All posts by Cedar Hills Community Church

The Math Supports Hospitality

The Math Supports Hospitality

Once again I am challenged with contemplating the importance of hospitality and I encounter my own stinginess as a result.  I love what John Piper says about the power of hospitality:

“When we practice hospitality, we experience the thrill of feeling God’s power conquer our fears and our stinginess and all the psychological gravity of our self-centeredness. And there are few joys, if any, greater than the joy of experiencing the liberating power of God’s hospitality making us a new and radically different kind of people, who live to reflect the glory of his grace as we extend it to others in all kinds of hospitality.”

“The psychological gravity of our self-centeredness” really hits home with me. It seems like all my hesitancy toward hospitality is me-centered.  ‘I don’t have the energy.’ ‘I am too busy.’ ‘My life/house is too messy.’ These are all me-centered excuses.  Now, let’s consider the joy and freedom we feel in practicing and receiving hospitality. What were some of your best moments in the past three months?  I am willing to bet they had some element of hospitality. Maybe your Christmas gathering with family, where you either shared or received hospitality.  Maybe the game night you had with family friends.  I loved the Super Bowl party we had here at church.  We shared games, food, conversation, and even some football!  That party brought such joy to me and my family.  In January, our leadership shared a couple of meals together as part of our weekend-long retreat.  The conversations I was able to have, the opportunity to build and renew relationships, was all possible because of the hospitality we received during the retreat.

To quantify this and illustrate it I want to ask, “How long did it take you to read this article?”  Maybe two minutes?!  Think about all the two-minute conversations you have with neighbors, coworkers, family, and church family.  I think I may have 20 different two-minute conversations on any given Sunday.  Now imagine I invite you to my house for supper.  How much time will we have together?  60-90 minutes at least!  Wow! That amount of relationship-building time is equivalent to 30-45 two-minute conversations!  The math:

1 X 90-minute meal = 45 X 2-minute conversations

That is why ‘conquering our fears and our stinginess’ and practicing hospitality is worth it.  One supper or game-night is worth 45 chance conversations with that neighbor, friend, or family member.  God also honors the sacrifice we make when we get out of our comfort zone. We show we care by offering hospitality and God does the work of healing people’s hearts (including our own).

“…we do the caring and Jesus does the healing” – Dustin Willis

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

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    Hospitality and Prayer

    Hospitality and Prayer

    What would it look like to be both a prayerful and a hospitable people? Both prayer and hospitality are concrete examples of the greatest commandment, to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

    Both prayer and hospitality are open and attentive activities.

    Prayer and hospitality mean openness to what guests and strangers bring to us. We receive a revelation from the guest which can change us and enrich our lives and open us to new possibilities and ways of thinking and living.

    Openness makes us welcoming to God and others in our prayer and prayerful in our hospitality. There’s no recipe it just takes practice. The natural posture of an upturned hand relaxed tends towards a fist. There is effort required for it to be opened. There is effort required to be openhanded towards God and to be openhanded towards others. It takes intentionality to nurture intimacy and ongoing dialogue with God, to learn when and how He wants us to respond to a need or a cry.

    Prayer and hospitality also imply attentiveness to the other and to the needs of others, even anticipating their needs. We have to get out of ourselves and become interested in others.

    Often our lack of hospitality is simply the failure to notice and acknowledge others and their needs, the needs of the larger world and the needs of those closest to us. Jesus models attentiveness. He noticed the sick, the excluded, the hungry, those that others passed by.  As we contemplate the ministry of Jesus, we are called to heighten our awareness of others so that we can carry on the ministry of Jesus.

    It’s true that our world is in a constant state of emergency. Jesus responded to crises by healing, feeding, and raising the dead, but the life of Jesus was also a lifelong conversation with His Father. His prayer and hospitality were connected. We are called to practice openness and attentiveness through the disciplines of prayer and hospitality.

    When Jesus becomes more and more welcomed into the conversation of our thoughts and time is set aside for openness to God in prayer, we’ll feel freer to be hospitable in heart and deed.

    Again, there is no recipe here. Learn from Him. Make mistakes. Go back to Him again. Walk with Him through the day, and ask Him to point out His way and direction. Listen, talk, share, and most of all “welcome.”

    Gary Sager
    Ambassador of Care

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      Cups of Cold Water to the Thirsty

      Cups of Cold Water to the Thirsty

      My husband and I became volunteers for “Safe Family” years ago. We saw that it would give us an opportunity to serve families when they were in need. Primarily the safe family hosts children while their parents are busy lining up a job or transportation or childcare. Years ago, we hosted a child for four months while his mother got a job, a car, and an apartment in place. This was a great thing to be a part of.

      In October this year we started hosting 1- and 2-year-old little girls. Each week they have become more and more a part of our lives. In November, we were asked by their mother to adopt them. We prayed and discerned that we should say, “YES.”

      Since then we have been working on adjusting to life as a family of six. We are meeting with a lawyer and planning our home study. We have been fundraising to pay for the fees that come with adoption (up to $10,000 is what we were told to plan for).

      And YOU dear church have been caring for us through this process. You have been giving us cups of cold water when we are thirsty. Those cups have come in the form of diapers, wipes, encouragement, a place to share sorrows and joys, clothes, little shoes, funds towards the adoption, and Christmas gifts for the new family members.

      Thank you for the hospitality you have offered us! It’s a joy to see how many are supporting these little girls without even knowing them!

      Lindsey Ungs
      Connection & Communication Architect

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        Life Together

        Life Together

        Loving my neighbor doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s not like I dislike my neighbors, but it is difficult to love people you don’t know. Authentically speaking, apathy is my basic feeling toward my neighbors. It is far too easy and comfortable for me to isolate myself in my home. I’m not sure if it is my own struggle with the busyness of life, or feeling relationally spent by the time I see my neighbor as I return home from work, or take out the trash, but God uses my kids to challenge me to better love my neighbors. For my kids it just seems so simple.

        “Can Roman stay for dinner?” Abby asks as they play together in our backyard. There is no concern; what are we eating? Did we make enough food for a guest? Does Roman’s family have plans? Did Quinn’s family already prepare their dinner? My adult brain can overcomplicate it, but my kids understand there’s food and we can share.

        Abby and Cathy are my heroes in loving our neighbors right now. Abby has been attending AWANAs on Wednesday night, so one Wednesday she just says, “Roman, you wanna come to AWANAs with me?” Such a simple, caring, care-free invitation. He says, “Yes.” Then Cathy is left with figuring out all the details. Do we have room in our car? Do we have an extra booster? Has Roman eaten?  Is it ok with his mother to (a) be gone all night at a new place, (b) ride with us, and (c) attend a church function? All issues to which Abby and Roman are joyfully oblivious. Roman is now attending AWANA with Abby regularly, where he sings Bible songs, hears Bible stories, and memorizes Bible verses. This all makes me wonder if I overcomplicate loving my neighbor. Do I allow the messiness of caring for others cause me to miss the opportunity to share the Gospel by raking yards, sharing meals, and talking about my faith? So let’s all grow together as we seek to follow Jesus’ instruction to love others well.

        Steve Poole
        Director of Youth & Young Adults

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          Insert Catchy Title Here

          Insert Catchy Title Here

          I’ve been around Cedar Hills for 14 years—the longest I’ve ever been at any job x7.  Fourteen years is a lot of connections, a lot of friendships, a lot of holidays and team members and special projects. A lot of lessons and one-on-one meetings and coffee dates and times of prayer. And a lot of volunteers. And by the time this article goes out, a lot of Sundays—738 to be exact.

          The title is not a mistake — “Insert Catchy Title Here” really is my title. Because I carry titles—Director, Worship Leader, Worship Pastor, Worship Coordinator, Music Director, Media Leader, Graphic design, Songwriter–all these titles give me privilege to relationships within my church body.  They come easily by nature of the job.

          So in 2021 I had to ask myself, “Where am I NOT connected?”  And the easy answer was my children’s school.

          We ask you all to connect, like, all the time.  But what have I learned going after this myself? Connection takes deliberate effort.  Like rearrange-my-schedule-and-make-it-a-priority type of effort.  I learned that it’s super easy to blow off.  It’s much easier to drop off the kids or pick them up and move a long with my regular day.  It’s harder to connect without a title, where I am just one parent among hundreds.  I have to take real initiative, setup appointments, watch newsletters for opportunities to help and plug-in and most of all LOOK FOR A NEED and be willing to fill it.  As an introvert, this process was sometimes painful.  I’m very happy in my little quiet corner by myself. 🙂  But the desire for connection drove me forward.

          I can’t say I’ve had any major “aha!” moments, but the Word says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10).  The work has begun! I’ve connected with a few moms for mentoring, try hard to make deliberate chitchat at birthday parties, and have been able to help out classroom teachers where there was a volunteer hole.  The office staff knows me by face and name.  And I tried to turn my children’s conferences into, “But how are YOU doing?” with their teachers.

          Small beginnings with no catchy title needed.  But you have to start somewhere, right?

          Leah Carolan

          Director of Worship & Media

          Just a Human Trying to Connect

           

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            Physical Connection Leads to Heart Growth

            Physical Connection Leads to Heart Growth

            This year of connection has been inspiring. Some of the most beautiful moments that were relayed to me from small group leaders in the church are moments that cannot yet be shared. That’s because some of those sweet moments are a response by individuals to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to draw nearer to God, even if the person does not yet know Jesus.

            In small groups all across our church, there are a number of people that are just now feeling safe enough to ask questions about God. Tough questions that have kept them from God most of their lives.

            For some, they are opening up to their small group members about things that have been hidden from most people in their lives.

            For others, they are coming to a new perspective or realization that what they once held dear is no longer so important in their life. God is working in their heart. As their perspective changes it is like scales falling from their eyes, and underneath the Truth is starting to take shape in their heart.

            Like the Grinch, I have a larger heart this year because of what I’ve seen and heard from our small group leaders.

            Merry Christmas,

            Lindsey Ungs
            Connection & Communication Architect

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              Deeper Connection

              Deeper Connection

              “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25

              I’ve been wondering lately, if we can stimulate one another to love and good works when we don’t meet together? I’m sure we can encourage one another in isolation but it seems so much easier when we spend time together. Consider my men’s small group as a case study.

              After taking a short break in 2020, our group resumed meeting together in person. Sometimes we simply check in with each other. Sometimes we do a Bible Study. Sometimes we go out for burgers. The key: we come together.

              When we gather stuff comes out. Some tell about their latest challenge. Some share exciting news. Some report on their past. Some show off new tattoos. Some ask for prayer. Some listen without saying much. Some give opinions on current events. Some offer words of wisdom. Some give encouragement.

              Meeting together creates space for connection. For men – generally – connection is not easy, but slowly we open up our lives to each other when we hang out. And now, looking back over the past year, I see deeper connections and realize that we have spurred one another on!

              My small group is one of my connection bright spots from 2021. It started with meeting together.

              Kent Landhuis
              Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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                Backyard Hidden Treasure

                Backyard Hidden Treasure

                Since we bought our first house about seven years ago, we’ve been getting to know the ins and outs of what makes our house and our property unique. At some point, we borrowed a metal detector from a family member and had fun wandering around our yard with various boops, beeps and low ding sounds.

                If you’ve never played with a metal detector, I highly recommend it!

                (Also if you’ve never seen the show “The Curse of Oak Island,” watch it first and you’ll be super motivated to go on your own treasure hunt around your yard. I hate to get you hooked, but season nine is kicking off now on the History Channel.)

                So after watching these real-life treasure hunters wander around an island and discovering 400 year old treasures with their metal detectors, we were excited to explore our back yard.

                What we learned:  we think our back yard used to be someone’s burn pile. Not so romantic. Deep down below the surface, we’ve discovered lots of nails, old toy guns, tin cans, bottles, bottle caps, broken pipes. And ash. Lots of ash.

                But the most beautiful discovery was an old china set—a teacup and saucer. They both suffered damage from the flames of a fire, but incredibly, I was able to scrub them down and superglue them back together until they looked restored.

                Next, I headed online to see what treasure I had discovered! Perhaps they were super old and worth something! Perhaps part of a long lost set or some royal collection!

                But—no. Just cheap china from the 1960s. There was a reason they got thrown out. No monetary value, no sentimental value—just someone’s trash. They were probably buried just a few years before our house was built.

                I took a picture of my little restored china and later deleted it. And after a few years of sitting in my cupboard, I threw the cup and saucer away. I discovered it had neither monetary value nor sentimental value to me.

                God’s work of restoration could not be further from my backyard discovery.

                He doesn’t need to search for us—He knows exactly where we are.

                While we may feel buried and lost and forgotten and disregarded, His value for us is one exponentially greater than money or sentiment—He is our Creator! He formed us in our mother’s wombs and knew exactly who we would be and are, even before time began.

                He does not hide us away. And while it may seem we are covered and ash and dirty and broken, His Word says in Isaiah 61:3 that He, “bestows on [us] a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair… a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

                Did you catch that last part??? Even after He fixes us and makes us beautiful, He plants us to display His splendor! Not like me and my restored china that I hid away in the cabinet until throwing it — He displays us, His restored people, to His own splendor.

                It’s kind of like that old saying—if God had a refrigerator, He’d have your picture on it.  But more like ‘if God had a china cupboard, He wouldn’t just have you stored on the shelf inside collecting dust—He’d have you in the most prominent place in the middle of His banquet table on top of a beautiful place setting, all cleaned and shined and ready to be adored over by all in attendance.

                God’s restoration is for. His. Splendor. And He takes great delight in restoring His people.

                Leah Carolan
                Director of Worship & Media

                 

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                  Personal Restoration

                  Personal Restoration

                  In June of 2018, our oldest son and our entire family fell hard and fast into deep pain, fear, and sadness. A beautiful young life was lost, and so many lives changed forever. If I could create a picture, I was Humpty Dumpty scattered into millions of fragments. I wanted my old life, my old self back. I wanted this for my entire family, especially for our oldest son. How could I go on with this brokenness and why couldn’t God hear me crying out to him to fix this situation for him and my family?

                  Every morning I walk around my town’s perimeter. I’ve walked this path for so many years rarely missing a day. On September 18th, 2018 it was a beautiful sunrise, early fall temps and my music was playing in my ears. However, I couldn’t see or feel any of this. I was lost in my thoughts about how I wanted my old life back. Why was God putting this in my path? What had we done so wrong that my family must suffer so? As I walked along the far side of town, I happened to look over, and I saw something I hadn’t seen before. A cross, tucked back behind the Cowboy Church, nestled into some evergreen trees. I was drawn over to the cross and as I came straight on to the cross, I saw the most spectacular sunrise and painted sky. In that moment, I truly felt Jesus Christ was there telling me, I am with you, I have never left you. I heard Jeremiah 29:11 in my head “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” and I cried. Not the tears of despair I had cried so many other times but the tears of relief that I finally understood that Jesus was my restoration and the light out of this darkness. That life would be restored, was being restored, and that I needed to let go of my version of restoration and let my life be led by Christ because it would be better than it was before. I began to pray differently. His will, His way, His timing, not mine became part of my daily walk and talk at the cross.

                  So unlike Humpty Dumpty, I started to come back together that day piece by piece. Slowly but surely but in a new way. Letting Christ lead me down a new path as he did in September 2018 helping me to pick up pieces of myself along the journey. One of the ways in which I have been restored is through attending the Saturate Group and connecting with members of a newly formed small group my husband and I attend on Sunday evenings. I’ve been able to tell my story, as authentic as I have ever been, sharing that l still have cracks and wounds as we all do, and I have support in putting the pieces back together. Through our small group’s acceptance, prayer and sharing of their own personal stories of faith, I recently acknowledge for the first time in a social media forum that I have a child in prison. It was on the second anniversary of his incarceration, and it was important for me to share how much he is loved and missed by his family and what great hopes we have for his return home. It has also given me the strength to connect with others who are navigating the challenges of incarceration and reentry by sharing how Jesus has impacted this journey for me and my family. I have also felt called to reach out to a non-profit organization focused on helping inmates reenter society after incarceration called Inside Out Reentry of Johnson County.

                  I’ve always loved the saying “we are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” I think in my case the light of God gets in and part of my personal restoration is to make sure that the light also shines out to others from those cracks and holes that make me real. That is what small group does for me as well as my daily trip and stop at this cross where I know Jesus is always waiting to restore me.

                  Beth Brown
                  Part of the Cedar Hills Community Church Family

                  Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Lindsey know.