If I was back in elementary school, and they asked me to write a composition on "My Summer," I'd have one word on the paper. Amazing.

Because I spent it on Indian reservations with a team of 60 Native American young people. Who stood on rez basketball courts, pouring out their Hope Story of how Jesus has rescued them. I had a front row seat on God's awesomeness.

    There was a miracle in the wildfire the other night. On an Indian reservation where we have many dear friends.

    We've watched the news with growing concern - and intensifying prayer - as the path of the fire's destruction has grown steadily. We learned some of our "family" there have their church and some loved ones in a town surrounded by the flames.

      A part of my heart's been in Charleston, South Carolina the past few days. So has a part of America's heart. As the hate-driven murder of nine Christian worshipers - in the church - has devastated a city and riveted the nation. With seasoned reporters groping for words. Like "horrific." "Heartbreaking."

      But even more overwhelming than the brutal crime has been the response of the families whose loved ones were murdered. "I forgive you."

        "There are five Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John - and the Christian. Most people never read the first four."

        That observation, made long ago, couldn't be more true today.

        If our world's getting darker, then something must be wrong with what folks are "reading." In the Christians - the messengers - they know (that was last time). And with their Message. Actually, with the way they represent it.

          Boom. Suddenly all the lights went out in the conference center where we were staying. Just as we were all making our way out of our rooms and down the long hallway to breakfast.

          The hallway was longer than usual that morning. Totally dark. Turns out the entire region had experienced a power failure. Because a squirrel got into a relay station and gnawed through a cable. Fried squirrel. Lights out.

            Wow, they had my attention. When the reporter started talking about a young woman being attacked by a lion. In a game park. In South Africa.

            I've been to a game park in South Africa. Where lions roam freely. And the lions were an issue.

            My South African friend, Ted, was driving me through this massive game reserve during a break at the conference where I was speaking. It was winter there. The grass was tall. He said, "You'll see the big animals - but not the cats. But they'll be there - in the grass."

              Memorial Day's different when you're a veteran or a loved one of someone who died for America's freedom.

              Every day is Memorial Day. Because freedom's price has a name, a face, an empty chair at the table.

              This Memorial Day I've heard some veterans, some families asking a haunting question. It's embodied in a recent statement from one combat veteran, former Navy Seal, and current TV commentator. He said:

                "My Summer Vacation."

                As children, that was the predictable composition assignment we'd get each fall when we got back to school. I filled paragraphs with great memories. Then as parents, my wife and I had sort of a "mission statement" for our vacations - "Making memories!"

                Of course, not all summer memories are something people would like to write about. Because there are memories we wish we could forget.

                  Missy lost her mother yesterday. Andy's wife filed for divorce today. A friend texted recently, heartbroken over his sister-in-law's cancer verdict. Reservation friends are grieving one young suicide after another.

                  Always, we seem to know someone who's walking their own personal "trail of tears." Some weeks, we could be sending a sympathy card virtually every day.

                     

                    Stranded on the highest mountain on earth. Buried beneath the rubble of a shattered hotel.

                    After an earthquake rocked the mountain kingdom of Nepal, thousands lost their lives. Many more found their world, their homes, their lives wiped away.

                                  

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