Christmas

I have a few annual Christmas TV traditions. One is watching “A Christmas Story” on Christmas Eve. TBS airs the story for 24 hours, so no matter where you start you always get to see a complete showing. My other Christmas TV tradition is re- watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Since its first airing in 1965, (53 years ago)

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has become a “must see” classic. Lead character, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the beginning of a
cheerful holiday season. He rants over the commercialism. Lucy suggests that the answer to his holiday doldrums is involvement, and she enlists him to direct the Christmas play. Willing to give it a go, he attempts to take charge, but with his leadership ignored and confronted with a list of complaints from the cast, his depression only worsens.

Determined to discover the meaning of the holiday and fend off his intensifying despair he concludes that what is lacking is a Christmas tree to set the mood. Off he goes, only to bring back the sorriest looking “Charlie Brown” tree on the lot. Of
course, he is scorned, mocked, laughed at, and humiliated. It is at this time he explodes in desperation and loudly asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus says he does, walks to center stage, and recites Luke 2:8-14. After he completes his reading, upbeat music resumes, a smile fills Charlies Brown face, and he picks up his tree to give it a proper decorating.

For me, this symbolizes the lifting of Charlie Brown’s heavy burden of depression in response to the gospel reading, leading to the discovery of the real meaning of Christmas. Even Linus lets go of his infamous security blanket as he reads. I realize life is not a cartoon and issues of depression are not as easily resolved. However, there is joy and celebration and praise when one discovers what Christmas is really all about.

My Christmas prayer is that we would all make that same discovery and make it an annual tradition!

Christmas

The Lights Fantastic Parade was fantastic! Once again, we won first place for our float, the 27th time in 28 years! Of course, I jest. Preparing the float for the parade takes a lot of time and effort and I thank everyone who helped put it together and the 22 folks who rode and walked the parade route.

Once again, I am reminded of the many who participate in the different ministries of The Ridge. A few Sundays ago, several stayed behind, raised the Christmas tree, and put up our decorations for the season. We all thank you!

While Christmas and all its responsibilities are already upon us, I want to share with you a few events that will make your Christmas most meaningful.

  • The Ridge Choir has been busy rehearsing the Cantata, “God Came Near”, which they will perform on Sunday, December 16, during worship.
  • Also, Jamie Robison has been working with our children on their Christmas program which will also be presented during worship on December 16, prior to the Cantata.
  • Then, our Annual Christmas Eve Candlelight service on December 24 begins at 5:30 p.m. The service is designed as a prelude to your Christmas Eve celebrations and will last about 30- 45 minutes. Dress is casual, come as you are. If possible, we ask that you bring a package of diapers for “Pregnancy Matters.” Find out more about their services at www.pregnancymatters.org

It is by intention that we have limited our Christmas activities. However, it makes these scheduled events even more precious and I challenge you to make it a priority to not only be present but also be passionate about inviting and bringing family and friends with you. To make your inviting easier we have tickets for you to give out. Check the Welcome Center.

Let me tell you about what is going on in Gorham!

The after school program resumed November 13. Each Tuesday we meet from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. at the Gorham Community Center. The program is designed for children in k- 6th grade, although there have been a few older and younger who are attending. We are excited for everyone who attends!

Each session begins as the children arrive with an activity that introduces the daily Bible focus. Some children arrive off the bus at 4 p.m. and others at 4:30 p.m. We have snacks and refreshments at the ready. After everyone arrives, the Bible study begins. We are using the same Bible study that we use for our children on Sunday morning at The Ridge Church.

Following the Bible study, the children complete the activity page. This is a take home page so the parents can visualize what the children are learning. Another component of our weekly study is to learn and review a memory verse.

In addition to the Bible Study, there is a mission study. Currently we are learning about the people who live in Mumbai, India. Our meeting concludes with an activity, game, or craft that will reinforce the lesson for the day.

We have experienced great support from the community. Last Tuesday’s attendance included 18 children and 6 leaders for a total of 24.

Please let our weekly leaders know how much you appreciate their ministry in Gorham: Allie and Lisa Hottensen, Angie James, Avis Barrett, Matt Philips, and Dennis Howell. And thank you to those who provide refreshments each week.

Please keep this ministry in your prayers. We will conclude this session on December 18 and hope to begin again in February 2019 as an Off-Campus Sunday School.

Christmas, Peace, & Jesus

Picture the perfect Christmas. Is it the making of the candy and cookies? Is it the perfect sized tree trimmed and glistening with lights and the exact right number and placement of silver icicles? Maybe it is a fire crackling in the fireplace with the stockings hung on the mantel with care. Or, all the family gathered together for one very elegant meal after opening up all the presents from under the tree.

December begins with high expectations but as the days race by the pursuit of the picture perfect day seems just beyond the grasp. Memories of Christmases past, family agendas, work schedules, the search for the perfect gift, finances, uncooperative weather, and over extended calendars, all seem to dampen our “Christmas Spirit”.

May I suggest two steps in making this Christmas at least a “Better Christmas”?

  1. Make the main thing the main thing. The best way to avoid turning into the Grinch is to remember the point of the holiday.
    Christmas isn’t about presents, trees, decorations, lights, or homemade fudge. It is the celebration of the day Jesus was born so we could be set free form our sin. Christmas is a celebration of God’s ultimate gift of salvation.
  2. Choose peace over chaos. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). This instruction is true for us today. We are called to live in peace, looking at our lives with thanks for what we have instead of complaining about what we don’t have. When peace rules, the stress of life slowly begins to fade away. Seeking Jesus and His peace this holiday season will ensure that you have the best Christmas ever.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Shoe boxes, and Grateful Hearts

I am looking forward to our annual Thanksgiving Dinner, Sunday at 6 p.m. I hope that you will be there and bring your whole family and all your friends. What a great opportunity to see everyone together. There is always so much great tasting food. It
is at meals like this that I wish I could eat more! Nevertheless, I will be content with a second helping of everything.

Contentment: Thanksgiving is a time to pause and contemplate on all that we have and joyfully give God thanks. Oh, life does not have to be perfect; it never is, for us to be content and thankful. In fact, contentment, thanksgiving, and joy are not found in a perfect life, or in wealth, or in our many accumulations. Rather contentment is the overflow of a grateful heart.

Grateful: Even in the midst of many of life’s challenges and struggles, we can live grateful and gracious lives. I am grateful for the people of The Ridge who so often rise to the occasion to provide for others.

For example, the postage money for sending 67 shoe-boxes at $9/each has been raised ($588). The funds for filling 20 Thanksgiving Food baskets has been received ($745). These baskets will be distributed in Gorham and to clients of Centerstone.

We were set to receive an offering for food baskets Sunday night. However, with our goal met, we will instead receive food items for the Murphysboro Food pantry. (The list of items needed is located in the newsletter).

There are still 18 Spirit of Christmas names to be claimed and the Week of Prayer for International missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas offering is just a few weeks away. I am confident that contented and grateful hearts will once again rise to the occasion to meet these Kingdom needs.


Never too early for VBS

Saturday Debbie and I, along with Lisa and Allie Hottensen attended the VBS Preview and Children’s Ministry Conference in Springfield.

First, I once again commend all of our Sunday School and Small Group leaders who attended training in Marion or Springfield. Thank you for your commitment and passion for learning and discovering new ways to reach and teach, as we journey together in our spiritual walk.

I certainly realize the challenge of committing time to training with so many other good activities competing for attention and priority. Therefore, we strive to offer only “top of the line” training opportunities that are worth your time.

Second, the VBS preview was a great introduction to this year’s VBS theme, “In The Wild.” The focus this year is on real-life encounters with Jesus. As we engage exotic animals, we will also find snapshots of Jesus in Scripture. Each snapshot will offer an opportunity to respond to the gospel. The adventure of a lifetime awaits!

It is not too early to make a commitment and volunteer in VBS. We need more volunteers this year. “Top of the line” VBS training will be at First Baptist Church, Carterville February 22, so save the date.

Third, LifeWay Research discovered in a recent study that 69% of American parents (churched AND unchurched) would encourage their children to attend VBS if they were invited by a friend. Let that sink in a minute—IF they were INVITED.

All it takes is an invitation. Wow, that’s easy! What are we waiting for? Let’s get started! Here are some quick tips to harness the power of a simple invitation.

  • Start with Relationship – Begin with your friends.
  • Extend a personal invitation –A personal invitation is a beautiful simple thing.
  • Get parents involved – Plugging parents into VBS gets them involved.
  • Know the goal – The reason we want kids (and parents) in VBS is that the message of the gospel is too important to miss.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

2019 Vision

This week’s edition of Rambling On … The Ridge includes a fair amount of eclectic information, which will certainly brighten up your day.

Copies of the completed 2019 Budget will be available Sunday morning by the Welcome Center. Please pick one up. The budget review and presentation will take place on Wednesday, October 24 at 6:30 and we will vote to approve the budget on Sunday, October 28, following the morning worship service.

Our Gorham ministry will resume on Wednesday, October 31 as we participate in the community’s “Trunk or Treat” event from 5-8 pm. There is a sign-up sheet near the welcome center if you would like to donate candy and/or decorate your “trunk”. Everyone, whether you provide candy or a trunk or not, is welcome to attend and enjoy the evening in Gorham.

This will be an easy time to become better acquainted with our Gorham friends.

Beginning Tuesday November 13 Team Kids in Gorham will resume from 4:30-5:30 p.m. for children through grade 6. We need volunteers to lead in the Tuesday sessions. There will be group training each week to go over each week’s lesson and plan. We will also need snacks and refreshments donated.

This Sunday afternoon (October 21) at 2:00 p.m. there will be an introductory meeting to go over the new material and answer questions you may have about the work in Gorham.

Please remember generously and prayerfully our end of year mission projects and offerings. In November, we are collecting for food baskets and postage for shoeboxes. In December, we support “Spirit of Christmas” and receive the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International Missions.

I want to thank Dennis Howell, Lisa Hottensen, Mallorie Little, and Diana Andrews for investing their time attending the Training Night in Marion. I believe that continuing training is the key to a vibrant, effective, and enthusiastic church ministry.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Update on Illinois Disaster Relief Efforts

Karissa Howell

Since September 16th, Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief has sent over 90 volunteers to help people in North Carolina. Sent out were eight Chainsaw/Mudout teams, four Shower/Laundry teams, two Feeding teams, one Assessor/Chaplain team, and one Incident Command team to Wallace, Lumberton, and Franklin, North Carolina.

These teams prepare meals for Red Cross workers to pass out to flood victims and maintain shower units so volunteers can have warm showers and clean laundry after long days in the field. In addition, the assessors and chaplains check the houses to make sure the volunteers are able to complete the requests. They also talk with the homeowners to assess any spiritual needs.

The National Disaster Relief director reported 3,000 work orders, with about 2,000 left to complete. They anticipate the work in NC continuing into December.

One of the biggest tasks undertaken is “Recovery” or Chainsaw/Mudout. These workers spend a day or more with the homeowners cutting down and removing trees or clearing out the flooded homes. They often have the most time to make ministry contacts and hand out tracts. At the end of the assignment, each homeowner is presented with a new Bible signed by all the workers.

With Hurricane Michael making landfall in the Florida panhandle, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers are on stand-by and ready to respond to the states affected. This is in addition to already being on call for Hurricane Florence. Please pray for the people affected by these storms.

If you are interested in being a part of Illinois Disaster Relief, there is a training on October 19-20 at Lake Sallateeska. Volunteers are needed to respond to local as well as national disasters. See Dennis or Karissa Howell for more information. To donate visit www.OnTheRidge.org/Give; “Give to:” Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Teach Us to Pray

How often do you pray? Do you pray with your eyes closed? Do you pray before meals? What about when you order a meal from a restaurant, or when dining alone? Do you pray before consuming a snack? Do you pray when you get up in the morning? When you go to bed at night? Do you pray when you hear the siren of an emergency vehicle? Then, there are the questions of how and what do you pray?

My questions about prayer have no end. Which reminds me, Paul instructs that it is God’s will for us to, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). There is a connection between joy, praying, and being thankful.

Pastor Alan Rhein, First United Methodist, Carbondale recently wrote about prayer. Allow me to share a few of his insights. There is no “magic” or “extra special power” when a pastor prays for a person. God hears and answers prayers with the same urgency when any of us pray. Prayer is not a “trick” we work out with God to get what we want. Instead, prayer should be a conversation with God, which provides inner strength to deal with the trial at hand. Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God. It is a relationship builder. The most important aspect we often forget about God is that God is listening! Just to know that God hears me and cares about me is often enough to get me through the immediate challenge.

I am inviting you to join me in a 7-week Bible study on “How to Pray” beginning 9 a.m. Sunday, October 14. All nine adult and two youth small groups will study this topic.

Our Small group leaders are passionate about teaching and facilitating the discussion each week. They are prepared and arrive by 8:45 a.m. each Sunday. You may choose almost any adult group to attend. The list of classes is available at the Hospitality Center or just call the office. If you are unsure about which class is for you, attend several.

Prayer tip:  If you are praying and driving, please keep your eyes OPEN!

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Time Marches On

As of today anyway, it appears as if the autumnal equinox and the weather forecast are in-sync. Yes, it is autumn and yes, we have experienced some autumn type temperatures. The low for Friday will dip to about 51. Just about right for me. Whether the weather cooperates or not seasonal changes are in the future.

God has provided markers to help us remember the changes that take place in our lives. Things don’t stay the same. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 which begins, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…”

We often take for granted the wonder and the workings of our world. We don’t even think about how intricate and fragile this world is and yet how enduring and magnificent it is as well.

We focus so much energy on the present that we ignore the world around us, the passage of time, and the changing of the seasons. We appear insulated from the changes that surround us. We watch our favorite programs on our own schedule. We don’t have to fret about above or below average temperatures. Just move the dial a few degrees up or down. So much technology at our fingertips persuades
us that we are in control and are indeed masters of our own fate.

The reality of Ecclesiastes reminds us that this is God’s world, God created it all, God is in control, and we are his creation.

Yes, like the seasons, life is changing for us all, and we are not in control.
Nevertheless, rest easy, we belong to God and everything is under God’s control.

“Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

We Labor Together with God, Wes