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What Has Happened to Us

Good morning everyone!  I’m going to begin our time by reading just 5 words from a Bible verse.  In Philippians 1:12, Paul is writing about something bad that happened to him, and he says, “What has happened to me...”

 

Before we see exactly how Paul continues, what about us?  Has anyone here ever had something bad happen in your life?  If you’ve been living on planet earth in 2020, then the answer is yes.  We’ve all had the bad experience of a pandemic happening to us.   

 

How do we respond to that?  What do we say?  We might say things like "What has happened to me/us…

  • has messed up our plans"
  • has messed up our finances"
  • has stressed our relationships"
  • has messed up our work"
  • has messed up our entertainment"
  • has messed up our sense of control"
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Why the Worse Things Get, This Family Just Gets Better

As we get ready to meet and serve so many families, what a joy it is to see and spend time with so many wonderful people on this amazing team. Everything we do well happens because of great teamwork, and that is true of these coming days, full of new ways of serving. I know there’s curiosity about how we’re serving these families, and we’ll certainly be sharing a lot of that. I want to kick us off, though, by emphasizing why we’re serving these families.

 

 

To illustrate the importance of why, think back with me, deep into history... to that time long ago when sports were a big deal. Can you remember that? Remember when sports even happened?!

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Everlasting Father

Originally posted in December 2015

A year ago I reflected on the wonder of “Unto us a child is born,” which took on fresh richness as Allison and I experienced new parenthood along with Advent. Now we can hardly believe that we have been parents for a year already! Our baby girl has grown and changed so much, and so have we. As Advent scriptures and songs once again circulate, different parts of them grab my attention. In a recent reading of Isaiah 9, the phrase “Everlasting Father” struck me. I love my little girl to death, but that is tragically literal – some day death will interrupt my fatherly love. An “Everlasting Father” is worthy of reflection.

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You Never Know What's 'Round the Corner

James Herriot, a British veterinarian of the last century, tells a story about a cow that had ingested some wire, which would have to be removed.  The vet performing the operation was on a big kick about cleanliness and presentation, so he arrives at the farm in new, sharp clothes and then dons a “brilliantly white smock.”  He has his assistants lay out all the polished tools of surgery on brand new metal trays.  The farmer asks if he can watch, and the vet is only too glad to show off for an audience.

 

He cuts through skin and muscle and arrives at the cow’s first stomach (they have four).  Before he can cut open the stomach, it bulges out through the opening in the skin.  He presses it back in, but it comes out again, bigger!  The vet suspects gas is causing the stomach to expand.  They go back and forth several times, with more stomach coming out each time, until finally it is so large outside the cow that he can barely hold it with both arms wrapped around it, and it’s at his eye level!  It takes two men to wrestle the thing down, at which point the vet quickly makes his cut.

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Present TENSE

Isaiah chapter 42, verses 8 through 11:

 

I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
 
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them."
 
Sing to the LORD a new song,
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Creative Absence

Being at Legacy Retreats is a blessing.  This is the visible and tangible culmination of many months of less visible work: fundraising, event planning, family coordinating, all sorts of communications, technology, office work and supplies, big-picture visioning and strategy.

 

All of that work takes a lot of people, and many of them cannot be at every retreat.  In fact most of them aren’t on site at any given Legacy Retreat.  Our staff and coordinators alone now are more than 30 people, and there are more than 300 people among our board, volunteers, and group facilitators.  Plus there are thousands of donors.

 

To get to be at a Legacy Retreat, then, is to be at the highlight, the fun payoff of so much other vital but less visible work.  The flip side is that being away from a retreat is hard!  I can speak from very personal experience; I was not at the California retreat at the end of last summer, and that frankly was not easy for me.  I knew I was missing a great team, I knew I was missing IoH history, I knew I was missing the face-to-face impact of months of work.  Others who also missed that retreat described it like experiencing withdrawal, and that is how it felt.  It’s hard to miss this!

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Good Shepherds

John 10:10-15 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

My aunt Kristen was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on her 30th birthday.  She and her husband, Deric, had 3 kids, who at the time were 4 years old, 2 years old, and less than a year old.  Their life, their whole world, suddenly was turned upside down.  You could say that a thief had come to steal, kill, and destroy.

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Funeral Reunion

In May 2017, when we had a big Legacy Retreat in Orlando, I got to know one of the families, the House family, pretty closely.  We had four days with the House family, and they flew by like they always do.  We do these retreats trusting that the impact is not only for four days but goes far beyond that, and with this family, I got to see that lasting impact in a powerful way.  Matt House died less than two months after the Legacy Retreat, and there were memorial services in Texas where he lived and Minnesota where he grew up, and I was able to go to the Minnesota one.  And what a funeral experience it was!

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How Great Thou Art

A year ago today, in some muggy Tennessee heat, our family was gathering in Knoxville to get ready for the wedding of my brother and his lovely bride.  This was a very celebratory time, both for the occasion and for the chance to see so many friends and family.  It was the day before the rehearsal, and we heard that Ryan Hurst Carter, a good friend of our family, was in a car accident… and died.  Boom.  Just like that.  He was a 27-year-old bundle of energy who never met a stranger because he was so convinced that God loves all those strangers.

 

Of course at the wedding we celebrated and had a great time, but it was a stinging reminder that death is always lurking, that in this life even the high moments of new beginnings full of hopes for a bright future cannot be separated from realities that crush hopes.

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Cry with Hope

At the start of this year, the youth ministry director at my church gathered all of the middle school small group leaders.  He wanted to check in on how we were, hear how our groups were going, and encourage us.  He shared how, when he has worked at Christian camps, everything is designed to help kids experience great moments, “highs,” and you have a very focused time with each group of kids to bring those highs about.  In contrast, in congregational ministry, there are many distractions, and kids often are weighed down by day-to-day concerns.

 

Each type of ministry has its challenges, but how do you handle all the distractions and burdens kids bring week after week and month after month?  Our youth director had wise words.  He said you love the kids, let them know how much God loves them, welcome them with all their challenges, and pour yourself out for them.  Then, when you get home at the end of the day, you cry with hope.

 

Cry with hope!  What a beautiful phrase to express the hardness and goodness of Christian ministry.  We cry because there is so much pain even as we hope because God is good.  Cry with hope is an especially fitting expression for the ministry of Inheritance of Hope.

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