Gratitude

by Pastor Kent Carlson

30yearbash-54

I absolutely loved our church’s 30-year anniversary celebration weekend. I’m not completely sure why it was so profoundly satisfying and fun for me. I just know that it was perhaps the most enjoyable time I have had in thirty years of ministry at Oak Hills Church. Maybe it was because we were so very relaxed going into that weekend. Maybe it was because we weren’t really using the celebration for much of anything other than to have a party together. Maybe it was the amazing performance of the Oak Hills Rewind. Maybe it was seeing Rick Leary in long hair. Whatever it was, I had a blast.

The predominant feeling I have coming out of this celebration is gratitude. Thirty years is a long time to be in one place. In one church. There are so many stories, so many beautiful people, so many experiences of God’s grace and transformation. So many people who have sincerely sought to follow Christ in the midst of what seemed like impossible situations. And all these stories flooded over me, and I was, and continue to be, deeply grateful to God and to the people of Oak Hills Church, for all this goodness, all this beauty, all these stories that are a part of God’s great story of redemption. This Thanksgiving, without any effort at all on my part, but simply as the natural result of being overwhelmed by the goodness of God and the people of Oak Hills Church, I am deeply grateful. It’s a good feeling.

Now, on to the next thirty years!

I want to highlight two events to help us bask in the sheer delight of our 30-year celebration. First, we have our Annual Congregational Meeting and Vision Night on Thursday, November 20. We will worship together, meet our elders and vote to affirm them. We will talk about some of the challenges and opportunities in our future and have a time for questions and answers. We will have a scrumptious dessert. And most wonderfully, we will have a repeat of our Oak Hills Rewind. For those of us who have already seen it, we will be able to laugh all over again. For those of you who have never seen it, well, you are in for a treat. Please try to make this night a priority and let’s keep the celebration going!

Second, I want to encourage us all to come to our annual Thanksgiving Eve Service. We will worship together “in the round” and we will share together the Lord’s Supper. There will be ample opportunity to share with each other our deep gratefulness to God for all that He as done for us. I hope to see you all there.

With deep thankfulness,

Kent Carlson

Philippines Missions 2012

by Creative Arts Pastor Manuel Luz

I have an amazing ministry opportunity set before me right now, one years in the making.  And I’d like to have your support to make this happen.  I’ve been asked by our denomination, the North American Baptist Conference (NAB), to commit to a multi-year ministry to teach worship and the arts at our Bible training center in the Philippines.

Here is what Field Director Gregg Evans has to say about it:

“NAB’s flagship ministry in the Philippines—the Bicol Center for Christian Leadership (BCCL)—has been providing theological, Biblical and pastoral training for pastors, evangelists and church planters in the least-churched non-Muslim region of the Philippines for ten years now.   The students are a mix of full-time Christian workers, active church members and college students from a dozen different churches, most getting their first systematic instruction in theology and Biblical studies.   With a growing reputation for solid Bible teaching, the Center is quickly becoming the hub of Evangelical Christianity in Albay Province, and what it is doing in Albay is spreading to other provinces.  BCCL has the potential to become the single most influential Christian institution in the region in the years ahead, impacting hundreds, and eventually thousands, of pastors, evangelists, church planters and rank-and-file members.   Amid BCCL’s success in the area of theological and Biblical instruction, what has been lacking, and desperately needed, is an arts emphasis—a theology of the arts—and guidance in worship and music.  In 2012, we want to start changing that, and we’d like for Manuel Luz to come out for a couple weeks to get the ball rolling.  Manuel’s passion and expertise are exactly what are needed at BCCL right now.  Please participate in the improvement of BCCL by supporting Manuel in this endeavor.”

I’m obviously excited about this opportunity for a variety of reasons.  One, the Filipinos of the Albay Province are passionate and talented, but are under-resourced and need training.  I have the opportunity to provide theologically-intensive teaching and musical training that has the potential to profoundly influence the tenor of the entire region.  Two, BCCL has been an important catalyst in bringing together the many disparate area churches in an uncharacteristic spirit of cooperation and unity.  I hope to increase this sense of unity through worship (the most moving kind of unity!) and eventually through outreach using the arts.  Third, one of my main goals will be to establish long-term relationships with the many dedicated but under-resourced people there, and provide pastoral direction and personal encouragement to them.

My first trip will be for almost three weeks in February 2012.  And to maximize my ministry potential, I am committed to making this an annual trip if it works out, hopefully bringing teams of people over the next few years.  Oak Hills Church is firmly behind this trip and is the sending organization.

From a personal standpoint, I feel like I may be uniquely qualified to answer this calling.  I’ve never been to the Philippines, although I’ve wanted to go my entire adult life.  To be able to explore some of my heritage and connect with it would be amazing to me.  Obviously, I will need financial and prayer support for something as big as this.  So if you are interested in supporting me, please email me at manuel.luz@oakhills.org.  Thanks!

HAVE 2? GIVE 1 AWAY!

by Stephenie Carr, Missional Living Director

Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none… Luke 3:11

Every couple years, our church organizes what we call the “Garage Give Away” (no, we do not give away garages). If you haven’t been around for one of these in the past (and even if you have), I would highly recommend getting involved this year! In the simplest terms, it is a giant church wide garage sale, only without the money. It is a great invitation for us as a church to enter into a process of simplifying our lives of the stuff that we so easily and mindlessly collect, gather, let creep in and with open hands, detached from the results, give it away. Spring is commonly known as a good time for cleaning, and my encouragement to you is to let this event motivate you and help resource you to do that thoroughly.

One of the challenges that I find in living in suburbia is the world of “stuff” that surrounds us. Somehow, I find a way to fill every space I have with stuff that I may or may not need. I’m constantly surrounded by messages from the media, from society, from my own unsatisfied soul, that I need more, that what I have isn’t enough, isn’t new enough, isn’t fast enough, isn’t shiny enough, I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. And one of the wonderful messages of the Gospel is that we don’t have to live in that lie. We have access to Him who beyond anything else can satisfy our soul, sustain our existence and is the provider of all that we need. Sound cheesy? Unrealistic? Impossible? Not even close to as cheesy, unrealistic, and impossible as the lies that I too often live by that tell me that one more outfit would satisfy my soul, that one more bite of chocolate or Round Table pizza will sustain my existence, or that if I could get a juicer that was easier to clean that would be all I need. I’m not saying it is an easy journey to learn to live this way, but I am saying that we can all take a step in a good direction by engaging in the practice of simplicity. Sort through our stuff and sort out the things that we don’t really need. Loosen our grips on the material stuff around us.

I’ve been in a study lately that is going through the book of Luke and a few weeks ago was struck by this little verse John 3:11. Here we find John in the wilderness “Preparing the way for the Lord” and crowds of people are coming to him to be baptized. The whole scene is fascinating! John’s telling them they can’t just repent and not produce fruit that goes along with a repentant heart. He’s telling them they can’t just rely on their religious or ancestral connections. And when the crowd asks him, “What should we do then?” He responds, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Really? This is the secret for producing fruit in our lives? This is the way in which we prepare our hearts for the Lord? You bet! Not that anything magical happens when we start this process of releasing our stuff, but it does help us to see things differently. If we fight our dependency on our stuff, we can then be free to depend on God. If we start to look around us and see those who are in need, it frees our eyes from ourselves and helps us see this world and the people in it the way that God sees them. There is an unending process of growth for us in these words!

So that is our campaign for this year’s Garage Give Away – it is an invitation to you, to all of us! If we have 2, give 1 away. If you have 2 hammers, give 1 away. If you have 4 jackets, give 2 away. If you have 20 books, give 10 away. Now, I hope no one gets caught up on the numbers, but you get the idea. Start ridding your life of the excess stuff that we have and let a community in need come and take what they can use. We’ve invited people from all of our local ministry partners to come to this event as well invite any of you who have a need for something come as well. Last time we did this was one of Travis and my first summers leading a team overseas with an infant, and I needed some kind of luggage to carry our porta-crib while flying. I ended up finding someone’s old golf bag and it has been a life saver every summer since! There are other stories of someone dropping off a bag of clothes that no longer fit them and up walks a lady just that size who was looking for clothes. Another person perusing the books ended up spotting their favorite devotional that they had been planning on getting for a friend. Another year, we had a Russian family who had recently immigrated fill their whole apartment with needed household goods. It is a wonderful event to see how God in His economy of stuff arranges for it all to be shared when we allow Him to move. Of course, not every item has such a significant story, but all that is left over at the end of the day will be donated to Hospice Thrift store.

Along with all of the stuff that you will be getting rid of, we also have a need for volunteers! See the list below – and contact me (stephenie.carr@oakhills.org) to sign yourself up!

FRIDAY…

Drop-off Sorters & Unloaders • 4-6:30pm or 6:30-9pm

SATURDAY…

Furniture Loaders & Unloaders • 8-10am or 10-12pm

Set up • 7-8:30am

Clean up • 12-1:30pm

Traffic & Welcomers • 7:45-10am or 10-12pm

Item Area Volunteers • 8-10am or 10-12pm

Donut & Coffee People • 7:30-10am or 10-12pm

And if you have questions, feel free to send them my way as well!

“This Christmas is going to be different…”

by Stephenie Carr, Missional Living Director

How many times have I told myself that same thing, but before I start to even think about what that might mean for myself and my family, I’m already noticing that the dreaded glittery garlands are dangling from every corner of my life and it feels like it is too late.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Christmas.  I love being with family, I love the traditions, I love the cold air and the Christmas cookies.  I love the gift giving and thinking back to what it would have been like for the characters of the 1st Christmas story to behold God coming into this world.  But in all of that, it seems like each year, the season ends and I’m left wanting – that there was too much of some things and not enough of others.  Like too much hurry and pressure and money spent (and often times too many cookies), and not enough Jesus, healing, loving, worship.  I love the Candlelight service each year at church, but by the time we rush through the last minute gift wrapping, cut our kids’ nap time short and get everyone all dolled up to rush off to the 3 o’clock service and serve during the 5, then book it up to Placerville to celebrate Christmas eve only to shove all of the loot back into the gift bags and book it back to the Candlelight, it feels like the first taste of Jesus all season and I’m full of wishing I had stopped more and longer to find him at his own Birthday party.

Maybe that is just me, or maybe it isn’t.  Christmas has become a consumeristic monster.  The focus has become the gifts, not the real Gift.  Each year Americans spend billions of dollars on material things, all to celebrate the coming of our King who gave up everything to save us from this world.  I’ve been wrestling with this the past few years, ever since our church started participating in Advent Conspiracy, and I still have so many unanswered questions of how to do this in reality, for myself and my family.  I would love to invite you into the struggle as well.  Join Travis, myself, several of our Missional Living team members as we take four weeks out – before Christmas fast approaches – and intentionally think through some of this stuff.  We’ll be using a book and DVD study put together by Advent Conspiracy (link to the website: www.adventconspiracy.org) to guide our discussions, but are hoping some wonderful sharing of ideas, struggles and celebrations will come out of it.

“Understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.  This is not about anger, disgust, or guilt – it is about entering the story of Jesus more deeply with a desire to worship more fully.  It is not enough to say no to the way Christmas is celebrated by many; we need to say yes to a different way of celebrating.”  From Chapter 1, Advent Conspiracy

The study group will meet during the 11:00 service in room M207 starting November 14.  Email me (Stephenie.carr@oakhills.or) or call to let me know if you will be joining us, and I’ll make sure to have a book for you.  We have several books available to borrow or if you would like your own copy, they are $10 each.  In any regard, I do wish you a merry Christmas, one full of wonder, excitement and deep celebration!