I Was Stunned! #92

Our family lived in Dallas during the school year. On weekends and during the summer, we lived in one of the ranch mobile homes. One summer our housing was needed by other staff, so our family moved off the ranch property.

We rented a cabin on a lake 15 minutes from the ranch. The one room cabin had an enclosed porch and a small bathroom with sink, shower…and a toilet that was to be hooked up soon, but never was. The outhouse worked. Our three children slept on the porch. Sally Jo and I slept in the one room – the foot of our bed against the refrigerator. The cabin was on a small peninsula which provided privacy and an occasional breeze.

On a weekday night, when I was in Dallas, Sally Jo and our children heard a boat go along the shore around the peninsula. Several men were gigging for frogs and obviously drunk. Talk about feeling vulnerable!!!

Five mornings each week Sally Jo gathered together everything needed for the day. At the ranch she would supervise the 5 acre garden, help in the camp store – do what was ever necessary. Our oldest daughter, Carla, loved to work in the barn. Jenna and Dirk would stick with mom, or play with other staff kids. After lunch Sally Jo and the kids had an hour together with other staff in the beautiful swimming pool. When at the ranch, there was no place we could call our own that summer.

Every Monday morning I would drive the two hours into Dallas to work in office. During the week I would write notes on contributions, write checks, keep up with government contributed surplus food forms, talk with camper parents – and work out of the office with donors, Sky Ranch Board members. I would speak occasionally. Most evenings I would go to our empty home, fix some food, do more paper work, and go to bed. I pushed hard so I could get back to the ranch on Friday as early as possible. All of this was made tougher because the Dallas office building was air-conditioned to 68 degrees, the outside temperature would be over 100, and the temperature within a car that had been sitting in the sun for several hours was unbelievable. I would feel sick every time I went in or out. On Friday I would drive the two hours back to the ranch where it would be hot and sticky. As the summer went on, the situation became a grind, but we saw no choice other than to push on. “Be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” — Romans 12:11

One week Sally Jo and the children made a poster of the fruit of the Spirit. On the paper tree they put cut out fruit labeled “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” — Galatians 5:22. Later she shared with me that when the children were cutting out and labeling the fruit, one of the girls asked, “why doesn’t daddy have these?’

I felt weak! In that summer’s grind to keep up with life, I had forgotten what was most important. This question, asked 30 years ago, remains heavy on my heart.
In my desire to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord”, I had trampled the truth that serving is to be filled with His spirit, and that the fruit of His Spirit should flow out of me, most importantly to my family. Jonathan Edwards said, “The Holy Spirit gives us the power and strength enough to overcome our weak inclinations so that these holy exercises will prevail over our weaknesses.” The Holy Spirit gives us the power and strength, but we must be intentional about becoming Christ like, about living the fruit of His Spirit.

Thankfully, our children told me long ago that I have changed.

Hopefully, I am still growing in the fruit of the Holy Spirit as I live In Partnership With God

Ted Clifford, a Porter #91

Sometime after I became Executive Director of Sky Ranch, I was introduced to Darryl Lafitte, the President of North Dallas Bank and Trust, where Sky Ranch did its banking. Darryl was a Christian who appreciated what Sky Ranch was seeking to do, and he also knew the financial situation Sky Ranch was in. After a year, we had developed a comfortable relationship, so when his secretary called and said that Mr. Lafitte would like me to come to his office, I was not surprised.

When I arrived, he said there was a business man with an office in the bank tower who would like to meet me. So, up the elevator I went to meet Ted Clifford. His secretary said Mr. Clifford was expecting me, and to go on into his office. He introduced himself, and asked me to have a seat.

Ted asked me to tell him about Sky Ranch. As I talked about the purpose and program of Sky Ranch, he asked a few questions. I then asked him what he did, and he told me he was the President of Majestic Oil and Gas Company. In the conversation that followed he told me about the cobbler’s last (the form around which a cobbler built a shoe) that was in his bedroom, next to his closet door. He said that every time he went into his closet, he was reminded of the words: “cobbler, stick to thy last”. Ted knew one business, and apparently knew it well.

As I was leaving, Ted asked me to keep in touch, which I did. In the early months of that third year, when all bills were being paid, but salaries were again close to being unpaid, Sky Ranch received a check for $10,000 from Majestic Oil and Gas Company.

With the receipt in hand I went to thank Ted for the contribution. He welcomed me to his office and when I had thanked him, he said:

“I try to always keep in mind the answer the train porter gave to the question ‘and what do you do?’ The porter responded ‘I takes care of whatever the Boss gives me, till we gets to the end of the line.’”

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” — I Corinthians 4:2

This was the last large contribution for operations Sky Ranch received or needed, to the best of my knowledge.

Bob Kerstetter – Sent By God #90

Sky Ranch entered its third year at the new location with a fully functional operation: ministry, staff, and facility. But there was a long way to go! It is impossible to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to empty beds. With the new cabins, there were empty beds in summer camp and on school year retreat weekends, and there was essentially no week-day usage. The previous year at this time, Sky Ranch was truly broke! No more money, no more credit. As Sky went into 1977 current bills were being paid, but just barely.

When Bob Kerstetter walked into the Dallas ranch office in January, essentially all I wanted to was to get him out of the office as quickly as possible. In a recent conversation, Bob described how he must have looked 30 years before, when we met. “I would have had shaggy hair, wire rim glasses which were decidedly not stylish, and a lazy eye – which wandered all over the place. Let’s not talk about my clothes!”

Strange duck though he looked to be, in a few minutes Bob was giving me his brief sales pitch: He wanted Sky Ranch to pay him $50 for each time he was able to get an article into a regular publication of any kind. There would be no cost to Sky other than to pay him the $50 placement fee. He assured me his work would provide good exposure to the general public. In our recent conversation Bob said I actually told him he just did not fit the Sky Ranch image we were working hard to create. I probably did! Bob persisted until I agreed to his proposition – just to get him out of the office!

The next week Bob returned to the office to show me an excellent article he had written for the Dallas Morning News summer camp insert. $50 please! In the next few months Bob brought in 21 articles he had gotten published in a variety of locations. Here is one example of how he worked. Bob used the fact that Sky Ranch ran a soccer camp during its first week of the summer as his means of getting an interview with the announcer of the Dallas Tornado soccer team, an interview which was heard by several thousand soccer fans. Great response!

About a month after Bob had gotten me to agree to his proposition, Bob walked into my office with a huge smile. I knew he had something special to tell me. “I have hit gold this time!” Bob had talked with Joe Camp the co-writer and the director of For the Love of Benji, produced by Mulberry Square Productions of Dallas, Texas. Sky Ranch was the charity selected by Mulberry to benefit from the Premier screening of the movie in Dallas on June 10th. In almost every article or interview on the movie Joe Camp told why Sky Ranch was the charity chosen to financially benefit. What Mulberry did was give Sky Ranch a large block of tickets to use for fund raising purposes. When it was announced that Lassie and a large number of other Hollywood personalities would be coming for opening night, the tickets became very highly sought after. Talk about great publicity – and money! Suddenly every camper bed for the summer was booked.

Beginning in the fall, Sky Ranch was the chosen location for the Dallas Independent School District’s outdoor education program. They rented the facility for almost every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through the school year. Sky Ranch was operating at capacity!

I had tried to send away the person God had chosen to be His means of providing for Sky Ranch, just because of his looks. I did not recognize him as person who lived In Partnership With God.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

My perspective on my living In Partnership With God #89

Please always remember that it is God who has directed my life, who has done the miracles I have experienced. What has happened has been God’s work – totally. We must never forget this. To God be the glory.

It would be easy to stop at this point and say “I have had no role to play”, but this is not true. Yes, God did it all, but I was the agent of what has happened. A person has been involved in every miracle: Noah, birth and sacrifice of Isaac, Joseph in Egypt, Moses in the desert, Joshua in battle, David as shepherd/king, Jesus birth, Paul’s missionary’s journeys, etc. God has not changed! God’s miracles today may not seem to be of the magnitude of those he did in Bible times, but the miracles I have experienced clearly demonstrate to many that God still performs miracles. God continues to remain interactive in the lives of His people.

So why has God chosen to use me as He has? If you are a Christian, ask yourself the same question. God has plans for each of our lives. Some of these plans are the same for every believer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself” — Mark 12:30-32. God may also put any of us on “special assignment”. On these “special assignments” we may be more likely to recognize God’s miracles, because without the miracles many of His assignments could never be done. Special assignment or not, I am sure we never recognize many of the miracles God does around us, and through us, which enable us to do His work in His way. I encourage you, during the coming week, to jot down when you believe God used you in the life of another. Also jot down when you feel God may have “stepped in” in a miraculous way.

As God’s man, I have faith in God, that He has a plan for my life and will do what He says He will do. This being true, there are many times I have not understood what God is doing, or not doing, but I hang on. God is faithful! Whereas I trust God, I do not have trust in myself. If I ask myself “Do I have enough faith to do what God has asked me to do?” I must acknowledge “I really do not know”. But, if I maintain my commitment of obedience to God, and continually seek to do what I believe God would have me do, I can relax. It is God’s responsibility to guide me and to enable me to do what He wants me to do. Sometimes God surprises me – He does “beyond what I can ask or think” — Ephesians 3:20. But sometimes God disappoints me and I get frustrated and angry with Him. I have prayers that God has not answered for 30 years, prayers which, according to my understanding of the Bible, I think He should answer! At such times I try to remember God’s track record. I have made the decision: I belong to God. I must not chicken out when life is tough!!! I press on in faith.

I do not read my Bible daily, but I work at this. I do not spend hours in prayer as did Jesus, Martin Luther, and George Mueller, but I have prayed for an hour many times. As I talk to God, I am confident that God knows what is on my heart even before I open my mouth. Most of the time it is easy to praise God, tough to confess my sin, easy to thank Him for answering specific prayers, and when I make requests of God, it can be tough to trust God’s wisdom – “Thy will be done” — Matthew 6:9. I share my thinking with God throughout the day. I pray when working driving, walking, sometimes silently, sometimes out loud.

These days God is not using me to preach very often, to heal, to put together a strong ministry – nothing dramatic. My guess is that I am living my life like many of you, one routine day after another. We are called to live with joyful hearts. May our lives be an accurate reflection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is God’s responsibility to let us know if we should be on “special assignment” as we daily live In Partnership With God.