New Beginnings

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The last several months have been a real whirlwind for the Campbell family. With all the change happening around us, we have discovered that not only are we holding on tight to the Father, He is holding on so very tight to us!  Of course, this is always the case, but in seasons of major transition we get to experience that love and strength in all new ways. His goodness and grace toward each of us is so much bigger than we could ever expect!

So, here we are at the starting point of something brand new.  The next phase of the race is about to begin! Part of the change that is in the works is a possible transition for me to do more itinerant speaking across the region. If you are interested in having me share with your small group, church, conference, business, or community gathering, please send me an email and I’d be glad to connect. This new web site at BurtonCampbell.org is under construction throughout the rest of this year, so look for on-going changes and development as the days unfold.

Blessings to you always!
Burt

Stepping Out

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I’ve taken somMan jumpe leaps through the years. We all have. Some of them will absolutely and irrevocably change your life. For me, the best jump I ever made was when I asked for Linda’s hand in marriage. By far, it’s been the best relational decision I’ve ever made, and I have never had any regrets about that one.

Some leaps are thrust upon us.  We still have a choice to make; we must decide if we’ll take the leap, but the choice becomes unavoidable.  Something has taken place, and now choices must be made, and often they seem far bigger than our ability to know how to handle.  Having children can be like that. The fear and wonder and joy and concern and hope all get rolled up together as we try to anticipate what the future will bring.

Catastrophe and bad news can also bring life altering change.  Physical illness can bring about sudden leaps.  Having gone through a few major surgeries, beating cancer, and now confronting diabetes, often my thoughts have slipped into, “I just want things to get back to normal.” Normal, however, can be hard to define. One thing I’ve learned through the years is that there is no going back…there is only going forward.

For my family and I, we have come to that place of decision. 2016 has been a very difficult year for us.  My aunt died in May and my uncle soon followed in July.  At the very end of July, we very tragically lost my wife’s parents, brother, and her next younger sister. In October, my mom passed away as well.  Sigh.  There has been a lot of heartache.  It has been a lot to bear.

My wife has two surviving sisters (who have their own beautiful families). Emotionally, all these years, they have remained emotionally very close. When Linda and I married, she broke away from the greater St. Louis area to support me and follow wherever God would place us.  Along the way, we have lived in Oklahoma, Michigan, and for the past 17 years in Ohio. The priority has been the directives associated with God’s call on my life and the ministry that He has had for us.  We have never wavered from that.

It seems now that God is orchestrating another season of transition for us. As we look to Him to bring healing into our lives, it has become undeniable that the Lord is turning our hearts for the next season to the St. Louis area.  My wife needs the on-going support of her sisters, and they need hers.  The needs of the family have become difficult to address while we live 8-9 hours away. Both my love for Linda and my responsibility before God to care for her require that I prioritize her well-being and restoration.  So…after much prayer and conversation with our ministry leadership, we have come to the conclusion that it is time to relocate.

This decision has been hard. The relationships we have here in Ohio are deep and heartfelt. We have given our lives to the work of the ministry here and it has not been easy to come to the realization that it is time to take another step. Yet, the ministry has never belonged to me. The Lord is in charge, and the people we have come to know and love are in His hands. I am only a caretaker, and the Master Shepherd is the one who holds the sheep and keeps them safe.

Today, Sunday, December 18th, (and by the time this is read) I will have presented my resignation before our church.  We met with our church board earlier in the week and they have graciously communicated their love and support.  Linda will be making the transition first. She has found new employment and will begin on Jan 3. We are looking to rent our own home there as soon as possible and almost have that locked down. Our teenage son will join her at the semester break in mid-January. My hope and intention then would be to remain in Cambridge for the remaining weeks as we endeavor to pack up the house, prepare it for sale, move our belongings, find a new school for our son, and so much more. It would also allow me some final sermons to help the church transition forward. My last day in the pulpit will be January 29th, just three weeks shy of 17 years of service.

As we make this transition, I believe that God is holding us all.  His heart for our church is still on point, and the future He has for them is still as bright as ever.  I believe that.  And I believe the same is true for the Campbell family. I don’t see it all clearly yet, I can’t pretend to know what the future will bring, but I see Jesus clearly.  Although I don’t understand all that is happening, it is apparent what we must now do…and I so trust the Lord.

I am grateful for the time and opportunities we have had here in Ohio. It has been the adventure of a lifetime. And many new adventures await.  Thank you, HCF (and all our Cambridge friends and “family”) for your gracious love and support.

We love you all.

Sudden Grief

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Life can present unexpected events that change the course of your life.  You can’t go back to the way things were, and nothing will be the same again.  This past week was such a week.  We lost my wife’s parents, her sister, and her brother in a horrible tragedy.  It has been a week of unimaginable agony and change.  

I don’t know that I have the right words to yet to process everything I am feeling, but decided to share my remarks from the memorial service we had in their honor. Over 550 people were in attendance at St. Louis Family Church.  Here’s what I shared:

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I have been asked to share a few words today…and my words seem woefully insufficient to express all that is in my heart or in the hearts of this family.

There are no right words to adequately describe our grief or to process the trauma we all feel.

And I hardly have the words to express the deep gratitude we have at the amazing support, love and care we are finding from so many of you. Truly we are overwhelmed by your generosity, kindness, and prayer.

I want to express thanks to Pastors Jeff Perry, Trey Perry, and John Moore for being here for us in this time of crisis.  St Louis Family Church has been so dear to my family and we are undone by the way you have worked so hard to push through the reconstruction of  this room in order to accommodate today’s service.  You have gone above and beyond…and we are very thankful.

Words are also insufficient because there isn’t enough time today to share all that could be shared about how wonderfully devoted this family is and always has been to one another. For the last 28 years…I have had the pleasure of knowing and being part of this gloriously joyful group called the Comers.  I want to reflect for just a moment on each of our loved ones.

John Comer was a man of great devotion…to his family, to this church, and to the Lord. He knew more trivia than perhaps anyone else I’ve ever met. If there are movies in heaven, I’m sure John right now is sharing commentary regarding all the actors and actresses involved. I will miss his humor, his laugh, his quirks, and his smile. On Friday, we were sharing terribly bad puns and teasing him mercilessly over his long hair.  I’m so glad that his last day had tremendous moments of laughter and goodness.  

Rebecca Kelleher was a woman of great passion.  Her love for all things living was reflected in the spark of life she carried to all her endeavors.  She loved her job, her co-workers and clients, this family, and first and foremost her son, Micah. She cared deeply for the community and nothing got her more riled than the situation regarding the West Lake landfill to which she was firmly committed to keep in the public eye. Over the past several years, and through the ministry and action of this church, her faith blossomed and deepened and became uniquely her own.  I will miss her spunk, her joyous full-faced laughter…and her tremendous compassion. 

Mum was the energizer bunny.  Life has thrown so many obstacles her way.  And she has met them all with grace, endurance, a wide-encompassing love, and a determination not to ever give up…but to keep moving one step at a time.  In so doing, she gives us all a template of how to move forward…with grace, joy, and a rock steady faithfulness. She loved to dance, even though her MS worked against her.  But there is nothing working against her now. In the beautiful sound of Heaven’s worship, I’m sure she’s dancing up a storm.  Right now the freedom of her being matches the freedom she’s held in her heart for a very long.  Thank you Lord!

Tom Comer was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known.  He worked diligently all his life to love and care for this family.  He has been a protector, a planner, a provider, and a counselor to us all.  On his last day, the burdens of his heart and mind were many, but even then…they were ultimately about all of us.  The fears and concerns he carried, terribly exasperated by the medications he was prescribed, were still about us and our future.  For me, he will be defined by this life…and not this travesty that has taken place at the end. Two years ago, after confronting a cancer diagnosis, dad totally gave up drinking.  For the first time in his life, he knew he had to do something to face his fears and the deteriation of his body through alcohol.  Those withdrawals were terrible.  Depression that first year was real. And yet he had begun to emerge from it.  This past Spring, I saw him again full of joy.  As part of his on-going treatment, he began to see a psychiatrist who began to fill him with numerous psychotropic drugs.  Those medicines began to combine in terrible ways that had the opposite impact of what the doctor intended. His sleep became inconsistent and short. For the past three weeks, he had been sharing his fears and concerns, repeatedly telling the family that he was not doing well. He had at least one episode earlier in the week where he was up in the night typing away on the computer…despite the fact it was not even turned on. Later he would not remember.

He continued to get the cold shoulder from a doctor who simply told him to keep taking his medicine while refusing to make room for an appointment.  Rebecca picked up the fight and finally was able to get dad in to see the doctor late Friday afternoon, hours before this terrible tragedy. We sent along a list of all the side-effects he was experiencing. Rather than admit him, the doctor gave him new pills and sent him home. 

This week we found the official sheet of medicinal side-effects on his dresser. His drug was described as a “sedative hypnotic” and warned that any user would likely wake up in the night and do things they were not in control of doing, and then not remember what they did in the morning.  It warned that the medicine may not be appropriate if the taker was dealing with depression, or had a history of alcoholism, or was in his elder years.  It leaves us with questions of why it was prescribed in the first place and why the doctor refused to respond when the family repeatedly indicated there was a problem. We believe that dad was not aware or in control of his actions on that fateful night.

As a pastor myself, I’ve seen how tragedies and heartache ultimately impact the lives of others.  Some families isolate and pull apart, unwilling to face pain together.  But that has never been true of this family.  This family always pulls together and holds on to one another tightly.  That’s not just how we respond to crisis.  It’s how we live.  Even Linda and I who live 8 hours away, we know that the family in St. Louis has always been an anchor in our lives.  And so this will be how we continue to live.  Linda, Molly, Amy, Micah, Mary Ann, Bob…and all the rest of us…we are a family who pulls together.  Now more than ever.

There are questions that remain.  I don’t know if we will learn all of the answers.  Among them, all of us, in the midst of our pain, are asking “God, where are you?”  We all too often think if there is a God, then life should be pain-free.  We want to define His character through the lens of our personal circumstance and the burdens of our experience.  But the scripture tells us we can know what God is like by looking at the life and ministry of Jesus.  And this is what I know about Christ:  He cares for the down-trodden.  He weeps with Mary and Martha at the passing of Lazarus.  He has compassion for the worst offender and tender mercies for the deeply wounded.  There is a reason the Bible tells us that God is the Father of all comfort.  Our pain matters to Him…and He is with us in this moment. And in our weakness, He stands with us, embracing us, calling us to come to the throne of His mercy in order to find grace, strength, hope and all that is needed.

John and Rebecca, Mum and Dad are all with Him in this moment as well.  No matter what torment our loved ones experienced in their final moments…they each had a faith in Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  So their deaths…are swallowed up in victory.  There is a life beyond this one…a life in Christ…and they are experiencing that in all it’s glorious fullness. They are the best versions of themselves, their true selves, right now, in Heaven by the mercies of God.  So as we grieve…we do not grieve like a people who have no hope.

We are people of faith.  We are a family centered in love.  And though our world has become undone, and all around us seems to be shaking, I know that Jesus Christ remains the only firm foundation. And we are turning to the Lord Jesus in our pain.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  In Him, all things are possible…even when we can’t see how. 

Pray for us. We are trusting in a love that probes deeper than our devastation…and though nothing will ever by the same, I am trusting Father God for wholeness.  There will be a day when this family will be reunited. That is the hope that we have in Jesus. What a glorious day that will be.

So, let me exhort each of you gathered here: choose life…choose love…and make the most of the time you have been given. That’s how this family lived…and that is how we will heal…by the grace of God.

Thank you for being with us here today. Thank you for your support. Thank you for listening.

Mum, Dad, Rebecca, and John…we will miss you terribly.  But we will see you again.

A Good House Cleaning…

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It’sofficial. We’ve put our house up for sale.

We’re not going far. Hopefully! We’re simply looking to shift school districts. Of course, all of that depends on getting the right offer on our house so that we can make the right offer on another. It’s in God’s hands and if it’s His will, we’ll make the move. If we don’t try, though, we’ll never know!

Regardless of what happens with the sale, it’s good to get some things done around the house.  That is to say, the end result is good. The process stinks.

For many, many days now, we’ve been cleaning, sorting, painting, trimming, and purging. I don’t want to admit how much trash we’ve hauled out of here. Even more, we’re donating tons of things to our upcoming church yard sale to help send teens to camp. Having come so far, it still seems that there is so much more to do.

Our journey with God is kind of like that. As we continue to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus, we engage in what often feels like a never ending process of "house cleaning." The good news is that we don’t have to do this for God, He does it for us. He works on us, washing, patching, remaking, painting, shaping and more. He often wants to throw out those old pieces of junk that I’ve become all too comfortable storing. "But I might need that Lord…!" Yet He knows that there is much I need to let go. He only waits for me to say "yes" to Him.

So, okay…"Yes, Lord. Remake and renew. I could use a good house cleaning. I want to be ready to move with You."

And now faithful reader….what’s the condition of your house?