Don’t Throw Away Those Christmas Cards!

Christmas card basket
Our basket of Christmas Prayer Cards for 2015

What do you do with all those Christmas Cards you received over the last month…even those latecomers that might not have arrived until January 2nd (we got a few of those!)? Why not keep them and let them help you give back to each person/family throughout the whole year?

A few years ago we began a tradition at the Whipple house. I wrote about it on this blog several years ago, but I thought I’d re-write about it this year, because it has been such an important part of our family’s Christmas tradition that usually lasts through the summer and into the fall.

We take all those cards down from display when we put the decorations away, and place them in a basket. Each Sunday, when we have our dinner, one of the kids draws a card randomly from the basket. The younger ones in particular love picking the card. Sometimes there are spirited discussions about whose turn it is. 🙂

We then pray for that person or family every night at supper for the entire week. It is a great way to give back to them by praying for them. I try to let people know that we have prayed for them, but honestly, I often don’t. However, the times that I have called, texted, or emailed the family we prayed for in a particular week, or when I simply know the circumstances in their lives, I am always blown away by the timing of God allowing us to pray for that particular family on that particular week. It has almost always come at a time when that family/individual really needed it! Then again, I don’t know why it should blow me away. His sovereign timing is always right!

SO…don’t throw away those cards! Keep them and pray for those who have been meaningful in your lives and to thank God for them. It is a great example for your kids. We rotate saying the blessing around our supper table, so it is always cool to hear our kids intercede for others…sometimes people that they don’t even know well. Then, it is even cooler when we can tell them how their prayers were very timely!

You may even take the cards and put a note on them and send them back to those who originally sent them to you, letting them know you prayed and thanked God for them. It truly is a blessing to stand in the gap for friends and family and to teach your kids about praying for others.

Make those old Christmas Cards from last year into Prayer Cards for the new year!

And know that if you sent the Whipples a Christmas Card…we will be praying for you!

I thank God in all my rememberance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you allmaking my prayer for you with joy
Philippians 1:3-4

 

Sunday Recap 10-2-11

What a crazy day @ The Ridge! Well, Sunday was special in a lot of ways. There were several highlights:

    • We wrapped up our GodQuest series with a second look at John 14:1-7 . SignPost # 6 says “The Path you follow on your spiritual journey will determine your destination.”
    • Your GodQuest is not just about a decision. Yes. We all must choose what path to follow.  Yes, we must decide if we will follow Jesus, but we make the decision the destination. We think that just because we’ve decided to put our faith in Jesus, we’re good. Got my ticket to heaven punched. “I have decided to follow Jesus.” Then we don’t really follow Him, because we think the decision is the destination. We don’t walk with Him each day, because we are waiting for a day out there somewhere where we’ll be going to heaven.
    • Our GodQuest is about a destination. We want to make the destination about us. We want to make the destination about getting us out of hell. It’s not about us, it’s about GOD. We think that salvation is all about us. It isn’t it’s about God. The destination is to be like Christ and to spend eternity with GOD. Romans 8:29 says that we were pre-destined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. That was God’s intent from the beginning. You see, heaven is all about a relationship. It is US, undeserving as we are, by His grace and mercy, spending eternity with the Creator and with our Savior. Everything else will pale in comparison.
    • We gave away several “Ridgie” awards to people who have served God @ The Ridge by volunteering their time and talents and gifts. Thanks to Shane & Erin Crider, Kendall Adamson & Kerry Drew for your faithful service to God @ The Ridge! You all have impacted many people for the Kingdom!
    • Sunday evening about 75 Ridgers went to see the new movie Courageous. It was great!

Then there was the only thing that most people are going to remember from yesterday! At the end of our Worship Gathering, I had a couple of announcements, then I said I had one final announcement that I needed some help with. So, I called my two oldest daughters up on stage. My oldest, Aly, was home from college for the weekend. She was thinking I was going to embarrass her in some way. I told her and her sister (who was in on the whole thing) to stand there while I stepped offstage to grab a prop for the announcement. Then her boyfriend Cris (whom she thought was back at school at Toccoa Falls College) came out.

A little background:
Cris had been our summer intern at The Ridge summer before last. He and Aly had been friends at college and she had suggested that we talk to him about possibly working as an intern. So our staff did and we hired Cris for the summer.  It was during that summer that they began to think their relationship might move beyond a good friendship. He asked me about entering into a courtship with Aly. In our family we don’t “date” in the cultural sense. We have taught our kids that courtship is a preparation for marriage, so I spoke with Cris about courtship and he agreed that he would be interested in pursuing a relationship with Aly to see if God would have them to marry one another in the future. Well, that was about 14-15 months ago. They have grown closer together and have felt that God brought them together to be life partners. After meeting with me last week and asking for my permission and blessing, Cris wanted to propose at The Ridge on Sunday, because this is where their courtship began and where they first began to fall in love. I asked if he was sure that he wanted to do that in front of the whole church and he said yes, because that is a special place to both of them.

Well, coordinating this and trying to figure out how to make it happen and keep it a surprise were a little challenging, but we came up with the plan and that’s what brought us to this past Sunday morning. We had asked Aly to come home this weekend because we were trying to get some family pictures done. She had come home thinking that Cris would be back at Toccoa Falls. When Cris walked out, needless to say, Aly was shocked. She had no idea that he had driven down from TFC along with her roomate and his sister and had snuck in the back door and was waiting backstage.

I walked off the stage to “get my prop” for her to hold for this special announcement. Little did she know what that “prop” was! 🙂 That was when Cris asked her to marry him. The whole church was as shocked as she was! We had even surprised Cris by telling him that his parents had snuck in the back of our worship service and were there. He had no idea they were coming. So there was a lot of coordinating and a lot of surprises all around. Both sets of parents came up and we had a prayer of blessing over them before dismissing the gathering. So that’s the story!

I don’t think anyone even remembers anything about the sermon though. 🙂

Utopia

Today a new movie comes out that is a must see: Seven Days In Utopia. It is based on the best-selling book Golf’s Sacred Journey by David Cook. Men need to see this movie. It is one of those rare Hollywood films that has a positive, biblically principled message. It will also challenge you. For more on Golf’s Sacred Journey check out THIS LINK.  Watch the trailer…

Heroes

I went to the store today to pick up some items for supper tonight. My oldest came home from summer school so the whole family is here! After several hours at a friend’s pool, we were doing the traditional grilling out. It appeared that the whole community is having the same menu, by the appearance of the shelves at Kroger. All the baked beans were gone as were most of the ingredients for homemade ice cream!  As we enjoy our family time and the day off…don’t ever forget what Memorial Day is really about…don’t let your kids forget either. We remember those who made our freedom possible by making the ultimate sacrifice…true American Heroes.

Family Fusion ’11

Family Fusion is what we call our Family Ministry Events @ The Ridge. We started 5 years ago with our Family Fusion Family Camp. This

Family Camp '08

is still the “hinge pin” event for our Family Ministry. This has been a phenomenal event for families and I LOVE going to camp. My family looks forward to this every summer. It is like a children’s camp, youth camp, and adult retreat all wrapped into one. God has used FF to impact many families in powerful ways.

However, last year, we made a switch to the Family Fusion Conference Edition, where we held FF at the school we meet in each evening. The main reason for this had to do with the school system schedule change that put the start of school right on top of our scheduled week of camp. The economic climate also made it too difficult to go ahead with the camp, because so many people had to drop out. Yet God was faithful and we were able to put together the Conference and it went extremely well. We tried to incorporate all of the elements of Camp that we could into a conference format. It turned out to be excellent and many families were positively impacted.

THIS YEAR we are looking at doing something NEW…The Family Fusion Road Trip!!

On July 10-13 we will be heading to Petersburg, KY (just across the river from Cincinatti) to the The Creation Museum. This is going to be an excellent family trip that will be educational, as well as will provide great times of family bonding and community with other families. We plan to charter a bus so your family can sit back and enjoy the ride. If you prefer, you can drive it yourself. We have secured a very good deal with a hotel that will include b’fast and dinner each day, as well as provide kitchens in each room so you can save money on other meals and snacks by doing them yourself.

 If museums sound boring and stuffy, I think you’ll find that this trip is going to be something your family will enjoy. The Creation Museum is unlike anything else out there. I believe this will be a perspective-changer for all who participate. Seeing that science and the Bible really walk hand-in-hand will be a great experience for your family. Check out these pictures and a video by one of the scientists at the Creation Museum’s Planetarium.

You can sign up online at our church’s website or download the information/registration form  HERE, which includes details of cost and schedule. If you have questions, contact our Family Pastor Wendell Brewton at wendellb@churchattheridge.com . I am excited about The Family Fusion Road Trip for summer 2011! It’s gonna be a blast! I hope you’ll join us.

  

 

A Different Perspective Christmas Story…

This is the story I shared at Christmas Eve @ The Ridge. I hope you enjoy.

We don’t always think about what might have been going on in the spiritual realm that first Christmas…and we don’t really know…we also forget too that while God’s angels, His messengers, are spiritual beings and see things in a spiritual realm, they are not omniscient, as God is…so for just a moment imagine this scene with me…

 

 Just off the throne room of Heaven everything was all abuzz. Preparations were being made to announce the arrival of the Messiah on earth. Michael the Arch Angel was putting together an incredible display of new stars and comets, meteor showers and cosmic displays. It was to be the most spectacular thing to ever fill the skies around the earth! Gabriel, who had just returned from delivering that amazing message to Mary, was hastily rehearsing with hundreds of thousands of angels and instruments to fill the entire atmosphere of the earth to sing praises and announce the birth of God’s Son. The plans were coming together nicely. But just then…

 …a foul stench began to fill the air from the corner of the throne room. It was the kind of stench that would turn the stomach of any mortal while at the same time strike a sense of fear and dread in their heart, yet it had a peculiar sweet smell to it at the same time. It was the stench of evil! Gabriel and his warriors quickly drew their flaming swords in response and began looking around. From among the groups of angels stepped one hooded being. When he pulled back his hood, he was beautiful indeed, yet repulsive at the same time.

“Well, now! It looks as if we are getting ready for a party of sorts, doesn’t it? Why was I not invited?”

 Gabriel took steps toward him with sword drawn ready to run him through….and put an end to this once and for all. Just then the voice of the Father said, “Stop. Leave him be…for now.”

“Lucifer, where have you been? From where do you come?” Then Satan replied, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” (Job 1:7)

“Why are you here?” God asked.

“I wanted to see what all this excitement was about. That’s all. What are you planning?”

“Well, I don’t think you’d believe Me if I told you.”

“Try me,” he said.

“The time for redemption has come.”

“Oh, it has, has it!” Satan said, laughing. “Do you think that those people actually WANT redemption? I have offered them everything their hearts desire! They want nothing to do with You!”

“But my plan is to offer them what they need…hope, forgiveness, life.”

“And just what is your ‘plan’ to do that?” Satan sneered.

God looked at him, then looked at his angels around the throne room…some with swords still drawn at the ready for His word to finish this evil forever…and said, “It’s just one word. And it’s written here.” God handed Him a scroll with one word written on it: “Immanuel…God with us.”

Lucifer gasped…then stood amazingly speechless for a moment, dropping the scroll on the floor. “No!” he said. “Not even YOU would do THAT!” *

“Ah, but I AM. ‘The Word will become flesh and make his dwelling among them. And they will behold His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father full of grace and truth.’(John 1:14)” Lucifer shrieked, “I’ll kill Him!”and fled the presence of the Lord. All was quiet for a moment. Then God whispered, “I know…but I will not just let you have them!”

 Then, with the excitement of that moment past, Michael and Gabriel and the other angels, while keeping a wary eye out for anything the Prince of Darkness might attempt, resumed their preparations for the announcement of the Messiah…there was no more time to waste…

 The Father then interrupted and said to Michael and Gabriel. “I see these plans you are putting together, but you know, that’s not really what I had in mind. I had planned a simple, small gathering in Bethlehem. We really don’t need all of this extra stuff.”

“But what about all of these stars I’ve put together?” Michael said. And Gabriel said, “My choirs and musicians! What about them?”

“We don’t really need all that.” the Father said. “My Son will be starting as a humble baby. His time to be lifted up will come later.”

 Just then, Jesus appeared and began to step through the pearly gates and descend down that stairway of time to the earth. As He went, Michael pleaded, “Father! You must let us do something! We cannot let Him go unannounced! Please!”

God said, “Alright. Gabriel, just a few angels. Michael…just one star.” *

As Michael turned to leave, Gabriel stopped for a moment.

“Lord God, the plan is really that simple?” Gabriel asked. “I understand the need for a sacrifice…the need to make a payment for the sins of Your creation….in order to redeem them.  But when the Son returns…what if they don’t listen and how will the Good News be spread through the rest of the world and history? It seems like You are placing a lot of responsibility on those few who will follow Him. If it doesn’t work…what is plan B?”

 God simply paused as He watched His Son move out into the mist of time and finally said, “It has to work. There is no Plan-B…and by My Holy Spirit it will work.”

 —————————————————————————————————————

The plan is a 10-word plan of redemption, that we find in John 3:16. Ten words that changed all of history and eternity:

God…loved…world…gave…Son…whoever…believes…perish…eternal…life…

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

 Jesus told Nicodemus…and each of us…that this was the way to God. It would be through Him and Him alone. He said in John 14:6,

“I am the way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known the Father also; from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

 All kings start as babies and become kings. Jesus started as a King and became a baby. There was no other way…

 There is no other way. There is no plan B for us. The question this Christmas is, “What will you do with Jesus?”

 If you don’t know Him, will you receive the gift of eternal life that He has provided and offered to you? There is no other plan for hope, forgiveness, and eternal life.

 If you have received that, will you regift it? There is no other plan to carry the Gospel to those who need it.

So what will you do with Jesus? Receive the gift…then Regift it!

Merry Christmas!

__________
*This writing is compiled of original thoughts as well as a couple of thoughts influenced by, and adapted from, writings of Max Lucado and Derric Johnson (noted by *). Both of whom are much more gifted and creative than I will ever hope to be. Feel free to share but please give credit to all three if you do.

The Paradox of Christmas

Paradox comes from the Greek paradoxon which means conflicting with expectation. It is defined as something that is essentially contradictory but is nonetheless true.

Christmas a paradox? Jesus advent and subsequently His life and ministry certainly was “conflicting with expectation” as to what the Messiah would be…how He would live..die…and reign as King. Everything about Him was a paradox. All kings start as babies and become kings. Jesus started as a King and became a baby…for us…

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh…Christmas shopping for 8 kids in perspective

I thought I’d repost this from last year, since it is getting lots of hits in my archive. I also added something new for this year:

People ask us from time to time how we do Christmas with 8 children. Well, we’ve done a variety of things over the years, but we have always kept it simple. We don’t put this huge emphasis on Santa and we only give a couple of gifts to each.

We draw names among the kids. They used to try and buy each sibling something, but as the family grew it just became more practical to draw names. They really enjoy doing this too. Searching for that special gift. We give them a budget (usually $5) and they get to pick a special gift for their siblings. Sometimes they will make gifts too. My oldest daughter knitted scarves for her younger sisters last year.

In recent years we have settled on buying each child “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” gifts. This is not original to us, but I share it as a possibility for your family too. It really helps keep the perspective of Christmas.

The GOLD gift is something they want…a toy, gadget or something. Not something ridiculously expensive, mind you. The FRANKINCENSE is something they need…usually a clothing item. While the MYRRH is something spiritual…a Bible, devotional book, Christian CD, etc.  The total for all these gifts per child may be $25-35 or less. Even at that, it can get expensive. We usually set a total budget and divide it out based on what we can afford. (We NEVER use credit cards..aren’t you proud Dave Ramsey? 🙂 )   However, we have never put a big emphasis on buying lots of expensive gifts. We shop sales and use discounts and coupons as much as we can. Sometimes a toy or game may be given to more than one child, combining the gift. This is helpful on the budget too. 🙂

This year, the economy has made us have to work harder at saving and stretching and even cutting back. We won’t be able to do as much this year as we have in the past. BUT it is likely that we all should be doing that anyway. We are praying about what we should give as a family to The Gift this Sunday @ The Ridge. Many people at other churches are taking special offerings for missions and ministries. You may be thinking about supporting a worthy ministry in your area. I would challenge you to GIVE GENEROUSLY this Christmas…to OTHERS. Give to meet needs in your family, give out of love for your spouse and kids, but teach them the real reason we give…out of WORSHIP of a God who GAVE everything for us.

For 2010, we have decided as a family to give a goat and/or chickens to help feed a family in a third world nation and also share the hope of the gospel through Samaritan’s Purse. You can check out their catalog here. It’s another great way to get your kids to focus on perspective and giving as well as missions. There are all kinds of gifts at all kinds of prices you can purchase.  Check out this video…watch it with your family too, then go to the catalog and discuss what you’ll purchase:

Thankful…

Well, it is time for the obligatory blog about all the things I’m thankful for. I think it is important to acknowledge the blessings of God in our life, so my hope is that this will not seem cliche- ish. A few years ago, I blogged about contentment and thankfulness. As I looked back, I thought it would be worth reposting part of that.

Contentment as Paul describes it in 1 Timothy 6, is directly related to godliness. I cannot have godliness without a relationship with Christ. Therefore my contentment is dependent upon a relationship with Christ first and godliness second. This godliness, according to Paul, is gain, because it is accompanied by contentment.

I am content and thankful most of all for the fact that in October 1974, God reached down and touched the heart of this 6th grade boy and saved me from my sin. 35 years later I am still growing and struggling through this faith journey. I am thankful for my Savior, because I know how pitiful and unworthy I still am. Yet Jesus still gives me grace every day, works in me, guides me, gives me wisdom, continues to chip away at the things in my life that don’t look like Him, and for some inexplicable reason chooses to use me to accomplish His Kingdom work. Amazing!

I am thankful these past couple of years for God’s provision for His church and our family through some very difficult economic times. I am thankful for an amazing wife, whom I do not deserve, and for 8 fantastic children. They are a huge blessing in my life. I am thankful for a heritage of faith in my family. Thankful to those who went before me and for those who have stood…and who atill stand…with me. I am thankful for many friends over the years who have encouraged and challenged me, laughed with me, prayed for me, listened to me and ministered to me and my family. I am thankful for the privilege of pastoring His Church @ The Ridge. I still can’t figure out why God would entrust that task to me, but I am thankful for the people who make up this church and who “get it” when it comes to reaching people with the love and hope and grace of Jesus. I am thankful for a great staff that is working so faithfully alongside me in this journey. I am thankful for the opportunities we have had to partner in ministry with those in Burkina Faso. I ‘m thankful for Craig Parsons and Warehouse of Hope partnering with us allowing us use of office space.

A few other random things I am thankful for…Dr. Pepper…Chick-fil-a…football…baseball…fall…spring…health…my bed 🙂 …clothing…laughter of a 3 year old…playing dollhouse with a 6 year old…throwing baseball or football in the yard with my sons…a house…my college girl pulling in the driveway…my 12 grader coming in the door safe…food to eat…Honey Nut Cheerios…did I mention Chick-fil-a? …

Every few years we do a thing with our family that is called a “Thanksgiving Tree” for the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. We drew and cut out of a cardboard box, a tree without leaves on it and hung it up in the kitchen. Each night we gather for family devotions and read a part of the Pilgrim story (the real story, not the revisionist history version). We use the book  Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember by Barbara Rainey. While we do that, the kids all color leaves that we have printed and cut out. On the leaves they write their names and one thing each night that they are thankful for, then they stick them on the tree. By Thanksgiving day, we read the final part of the Pilgrim story and the tree is full of colorful leaves and lots of blessings we are thankful for as a family. (It is a simple project you could do with your family too.)

This year, the kids asked us if we were going to do the tree again. We don’t do it every year because we don’t want it to get stale. Since we hadn’t done it the last couple of years, they really wanted to do it again. It has been fun, but it has been sad too as my oldest two have not been able to participate much…one away at college and the other dancing and working all the time. There are fewer leaves on the tree than in years past…but it’s still pretty full…full of blessings from God! And I’m content.

Thank you to all our veterans…

Today is Veteran’s Day. A day to honor all those who have served our country in the military. I know many who have served and are currently serving. I am grateful for them serving on my behalf. I am grateful for the sacrifice of my own family members who served this country…some in peacetime, most in wartime.

My Grandfathers:
Harry Whipple, Sr. – US Army, WWI
Arthur Hetland – US Army, WWI
Ernest Aderholdt

My Uncles:
Art Hetland – US Army Air Corp, WWII
George Hetland – US Army Air Corp, WWII
Robert Hetland – US Navy, WWII
Jimmy Hetland, US Army, WWII
Harry Whipple – US Navy, WWII
Richard Whipple – US Navy, WWII
Gary Whipple – US Navy

My Father In Law:
Daley Beaty, US Air Force

Thanks to all of our verterans for their sacrifice. We salute you today.