Thursday, February 26, 2009


My Dad

Sometimes I forget things. So far I haven't missed anything major while preaching, but I sometimes forget a name... or miss a turn. I usually don't think much about those things but I wonder what it will be like in 25 years. So, like most things, I watch my Dad to see how he handles things. He is about to be 81 and still in good shape. But he forgets things sometimes. Or it takes him longer to remember them. He occasionally misses a turn or two himself.

I have seen him give up teaching Bible class, and he won't do public prayer any more. But when I talk to him he is positive, able to laugh about it, and generally handles growing old with grace and dignity. So I am trying to learn from him how to face growing old one day. I want to be wise enough to know when to cut back on what I am doing, I want to be happy enough to laugh about life changes, and I want to be gracious enough to age with dignity. Just like him.

They are about to do some more tests on my Dad next week. Ironically, the same week I am having a physical also. I have no idea what they will find, or what will happen the next few years -- to my Dad or to me. But I do know how much I have learned from his example about how to live as a man of God in this world. In every stage of my life I have looked to his example to see how to handle the next stage. Just like I hope Joe Don is learning from me and Andrew is learning from him.

And yes, I do know that Marsha is watching my Mom to learn how to help me someday. I'm glad for that too.

So thanks Dad. And I'm glad you can still read this. And glad I can still write it.

I love you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Lessons passed down...

Sunday at Southern Hills we showed a video clip of my father-in-law, Don Herttenberger, talking about his Dad, Beno. Poppa, as the family called him, lived in Old Glory, Texas and raised five boys and one girl when times were tough. The clip had Granpa sharing memories of hobos getting off the train and coming to their house asking for food. And they always got something. Those without received food from a family that didn't have it to share but did anyways. Somehow everyone had enough.

Granpa learned that spirit of giving. For years he carried soup around to some of our shut-ins. He has shared pecans and peanut brittle. Granny has fixed lots of meals for lots of people. I know they have helped a lot of people.

His daughter, my wife Marsha, learned it from her parents. Just like I learned it from mine. It is natural at our house to feed others. We have a freezer full of meals for people who face sickness, have babies, or who are going thru a tough time and just don't need to cook.

And our kids learned it from us. And their kids will learn it from them. And on it goes.

People are either givers or takers. I am glad to be part of a legacy of givers that is ongoing. It is not about how much we have -- God takes care of that. It is about how much we share with others.

So if you are a giver, is it a family legacy? Do you see it in your kids?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Restaurant evangelism...

Several of us at Southern Hills have started a restaurant ministry. The elders and ministers have so many meetings at lunch and breakfast that waitstaff all over town know us. We have started asking their names, asking how they are doing, even asking if we can pray for them. We are polite, friendly, and we tip well. They see us pray.

Of course, lots of these are college students and they know me. Many of them have been to HIP and heard me speak. They often recognize Phil, Vann, and Gary. They know who we are before we can ask sometimes. Reminds me to be sure I live Jesus, not just talk Jesus.

But here comes the hard question: when do we "make the ask"? If all our new friends know about our group is that we are Christian people who are good customers... is that evangelism? If that is all we do, maybe this is just to make us feel good about ourselves. When do we invite them to church, when do we say a word for Jesus, when do we ask if they want to talk about Jesus?

I wish I had the right answers for these questions, but I know I am being intentionally more directive. I tell them that we are from Southern Hills. I ask if there is anything we can do for them. I invite them to church. Do I come on too strong? Maybe... or maybe not.

But I do know that being nice, being a servant, etc. is not evangelism. These are good things and they reflect how Jesus would live. It is "front porch" ministry. But we need to remember that our purpose is not to get non-believers on the front porch, it is to get them inside our house. We are opening doors but we need to take advantage of our opportunities.

So several of us are trying to take this to another level. We are praying for them and asking for wisdom to say the right thing at the right time so we can share Jesus.

I think our restaurant ministry is exactly what Jesus would do. We'll see how it turns out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


El Salto report...

Almost 200 black bass in 3 days. We caught 1 over 8 lbs., 2 over 9 lbs., one over 11 lbs., and 1 beasticon that went 12 lbs., 5 oz. Probably 15-20 between 5 and 7 pounds.

We caught them all on plastic worms. We also lost more worms than anyone we talked to. We hung them on brush, rocks, trees, and shoreline. But we caught more -- and bigger -- than anyone we talked to. We threw worms where the fish we wanted to catch were. We could have caught several in the easy places to cast, but we wanted the big ones. Lots of big ones. So there was some trouble, it wasn't easy, and we got tired. but we caught fish.

Dawns on me that must be how God felt when he sent Jesus into this world. Not an easy place, hard to do... but where the people he wanted were.

We also ate really well. Slept in a cabin right by the ocean (and near several goats who enjoyed vigorous conversation early in the morning. Lake El Salto was beautiful. Loved watching the Mexican ducks. Reminded me why I worship God as the great Creator.

Best part of all was time with Joe Don. We spent a lot of time together in the outdoors while he was growing up. It was great for me to do it again with him. Great conversations about living as people of God in this world. He taught me a lot. I look forward to his stories of spending that time with his son Andrew. And, if God grants me life and health, I look forward to time with JD, Andrew, Bobby, and Jake spent in the outdoors.

God is so good to me. Thanks God.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Leaving Church...

Southern Hills is a large congregation and so there are always people who choose to leave and worship elsewhere, who talk about going elsewhere, or who wonder who is going to go elsewhere. My thoughts as a shepherd:

If your conscience is violated by something we are doing, please discuss it with us. If you still cannot worship with us, leave.

If you believe for the good of your family you must worship elsewhere, leave.


I believe we live in a consumer society that wants things like they believe it should be to please them. I am convinced that has carried over to church. We are a "me" driven church. My failing as a shepherd is that I have not helped my flock realize the we are about God and Jesus. It is not about us.

Most people leave over misplaced priorities. How can you leave your family because everything is not done to please you?

If you decide to leave, be sure the next church is going to do everything exactly as you want it done. Or you'll have to leave again.

Even as an elder, I don't agree with everything SH does. But it's family. And we don't violate my core convictions.

I do think I could stop everyone from leaving. We are going to set up about 300 worship assemblies of every style and description. We are hiring about 20 pulpit ministers so everyone can find one they like. And about 40 youth ministers so everyone can have a program designed to meet their individual wants and needs. 60 song leaders, or praise teams, with a wide selection of styles.

Oh yeah, let's go for 100 elders so everyone can find one who will agree with them.

OK, maybe a little too sarcastic, but some of my thoughts on people who leave churches. Doesn't fit everyone who leaves. Does fit a lot of them tho.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Going fishing...

I am leaving tomorrow afternoon for El Salto in Mexico. Joe Don and I are doing this as a combo Xmas, anniversary, birthday, etc. from Jamie and Marsha. We love to fish, and spent many hours together on lakes and tanks while he was growing up. I think I am looking forward to being with him more than I am the fishing. Which leads me to a couple of thoughts.

Children growing up is great. I know some talk about how great it was at certain ages and we do have great memories of our kids. But every year it has gotten better and better. They went from kids to adults and now they are friends, confidants, and advisers. Joe Don is smarter and more mature than I even thought about at his age, maybe even than I am now. Very proud.

The great thing about hunting and fishing with your son (or kids if your daughter is turned that way) is not the outdoor experience, tho that's great. It's the hours traveling, camping, waiting. It gives chances for "life talks" to develop. It lets you know each other. BTW, for Julie and Marsha, shopping trips worked much the same way.

Anyway, can't wait. Let you know how it went in about a week.

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