On December 21st I sat next to my husband, the director of Casey Family Services in Concord, in the large conference room of their office. We were sitting around a large table eating a delicious meal with the remaining staff of Casey Family Services. It was a bittersweet time as it was the last day for Casey Family Services to be in operation. As I was sitting there eating I noticed a big picture of Jim Casey on a wall in the conference room. Jim Casey was the founder of UPS and The Annie E. Casey Foundation. He was a man with a vision and did not settle for the mediocre. He always worked to make things better and had a generous heart to help others in need. Next to the picture of Jim Casey was a one of his quotes from 1947. It said, "You cannot be successful entirely through your own efforts. All of us, if we are to acoomplish anything worthwhile, will do it largely through the help and cooperation of the people who work with us." I thought of Jim Casey and his vision for Casey Family Services to help hurting children and families and I thought of all the staff sitting around that conference table for the last time and I thought what a wise man Jim Casey was. Casey Family Services had helped many, many children and families over the years because everyone worked together. It had been a team effort by dedicated staff that had made Casey Family Services a quality agency. As we sat around that conference table finishing up our lunch each staff member shared where they would be going now that Casey was closing. Some were moving on to other jobs in social work, others were moving on to completely different occupations, some were taking extended vacations, some temporary jobs and others didn't yet know what they would be doing. Now that Casey Family Service is closed Ed and I will focus on Soaring Wings Ministires. We will focus on turning a dream into a reality and will travel out to Colorado to purchase some property for Soaring Wings Ministries. Looking back I can say without a doubt that Casey Family Services was a top rate, quality agency that worked hard to improve the lives of hurting children and families. They worked together as a team and it was not the effort of one person that made their work a success. Ed and I are laying it all out on the line and committing our lives to Soaring Wings MInistries and we will do our best and yet as Jim Casey said "we cannot be successful entirely through our own efforts". Ed and I have always known that we would not be able to" accomplish anything worthwhile" on our own. We need the "help and cooperation of people" to move forward and make a vision a reality. So many of you have already helped us move forward and because of your donations, prayers and encouragement we are able to look forward to 2013 knowing that Soaring Wings Ministries will become a reality and will improve the lives of hurting children and families in Colorado. We want you to know that YOU DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Because of you a young adult or family will have a place to live next year!!!! We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!! Without you we would not be moving forward!!! In closing I would like to say that it has not been easy to watch Casey Family Services close its doors and to say good-bye to top rate staff...no ifs, ands or buts about it...it was just plain hard. 2012 is almost over and 2013 is almost here and in looking forward I think of another quote by Jim Casey also from 1947, "Within each of us there is a mysterious innate force that drives us onward. It wants us to do better and be better. Call that force conscience, ambition, determination, power of will, or whatever you choose, it constantly whispers in our ears words of advice, stimulation and encouragement. If you will but heed the voice and utilize that inner power to the limit of its potentialities, nothing on earth can stop your progress". Ed and I recognize that power and voice whispering in our ear as God and so we listen to His voice and move forward and because of your help we are able to look forward to the future of Soaring Wings MInistries with confidence and expectation. We wish all of you a Happy New Year and a year filled with God's blessings!
The other night I couldn't sleep so I got up at 2 a.m. and was working on my Bible Study lesson for our Tuesday morning Bible study group. I have to say that I enjoyed that time at 2 a.m. It was quiet...all 4 dogs, the cat and my husband were sound asleep. The woodstove was humming and I was snuggled into the chair closest to the woodstove with a warm blanket. It was cozy, quiet, warm and it was just me and God. Our assignment was to write a description of Luke 2:16 which says "So they(referring to the shepherds) hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger". Since it is the Christmas season I thought you might enjoy my thoughts as I let myself travel back to Bible times and tried to imagine what it must have been like to be a shepherd on that first Christmas morning. Here is my story:
The shepherds had just been spoken to by an angel in the middle of the night. What they must have thought!!! Here they were in a dark field, peacefully watching over their flock when all of a sudden a company of heavenly hosts appeared with an angel and the heavenly hosts and the angel were praising God! Not only were they praising God but the glory of the Lord was shining all around them!! I can only imagine that the glory of the Lord lit up the entire sky and field! What was once a dark field and dark night sky was now shining and brilliant with God's glory. The shepherds must have stunned! No wait, the Bible says that the shepherds were terrified! I would have been beyond terrified! But they were comforted by the angel and told not to be afraid because they had some good and exciting news! The angel told the shepherds about a Savior who had just been born in the city of David!! This Savior was born for everyone! This Savior was Christ! The angles told the shepherds that they would find this Savior wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. The shepherds HAD to go see for themselves "this thing" that the angel had told them about. After seeing the Glory of the Lord shining and hearing the heavenly hosts praising God they could not continue with their normal everyday lives as shepherds tending their flocks. Jesus was already changing their lives as they knew it. So the shepherds "hurried off" to "see this thing". The shepherds left quickly. I imagine that the shepherds didn't take time to shower, shave and change their clothes. I imagine that they didn't take time to plan for the trip. The Bible says they "hurried off" so that means they dropped everything and went just as they were to see this Savior born in the city of David.
When the shepherds arrived in Bethlehem it must have been very hectic. Caesar Augustus had just issued a decree that the entire Roman world would have a census taken. Bethlehem must have been very crowded with everyone trying to register for this census. I can imagine there were people and animals everywhere with lots of noise. Since everyone was there to register for the census there must have been street vendors taking advantage of these crowds by selling food and trinkets. Since we are back in Bible times I imagine that the shepherds were walking on dusty or muddy roads as the roads would not have been paved or maybe the roads were brick. I also imagine that since the city was crowded with people and animals that it didn't smell very good since bathing facilities were probably few and far between. The shepherds work their way through these busy and hectic streets and they find Mary, Joseph and Jesus in a stable. The stable was warm, quiet and peaceful with straw and resting animals. Such peace in the stable....away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. Mary had just given birth to her baby boy after a long, tiring journey on foot and on the back of a donkey. Mary and Joseph were resting and delighting in their newborn son. They were getting to know him and taking care of their baby as best they could by placing him in a manger with straw and wrapping him in cloths. The shepherds had left everything in the middle of the night to travel to Bethlehem to see "this thing" and now here they were gazing into face of Jesus. THEY KNOW! They know because it is EXACTLY how the angel told them it would be! The angel had told the shepherds that they would find "a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger". The shepherds KNOW that not only are they looking into the face of a baby, they are looking the face of Jesus. They KNOW they are looking into the face of God!!! God was with them!!! The shepherds were connected to God in a real and personal way with no pretense! The shepherds had come to Jesus just as they were. They had left in a hurry and I am sure they arrived to Bethelem hungry and tired. And yet, they find their Savior. A tiny helpless baby and yet a baby who is also God. A baby resting in a manger with his parents adoringly gazing upon him.... a family. A family and shepherds filled with joy and wonder at what God had done! A baby and also a King and the very first Christmas morning!!!
So that is my story about the shepherds finding baby Jesus on that very first Christmas morning. I think of Soaring Wings Ministries and I know that the people who first come to live there will come just as they are. Just like the shepherds they will come without pretense and that is exactly how Jesus wants us to come to him. Jesus doesn't care about fancy clothes or fancy things. He only cares about us. After all, the angel of the Lord announcing the Savior's birth appeared to some tired, dirty shepherds in a dark field. And after all, Jesus was born in a stable with animals and rested in a manger filled with straw. Jesus wants us to come to Him just as we are without pretense. He knows everything. He loves us and just as the shepherds "hurried off" to find their savior so Jesus wants us to hurry and find him. Soaring Wings Ministries exists not only to provide a home for homeless young adults but to also tell them the "good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born TO YOU; he is Christ the Lord". Soaring Wings Ministries wishes all of you a Merry Christmas! If you don't know Jesus personally we pray that you will "hurry off" to find him. He is waiting for you and if we can help guide you to finding Jesus please don't hesitate to contact us. We would LOVE to tell you about Jesus and how he changed the lives of the shepherds and how he can change your life too!
Anita Rennells is the author of this blog. She and her husband have moved to Colorado when Ed retired and are in the process of opening a ranch to help homeless young adults.
Soaring Wings Ministries