Thursday, March 29, 2012


Same sex attraction and church life...

I was recently asked how I relate to people with same sex attraction at Southern Hills. This person had been hearing a lot of discussion about this topic and wanted to know from one of his elders how I engage with SSA members. I thought about it some and here it is.

I have brothers -- and a few sisters that I am aware of -- who deal with same sex attraction. Some I have shepherded, others I have prayed with, some I just happen to know about. I worship with them, enjoy visiting with them, pray with them, encourage them in ministry, and try to model how to live like Jesus in a hard world. In other words, I interact with them the same way I do people who have anger issues, or wrestle with greed, or pornography battles, or addiction struggles. So pretty much like I do with everyone at Southern Hills.

Some of these in my family "act out". Here is how I interact with them. We talk about sin, temptation, and forgiveness. We pray together. We set up accountability groups and we help put appropriate boundaries and guidelines in place. In other words, I handle those situations like I do someone who commits adultery, or steals, or hits their children. So, again, pretty much like I do any of my flock struggling to conform their life to the will of Jesus.

Sometimes I am asked (well, usually told) that I have to accept them even if they act on their same sex desires. Not as one who struggles, sins, and seeks to turn from that sin. But as one who embraces that sin as a lifestyle. So I share Scripture, talk about God's call in their life, and ask about their commitment to follow Jesus. If they insist on living life on their terms rather than God's, then I explain the spiritual consequences for intentional and willful sin. In other words, the same thing I do with the guy who wants to leave his wife and marry his secretary. Or the person who refuses to stop gossiping, or anyone else who claims to follow Jesus but insists on living contrary to that belief. Once again, pretty much like I would treat anyone else.

So I guess my way of interacting with Christians who wrestle with same sex attraction is to treat them just like I do everyone else, no matter what we wrestle with. We're all family. We stuggle with different issues. We battle different demons. We win more than we lose. Our wounds become scars.

And Jesus saves us all. Praise God.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Granny and Grandpa and 67 years

March is a big wedding month in our family. My folks and Julie and Bobby were both married in March. And last Saturday, Marsha's folks celebrated 67 years of marriage. I am proud of them, a little bit in awe of them, and that is an amazing feat. But here's the thing about Granny and Grandpa... this anniversary is not really about them. It is about God.

When I think about them, I realize how many spiritual things I have learned by their years together.

They love God more than they love each other.

They have spent their lives in church.

They have spent most of their years together serving others.

They think about the other one before they think about themselves.

They take care of each other.

They have been content with what they have.

They have given generously to God instead of spending it on themselves.

They read the Bible. A lot.

They pray all the time.

They love their kids and grandkids.

They are best friends.

Well, I could say lots more, but I love them and thank them for helping me see what to do so Marsha and I can be married a long time too.

I want my kids to see them so they can learn it also. And they are.

And now it's 186 years of marriage in our three generations: both of our folks, us, and the two kids. Those years are not because all of us are so good, but because God is so good. And that's another thing I learned from Granny and Grandpa.

So thanks Don and Jean Herttenberger.

And thank you God.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


What do elders do?

One of our Southern Hills 4th graders asked me that last night: what do elders do? He wanted to know three things. Looking back at it, I am not sure I gave great theological insights. And I realized that I gave him the three things that I most often do as an elder, so I am not sure it is what every does. Or even should do. But it is what I do. Anyway, I thought I would share with you what I told Daniel that this elder does.

Teach people about Jesus. I get to teach a class on the Sundays I am in town to a group of Christians that want to learn how to live more like Jesus. I get to travel all over this country and the world and tell people about Jesus. And I teach lots of people here about how to find and follow Jesus. He thought you ought to know a lot of Bible to do this. He's pretty sharp.

Pray. I actually stole this answer from Todd Hooper but it was a good one. I participate in lots of elder blessings and annointings. Usually 1 or 2 every week. Every time I come to church I pray with 2 or 3 people. Sometimes with other elders, sometimes with Marsha, or sometimes with other groups of Christians. People have learned not to stand to close to me or they will end up in a prayer circle. And we pray with lots of people in homes. Just last night I prayed with one of our small groups that was looking for guidance to help someone in trouble. The elders prayed over one of our flock with serious health concerns. And a group of us prayed over Daniel and his class.

Help people in trouble. Sometimes life gets in a mess. We help people learn how to let God fix their mess. We love them, give them advice from the Bible, and hold their hand till things get better.

So there you go. This elder spends most of his time teaching people about Jesus, praying with people, and helping people in trouble. I needed Daniel to ask me that question. It helped remind me why I do this. And it reminded me of what I like to do. And need to do.

And it reminded me of why I like to do it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Happy anniversary Julie and Bobby

So our daughter Julie and her husband Bobby hit their 7 year anniversary yesterday. It got me thinking about what I have learned about God by watching their marriage. So here it is.

Waiting on God is worth it. I always wondered if Julie would get married her freshman year in college. Since she was a little girl she has wanted to be a wife and mother. She and Bobby were older than either of them thought they would be when they married. The wait was worth it.

God's plans are good. He used Julie to help Bobby find Jesus and Bobby is a good husband and Dad and he takes seriously the job of leading his family spiritually. Just like God intended.

God answers prayer. They wanted children quickly. They didn't get pregnant on the honeymoon. It took about three more weeks for Jake. And then Avery 1 and 1/2 years later. They asked. He answered.

God has blessed them with each other. He blessed them with Jake and Avery. He gave them a great house at a great price. He has given them good Christian friends. He has given them a great church home.

Their house is a place where you can find Jesus. They have helped many of their friends to do that. They are committed to their home being a place where Jake and Avery's friends are welcome. They use their house lots for fellowship, service, and sharing Jesus. And yes, Julie came by that honestly. She got it from her Mom.

So Julie and Bobby, thanks for letting me see God work in your lives and in your marriage. I can't wait to see what God does over the years with you. He will bless you. And you will honor him.

And for those counting: My folks, Marsha's folks, us, JD and Jamie, and Julie and Bobby = 185 years of living testimony to the grace of God.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


The three best sayings to help your marriage...

Marsha and I were working with a couple the other night and we got to talking about the best things you can say to help your marriage. After reflection, I think there are three phrases that are critical to the health of any marriage.

I love you. I don't care if you have been married three days or 70 years, this is the most important thing to tell your mate. Tell them when you wake up and when you go to bed. End phone calls with it. Put in texts. Say it because you mean it. Say it because it is true. Say it even you don't feel like it because you really do still mean it and because it really is true. Remember that love is not just a feeling. It is a choice.

I'm sorry. Both of you will have to say this many times. Sometimes over small things. Sometimes over huge things. It may be over a misunderstanding. Or a thoughtless action. Or sin. Say it because you mean it. Say it because it is true. Love does mean having to say you are sorry.

You're forgiven. Always the right response to the above statement. It is even OK to say before the other one asks. Say it because you mean it. Say it because it is true. Say it because that may be the first step to healing.

In every one of these statements, back them up with actions. Say all of them by your life and not just your lips. But say them out loud to your mate. It makes a difference. It is even OK for your kids to hear all three of these. In fact, these are good statements for parents to use with their kids.

I love you. I'm sorry. You're forgiven. These three sayings have made all the difference to the Ridgells. They can to you and yours also.

And by the way Honey, when you read this: I love you, I'm sorry, and you're forgiven. Always.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


63 years together...

My Mom and Dad just celebrated 63 years of marriage. How? Well, they married young and they have lived a long time. But there has to be more to it. I love their example for Marsha and I, for our kids, and even for our grandkids. But how did they do it? And now that my Dad is battling Alzhiemers, how do they still make it? So I thought about lessons learned from Mam and Pap and 63 years.

They love God. They still pray at meals. Pap doesn't lead the prayer anymore, but he still knows to hold hands and thank God. He can't attend worship anymore, but one of their friends sits with him on Sunday night so my Mom can go.

They love each other and they love their family. I liked watching them kiss while we cut the Anniversary cake. They have always loved my sister and me. And our mates. They are so proud of the 5 grandkids. And they love to see pics and hear stories of their great-grandkids.

They take care of each other. Now Mam has most of that work fall on her. But over the years they have been a remarkable team. Caring for others. Teaching others about Jesus. Together.

My Dad gets restless at night and my Mom doesn't sleep well. But the other night she told Marsha how when Pap is too restless, she will go lay down beside him and hold his hand. It calms him down. It should. They have been sleeping together for 63 years.

So I want to be sure Marsha and I love God, love each other, love our family, and take care of each other. Then maybe we will have 63 years if the Lord wills. That's good advice for Julie and Bobby and for JD and Jamie. And it will be good advice to share with our 5 grandkids.

One more thing. Some of you know I keep a running total of the "married years" in our family: Marsha's folks, my folks, us, and both kids. We are now at 184 years of living testimony to God's love and to his plan for marriage.

Thanks God. And thanks for Mam and Pap. Take care of them. They love you lots.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


We're all perfect... unless we're all messed up.

I grew up in a church enviornment where no one really talked about faith struggles. It was as if we were all perfect. I can remember when divorce was a bad word and you really became a second class citizen should that happen in your family. No one confessed sin, you just checked a box on a card that said "confess sins".

It even seemed like our doctrine and theology was perfect. We had all the answers, or at least certainly knew where all the answers were.

And of course it was misleading. We may have just been good at hiding things. So I wonder how many people were afraid to be real with their struggles because they were not "perfect" and everyone else seemed to be.

We are not like that now. In fact, I sometimes think everyone at church today is all messed up. I hear us talking about how we are all wounded, weak, and struggling. I think that message is a little decieving too. In fact, if not careful we give the impression that God wants a church full of messed up people.

I think God wants a church full of healed people. It's not OK to be a church that acts like everyone is perfect when we know we're not. It's also not OK to be a church where everyone is messed up and that's fine.

I like churches that communicate that they are a place for messed up people... who do not stay messed up. We are a place of healing. I like churches with leaders who have scars, who can say "we were messed up, but now we are healed." Not sure I want a church whose leaders never had a mess, or one who has leaders who are all messed up.

But I belong to a fellowship that goes from one extreme to another. Fifty years ago it was act perfect. Now it is celebrate your mess.

So maybe we can invite the wounded, messed up, and bleeding people of this world into our community of faith. Not because we are perfect. Or because we are all messed up. But because we are being healed by Jesus. And they can be too.

So I want Southern Hills to be known as the place where messed up people go. But if they want to stay messed up, I hope they get uncomfortable quickly. We're not perfect. But we do have a lot of healed, forgiven, restored lives who are doing well. Come if you are a mess. Leave if you want to stay a mess.

Thanks God for being the great fixer of our messes.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Our daughter Jamie had a birthday last week...

Last week our Jamie had a birthday and I've been thinking how much she has blessed our family. So I thought I'd share what makes Jamie so special to me.

First of all, she is my daughter. We have two girls: Julie by birth and Jamie by marriage, but Jamie is just not an in-law. She treats us with as much love and care as she does her own parents.

I love her because of the wife she is to Joe Don. They are still silly in love and she works very hard at their relationship. If I had constucted the perfect mate for JD, she would be very much like Jamie. Spiritual, smart, beautiful.

I love her because of the Mommy she is. She is so patient and gentle with Anna, Andrew, and Austin. She delighhts in being a Mom. I know she must get frazzled and rattled sometimes, but she never shows it.

She's a good sister to Julie. I like that they are friends and not just sister-in-laws. Though it has taken both of them -- and Mimi -- to train Joe Don. :) She's a fun Aunt Jamie to Jake and Avery.

She is so good to the four grandparents. She makes an effort to include them, to visit them, and to keep them in the family loop.

I really believe she would do anything she could for us. By the way Jamie, I suspect this theory will be tested over the next 20 or 30 years... so good luck.

I really can't imagine our family without Jamie. It just wouldn't be right. So God did a great thing when he put Joe Don and Jamie together. And I am thankful.

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