God at Work Blog

Teach Us to Number Our Days: “Reflections on the Loss of a Friend” – John Appleton

“We do not mourn as those without hope”

Two days ago we lost our Christian brother, John Ledr, to a heart attack.  John was such a vigorous and healthy guy. It came as a complete shock to me.  John and I had planned to take our daughters to Willow Creek’s Camp Paradise this summer. The above picture is a coin that the camp passed out a few years back as a reminder to invest in our kids while we still can do so, before the number of our days expires.  John and I had been talking about doing this for a few years but had been having trouble syncing our schedules.  Now there won’t be any more daddy/daughter camps for John and that grieves my heart. What I can tell you about John was that he was an all-in guy, he lived for his God, his wife, and for his family.  Many times over the years he drove 9 plus hours for one on one times with his kids at Camp Paradise.  This was not a sacrifice to John, but a great joy as he had discovered the secret to a “heart of wisdom”. 

John and I had much in common, we both married late in life and both got serious about our faith later in life.  We both had five kids and ran our own businesses.  John was a hard worker and a very early riser, much like me as well.  We had both changed from self-seeking, aimless lives, to lives that were firmly on the narrow road for Christ, discipline being the key. 

I first met John at a Primetime (singles group at Willow Creek) ski trip to Colorado.  I was a hack skier; John was fluent and smooth.  John was a party guy at that point and he figured a ski trip was the perfect place to have a good one.  I vividly remember waking up early one morning and seeing beer cans strewn everywhere in our unit as well as half eaten pizza.  I had to smile as it reminded me of a scene from my not too distant past.  I started a friendship that day with John. That was thirty plus years ago. 

I met a young lady on the trip who I asked to ski with the next morning.  She said yes, and I was looking forward to that time.  John found out about our skiing together and asked if he could join us.  I was really torn now.  I had been praying to make a difference in John’s life, but I wanted some alone time.  I reluctantly said sure, that would be great to have you John. I played the part of generous spiritual guy. “Fake it until you make it” as we say in the recovery program.  Of course, you know what happens, the young lady likes John and I slide out of that picture. If I can summarize the spiritual lesson here for me it is, “Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”  - Matthew 6:33

The best part though is that John started the process of coming to saving faith in Christ through the leading of a few other godly men.  To have had a small part in that process brings me great joy to this day.  John dated the young lady in question a few times, and we joked about it later in life (although at the time I wasn’t laughing much). John later married a beautiful Christian woman named Peggy and I married the love of my life Heidi.  God is good.  All things are good in the right time.  John was late to the marriage and kids plan, but he hit the ground running knowing his True North, which is found only in Christ.

John also joined a men’s group modeled after one that I was in.  I was in mine for 25 years and I think John was pushing that number as well. If I can encourage our church in one area, this would be it, invest in challenging, iron sharpening relationships where you can be known and know others.  This takes commitment and discipline, traits my friend John didn’t lack. I grieve for the guys from his group, Steve, Curt, Pete, Bruce, Pat, and I am sure I am missing a few.  Most of all I grieve for Peggy and the kids, she lost a godly husband and a great dad. The tears are just starting to flow on this one - be with us Lord in this time of deep loss.

We had a moving, Christ centered service, on Saturday June 20.  I was blessed to be able to share some of this story that day.  Church family let us indeed strive to learn to number our days, that we may indeed gain a “heart of wisdom”.  My friend ran his race and he finished a wise, wise man. Let us all seek to follow in John’s footsteps until our days are no more.

It’s BROKEN! - Deborah Vernetti

It’s BROKEN! We’ve heard those words used countless times and spoken them ourselves, more often than we’d like. Every parent has heard them from a child about a favorite toy. Teachers hear it from their students about pencil tips. Doctors hear it from patients about their fragile bones. 

One needn’t look far to see all the broken things in the world. Beyond the broken toys, tools, tree branches & vases, there are deeper things also incredibly broken. Marriages & families, governments & churches, communities & cultures – all broken. As I type these words, my heart is heavy and I find myself sighing deeply. What are we to do with all of the brokenness around us?

A familiar Andraé Crouch song comes to mind: "Jesus is the Answer". I must confess, as a child, I often felt the simplicity of those lyrics didn’t meet the complexity of the needs I encountered. But the longer I live and the more I get to know our great big God, the more convinced I become that Jesus truly is the answer to any and all of the complexity and brokenness we face. 

Jesus took on flesh, walked in seamless communion with His Father, fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy, strategically and graciously invested in His disciples, sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, overwhelmingly conquered death, established and commissioned the Church and at this very moment lives and intercedes for His people before the throne of God.

On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Pastor Will preached what would be his last sermon before a live congregation for three months. His "Biblical Viewpoint on the Pandemic" included 5 points:

  • Our world is broken
  • Our lives are fragile
  • God is sovereign
  • Our witness is key
  • Our hope is Christ

I didn’t realize at the time that this sermon was to be a bookend at the front of our COVID journey with Ed Stetzer on the backside, two and a half months later. Recall this Stetzer quote from his May 31, 2020 message entitled, "What it Means to Be Children of God":

When we see the Lord, we know His hands and His side bear the markings of His crucifixion, which ultimately brings the victory and one day makes ALL things right and new.

When we know that to be the case, we know “He’s got this!” So we can join Jesus on mission because of the confidence of His resurrection and we can know that He’s got this. 

Christians, this is the time right now when we don’t run away from economic crises, crises of injustice and illness – we run towards them…

One of my favorite songs, “A Little More Time to Love,” by Steven Curtis Chapman has a line in it from JRR Tolkein’s Return of the King. Samwise Gangee wakes up and asks if  “everything sad is going to come untrue”. 

A Little More Time To Love

Steven Curtis Chapman

…So what am I to do with my few minutes here in this place?
We hear the world sigh with its aches and its pains
We see the grass wither and watch flowers fade

But oh, there's a day that is coming when everything will be new
And oh, God will dry every tear and everything sad will be made untrue
And oh, it's gonna be a celebration all of creation longs for
And while we're waiting for that day to come we've got a little more time to love

This COVID journey had given me a glimpse into God’s heart for the lost, hurting, disenfranchised and vulnerable among us. Someone once asked, “God, with all the pain in the world, what’s Your plan for fixing it?” His response is, “You, Church - you are My plan. Go, be the hands and feet of Jesus. Mend brokenness, restore relationships, share the gospel, be the change.” 

That’s what Pastor Will, Ed Stetzer, the CF Outreach Team, Steven Curtis Chapman and ultimately Jesus are all calling us to do. Let’s get out there and be a part of causing everything sad to be made untrue.