Category Archives: Cedar Chips

The month newsletter of Cedar Hills Community Church.

Toasted Graham (Celery Overtones)


Banana Foster Flambe. Pumpkin Caramel Latte. Spiced Chai Cyclone Crazy.  Sweet Strawberries and Cream Vanilla Shake.

These are all flavored coffee options.  Don’t those sound delicious?  Is there anything in that list you want to try?

When you make a cup of coffee, the first thing you do is not taste it. Instead, you smell it while the coffee is brewing. Smell is the first thing that triggers the brain that this cup of coffee is going to be GOOD. Like, super yummy good.  The aromas waiver in the air until the brewing process is complete.

Sometimes when we brew coffee in the office, the delicious-ness strikes the noses of everyone in the vicinity and people will start to ask, “Mmmm… what is that wonderful smell?”

And then finally… that first sip.

I don’t know if you’re as crazy about coffee as I am, but if you are, you’ve also learned that flavored coffees can be a HUGE disappointment.  That wonderful aroma that filled your nostrils a few minutes ago? That wonderful smell that tickled your taste buds in anticipation? It’s just not there when you take the first sip.  In the world of food and flavors, *usually* the smells and tastes are in alignment. But flavored coffees?  They are often out of sync.

Out of sync—what I smelled isn’t what I tasted.  This disappointment does something to the brain.  That chocolate truffle? It tastes like dirty water.  That pumpkin pie?  Just cheap weak coffee.  This Starbucks Toasted Graham that’s currently in my cup as I type? I swear it has overtones of celery. Yuck. Weird. (I’m still going to drink, by the way…)

I think our Christian lives can be so much like flavored coffees.  Sometimes the initial impression we give is like a vibrant and wonderful smell.  But when you really get to know us, there is a disappointment. We’re not as ‘holy’ or ‘spiritual’ or ‘mature’ as we once let on.  We’re sinful. Our character has major defects.  Our workday’s lifestyle doesn’t match our Sunday morning devotion. We are out of sync.

But every now and then you encounter a Christian who’s life and outer shell match the inside.  They’re devotion is pure.  Their workday lifestyle matches their Sunday lifestyle.  Their character oozes the character of Christ.  They are REAL.  They are in sync.

But they are also a rare-breed.

There are only a few flavored coffees I’ve found that are in sync.  They are also a rare breed. But when that taste and that smell are in complete alignment, it is bliss. My brain doesn’t feel tricked—instead it is in a state of joy.

I want to be that type of Christian—that brings a state of joy and honesty that doesn’t trick someone’s brain or bring disappointment.

Flawed, but honest about the flaws.  Sinful, but quick to run to forgiveness and offer forgiveness.  In step, in sync, with my Savior. I’m not there, yet!

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media


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

    Do You Use the Guardrails?

    Do You Use the Guardrails?

    Recently my friend shared about the book “Boundaries” in the Parenting Together Sunday School class. This led to a new understanding of many areas of life that boundaries can be applied. Some of those areas include time, words, truth, love, values, limits, resources and gifts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs, behavior, desires, and choices.

    One of the biggest realizations for me is that I’m a boundary mover. I fall into the ditch of frequently adjusting my boundaries. Constantly, I’m evaluating: “Is this where my boundary should be or should I move it for a specific purpose?”

    For example, the other day someone needed dozens of rides to and from their home, throughout the week, because they could no longer drive. My week was already full plus I had meetings all five nights that week. My boundary is typically only three evening events per week in order to preserve the health of our family.

    In the moment, I wondered was God asking me to step up and toss one of my boundaries aside for this need? The answer for this specific situation seemed to be “no.” I needed to let others step up and care for this person.

    How do you handle boundaries in your life? Are they movable? What if the Holy Spirit calls you to move beyond your comfort zone? Or, do you need to add some boundaries in your life? Do you have any boundaries in place at all? Maybe you need to put some guardrails up in certain aspects of your life in order to prioritize what matters.

    I find that I fall into the ditch of constantly moving the boundary lines in my life. Others fall into the ditch of setting up boundaries and never evaluating them again.

    While it is good to be open to the Holy Spirit stirring in our heart, most of the time sticking to a boundary can be helpful.

    Lindsey Ungs
    Connection & Communication Architect

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

      Friendly Prayer

      Friendly Prayer

      I get a kick out of kids’ simple, sometimes funny prayers. Prayers like these:

      • “Dear God, if You can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am!”
      • “Dear God, thank You for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy.”
      • “Dear God, it must be super hard to love all the people in the world, especially my sister. I don’t know how You do it.”

      These prayers open us up to unexpected thoughts and truths and usually help us see God in a new way. They help us connect with God and isn’t that one of the main reasons we pray?

      • Dear God, please take care of my daddy, mommy, sister, brother, my doggy, and me. Oh, please take care of Yourself, God. If anything happens to You, we’re gonna be in a big mess.”

      I used to think prayers had to be proper. Self-important. Maybe even a bit pompous. We, after all, should approach God carefully. Right?

      Now I think the most important thing is to come to God just as we are. Sometimes we come with big, bold, important prayers. Sometimes we just come with a friendly prayer to tell God what is on our mind. Like a kid.

      • “Dear God, I don’t think anybody could be a better God. Well, I just want you to know that I am not just saying that because You are God already.”

      Keep praying.


      Kent Landhuis
      Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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

        My Dad, Pat, and PrayForMe

        My Dad, Pat, and PrayForMe

        Easter Sunday was the second anniversary of my dad’s passing. I know many of you have lost loved ones, so you understand the emotions that come, and the grieving process. It seems like this year was easier than last year. Honestly, the grief always surprises me. I will be in bed talking to Chris about his day, or our next fishing trip, and a surge of grief will come. I miss my dad, but what brings the most sadness is knowing Chris and Josiah won’t have an opportunity to make Grandpa Tom memories, him baiting their hooks and taking off bluegills and crappies we catch. Easter Sunday is such a fitting time to remember my dad because I know the faith he has in Jesus. My dad wasn’t perfect, but he loved God and he loved us, his family. This was evident in the life he lived and the legacy he left. Growing up I remember my dad prioritizing church. It was expected, no matter how busy my week with sports, the arts, school and friends, that Sunday morning we would all be worshiping God together at church. My dad taught Sunday school, Awana, and participated in Bible studies. He not only passed on faith to me and my brothers, but to others. For a few years my dad was a co-leader with a young man at our church named Pat. My dad also had the opportunity to be Pat’s banker and share in big moments in his life, like buying an engagement ring and a house.  Since my dad has passed my mom has had several conversations with Pat about the impact my dad had on his life. I think this is an example of what Psalms 145:4 means when it says:

        “One generation commends your works to another;

        they tell of your mighty acts.”


        And Psalms 71:17-18:

        “Since my youth, God, you have taught me,

        and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

        Even when I am old and gray,

        do not forsake me, my God,

        till I declare your power to the next generation,

        your mighty acts to all who are to come.”

        Pat’s life was changed by my dad, passing down his faith as they faithfully served in children’s ministry together. How are you passing down your faith? I think of the empty-nester in Altoona who is a state fair nut! She tries to win as many ribbons as possible, even in things like “husband calling contest?” She took the teen kids from other families in her small group each year to the fair for one day. This is a celebrated highlight of their summer. When these teens had questions or problems they always knew they had a supporter in Deana. Building relationships matters. Investing in youth and young families matters. Recently we had a mishap during youth group that resulted in a hole in the drywall. Some men in our church took this opportunity to build a relationship and invest in a teen.  It was slower and messier than if one of them had just done it. However, in the end, the wall was fixed, a new skill was learned and that teen knows she has people on her side here at Cedar Hills. To help build more intergenerational relationships, and opportunities, we are doing this PrayForMe campaign. I hope you will all join me in the PrayForMe campaign. So that every teen and family with kids can have three prayer champions. People who are in their corner. We can all learn from each other, and learn to appreciate one another through building relationships and praying. Our young people need to know they have a whole family of people on their side here at Cedar Hills Community Church. Just like Pat knew my dad was a man of faith whose door was always open for a good fish story or a chat about life and faith.

        Steve Poole
        Director of Youth & Young Adults

        What did you think of this article? Did you laugh? Cry? Learn something new? Let Steve know below.

          Spring Cleaning: Heart Check and New Beginnings

          Spring Cleaning: Heart Check and New Beginnings

          Who else loves to spring clean? I’m sure I can’t be the only one. When I think of spring cleaning, I cannot help but think of new beginnings, fresh starts and the sweet aroma of flowers. This time of the year gets me excited, due to how organized I tend to get. One of my favorite ways to spring clean is to reorganize my closet and replace my winter clothes with spring clothes. It reminds me of the saying ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ My mom and I enjoy organizing the fridge and keeping storage spaces in order. There is just something about the spring that gets us in the mood to become intentional about cleaning. Spring reminds me how beautiful change can truly be!

          Funny how it can become easy to spring clean around our houses, but not take that same approach when it comes to our spiritual life. Let me ask you a real question: When was the last time you did some spring cleaning in your heart? Maybe there are habits you need to cut off and replace or forgiveness for something that you need to let go of. All these can make it difficult to experience God’s goodness in this new season of life. Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it. I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” God wants to do a new thing with you this spring. The bigger question is will you make room for Him?

          So one may ask, “How and where do I begin?”  Well, let us simplify it and incorporate some of the things you may enjoy or are familiar with.

          • Prayer – Asking God to reveal to you the areas that might need a deep cleaning. (Psalm 139:23-24)
          • Enjoy nature; go on a walk or hike. (Psalms 89:1)
          • (Habakkuk 2:2)
          • Talk with someone; there is power in community. (Proverbs 15:22)
          • Dwelling in the Word. (Hebrews 4:12)

          Here are a few worship songs to check out:

          • Make Room by Community Worship
          • Defender by Upperroom
          • Healing Rain by Michael W. Smith

          Frankline “Franky” Tshombe
          Children’s Church Leader


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

            This One’s for the Girls

            This One’s for the Girls

            Ladies, what does it take to find a good friend? I mean the kind of friend that you can call to watch your kids in the middle of the night? I mean the kind of friend that puts up with your bad habits and still wants to hang out all day. I mean the kind of friend that can hear your beat down tone of voice over the phone and who shows up with your exact coffee order.

            You don’t have a friend like that you say? You don’t know where do you start?

            This kind of deep friendship is built one conversation at a time.

            When was the last time you attended a women’s event? When was the last time you invited someone to coffee? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable in conversation?

            I know these things are risky. I know you’ve been hurt before. I’m sorry that happened to you. The hurt makes us shut down and close off and say no more.

            What’s worse is that I can offer you no guarantees. No money back. No safety net of perfect connections.

            The only thing I can offer is a promise that it’s worth it and a suggestion that we are called to cultivate friendship.

            It’s worth it to lean back into that conversation. It’s worth it to attend that event. You are doing the work of cultivation every time you engage another person.

            Every time you say yes to attending that event (when you would have preferred to not risk it), you are saying yes to potential new friendship.

            I’m not promising you’ll walk away with a new bestie by night’s end. No. But, you may have started a conversation with someone that will eventually become the person you call in the middle of the night.

            Lindsey Ungs
            Connection & Communication Architect

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

              Sometimes It’s Boring

              Sometimes It’s Boring

              What are your favorite parts of the Bible?

              I definitely favor narrative.  Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, the Gospels, Acts, Ruth.

              What is your least favorite part of the Bible? Can I ask that question?

              Every time I read through the Bible, there are definitely sections that look forward to less.  Like… cringe-worthy.  I feel bad admitting that about God’s Word, but it’s true.

              The major prophets… Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah… they go on and on and on and I find them boring and confusing.  Paul’s letters? Not a quick read and super heady. The Psalms? I like them in small bunches, but I can’t sit and read chapter after chapter of poetry. I can only stand small doses.

              I don’t think I would have ever admitted that I have favorite parts and not-so-favorite parts until after I started my current POWER READ THE BIBLE program.  The narrator of this program actually suggests to turn up the speed on the audio Bible and get through the boring parts faster.

              HE ACTUALLY SAID THAT.

              I was like, “What… other people do this too? Other people can’t stand getting stuck in the weeds of the major prophets and endless genealogies???

              That being said, can we all just agree out loud together that some parts of Scripture are more enjoyable than others?

              Tara-Leigh Cobble addressed this same issue a few years ago when I was doing the Bible Recap.  While all of God’s Word is as equally valuable and completely inspired, some parts need an accompanying prayer of, “Holy Spirit, show me why this is important to you.” “Holy Spirit, show me something about yourself from this passage.” “Holy Spirit, what do you want me to know from this passage?” “Holy Spirit, teach me something here.”

              So sometimes when I’m stuck in the weeds, I make it a conversation with God and just ask Him why He likes this part!

              It has changed the enjoy-ability favor more than I could imagine.  It redirects my heart and mind away from what might seem unpleasant and redirects it back to God.

              Leah Carolan
              Director of Worship & Media


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

                Prayer Snapshots

                Prayer Snapshots

                The stage of life in which I find myself is one in which morning prayer is best done lying in my bed. It seems like my children have some sixth sense about Daddy or Mommy getting up. It may not help that we have wood floors that creak, but when I head downstairs to read my Bible and pray I often have a guest. So one of my favorite prayer strategies recently has been to pray in bed before I rise. Pray for my family. Pray for my day. Pray for my ministry and those people who have shared prayer requests. It seems like I have the birds for company as they sing their morning songs outside in our backyard.

                I also find great joy in the simple bedtime prayers I share with my kids. One rhythm we have is to pray before bed. For the longest time I “cheated” with Abby and just used the Lord’s prayer. I love that she can now recite it mostly on her own. The other way I like to pray is to give them prompts; “Dear God, thank you for…”, and let Abby and Chris finish the prayer. This isn’t always the deepest, but it is precious to hear my kids thank God for family, friends, toys, and joys. Then, I might offer the prompt, “God, please help…”. It is amazing the things my kids produce on their own. Sometimes it will be a request they overheard Cathy and me discussing, or this week Abby has been praying for safe travels for my family that will be visiting before Easter. Sometimes I underappreciate and underestimate the value of these beautiful simple prayers and the memories and habits that are being shared. Someday I would like to be like my friend Dan who kept a prayer journal with his kids. That way the kids could see how God was answering their prayers!  #parentinggoals

                Personally, the prayer times that fuel my tank the most are walking prayers. There is something about combining the peaceful presence of God with the restoration found in His creation. Walking with the Lord, as Adam did in the cool of the day. Sometimes I even picture God beside me talking to Him as I would a dear friend. For Christmas my father-in-law gave me a nice pair of binoculars. I am now finding I want to take them everywhere with me. I pull them out at church so I can admire the birds, now that spring has sprung. God’s creation is so wonderful and there is such a benefit to being outdoors and praying. I hope you can find some excuse, like new binoculars, to go outside this week and pray while you are at it.

                I offer you these snapshots, not to suggest I have it all together, “look at how Steve prays.” No.  I simply want to tell real stories. Paint authentic pictures of what prayer looks like in my life. I hope these encourage you to look for times, even while you lay in bed, to pray.  Pray as you commute in your car. Pray as you workout. Offer yourself grace when you forget. I certainly fall short of “pray without ceasing”, but I am working towards being more prayerful. I am trying to make prayer my first instinct. Please join me in praying more this month!

                Steve Poole
                Director of Youth & Young Adults

                What did you think of this article? Did you laugh? Cry? Learn something new? Let Steve know below.

                  Prayer Opens Our Eyes

                  Prayer Opens Our Eyes

                  The following is from the book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. It made me think about how God wants to open our eyes to see God’s good work all around us. Enjoy!

                  “When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought until, some months later, when I’d be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny. 

                  It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from some generous hand. But – and this is the point – who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremendous ripple thrill on the water and find yourself rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? 

                  It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so hungry and tired that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple.”

                  Praying cultivates another kind of healthy poverty and simplicity. When we pray we begin to see the world as God sees it. It is that simple.

                  The Lord be with you,

                  Kent Landhuis
                  Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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

                    “Hey YOU! Be Quiet and Calm Down!”

                    “Hey YOU! Be Quiet and Calm Down!”

                    Back in my seminary days I had to take an introductory class on the spiritual disciplines.  We followed a well-known book by Richard Foster on the different disciplines called “Celebration of Discipline.  It was a great eye-opening class on the different disciplines Christians can and should undertake and the ways each discipline invites us into a deeper faith.

                    I think it was probably the first time I had heard about fasting as a regular ‘discipline’ that Christians are called to.  Until this point, I only knew of fasting for a few passages in Scripture here and there that I largely overlooked.

                    As part of this class, we had to create a year-long plan of how we would try out the different disciplines and implement them.  Bible reading, worship, solitude, worship, simplicity… they all sounded easy enough. But fasting? BUT FASTING? Ugh. I wasn’t so sure about that one.

                    But I included in my plan.  My ambitious goal:

                    One day a week.

                    One week a month.

                    One 40-day fast a year.

                    Everything I read said to train up for it.  So I used my one-day-a-week days to teach my brain that it is actually okay to feel ‘hungry.’ Like seriously. It’s okay.  You just tell your stomach, “Hey you, be quiet and calm down.  You can make it a day,” while also telling the Lord, “I hunger for you more than that food. Be my bread.” 

                    My one-week-a-month became great training in planning for a fast.  I learned to look ahead at the calendar, not buy groceries and try to use up food in the fridge that might go back during the week.  I also learned that physical hunger pretty much subsides by day 3, followed by an amazing amount of energy.  The first 3 days were always the hardest!! After that, easy.  All the while saying, “Lord, I hunger for you more than that food. Be my bread.”

                    But I still had that 40-day fast lingering over my head. Could I do it???  After almost a year into my little experiment, I official made the plans for the BIG ONE.  Lent.  Only, I learned that for Lent, it’s actually 47 days! And Sundays are free.  Any fast taken on, you get to break on Sundays.  So that’s what I did.  Six days of nothing, and eating on Sundays.

                    I made it through (barely), but I learned a few great lessons in the midst of it:

                    1. It is doable. Seriously.

                    2. In my fleshes weakened state, God REALLY DOES make His great strength known—just like His Word promises to.  HE DOESN’T LIE.

                    3. It takes some planning and some practice.

                    4. I don’t know if I’d do it again, but…

                    That brings me to this year.  I haven’t done a long fast since then—just random two- or three-day stuff here and there when I need to hear from God.

                    I feel wimpy.

                    WHAT IF God doesn’t give me strength to do it again?!

                    I sound like the Israelites, fresh out Egypt, right after crossing the Red Sea, whining for food because they don’t believe God will follow through with His promises (EVEN THOUGH THEY JUST SAW THE MIRACULOUS).

                    Anyhow, I’m thinking about it for Lent.  My amazing husband has been regularly doing 40-day fasts yearly and I think I might join him this year. 

                    Leah Carolan
                    Director of Worship & Media


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