My Intentions for 2011

>> Thursday, December 30, 2010

I work half days on this week between Christmas and New Years. My focus is celebrating the past year and planning (goal setting) for the coming year. I also take extra time to pray, reflect and read. I want this blog to be a place where I pull back the curtain and you can see a little of my heart as I give leadership to our church.

The Seed Goes Everywhere!
I've been focusing on the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:1-15). I've always been struck by the extravagant scattering of the seed (God's Word). It was scattered everywhere--on the path, on the rocks, in the weeds and even in good soil. There was no stinginess or apparent carefulness in how the seed was shared. It just got put out there; flung everywhere.

I so much want our church to sow seed like that. Just put God's Word out there everywhere! But do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). But just do it! Sow seeds of His truth in our families, our neighborhoods, work places, our friendships, our small groups....seed flying everywhere across the Cedar Valley and the world.

Celebrating Christmas Eve
I was celebrating in my heart on Christmas Eve when I was introduced to several people who were invited 'on the arm of a trusted friend" who are far from the church and maybe far from God. Many of you sowed seeds with invitations and I thank you.

The last verse of the parable has really struck me this week.

But seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15)

My Intentions for 2011
So, I've been thinking about my intentions for 2011. What do I intend to be true about my life this coming year? Obviously, only with God's help and strength can any of this happen! Here are a few of my intentions:

I intend to persevere in abiding with Christ and through that abiding bear some fruit.

I intend to keep my life and our church focused on outreach to those far from God.

I intend to love, serve, encourage and enjoy my family.

I intend to keep striving and risking for impact in Orchard's five communities.

I intend to expand my impact and utilize my influence in my own 6th community (those places where God has given me influence).

These are not so much 2011 goals or resolutions as a prayer that God would help me persevere and produce a crop that would be pleasing to Him. I believe 2011 is an incredible year of opportunity and ministry. I am passionate about what God will do through our lives and our church!


I love Christmas!

>> Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's true. I love the feelings and practices of Christmas. I love the focus upon God's greatest gift and the focus upon family together time. For our family, the Christmas season officially begins the Friday morning after Thanksgiving when we go out to the farm to cut our trees. Later that weekend we decorate and begin playing Christmas music. My wife, Linda, begins to take whatever grandkids are around through the stories of the Jesse Tree.

Last weekend we had our immediate family Christmas. It was a blast. We celebrated from Friday's supper through late afternooon on Sunday. All of our kids and grandkids were home. Our parents (the great grandparents) stopped in to watch, play and hold the new baby. Jackson.
We laughed, told stories, created and played games, opened gifts, and sang Christmas carols. The focus of our time was each other, God's greatest gift, fun and food. (Linda, my wife, does an amazing job on food!)

We make up games. My kids (led by Ben) created a new game I would call family room pong which was something like playing racquet ball off the family room walls with ping pong balls and paddles. I reinstituted for a second generation, the game "refrigerator" which means that grandpa lays on the floor and 8 grandkids climb on him and try to keep him from moving. Grandpa's goal and the way to score is for me to reach the refrigerator (thus the name). It was hilarious to watch the kids wrestle, fight and pull to keep grandpa from moving.

In the evenings, we shut off the lights except the tree and candles and sing Christmas carols. Each grandchild gets to choose which one they want us to sing. Our grandkids also shared favorite parts of the celebration.

Sometimes, I hear great frustation with the direction of our culture and with the commercialization of Christmas. Sometimes, I'm in converstaions with people and their focus can be everything that is wrong with the world. Sometimes, fear and frustration are the driving emotions even Christians want to express.

I love Christmas because it is one season of the year when each of us has great influence over where our focus and the focus of our family will be. Will you and I get the focus right. Will we pour out our lives in service to each other? Will we get the focus on the silent and holy night of God's gift? Will fun be a key element? Will we build traditions that will be passed into future generations?

Linda says we have about 50 coming for Christmas Day. Probably not a lot of quiet in our house that day. But I bet there will be fun!

I love Christmas because the season gives us the opportunity to get quiet, to reflect upon God's greatest gift, and to invest in those we love.


Amazed & Perplexed!

>> Saturday, December 11, 2010

Amazed and Perplexed!

When the church is working right and led by the Spirit of God we find ourselves amazed and perplexed (Acts 2:28) so often by what God does. God is amazing and perplexing! He is good. He is so at work!

"Amazed and perplexed" is exactly how I feel as I reflect upon The Christmas Store and Craft Fair which took place this morning in Walnut Neighborhood in East Waterloo.

235 volunteers arrived early in the rain to both the Boys and Girls Club and Harvest Vineyard Church. We helped 223 families purchase gifts for their children and many other families made gifts and crafts at the Craft Fair. Watching the smiles, hearing the stories, watching our personal shoppers carry gifts around the store for the shoppers, watching hugs, was awesome.

Our volunteers were unbelievable, fantastic, positive, helpful....the hands and feet of Jesus.
Our donors were amazing in this $45-50,000 project. (the estimated cost of these 1770 toys and cash gifts given).
Our Big House, BASIC, and CHAOS gave 259 gifts!
Laura's leadership and the 13 key leaders who made this happen were organized partners working together on an important Christmas project.

The weather worked perfectly. Rain throughout and then just as we were closing down beautiful snow! And tonight I look out our windows at a blizzard! Amazing.
So many people have a story from this morning. Several have already emailed that this event will be a favorite time from the whole season. Many people received "thanks" and hugs.
I was so proud to partner with our fantastic volunteers and leaders. I think my heart grew 3 sizes this morning as I watched, helped a little and prayed for all of us involved.


>> Monday, December 6, 2010

Do you ever get so far behind in your work that all you can do is laugh at yourself? That happens to me sometimes and it happened last Friday afternoon.

The forecast was for 2-4 inches of snow. Some flakes had started falling. I decided if was my last opportunity to do the fall cleaning of the eaves on our house. So I get out the ladder and begin to pull the leaves and pine needles out of the eaves. Of course, they are frozen in place which makes the task a lot more difficult. The snowflakes were beautiful and I couldn't help but laugh at myself. Who else is out cleaning their eaves during the beginning of a winter snow watch?

Here I am fighting the ice. Frozen hands. Cold feet. Frosty ears. People driving by probably thought I was hanging Christmas lights. (I know most people who do lights had them done a couple weeks ago!) Again, I've just gotten behind in my daily tasks at home. How does this happen?

I'm thinking that a whole bunch of my friends and partners are feeling way behind as the holidays approach. I'm thinking that there is much to do and even now the time is feeling short. I'm thinking about those who will shortly have new babies, or those who are starting new jobs, or moving, or those who have over-committed their time to good projects. I'm thinking about school programs, presents to buy, meals to plan, and schedules to coordinate.

Last week at BASIC (the large group worship event at UNI) I taught one of my favorite verses--

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

I'm praying that you and I could have peace from Christ as we approach the holidays. And then with peace in our hearts, maybe we can continue to laugh at ourselves as we work to catch up. Maybe right in the holiday rush we can find the peace and presence of Jesus the Christ. I hope that can be true for both you and I.


Thanksgiving: A Holiday and a Discipline of the Heart

>> Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Before the busyness of the holiday weekend sets in, I want to blog just a little about my journey with thankfulness. I've known for a long time, that being thankful changes me in powerful and deep ways. So, the other morning at 6:00 a.m. I started to journal about the things in my life for which I'm thankful. On that morning, in 90 minutes, I journaled 81 entires for which I am thankful. Here's a few of the things I give thanks for:

1. Jesus--his death, resurrection and the hope I receive from him

2. God's capturing my heart during college

3. The promise of heaven--especially with Ralph there now

4. Linda, my loving partner of 40 years

5. Opportunities that we have to serve together

6. Jeremy--my oldest son who was born on my 22nd birthday

7. Ben--who lives nearby and partners in many ways

8. Joel--who lives in Ames and brings so much friendship and humor into our family

9. Emily--my only daughter and my "old" running partner

20. Health. Unbelievable health.

26. The ability to think clearly most days

27. The health and love of 3 parents who are supportive and interested in our lives

37. Several thousand pictures that remind me of our past life

45. Our ten special and unique grandchildren who live within 2 hours of our home

49. Orchard's Leadership Team for their spiritual growth and continual surrender of our church to the Lordship of Christ.

55. Good books to keep learning

59. The way sunrises and sunsets touch my heart

67. Quiet times with God

77. The opportunity to swing our grandkids in the backyard and to wrestle with them in the family room

I'm sure you get the idea. Now I'm working to think of more than 81. In fact, my list is now at 91 and growing. Last night, Charlie, my oldest grandson who had heard of my list called me over with a smirk on his face. "Grandpa, how many things are on your "thankful" list?" Eighty-one I remembered. "Grandpa, we have 104 on our list. We're way ahead of you!"

So, I guess the question is: How many things are on your "thankful" list? Have you even started one yet?

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you'll invest some time being thankful.


The HeART Project--Sometimes God just works!

>> Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes God just works and surprises us! That was my experience at the HeART Project on Saturday night at Orchard Hill Church. The whole thing was amazing and perplexing which I know from the book of Acts is how God works.

Acts 2:12--Amazed and perplexed, people asked one another, "What does this mean?"

Acts 2:37--they were cut to the heart

Acts: 2:47--they were praising God!

I had all of those things going on with me! I was amazed and perplexed, I was cut to the heart and I was praising God!

The pictures above tell a little of the story. It was Megan Pattee who heard the whisper from God's Spirit to do this thing for the children of Haiti and she is pictured (behind the sign) with her family and support team. The other picture of the Youth Art Team were young people who invested weeks to learn and grow in art and gave their work for the cause. It was beautiful and creative. It told a story from life. Those who mentored and partnered with the Youth Art Team had amazing stories and even the front page of the courier last Thursday got in on telling the story.

I walked in and had a great conversation with our partners JeanJean and Kristie who lead the church ministry in Haiti with which we partner. Then I took a look at the art. It struck me that these artists had given so much of themselves and now they were giving even more by offering their work for sale with all proceeds to benefit Haitian children. Striking!

Then, I noticed the crowd of people who were attending. It was a beautiful mix of people from all walks of life, all ages and many from the church and many not from a church. People partnered for a cause; aligned with a passion. People who were working and loving kids they've never met. All of this: the art, the crowd, the Haiti partners, the muscians in a church Atrium and lobby.

Sometimes, I just stop in the midst of a happening like that night and say a prayer of praise that God doesn't check with me before he moves in surprising and stong ways. He just moves.

Sometimes, I try to picture the spiritual reality of what is going on in heaven and I think I see the God of the universe smiling as someone does good in the name of Jesus! And then I think of His prayer...thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven....I think He still does miracles just like in Acts 2. And sometimes I get to see those miracles.


Noticing The Unseen

>> Thursday, November 4, 2010

My favorite Bible verse this week is 2 Corinthians 4:18....

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

This week I've been looking for the unseen and the eternal. I thought I'd point to some of the unseen I've been noticing and celebrating. I have to slow down and look with different eyes to notice the unseen all around me.

It was easy to spot our new 12 pound, 10 ounce grandson born last Friday evening. His parents, Joel and Sally, named him Jackson Joel Bartlett. The nurses nicknamed him Bubba. What was unseeable with mere human eyes were the love, commitment and gratefulness of two parents and two grandparents who know clearly that he is a precious gift from God.

Last night anyone could see with their eyes a couple hundred junior high kids on the gym floor at CHAOS. What was unseen were the decisions and thoughts and prayers that were in their hearts as they were challenged to plan to live sexually pure so they'd have no regrets.

Last Sunday my human eyes watched the k-6 children in the loft. I could see that the eyes and attention of all the kids were riveted by Joshua as he obeyed God and the walls of Jericho were destroyed. What was unseen were the seeds of God's truth taking root in the hearts of some precious little ones and how those seeds will spout one day and from that group of children will come fully devoted followers of Jesus who will continue to build God's kingdom on earth.

I receive our church prayer list almost daily on my computer screen. I read it with human eyes. What is sometimes unseen are the answers to the thousands of prayers prayed by people who care enough to pray for those in need. What is unseen if how so often those who are prayed for feel the very presence of God.

So how about you? Are you noticing the unseen? Are you slowing down enough and quieting down enough to to notice the unseen? I hope you and I will both keep looking for the unseen.


A good man dies and a little man is born!

>> Saturday, October 23, 2010

My father-in-law Ralph Ridder died on Thursday evening at 7:13 p.m. It was a mix of great sadness and incredible joy all at the same time.

At 6:30 p.m. those family who had come to the hosptial on that evening gathered in his ICU room for prayers and encouragement and singing. I believe there were eighteen of us standing around his bed in the intensive care room. His breathing and his pulse were getting weaker and weaker. He had been unconscious for the past 5 days. Just that afternoon we had been told his medical prognosis was not good.

Ralph had been a committed and very involved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. He was a member and very active attender here at Orchard. Walt Rogers prayed. His three grandchildren who are worship leaders (Alli Rogers, Michael Rogers, Ben Bartlett) led the singing. I often talk about holy moments. This was one of those very holy moments where God is present and real. We prayed and we sang and we talked with Ralph.

My son Jeremy arrived at about 7:00 p.m. to say goodbye to his grandpa. Ben led the whole group in singing In Christ Alone....the final lines are something like....Till he returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I'll stand!

At the conclusion of the song Ralph had been called to heaven. Someone this morning said he simply moved from one choir to another. He did love all kinds of music. Two knee replacements in this earthly body and now he's probably dancing in heaven. Within 45 minutes his family had moved to the waiting area to think about how to celebrate his life at his funeral service.

He was a very good man. He finished well. He left a huge legacy of family who loved him and want to live their lives for Jesus.

Today his 19th great grandchild was born: Joseph Thomsen Majerus. He'll be buried on Tuesday and on Friday or Saturday his 20th great grandchild will be born. Life goes on. He'll be missed! One day there will be another family reunion in heaven. What stories we'll tell.

It was Jesus who said, "I go to prepare a place for you. If it were not so, I would have told you."


Enouragement and Support Really Matter!

>> Monday, October 18, 2010

Yesterday began early as I drove across Des Moines to set up for the short marathon worship service. At 7:30 it was crisp and cool. Enrique Ochoa led a couple of worship songs. We read scripture and prayed for the runners and the opportunity to be salt and light in this environment called the IMT Des Moines Marathon.
Some of the other 8,000 runners listened and watched as we spent this time together honoring our God. Many nodded in agreement with what we were doing. The officials of the marathon interviewed Don Williams, our coach, and encouraged people to donate to our cause of building a school in Mozambique. Many people understood and appreciated what we were doing.
Then the race began! Eight thousands runners and many more people who were there to encourage and cheer began to engage in the race. It was very moving to watch runners crosss the finish line to reach a goal they had set for themselves. So many were crossing a marathon finish line for the first time and doing it for a cause that is much bigger than any one of us.
The one theme I continually heard from the runners was that the marathon support team (wearing green shirts), who cheered and encouraged, made a huge difference. They said there were green shirts everywhere. People who stood with us, encouraged and cheered us. They said every time they were getting tired or down there would be more green shirts cheering them on during this very hard race. The green shirts played a key role
Life is like a marathon. I ended yesterday in a hospital waiting room with many of my extended family. My wife's dad, Ralph Ridder, is in intensive care and not doing well at all. He has been unconscious since Saturday and I watched as our family encouraged each other and especially his wife Bev. Some of our family drove in from out of town to sit together, to pray and to be an encouragement to each other and to Bev.
As I reflected upon our family gathered, I wanted to put green shirts on each of them because they were so important as an encouragement during a very difficult part of this race called life. It is so very true that we need each other whether running a marathon or sitting in a hospital waiting room. We need each other for encouragement and for help.
Yesterday began with scripture and prayer in a park with several hundred people in the middle of a marathon environment. Yesterday ended with scripture and prayer around a hospital bed with 16 family members. In both cases, people desperately needed each other for encouragement and support.


Another Powerful Sunday!

>> Monday, October 11, 2010

Forty-one Receive Bibles
Forty-one 2nd graders received a Bible from Orchard Hill Church yesterday in the 11:00 a.m. service. What a great picture of our desire to influence young people for Jesus Christ!
Forty-one were present to receive their Bibles and 18 were unable to attend. God has given us the privilege and responsibility to help 59 2nd graders choose to become fully devoted followers of Christ. What an awesome responsibility.
New Members
Yesterday, we also met for the second time with our current new members class where approximately 30 people are choosing to join the mission of Orchard. As they shared their stories with us, we had the privilege to hear how God has been at work in their lives. It is so affirming and encouraging to hear their thoughts and hopes for their involvement with Orchard and their growth in Jesus Christ.
God is Trustworthy
Yesterday, I also taught at the Cedar Falls campus in the series ViewFinder and on the topic of: God is Trustworthy. During the morning I interacted with many people who are in all kinds of pain and struggles. It again reminded me that God is trustworthy on both my best and worst day in this life.
I just received this in an email which included this:
And the truth is that if He is only trustworthy when things are going my way then He is not trustworthy at all. He either has to be trustworthy on the worst day as well as the best day or He is not trustworthy.”
Dave, these 2 highlighted sentences from your Sunday’s sermon spoke profoundly to me.


Busy Weekends

>> Monday, October 4, 2010

This past weekend was busy but outstanding!

Our entire family was home for a couple of days. It was so fun to watch our grandchildren playing together in the back yard. Five of them slept in tents and all nine brought smiles to Linda and I. We stopped for this quick picture on our deck. I watched several grandkids participating in our Great Adventure program on Sunday. Family working well is an amazing gift of God! We expect grandchild number 10 in late October.

Have you noticed how busy weekends are for people these days? There’s football, soccer, family commitments, music, weddings, church services, concerts, travel, yard work and the list goes on and on.

Orchard has a strong committed group of staff people whose weekends include all of the above, plus many ministry events! I want this blog post to be a strong affirmation of our staff people who serve our church in a very committed way and especially serve on the weekends. Thank you to the staff of Orchard. You are amazing.

This past weekend included: a wedding, a rehearsal dinner, communion at 6 worship services, a CD release concert by Sky Like Fire, a new members class, Picnic in the Park, baby shower, Boy Scout Retreat, small group meetings, volleyball, basketball, a community worship choir and all of our regular Sunday morning events. Wow. That’s a lot of opportunities for ministry in one weekend.

I hope that you had a great fall weekend! I hope that you are finding ways to draw near to Christ during this busy fall season.


Crazy Holy Moments!

>> Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last night I was able to look in on several of our key Wednesday night ministries! I was with the volunteers who serve at our CHAOS (Christ Has All Our Solutions) Junior High Ministry in order to provide a little training. I was struck as I watched car after car lined up to drop off junior high students and then I watched students get out of those cars and enthusiastically head to CHAOS. They were obviously looking forward to this night.

I arrived later as 220 people were finishing our Families Connecting meal. I looked in for a moment at the parents of first graders who were preparing for this year’s first Faith At Home. I stood in the back at BIG HOUSE and watched several hundred high school students worship God and listen to great teaching. It seemed to me like a very powerful night filled with holy moments. I also know we had a leadership class and a Men’s Bible Study during the evening.

My challenge to the CHAOS volunteers (many are college students) was to remember that it is a holy moment when they sit with a small group of 5-8 junior high students and talk together about God and personal faith. When a young person listens and then shares what they are thinking or what they believe, it can be awesome holy moment in time. A moment of great value where God can work.

As I reflected upon the evening, I think I saw lots of those holy moments. I watched Big House begin in a crazy way. For just a moment, I even asked myself if our Student Ministry Directors knew what they were doing. Then, in the next 45 minutes I saw students engaged deeply in learning and worshipping. Oh, Dave such little faith!

I also watched visitors being welcomed. Smiles and greetings. Laughter. Hugs. Friendships. Basketballs flying everywhere. Parents visiting with each other’s children. Families eating together. Prayers. I even heard there was an obstacle course. Each of these present a possible holy moment where God can work in His own way.

This was just one night. Tomorrow is the first Mom’s Morning Out. Bethel Bible Study is beginning. The Marathon Team is running. Our Sunday morning services have changed times with a new teaching series beginning next week. The Young Adults are meeting on Sunday mornings. Route 55 has activities planned. The list of opportunities is endless. God is at work!

I hope and pray that each of us find a good place (the right place) for God to touch us during this fall season.


Easily and Deeply Inspired!

>> Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ok, it's true. I get inspired and encouraged by many things every week. That's how God made me.

I get inspired when someone tells me they've made a new commitment to Jesus. I get inspired when parents bring their new little baby to church for the first time. I get inspired when a gym full of students are worshiping Jesus at CHAOS or BIG HOUSE or when I see 30 small groups of students meeting with Christian adults who care for them. I get inspired when people introduce me to a friend they brought to church for the first time. I get inspired when people donate resource to God's kingdom work! I get inspired when my grandchildren are learning about Jesus at Great Adventure.

Two things from last Sunday inspired me. The marathon team video and team picture inspired me. I'm certain that those on the team are growing physically and spiritually in incredible ways as they encourage each other. The video (shown Sunday and available on YouTube)reminded me about the life-change God is doing thru our work in Mozambique. Last summer, when I was there, I was surprised by the amount of good our resources can accomplish and how God was using our resources to help so many know Him.

And then at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday a dozen families came to our sanctuary to dedicate themselves and their 18 children to Christ. Our sanctuary was mostly filled with friends and family who came to be part of this dedication service. As each couple dedicated their children, friends and family came and surrounded the parents and children as we prayed for each family. It was moving to stand in the back and watch so many adults commit themselves before God to help these children grow up to become followers of Christ.

It reminded me of Deuteronomy 6:6, "...These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Parents and family are the first and most important carriers of the gospel to their children.

I am so grateful that we are a church family who have chosen to give Christian parents, who are seeking God, the opportunity to baptise and/or dedicate their children. I'm also grateful that nine weeks ago we gave our people the opportunity to go to George Wyth Lake to be baptized as followers of Christ. God is a big God who works in our lives in so many different ways!!


The Church Belongs to Jesus

>> Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One of Jesus Christ's most foundational teachings about the church is that the church belongs to Him. It is His. He purchased it with His blood on Good Friday and gave it hope with His resurrection on Easter Sunday. The church does not belong to the leaders, or pastors, or big donors, or charter members. The church belongs to Jesus. And the church is not a building, or an organization but a collection of followers of Christ.

Jesus said to Peter, "...on this rock I will build MY church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it ..." (Matthew 16:18)

So, the other night our Orchard Leadership Team met in the basement of Lincholn Center Christian Reformed Church in rural Grundy County and asked what Jesus wants for these two local congregations. Would there be a way for these congregations to partner for the glory of God? Should Lincoln Center become a ministry of Orchard focused upon those whom Jesus would have them to reach? There were no immediate answers in the basement that night. We will keep discerning the will of God on this. We will seek scriptural answers, missional answers, relational answers and in all of it, we will continue to follow Jesus as best we can.

I was so pleased that we together seemed to be asking the really important question: What would Jesus want for His church? How do we best use His church to accomplish His mission?

That's the same question we should ask about our 6th community each morning. Lord, what do you want me to do today, to build your kingdom in the part of the world where you have given me influence. I hope you're asking yourself that question!


Some CCDA Conference Quotes!

>> Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One of the amazing features of last week's CCDA Conference was the delegation of people who attended together from the Cedar Valley. Our delegation included partners from Orchard Hill, Havest Vineyard, Shout Ministries and a staff from Prairie Lakes. We laughed, shared and learned together. Here's a picture of our delegation except for Mayor Buck Clark.

I was impressed with the heart and mind of the founder of CCDA. Several statements made by John Perkins continue to stick in my heart and mind. I wanted to write a few of them down:

The best welfare program in the world is a good job.

Redistribution is not giving stuff away; but giving people the opportunity to earn and create.

The gospel is the first responsibility in every home.

Do something now with what you've got!

People with a problem have to take first responsibility for solving the problem.

God has hidden his face from us so that we can see his image in each other.

According to God's Word, fear is to be managed with courage.


John Perkins and Chicago

>> Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm in Chiago this week attending the CCDA Conference with a team from the Cedar Valley. We have a team of about 25 people including staff and volunteers from Orchard, staff and volunteers from Harvest Vineyard, Buck Clark, the mayor of Waterloo and others.

CCDA stands for Christian Community Development Association. This association shares tried and true Biblical principles for developing under-resourced communities of people. The founders and speakers are people who have been living and serving in their under-resourced communities for more than 30 years. Their philosophy of ministry has strongly influenced Orchard's philosophy of doing mission beyond our walls into our five focus communities.

So far I've been inspired by four things:

1. The clear foundation of their work is Jesus Christ and they are very clear that the first help we need to be ready to give is to reconcile people to God through Christ. (Galatians 2:20).

2. John Perkins, their 80 year old founder still has the fire of Christ and the clarity to serve young people and communities. He is definitely a biblical prophet to our day!

3. Even though CCDA is not organized as a church they understand and teach the importance of us being the church--the body of Christ--his hands and feet in the world today.

4. This morning was beautiful and I went for a 45 miniute run/walk along Navy Pier, the lake and the Chicago River. It cleared my head and helped me see God's beauty in the cityscape. Since then I've been inspired by the 25 people who've come with us to learn and grow.


How much do we care?

>> Saturday, September 4, 2010

Yesterday I had 6 appointments with a total of 8 people. I love days when I get to be with people in an honest and focused way.

The discussion in the final appointment has stayed with me. A leader of our church and a good friend of mine after sharing news from our summers, asked several important and honest questions. The quetions focused upon how much do I and the leaders of Orchard really care about our mission. How much do we care and how intensely are we focused upon reaching people who are far from God, reaching young families, and making our Sunday mornings everything they can be for people's lives.

There are so many messages in our world that say...things should be easy! We shouldn't have to work that hard, we shouldn't have to sacrifice, we should just be average. That's good enough. Let's just get by.

The truth is that it takes focus, sacrifice and commitment to make good things happen. I'm going to be asking our staff, our leaders and myself how much we care about the mission. God has given our church a great mission. I'm usiing this Labor Day weekend to think this through for myself.


The Gathering serves Orchard and touches my heart!

>> Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sunday was the 4th and largest Gathering for Orchard with 1880 people attending. Many Orchard folks told me it was our most inspiring event yet at the Gallagher-Bluedorn.
Between the 9:00 and 10:30 services, I stood on a high step in the lobby of the Performing Arts Building and watched our congregation leaving the 9:00 a.m. service and coming to the 10:30 service. We no longer fit into one service there, but for a few moments many of our church family were together in the lobby.

That moment of seeing the lobby completely packed really touched my heart. I watched friends visiting, greeters greeting, children smiling, introductions happening, people coming and going! Most of Orchard was together in that moment. I remembered, in that moment, that God is doing something very special in our church. He is blessing us, growing us, challenging us, using us and bringing joy into our lives. We are blessed to be a blessing.

In that moment, I deeply understood again, it's worth it! It's worth facing all the problems, raising all the money, being in all the meetings, working all of the long days, and praying continually for oneness in the Cedar Valley. It's worth it! Serving Jesus by building a healthy and prevailing church family is worth whatever sacrifice He requires.

Sometimes God uses parents introducing me to a brand new baby at church to remind me it's worth it. Sometimes He uses a quiet time in backyard (or in the mountains) to remind me. Sometimes it's a powerful appointment with a new believer. On Sunday He used a crowd to remind me it's all worth it.

By the way, wasn't what happened inside the Great Hall pretty awesome also. Thanks to Todd Thomas for his courage and vulnerability (and for his family being present!). Thanks to the musicians for very inspiring worship and to all the tech people. Especially thanks to Travis and Anne Duncan for their hard work even after having twins recently. You can see Travis was doing double duty at the sound board. The interview and video of the ESPYs are avaialable on our website.
Not to us, but to God be the glory!


Taking Time To Debrief

>> Friday, August 27, 2010

Wednesday I was in Chicago with other church leaders to debrief the Global Leadership Summit. Our expeerience with the Leadership Summit as rookie satellite site was extremely positive and I found that most others had similar experiences. It was good to take time to debrief and to give input on next year's event. Orchard will again host the Global Summit on August 11 and 12, 2011.

The 4.5 hour drive back from Chicago gave me additional time to debrief my summer and this past week. It got me thinking about debriefing itself and how important it is to debrief each day and each week.

Many mornings I journal as I begin my day. Each journal entry includes two key beginning phrases that help me to focus my thoughts. I've journaled this way for maybe ten years. The two phrases are:

Yesterday....and then I reflect upon what God did and what I did yesterday.....the facts of what happened and where I could see God at work and where I was in touch with him.

On the inside, I' me the opportunity to debrief what's going on inside me. These are things that I often ignore unless I give them specific focus and take time to think about.

In August, my wife, Linda, and I had our 40th wedding anniversary. As a celebration gift our children gave us a book with pictures, highlights and notes from them about our 40 years together. During our recent vacation, I read that "anniversary" book four times. In effect, I was again taking time to debrief (and remember) our 40 years together. It was very helpful and faith-building to review all that God has done in our lives during that time.

Most of my debriefing, whether it's about the Global Summit, or yesterday, or even my past 40 years with my wife, leads me to the deep conviction that God is faithful. He is faithful. One verse I'm thinking about this weekend is 2 Timothy 2:3, "If we are faithfless, God will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

So, I simply ask you the question: Have you taken time lately to debrief? Maybe it would be helpful to you as it has been for me?


Alaska Was Beautiful!

>> Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My wife, Linda, and I returned from Alaska on Monday morning. We were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary by enjoying the incredible landscape of this "last frontier".

My overwhelming spiritual experience of this trip was that our amazing, creator God spoke all of this frontier into existence and then gave it to us to care for and enjoy. What a God. Each time I sat on our veranda and experienced the ocean and the mountains, the glaciers and the whales, I felt the presence of God and received His great love.

As many of you know, one of my pathways to connecting with God is nature. When I experience nature, I feel very close to God and I get a greater perspective of who I am. When I'm in nature I deeply understand Romans 1:20

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualitities--his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from wht has been made, so that men are without excuse."

When I see the mountains and glaciers I realize that God is immense, powerful, eternal....
When I see and hear the whales I realize that God is creative, inventive, loving....
When I see tiny wild flowers I realize God notices even the little things...
When I see the stars and the oceans I remember that we know so little and He is all wise!

I hope you have some time in nature soon!


Amazing Global Summit!

>> Saturday, August 7, 2010

Today is the first day of a weeklong vacation to the mountains of Alaska. One joke in our family is about how early I get up when I'm on vacation. So, 5:00 a.m. seems an appropriate time for my first morning.

Before I fly to Seattle, I had to write a few thoughts about the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit that Orchard Hill Church hosted for the first time these last two days. I had two primary concerns as our leadership chose to host the Summit. I was concerned we wouldn't be able to recruit enough people to attend and I was concerned that I would not be able to focus upon this event in the same ways as other years and God would not touch my soul as He has in the past.

A whisper from God that I heard during this year's Summit was "have faith." As a leader with the spiritual gifts of leadership, administration and encouragement, I often have to lean into someone else's gift of faith. I'm so glad that God's plan was for the church to be a spiritual community where we utilize the gifts of each other.

So, attendance was way beyond expectations with 350 people from 23 churches and several corporate teams. 200 people from Orchard attended. And I was touched by God more deeply than in past years. I was touched at the beginning of each session as I would look around and realize how many friends, teammates, and family members with whom I was getting to experience this event. And I was deeply touched when we sang together the song, "I have decided to follow Jesus!" I been singing (and meaning) that song for more than 50 years and I am resolved to follow him intensely to my last breath. I ask God to help me keep this on-going promise!

I'm blown away by what a fantastic staff team and Leadership Board God has given to Orchard Hill Church. This surfaces so clearly during challenging events like the Global Summit.


God-Sightings Last Evening!

>> Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I visited Grundy Vacation Bible School at the Grundy fairgrounds last night. Jenn Vennega, our Children’s Ministry Staff person there, christened the building in which they meet “The Sauna.” It was hot and sweat was dripping from volunteers and kids alike.

But it was hot in more ways than temperature and humidity. The love between the kids and the volunteers was obvious. The message of Jesus was clear. The music and singing (and dancing) brought a smile to many faces. Something about the energy of 160 kids, 120 volunteers and 6 churches doing ministry together was contagious.

I visited one of the sites and they were teaching kids about God-sightings. I was so touched by the simple yet profound truths that we were teaching the little ones. You can see evidence for God and you can see God at work if you look carefully for Him in your daily life.

Sometimes I need the same simple and profound truths that we teach our children. God is so at work.

I got in my office this morning and I opened my emails to pictures and stories from Orchard’s participation in the Walnut Neighborhood party last night. There were pictures of our church volunteers partnering with our mayor, our police and fire department along with neighborhood leaders. The entire event happened in the Harvest Vineyard parking lot. Great fun with a purpose!


The Passion of the Young; the Wisdom of the Old!

>> Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I was inspired by the Caravan Return Service on Sunday morning at 10:30 in our Community Center. The interviews with staff and students painted a great spiritual picture of what had transpired on this week-long trip. The video showed a picture of fun with a purpose of helping students take next steps in their relationships with Jesus Christ.

Our younger staff was filled with passion at the life-change they had seen and felt on the trip. They obviously had poured out their energies for the students during this week.
Then Enrique Ochoa, from Nazareth, stepped to the stage and shared for a few minutes about milestones he’s noticed on his 22 consecutive Caravan trips. He shared some powerful life experiences and challenged both students and parents.

And I thought again, what a great thing it is when the passion of the young can be mixed with the wisdom of the old. Now, I don’t want to be the one to draw the line between the passionate young and the wise old ones. But, I do want to say thanks to both groups who honored Jesus by volunteering and serving on this trip.


It's like a Cubs game!

>> Thursday, July 29, 2010

As I’m in my office at the Cedar Falls campus this afternoon, it reminds me of being in the stands of a Cubs game in Chicago a few years ago. I was sitting next to my son, Jeremy, who was intently watching the game and made this comment, “Dad, there’s so much going on I cannot keep up with the action!” I was in the seat next to him watching the game and I couldn’t tell that there was anything going on in this particular ballgame. I was not noticing the strategy moves, the signals, the changing placement of players, the coaches in the dugout, the designated hitter, etc, etc, etc, We were seeing two completely different pictures of the same game.

This afternoon seems quiet here at our building. Not many people around. It seems like a lazy summer afternoon. But that would be missing the true picture of God at work through the ministry of Orchard Hill Church. So here’s what I’m seeing this afternoon. There’s so much going on that I can hardly keep up with the action....

Our Caravan trip is in Tennessee and our Student Ministry Staff are presenting God’s truths to 135 teenagers who are developing great community and whose hearts are getting more and more open. The return worship service is on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in our Community Center.

Last night at the park in Walnut Neighborhood in East Waterloo, several high school, college and adult leaders reached out to a pile of kids which included singing happy birthday to a 3 year old who was there with siblings. Doug Tensen said this kind of outreach can be addicting!

One of our Chuckwagon teams (led by Craig Patterson) is preparing to serve breakfast to hundreds of Ragbrai 2010 riders in Waterloo tomorrow morning. They will provide encouraging “salt and light” as well as a nutritious breakfast with the funds going to support one of our five focus communities.

Our Grundy VBS Team is preparing for the kickoff of that VBS which involved 7 churches working together in the community of Grundy Center.

Our leaders are working intensively to prepare for the Global Leadership Summit that takes place at Orchard next Thursday and Friday. 348 people from this part of Iowa including 201 from Orchard Hill’s congregation are registered. This has far exceeded my expectations and Willow’s goals for us!

Tonight Duane Svoboda and I meet with a team from our Grundy campus trying to discern the future of facilities for that part of our church.

Sunday is also Picnic In the Park at Lincoln Park in downtown Waterloo. This partnership event needs more volunteers for this Sunday and has been a huge and strong outreach to many in the neighborhood this summer. The event provides a great lunch and a worship service outdoors in the park.

My prayer is that all of this movement and activity is used by God in the lives of people who are becoming more fully devoted followers of Christ. If that happens, then Orchard is reaching the mission that we believe God has given to us.

Have a great weekend!


Who Gets To Do This?

>> Friday, July 23, 2010

A couple days ago I was having breakfast with Neil McMahon. He was showing me pictures from his recent trip to Mozambique, Africa. He and Barb recently led our mission team to the Gorongosa area which is one of the five communities we are focused on.

Looking at the pictures was emotional for me because I spent 10 days there last summer. One picture especially caught my attention. It was a picture of Marisio who is a young man supported through our child sponsorship program by my son's family. Last year when Ben visited Mozambique, Marisio was very quiet and withdrawn. He was afraid. This year when Marisio saw our team come to his area, he ran to them with a big smile on his face. These visits had changed him and helped him. He lives in poverty and is being raised by a grandmother and an aunt. Our child sponsorship helps him go to school, have medicine and supplies and gives him an opportunity to hear about Jesus. It helps him and his family. I'm so glad that people within Orchard are sponsoring 250 or so children in this community.

As we looked at the pictures, Neil showed me a picture of himself sharing the good news of Christ in a church behind a mud altar. At this point Neil asked me a question that has been on my mind since then. He asked, "Who gets to do this?" He was asking the question about himself but I began thinking about my life.

It's a great question when I think about my life. Who gets to have the resources to support and help children in Africa? Who gets to be a part of a church that makes a difference in five communities? Who gets to be married to the same wonderful woman for 40 years? Who gets to be a part of a fun and committed staff team at a prevailing church? Who gets to love and invest in 9 healthy and growing grandchildren? Who? Who gets to have a job he absolutely loves and feels called to?

And then, lets ask the question one step deeper? Who gets to receive the unconditional love of a Heavenly Father? Who gets to have a savior who allowed himself to be killed for my sin and shame and brokeness? Who gets to have a new life within himself which Jesus said leads to "life to the full!" Who gets to be "salt and light" for Christ in this wealthy and free country? Who?

On my good days, I remember who gets to do this and I am grateful to God for the privilege! How about you?


Life Change and a Wedding

>> Saturday, July 17, 2010

I just officiated at a very cool wedding of Rachel Cole and Michael Lawson. Rachel's family included 6 brothers and lots of neices and nephews. Hers was a strong family of faith from Winterset, IA and a huge wrestling family. (so you know we'd get along very well!)

Michael is the young man who last year dropped to a knee at the finish line of our Chicago Marathon race and proposed marriage on the spot. After Rachel figured out what was happening (and it took her awhile), she accepted. They have been mentored for marriage by Neil and Barb McMahon which they have loved.

Ultimately, their story is one of life change and the power of Jesus Christ. When Michael asked Rachel for a second date, she said her answer would be "yes" if their third date could be to go to church together. He agreed and when he entered our gym, Rachel says, "she wished I could have seen his face!" He wasn't expecting anything like he found. He continued to attend both with Rachel and even when Rachel was gone. Michael has come to faith in Christ and now they are married with Jesus as a center of their relationship. This is simply one more story of God using Orchard to help another person become more fully devoted.

When the wedding was done and we were in the parking lot, Rachel's dad shook my hand and said, "thanks Dave!" I think he meant, "thank you Orchard Hill for making a place for my college daughter to grow in faith and for being the place where my new son-in-law could come to follow Jesus!" I'm so grateful that Orchard is committed to passing the baton of faith to next generations. Speaking of which, I met two new couples in the lobby after the wedding who come to Orchard and both were pregnant. More babies on the way!


Orchard Hill North

>> Friday, July 16, 2010

My wife and I just returned from Orchard Hill North which is Orchard's bi-annual camping trip for families. It was an amazing event which took place at Baker Park Reserve north and west of Minneapolis. Forty families (200 people) enjoyed this absolutely beautiful park north and west of the cities which is on bank of Lake Independence. This was without a doubt the most beautiful and well-kept site in which Linda and I have ever camped during our 30 years of camping.

As I walked through the campsite each evening, my heart was overwhelmed with gratefulness for the people who are Orchard Hill Church. These families are busy raising their children, building memories, teaching skills and doing many things to help their children become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I am honored to call them my church family and my friends.

I watched as dads and moms taught their kids to ski, swim and tube. I watched as families took long bike rides together and prayed and sang worship songs. Families rode roller coasters, shopped, and cared for each others children. This was a week of "doing life together" and being a part of the church while having a blast.

Mike Brost, who was our staff point leader for the event did an amazing job. He used his boat, his sense of humor, his organizational ability, and his risk-taking capacity to lead this event. Brenda and Curt Patterson led the cooking and chuck wagon for the 7th or 8th time. They do a wonderful job of carrying this heavy responsibility in a way that values and involves everyone on the trip. The food is scrumptuous.

Each morning the adults gather for small group story-telling. This time together so deeply reminds me that regular people with regular lives receive the love of Jesus Christ and their lives change. I get so energized for the work of our church, when I hear how God has used this ministry to change the direction of lives and families.

I just talked with Mike and he said that last nights final session was moving and beautiful. The session was at sunset on the lake. Curt Patterson (an elder) and Mike baptised three people in the lake: Elise Anderson, the daughter of Chad and Erica, Shauna Springer, a girlfriend who attended with the Day family, and Vicky Yeomens, who as an adult had no idea whether or not she'd ever been baptised. I praise and thank God for what He is doing in people's lives!



>> Thursday, July 15, 2010

There’s more work to do to than we will ever get done. There’s more to talk about than we will ever get communicated. There are more people who need help than we will ever get helped. It’s never ending, so we must focus our time, our energy, and our communication in order to be most effective. Our church cannot try to do everything, but we can do some things very well.

With that in mind, I will focus this blog on three things: celebrations of God at work, keeping our Orchard vision crystal clear and sharing what’s going on in my heart. It sounds so easy, but I’m thinking this will be a challenge.

Celebrations of God at work

I was on facebook the other day and saw a picture posted by Karla Chestnut from her balcony window in Biera, Mozambique, where her and nine others were on a short term mission trip. The picture (and other emails) took me back to last year’s trip to Africa and reminded me what an amazing work God is doing through our partnership in Mozambique. Our team just returned from that community having built relationships, while sharing and learning from our partners there. Our VBS students and volunteers sent blankets and backpacks for pastors. They also sent money to hire a teaching pastor. Our marathon team is raising money for a school within our community there. God is at work in Gorongosa and we are a part of what he is doing. Yea God.

My heart
Sometimes I ask myself why does God let us be a part of such a growing and exciting and life-changing church? Why do I get to serve with a fired-up healthy staff of 35? Why do we get to choose to impact 5 focus communities? Why has God continued to bring new partners to our ministries? Why? Why?

The answer that comes to my mind is from our definition of spiritual growth: Spiritual growth (and kingdom building) is the process by which God transforms me to be more like Jesus for His glory, for the sake of others, and for the abundance of my own soul.

Not to us, but to His name be the glory!


Geared to the times, anchored to the rock!

>> Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dave Bartlett....a blogger. It’s hard to believe. I never thought I’d blog especially for a public setting like this home page. But as we’ve thought about the growth of Orchard Hill and the need to keep our vision crystal clear, it’s obvious, that along with other vision casting, I should try my hand at writing a blog.

One Bible verse that our staff has been focused upon since Easter is 2 Corinthians 4: 18—So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Youth for Christ, the first full-time ministry that I was a part of, had a tag line “geared to the times, anchored to the rock!” which meant that methods and strategies in ministry will continue to change but the message of the cross of Jesus Christ will never change.

Things do change! So lately, I’ve been communicating through face book and carrying an Ipad. My schedule can now be seen on google calendar. I take my calls on a cell phone. I’m managing projects on an app called “Things” and my “most looked at Bible” is an app called “Olive Tree.” Methods and strategies and tools will change. Even how we organize our church and how we worship together may change.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ does not change. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

So, as one part of Christ’s church, let’s use all of the contemporary tools at our disposal, to share this “good news” with our family, friends and co-workers. Let’s not get stuck with certain ways of doing things, let’s keep changing. But let’s be clear. The message of the gospel of Christ has not and will not change.

What could be better than using brand new tools to share the truest life-changing message ever communicated?


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