Friday, December 22, 2006


Favorite Christmas things...

I love Christmas. Here are just a few reasons why: Ridgells love Christmas. We eat together, play together, hang out together, worship together. I am so blessed to have all four parents still active, four great kids, and now Anna Claire and Jake. The last two will make this the best Christmas yet for Mimi and Pops.

...friends. We get to spend lots of time with lots of friends this time of year. Our small group hangs out, we see old friends coming thru town, and we have lots of meet, eat, and visit.

...parties. We have work parties, church parties, school parties, friend parties, and family parties. We eat lots, spend lots, and work ourselves silly cooking (well, Mimi does), cleaning (once again, Mimi), shopping (again...Mimi), and Oh forget it. This last part is not going well for me.

...presents. Not getting them, but giving them. I love to watch people open their presents. It really is more blessed to give than to recieve.

...Mimi (or Mom, or Marsha). She loves Christmas. She hosts, cooks, gives, laughs, and loves thru the whole holidays.

...hunting. If no other time all year, I can usually get off into the woods at least once or twice. comes once a year. Maybe that's why it is special.

How about you? What do you love about Christmas?

Friday, December 15, 2006


Christmas and Jesus...

Random reflections on this time of year and my Christianity.

I am so excited to see so many people in the world talking about Jesus. People are actually talking about the fact that God's Son came to this earth. Of course it is "cutsied up" so we don't really talk about why he came. But at least attention is paid to some extent to the birth of Jesus.

I don't think Jesus is the reason for the season. Or at least any more than he is the reason for December 26, or February 11, or June 18. I worry about seasonal Christianity. I think my spiritual life is daily. Christmas can be a great teaching opportunity for our kids, but I never felt Christmas was important spiritually. And I just don't think being able to "keep the Christ in Christmas" makes us a Christian nation.

On the other hand, isn't it a little silly to say that a Christian can't celebrate Christmas? I don't think you are wrong to ignore Christmas, nor do I think you are wrong to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. Just don't make either of those a test of fellowship or a mark of spirtual maturity

I like Christmas because we all make a special effort to spend time with family, to give gifts to those we care about, and to realize how blessed we are.

So mybe we should just celebrate Christmas every day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Santa Claus and God...

I hear some version of this every year at this time: Santa Claus is how children form their view of God. I hear well meaning Christians who believe we shouldn't do Santa because it will confuse our children later. I don't believe I totally agree with them, but there are a few "Santa thoughts" I would share.

Do we really want to portray Santa as all knowing (you know "he knows when you've been bad or good)? I think I would rather save that attribute for God. And boy does Santa hold to a rigid standard of reward and punishment. Of course, that makes it easy to use him as a threat: be good or Santa won't come see you. We would never view God that way, would we? And of course, as my friend Tim Archer pointed out yesterday, Santa then ignores behavior and brings gifts anyway. I suspect its more a matter of economics than behavior.

Which is why some kids get so much more cool stuff from Santa. Poor kids who are good don't make out as well as bad rich kids. And it doesn't take long to figure that out. So the whole behavior thing is an empty threat. There are no Santa consequences. However, in real life there sure are consequences for behavior. And of course we haven't even mentioned the whole "Santa isn't real" issue.

So Santa doesn't really fit with how the world works, and it sure communicates some poor theological issues. So what to do about Santa? We didn't ignore Santa, but we didn't make a big deal about him either. And we tried to make sure our kids understood some of the real truths about our culture and Christmas: economics, marketing, sharing with those less fortunate...well you get the idea.

I'll say more later about Christmas and Jesus, but for now...what about your kids and Santa? Or your childhood and Santa?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Building decisions...

Most of you know by now that I am not a big fan of buildings and budgets. So I keep getting asked how I feel about Southern Hills big project we introduced last Sunday. Let me start by sharing my concerns. I am always amazed by how much we will spend to build buildings. I can't help but imagine what we could do if we would commit the same amount of resources to missions. I also worry that we sometimes see building as the answer to our problems. I don't think an expanded foyer makes for a warm, friendly church extending fellowship to everyone in sight. Is that a little like opening your home for fellowship as soon as you get a big enough, or nice enough, house? If you don't have people over now, a bigger house won't help. I am not sure making a building more "visitor friendly" really results in non-believers being introduced to Jesus. I just don't think people decide to show up at church and find Jesus. I think that happens because of relationships. It may help when visiting sheep are looking for greener pastures, but I am not sure we want to be in that business. I just think buildings say come to us when maybe the emphasis ought to be on going to them.

However, I am supporting the building campaign. And here is why: in spite of my reservations, it is a good idea. I do think intentional buildings can facilitate fellowship and evangelism. If we are evangelists, and if we are a true fellowship, this building proposal will help us be more effective. Second, there are people who will give to a building before they would give to missions. That bothers me, and I wish it was not true...but I am a realist. Most of our congregation seems enthused by these plans. We will see if they put their money where their mouth is. Our elders support this program and I trust them. They want what is best for the kingdom and best for Southern Hills. Our votes are rarely unanimous, but our decisions are always unanimous. I believe our eldership to be Spirit led and this is our decision. So even if I wasn't an elder, I would still trust this eldership to do what is best for the Kingdom. After all, I may not always be right about everything (as hard as that is to admit). Finally, our staff believes this is important. I trust our staff. They are spiritual, smart, passionate, and intentional about reaching the lost.

These are just my initial thoughts. I would love to hear yours, from Southern Hills members, or from those who have survived building programs elsewhere.

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