Monday, March 29, 2010


Whitney's story...

She is about to be a single Mom and realized she wanted something different for her life and for her daughter.

She had a Christian friend, Lauren, who was part of a Christian family -- the Turners -- who "adopted" Whitney.

They knew a Jesus story-teller... me. And when they came over, they recognized Marsha as a teacher they had in Middle School. And they liked her -- then and now.

So Whitney decided to make her story part of God's story and we baptized her in front of the Turners, Lauren, and about 12 of her family and friends that she invited to see her be born again. And when they all came to HIP one Wednesday, her Mom happened to sit right behind Lois who knew her from teaching together. So now Mom has a connection.

Our God is an awesome God.

So now Whitney is a part of our family. And her story is our story.

God continues to invite people into the story of His Son Jesus. And if you are at Southern Hills Easter Sunday at the Daybreak assembly, you will get to meet Whitney and her family. God is still writing that story. And we get to be part of it.

Go God.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


178 years of marriage...

Yesterday my in-laws, Don and Jean Herttenberger, celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Two weeks ago, my folks celebrated the 61st. Julie and Bobby just celebrated their 5th. I know, March is a big marriage month in our family. By the end of the summer, Marsha and I will hit 37 and Joe Don and Jamie will hit 10. So when our family is togther, we have 178 years of marriage in one room. So let me share what I have learned about marriage.

... Don't quit. There were numerous times when any of these 10 could have -- maybe even had the thought cross their mind -- walked away. They all chose not to.

... Survive the tough times. There have been serious issues concerning health, money, family dynamics, sin, and struggle. But we are all happy and upbeat. It's a choice we all make.

... Example is powerful. My four (with a fifth one coming late summer) grandkids will grow up with really strong images of lasting love, faithfulness, forgivess, joy, and tolerance. Just like my kids did. Just like Marsha and I did.

... Love conquors all. Love for God, love for the church, love for family, love for your mate. It is real.

... God is faithful. The strongest lesson of all is that God is the answer to everything. All 10 of us are faithful Christians. All of us are deeply involved in church.

So what can you learn from the Ridgell, Herttenberger, Gilbreth 178 years? Love God, love each other, and love marriage. It works.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Back from Cuba...

Great trip. Don'd even know where to begin with thoughts and reactions from my fourth trip to this country. So here goes a snapshot of reactions and thoughts.

...I am rich. Marsha always worries that I am going to come back and sell our house. I'm not... but I am more motivated to focus on how to use what God has given us.

... The church thrives under persecution. Most of our churches aren't growing. Some of us are swelling by moving members around, but we are not reaching lost people. They do in Cuba. By the hundreds. I wonder if we are not persecuted here because we are no threat. Ouch.

... We have got to get everyone involved in reaching the lost or in stregthening new converts. Quit focusing on ourselves and reach lost people.

... I have to be careful that I do not get too frustrated with consumer Christians who want church the way they like it to stay... or to change. I just can't waste time with people who don't really get it. Or worse, don't want to get it.

... Met a Cuban soldier at the preacher training. He is an active Christian. I have American soldiers in my flock at Southern Hills. They are active Christians. What happens if we go to war with Cuba?

...Most of their preachers and evangelists are self-supported or part-time. Calling versus career. Ministers versus evangelists. Passion or profession?

... God called me to reach people. To shepherd people. It is not about buildings, or programs, or worship styles.

... People all over this world are lost in sin, struggling to live as redeemed people, learning to trust God to give them their daily bread. That is where Jesus would have us spend our time.

OK. I am sure I will get over it.

But God help me... I don't want to get over it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Jasmine and the Garden of Prayer

Mimi and Mommy were both sick last Sunday, so Daddy and Pops were watching Jake and Avery during church until time for Kid's Praise. First lesson: Mom and Mimi are better at doing that than Dad and Pops. In an effort to keep Avery entertained, I let her put a big Princess Jasmine sticker on my hand. She liked it. I forgot about it.

I worked the Garden of Prayer as I always do -- seeing people, praying with people, lifting my hand in praise. You know where this is going, don't you? Jasmine was with me the entire Garden of Prayer. Several people pointed it out afterward. Every parent or grandparent of little "princesses" got it. I would imagine some of the other people wondered (esp. if they got a good look at Jasmine).

So what's the point of this story? I am glad people see that at Southern Hills one of our elders has a Jasmine sticker. I think I'm glad someone like Jasmine was in the Garden of Prayer. Maybe a visitor, or one of our flock in trouble, will realize that we are real people. Just like them.

Anyway, another of those "you won't believe one of our elders..."stories. I'm glad I'm one of those elders. Glad I am a Pops elder.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Shepherds and Oversight...

I grew up in churches of Christ when elders really functioned well as a Board of Directors. They wanted to know everything and be responsible for everything that might happen in their local congregation. They were good with budgets, hiring staff, and evaluating the effectiveness of missionaries, local staff, and church programs. They were very good at oversight and administration. They set the direction for the church. They made decisions about doctrinal matters.

I don't remember hearing -- or seeing -- much about shepherding. I do remember praying about people, but I didn't see much praying with people. I don't know that it would have ever occured to me to go to an elder with a spiritual struggle. I guess if any shepherding was done, it was done by the preacher. He might not have been equipped for it, it might not should have been his job... but he did it. Many preachers sought that role by encouraging members to come to them with their problems.

Those growing up in churches of Christ today will someday talk about elderships that were very intentional about shepherding. They prayed for people, they annointed the sick, and they were involved in the lives of their flock.

They will wonder why they did not exerercise oversight of their congregations. Today elders seek to be shepherds and to spend almost all their time in working with people. So I guess the preachers are doing most of the oversight. In many congregations the ministerial staff sets the budget, spends the money, and evaluates programs. Senior ministerial staff hires -- and fires -- other staff. Preachers "cast the vision" and often set the doctrinal tone. Many preachers want the "senior pastor" role -- in practice if not in name.

I wonder why our fellowship always goes from one extreme to the other. It seems to me that elders have responsibility for shepherding and for oversight. Every church needs elders who are passionate about being in the lives of their flock. But they also need elders committed to overseeing the congregation.

Personally, I am a shepherd at heart. It is what I was made to do and what I am effective at doing. But I am glad I have fellow elders gifted at overseeing our congregation. Maybe these activities are two sides of the same coin.

Just my thoughts. How about yours?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Jenny and ... Cuba

I heard the news on the same day about an hour apart. I had been praying, as had many of you, for Jenny Bizaillian. I didn't really know Jenny but I felt like I did. I know her folks. I knew her brother Josh from when he was here at ACU. Her other brother, Jonathon Ross, led worship at Southern Hills for several years. He led for me at HIP on Wednesdays. Jonathon sang at my daughter's wedding and played a recording of he and Jenny singing "How Beautiful".

Jenny was having a tough time. A young wife, a mother, and the same age as my kids. In fact, she was a Kojie around the same time as Julie and Jamie. When I got the call that she had gone home to be with the Lord forever, I found myself with mixed emotions. So sad for her family. So glad she knew Jesus and they would not grieve like those who have no hope. Reminded me that we live in a fallen world, reminded me that this world is not our home. Reminded me that it could have been one of my girls.

At about the same time, we here at Herald of Truth recieved a brief email from Cuba. Tony Fernandez had traveled across the island to visit some people who had responded to our radio broadcasts. Four of them were baptized and now a new church meets in that town in one of their homes. Elation. Reminded that God is doing incredible things in difficult places. Reminded of the power of God's Word. Thankful for a Savior who came to this world.

But all week I keep linking Jenny and Cuba in my mind. Maybe that is wierd, but when I think of one I think of the other. And here is why I think I connect them...

Jenny was a believer because of the power of Jesus and comes from a family of faith. These Cubans are beleivers because of the power of Jesus and now they are starting a legacy of family faith. Jenny endured a very difficult time in this life. So does my family in Cuba. I really did know Jenny because of our shared family. Just like I know the Cuban brethren. I hope to see my new family in Cuba when I am there in a few weeks. But if not, I'll meet them in heaven.

And now I get it. Jenny will know her Cuban family someday. We will all live together forever someday. Someday. So Jenny -- thanks for being such an example of faith in this world. I pray that my Cuban friends will do the same.

And for my Cuban brothers -- be faithful until death and you will get to live with a special lady forever.

Me, Jenny, and four Cubans. Someday.

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