Category Archives: Connection

Reading the Bible 2021

READ THE BIBLE IN A YEAR – Let’s do this, Church! Join the Cedar Hills staff by reading the entire Bible chronologically in 2021. We’ll be using “The Bible Recap” – a daily schedule of readings with an accompanying podcast.  Follow the steps below to get set-up for January 1st.  (Or jump in with the New Testament on Oct 1) There are options for those who prefer paper and those who will be using their mobile devices:

Becoming a Bible Reader


Paul writes in his letter to the Roman church, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Paul is addressing sin here, but I think we can also apply this principle to spiritual practices. As Christians, I firmly believe we have the DESIRE to do the things we believe we are called to as people of faith: prayer, Bible study, good works, tithing, meditation on the Word.  But the actual execution of these things in a regular and diligent manner is actually much harder.

Authenticity is the degree to which a person’s actions are congruent with his or her beliefs and desires.  I WANTED to be an authentic dig-into-the-Word-daily Christian, but for most of my Christian walk, Bible reading and study just didn’t happen regularly.  Not to mention, I felt like the biggest hypocrite! I love the Lord! Why couldn’t I get into this very necessary habit??!!

Until one day near the end of 2019, a friend of mine posted on Instagram about a daily Bible study/podcast that she was completing, talking about the great growth that had happened in her life over the last year, her failures of not always getting it done daily, but her determination that got her caught up and back on schedule to finish the study by the end of the year on time. Looking at her life, we have much in common—married, three kids, doing the mom thing while being a work-outside-the-home parent.  She had no excuses and I decided it was time for me to hang up mine as well.  I wanted my desire to be a lover of God’s Word to line up with my actions.

 So January 1, 2020 I began a year long journey of reading through the entire Bible, word by word, line by line, following a reading plan inside the YouVersion app called “The Bible Recap”.  It was tough at first. I hadn’t made room in my schedule to fit it in every day.  Something had to change! It was stressing me out to find time in the day to get this thing done without interruption from the kids and noise and TVs and conversations.  So I began to wake up earlier. And earlier. And earlier.  6am became 5:30am became 5…5:30… 4:30am.  Yes, you read that right! 4:30am! It became my new wake up time to spend the time I need to properly digest God’s Word slowly, meditate, complete the daily readings, and listen to a short podcast that accompanies it to help me gain understanding.  It was so hard at first!!! I have never in my life been a morning person, but over time it became my new normal.

So what changed along the way?

  1. I don’t stay up late. I can’t. I’m too tired. I go to bed and get a good night’s rest (minus kids getting up at night!)
  2. I gave up TV all together. Except for an occasional look at the news, I don’t have time for it anymore and find nothing edifying from it.
  3. If I sleep in and don’t make time for reading the Bible, I am grumpy all day. Time in the Word sets my day off to a great and peaceful start.
  4. My heart. Scripture has come alive—even the ‘boring’ sections of genealogies or Levitical law. The accompanying podcast that goes with this particular Bible study has really helped me understand what I just read and make me look forward to the next day.

Can I challenge you to join me Jan. 1, 2021 for my next journey through the entire Bible?  It requires change.  You can’t just squeeze it into your schedule. Some other things have to go.  It’s going to cost you something… time, sleep, activities. But it is so worth it to make an action match the desire.

  1. Download the App – The YouVersion Bible App
  2. Join the study in the App – The Bible Recap Bible Study
  3. Or print off the plan and use your own Bible –The printable chronological reading plan

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media





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    Moving Towards Authenticity


    “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brene Brown

    Letting go of who I think I’m supposed to be means letting go of my perfect parenting notions in favor of parenting the child I was given, with the skills I currently possess.

    My six-year-old and I are in conflict as I write this. She has the exact same anger and rage issues that I had as a six-year-old girl. When she and I are at odds, she hits, kicks, and screams. I say too much, cop an attitude, and hold a grudge which can be felt in my body language.

    When we are in a season with this kind of behavior, my inner critic shows up and says I’m not “good enough” as a parent.

    We have all wrestled with the thought of not being “good enough.” So, why bother to share this internal battle with anyone? It feels safer to pretend these thoughts never existed.

    But, Brene Brown says, “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”

    Letting go of who I’m supposed to be means sharing the hard stuff with a few of my Christian friends in a small group. In my case, my small group of women I study the Bible with. It means letting them in on the inner struggles, my own bad behavior, and the difficulties of parenting.

    Authenticity is not about sharing an open wound on social media. It’s not about shouting to the world in anger. Those things are easy to do.

    Authenticity is about letting a few Christian friends see what’s really going on in your heart, and letting them speak into the mess and the brokenness and the shame. This path of sanctification also leads to growth in faith.

    Being authentic is messy and hard and requires the grace of God.

    For the body of Christ, practicing authenticity is a way of strengthening our muscles. These are the muscles that allow us to glorify God as we move towards others in love.

    Lindsey Ungs
    Connection & Communication Architect




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      Mental Health + God’s Love

      NOVEMBER 2020

      Mental Health + God’s Love

      It’s officially been a year since my mental health started to deteriorate. In the fall, this looked like a tiny lessening of good habits. A lessening of grace-giving, causing situations to turn into frustration here and there. A surprise at how my mind was processing the brokenness that life throws at us.

      By February, I had quit journaling all together. Scrolling social media had taken priority to reading a good book. Sadness was frequent. Self-focus became a constant. Repeating negative thoughts to myself, increased each week. Everything was harder to accomplish. Exercise was lacking. Then COVID-19 started.

      Tears would frequently overwhelm me at various times of the day.

      Motivation went missing. This came as a shock because my normal personality is full of motivation and new ideas.

      Indecision touched everything. Anger and control spewed out of me towards others. Grace was missing for myself and towards others.

      Looking back, I saw signs in September 2019, but didn’t know to call it depression until May 2020. It can take a lot of time for the pieces to form a clear picture.

      But it was at the same time in May that I was able to start looking for the good, again. It’s like turning a cruise ship around. It happens slowly, wave by wave. Prayer is the rudder.

      Slowly, my interest in new ideas returned. Motivation started to appear infrequently at first. It was maddening that I could not will my mental health to return at the pace I desired.

      Here I sit a year later, 25 pounds heavier, with the realization of what I’ve been through and the glimmer of light giving me hope and growing stronger. I feel grace starting to flow back into my head and heart.

      I have a God that loves me, shown through a community that cares. At Cedar Hills, we are the kind of people that care. Others were able to reach out and take hold of my hands (as the body of Christ) when it felt like the waves would overwhelm me. Thank you for the grace and bits of encouragement that were offered throughout my year. Whether you know it or not, each encouraging breath uttered was like a nudge back towards health.

      If you are in a mentally difficult spot, I am happy to meet with you. Ultimately, the only solution to mental health is to open your heart to God’s love. This can be done by allowing people that care to share God’s grace and truth.

      Lindsey Ungs
      Connection & Communication Architect




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        Volunteering, Prayer and a Midweek Update


        Join us for prayer at the church, 6:30pm.  Stop in for as much or as little as you are able.  Due to the heat, we will meet in the Gathering Space.


        Saturday, August 29, meet at church at 8am and we will split up into teams and go to two different locations to clean up branches and debris from yards of two locations in need of help. Bring gloves if you have some.


        With all of the recent storm damage and urgent needs caused by it, Matthew 25 is refocusing the August 31-September 4 Transform Week to derecho repair projects, targeting low-income homeowners with damage that won’t be covered by insurance as well as clearing of trees and removing debris from homes.  PARTNER WITH MATTHEW 25 next week.


        Our Fall season of ministry will begin Sunday, September 13. Classes for ages 3 to adult will be open, as well as the nursery.  Help us plan by registering the whole family for this new season of ministry. READ MORE




        The August Cedar Chips are online.  The Cedar Chips is the monthly newsletter of Cedar Hills Community Church and highlights reflections from each of our ministry staff members. READ NOW

        Turmoil as a Time of Blessing

        JULY 2020


        “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14).

        2020 seems to be slipping into deeper and deeper turmoil, and we as Christians are right in the middle of it, whether we like it or not.  Here’s the thing, this time of turmoil is really a time of blessing for we who belong to Christ. Right about now, there are some reading what I just said, who are ready to toss me out on my ear. But wasn’t it Jesus who told us to love our neighbors as ourselves in the verse above? Isn’t it Jesus, the Creator of the entire universe, who said,Whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28).

        It seems to me that loving our neighbor looks a lot like serving our neighbor. Jesus said it like this:

        “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’“ (Matthew 25: 34-40).

        We, who are Christ’s hands and feet on this Earth, need to be moving toward the turmoil and chaos of our day. We are called to actively love. We have been set free from curse of sin, which looks inward to our fears, but we are called to now turn outward in love. Love always looks outward to God and our neighbor, and here’s the great part about it, as we love we actually help heal the world around us. 1 John 4: 16-19 says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”

        There you have it! We drive out fear by acting in love. Our loving action actually replaces fear. That is a pretty good thing. I am going to go out on a limb again and say it is even a blessing.

        Gary Sager
        Ambassador of Care




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          Authenticity Killer

          JULY 2020


          I started crying in my car as I drove past the NewBo area of town. I saw dozens of people enjoying each other’s company in the sunshine and it made my heart hurt. Gathering with friends is exactly what my heart needs to be healthy. Several of my friends are on the cautious side of getting together; which means they are not ready to make many social plans yet. As a fun-loving extrovert, this has been soul-crushing. Hospitality and authenticity are key elements to relationship-building and it turns out that Zoom (a platform to hold meetings online) makes these elements hard to access.

          I’ve recently come to the realization that Zoom is an authenticity killer. In fact, in all the busyness of trying to move everything over to Zoom, learning how to use the platform, and then helping others do the same, I’m only now realizing that authenticity takes far more energy when using Zoom. Most of our communication with others is non-verbal. All the body language, tone of voice, direction of eye gaze, guttural sounds, hand motions, posture, and movement away from or towards the speaker offers us far more information about what the person is saying than their actual words. Part of me thought that Zoom would work because of the camera focused on the face, allowing for some of the non-verbal clues to be captured by the listener. However, so much is still missing or left to interpretation. This lack of clues about the speaker(s) makes it hard to share authentically.

          The Marco Polo app (a platform that lets you leave video messages) allows for different results than Zoom. I think one of the main differences is that people can share when they are ready, any time of day they choose. That means if I’m thinking things over in the grocery store I might be ready to leave a thoughtful or heartfelt response from my car in the parking lot. Zoom demands that you produce thoughtful responses at the moment everyone else is in the meeting. Marco Polo has allowed my small group the ability to share what is on our hearts, from a distance. Admittedly Marco Polo and Zoom are different platforms with different functions, but one has allowed deep connections to continue and the other allows for business as usual (as usual as it can be in a pandemic).

          The moral of the story for me is that connection is essential and complex. We all need time with our friends and family in order to stay healthy. Doing life together with hospitality, authenticity, forgiveness, and restoration is the answer to my heartache.

          Lindsey Ungs
          Connection & Communication Architect




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            Shut-Ins (June 2020)

            JUNE 2020

            Cedar Hills Shut-Ins

            The following shut-ins are unable to attend church regularly.  They appreciate visits, cards, and prayers from concerned church friends.

            Pat Ament—home

            Judy Botine—home

            Dave Bryant—Prairie Gardens Memory Care

            Jake/Lois DeBoer—The Views/Marion

            Bob/Eloise Dennis—home

            Helen Freeman—home

            Maureen Kern—home

            Betty Long—Grand Living @ Indian Creek

            Clarence Northrup—Andrew Jackson Care Center, Bellevue, IA

            Vivian Northrup—home

            Jo Parizek—Grand Living @ Indian Creek

            Ivadell Peterson—Living Center West, #230

            Ray/Shirley Vander Wiel—Stoney Point Meadows

            Dorothy Wise—home


            Update from Consistory – May 17

            May 17, 2020

            Cedar Hills Family,

            At our weekly Consistory meeting, one of our leaders shared Isaiah 60:22 “I am God. At the right time, I will make it happen.” We hope that this passage will stand as the testimony of our many lengthy discussions about reopening our building to host in-person activities again.

            Discerning our next step has been more difficult than we might have anticipated as we prayerfully weigh diverse opinions, data, and options. We think it is important for you to know our priorities.

            1. We trust in God and we strive to lead in dependence on him. God holds us all in his hands!
            2. We place a high value on connection and relationships that are hospitable, authentic, forgiving, and restorative. Gathering together matters.
            3. We seek wisdom about the safety of our community based on relevant data for Linn, Johnson, and Benton counties. We care about the well-being of our community.
            4. We will reopen when we have clear guidelines and have adequately prepared our building and volunteers to follow the guidelines. We are in new territory and we want to get it right.
            5. We believe in grace for people on all sides of this – sometimes contentious – issue. We will love those who are ready and those who are not.

            As with all other organizations who are navigating reopening, we will no doubt do so in phases. With each phase, the guidelines will evolve and we will communicate the new expectations. Of course, we are excited to get back to normal. Cedar Hills is a community built on relationships; and we can’t wait to reunite in-person! But, we will wait until we can get back to “normal” safely. Thanks for your patience and support along the way.

            Reopening is a big, important decision. We trust that at the right time God will make it happen! We appreciate your prayers as we continue to discern and plan.

            We miss you and hope to see you soon!

            The Consistory

            New Members Class – “You Belong”

            Have you been at Cedar Hills for a while, but are unsure how to connect further?

            Our new members class “You Belong” is your next step.

            At Cedar Hills, we are the kind of people who share hospitality, authenticity, forgiveness, and restoration. There are hundreds of methods for sharing these characteristics, but connection is what allows us to thrive. This class will be your invitation to connect further with others at Cedar Hills.

            Our current class is running June 7-July 26 in rooms 134/135.  You may attend in person or via the Zoom app.

            Here is the required info to join the Zoom call:

            Topic: You Belong Membership
            Time: Sundays, 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)


            Meeting ID: 859 0178 0685
            Password: 649832

            If you have not registered, please let us know to expect you! REGISTER NOW