Category Archives: Cedar Chips

The month newsletter of Cedar Hills Community Church.

To Whom Do I Owe Forgiveness?

To Whom Do I Owe Forgiveness?

My brain keeps coming back to the same topic when I consider what to write about in my article on forgiveness.

For six months we cared for two toddlers through the Safe Family program. We were asked to adopt them a few months into caring for them and we agreed. Several months after agreeing to adopt them, their father decided he wanted to have some custody of the girls. So, the girls were ripped from our home and put back into the care of their mother, who had asked us to adopt them. After all this, their father has seen them four days out of the last month and a half.

So it’s to their father that I owe forgiveness.

If I think of it from the perspective of the girls, I cannot get there, to forgiveness. I cannot push my heart that far up the forgiveness hill. The journey is too far and my heart too heavy.

But, if I think of their father as an individual, a human struggling in this world, it’s more possible to find forgiveness.

I too am a struggling human in this broken world. I make all kinds of rash choices. I have made plenty of messes for myself and others to deal with. I cut people down. I’m short with my kids and husband. I am selfish and want what I want regardless of how it affects others. When I finally turn my head to look fully in the mirror, I see a lot of mistakes and poor choices and sin.

Thankfully, the Lord can wipe that away and replace what I see in the mirror with His image. Pure beauty and love and truth.

Thankfully I don’t have to push my heart into forgiveness. All I have to do is open my hand to find the gift of forgiveness already inside my fist.

And so, I can offer forgiveness to their father. He is a human, struggling just like me.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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

    I Used Up the Coffee Creamer

    I Used Up the Coffee Creamer

    Every time we are asked to write articles on the theme on forgiveness, my brain hits a blank and full writer’s block hits hard.  I feel like I’ve told all my good stories of forgiveness, and all that are left are my dumb stories of forgiveness.

    You know how in the Bible there are the MAJOR prophets like Isaiah and Daniel, and then the MINOR prophets like Nahum, Amos, and the other little ones that are hard to name?

    These are my MINOR forgiveness stories.

    Like today—I was moving baby from my arms to my shoulder and my fingernail snagged her nose and scratched her, resulting in instant tears and momma saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry, sweetheart! Mommy didn’t meant to scratch you.”

    Or yesterday, I accidently dried my 9-year-olds favorite hoodie after lecturing him to never dry it because it would probably shrink and not fit anymore. Oops.  I had to tell him and apologize.

    Earlier this week, I had the table all setup for dinner—burger buns √, ketchup √, baked beans √, mustard√, plates √, chips √.  We all sat down to dive into our burgers and had no drinks, napkins or silverware.  A minor irritation, but still resulted in an, “I’m sorry.”

    This morning I dropped my curling iron which bounced from countertop to floor, making a giant CLUNK orchestra on it’s escapade to the floor in the upstairs bathroom.  It woke up two of the older boys earlier than needed.  “I’m sorry!” I quickly professed to them.

    Sunday, I gave the worship team one set of words, and another set to the tech team. They didn’t match. It caused confusion. I’m sorry!

    I spilled my coffee on the carpet…

    My lunch exploded in the microwave and I left the mess for someone else to clean up…

    I didn’t fill the Keurig for the next person…

    I didn’t return a text, email, voicemail in a timely manner…

    I shut my office door because I’m not in the mood for people…

    So many minor things that require a quick and easy apology.  Small, but not to be overlooked.

    Or this article—it’s technically 17 days late and I’ve been whining about having writer’s block without really even trying.  So Jennifer—I’m sorry! I’m going to double proofread it so you don’t have to fix too many grammatical errors!

    I often picture forgiveness as this big life-altering event that will radically change the course of events. Sometimes it works that way. But maybe, more often than not, it happens in the little moments, the silly mistakes, the ‘oopsies’ and day-to-day grind. And perhaps these little moments prepare us for the big, life-changing forgiveness narrative when it comes.

    By the way, Rick, I used up the rest of your favorite coffee creamer this morning.  I should have seen it was low and used less so you’d have some when you got up.  My selfish self wanted all of it. I’m sorry!

    Leah Carolan
    Director of Worship & Media

     

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

      The Practice of Forgiving

      The Practice of Forgiving

      Jesus said some very challenging things about forgiveness. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15). That is a tough one. It ranks up there with loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. These difficult sayings make it easier to talk, or think, or write about forgiving – anything to divert our attention from the actual practice of forgiving.

      Forgiving is hard and I suppose that is one reason for the parable of the unmerciful servant which came after Peter asked: “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 

      “No, not seven times,” Jesus says, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22)

      We are the kind of people who forgive and I, like you, am working on it. I’ve appreciated the novelist Ann Lamott’s advice from her book, Traveling Mercies, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” 

      She also wrote, “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person.”

      Another piece of Lamott’s advice stuck with me. She suggested that if we are just learning how to forgive then don’t start with Adolf Hitler. Start with something smaller – like the guy who cuts you off in traffic, or the neighbor whose dog wakes you up in the morning, or your kids.

      Now, stop thinking about forgiveness, and go practice forgiving someone.

      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.

        Am I Living Authentic?

        Am I Living Authentic?

        Authenticity. It seems like a loaded word. What does it mean? Am I living authentic? If I’m not, how do I? If you are like me your head just keeps spinning with those questions.

        Growing up I was always told to treat others as I wished to be treated, be truthful, be a good person, do my best, try hard, work hard, etc. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started to take those statements and put them in to action.

        Living authentically seemed very out of reach to me just a few years ago. I thought I had to live up to certain expectations; not disappoint anyone; apologize for things that were out of my control; don’t say too much because you might hurt someone’s feelings; please everyone I possibly could and the list would go on.

        It wasn’t until after going through a tough divorce, hitting rock bottom, and meeting my current husband that I really started to live more authentically. I started to realize I was loved for exactly who I was. I didn’t have to put on a brave face for anyone. It has been a tough switch in my life to live more authentically, but one that is so much easier. I’ve learned that I don’t have to hide behind someone that I’m not. In a recent book I read by Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory, they said: “The difficulty of hiding your gifts behind a façade to fit in feels less scary than authenticity.” (from the book Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not, Love Who You Are, Live Your One Life Well). I’ve learned that people need the gifts that I have and the love that I have, just the way I am.

        Where do you start to live authentically? How do you know what to do first? I started my whole goal with just me and God. I started journaling and speaking with God about who I was and where I wanted to go, started reading my Bible and going to church more regularly. I started making daily changes, small changes, like washing my face every day. Then moving on to picking up toys at the end of the day. Then reading each night for 20-30 minutes and I just continued to work on myself. I was still a busy mom and working full-time, but I started to make small changes for myself and my family. That start date was almost six years ago and I still mess up. I have bad days, where I get nothing done and I struggle to even say a word to God. Remember to give yourself grace. I’m thankful to be a child of God who forgives me when I confess my sins and I get to start each new day with a clean slate and the ability to make it a better day than the day before. Go out and live authentically and start today!

        Bridgette Hintermeister
        Member of Cedar Hills Community Church

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

          I’m Tired

          I’m Tired

          I’m tired.  Can I say that? Like, overly tired.

          Part of it is being a new mom. You know—all the stuff of new babies—middle of the night waking, extra prep work of bottles and diapers and pumps and diaper bags and enough supplies to get through each day and still showing up. Part of it is just being back at work full-time and juggling life as a mom of four little ones who haven’t entered fully into self-dependence and still need me to assist with their everyday needs.

          I’m proud to say my 4-year-old can make his own instant oatmeal now, so there’s relief in sight.

          Another part is my desire to be in the Word more and more each day. And because the days have gotten so full taking care of everyone else, the only time of the day I can really find quiet and peace is 3:30-5:30am. So that’s my Word-reading timeslot.

          If you’re a night owl, or any normal person I guess, I might have just made you think, “Wait—what??” Because no sane person wakes up that early. I get it. It’s cringe-worthy just thinking about it. But my hunger to know God supersedes my need for sleep. I want to know Him! I want to hear Him! I want to break through in so many ways I’ve lost track!

          A woman asked recently of a preacher in a live Facebook feed, “I’ve been reading my Bible, but I still can’t hear God.” The pastor replied, “Keep reading.” The woman responded, “No, I mean, like I want to hear His audible voice.” And the pastor replied, “Keep reading!”

          Keep reading.

          The first time I went through The Bible Recap “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” plan, I felt like I fumbled my way through because the Bible was still somewhat foreign to me. The second time, it was much easier, but I felt also that I was getting new revelation on passages that seemed old or mundane. Now I’m on course to finish it a third tdime at the end of April, and hopefully again in August and again in December. Each read through gets more fascinating, the characters and kings and prophets a little more understandable, and God speaks a little more.

          Keep reading.

          Is this the only way? Does full devotion to God really take this much time and investment?  Do you have to be slightly crazy to pursue God at this velocity?

          Sometimes the internal battle asks this question. I’ve given up some of my favorite things to maintain such a rigorous schedule.

          When I read the Gospels, I see Jesus asking the big questions and the big commits. “Are you willing to give up everything and follow me?”

          Up until this point in life, I really haven’t given up anything where I really felt the hit.  Like… really felt it. Jesus just sort of fit into my schedule. I was probably a Pharisee—a religious imposter.

          Keep reading.

          May God fill you also with a great hunger for His Word!

          Leah Carolan
          Director of Worship & Media

           

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

            Own Your Own Sh**

            Own Your Own Sh**

            Small group ground rule #1 – own your own stuff. That is the Sunday way to say it. The small group way is – own your own sh**. (And don’t act surprised because I know people talk this way Monday – Saturday.) We hope for authenticity in groups and we get there by talking honestly about ourselves, not about others.

            Our small group is using the Lent videos to explore the Fruit of the Spirit right now. The topic of week 2 was self-control. An amazing thing happened in our group as we dug in. Everyone came clean about their lack of self-control. One after another we put our stuff on the table. It was marvelous.

            Then everyone shared something else. We all fear rejection when admitting our own stuff. If people really know the real us, will they still accept us? Will they still love us? This fear often keeps us from being real about our sh**. This kind of authenticity was even more marvelous.

            As we all came clean about our need for greater self-control, our group discovered that we loved each other more. Our group members expressed deep gratitude for the openness of the others. We shared words of support and encouragement. We connected in deeper ways. We grew in love.

            I recommend that everyone belongs to a group where you can own your own sh** and be loved for it! It is a marvelous thing.

            Kent Landhuis
            Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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

              Life is Hard

              Life is Hard

              I was reading about authenticity this week in preparation for this article and I came across an article by Roy Baldwin. He shares the story of being young and newly married, and struggling. Roy and his wife saved their marriage and ministry through counseling.  He writes this about authenticity:

              “I opened up this post telling you a story. A story about the struggles my wife and I had early on in our marriage. Truth is, we still struggle despite what you might see on Facebook or Instagram. One powerful lesson we learned from our early struggles is that we were not alone in those struggles. And so we started openly sharing about them.” ~ Roy Baldwin

              I just want to say this, “LIFE IS HARD!”  It is ok for us to admit that.  Marriage is hard.  Being single is hard.  Being a parent is hard.  Work is hard. Being a student in school today is hard. Life is hard!  Following Christ is hard.  That is a real, authentic, truth we must all face.  Recognizing this truth can bring freedom. We don’t have to pretend life is easy, and we have it all together.  The professional family photo we post isn’t REAL life.  We didn’t post the 15 other pictures where a kid is crying, or looking the wrong way.  Authenticity allows us to acknowledge the difficulties we all face in life, instead of pretending we all have it together all the time. The Bible helps us understand why life is so challenging.  We believe that God made a perfect world, but WE have corrupted it with our sin.  So why is life hard? Why is it so messed up?  Because WE are messed up.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is the Christian worldview.

              I think Christian authenticity is about more than just being honest about who we are and our struggles.  True Christian authenticity doesn’t just leave us a place of recognizing our own weaknesses and frustrations, but offers hope in Jesus. Paul describes this in Galatians 5:16-18

              16 I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

              I love this authentic description of what it means to be a Christian.  We all live in human bodies, here Paul calls that “the flesh”, and because of sin our flesh desires unhealthy and unholy things.  By nature our flesh is selfish, seeking satisfaction in power, money, fame, food, and sex.  But in Christ we now walk by the Spirit!  God has given us His own Spirit to lead us and strengthen us so we have the power to walk by the Spirit instead of live as slaves to our flesh.  God gives us a new identity that transcends our flesh.

              “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2

              WE HAVE DIED TO SIN! Why then is the life of the Christian hard?  We live with a flesh that is “opposed” to our new life in God’s Spirit. There is this constant battle between our flesh, and who God is making us to be as we become more like Christ.  Jesus didn’t sugar coat it either,

              “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matthew 16:24-25

              Following Jesus means dying to that sinful flesh. Losing our life. Living NOT for ourselves, but for Jesus.  However, we do NOT do this alone. God gives us the strength to walk when we are faithful to follow His leading!  He is the one who produces the fruit of the Spirit we have been learning about during Lent. (Galatians 5:22-23)

              Steve Poole
              Director of Youth & Young Adults

              What did you think of this article? Let us know.

                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

                What did you think of this article? Let us know.

                  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

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

                    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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