Good Theology Is Reality IPWG #99

As soon as I had told our family what had happened to me at the Board meeting, our daughter, Carla, asked “Dad, how long will $20,000 last?” I told her – about six months. She responded: “I think this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us.” Positive response.

My internal response was not positive. It is one thing to know verses, quite another to believe them, to rest in their truth.

I Thessalonians 5:18 — “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

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”

Proverbs 3:5-6 — “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Forgetting for the moment what the Bible says, the reality was that if I became angry and bitter, it would make our situation as a family even more difficult than it needed to be. Another reality: I needed another job and, let’s face it, no one would like to hire an angry, bitter man.

Through the previous seven years at Sky Ranch I had frequently talked about God’s guidance and provision, about the fact that this ministry was God’s, and we were his earthly servants that had been asked to do the work.

If this was true, how could I now bad-mouth Sky Ranch…which was much, much more God’s work than ours?

Good theology can be lived out, must be lived out:

  • If we are going to live at peace with ourselves
  • If we are going to live with consistency in a world filled with deception
  • If we are going to live In Partnership With God.

I did think all of this through, and though I agreed with my logic, living day to day was hard. I do not remember being angry so much as being emotionally torn up. Nothing made sense.

The morning after I was asked to resign, the missionary family that was using our home for a few weeks would be returning from a trip, expecting to find an empty house. The Board knew this reality and Clyde Jackson, the Board member who was responsible for the development of the Plaza of the Americas, had arranged for our family to have a suite of rooms in the Plaza. Clyde encouraged us to enjoy the restaurants including room service, the ice skating rink, the swimming pool and the other amenities. This was wonderful – but tough to enjoy when our hearts were breaking.

We invited the missionary family to trade places with us on their last night in the United States. It was a great swap. We were thankful to be home – and they were excited to have a night in a fantastic place they could never afford. Quite a contrast to the jungle in Brazil to which they were returning.

The Result of Living in Partnership with God – part 2 #98

It is good to be able to leave on vacation with, to the best of our knowledge, all in order. Key staff had worked together for two or more years, and the first six week of camp had run smoothly. Camp was full with a waiting list through the end of the summer. Board member Glen Hinkley and his family would be staying in our new home at the ranch for at least a week while we were away, and a missionary family that served in the jungles of Brazil would be staying in our home in Dallas as they packed up all of their supplies for the next three years. They would be gone the night we returned from vacation and return to the house the next morning for a few more days of packing, then off they would go to a very different world.

While on vacation we were able to spend a week with Sally Jo’s family at the cottage on a small lake she had enjoyed for 15 summers. The cottage originally had a pump at the kitchen sink and an outhouse in the garage. We were also able to spend a week with my family at Honey Rock Camp where our family had spent many summers. These were wonderful days for all of us.

The afternoon we arrived home in Texas I received a telephone call from the Chairman of the Board asking me to come to a Board meeting the next morning. I went to the Plaza of the Americas as I was asked to do. While sitting in the reception area, Jo Stone, a friend and the secretary to Clyde Jackson, in whose conference room we would be meeting, came by and asked what I was doing there. I told about being asked to come for a Board meeting. She said she knew that – but why was I sitting in the reception area. I suggested that perhaps I was going to be given a raise – or it could mean I was out the door. She laughed and said something like – “You are a long, long way from being shown the door!”

Minutes later Walt Byerly, Chairman of the Sky Ranch Board, asked me to join the meeting. When I walked into the room, I remember that there was dead silence. Walt then said something like “Chuck you have done a tremendous job directing Sky Ranch these past seven years, but we have decided it is time to change Executive Directors. Therefore, we will give you this check for $20,000, if you will resign. He went on to say I was free to say anything I wanted to, but what I said would not change my situation. I was also told that no member of the family could return to the Ranch without a Board member present, and that Sally Jo and I should not attend the 25th anniversary banquet.

Somehow God’s spirit came over me and I was able to look each Sky Ranch board member in the eye and tell them that I loved them, then sign the letter of resignation, pick up my check, and leave the room.

I drove home…numb. When I walked into our home everyone was packed and ready to go to the ranch. I asked the family to sit down at our kitchen table where I told them I was no longer the Executive Director of Sky Ranch and that we would not be going to the ranch. Then I told them, as best I could, what had happened.

IPWG explanation – forgiveness…. and explanation of next stretch

Dear friends –

Two weeks ago I should have told you that Sally Jo and I would be in Ireland for the week…hence no IPWG

This past week I wrote IPWG and planned to send before we left for NYC to meet TX friends. Got home tonight.

What I am sending in IPWG which you will have tomorrow should have gone out Sunday afternoon – goofed.

NOW…for the next several weeks I will share with you the most difficult 9 months of my life. I preparation I have gone to my date books 1981-1982 and to Sally Jo’s diaries for the same period of time. In her diaries she records what happens for each day…(she has them for about 50 years)

I will do my very best, before the Lord, to share both facts and my responses…external ones that others saw – and internal – my thinking, my feelings, my emotional/physical struggles during this period.

I am not doing this to hold anyone else accountable for what has happened – it has been 30 years! But rather to share my experience of what happened to me – good and bad – as I sought to do what was right before the Lord – to live In Partnership With God. It is my desire that what I share will help prepare you for a difficult time…or confirm to you that your experience is not unique. God’s people do go through tough times, sometimes the ripple effect of the decision of other Christians.

Most of what you read I have never put in writing…much of it I have shared only with a very, very few people.

So…here we go….


The Result of Living In Partnership With God – Part 1 #97

In our seventh year at Sky Ranch it felt like everything had “come together”. We had come a long way from a piece of ranch land and staff of three.

The ranch was operating at capacity throughout the summer, with a considerable waiting list. During the school year the Dallas Independent School District had a group of grade school children at Sky for their out-door education program Tuesday – Thursday. Young Life used the facilities many weekends, Sky Ranch ran its own programs on other weekends, and church groups enjoyed the facility on most remaining weekends. About 8,700 people a year were coming to Sky Ranch.

Sally Jo was teaching a different group of campers each morning how to plant and harvest vegetables and co-led the Sky Ranch retreat weekends. During the school year and on the weekends our family was at the ranch Carla, a sophomore in high school, worked almost every day with the horses – two of which were hers. Jenna, in Junior High, helped in the camp store and with Sky Ranch retreats. At our home in Dallas, Jenna had a growing collection of beautiful pigeons. Dirk, in grade school, pretty much enjoyed “the run of the place.”

To have the facility operating near capacity with this varied usage required a good facility and a quality staff. Both were in evidence at the camp/conference facility and in the Dallas office. The operating surplus for the year I think came to $38,000. Yes, the to-do list was long… but it was happening!

It was in this year we finally had a beautiful home at the ranch that we could call our own. In addition to work by local contractors, two electricians came from Connecticut to do all of the electrical work, our family did a tremendous amount of finishing touches inside and out, and nephew Steve Gieser came from Illinois to create a series of stained glass panels for the clerestory windows that faced south, up over the living/eating area…probably 25’ of glass work. Glad, the 86 year old lady who loved to give her income to the Lord’s work, gave the large kitchen table and chairs.

When I had accepted the position of Executive Director of Sky Ranch, my compensation package was the same as it had been when I was the Associate Pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook. The understanding was that I would get at least an annual cost of living increase each year. After several years of struggling with financial survival and no raises of any kind, the Board had gone back to my original package and raised it according to the inflation factor for each year. Although neither Sally Jo nor our children were compensated for their work, our income was finally good.

Plans had been made for Sky Ranch’s 25th anniversary celebration. After 18 years at the Denton, TX facility where Sky was a summer camp, and now 7 years as a year around ministry at the East Texas facility, it was time to celebrate. A big dinner and program were to be capped off with the announcement that Gladys Lankford was giving a beautiful chapel to the camp, the design drawings having already been prepared by an architect.

After serving as program chairman for the previous national convention, I was asked by Christian Camping International to head up the annual convention in November at Ghost Ranch in Glorietta, NM.

Looking forward to a busy fall, and with everything up and running, it was a good time to go on vacation. We decided to spend two weeks in July with our family in Wisconsin.

Getting this effective ministry up and running had required a tremendous amount of hard work, but it had been obvious from the beginning that this was the Lord’s ministry – the result of His guidance, His provision, His blessing. Often I reflected upon verses like: “The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” — Gen. 39:23.

Living In Partnership With God was hard work, but good!