Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Communion was different at Southern Hills Sunday

I had a unique experience last Sunday.  I got to lead our communion time both in our morning assembly and then again at our Candlelight service.  Both times we did things a little different.

At our morning assembly we combined a baptismal blessing with our Communion time.  We are following the Advent tradition this year and Sunday's theme was joy.  So we rejoiced with one of our young high schoolers, Gabby Soria.  Gabby is one of ours, part of one of our Southern Hills families.  A few weeks ago, she was baptized.  We make a big deal out of our first generation converts, but we also think it is important to make it a big deal when one of our own decides to follow Jesus,  It is a time of great celebration when our kids move from family faith to personal faith.  We had her birth family on stage with her as we welcomed her into her "new birth" family.  We thanked youth ministry leaders and the elders and wives.

We talked about what it meant to celebrate the family meal together.  We smiled at each other, we hugged each other, we celebrated Gabby's salvation and we celebrated our salvation.  We stood together as family and prayed for God to bless Gabby, to protect her, and to use her.  We thanked God for the gift of his Son.  And we ate together.  Homemade bread made with love.  Grape juice.  Body and blood of Jesus.  Our one body sharing again in his death.  Declaring our belief in the gospel.  Gabby, her family, and her now really big family.

Our Candlelight service was what you would expect in many ways.  Kids sang.  Adult groups sang.  Congregation sang.  Kids and adults sang.  A manger story.  Scripture reading.  Candles lit.  Prayers.  Precious children involved.  Grandparents too.  Celebrating the birth of the Christ.

And right in the middle of it, we shared communion.  Partly because we have an evening assembly every week and they were there.  But also because that is what God's people do when they are together.  So we talked about the gift of God in baby Jesus.  And we celebrated the good news that baby Jesus grew up to die for our sins.  And that he was raised from the dead.  And that he is coming back.

But we also believe communion is not just about me and God.  It is about us and God.  That's why we do it together.  And we believe we receive that gift so we can be givers in our world.  So there were various tables set up were we could go do communion together.  Lots of hugging, smiling, sharing.

But we also invited everyone to make their way to two other tables where there were ribbons and markers.  Everyone was encouraged to write gifts they wanted to give someone and tie them onto the trees nearby.  I saw some of the gifts listed:  sing a song, cook a meal, free plumbing service call, tell a neighbor the good news, live forgiven, give a smile.

Experiencing the gift of God's love.  Committing to give gifts of love in the name of Jesus.  It was loud, sweet, loving... and holy.

Different but in many ways the same as it has been since Pentecost.

God, Jesus, their people, Holy Spirit, joy, praise, thanksgiving, and commitment.

Thanks God for letting me be a part.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Grandpa turns 87 tomorrow

Marsha's Dad, Don Herttenberger, turns 87 tomorrow.  Here is why I love him.

He has taught me so much about how to love the church.  And by church, I mean the people in our fellowship.  For years he was the Southern Hills greeter.  So many people have told me he was the first one to meet them when they visited.  He was one of the great hospital visitors.  He carried food to lots of shut-ins.

He can't do all that anymore.  But it so amazing to see the line of people before church around his wheelchair who want to say hi.  He really loves his church family.

He is a true farmer.  I don't mean a play at it farmer, but one who has loved the land, worked the land, ran cattle, raised crops.  The farm actually came from Granny's side of the family but for the last thirty or so years it has been Grandpa that runs it.  He is the one who helped me understand the spiritual nature of farming and ranching.  Praying for rain, praying for a good crop, trusting God whatever happens.  He loves the land.

He can't really work at the farm anymore.  I am the one that gets the blessing of driving him up there every week or so.  But he still manages it, still handles the farm business, still plans for the future.

But here is the reason I most love Grandpa -- well, giving me Marsha is number 1, but this is next.

For the past several years, my Dad had Alzheime'rs.  I couldn't really ask him for eldering advice.  Couldn't use him as a sounding board.  Couldn't talk thru things anymore.  My Dad went home to heaven a few months ago, and it was shortly after that I figured out what Grandpa meant to me.

He had become my Dad.  Not my father-in-law.    But my Dad.  I ask him for advice on church problems.  I complain to him about the frustrations of eldering and preaching.  We talk sports, farming, cattle, and family.  But we talk a lot about Jesus.  And about reaching people with the good news.  We talk about how to help those fighting spiritual battles.

So Grandpa, I owe you more than you will ever know.  Thanks for helping me see Jesus.  Thanks for your example.  Thanks for being my Dad.  I still need one you know.

So God... thank you for Grandpa.      

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Mom's Birthday...

My Mom, Juanita Ridgell, had her 84th birthday on Thanksgiving Day.  Yes I do know you are not supposed to mention a woman's age.  But in Mam-ma's case she has earned the right to celebrate every one of those years.  And here is why I love her and am proud of her.

I will be forever grateful for the way she took care of my Dad for all those years he had Alzheimers.  She did not complain.  She gave up her life, her time, her needs. She did it because she loved Jesus and she loved her husband.  For better or worse.  In sickness and in health.  Living example.  I don't know who in our family will travel that same road, but some of us will.  And she showed us how.

She wears her grief well.  She misses my Dad.  He's been home in heaven for several months now and it is still hard.  But she lives.  I admire the way she has rebuilt her life.  She is active in church.  Volunteers in the clothing room.  Visits shut-ins and the sick.  Gives advice and counsel to others traveling the same road.

Still talks to her friends and family about following Jesus.  Love that.

Refuses to give in to fear.  It is hard for a widow.  What about finances?  The future?  Her own health?  But she trusts God and she knows everything will work out in the end.

So I am thankful for her example.  I am thankful her church has a I Timothy widow working among them.  I am thankful she lives her faith.  I am thankful she is a role model for the generations behind her.

So Mom, I'm proud of you.

I love you.

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