Thursday, May 22, 2014


Thinking about raising our kids in a church family...

One of the healthiest ways for a church to raise faithful children is to celebrate milestones.  Lots of churches do this well.  We do at Southern Hills.  I love public church celebrations of milestones.  Here are a few great things I have seen done at different churches.

Celebrate the births.  I mean publicly and not just an announcement.  I love to see new babies prayed over by their church family.  I love to see the parents and extended family prayed over.

Celebrate the graduating Kindergartners.  Celebrate the First Grade graduates who have learned to read.  Give them a Bible from their church family.  Pray over them.  Include their families in this.

Do it again for Middle School or Junior High graduations.  Make a big deal for your High School grads.  Senior Sunday.  Celebration lunch.  Pray over them.

Announce the honors some way.  Put the academic, music, and athletic awards in the bulletin.

And make baptism announcements the biggest deal.  Pray over them.  Have special blessings said over them.  If they are baptized outside the assembly, show the video.  Interview the new Christian.  Record it.

Let's celebrate weddings better.  Not just with showers and attendance at ceremonies.  Let's have public blessings and prayer for engagements.  Before the weddings.  When they get back from the honeymoon.  

Lots of public praise.  Lots of prayer.  Lots of celebration.

They are our family.  We are proud of them.

And do your part as an individual.  Look for things to compliment our kids on.  Mail the clippings to them with a note of encouragement.  Show up at a game, or a concert.

And never, ever, say a bad word about another school, team, or person.  Be bold enough to confront church members who yell negative and hurtful things.  You know, in the same way you confront them about other sins.  Some of our congregations have multiple schools represented.  Be aware of that.

Above all, celebrate the spiritual.  Remind them how happy you are to see God working in their life.

It is hard to leave a family that loves you and shows it.

Make a difference in a young person.  Forever.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


How you stay married for 41 years...

Yep.  It was 41 years ago yesterday.  And here is how you stay married that long.

Choose well.  I picked a keeper.  Marsha is a stay-er.  She didn't have to, but she did.  Life is hard.  Sickness, sin, money, people, culture, kids ... you know how it is.  You want to go thru life with someone who has staying power.  She does.

Make Jesus the center of your marriage.  We would not have made it if it was not for the fact that we believed so strongly in Jesus.  More than we loved each other, we loved -- and still love -- Jesus.

Marriage is permanent.  Divorce was never an option.  Murder... maybe.  But not divorce.  Just kidding about the murder... sorta.  It is not popular in culture, or even sometimes in church, but we just believed in marriage.

Love each other.  It really gets better every year.  You love more.  You are thankful.  You value each other more.

Laugh lots.  We have always had fun.  Still would rather hang out together than do anything else.

Keep Christian friends around you.  We have been blessed to be surrounded by friends who love Jesus.  It helps.

Stay in church.  We have always been in a community of faith.  Often places I preached.  But sometimes just as active members.

Count your blessings.  We look at our kids and our grandkids and thank God every day for how blessed we are.

So thanks Honey, Marsha, Mimi.  You have made all the difference in my life.  Never gave up on me.  Still laugh at my jokes.  Still listen to me preach.  Still love me.

I am blessed.  I love you and there is not a day goes by that I do not thank God for you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I love "church" Moms

Mother's Day was great.  Celebrated all the mothers in our family.  But I thought lots about the "church" mothers among us.  Your congregation has them too.  Just like we do at Southern Hills.  Here are three of ours that I am going to thank for mothering our church in Godly ways.  I hope you will be reminded of some you need to thank.

Phyllis -- she was the church secretary for more years than I can remember.  But calling her the church secretary is a misnomer.  She should have been called church Mom.  For a long time as an elderI would have  people  ask if I could help someone ... and I could not place who they were.  Two phone calls always solved it.  First I would try my wife, and if Marsha did not know, she would say call Phyllis.  And I did.  I would describe them, or give the name, and she would give a complete history:  who was in the family, how long they had been at Southern Hills, and a ton of important elder stuff I needed to know.  I don't know how she knew so much, or how she remembered it, but she did.  Really knew our church.  Still does even tho she retired a few months ago.  Really loved our church.  Still does.

Sug -- every church needs a encourager, supporter, hugger, and cheerleader like Sug.  If you have not been hugged recently by Sug -- well, you obviously haven't been coming to church enough.  She has inspired, equipped, and prayed for so many of our ministries.  Best thing happening at Southern Hills is the dozens of Sug wannabes running around.

Rene -- she is single and doesn't have any kids.  Well, unless you count the dozens of babies she has cared for as a foster Mom.  She has loved, prayed over, and taken care of so many babies between their birth and their adoption.

The one thing all three of these have in common is that they love God and love their church.  And they show it.

We celebrated a lot of Moms last Sunday.  You did too.  Don't forget Moms like these three.  They make a difference.

So God thanks for Moms like Phyllis, Sug, and Rene.  They have blessed us.  Bless them and give us more Moms like them.

Thursday, May 08, 2014


Why I love my family of nurses

This is evidently Nurse Appreciation Week.  So I need to tell you that I am a big fan of nurses.  Our girls, Julie and Jamie, are both nurses.  We have nieces, sister-in-laws, and cousins who are nurses.  So it a big deal in our family.  And we have had lots of hospital stays in our family over the past couple of years.  So I have seen a lot of nurses in action.  Our church has lots of nurses in it.  So yes I love nurses

So here a some of the reasons why.

It is more than a job.  It is a calling.  Of course, this comes from a Jesus perspective.  But the nurses I know feel called to minister to people.  It is about getting people physical care, but it is also about serving people who are hurting.

They nurse with love.  They really love people.  They care.  It matters to them that patients know that they are not just a medical problem but they are seen as people.

They go above and beyond.  They are patient, they answer questions, they clean up, they hold hands, they pat faces.

They make people feel better when they are at their worst.  They tell you not to worry about it when throwing up, or making a mess, or testy with pain.  They restore dignity.

Nurses do the hard things.  Vomit, blood, stink, urine, diarrhea, and ... will you get the picture.  And they get in the middle of your mess and help you.  And they do it when some of the patients are not ... well, let's just say they do it when the people they serve are not having a good day and take it out on the nurse.

They cry with you when they need to and they help you be tough when you need to.

The nurses I know best are a great combination of medical skill, big hearts, smiles, love, and Jesus.

They are angels in a dark world.

Best of all, I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed with people in hospital rooms and had the nurses join our prayer circle.

So to nurses everywhere... thank you.

And to the nurses in my family.  You are the hands and face of Jesus in a hurting world.

God bless your nursing ministry every day.

I am proud of you and I love you.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


Granny turned 86 Sunday

My mother-in-law, Jean Herttenberger, turned 86 last Sunday.  She recently spent several weeks in the hospital and she needs home health (and Marsha) to stay functional.  But here is why I love her.

She treats me just like one of her kids.  Lots of us say we treat our in-laws like our kids, but she really does.  I don't know if I have ever known anyone who loves people the way she does.

After 69 years, she still loves Grandpa.  Still takes care of him.  What a great role model.

She loves God.  She doesn't get to go to church much anymore.  And she can't fix food like she used to (tho she still does the occasional pecan pie).

She and Marsha have an incredible bond.  I love watching it.  It is how mothers and daughters should be.  They are really close.  I call them #1 and #2.

And our daughter Julie is #3.  Granny loves her Jules.  She has prayed for her, loved her, worried about her, rejoiced with her.

And Julie's girl Avery is #4.  Granny loves watching Avery grow up.  She loves all her greatgrands, but there is something special there.

Marsha said it best a couple of years ago on a Mother's Day video at church.  Granny taught her to love God and how to be a good wife and mother, then they taught Julie to love God and how to be a good wife and mother, and now they are all teaching Avery to love God and how to be a good wife and mother some day.

That is special.  And this world is a better place because of Granny's influence.  That is real Kingdom work.

So thank you God for letting me belong to her too.

Love you Granny.  

Thursday, May 01, 2014


Happy birthday to my Dad

My Dad, Joe Ridgell, turns 86 today.  He won't know it, and if you tell him he probably won't remember.  He has Alzhiemers.  So in many ways, he is already gone.  But I still talk to him almost every day.  And in the nonsensical conversations, I still hear echos of the Dad I knew.  So here is my tribute to my Dad.

He still loves my Mom.  He talks about what she is doing and how he worries about how she is feeling.  The things he worries about aren't real, but it is sweet.  And it reminds me of how they have loved each other for over 65 years.

He talks about Jesus.  He isn't sure where I am going to preach, but he talks about telling people about Jesus.  He loves to remind me that prayer is the best thing to do.  I suspect that is because he spent years praying for me and others.

He wants to be sure I have enough money for food and gas.  And he tells me he is making sure my sister Jan has enough.  He cares about us.  Always loved us.  Always took care of us.

He asks about Marsha's folks often.  That reminds me how much he loves my wife and appreciates the family that raised her.  Also reminds me how blessed we are that our folks got along so well.

He randomly asks about Julie and Joe Don.  Not always sure he is aware of how old they are anymore, but he tells me to be sure and tell them how much Pap loves them.  He does.

Once in a while he pulls out the name of one of my grandkids.  Not often, but sometimes.  Wants to know how they are doing and wants to be sure they know he loves them.

God, prayer, talking about Jesus, love, family.

I would say that pretty well sums up who my Dad has always been.  Love those little glimpses that still come out.  Love the heritage of faith I got from him.  Love the influence he has been on my kids.  Love the stories my grandkids get to hear about him.

I look forward to heaven when we can sit and really talk again.  Till then I'll treasure the little glimpses of him that I still get to see.

So happy birthday Dad.

I love you.

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