Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Don't miss the point about VBS

We are having an awesome VBS this week at Southern Hills.  Moe the Musical.  We are getting lots of publicity about how innovative and and ground-breaking it is.  Lots of visitors.  Record number of kids and over-all attendance.  

And if not careful, everyone is missing the point of our VBS.

It is innovative and ground-breaking... and we stole it.  Well, we borrowed it from the Hills church of Christ in the Metroplex.  I am a big fan of the Hills.  They developed this concept and we got it from them.  My wife and our daughter Julie and the kids love Hills VBS.  They love it so much they have gone to stay with our son and his family just so they can attend.  Julie and Marsha have even taught with Jamie in the Hills VBS.  And we got the idea, many of the props, and the musical score from the outstanding staff at the Hills. They were delighted to help us out.  

Because they get it.  We get it.  VBS is not about innovation, music, and tee shirts.  All of those things may be important, but to think they are the focus is to miss the point.

Here is what VBS is about:  God's story in our lives.  It is about helping children -- and adults -- see God's plan for their lives.  It is about motivating and inspiring people to want to be part of that plan.

It is about reaching into our community with the Jesus story.  We are happy to have visitors from other churches, but that is not our target audience.  We want the families that are not connected to Jesus.  

It is about 150-- 200 volunteers giving of their time, money, and talents to make a difference forever.

It is about our families doing something together.  We have families ministering together in the musical.  We have families teaching class together.  We have families all attending classes about Moses.  It is a spiritual week for families.

It is feeding all of our volunteers so they can focus on each night's ministry.  It is about all the behind the scenes workers who got everything ready.  It is about all those who gave up hours of practice to make Moe the Musical touch people.  It is about all the teachers sharing the story of God and Moses.  It is about countless workers who insure that our VBS is a safe environment for kids.  It is about all those who register and welcome everyone.

And it is about tee shirts that children can wear after VBS and be reminded of God's story.      

It is about all those who commit money and prayers for God to do something amazing this week.  It is about all those who invite neighboring families to join us this week.

It is about a class for adults.  I love this for several reasons.  I have always thought VBS should have class for the adults.  I have rarely had a summer go by that I have not taught adults for some VBS somewhere. This lets our adults participate.  It gives families something to do together.  It lets us reach visitors with a God story.  And yes... we require parents or grandparents to stay for the adult class and not just drop off their kids.

Oh yeah... and tonight I get to teach the adults so pretty fired up about that.

So don't let a musical, or a tee shirt, or what others say -- or don't say -- about VBS confuse us about the real reason we are working ourselves to exhaustion this week.

God's story has been told.   And that will make a difference forever.  And that is what VBS is really all about.

So thanks to Ryan and all the Southern Hills team.  Thanks to the Hills for the idea.  Thanks to everyone involved this week in the story of Moe, God, and us.  

But most of all ... thank you God.  You get the glory. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Avery Grace is 6...

Avery Gilbreth turned 6 last week and I would have written her tribute sooner but we were in the middle of Cousin Camp.  Love those grands, but reminded that parenting is for the young.

I love Avery.  She lights up our lives with her smile, her sassiness, her laugh, and her love.  It amazes me when I see her being shy in public settings because in small groups where she knows everyone she is a riot.

She is a very determined girl.  There is not anything she thinks she cannot do.  She is smart, athletic, and has personality plus when you get to know her.

She loves her family.  I pity the girl who ever hurts her brother Jake.  Avery loves her Mommy and her Mimi.  Her cousins are some of her best friends.  

She is independent enough that she does not have to follow the crowd.  She is happy to play by herself, or with a group. She is not afraid to say she doesn't want to do something. I like this trait because it will serve her well when the teenage peer pressure days arrive.

She picks good friends.  I hope she always does.

Avery loves Jesus.  She has sweet prayers.  She memorizes her Bible verses.

She is nice to everyone.  She treats everyone well.

You can see the makings of a strong Christian woman, a good wife and mother.

She is one of the very few people that every time I see her, my heart is happy.  She really does bring a smile to my face... and to my heart.

So God... thanks for Avery Grace.  You gave us an amazing gift of joy and love.  Do mighty and wonderful things for your kingdom thru her.

Monday, July 15, 2013


The best sermon I saw last Sunday...

It happened after service and it was a great sermon on faith, love, fellowship, and trusting God.

Teri Boone, Jana Hanner, and Marsha Ridgell.

If you go to Southern Hills, or know people there, you know the background to this story.

Teri's husband, James, just finished round four of his chemo treatment.  They didn't see the cancer coming and the treatment has been emotional and hard.  God is healing James -- if you have seen the "before and after" scans you know what I mean -- but it is tough.

Jana's son is Hunter Hanner.  People all over know of Hunter's bone marrow transplant in anticipation of being cured from CDG, a lifelong disease. It has been a long three months of treatment for Hunter.  Everyone knew it would be an emotional and spiritual roller coaster... and it has.

And Marsha has seen our daughter Julie go thru a horrible couple of years health-wise.  Just as she has finally turned the corner, her son Jake was diagnosed this summer with Kawasaki disease.  We think he is over it but he will have to have a year of heart check-ups before we know for sure.  And then I had a heart scare last week and was in the hospital for three days.  None as serious as her friends, but one issue after the other after the other.  

These three strong, faithful, beautiful women have had about all they can take.

And I saw them together Sunday after church.  It was just a few minutes before everyone surrounded them to hug, ask questions, and love on them.  But for a few minutes, there they were,just the three of them. Hugging each other, crying a little, and supporting each other.  Just loving on each other.

I couldn't hear much, but what I did hear was each one of them trying to ask the other two how things were. They each wanted to support the other two.  And not one of them was thinking about their situation.  I know that these women have constantly prayed for the families of each other.  Every day.

It is what Christians do for each other.  Thinking of others.  Carrying each other's burdens.  Love in action.

Best sermon I have seen in a long time.

It was a holy moment.

So God ... thanks for their faith.  Heal their families.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


My anniversary tribute to Joe Don and Jamie for celebrating 13 years...

And I'm starting with why it is good to be a Christian:  the world says 13 is unlucky, but God is always bigger and better than luck or superstition.  So for JD and Jamie, 13 is a wonderful number to celebrate in Christ.

So here is why I celebrate their marriage.

They are better together.  I think they are both spiritual, smart, fun, loving, and happy.  They would be that way even if they were married to someone else.  But every once in a while I see those couples who just seem to be made for each other.  JD and Jamie are one of those.  They compliment each other so well.  They enhance the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of the other.

They are a spiritual force.  They are passionate and intentional about making a difference in this world and in the world to come.  There are people that will be in heaven  because this couple helped them find Jesus -- or to reconnect to Jesus.

God is the most important person in each of their lives.  So God is the most important part of their marriage.

They are still deeply and intently in love with each other.  My wife Marsha knew within a week of meeting her that Jamie had JD's heart.  She still does.  And Jamie really does believe she is blessed to be his wife.

They are Godly parents.  They are intentional about instilling faith in Anna, Andrew, and Austin.

They are active in church at the Southlake campus of the Hills church of Christ.  They both teach in Bible class, are active in various ministries, and involved in small group.

Their house is an open house.  Family, church groups, friends are all invited and welcome.  And in the years to come, it will a house for the teens to hang out in.  And they will be those parents that other kids talk to.  And they will give Godly advice and love.

They are generous with what God has given them.  They support missionaries and missions.  They help the underprivileged and the hurting in this world.  And they make sacrifices to do that.

And not just in places far away.  They are committed to helping those in their community and neighborhood find Jesus.

They do not just talk the Jesus way, they live the Jesus way.  They make a difference.

And that matters.

I am so excited to see what this year brings to Joe Don, Jamie, and the kids.  I know God has great plans for that family.

I love them and am proud of them.

Thanks God for connecting them to you, and then to each other.  Good job.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


How my son Joe Don still makes me happy and proud after 35 years...

For those of you who know Joe Don, I know this is late.  His birthday was actually almost 2 weeks ago but I was out of pocket for much of these past few days.  But as you know, I always write a tribute on the family birthdays.  Part of that is pride, and part of it is to give those of you who don't know all of my family a chance to know something about them.  The main reason is for them to know that I love them and am proud of them.  And maybe to remind you to publicly praise those you love.

So here are just a few of the reasons I love JD and am so proud of him.

He lives his faith.  He is intentional about spiritual growth, prayer, and study.  What you see is what you get. He really does love people, his family, and his God.

He is a good husband.  Every time his wife Jamie talks about how blessed she is to be his wife, it reminds me that he really gets it.  God is first in his life, but Jamie comes in above everything and everyone else.

He is a great Dad.  I love to be at their house when Daddy comes home.  The kids run to hug, kiss, and love on their Dad. He is fun, funny, and affectionate with them.  Most important, he is intentional about instilling faith in them.  So he spends time with all of them.  He leads his family to Jesus.

He is a gifted teacher.  Probably a better Bible class teacher than I am.  My greatest compliment is to go speak somewhere and have someone tell me they have heard Joe Don teach and they hope I am just half as good as he is.

He is successful professionally, but that is not what matters to him.  What matters is that he can be a good steward of the blessings God has given them.  He really gets the whole vocational ministry idea.

He is still not too old to hang out with his Dad.  We still fish together (tho not as often as we should :), still play golf (even tho he needs to give me about 3 shots a hole), and we still go to ballgames together (tho now he pays his own way).

So JD... I could not be prouder of the man you are.  Now I am learning from you.  For 35 years you have brought joy into my life.  From the day you were born, I have prayed over, with, or for you every day.  Still do.  And God has -- and does -- answer.

And now you get to raise your 2 boys.  And I love watching you do it.

Thanks God for a blessing beyond what I could ever deserve or could have imagined.

Love you JD.

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