Fall is a Season of Change

By: Mikaela Steckmann

Fall is the inspiration for one of my favorite quotes:

 

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go."

-Unkown

 

The falling of leaves is an important process of growth for a maturing tree. When cold weather comes it activates a hormone that signals the tree to drop its leaves as an act of survival. The leaves, though beautiful, are not essential to the trees survival-the roots are. When winter comes, and water is more scarce, the tree conserves water to the trunk and root system, so that even in that time of dryness it will continue to grow and mature. 

 

In Leviticus 19:23-25 God share a similar truth with the people of Israel. He tells them that if they plant any fruit trees in the Promised Land, they should leave the fruit for 4 years-they shouldn’t eat it, pick it, touch it. If they follow through on that, then on the 5th year the harvest will be abundant! Such practical advice. The unharvested fruit ripens, some is eaten by wildlife, the rest falls to the ground and rots. The fallen fruit is absorbed back in to the ground creating new growth and fertilizing the soil. In the meantime, that tree is growing in those 4 years and producing without hindrance so that on the 5th year, its harvest is full! Can you see some personal parallel in this instruction? I know I can…

 

In Daniel 4 the story of Nebuchadnezzar is recounted. Nebuchadnezzar thought of himself as greater than God. At some point in his reign, he had a dream about a big beautiful tree that was cut down, but the stump and roots were left. The meaning of the dream, in a paraphrase, was this: that he would be removed from his throne, and from his country. That did happen to the King. But the stump and roots of the tree were left, and received water. When Nebuchadnezzar confessed that God was the ultimate authority, and when he gave “praise and honor and glorified the King of Heaven” he was restored to his position, at even greater honor than before. Sometimes, letting dead things go hurts. A lot. For a long time. And just as Nebuchadnezzar needed to be de-throned, and experience great humility and personal pain so that he could be restored as an even greater King, sometimes we have to be taken down to the stump, so our roots can grow deeper.

 

Some of us have a stump story- The tree was cut down, but the stump and root were left. Jesus is slowly growing us back more beautiful and bountiful, as we submit ourselves more fully to Him. Our fruit seems to drop to the ground for now, but it isn’t a waste. The ground is being fertilized, and roots are growing deeper and stronger!

 

“Why am I going through this pain?”, “What is God doing through this?” “How will I ever survive this?” … those are stump questions. I’ve had them, have you?

 

I was growing, doing good things. Then all my fruit ripened. All the beautiful leaves that I had worked so hard to produce, fell around my feet. So I did the only thing I could do, I dug in and conserved water. I funneled everything I had toward my roots. Dry season came and I consumed every bit of life offered to me. I anchored myself to my water source, living off of it, and I endured winter. Then I opened my eyes and realized that I had grown taller, and stronger. Beautiful leaves began to appear and to my surprise, I wasn’t as captivated by them as I was before! For deep inside, what I marveled at was the depth to which my roots had grown. When my leaves fell, I focused all my energy on growing down, deeper than ever before. And with that depth I knew that I could weather any future storm. The people passing by me commented on my beautiful leaves, but I knew that what they couldn’t see, down deep, mattered so much more! 

 

When Jesus entered Earth, fully God and fully man, he disrupted this pattern of outward fascination that we all have. He revealed to all who would listen that the outer beauty of man meant nothing when it was disconnected from the hard, inner work of developing the heart. His death and resurrection is the foundation for all our growth- He is our water source! He is what we anchor to as we willingly let go of all our death and decay! 

 

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go."

 

As far as trees go, death actually brings new life. As for us, the same is true.

 

“…I have overcome the world.”

 I’m a pretty high-strung person.  On the outside, I’m introverted, quiet, and usually spend some time thinking before I speak, but on the inside I’ve always struggled with stress and anxiety.  I probably do a worse job of hiding it than I realize.  My mind is often running a million miles an hour and I frequently have to stop and breath slowly to calm myself down. 

 I think most of my anxiety stems from the fact that I simply can’t control the outcome of certain situations.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  We feel a sense of safety from knowing how something is going to turn out, but we live in a world that is utterly and completely unpredictable.  Even when we’re in familiar situations, there’s no guarantee of anything.  I spend lots of time trying to fix myself and other people, and protect myself from being hurt.  I tend to appreciate systems more than people, but honestly, it’s more than simply a personality trait, it’s a crutch.  Mine is a life run by fear, not victory over my circumstances.  It’s exhausting…but it does make me a great trouble-shooter!

 The spiritual implications of this dilemma complicate things even more.  As Christians, we feel a lot of responsibility “to do what is right” and “to love mercy” (Micah 6:8).  This is so important.  After all, Jesus said that without love, it’s impossible to know Him or be part of His kingdom.  (Check out Jesus’ words in John 5:31-47).  I can’t tell you how often I see the lines blurred between genuine service, and actions designed to help others see that we’re worth respect and admiration.  For me, I can sometimes serve hoping that it will bring me respect.  If I’m respected maybe I’ll be loved, and if I’m loved maybe I won’t have to worry so much. I’m realizing that this train of thought makes serving others more about me than about them.  

 I know I’m not the only one who feels this way and I’m definitely not saying this is true of me in every situation.  We’re all complicated people.  That’s part of why I’m writing this.  I hope that some of what I’ve learned can help others.

 

Jesus said…

 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

                                                                                                            (John 16:33 NLT)

 He was referring to the suffering and persecution His followers would have to endure on His account.  However, Jesus was also pointing out that this world is broken. It’s been messed up, big time, by sin. It’s tearing itself apart and will attack stability, truth and decency at any opportunity.  Even the good in the world is tainted by selfishness. Basically, it’s beyond our control. I’m getting kind of stressed out just writing this paragraph.

 Jesus wanted His followers to understand that as much as they might worry about what would happen to them, it really didn’t matter. Jesus was going to die for the sin of humanity and rise again to conquer death once and for all.  His disciples were going to receive a new identity that would silence their insecurities.  They’d receive the safety of unconditional love beyond anything they could imagine.  Their souls would find rest knowing that regardless of what was going to happen, they had a forever home with their Savior.  His Spirit would guide them and comfort them in difficult times, and make His presence palpable.  In short, His victory would replace their fear.

 I start to relax a bit when I think of life in those terms.  I’m realizing the world doesn’t need more of our futile attempts to fix it.  Instead, it just needs more Jesus.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be free from anxiety.  Most of my fear stems from emotional wounds and those kinds of things take time to heal.  I know this for sure though: The truth Jesus speaks over us is way more powerful than the lies we’ve allowed ourselves to believe.  I see courage welling up inside of me more and more every day.  It’s starting to bubble up and overflow, and I can’t tell you how good that feels.  I’m learning to ditch fear for victory because in Christ, “I have overcome the world.”

 

Andrew Muncherian

Kids Ministries

Be Strong and Courageous

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT) So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I love this verse above.  I love that God calls me to be strong and courageous.  However, in life, I don’t always feel that way. As a man I cannot be afraid because that is socially unacceptable and a public cry of weakness.  Our society has two categories for men: weak and strong. There seems to be no middle ground. What God has been showing me, about myself, is that society is wrong and I can’t let those negative images define who God says I am.


Growing up, and even now, I am not an outdoors person. I don’t hunt, fish, camp, work on cars or fix things.  I like to be indoors. I like to play board games with my kids and watch funny movies. I play video games and read books.  Does that make me weak? I used to think so. I used to think that the guys that loved all of that outdoorsy stuff were super manly however, God is changing my mind.  


What I see in the Bible are people that rise up and listen to what God says to do and do it.  In Deuteronomy, Moses asks Joshua to lead the Israelites into the promised land because he cannot go. Joshua had been following Moses for 40 years and then had to take all of the Israelites into the promised land. Moses knew that Joshua was the man for the job because he just scoped out the promised land.  Joshua was operating in the gifts God had given him. Instead of doubting or letting fear take hold he trusted in God knowing that he was doing His will. Joshua would lead his people into the promised land and God would be with him. 


Joshua 1:9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”


Being strong and courageous for God is as simple as talking to that person in the grocery store that looks upset or down.  Or using the gifts God has given you in a new way, like singing at church or stepping out in a Bible study. God is showing me that as I take steps to do what He asks I am being strong and courageous.  It doesn’t matter how fast I can split a cord of wood (which isn’t fast), being a man can be how slow I am to anger with my family or friends. Or just simply showing up. Maybe a friend needs help moving and you may not be able to move the grand piano alone however showing up is what God wanted you to do.  

The world wants men to believe a false image of what makes you a man.  They want you to deny who God has created and called you to be. But that isn’t what God wants for you.  He wants us to rely on Him. Jesus will not ask us to do the impossible. He will equip and empower us to finish the task. As a man, we can take heart knowing that as we operate in the gifts He has given us we can stand strong and courageous.  Just simply saying yes to Jesus, and no to ourselves, is how to be a strong man of God.   

Romans 8:31... If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 



You Say

You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don't belong, oh You say that I am Yours

 

 Lauren Daigle had a chart stopping hit called, You Say.  It was a powerful song about how, as humans, it is easy to believe the bad and not what is true.  Our world is constantly bombarding us with images and sayings that make us feel like we are not enough or do not have enough.  We live in a society where it is normal to constantly compare yourself with others. It is easier to believe the bad than it is to trust in the good.  It reminds me of when I first started here at the church.

 Last year was a rough year for my family and me.  I had a great job at a software startup in Post Falls.  Then in the middle of summer they laid me and 8 other people off.  I was devastated. I was also scared and humiliated because I had never been let go of a job. I was already struggling with depression and this pushed me further down.  I was able to get a temporary job that helped us pay our bills but my depression was getting worse. I did not want to get up in the morning, did not want to get out of bed, just wanted to watch Netflix all day.  When I started disconnecting from my family then I knew I needed help. I reached out to Eric and he agreed to meet me for lunch. 

 At lunch I told Eric that I felt like God was done with me.  I felt like I was a total failure as a father, husband, friend, and basically every aspect of my life.  Even though I felt hopeless I wanted to change. One piece of advice he gave me, that made a huge impact, was to do things I did not want to do.  For instance, I did not want to get up early and read my Bible or did not want to watch a kids show with my youngest girl. When I started doing things even though I didn’t feel like it, things began to change.  Instead of checking out from my family, I became more invested. Then two weeks later I responded to an interview to be the Office Administrator at Cedar Hills.

 One of my biggest fears that I had to get over was to trust in who God said I was.  Imagine the fear that I had, two weeks out of debilitating depression, to then working alongside such awesome men and women of God.  I was not sure if this was God’s plan because I thought you could only work at a church if you were super spiritual. At first it was rough for me to not compare myself to everyone but what got me through it was knowing that I am a man of God. Everyone has things they are working on and I am not unique in that.

 

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  

1 Timothy 6:11


What I love about that is God says Timothy is a man of God.  Even if he did not feel like he was a man of God, he was. That’s what I love about God.  Even if I do not feel like I am a father or husband it doesn’t change the fact that I am both.  The world will try to break you down and tell you lies but we need to hold onto the truth and know that God has called us sons and daughters.  And knowing that, we can hold our heads high.


A Personal Message from Pastor Eric

Cedar Hills,

This past weekend in all three of our gatherings we shared a difficult announcement with you about the resignation of one of our church’s staff members. 

I, along with our church board, serve as your elders. This means we carry the responsibility to ensure our church is spiritually healthy and protected. I am sharing this update with you as your pastor, with the support of our church board. Joe Woodruff came to Cedar Hills in October of last year with his wife Natalie to serve as our Executive Pastor. In that role, Joe was also a regular part of our teaching team.

Last Wednesday morning (May 15), Joe walked into my office and announced that he was resigning his position effective immediately. As the morning unfolded, it became evident that Joe has had a moral failure and has engaged in behavior unbecoming of a minister of Jesus Christ and of this church. On that basis, his resignation was received, and as of Wednesday morning Joe is no longer a part of or a pastor of Cedar Hills Church.

Obviously news like this creates many questions and emotions that are hard to know what to do with. I am still processing my own questions and emotions as this situation continues to unfold. So I’d like to share a few thoughts with you as your pastor.

  1. We are a church committed to authenticity and transparency. While we must exercise discretion in speaking of details, you can count on us to be as open as possible. 

  2. While we cannot disclose specifics about what has occurred, there are two things that you need to know are not at risk. Firstly, we assure you that no financial impropriety has occurred. Secondly, we assure you that no children or minors are at risk.

  3. While we desire to extend grace and forgiveness to all who seek it, at this time Joe has not expressed sorrow or a heart of repentance. Until that changes, our board has a responsibility to establish appropriate boundaries and is requesting that our church not make contact with Joe, but rather pray wholeheartedly for him.

  4. Grief is a natural outcome of news like this. No matter your emotion—anger, shock, sadness, confusion—know that your grief is important to us and we are here to listen and help. If you would like to contact me directly, you can email me at eric@cedarhillschurch.com. Our board of directors (elders) are also available to you and can be contacted at board@cedarhillschurch.com. We will prayerfully read and respond to every story, question, and comment. 

  5. This weekend I took a few minutes to talk about our identify as a church. I shared 5 cultural statements about the kind of people we are at Cedar Hills. I have provided a brief outline of my “What Do We Do When Life Gets Messy" talk at the end of this email.


While some of us may not have developed a connection with Joe during his time here, others of us became quite close to him and Natalie, which makes this very painful. It’s much more difficult to communicate my emotion in an email than it is in person, but please know I am grieving with you. Nicole and I take our task to lead and serve you incredibly seriously. Our board feels the same way.

We believe this is a time for us to exercise wisdom, clear communication, and unity. My hope is that this letter provides all three.  There will be a time in the future where we talk about what is next and where we go from here. Until then, let us not forget that "if God is for us, who can be against us?" God has great things in store for our church. We will honor him in how we handle this. We will serve him even in the mess. We will rise to the occasion.  

You are loved. Your pastors, 

Eric and Nicole


WHAT DO WE DO WHEN LIFE GETS MESSY?

  • We are authentic about our emotions. Messes are emotional, and whatever you and I are feeling is okay. Grief is not a sign of what is wrong with us. It is a sign of what is right with us.

  • We put our faith in Jesus, not in a person. When storms kick up, we need an anchor to stabilize us and keep us grounded. Jesus is the only one we can count on. As Hebrews 12:2 says, we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Fixing our focus and faith on any other person will always lead to disappointment.

  • We refuse to gossip. Human nature wants to fill in gaps with whatever “feels right" to us. Unfortunately what "feels right" rarely is.  We are careful to protect church unity and resist division by guarding our words. Gossip always involves two people…a speaker and a listener. We refuse to do either.

  • We risk being hurt in order to experience deep love. The possibility of hurt and love must always go together. The only way to avoid being hurt is to close yourself off from others—which guarantees that you’ll never experience love. We are people who believe in love so much that we gladly accept the risk that others might hurt us. 

  • We trust our leadership. While our faith is only in Jesus, we choose to trust in our leadership—our pastors, staff, and board. We trust that our leaders love us. We trust that our leaders want the best for our church. We trust that our leaders will deal with this with wisdom and discretion.  Our prayer is the same as Jesus’ prayer in John 6:39…”The will of God is that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me.” We don’t want to lose a single person who calls this church hom

Summer at Cedar Hills Kids!

Cedar Hills Kids exists to partner with families to help kids see their place in God’s story. Kids matter at Cedar Hills.  We believe kids aren’t just the future, they’re the NOW!  They can make a difference for the Kingdom of God in their community, with their families, and with their peers.  We want to create environments throughout the year where kids can experience God’s love.

 

Summer is a happening time for our kids at Cedar Hills!  Last year we launched our first ever KIDS KAMP.  This was a 5-day day-camp here at the CH warehouse where kids played games, did awesome activities, ate tasty snacks, and learned about God’s powerful, rescuing love.  Close to 150 kids were involved throughout the week.  We saw God change lives and families find community at Cedar Hills. Over 85 people in our congregation were mobilized to make a difference in our community.

 

This year we’re taking things to a new level.  We’re expanding KIDS KAMP to an event we’re now calling KIDS WEEK.  This will be a week-long event for kids at Cedar Hills that will include not only a day camp, but family service projects, a family worship gathering, and family events throughout the week.  We’ll be partnering with local organizations here in Sandpoint to help our kids make a positive impact in their community.

 

Logo, Date, Theme.png

Our KIDS WEEK theme this year is POWER UP: Raise Your Game.  Think retro video games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders.  The Cedar Hills warehouse will be transformed into the inside of a video game for the week.  Kids will learn that, in Christ, God has given us everything we need to know Him and the power to spread His love with others!  KIDS WEEK is June 17th– 23rdand is open to all kids entering Kindergarten – 5thgrade next fall.  Check out the KIDS page to sign your child up and find more info.

 

That’s not all!  Our older elementary kids will be heading to summer camp this year at Silver Lake Camp in Medical Lake, WA.  Camp is a blast!  This is a week where our kids can get away from distractions, have fun, meet new friends, build great relationships with their leaders, and dive deep in their walk with God. 

 

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This year’s theme is Hydroblast!  Camp is open to all kids entering 3rd– 6thgrade next fall.  Dates are June 22-26, 2019.  Head to the KIDS page to register your child online and download parent/guarding info.

 

I can’t wait to see what God will do this summer.  We’re praying and expecting some “wow” moments.  Don’t miss summer at Cedar Hills Kids!

 

Andrew Muncherian

Kids Ministries

A Season of 'Yes'

I would like to introduce Luke Patterson. Luke is a fellow Cedar Hillian, and part of our Rooted Leadership team. The journey he has been on and the insights he brings, continue to inspire me and challenge me. I asked him to share his journey with us because I am confident the work the Lord is doing in him will inspire you as well. 

 

Alyssa McLaughlin 

Adult Ministries 

 

A Season of 'Yes'

Imagine being a fisherman, standing in your boat with your brother and father, sorting the nets. A crowd approaches, following a man. Amid the murmur of voices you catch a name: "Jesus". You've heard incredible stories of this man the last few months. Surprisingly, he approaches your boat as you look on. When he is within speaking distance, you are shocked when he looks right at you and says "Come, follow me." What arises in you in that moment? Surprise? Fear? Curiosity? Likely, you'd have some questions too, such as "Where are we going?", "For how long?". As we see in Mark 1:16-20, Simon and Andrew, and also James and John said "Yes." Not just in word but with their actions. Both that day, and again and again. 

This is a common pattern you'll see in the Gospels as Jesus ministered. A call, a command, an invitation. The ones who responded with a 'yes' received the miracle - the healing, the deliverance, the very presence of Jesus. He invites us, beckons us into something, then waits for our response. In His Kingdom, there is choice. We always get to choose whether to respond or not. That freedom is so beautiful and powerful, but also heavy. Heavy because of the responsibility that it gives us over our spiritual life. We are fully, 100% responsible for our part in the relationship. 

For me, this has been a season of saying 'yes' to where I feel Him inviting me. In the fall of last year, Kiersten and I were given the opportunity to go through Rooted with several other people. Rooted is a 10-week group experience hosted by Cedar Hills that establishes deep spiritual foundations and growth in a community environment. It is vulnerable, deep, and real. Being a part of that group was such a beautiful experience for us. We didn't have to say 'yes' though. We are busy, have kids, businesses, and other pursuits. But when we prayed about it, we felt that it was a God invitation. Then, as we went each week and did our studying at home, we continued to say 'yes'. 'Yes' to going deep, to wrestling with the topics, to being genuine and vulnerable during our group times. During that 10 weeks, lots of things came up in our life - other opportunities, events, etc. that we had to say 'no' to. Our 'no' protects our 'yes'. I am learning to use my 'no' a lot more, so that the few things I say 'yes' to can really be great. I can give them the time and attention they deserve. 

After a 2-month break, Cedar Hills launched a new 10-week round of Rooted groups, and this time Kiersten and I were facilitating a group of our own. During our first meeting together, as the 11 of us strangers sat in a room together, we went around and each shared what had led us to sign up and what we were hoping to get out of our time together. The common theme that we heard was that while almost everyone was nervous, hesitant, or even uncomfortable, they all simply wanted more of Jesus. Their hunger was greater than their fear, busyness, insecurity or questions. 

This morning, we had our 10th and final meeting. As we broke bread and took communion together I looked around the room at each person. I can say that we all have our share of problems, of pain and struggle that we've lived through, or are still in. But I see how each one of us has continued to lean in to Jesus these last 10 weeks, opening up to Him and each other, and giving Him room to work in our lives. The growth, breakthrough, and transformation that we all have experienced is real and amazing. 

I think that life is really all about our 'yes' and 'no'. I believe that right now, in this season, the invitation from Jesus is clearer than ever. Breakthrough is happening, and people are choosing to follow Him at a greater level than they ever have before. He is ready and willing to come into our lives and heal, deliver, teach, grow, and LOVE. The question is, will we say 'yes'? And will we protect that 'yes' with our 'no'? 

In the place within your life where you sense Jesus beckoning for you to follow Him - I ask that today you will take a moment to talk to Him about it. Tell him of your fears, your hesitation, your doubt. Put simple words to what you are feeling. Then ask yourself this: "If I am standing in the boat, and Jesus is calling me, what am I going to do?". There is always a price we must pay with our 'yes' - but we get so much more back than we give out. He is really that good. 

Be Blessed, 

Luke Patterson