Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Happy b'day Mom

Today is my Mom's birthday -- 82 years young.  So here it goes... why I love her.

Because she loves God.

She loves my Dad.  Watching her take care of him with his dementia and Alzheimers is impressive.  Her patience, determination, and gentleness are inspiring.  It is not her duty.  It is her act of love.

She loves her family.  She is so proud of her grandkids. And she loves her 6 great grandkids.  She enjoys talking to them and hearing about how they are growing up.

She prays for us all.  She spends a lot of time praying for her family.  That is one of the things I most love -- that I can let her know of some trial or tribulation going on in our family and I know she will pray about it.

She loves Scripture.  I got my love of the Bible from her.  She taught me that being a student of the Bible was important.

She never gave up on any of us.  She could have.  She didn't.  Powerful lesson.

She converted my Dad.  She has been a Bible class teacher, elder's wife, spiritual counselor, and example to more people than I will ever know.

Faith in God, love for family, read the Book.

Thanks Mom.  And thank you God for letting her be our Mom and our Mam-ma.


Monday, November 26, 2012


If you want to see Jesus, it's her not me

If you want to hear about Jesus, I'm your guy.  Not because I am super spiritual or even because I am closer to him than anyone else.  I'm not. But  I do love Jesus with everything I have, and I have a gift to talk about him.  I can preach him, teach him, or tell his stories over coffee.  And I do.

But if you want to really see Jesus, then Marsha is who you want.  She has modeled faithfulness and forgiveness in our marriage and that is great.  But this past week or so I have really been struck by how faithful she is in the life of our family.

She takes care of her folks.  They are getting older, don't drive, and need help.  She takes them to all their Dr. appointments, shops for them, and goes by just to visit.  That's Jesus.

Her sister is facing probable back surgery.  She lives alone, tho right next door to her folks.  Marsha takes her to the Dr., picks up her medicine, and checks in on her.  Jesus.

She takes care of my folks just like they were hers.  Calls every day.  Makes sure we go to check on them.  Helps my Mom research and know how to deal with Dad's dementia.  Jesus.

And today she is with our daughter Julie at Scott and White.  Julie has some serious health issues and we can't seem to get it diagnosed.  So we are trying Scott and White.  Julie's husband Bobby is taking care of the kids and saving his time off in case of hospital stays or surgery.  So Marsha is taking care of Julie.  Jesus.

She is the emotional rock of our family and our strength.  She won't teach Bible class much above 1st grade level.  She turns down requests to speak at Ladies Day events.  She doesn't want to do couple retreats.

But I think she speaks Jesus into this world better than I do.  I talk it, she lives it.  And actually, that makes us a pretty good team.  Because she helps me live. it.

So pray for our folks and her sister.

Please pray for our Julie.

And pray for Marsha today.  She never asks for anything.  Never lets anybody do for her.  But today, she needs God's strength so she can be his hands and feet in our family.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Happy birthday Andrew Joel Ridgell

And today Andrew Joel Ridgell turns 5.  As I do with all the family on birthdays and anniversaries, here are the reasons I love him.

He is a 4th generation Joel Ridgell.  My Dad is Joel Wesley, I'm Stephen Joel, my son is Joel Don, and then Andrew Joel.  But even better than the bloodlines is the legacy of faith being passed down from generation to generation.

When we were there this weekend, he was singing praise songs he made up.  Pretty neat.  Can't remember all the words, but Jesus died for our sins and we love God were pretty frequent.

He is a happy, fun loving guy.  He loves life.  Whatever we are doing, he is ready and happy about it.  I am sure he can't be like that all the time, but that has always been my experience.

His prayers for sick family members always start with "thank you for to make them well.  Not sure about the grammar  but that's pretty good theology.

He loves to fish.  :)

He loves ball.  :)

He loves Jesus.

I never think of him without breaking out into a big grin.  He makes me happy.

He loves his Mommy and Daddy.  He loves his sister and his brother.  He loves his cousins.

As far as I can tell, he seems to love everybody.

It will be exciting to see what God is going to do with him in this world.  With his heart and his personality, he  can help a lot of people come to know Jesus.

So Andrew, stay sweet.  Keep making up praise songs.  Keep praying.  Keep loving your family.  And keep loving God.

Pops thanks God every day for you.  I love you.  I am so glad we are special buddies.

Thanks God for the gift of Andrew.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Thanksgiving reminders...

I really do love Thanksgiving, but I have to remember that some of the things I love also carry the potential for great ministry.  And there are things that I need to remember in the midst of the Holiday season.

So hear are some of my reminders for Thanksgiving.

I love the eating.  And no, I don't think it is unchristian to really enjoy the meals.  But I need to remember there are hungry people in this world, including some around me.  So take some groceries to the church pantry, invite someone to share one of the meals, or work in a food line this year.

I love being with family.  But some people have lost family members this year.  Send a card, or an invitation to eat, or say a kind word of remembrance.  Say a special prayer.  And some people do not have fun families.  Or any family.  Set an extra chair.  Say another prayer.  Have a second meal where you invite the lonely, hurting people.

I like the football games.  But remember, it's just a game.  Nothing eternal is going to happen because of who wins.  So enjoy, but remember it is a game.  And it is really, really possible that God does not care who wins.  He may care that he is honored tho.

Our guys like to hunt.  Enjoy nature.  remember who created it.  Be humane.  If you can't eat it, or give it to someone who can, why kill it?

Our girls like to shop.  Thank God for the resources that let you buy things.  Buy a few gifts that matter:  Bibles, books, donations in someone's name.  Buy an extra gift or two for the family and kids that can't.

Love the going around the table for the old, "what are you thankful for?"  Mean it when it's your turn.  Remember that some people are having a hard time being thankful.  Some of the things you are thankful for are areas of concern for some people.  Say an extra prayer.

And for every good thing that happens next week, thank God.  He really is the source of every good thing.

So I really do love the holidays.  Love Thanksgiving right thru Christmas.  But these are some of the things I want to remember next week.

Happy Thanksgiving.  And thanks God.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


But there are some things the church does together

I have really been thinking about how much of what today's church does is really the task of each of us as individual Christians.  And if that is true, then maybe the primary role of the collective church is to motivate and inspire us to live out our faith individually in this world.  Evangelize, care for our family, remember the widows and orphans.  Most churches tend to lean heavily on programs and staff to accomplish these things.  That is not to say that individuals cannot participate thru a program, but it is easy to lose focus for our personal responsibility as long as the church has a program and a budget.  And as long as we write a check for said budget.

However, there are some things in Scripture that the church does do collectively.

Paul was supported in  his missionary work in various ways.  Sometimes he supported himself.  Sometimes he was supported by a wealthy Christian, and at least sometimes by a different congregation.  So I must admit that a church can take up a collection to support a missionary -- which I define as making disciples where there are few, or no, Christians.  So evangelism among my friends and neighbors is my responsibility.  In places where I cannot, do not, or will not, go... it is appropriate to give organizationally.

The church  took up contributions to help Christians in need in another place.  So I think locally I must help my brothers and sisters personally, but there are times when it is appropriate to collectively send money to help Christians in need.  This does seem to be done on a congregation to another congregation basis.

And there was some kind of program or ministry set up to help local widows when their needs were not being met and the church was in danger of being divided.  So I think it appropriate to institute a program when congregational needs are not being met by individual Christians.  By the way, the Jewish widow's needs evidently were being met without having to make it a more formal program.

There are provisions for at least some local ministers, and ironically it is one I never see any of our churches staff:  widows.  There are clear qualifications and a clear job description.

Well, all this is not to say that all local ministers, budgets, and programs are wrong.  But I do wonder how many times we are missing the real call and vision of the church:  to inspire us to serve God out in the world as individuals, families, and in small groups.  And I wonder how often we feel disengaged at church because it is so easy to let the "pros", the programs, and the budgets handle everything.

Most collections and staffing seem to be for things far away.  Most local programs seem to be when there is a failure for individuals to live out our mission.

When the emphasis remains on corporate activity, then it is always a battle to staff, fund, and structure all the ministry that must be done.  So I become more and more interested in church that is about motivating and inspiring me to follow Jesus outside the walls.

So what do you think?  What am I missing?  Both and ...   Either or...

Let me know.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Is the church a venue for ministry, or a collection of ministers?

One of the problems I am having with the whole church vision discussion is that when a church sets its vision, what happens to the member whose vision does not align with the one the church promotes.  Not saying either is right or wrong, but as I have said myself, not sure every church can do every thing.

So churches must look at every program and decide whether it fits with their vision.  I have no problem with that being a logical extension of following a decided vision.  So let's say a church decides that one of their visions is to reach young families with children.  Great vision and goal.  I have no problem with that.  But a member has a vision to reach singles in the community.  Since that doesn't fit with the stated vision, there will not be programs, budget, and staff support for a singles outreach.

So what does the member do?  Give up what they think God has equipped and called them to do?  Convince the church leaders to change their vision so it is about singles?  Leave that church and find one that has a vision for singles?  If there is not one, do they start one?

But what if the church's vision was simply to make disciples and every member was free to follow their heart, talents, and call within the larger vision.  What if the church invested in motivating and equipping members to do real ministry on an individual or small group basis?

But how do you budget for that kind of broad vision?  How do you know what programs the church should empower?  How do you know what ministers to hire?

And maybe that is the problem.  Are we too budget, building, and program conscious?  Is the real vision of the church to institutionalize our ministry?  If so, then we must focus on budget, staffing, and programs.

But the more I am reading Scripture and asking what the vision of the church should be... the more I am wondering if it really is much more personal and individual than institutional.

And by the way, as some of you have pointed out, there are some things that church does seem to do in an institutional, program oriented way.  And I will deal with those.

But at this point, I really wonder if the church is supposed to be the vehicle for ministry with all its institutional trappings.  Or is the church supposed to be the vehicle for ministers (all of us) to be inspired and motivated to be out in the world doing ministry and thus growing the church so we have more member/ministers?

Thanks for the input and for helping me think this thru.

Monday, November 05, 2012


Should there be a vision for the church?

I am thinking thru things today.  Most of the the time in this blog I share my thoughts, opinions, rants, etc.  But today I am trying to sort out some things about the vision of the church.

I hear that phrase often.  Churches must have a vision.  We must communicate our vision.  Where is your vision?  Church vision statements.  I am hearing a lot about this where I am an elder.

So I started reading thru Scripture looking for the vision that God's people should have.  I was looking for the communal call of God that will unite and inspire us.  There is quite a bit in Scripture that seems to be a vision for God's people.  Go into all the world and make disciples.  Do good to all men.  Take care of the poor and needy.  Take care of the widows and orphans.  Take care of each other.

But here is what struck me.  Almost everything I am seeing seems to be a vision for me as a Christian.  Not for my church collectively, but my call individually.  In fact, most of what I am seeing for a community of faith is about encouraging each other to live out our vision as individuals.

So I am wondering if the whole vision for a church is a misplaced notion?  I hear a lot of talk about programs and budgets that align with our vision.  What if vision, budgets, and programs just become an easy way for the "church" to do what I should be doing as an individual?

And I get that we are the church.  But maybe this drive to find a vision is a way to justify church structure, staff, budget, buildings, and programs.

What if the real vision is not corporate but individual.  Serving, sharing Jesus, social justice, mission.  What if all of these are an individual call?

And maybe the "church's vision" is to motivate and inspire us to live out our individual vision in this world.  Maybe the call of the church is to live in community so we have support and accountability to live the individual vision.

I know a grand church vision supported by programs and budgets is easier than my having to personally live true to God's vision every day.  But are we missing the point?

Well, just thinking out loud.  But are we asking the wrong question?

Your thoughts welcome.

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