to be an excellent possibility 3-4 hours away near Muskegon, Michigan. When I talked with the men involved, they suggested that I visit the facility and at least one of them would go along. I called the realtor and told him of our serious interest. He became very quiet. Then he said “I wish I had known – it sold yesterday, and the owner had hoped it would be purchased by Christians.”

Two hours later I received a call from Glen Hinckley, a member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church. He was on the Board of Sky Ranch, and they were in need of a new director. Clayton Bell had suggested me, but told them he did not think I would come as he had contacted me the previous year. Glen went on to tell me that Sky Ranch, a summer-only camp for children/young people, had been in operation for 18 years, and was located just North of Dallas. People were moving in around the camp so it had been sold. A large piece of property had been given to Sky Ranch and plans were underway to develop a year around facility, including a 70-acre lake. Young Life had already agreed to use the facility on several non-summer weekends. With no notice, the past director had turned in his resignation. This was November and the new camp needed to be up and running on June 1. I asked how serious he was, and he assured me “very serious!”

I told him that Sally Jo and I had blocked off the next few days to go to her brother’s farm, thus we could be gone and we would not be missed. The next day we were on a plane headed for Dallas. We were soon learning the ministry plans and reviewing the land development and architectural plans for the lodge and a typical camper/retreat/family cabin. Sally Jo and I could both see problems with the building designs which had been developed by an architect who specialized in plans for country clubs. We said nothing.

The next morning we headed out to the new property, located about 2 hours east of Dallas in Van, Texas. The location was excellent, but it became increasingly evident that the camp board did not have a clear picture of the program or what the total facility should be.

I declined the invitation, and explained we were not comfortable with their vision for the camp/conference/family ministry and facility. The next morning, as we headed for the Dallas airport, I was asked if I would develop a program plan with ideas for a suitable facility. If they agreed with my suggestions, would we seriously consider coming? I said “yes”.

We returned to Chicago and that night we went out to dinner as guests of an older couple from Christ Church. They took us to a restaurant with good food, a German band, and a belly dancer! Crazy. Fun! During the evening we shared with them the events of the week. “What did they think?” They knew us and of our love of camping. We respected their experience and wisdom. After some discussion their recommendation was “go”.

Sally Jo and I had some very serious conversations. We agreed that I should develop an extensive proposal. I was very forthright. We wanted no misunderstanding. When members of the Sky Ranch Board called, we talked a long time!

Bottom Line: we agreed to go, believing that God had directed our path. Proverbs 3:6. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph.2:10 We experienced God’s peace.