Thursday, March 28, 2013


Lane Herrtenberger went home...

I was on my way to Cuba when Marsha called me.  Her cousin Lane had been killed in an auto accident.  Lane and his wife Cathy were not just family, but friends also.  We are all about the same age.  In fact, Marsha and Cathy share a birthday.  We live in the same town so we spent a lot of time together at family events.

Almost immediately after I hung up from Marsha, Cathy called to see if I had heard.  Friends were driving her from work to the house.  We had just a few minutes to cry, pray, and mourn together.  And then it was off to Cuba.  I wrestled for a long time whether or not to abort the trip and try to get back home.  Not as easy to do with this trip as with some others. I would have had the honor of doing the funeral.   But both Marsha and Cathy said something that stuck with me.  In different ways, they both said Lane would rather I be preaching in Cuba and encouraging churches there than preaching his funeral.  I know Lane.  That's true.

But here a few things I would have said.

Lane sure loved life.  But he was a faithful Christian.  He loves the life he is living now more than the one here.

Lane loved his family.  That is the only bittersweet issue in his death.  We miss him.  Cathy misses him.  His two daughters and his son-in-law miss him.  His soon to be born granddaughter will miss him.  And he did know it was going to be a girl.  Found out the night before he died.  His Mom misses him.  But we are all believers so we don't grieve like those who have no hope.  As Cathy said, what do those people do who do not know Jesus.

Lane loved his church.  Thanks to University church in Abilene for surrounding the Herttenbergers with love.

Lane is with his Dad, Malcolm.  I did Malcolm's funeral just over one year ago.  Lane led singing at it.  Beautiful.  Now they are together.  Hanging out in heaven with Jesus.  The rest of us will be along shortly.

Lane was also on me to fish with him.  He loved that I fished for men.  He worried that I didn't relax enough. His goal this spring was to make me take some time to fish for fish.

But you never know what the future holds.  We just know who holds it.

So Lane, I'll wet a hook for you this spring.  Probably every time I fish the rest of this life I'll think of you.  But more importantly, I'll keep fishing for men.

And I'll watch out for your girls.  We all will.

So hug Malcolm for me.  Laugh lots.  I'll see you soon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Julie and Bobby

I was in Cuba when they celebrated their anniversary, but congrats to Julie and Bobby Gilbreth for their eight year anniversary.  I know some people wonder why I make a big deal about family birthdays and anniversaries, so let me remind you why I do it.

One is to celebrate God's goodness and give him the glory.  Our lives and our marriages are gifts from him so it is important to recognize them.  And I hope our family stories will inspire you in some way.

I appreciate Julie and Bobby this year because their eighth year was very difficult.  Julie has had one health struggle after another.  I know Bobby has had to carry more than his share of parent duties this year.  And of course, health issues bring money pressures.  And emotional struggles.  It has just not been the year they envisioned.

But I like their attitude this anniversary.  They are counting it as a time to start over on a new year together.  I like that.  In fact, I like it so much that Marsha and I are going to adopt it as one of our themes from now on.  An anniversary that opens the door to new opportunities, new choices, new adventures.

Maybe there will  be more health challenges.  Or kid challenges.  Or economic challenges.  But it is a new year.  More love.  More faith.  More growth.

I like it.

So Jules and Bob -- God has done amazing things in your life and in your marriage.  This year will be even better.  Thanks for inspiring me to be excited new beginnings in old marriages.  Pops and Mimi's starts in just a couple of months.

Excited to see what God will do this year.  Love you.  And thanks for giving us Jake and Avery.  What a joy.

Oh yeah... for those counting this makes 190 years of marriage among our five families.

And every one of them a tribute to God and his goodness.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Happy anniversary Mom and Dad

64 years today.

Wow.  I love them for their example of loving God and each other for all these years.

How have they made?  I know it has not always been easy.  After all, they had to raise me.  But I know that life is hard.  They survived tough economic times, job loss, sickness, watching kid's fight for their faith, and now my Dad's Alzheimers.

So here are a few of the things I think of when I give thanks for my Mom and Dad on their anniversary today.  And these are some of the reasons they made it 64 years (well, besides the fact that they married young and have lived a long time).

Church.  It was always a big deal.  They taught Bible class.  Dad was a deacon and an elder.  It was important because they loved being part of a community of faith.

Don't complain.  As hard as some things had to be for them, I never heard them complain.  They just kept the faith and kept putting one foot ahead of the other.

Do for each other.  I remember my Mom's folks living with Mom and Dad.  My Mom has said many times how much she appreciated Dad for taking them in and taking care of them.  So my Mom moved to the farm with Dad after they retired.  It was always his dream.  She lived it with him.  Now she takes care of him with Alzheimers.

Put others first.  Bible studies.  1000's of meals cooked for others.  People carried to the Dr., to church, and to the store.  Checking on people.

Prayer.  I think the thing I love so much about my folks now is that they have been such faithful prayer warriors for my kids.  They prayed for their spiritual development when they were growing up, they prayed for any injury and sickness, and now they pray intently for their great-grandkids.  Not sure how much my Dad can process it any more, but Mom just keeps on covering her family in prayer.

So I honor my parents today.  I love them for their example of faith and sacrifice.

And for those of you who know I count these things:  189 years of living marriages between both of our folks, us, and the kids.

Only with God's help.

So thanks God.    

Friday, March 08, 2013


So what did Southern Hills decide?

I spent some time talking about how Southern Hills worked through the music in worship question.  Much study and prayer.  Much discussion.  Much hammering out a decision.  So here is the decision:


Over the past couple of years your shepherds and ministers have spent time studying worship as God presents it in His Word. In our study, we have seen where God has stressed singing praises to him with our voices as important. As we have studied and read the Scriptures, we have found no scripture that directly either endorses or condemns the use of instruments in worship as it relates to an issue of salvation or fellowship.

Therefore we are keeping our three services on Sunday a cappella by choice. When mission appropriate, we will allow the freedom to use instrumental accompaniment in other settings.
You do need to know that at Southern Hills our elder decisions are unanimous.  But our votes do not have to be.  The above statement is not at all what every individual elders would have decided if he were the Chief Bishop.  But it was our unanimous decision.

What does this really mean?  Here is how I explained it to the congregation.

Instrumental music in worship is not a salvation issue.  If it is not what our eldership stated as What Matters for our church, so it cannot be what matters in terms of salvation.

It is not a matter of fellowship.  We will not draw lines over things that are not core.

Use instruments if missionally appropriate.  Some of our mission points worship with instruments.  Some do not.  We will not dictate from Abilene into a culture that we do know.  And missional means it is about bringing people to Jesus.  That does matter.

We are acapella by choice, not conviction.

Here are the reasons our elders chose to remain Acapella:

1.  We know we can speak to one another clearly in acapella worship.
2.  It is a great tradition at Southern Hills and in churches of Christ.  Tradition is not the same as a conviction, but there is nothing wrong with tradition.
3.  We are really good at it.  We have been for years.  It is part of excellence in worship for us.

So what are the implications for living this out?  Again, this is how I explained it (our elders supported this but these were my words).

We are one body.  We will not please everyone, but we will remember that each of us is precious to God and to each other.

We will not let non-core issues divide our body.

Reaching lost people will always trump non-core preferences.

If the type of music used in worship is a core conviction to you,
 we may not be the church for you.

If it is core to you that a church oppose instruments in worship, we may not be the church for you.

If it is core to you that you worship with instruments, we may not be the church for you.

This issue is not core to the Southern Hills leadership.  And it will not be core.

So... this was a decision for Southern Hills only.  Our elders do not think that we set doctrine, practice, or policy for the brotherhood.  We just try to make decisions that are right for Southern Hills.

So this is who we are, and what we did.

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