Happy New Year, friends!
Some good news...Madalyn (previous post; whom many of you have been praying for) was able to leave the hospital in December and be with her family for Christmas! She is hopefully out of that hospital for good! She still gets bad headaches (sadly, especially when laughing), tires easily, and struggles with anxiety after that ordeal. But she is determined to resume her studies at Texas Christian University any day now. Her parents are justifiably worried how she will handle the rigors of being a full time nursing student after all that. But in Christ, anything is possible. Your prayers have been priceless gifts to Madalyn and the family. Would you please continue to lift her up as she tackles getting back into the stress of university life?
Some very SAD news stunned thousands of people at the end of 2019. One of our dear friends, (Ron's golf/ministry buddy) and a champion in the world of children's ministry, Craig Jutila, died suddenly of a massive heart attack while snowboarding with his family on December 26. I got the news from a friend while we had about 30 people in our house for a family party, and I could barely get the words out of my mouth to tell Ron. THIS couldn't be happening! Craig was one of the most ALIVE people we've ever known. While he was the Children's Pastor at Saddleback Church years ago, we did the music under his leadership of what they called Summer Spectacular--VBS on steroids. It was mind blowing fun, energy, learning, worship...a week none in attendance would ever forget. The partnership with Craig was such an easy one, it led to many other events, conferences, and Summer Spectaculars together. Our families hung out a bit when our kids were little, but we drifted into different worlds with kids in different school districts. Ron and Craig continued to golf regularly, Mary and I enjoyed an occasional cup of coffee together and now and again we enjoyed a double date. The mutual respect and admiration we all have for one another never waned, and it was always great to know Craig and Mary were out there serving Jesus in their work, ministry and family.
I can't begin to put into words the energy, joy, creativity & leadership skills that were Craig's. His heart for bringing kids to a better understanding and deeper love of Jesus, and training leaders of kids to be the best they could be were unmatched. He influenced and inspired countless kids and leaders. He was one of the funniest people we knew with more passions/hobbies than ten people put together, and he seemed to be good at ALL of them. He was an amazing friend to so many, becoming even more open, honest, humble and real with each passing year, which made him even a more wonderful friend and leader.
Craig leaves behind a gaping hole in the world. Second only to his love for Jesus, he passionately loved his family--Mary and their three kids. He and Mary started dating when they were teens. Its a beautiful love story of adventures and growth, faith, challenges, trials overcome together, and ultimately one of the closest relationships I've ever encountered. Mary is brilliant, loves Jesus, and has quite a large circle of devoted, faithful friends and family who are supporting her. She's an incredible she-bear mama to her 3 cubs and will fight to see the three of them be well. Ultimately, they are going to be okay, thanks be to God. But this will be brutally hard for her as she misses the love of her life. It will be searingly painful for years to come for Karimy, 21, and twins Cameron and Alec, 23, as they navigate the world without the support, wisdom, love and humor of their hero, their dad. But even now Mary testifies of God's goodness and mercy all around. Will you please be part of that by praying for them?
Craig's life and memory will continue to inspire Ron and me to give our very best to Jesus, to His kids. Craig pursued excellence in sharing the Lord with kids, and I am SO certain he was told, "VERY well done, good and faithful servant" by the Lord he loved with all his heart, soul and energy. Heaven is filling up with people I love and miss. Praising Jesus as another year begins for the gift of life, the ability to serve, and the uncontainable, unquenchable joy of eternal life on the other side when He calls us home. Thank you, Craig for being a daily reminder of those truths. See you later...