Category Archives: Cedar Chips

The month newsletter of Cedar Hills Community Church.

Restoration in the Midst of Uncertainty

Restoration in the Midst of Uncertainty

Revelation 21:5 contains a promise I read every time I stand beside an open grave: “He who is seated on the throne says, ‘I am making all things new!’” The Bible talks specifically about new songs and new names; a new heaven and a new earth; new creation and new life. The Bible tells the story of ALL things made new in Jesus. Even death.

Given the times, I can’t imagine a better promise than the promise of newness. Given the times, we need reminders that God is still at work. We need to trust that trouble is not the end of the story. We need a hope that moves us toward a better future. We need to believe in restoration.

“He who is seated on the throne says, ‘I am making all things new!’”

Restoration fixes what is broken. Sets right what is wrong. Repairs damage. Overcomes evil. Redeems. Rehabs. Restores. Restoration makes all things new.

Right now I’m praying for restored resilience. I feel run down. Stressed out. Exhausted by uncertainty. This quote helped focus my prayer, “The big idea for building resilience in the midst of uncertainty is that cultivating meaning is the key to flourishing in all seasons of life, including when we are suffering” (Daryl Van Tongreren, Courage to Suffer).

The hope of all things made new gives meaning to our suffering. Joseph said it this way, “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Paul said it this way, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) “He who is seated on the throne says, ‘I am making all things new!’” We believe in restoration!

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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A Restoration of the Heart

A Restoration of the Heart

My best friend and I were born 12 days apart. It would be funny to add up the hours we spent together hanging out in her basement. We shared our hearts on a daily basis. I helped her with algebra and she helped me with dating advice. We made decisions together, spent lazy Saturday mornings together, and laughed until our bellies hurt. Eventually, she made her way to the University of Iowa with me for college. We shared friends and food and took the hardships together. When we moved into our “adult” lives, our friend group from college continued meeting on a yearly basis at a minimum. It was at this point that we had a falling out. She no longer wanted to participate. After a flurry of angry emails the relationship ended in a matter of days. It has now been a decade since our falling out. We have barely spoken, except for a few sentences at a high school class reunion.

It took about five of those years to realize that I had a role in our falling out (because I’m humble and also a fast learner). Plenty of blame is mine. I was a demanding and bossy friend. I often tried to manipulate her behavior with my criticism. I held our relationship with a closed fist.

It took a few more years for me to offer forgiveness to her. This was done in my heart because she would not receive any kind of contact from me. But it was honest and it lifted a huge burden from my shoulders. It was a burden that had been making me sick every time I thought about it. The burden made my other relationships harder. This burden of blaming her was causing me pain.

This is where we sit today. She has not chosen to communicate with me in a decade. The only reason I can share that with the world is because, with the help of Jesus at every step, I have been able to truly forgive. This has led to a restoration in my own life, even though she has no idea of my story.

Today I can say that I am free of anger and spite. I know this because we bumped into each other in the mall a month ago. I was happy to see her and her mother. I was happy to exchange a few brief words. I hope for the best for her and her family.

God has restored my heart from this terrible burden. From the pain of the lost relationship, the ugliness of not forgiving, and the sickness that it causes as we tighten our grip while trying to make it right in our own power.

Thankfully, God is able to forgive me for the part I played, which is good news for my soul. And even though she and I are not back in a relationship, this is still a restoration story.

Restoration is about the work that has been done in my heart. God is making all things new. This experience has grown my hope as I eagerly await the redemption of my body and this earth (Romans 8).

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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Teen Restoration

Teen Restoration

One day I was sitting, chatting, alongside a teen. We’d been chatting about normal things, what classes had homework, what activities would happen next weekend, whether or not the teen should pursue a job, etc. Out of the blue, the teen turned and looked me in the eye and said, “I can be me here.” 

I was confused. “Huh?” was my novel reply.

“No really, like, I can be me here.”  The teen went on to explain, “I can’t be myself anywhere else.  If I say what I want to at school, kids look at me funny, post nasty comments, or talk behind my back. They’re just jerks. But here, I can say what I’m thinking, like really thinking.  And I know I won’t be made fun of. Nobody will laugh at me. I feel safe here. That’s really why I come every week.”

And you know what…the teen is exactly right! That is exactly why attendance happens every week for this teen!  The teen is starting to experience Isaiah 54:4 with real skin on: “Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame; don’t be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth,”

But what else has this teen truly experienced? RESTORATION!! This teen knows that there is hope, unconditional love and truth being offered here. I love knowing that this hope and restoration is offered only because we, ourselves, have experienced the freedom Christ’s restoration brings and we want to pass it on! This is why we do ministry, even in the midst of every day uncomfortable moments and uncertainties.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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Restoration

Restoration

Sometimes the word broken can create a picture in one’s mind of a thing that is beyond repair—a shattered window, a broken vase—things, that if we tried to fix them will never be restored to their pre-broken state. Glue on glass just doesn’t do it.

Sometimes the word broken can refer to something that is currently unusable —a broken down car, a snow blower—things that need a new part installed to replace faulty pieces that have gone bad.

Sometimes the word broken can refer to relationship dynamics—lack of communication, lack of understanding, inabilities to see eye-to-eye, lack of respect—things that with counsel and prayer *could* potentially be restored, but not always.

Sometimes we seem something as “broken” when it has been neglected—an abandoned house, old barns along the highway, a rusty cast iron skillet.

I actually really love cast iron. It’s the only type of skillet I own. I have multiple ones for different uses—one for eggs, one for meat, one for pancakes and quesadillas, and other meals. And a tiny little one as the spoon holder on top of my stove.

When Rick and I first got married, we discovered an old giant cast iron skillet in his parents’ basement that been largely neglected over the course of 30 or more years. It was dirty, rusty and covered in cobwebs, crud and burnt-on grime. Thinking it was beyond rescue, it had been stashed away many years prior.

Until I saw it. And let me tell you I was excited to see what I could do with this beauty.

I brought it home and began the restoration process.  I cleaned it, scrubbed it with a coarse salt to remove rust and grime, boiled water in it, removed more layers of grime, seasoned it with oil, heated it to set it in, seasoned it with oil again, heated it to set it in and repeated the process until it became black, shiny and smooth. In its restored state: It. Is. Beautiful—my biggest and best cast iron skillet yet.

Broken doesn’t always mean beyond repair. Broken doesn’t always mean throw out the old and get a new one. When we see a broken world, when we hear that Jesus can fix broken things, I don’t see Him casting it away or just replacing a broken part.

I see Him spotting an old and rusty cast iron. I see Him saying, “Oh! I love it! Because I created it, I know the process to cleanse, shine and restore, to bring it back to a beautiful and useful state.”

“Because I created her, I know how to restore her. Because I created Him, I know how to claim and bring him back to beauty.”

He knows.

He knows what is beaten and stashed away in an old box in the basement.

He is familiar with rust.

He is familiar with cobwebs.

He knows about crud and grime and 30 year old dust.

He’s not afraid to go after it and claim it and take it home.

He’s excited to restore us back and show the world what all He can do.

If you come to my house, I’ll probably show you my giant cast iron and tell you the story of how I brought it back to life.

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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Offering Hope When All Else Contradicts

Offering Hope When All Else Contradicts

Restoration:  (noun) the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.  However, last week I read “Restoration offers hope when everything else in life contradicts.” This was a concept I could easily wrap my mind around.

Hope was offered through Cedar Hills this year when we restored our Sunday class kids and youth ministries. This happened after the derecho when many were unsure of life due to troubles regarding cleanup and rebuilding. When the restoration process began we weren’t sure what it would look like. How many kids per classroom?  Do we limit class sizes? Would we have willing teachers?  Should we focus on storm clean up instead? Would kids come? However, through prayer (“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” ~ Matthew 6:33) we determined it was the right time and path to pursue. Now, we’ve seen hope being restored and it looks like this: “I have kids in my class again, Mom!”  “My teacher taught me that God will give me what I need.”  “I have joy in my heart again,” stated one teacher after hearing the kids tell her the gospel story!  Even a simple, “Cathy!  You’re here with us today again?!” from an online class student demonstrates such renewed hope. Restoration has been offered to other Cedar Rapids ministry families when they’ve joined our church family for a week or two for personal retreat and renewal. Teens have experienced restoration by hearing scripture stories again because they have not been able to attend their home church due to COVID restrictions. Some days we still don’t know what the path to restoration should look like or feel like, but we do know that 1 John 5:4 states: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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I’m Pretty Bull-Headed

I’m Pretty Bull-Headed

I’m still waiting for that perfect moment. When our paths cross, when a smile is exchanged, when some sort of acknowledgement happens between two glances to signal to each party that this is a salvageable relationship.

That is my prayer at least.

Almost eight years ago, I had a falling out with a friend and team member.  It sucked.  Probably the worst moment in my entire 20-year career of ministry.

Time has passed, and the anger has long since ceased but the burn is still there.  I’ve worked hard in my heart to turn my ‘enemy’ into someone I could truly pray for.  There is a reason Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies—it’s nearly impossible to keep someone in ‘enemy status’ in our minds when we actively pray blessing for them.  God has done a work in my heart where I can honestly say I want nothing but the best for them. But they don’t know that.

So I keep praying for that moment when God allows reconciliation to happen.  Forgiveness is a tricky thing.  I don’t really know how to go about it when it doesn’t flow two ways.  I don’t know how to do it when the open door doesn’t present itself. I only know to work on my own heart and ask God to help guide me through this process and allow it to come to fruition.

I can’t say I’m great at forgiveness.  I’m actually pretty bull-headed, stubborn, proud and resistant to admitting fault. I don’t like being wrong, especially when I’m not! Ha!  I can list a million reasons why it’s always someone else’s fault and feel completely justified in taking zero action in moving toward reconciliation.

I’m so glad that even in our stubborn, bull-headed and proud states, God continues to work with us and call us to deeper places of His love!

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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Forgiveness Can Be Hard

Forgiveness Can Be Hard

Forgiveness can be hard to offer! Especially when you have to forgive yourself. Parenting at church has challenged me to offer forgiveness to myself– week after week. Let me explain. The average Sunday morning rolls around and we prepare to attend church with our kids.  I have grand expectations about how my children should sit quietly during the service. They will entertain themselves with the two overflowing bags of goodies that I’ve deliberately packed the night before:  magnet dolls, crackers, crayons, finger puppets, Cheerios, books, toy cars, granola bars, wooden lacing shapes, white boards, etc. However, enter the real world Sunday morning at church and both kids are crying, darting through the chair rows, running on stage, crawling underneath the chairs, throwing toys at the poor family behind us, and grinding all those snacks into dust using only their fingers.

Many Sunday mornings I’ve had to take a deep breath (or three) and offer myself forgiveness that my children are not perfectly behaved during church. This forgiveness did not originate with me though. I’ve learned to be kind to myself through the forgiveness and love I’ve received from other church-goers. (And they’ve learned that forgiveness from Jesus who offered it freely to all of us.) The elderly woman who comments, “I love watching your kids dance and be happy to be at church.” The parent who is one step ahead of me in parenting, “I miss my kids crawling under the chairs. Man, I never would have said that 5 years ago.”  The church staff member who catches my eye, nods, and chases after my child as he runs away for the third (yes, third) time. That simple nod told me to sit down, listen to the sermon, and know that my child was being cared for. The couple who purposely finds me after the service to offer a kind, “You’re doing a great job!  You’re teaching your kids to worship corporately and that’s a huge gift.” So, even when some Sundays I don’t feel like it, I remember to offer myself forgiveness.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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Stuck Between An Offense and Forgiveness

Stuck Between an Offense and Forgiveness

I dreaded writing an article on forgiveness because I’ve got some un-forgiveness being harbored in my heart. I put this article writing off until the last minute. When I finally started writing, I checked social media a dozen times.

I’ve got a lot of hard heart-work to do in this area. Or rather, I’ve got a fist to unfurl.

If I’m being honest, the lack of forgiveness is causing me to have anxiety and a dreary attitude. As Marshall Segal writes on the ‘Desiring God’ blog, “Much of our confusion and misery in life is due to our underestimating (or ignoring altogether) the enemy of our souls.” 

Derecho damage at our home.

But I’m stuck in the in-between. I’m beyond the initial hurt, but haven’t yet made it to the forgiving. My heart is headed that direction, but then the devil reminds me of all the reasons I have to be offended. As I sit in the middle of the matter, energy is stolen from my parenting and my marriage and my ministry (none of which were the offending party).

Segal tells me that, “Forgiveness outwits Satan, and forgiveness subverts his wickedness.”

Of course it “so happens” that I’m studying the book of Ephesians right now in my small group, which is a call for unity.

I will make it to real forgiveness with the Holy Spirit’s help. This article is a stepping stone in the right direction as I remind myself what is at stake.

I’m certain that on the other side of forgiveness is peace, joy, and love. Letting go of the poison of unforgiveness will allow my heart to experience the health I’m ultimately seeking.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

 

 

 

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Forgive Like a 3-Year-Old

Forgive Like a 3-Year-Old

“He took my toy, Miss Kris”, I hear shouted across the room.  “He took it!  Miss Kris, he took my toy.”  Boy, have I heard this phrase a lot in my classroom over the years!

I teach three-year-old preschool. Three-year-olds come with a set of eyes that are only fixed on their own path. They do not see other students in the room. They see a toy they want, and they see nothing else until they get it.

We teach social skills in preschool, although COVID-19 has made it mighty difficult.  We ask the kids to “share” and “take turns” and “watch the person in front of you.”  I have learned though, that most three-year-olds are in their own bubble. Most three-year-old kids have one thing in common…a short memory. When a toy is being disputed over, after the problem has been dealt with, most kids just let it be, they do not carry a grudge.

I have decided recently that I want to forgive and forget like a three-year-old. Really, though, would it not be great if everyone was able to forgive like a three-year-old.  Most of them, (although it must be initiated by a teacher) will forgive at the drop of a hat. Someone says sorry and the other one says OK. They move on and forget.

You see, you can distract almost any three-year-old with “something else” to play with. Before you know it, if you hype it up enough, the toy they thought they wanted is a thing of the past and they will be pushing everyone out of their way to the new toy!  As an adult when someone takes my toy, although let us be honest…it is never a toy.  It is usually a feeling or an event that hurts me.  I want justification. Unfortunately, adults do not always redirect like three-year-olds can.

I pray that Jesus will rest in my heart and remind me that events are in the past, there is no going back to doing it differently. The real trick is how I handle it right now and how that will affect my future. I am determined to learn as much as I can from my three-years-olds. I am learning to “redirect myself” when I’m feeling like I need an apology. After all, Jesus forgives me the minute I ask for it.

Kris Crowther
Director of Noah’s Ark Preschool

 

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Choose ‘Cultivate-Culture’ Over ‘Cancel Culture’

Choose ‘Cultivate-Culture’ Over ‘Cancel-Culture’

What is cancel-culture? Ask a young adult or teen for their definition! This is a familiar part of their culture. Wikipedia defines it as “a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – either online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be ‘canceled.”’  This cancel-culture allows people to feel justified in attacking people with which they disagree. In fact it dehumanizes them. If they believe ______, then I will have nothing to do with them.

God calls us to be different. He calls us to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44) Jesus himself prayed, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34) over those who were crucifying Him. This is the heart of cultivate-culture! Brothers and sisters, let us follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Let us glorify God by being counter-cultural in the way we value people, forgive people, and refuse to cancel those with which we disagree. Instead, we pray for them. We cultivate instead of cancel. Cultivate means to prepare the ground before planting to increase growth. Therefore cultivate-culture means to recognize that God wants to prepare everyone’s heart to receive the truth of the gospel, and bear fruit of the Spirit. The very people who hurt us, like us, NEED Jesus to cultivate their hearts. First our hearts are cultivated for the seed of the Gospel to take root, but then, for the tree of faith to bear fruit. Jesus teaches us cultivate-culture in an unusual parable:

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

So, when you are tempted to “cancel” someone because they have hurt you, remember that God created them. Jesus died for them. Who are you to chop down their tree? Jesus would rather you get your hands dirty and shovel some manure instead!

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

 

 

 

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