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Orchard Hills Church | July 23, 2017

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It’s one thing to watch or read an episode of Curious George as a child and come away convinced that everyday life is NOT AT ALL like a Curious George story. It’s quite another thing to dress up like a character on a Saturday morning and realize….. that it should be.

Let me explain. On June 10th, my grandson, Jax, had a Curious George themed birthday party. I had ordered a Man with the Yellow Hat costume and marched into the party room as guests began to arrive. The moment I entered, a hush fell over the room and a quick survey of the room found all the parents and their 3 year old partiers staring at me. I’m not sure why I hadn’t considered this thought before now, but in that very moment I realized that I was remarkably different than everyone else. One parent broke the silence and said, “ I’ve heard of this happening at parties, but I’ve never actually seen it in person”.

Lesson # 1…Wouldn’t it be great if people immediately noticed us as different? That it wouldn’t be necessary to tell them we are a Christian because it was so obvious that we were. We’ve all experienced that, where we come across someone so in love with Jesus that we can’t take our eyes off them. Even now with all the people you have known in a lifetime they stand out, don’t they?…. like a Man in a Yellow Hat.

I soon began to live the part. Chasing some of the three year old’s, playing games with others. Some asked for my picture, while others seemed disturbed that “ my voice sounded different on TV”. At one point a game to snatch the yellow hat off my head became popular. Then it was discovered that the yellow pants could easily come down with one firm tug. At this point I thought that heading to the dressing room and becoming a normal adult was a good option and then I saw Jax across the room waving to me and yelling, “Hey Big Papi”!  Becoming a normal adult was no longer an option. Nothing could make me quit at this point. I was committed until the party ended.

Lesson # 2…Adversity will come. There will be plenty of tuggers and snatchers throughout life and seemingly proportional to the love you have for the Lord. The mistake we often make is focusing on ourselves during these moments. When I focused on my recently turned three year old grandson, suddenly it all seemed worth it. When our gaze is on the Lord our perspective shifts. Somehow the things we endure seem worth it, and nothing can make us quit.

The presents were opened. The cake was eaten. Then one by one the tiny partiers headed home. It was time for the clean up, and yet I remained in the outfit. Strange I thought. I couldn’t wait to get out of the yellow outfit when the party started. Now, nearly two hours later in a heavy outfit on a hot day I resisted taking it off.

Lesson # 3… The longer we “look different”, the more comfortable we get being different. When Jesus enters our lives we are going to be somewhat uncomfortable in this world. It may even seem awkward at first, and we may even endure a few stares. But life has always been about relationships, and the longer we know Jesus the more we should fall in love with Him. Even to the point that over time we become more comfortable with who we’ve become and wouldn’t consider returning to “normal everyday life”.

On a Saturday morning I put on a Man with a Yellow Hat costume because I have such a crazy love for both of my grandsons, that if they ask me to be Clifford I would have searched the internet for a big red dog costume. Today I’m hoping that my love for the Lord is so real and intense, that when I leave the house people I don’t even know will sense there is something very, very different about me. And yes maybe even stop and stare. Because life should be a lot like a Curious George episode. And we should all be comfortable wearing big yellow hats.

Steve Forbes,


Have you ever played a game where you have to name all of a certain thing that you can? Like, “Name as many animals as you can that walk on two legs…. Or, Name the states that start with the letter “T.” (Did you already quit reading and start thinking, Texas, Tennessee….?) Let’s try one, together. Stop reading and name as many things as you can that are yellow…… How many did you come up with?

Now try this…. Stop reading and name as many things as you can that are green, and then start naming as many things as you can that are red……

How did you do? Were you able to name a lot of green things before you started thinking about things that are red? Or, did you name a few green things then start thinking of things that were red that you could name when the time came? If you were like me, you only named a few green things before you started thinking “apple” or “stoplight” to use later.

Unfortunately, I often find that my prayers are impacted the same way. I start my prayers with the intention of thanking God for the many blessings he has provided. But, often find that I only touch on a few of these because I am already thinking more about the many requests that I am going to make of him. I miss an opportunity to GIVE thanks because I am so ready to TAKE my next request to him.

Perhaps you do not have this challenge. But, if you do, you may want to try this. During my prayer time, I have tried sitting quietly, clearing my mind of all the noise of life and the requests I have of him, (which is a real challenge) and just thank God for everything that comes to mind. Shout ‘em out in your mind or with your voice! It doesn’t have to be organized or poetic. It may be a specific thing that you saw his hand in accomplishing or it may just be a word like “vision” or “breath” or “love.” Don’t think about the requests you want to TAKE to him right now… There will be time for those later. Focus on just GIVING thanks for everything that comes to mind. You’ll be much more aware of how God is blessing you… not just in the big things, but in everything!
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:20, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let us pray:
Father, thank you for……. Fill in the blanks… (there are many).  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Jerry Altieri

This past Sunday, Scott’s sermon was about hospitality and service. The scripture was 1 Peter 4: 7-11. Verse 9 really spoke to me: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Ronnie Clay shared his family’s blessings of offering hospitality to thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. God put it on my heart to offer the same hospitality.
Sunday night my husband, John, and I talked about offering our home to hikers. Praise God that we are blessed with more than enough to share. With that being said, on Monday I went to the Daleville post office. You can see where this story is going. In line in front of me was a young hiker picking up a care package from his mom. He had been hiking all morning in the rain. I could feel my heart racing. I knew God wanted me to talk to him. I introduced myself and asked if he needed a ride somewhere. He thanked me and said that he had a ride waiting for him that was taking him to Kroger. As I turned to leave, he asked me if I knew of a hostel where he might spend the night.
Well, now my heart was really racing. Without a doubt I knew God was saying, “Here’s your chance, you prayed about this, invite him into your home, and you will be blessed.” So, I said, “We have an extra bedroom and bath at our house. My husband and I would love to have you as our guest.”  He graciously accepted our offer.
It was a joy to see how excited someone could be for hot meals, hot shower, laundry facilities, and a comfy bed. We were able to take him to the Mill Mountain Star to see Roanoke and the mountains that he’d just hiked. These were temporary blessings that God gave our guest. The real blessing was friendship and an opportunity for a continued relationship with this young man.
It will be a blessing to pray for him as he travels the trail and beyond. We plan to keep in touch. I plan to write to his mom to let her know how he’s doing. He is on a soul searching journey. I was able to share with him what I learned at church this past Sunday and how God wants us to offer our hospitality.
Scott’s sermon continues to remind me that I need to do a better job of offering my hospitality to family, friends, and neighbors. I never really considered offering my home to a complete stranger. It was incredibly timely. Neither the hiker nor I excepted that we’d meet. It was God’s plan. He asked about Orchard Hills Church and we talked about God, prayer, scripture, love, hospitality, and service. He shared his accomplishments and challenges in his life. He offered his service to do some work in exchange for room and board, but we said no. It was his turn to rest and to be our guest. We are so thankful for this opportunity and experience. Our new friend is too. Obedience to God’s word definitely brought our family blessings. We all have much to offer.
Tracy Burton,
OHC Member
As my family and I have been looking for land to begin our homesteading adventure, I’ve been doing a lot of research into what features make for good homesteading land. One thing I’ve seen over and over again in my research is a concept called “permaculture”.
As explained by one of the progenitors of the term, “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”
There are many aspects to permaculture, but the one that has interested me the most is the idea of observing a landscape as it currently stands for a year before building a home, creating a garden, etc. This lets you see how the water and wind flow in each season. With that knowledge, you can then build structures, gardens, and terrain modifications that work with the natural tendencies of the land, rather than against them. The principle here is observation before action, and there’s a spiritual parallel.
Sometimes we decide that we want to do something to help the community, minister to someone, or do some Great Thing for the Kingdom of God. We might pray about it, then we go headlong into it . When we go about serving God this way, we often end up frustrated, worn out, and burned out. We wonder why God isn’t blessing our efforts to help Him.
The problem is often that we’ve failed to look around and observe. What is God up to? Where is He already working? How is He working in this ministry, program, church, or community? God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not Hs ways (Isaiah 55:8). When we fail to stop and look around, we often end up running at cross-purposes with God.
In our lives and in our ministries (yes, we each have a ministry – even if it’s just loving our neighbor), we need to be observant. God is always up to something good. He has plans laid out. We derive the greatest blessing when we come alongside Him. So whether you’re beginning something new for the Lord, you’re in the middle of a thriving community outreach program, or you’re just trying to keep your family together, stop. Take some time to observe what God is doing in your midst, then tag along with the work He’s doing. You’ll be far more effective than if you just go at it on your own.Earle Clubb,

“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”   Daniel 3:25

I was reminded of the story of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-Nego recently as I listened to Chris Tomlin sing about Jesus. He sang, “He stands in the fire beside me.” It struck me that even though these three men were miraculously saved from a ridiculously hot fire, they still had to go through it. As they were thrown in there, they didn’t know they would be saved. I can’t imagine how anxious and afraid they must have been.

A number of my friends and family are standing in the fire right now. Some are undergoing trials that would cause most to crumble and lose faith. Yet it is evident that Jesus is standing in the fire with them. He is providing strength beyond what they ever dreamed they would have and courage to face each new obstacle. When I questioned one friend about how she keeps her faith in the heat of the fire, she answered, “It’s all I’ve got.”

I’m not sure why we have to endure fires. I do know that we live in a broken world and tragedies happen. Jesus even warned us that in this world we would have troubles. Another thing I’m sure of is that he is with us. He promised he would never leave us or forsake us. So, the next time you find yourself standing in a fire, look around. He’ll be there.

Sue Vinson
Prayer Ministry

One of my friends recently “paid it forward” by paying for the car behind her in the McDonald’s drive-thru. She was shocked when the person in the car caught up to her, flipped her the bird and screamed out the window that she should mind her own business (with lots of colorful curse words). My friend did two things in response – she prayed for the woman and then she posted about the experience on her own social media page. To be fair, she did say that she was not offended by the reaction and instead she felt badly for the woman because she must be dealing with some rough stuff in order to have gotten so angry. The post received numerous comments judging the woman for her behavior and suggesting that my friend should have screamed back at the woman and should never pay it forward again. Many of those responses were from people who check-in every Sunday from church, post “unspoken prayer requests” and share posts that promise salvation if you type “amen” – people who claim to be Christ followers. Before social media, you may have only known that someone was offended by observing their attitude. Maybe occasionally the person approached you and told you of the offense to your face. Social media allows us to hide behind the screen and “bravely” post about everything that offends.This negativity has become so commonplace in the virtual world, the attitude is spilling over in to everyday life – we have become a perpetually offended society. Small offenses all the way to very big, painful hurts are acted out in our communities every day. If you are offended you are almost expected by society to speak up. You can speak up in person, on-line, by protest, by riot. Whatever feels like the best vehicle for your anger is what you should do – because society says that we should be speaking our truth. Tired of your spouse being inattentive? Get a divorce. Tired of your employer not showing you appreciation? Quit. Your friend hurt your feelings? Post a vague comment on Facebook about back stabbing friends. Tired of feeling convicted after your pastor’s sermons? Leave the church. I believe that we act this way because of self-centeredness. We feel that things should always go our way, no one should ever disrespect us or hurt us, we somehow deserve fair treatment. I also believe that we behave this way out of spiritual immaturity. I am definitely talking to myself here – I am guilty, guilty, guilty. I am even offended about people being offended!
There are many injustices in our world today, yes. There are many things worth standing up for. But why do we have to do it with anger in our words and actions? Should we do it in anger if we are following Christ? The Bible tells us over and over that the answer to those questions is no. I feel like this society of the perpetually offended is a sign of the end times as it says in Matthew 24:10 (NKJV) – “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” Although this may be something that is supposed to happen, we as Christians are clearly instructed over and over not to participate in this behavior. So, as for me, I am going to pray more often about being offended. I am going to try to dig deep into why certain things offend me. I am going to try in every instance to see the situation from the other person’s point of view and to offer people grace.Blessings,
April Estrada
Communion Team
LEGOS from Hell
Maureen Webb shared that cartoon with me and I thought it was so great I would share it with all of you since we have been talking a lot about LEGOS lately. I can certainly relate to the caption because it seems that I am forever stepping on LEGOS that have been left out on the floor by our little boys. Those LEGOS can really cause pain and frustration.
Our relationships with people and even God can also cause us pain and frustration. When expectations are not met we become frustrated. When the unmet expectation is of a very personal nature or something that we value greatly it can be painful. People will let us down and even betray us. God may not answer our prayers as we like or when we like. Life and relationships can sometimes feel like we are walking on LEGOS instead of a well-paved surface leading to paradise.
But this morning, as Cody listened to the You Version Bible App for Children, I was reminded that God is faithful. He promised Abraham that He would make him into a great nation and that he would become a father even though he was already very old and his wife Sarah was beyond childbearing age. Abraham trusted God but as the years went by and the promise was unfulfilled he began to doubt and take matters into his own hands; THAT’S NEVER A GOOD IDEA! But after twenty years, God’s promise was fulfilled. God was faithful!
Perhaps you are experiencing the pain and frustration that often comes when we are connected with others like a bunch of LEGOS. Remember that God’s promise is to redeem people by His grace through faith in Jesus. Even though there are times when live connected together may not meet your expectations perhaps you need to let loose of your plans and embrace God’s plan of redemption. Understanding God’s plan and the role He has called us to play in it makes the pain and frustration worth bearing.

In Student Ministry we are talking about taking a stand. Standing up for what we believe is really, really hard in today’s culture. Thats why we need to talk about it. As Christians it is hard to stand up for God in our culture because we get knocked back down. The thought is if you believe in the Bible then you are a “__________” (fill in the blank). And there are plenty of blanks we get labeled just because we are Christians. I know you know what I’m talking about.

So how do we take a stand? Well a good example is by reading about Daniel in the OT. Daniel and his people were taken captive in a foreign land. They were forced to become a part of that culture which was different from what they believed in God. If you read the story you will see that Daniel and 3 of his buddies take a stand. Daniel 1:6-10 is a good place to start. How does Daniel do it? He knows what he believes, he doesn’t do it alone (The Church, small groups, Christian friends), he’s not a jerk about it, he’s close to God, and he is consistent.

Just some thoughts for us. We have an awesome church! We have awesome ministries, small groups, Life Groups, etc… We can take a stand for God because we are in this together.

Much Love,



For the past 7 years, Easter Sunday morning has been a service project of sorts for Club 456 (the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders). They take part of their small group time and hide eggs for the preschool class egg hunts. This is an event they look forward to each year. They are always excited to invest in the younger children and take delight in their joy at finding eggs. For the leaders, it is a chance to see the children in a different light and enjoy the growth they see in the children from year to year.

Without fail, all the Club 456 children are actively engaged and take great care with the little ones. They rise to the task and take the opportunity given them to get involved with the littles coming up behind them. The preschoolers are so excited when the older children take them by the hand and lead them outside! It is so sweet to watch. But this is about so much more than an egg hunt.

Small investments can create great change over time. The Club 456 children using 20 minutes on Easter Sunday is a real way to engage their hearts and lead them into a discussion of what it looks like to put others before self just as Jesus does. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” At OHC on Easter Sunday, that gift is Easter eggs! Prayerfully, it will translate to gifts of service used in amazing ways as our Club 456 children continue to grow.

Lisa Miles

Think about the sun. It’s size, it’s power. Since the beginning of time it has remained the same. As we go through our day, clouds may hide the sun, buildings or a mountain or trees can block it from our view and we can hold our hand in front of our face and cover it completely. Yet the sun’s size and power remain the same.
Two thousand years ago, Messiah said, I am the light of the world. Since that time, ages have begun and ended, continents and civilizations have been discovered, kingdoms and empires have risen and fallen. And some of these things have, for a time, seemed larger. For a time, they obscured the figure of the Nazarene. But in the long run, over the course of the long journey, they’ve all passed away. Everything has changed…except Him. All the rest lies in ruins and rubble or in the pages of history…but he remains unchanged, undiminished…as central, as pivotal, and as colossal as he has ever been. Everything changes but him. He is the sun. And His colossal magnitude is manifested by His changelessness.
Today, see all things in view of the big picture. Whatever problems or issues you have are small in comparison to Him and will pass away in the magnitude of the Son.Rick Troutt,
Community CareParaphrased from The Book of Mysteries, Jonathan Cahn

We are wrapping up our series on The Shack this Sunday and we have a special guest speaker, Bishop Nathan Amooti, from Rwanda. I can’t think of a better person to speak on this difficult subject. Rwanda experienced one of the most horrific genocides in history. The pain of it is still so real but the pursuit of forgiveness is mind blowing. To see forgiveness in action is humbling and powerful. The church has been at the forefront of the forgiveness movement and what Satan meant for evil is being turned into good by God. The Christian faith is exploding in that small country and their faith is not just some intellectual assent but a daily living out of the tremendously difficult call to seek forgiveness, extend forgiveness and consider others as more important than yourself.

I encourage you to clear your calendars for this Palm Sunday. Invite a friend and come ready to hear and hopefully experience the power of God’s forgiveness. Remember that FORGIVENESS WINS!

On another note; April Hall shared this video with me that speaks to the questions we have been asking throughout this series. It’s of Danny Goke of American Idol fame. Danny’s wife Sophia died and he struggled to understand why God didn’t answer his prayer and whether we can trust Him to be a good Father when life’s circumstances don’t point to that.



This is the day!

You have to sing this next part…

This is the day, this is the day.
That the Lord has made, that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice, we will rejoice,
And be glad in it, and be glad in it.

Have you ever heard this song? You probably have. If you haven’t then you should google it. It’s so simple, yet so true and awesome! I often use this scripture (where this song came from) on our student mission trips. Why? Because on our student mission trips about mid-week we are all tired and the work is getting harder. Our spirits are getting weaker and our minds are getting distracted. I love the simple reminder that each day is a day that God has made and that we should be glad and rejoice in the day. Just like our students on the mission trips we get tired, distracted, and our spirits get weaker. Take a second right now…and every day to just remember that this day is a day that God has made. You have the choice to be glad and rejoice in the day.

Psalm 118:24
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Love you all,

You know those times in life when you are feeling overwhelmed by your circumstances? Those times when you’re hesitant to answer the phone, because you’re afraid it will be more bad news? I’m going through one of those times right now, and I know many of you have suffered things much worse than what my family is currently going through. During these times, I believe we have two choices: choose fear and despair or choose joy and seek God.
In late October, my mom, who was perfectly healthy, underwent rotator cuff surgery. By mid-November, she had developed a life-threatening case of sepsis. The short story is that she spent the next 3+ months moving back and forth between the ICU of her local hospital, UVA, and a nursing home. During this time, she suffered two strokes. My mom, who was strong and healthy in October and just wanted better range of motion, could no longer walk or feed herself. There were times I thought she might die from the infection or spend the rest of her life in the hospital or nursing home.
My parents live about 3 hours from Roanoke, so I don’t see them as much as I would like. I am busy with work and 3 children. There are lots of excuses. During my mom’s 3-month hospitalization, I spent several weekends with my parents, just sitting in my mom’s hospital room at UVA or in her nursing home room in Winchester. Before her surgery, I really can’t remember the last time I spent a weekend with my parents…just the three of us. We had some great conversations, and I will cherish those weekends for the rest of my life. It makes me sad to think how easy it was to clear my schedule to go visit my mom when she was sick. Why didn’t I do that more often when she was well? On Wednesday, February 22, my mom was discharged from the nursing home and moved back home. She is still confined to a wheelchair and has many challenges ahead of her, but her first goal was to move back home. Our prayers were answered. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
That feeling of relief was short-lived. Only 2 days later, my 20-year-old daughter, Mallory, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma. It is an aggressive form of melanoma that is unrelated to sun exposure. Her dermatologist told us that the cancer could have already spread and recommended that we see a surgical oncologist as soon as possible. She would need surgery and a sentinel lymph node biopsy. I felt panicked, scared, helpless, sick…the list goes on. What would this diagnosis mean for her? What if the cancer had spread? Would she have to drop out of school? What would her long-term prognosis be? Even my mom being sick didn’t prepare me for the feelings I had and still have. As parents, we want to protect our children, and there is nothing I can do to protect her from this.
Mallory is a junior at Washington & Lee University and is about 3 weeks away from final exams. Her surgery cannot wait, so she will undergo melanoma surgery and a lymph node biopsy at UVA on April 5, the week before finals, and she will receive her lymph node biopsy results during final exam week. I am trying not to think too much about the possibility of the lymph node biopsy being positive for cancer. Instead, I am trying to focus on our time together and on making our trips to UVA as much fun as possible. She will have a lot of them, and I’m excited to have a mandatory road trip with her every 3 months for the next 5 years.
A few weeks ago, the title of Scott’s sermon was, Where is God When I Need Him Most? Scott encouraged us not to focus on asking why bad things happen to us, but to seek comfort in the fact that God will meet us in the midst of our pain. God has done that for me. He has given me words to comfort and reassure my daughter when I couldn’t find them on my own. He has given me strength to navigate my own emotions while helping Mallory to understand hers. He has given me the gift of time with my mother and my daughter—time that I might not have spent with them if they were well. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I am assured that God will be there. That makes it easier to choose joy.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8
Michelle Stephenson
Tomorrow night Orchard Hills Church will have a unique opportunity to watch The Shack at 7:00 p.m. at Valley View Cinema prior to its official release. This is an exclusive showing for OHC only. There are still some tickets left if you have been procrastinating but you need to contact Missy at the church office ASAP if you or some friends would like to attend.
The movie The Shack is based on a somewhat controversial book that deals with tragedy and trying to make sense of how God can allow such horrific events. What makes the movie really controversial is the portrayal of the Trinity. God the Father initially appears as a black woman while the Holy Spirit appears as an Asian woman and Jesus appears as a middle eastern, plaid shirt wearing, young man. Clearly this is not a Biblical portrayal of the Trinity any more than Aslan the Lion is a Biblical portrayal of Jesus. It is difficult to understand the Trinity in the first place. We often use visual illustrations to inadequately describe an invisible God from H2O, to an egg, to an apple and others. God is so much greater than our minds can conceive of but I don’t want us to miss out on some deeper Biblical truths that can be gleaned from the book and movie. So I encourage you to approach the movie with an open mind and please remember, IT’S FICTION, like the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia.
As a follow-up to the movie we will begin a five week sermon series on some of the difficult topics The Shack addresses in the following sermon messages: “Where Is God When I Need Him the Most?”, “How Does God See Me?”, “Trusting God’s Promise”, “How Can I Know the Heart of the Father?”, and “So You Just Let Him Get Away with It?”. While we will use clips from the movie as illustrations, the messages will be BIBLICAL! We are not about promoting a movie but Biblical truth and if a movie can help us do that then we are willing to endure some controversy and give it a try. So, even if you aren’t a fan of The Shack please join us March 12th as we begin a very challenging series.
Thankfully I will be in Rwanda until March 10th along with half the elders in an attempt to avoid any controversy that may arise. If you do have any concerns about this I guess you’ll have to take them up with our church administrator, Missy Phillips, since she organized it all. Just kidding of course. I really do think this is going to be one of the most thought provoking and important series we have ever done and I covet your prayers as we attempt to answer questions for which I really don’t have answers. Thankfully, God does and we will continue to look to Him and trust in Him!

If you’re like many of us, you find yourself putting off things until WHEN you think the timing will be better. I’ll spend more time with my family WHEN I finish this project…. Or, I’ll read my bible more WHEN I get caught up with work or school…. Or, I’ll join a life group WHEN I’m not travelling so much… Or, I’ll pray with (not just for) my spouse and kids WHEN we’re more comfortable doing that….Or, I’ll start tithing WHEN I get the new job or next raise…. Or, I’ll start volunteering more WHEN _______ (Fill in the blank). We all have what seem like great reasons for not doing something now, but waiting for WHEN we think the right time will come. But, when is WHEN? How long is it until WHEN?

I, and probably you, have been aware of the significant health challenges many in our church are facing and have been praying for each of them. But, if you’re like me, have given little real thought to if or WHEN something significant would unexpectedly jump into our own lives. In fact, many of us feel it won’t. … At least not until WHEN…

On December 28th, I had one of the most thorough physicals I have ever had. The pressures were where they should be, the lab results were fine, heart and lung sounds were normal and whatever the doctor pushes on in your stomach was apparently okay and in the right place. All indications were that I was in great health. I told the doctor that I would see him WHEN I came back for my physical the next year. Little did I know that I would actually see him WHEN I came to the emergency room five days later for a severe pulmonary embolism! My WHEN was not what I had planned…. My WHEN had become NOW. I was also surprised to hear from the doctors that less than half of the people whose lungs were as blocked with the amount of clot sludge as mine actually survive. Although the Lord used this experience for some wonderful things, He obviously had other ideas on WHEN for me.

Mark 13: 32-33 says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know WHEN that time will come.”

Perhaps this is WHEN we should honestly ask ourselves: WHEN will I spend more time with my family? WHEN will I read my bible more? WHEN will I join a life group? WHEN will I pray with my spouse and kids? WHEN will I start tithing? WHEN will I start volunteering more? …. And most importantly, WHEN will I truly make Jesus the Lord of my Life. My prayer is that we will all recognize that the best WHEN is NOW!


Jerry Altieri


Shortly before my first chemotherapy treatment in September, I developed significant pain in my abdomen. The pain was caused by the tumors in my liver pressing on a major blood vessel. After a few days, I figured out ways to minimize the pain, like laying in a particular position and not doing certain things (like coughing or sneezing). I grew used to the pain, and between the coping mechanisms and pain tolerance, I was able to function mostly normally. About a week and a half after my first treatment, the pain suddenly went away. The tumors responded so well to the drugs that they ceased pressing on the blood vessel. The sense of relief was amazing and the joy and gratitude I felt toward the Lord was indescribable.

As part of the chemotherapy treatments, I received a drug called Oxaliplatin. One of the main side effects of this drug is a sensitivity to cold which leads to neuropathy. For me the neuropathy was mainly in my fingers. If I was exposed to cold air, I’d get that “pins and needles” feeling like when your arm or leg falls asleep. If I touched something cold, it was like a jolt of electricity went through my fingers. Not fun. Early on, the neuropathy only lasted for a few days and was only triggered by near-freezing temperatures. As I received more treatments, the neuropathy lasted longer and I was sensitive to warmer temperatures. I couldn’t get things out of the freezer or fridge without wearing gloves, and I couldn’t play in the snow with my kids. It was mildly annoying, but I became used to the effects and it became part of the new “normal”. Two treatments (about a month) ago, they removed Oxaliplatin from my chemotherapy regimen. After about a week, the cold sensitivity and the neuropathy were completely gone. Now that I’m free from this particular side-effect, I’m amazed at the sense of relief. I hadn’t realized how much of a burden the cold sensitivity and the neuropathy had actually been.

The other day I was thinking back on these events and God showed me a spiritual parallel. We all carry around spiritual, psychological, and emotional baggage. We develop coping mechanisms like distracting ourselves with entertainment or burying the memories, pain, etc. so deep that we don’t remember it’s there. We develop emotional scar tissue and become numb to the pain. Eventually, we acclimate to a new “normal” and forget how things ought to be.

In the Psalms, David asks the Lord to:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts (or cares)! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” – Psalm 139:23-24, ESV

Jesus invites us to cast our burdens on him:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

When you come to Jesus and ask him to show you the emotional, spiritual, and physical burdens you’re carrying, he’ll show them to you, often a few at a time. Many of these you probably weren’t even aware of. When you take those burdens and give them over to Jesus, he will lighten your load and you will be amazed to find just how much those burdens were weighing you down. The relief, healing, and joy you’ll experience are inexpressible.

Earle Clubb

“. . . but the God of my father has been with me.”  (Jacob) Genesis 31:5

As I’ve been soaping through Genesis, this stood out to me:  what a lying, cheating, thieving group God chose to be his! Abraham and Issac lied about who their wives were to protect their own skin. Sarah mistrusted God’s promise, took matters into her own hands, and gave her maid to Abraham to sleep with and have a son. Jacob cheated his brother out his father’s blessing. Laban cheated Jacob into marrying Leah. Rachel stole from her father. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. This list goes on. And, yet God was with them and chose to prosper them. Over and over again!

My tendency is to judge, and I judge myself the most harshly of all. When I do this, I need to remember that I am his and he is with me. I can’t sin my way out of his presence, his mercy, his grace. Jesus has paid the price for that. BUT, how much better my relationship with him is and my whole life is when I rely on him, obey him and worship him! I believe it saddens God when we choose our own way instead of his, not because he’s disappointed. He knows our very hearts. But, because he knows the consequences we will suffer being out of his will. And yet he is with us and he is for us!

This is my prayer for myself and for all of us at OHC. Lord, help us to put aside shame and pick up your grace.  Help us to lay down regret and pick up your plans for us. Help us to reject our own way and embrace your way. Amen.

Sue Vinson
Prayer Team

We will begin a new series this Sunday entitled, Love. We will take a look at 1 John and discover that God is Love. This may not seem very profound but I hope we will discover that our culture has come up with their own definition of love and as a result they are redefining who God is; NOT what love is. What has happened is that they have actually switched the script, probably without even knowing it, and now Love is God is the truer cultural reality.
Let’s come together for the next few weeks with a desire to know God more deeply and clearly as we explore what He says love is. Feel free to read this short letter ahead of time and begin to study and meditate upon it so that you can get the most out of this. I would also welcome any insights or thoughts you may glean on the matter, hopefully before I get to that section of scripture. I’m not too proud to accept help and maybe I’ll even remember to give you credit. Many of you are very insightful, certainly more than I.
I wasn’t offended by Scott’s sermon on Sunday, but I was poked a bit.  Especially when he encouraged us to see everything we do as a ministry. Surely not everything we do is a ministry, I thought, as I pondered all of the various “small” tasks that I do every day. I then thought of all of the ways I do serve in the church. No, he was definitely not talking to me. On Sunday evening, Pinterest poked me again. If you use Pinterest at all, you know that it picks things that might be of interest to you. I am not sure how it does this, however it usually picks things for me about eating less and being a kinder, gentler person. I possibly should be offended by that, but I digress. One of the “picked for you” quotes popped up and it said – Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “It’s not a priority” and see how that feels. Ouch. I tossed this around and around in my mind, remembering the things that Scott encouraged us to do in order to produce as much fruit as possible for all eternity. Spending time with the Lord, tithing, serving (and not just your family), joining a small group, etc. Monday morning, I received a daily devotion in my email from Pastor Rick Warren. The title of this particular devotion?  Servants Serve Even When it is Inconvenient. One of the first sentences is, “If you only serve when it’s convenient for you, you’re not a real servant. Real servants do what’s needed, even when it’s inconvenient.” Wow.  Rick Warren does not play. By this time, I am thinking that maybe Scott’s sermon DID pertain to me.
So, I asked myself the questions posed by Pastor Warren:

  • Am I available to God anytime?
  • Can he mess up my plans without me becoming resentful?

And then some questions of my own:

  • Do I make excuses for not serving?
  • Do I pay more attention to “big” opportunities to serve and ignore the “small” tasks?
  • Do I turn my head when God presents me with an opportunity to serve because I am too busy, or too stressed, or too “not the right person to be doing this Lord”?
  • Do I really understand that the purpose of serving is to grow to be more like Christ and producing as much fruit as possible for all eternity?

Hard questions and if answered honestly, it is obvious that I have much work to do in this area.  I am taking what Scott said to heart and beginning to try to see everything I do as a ministry.  Looking at life through this lens should drastically impact the ways in which I choose to spend my time. I’m trying to remove “I’m too busy” from my vocabulary and examine what I currently make a priority. Tough stuff for sure. Keeping Colossians 3:23 forefront in my mind – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

April Estrada
Communion Team


Last fall I tried to fix our yard which was overrun with crabgrass. I sprayed weed killer, aerated, fertilized, seeded and watered. After all that work, and expense, I checked every day to see if anything would grow. There was really nothing I could do to make the grass grow – I could only try to create an environment where it would happen. I grew discouraged at first, but after a few weeks the new grass began to fill in parts of the yard.

Scott has begun the year by preaching on the parable of the soils – hard, rocky, weed infested, and good soil – and how our hearts receive God’s word. Too often, I find that I have a hard heart that is slow to accept God’s word. In Hosea 10:12, the Bible encourages us to, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord.”

The Bible is clear that we cannot produce any fruit in our lives apart from the work of God’s spirit. We can’t make ourselves holy or joyful or loving through sheer effort. But God promises to produce these qualities in our lives if we have hearts that are receptive to his word. How can we “break up our unplowed ground” and accomplish this?

Clearly we need to spend time reading God’s word. But to have a heart that can receive God’s word, we must believe that God really loves us and is speaking to us. For me, it can be hard to accept that God really loves me despite my failures. It is easy to grow discouraged and think that no matter what I do there won’t be any real fruit in my life.

But God does love me – and you – and his love has the power to break through the hardness of our hearts. I hope that God enables us this year to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 3:18 God’s unconditional love is the antidote to a hard heart.

Tim Mattson
Connect Team


Last week Scott started a sermon series called “Thrive – cultivating the soil of your soul”. He’s focusing on the parable of the Sower and the Seed from Matthew 13, and looking at how these different soil types relate to the condition of our hearts. This week we are going to be looking at the rocky soil, where Jesus talks about there being obstacles in our lives that can keep His word from taking root, keeping us shallow.Sometimes those rocky places in the soil of our heart can be the way that we think about God, ourselves, or other people. We all have had a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad, that have shaped our views and the way we think. And some of those incorrect thoughts can keep us from producing fruit. So what do we do with that?

Well Romans 12: 2 says: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The first part of the verse calls us to be changed by literally renovating our minds. Anyone who has lived through a house renovation of any kind knows that it can be messy and hard at times, but at the other end of the renovation, you have something beautiful that you can be proud of. I think we can start the renovation process in our minds by asking the Lord these questions:

Lord, are there any ways of thinking that are preventing Your word from taking root in my life?

And Holy Spirit, will you help me see how You want me to think about these things instead?

The renovation of the mind is getting rid of the wrong thoughts through repentance (I John 1:9), and taking on the way that God thinks about something. The brilliant thing about this is that His word, the Bible, is full of promises and the thoughts of God. And the Holy Spirit loves to tutor us and lead us towards Jesus, and the thoughts of God that will produce life in us (John 14:26, John 16:13). I want this year to be a year of thriving in the Lord for all of us. So what are we waiting for?

“Be still, and know that I am God” is a quote from Psalm 46:10. It is often referenced to offer comfort to others but have you ever really tried doing it? Well, I decided to begin the new year by giving the staff a challenge. I gave them 30 minutes to be still and think only of God; no praying, no journaling, no Bible reading just being silent and thinking only of God. Well, every single one of them struggled, probably none more than me. I found my mind would race from what I had planned for the day to what I watched on T.V. the night before to fixating on the sounds around me. I wasn’t very successful staying focused on God because of all the internal and external noise in my life. I battled to just picture being in the presence of God but my attempts were fleeting.
It was a good reminder of just how hard it is for me, and I believe most of us, to just be still and quiet with no other agenda but to enter into the presence of God. Those moments when I was able to sense only His presence were extremely sweet and peaceful but again, few and far between. My take away from the exercise was that I need to really work at developing this spiritual discipline. I need to set aside time to do nothing other than be still and enter into the presence of God.
So I want to challenge each of you to try this exercise and share what helped in your quest to be still and know God. After all, isn’t this a deep longing of our souls? And speaking of souls, we are going to spend the next four weeks talking about caring for our souls so please be sure to join us on Sunday mornings.

This Christmas, we brought home boxes of Christmas decorations from Jeff’s mom. She passed away December 26, 2014, and we knew it would be sweet to sort through the decorations but also hard as we all still miss her so. Abbey and Sarah were excited to get out the huge bin of ornaments. When we lifted the lid, there were boxes and boxes of ornaments, each labeled in her handwriting with one of our children’s names and a year. Nana had gotten each of her grandchildren ornaments every year. She would decorate her tree with them and then carefully put them back in their original boxes, saving them for when the children would be grown and have trees of their own.

What struck me most about the collection of ornaments, was that each year she picked ornaments to reflect what the children were interested in at the time. I don’t ever remember getting a call while she was at the Hallmark store asking what she should purchase. She paid attention, took the time to listen throughout the year, and then picked out what she felt best reflected their interests. Amidst the boxes of Spiderman, Barbie, and sports ornaments was her presence, her generosity reflected in those little boxes collected year after year, personally picked for each child.

We frequently think of generosity as monetary, but often the most meaningful acts of generosity are the small things we do that accumulate over time. They are acts of kindness that show others they are valuable to us and worth our time and attention. When we set aside our selfishness to genuinely pay attention and think about the interests of those we love, we give the gift of generosity. That is a gift that will never fade, just ask one of Nana’s grandchildren.

This week, take a moment to reflect upon the gift of generosity. It is a reflection of the true story of Christmas. God showed His love for us by miraculously, ridiculously sending Jesus as a baby in a manger so that He can live life with us, spend time with us, and notice us. God’s generosity toward us is endless… may you receive it and give it away this season.

Merry Christmas!
Lisa Miles,
Children’s Director


“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means God with us. (Matthew 1:23)

The first chapter of Matthew tells us how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about quoting Isaiah’s prophecy of the birth of Jesus to be God with us.

We know Jesus didn’t first come into being at Christmas. Rather, Jesus took on human flesh and came to earth to be God with us in the form of a man. Before Jesus became human, indeed from the beginning he has been living and active within the holy Trinity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”  (John 1:1)

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph announcing the upcoming birth. The angel said “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Jesus means God saves.

As we move toward Christmas, we are all overwhelmed at times by the things to do and stuff to buy. In the frantic busyness and excitement, it is often difficult to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Like Charlie Brown we want to shout “isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!” In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus has the answer. Linus takes the stage and quotes Luke 2:8-14.

Linda and I enjoy watching classic Christmas stories this time of the year. A Charlie Brown Christmas is worth a watch. If you don’t have time to watch the whole story, you can Google “Charlie Brown Christmas Linus quote” and watch the minute and a half exchange between Charlie and Linus about the meaning of Christmas.

Better yet, we can read the whole story in Luke 2.

I’m often struck by the symmetry of scripture. In the in the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew (the first book of the New Testament), we read Jesus is Immanuel — God with us. In the last few verses of Matthew, Jesus gives us the great commission. In the very last words of the book of Matthew Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) The last words of Revelation are “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’speople. Amen.”  (Revelation 22:21)

This Christmas may we be constantly and unequivocally aware God is with us. Amen!

Jim Joyce,


Last Saturday Carolyn and I along with the three little boys went to Jeter’s Farm to find a Christmas tree and enjoy some Christmas festivities. It was a fun time together. They had crafts to purchase, home-made food to sample, activities for the children and a pen with sheep, goats and pigs. So what do you think the boys were drawn to? You got it, the pen with the animals. The boys grabbed cuttings from the Christmas trees and began feeding the animals with them. All seemed to be going well until Craig reached into the pen to pet one of the sheep. The cute, fluffy little sheep must have mistaken his hand for a tender treat and as a result, bit his finger. Fortunately it wasn’t serious, merely a flesh wound, bit it did draw blood and cause pain.

The Bible often refers to followers of God as sheep. As sheep, there are times when we inadvertently bite those we are close to. Pain results and if not properly attended to what began as a mere flesh wound intensifies into a deeply wounded soul. If you have been bitten by a fellow sheep deal with it directly and quickly before it festers and causes long-term negative ramifications to you and your relationships. Be quick to forgive if you’ve been bitten and quick to ask for forgiveness if you have inadvertently bitten someone with a harsh word. Let’s not allow a minor bite, which is often unintentional, to divide us. Pick up the phone or better yet, go meet with the person who has hurt or offended you and make things right. What an amazing gift forgiveness and reconciliation are especially in light of the Christmas Season.


I don’t know about you, but I hate to shop. If I do need to purchase something, I look at it more as a mission. I’ll do the research online and order it, if possible. If I have to go into a store to get it, I search the probable location, not asking any of the clerks for the correct location — you know the thing about guys asking directions… it also applies to shopping. A success is getting in and out with the correct item in less than five minutes! The exceptions are Lowe’s and Sam’s Club.  I enjoy just looking around at what they are trying to convince me that I need.
A short while back, I was in Lowe’s and noticed that on one isle, the Halloween decorations were being discounted to move and on the opposite side of the same isle, the Thanksgiving accessories filled the shelves.  Behind that isle, Christmas decorations and trees were being displayed. Whoa! Can’t we take the time to peacefully savor one holiday before we are stimulated to start the activities of the next one?
I think that at least I am that way sometimes with my relationship and prayer with the Lord. I’ll have some challenge or event occur that I will prayerfully seek His guidance about. Occasionally, I will find myself not seeking His plan, but for him to sign onto my plan. Thankfully, it doesn’t work that way! When that situation passes, I frequently don’t take the time to peacefully savor what the Lord has taught me or the love, grace and mercy He had for me in carrying me through that particular storm. I’m just on to the next thing.
King David recognized this in his prayer:
Teach me your way, Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name. Psalms 86:11
The Apostle Paul also highlighted in his letter to the Romans that God uses ALL things for good:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28
My prayer, and I hope yours, is that we will learn to rest and listen to what the Lord is teaching us in every situation and that He will reveal even more of Himself to us through each and every thing.
Jerry Altieri

There are many Thanksgiving traditions we celebrate as Americans. Among these are feasts, football, and foot races. It seems to me that the holiday’s original purpose, a day set aside for the giving of thanks to God for His abundant provision, has decreased in importance and practice for a large portion of Americans. We all have many individual blessings for which to be thankful, but as we celebrate this National Holiday we ought to recognize and reflect on the national blessings we enjoy as Americans.

There is a long history of official Thanksgiving Proclamations. One of the best I’ve read, and one that is particularly relevant in today’s polarized atmosphere, is the Proclamation George Washington gave in 1789. In this Proclamation, Washington calls out a few things we would do well to remember:

  1. Give thanks for “the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted.” We as a nation have been blessed to be the longest-running Constitutional Republic in the history of the world. We have also experienced something many people will never experience: the peaceable transfer of governmental power.
  2. Give thanks for “the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.” These have been eroding, especially over the last 100 years, but we remain one of the most free nations in the history of the world.
  3. “Beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”
  4. Ask God “to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed.” This is something for which we should all be praying at a National, State, and Local level, regardless of who is in power.

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, let’s go beyond the perfunctory “go around the table and say something for which you’re thankful.” Spend some real time in humble reflection and prayer: giving thanks to God for His blessings on you, your family, and our Nation; asking His forgiveness for our individual and National sins; and imploring His assistance in being a Nation and individuals who bring Him glory in all that we do.

Earle Clubb

P.S. See below for the full text of George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington


Happy November everybody! You guys know I love it when the weather turns freezing and miserable outside. I hope you know I’m joking because I don’t love it. But November is the season for Thankfulness so I’m thanking God for a great time of the year. I’m also going to thank God for all of the many blessings he’s given and what he is doing at OHC and in the student ministry at OHC. We have many new students participating. Our leadership team is doing amazing things in their relationships with our students and helping them grow in their walk with God. I am hearing some awesome testimonies from parents and strangers about how students love our student ministry and how they are growing as young adults in life and in their walk with God. So I am thankful for all of that and the support you guys at OHC give us.

Ok I guess I’m suppose to say some type of teachable moment now. I’m going to talk about a hot topic right now. Social media. It has been a brutal 2 weeks out there on social media. I was saddened by many of the things I saw on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. Usually, I have to fight the emotions and feelings of defeat by seeing things our students post out there. So, we in our ministry talk with our students about social media…A LOT! We remind them of who they represent: Jesus, yourself, your family, your church. We remind them that things they post are read by real people that they know and care about. We remind them of who they want to be and what they want their friends to know about them and the life that Jesus promises. We remind them that the words they say in real life matter and it is the same on social media.

I found it strange that lately it’s the adults on social media who have saddened me. We adults teach our kids so much. In addition to what I’ve already said we teach kids not to be bullies, to respect everyone, that it’s ok that people have different opinions, to take the high road, etc…The list goes on and on. However, I think we adults have a mindset of “do as I say but not as I do” sometimes. This mindset is not the right one. It should always be “do as I say and do as I do.” We’ve all heard it before, “actions speak louder than words.” So, all I’m saying is as we are teaching our young people how to become adults we need to watch what we say and what we do. I once thought social media was going to destroy our young people unless we show them how to use it. It can be a great tool for being “social” with others in our life (the intended purpose). But if we are not careful it can also destroy our social circles and people we care about.

So in this season of being thankful, I have a suggestion. What if we at OHC try to use social media as a way of showing our love and appreciation for people in our “social” circles. I challenge you to randomly choose people you “follow”, “like”, “Snap” and tell them how much you appreciate them and thank them for whatever you thank them for. Let’s spread the love on social media everyone!

Kevin Hughes
Student Pastor

Mike Massey did a great job last Sunday as he encouraged us to “Choose Joy” regardless of our situation or circumstance. I’ve been reading a book entitled, The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, that chronicles the teachings of a religious leader in the Holy Land. As I read this one I was struck by how it ties to Mike’s message and how choosing joy actually leads us into intimate worship of God. I hope you enJOY it.
Kissing God
There was a gathering in the school’s open-air tent. It was a time of worship and praise. We were just outside the tent listening.
“What do you think of,” asked the teacher, “when you hear the word worship?”
“Singing, hymns, prayers, words of praise…”
“That’s the outward form of worship,” he said. “That’s how worship manifests. But what’s the heart of worship?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll give you one definition, a secret. It’s found in the New Covenant Scriptures. It only appears in the Greek. It’s the word proskuneo. And do you know what it means?”
I had no answer.
“It means to kiss. True worship,” said the teacher, “is to kiss. And what does this reveal? What is a kiss? A kiss is the most intimate of acts. Therefore, worship is to be the most intimate thing you can experience.”
“To worship God is to kiss God?”
“In the spiritual realm, yes, to kiss from your heart, from your innermost being. And when you kiss, you don’t do it because you have to. You do it freely from your heart because you want to.”
“So true worship is never done by compulsion, but freely from the overflow of your heart.”
“And why does one kiss?” asked the teacher.
“Because of joy.”
“Yes,” he said, “a kiss is an expression of joy. And kissing brings you joy. So true worship is an expression of joy. You worship out of joy. Your joy becomes worship and your worship becomes joy.”
“Teacher,” I said, “we didn’t say the most obvious.”
“Which is…?”
“One kisses because of love,” I said. ” A kiss is an expression of love.”
“It is. So then what is true worship?”
“Worship is an expression of love.”
“Yes,” said the teacher, “It’s as simple as that: It’s the most intimate act of love and joy. Worship is as simple as kissing God.”
The Mission: Today, draw near to God in worship, in love, in joy, in the deepest of intimacy. Learn the secret of kissing God.
Psalm 42:7-8; Song of Solomon 1:2; John 4:24
Yishkeni: The Divine Kiss
Peace and joy,
I don’t mean to brag, but I have the best job at Orchard Hills. Here are just a few of the sweet faces I see every day. Orchard Hills Day School has now enrolled 61 children and is approaching full capacity. On the Sunday of the grand opening of the children’s building, Scott said, “when you reach a child, you reach a family,” and we have found this to be so true. My teachers and I receive notes from parents at least weekly about how God has used OHDS to change their family for the better. It is truly humbling to think that God would use any of us in this way. The stories are sweet and the families are sweeter, and these are the results we were hoping for. We have bonded with each child in our care and with their families. We may not have fully expected the results we are seeing, but we certainly hoped and prayed for them.
The unexpected blessings from the past 3 months have come from the staff. There are 21 of us in this building every day to pull off 11.5 hours of daily care for 61 children. We range in age from 16 to 60, and only 7 of us attend church at OHC. Some work alone in a classroom, and some work as pairs. Somehow, this very diverse group of people has formed an amazing team because we share a common purpose: loving the children God has brought us and their families.
None of the teachers who are paired together in classrooms knew each other before August 1, and I have loved seeing new friendships form. God clearly planned these pairings, because they have truly been perfect.
Our morning staff is made up of true professionals. Two teachers have master’s degrees, and many of them have previous teaching experience. Our curriculum is awesome, and I believe we are preparing children for kindergarten as well as (hopefully, better than) any other school in the area. More important than the academic teaching is the love these teachers show EVERY child in their care. I love just sitting here watching it all happen!
The most unexpected blessing for me has been the afternoon staff, which is mostly high school and college students. The staff changeover occurs at about 2:30 every day, and these 8 young people (6 girls and 2 boys) arrive with lots of laughter, energy, and enthusiasm! They deal with some end-of-the-day meltdowns like pros. They clean up the whole day’s mess without complaint, and it has been so sweet to see the bonds they have formed with each other and with the children. There is nothing better than seeing a teenage boy comforting a toddler!
I almost missed out on all of these blessings. My life before August was very different from my life these days. I worked from the comfort of my own home as my own boss. It was quiet! I had complete flexibility and control over my day. Today, it is NEVER quiet…I mean never! There are temper tantrums, injuries, and messes like I have never seen before! I am a control freak now working in complete chaos 10 hours a day. And, I’m so thankful God called me to step out of my comfort zone to do something I never wanted or thought I would be able to do.
When I was asked to pray about my role in starting OHDS, I was resistant. I knew what I’d be giving up. I knew how long the hours would be. I was focused solely on the sacrifices I would have to make. What I didn’t know was how big the blessings would be. I now know 50+ new families and work with some amazing people.
What is God calling you to do? Are you resistant? You just might be missing out on some big (or little) blessings!
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” —1 Peter 4:10
Michelle Stephenson (aka, Miss Michelle, Misichelle, Myshell, Shell)

Romans 12:4-7 says this, “ For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

I remember reading this passage in the past and having so many thoughts that were incorrect and were not from God. Thoughts like, “I am not qualified to serve in this church. I am not “Jesus-like” enough. Surely there are others who could volunteer for that ministry who are more qualified. Serving at church is scary and intimidating.” And those thoughts went on and on. And then there were the excuses, “I don’t have time to serve. I am in the season of focusing on my young family. I will serve when I am older and more knowledgeable. I can’t make it to church every Sunday so there is no use in committing to serve. I serve in other ways for my employer or in the community. I am good.”

These thoughts and excuses were from my pride and quite frankly, from my laziness. I was coming to church because of what the church gave me, how the service filled my cup again for the week ahead.  For the sense of peace I got from being in the service each Sunday. And friends, those are great reasons to come to church. The church service DOES do those things and that is so important. But if you are not serving in the church, your worship is not complete. You are not doing what God has designed you to do. Your transformation to being more Christ-like is stalled.

We all have God given gifts and we are asked to use those unique gifts in service within our church and also within our community. What if everyone at Orchard Hills had the same prideful thoughts and half-baked excuses that I had? Can you imagine what that would look and feel like? I am happy to report that I decided to jump right in and I have received so many blessings serving. More than I can even count, and blessings that I didn’t even count on when I volunteered.

This may seem like a shameless plug for volunteers for the ministries at Orchard Hills. And it is, sort of.  Maybe I should have cleared this with Scott first! But truly, it also encouragement for you to begin to use your God given gifts to bless others while also strengthening the church. And I promise you that if you do this, it will be you who is blessed.

April Estrada,
Communion Team

This political season has been uniquely disastrous. I hardly need to furnish examples, but according to the PEW Research Institute, less than 20 percent of Americans feel they can trust their government. That’s the lowest in 50 years, as in, 20 percent less than during the Vietnam War. We tune in to the news, we see the political developments, and we feel—what? Disbelief, disillusionment, frustration, despair. I believe that despair is the worst poison of the political season, and for an important reason. Despair is perhaps the chief aim of the kingdom of darkness, because when we arrive there, we have lost the secret that sustains hope and come to see the world as the enemy himself sees it.
Despair narrows our vision, when Jesus actually intends our vision to increasingly extend so that, from the smallest example of joy, we can see the restoration of all things and, starting from the smallest act of love, we can see the healing of the nations. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It’s like a pearl. It’s like a treasure, like yeast, like a sprouting seed, but never like a political party, or a great stone rolling down a hill, or an occupying force. The logic of the Kingdom, which is more like poetry than logic, is that the tiniest element of restoration is packed with power to overwhelm the material world.   In that view, we can see the worst political and geopolitical degradations and never lose heart.
Now, if we can make it through November without despairing or becoming disillusioned, we’ll be in a far better spot for what follows. The political chaos of this season is a call to action. We don’t win or lose in November. We pass through the noise and into the real period of governance, where our work is even more necessary, and our hope far more invaluable. Engage.Peace,
Rick Troutt
Community Care
Have you ever been sitting in church, listening to the message and wanted to raise your hand and ask a question but knew it would be inappropriate? Perhaps you figured you would just type out an email to the pastor or speaker once you got home or the next day at work but then you completely forgot all about it? Have you wanted to make a comment either bad or good (preferably good) about your church experience but didn’t know who to talk with about it?
Well, we have a solution for you. When you come to church on SundayDO NOT TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES, silence them for goodness sakes so you don’t look like an idiot when your ‘Bad to the Bone’ ring tone goes off, but DON’T TURN THEM OFF. If you have a question or comment at any time during the service simply text it to 540-632-2057. Go ahead and add it to your contacts now so you are ready for this Sunday. We will get back to you no later than the end of business on Monday.
Our hope is that people become more engaged with the message and the church as they find answers to their questions and responses to their comments. Don’t fear asking a dumb question. I’ve asked most of them already and I won’t use them to embarrass you, without your permission that is. So put your smart phone to good use this Sunday, stop playing Candy Crush and start engaging with the worship experience.
p.s. We will be covering Romans 5:1 – 8:39 this Sunday so read it ahead of time.

We started a new series in the student ministry this month. The series is called “Be Near.” If you can’t guess it has to do with how we can “be near” to God. I really like this teaching because so often we get stuck in little ruts with our relationship with God and we need/want to get back to a closer relationship with Him. We all have these up and down moments in our walk with God because we get busy, life gets hard, or simply put we are human and the work that is required in any relationship gets to be challenging.

This is what the focus of this series is about. Reminding our students/ourselves that once we begin our relationship with Jesus there is a little bit of an effort on our part to remain close to Him. But God makes a promise to us, “Remain close to me and I will remain close to you,” James 4:8. This past week we went over 3 key elements that we can actually do to remain close to God. You will be blown away by these key elements because they are super difficult to understand and may not make sense. Disclaimer: They are actually super simple and you guys know these 3 elements already…but simple is not always easy. However, if we do these 3 things then it will help us to “be near” to God and in turn his promise will be sure and He will be near to us.

1. Go to church.
“Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another,” Hebrews 10:25. Our relationship with God is a personal relationship but not a private one. We need to meet together to encourage each other and strengthen our relationship with each other and in turn, God.

2. Read your Bible.
“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night…” Psalm 1. Don’t just read your Bible but delight in it. Be excited that you get to read God’s word.

3. Pray!
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful,” Colossians 4:2 and “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians. Being near to God means talking to Him. We do not have to be on our hands and knees 24/7 but we can always be in communication with God.

See I told you they are simple, right? We have all heard that these 3 things will help us be near to God but sometimes we need to be reminded of the power of each element and how it will benefit our walk with God. Over time we feel we do not need to put forth an effort because we know we belong to Jesus but all relationships require effort if you want to be close to that other person. You can’t have a best friend if you never spend time with them or talk to them, right? It’s the same with our relationship with God. So, as I challenge our youth to do these 3 things to be near to God; I also challenge all of you.

Kevin Hughes,
Student Pastor

In 2012, Orchard Hills started a Tuesday morning outreach for under-served children in the community. The goal was to reach them with the love of Jesus by providing food and educational assistance. Other churches in the area gave their support, and the summer program ministered to 31 children. At the end of that summer as we said goodbye to those children, they were asking when they could come again.

Well…. I’m going to be honest, we hadn’t thought about the afterwards. Our initial goal was a “program” – feed them, love them, send them home. And in the fall we could go back to normal, evaluate the success of the “program” and decide if it would happen again in the future. We were never out to start a 501(c)3 for children in our community. I personally was very comfortable with the initial idea of just a sweet summer program.But that’s not the heart of our Father. He began to open the eyes of our understanding and help us realize He does not see projects, He sees us, all of us, in the middle of our mess, and loves us. As we were praying that fall, 1 Thessalonians 2:8 became alive to us. What does love look like lived out with people instead having programs that are short fixes? How does our church impact the community in a way that is long term, life changing, without expectation of any tangible return but with the full knowledge that every interaction is impacting eternity? How do I… How does my family…

I’ll be honest, it’s hard. Everyone who makes the choice to stay alongside someone in the trenches of life will tell you there is a cost. Living life carries a much greater responsibility than just sharing the “Gospel” story and leaving. But I can also tell you that the joys are too numerous to recount.

Each of us has an opportunity before us: a neighbor, a coworker, a family member, someone in the church. There are people God places in our lives that are open doors to live life with and love. Let’s pray for God to open the eyes of our understanding to see the people around us today as He sees them and love them well.

Lisa Miles, Children’s Director
After more than a decade break I am back to coaching soccer. I began coaching Craig’s soccer team last year. We were comprised primarily of 6 year olds in a U8 league. We had a group of kids with a lot of potential but they lacked experience, training and maturity. We won only one game and seldom scored. It was a tough season but the boys and girls really improved and matured over the course of the season.
I’m coaching many of the same players this season and have both Craig and Sam on my team. It is amazing how the kids from last year have matured and how they are positively affecting the two six year olds on the team. We haven’t lost a game yet (although we don’t keep score), we are averaging six goals a game with all but one person scoring and we have yet to be scored on. What a difference one year of maturity makes!
As I was SOAPing through Colossians chapter 1 this morning I was struck by the Apostle Paul’s commitment to the church in Colossae. He was committed to seeing the church mature in their knowledge, understanding and manifestation of Jesus Christ. In verse 29 Paul says that he “toils” to that end. In the prior verse he states his goal of “presenting everyone mature in Christ.” Raising up mature followers of Jesus was Paul’s primary focus and the commission that Jesus Himself gave to all of us who call ourselves Christians.
Paul was a master of planting and growing new churches and Christ followers. He also gave special attention to young followers like Timothy so that they would mature in their faith and as leaders. Paul is an excellent role model for us today. So let me ask you, “Are you more mature in your faith today versus this time last year?” Who are you investing in so that they might mature in their faith?
If my little soccer players are any example there is so much maturity that can be experienced in just one year and a lot of fun to be had in the process. You don’t have to wait until you are old and grey to make a difference in someone’s life or for the Kingdom of God. Set a goal for your spiritual growth that has some measureables and see how much you and others around you grow over the next year.
when life gives you lemons (1)

“OK kids, what do we know about God?” I asked as we sat around the dinner table. The children chimed in with responses like “He’s good”, “We can trust Him”, “His plans are perfect”, “He loves us”. I asked them if these things are true only when things are going our way. What about when life is hard, scary, or painful? “Still true,” we agreed.

We talked about God’s purposes when we experience pain and suffering, how he uses those situations to strengthen our faith and trust in Him and our reliance on Him. God also comforts us in our pain, as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

I SOAPed on that chapter the night before I found out there was something really bad going on in my body. The reason Cathy and I were having this conversation with the kids was to tell them that I might have cancer.

“This is an opportunity for us to learn to really trust God, to allow Him to comfort us, and to grow deeper in our relationship with Him,” I said. “It’s OK to be sad, scared, or angry. Take those feelings to the Lord. Allow Him to comfort you.”

After we talked about the situation a bit, I circled back around to the beginning: “In light of this, what do we know about God?” Even when we’re faced with pain and affliction, God is still good. He’s still trustworthy, His plans are still perfect. He still loves us.

My family and I are beginning a hard journey. But we know that God has it all under control, and that he is preparing us for deeper faith – one that is tested by fire. He has brought many people around us to comfort us, in addition to the comfort He is giving us. In the end, no matter what happens, we trust God will use us to comfort and encourage others.

Trusting in His goodness,
Earle Clubb


If you are like me, you’re having a hard time believing how summer went by so quickly. The beginning of spring was 150 quick days ago and fall will be here in only 36 more. The fun of NFL regular season is only 22 days away and we’ll be enjoying the aroma of the big Thanksgiving meal in only 98 days. In between all of this is the 82 day away presidential election that will culminate the campaigns that have seemed to go on for decades! Roanoke City Schools start in 5 days and Roanoke County in 7. Botetourt County students already have 8 days behind them. Wow! Where does time go and how can we possibly keep up?

Part of Marc’s message this week referenced Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

God promises rest for the souls of those who are weary and burdened when we take on his yoke and learn from him. But, what are some practical ways we can do that? Where is his yoke? One place we can find his yoke is in his work. Where is he working? What has he already started doing around us?

Our church building is like a Wal-Mart…. There are cars in the parking lot almost all the time. The variety of activities and ministries that the Lord has sent to Orchard Hills Church is amazing… And our new building has provided the opportunity for even more! We have a chance to reach new families for the Lord through their children’s participation in the Orchard Hills Day School, the Orchard Hills Achievement Center and other Children and Youth ministries and activities. Others are being reached through the Women’s, Men’s, Prayer, First Impressions, Music, Capernaum and other ministries. The Lord is definitely at work at Orchard Hills Church!

If you are looking for a yoke of the Lord that you can put on and work alongside him and others, I encourage you to let this be the season that you actively reach out to share your talents, time, resources and prayers to get involved with and support these ministries. There are opportunities to Yoke Up almost every day of the week, particularly on Sundays with the Children’s and Youth Ministries and Tuesday and Thursday afternoon with the Achievement Center kids. The Day School could use some subs and there are always opportunities to do something around the church buildings or grounds.

Yoke Up! You’ll be amazed at the rest the Lord will provide your soul.

And remember… Only 129 shopping days until Christmas…..

Jerry Altieri

Impacting Lives Through (1)
In his sermon a couple weeks ago, Scott talked about the history of Orchard Hills and how our church played a huge part in the establishment of the ministry of Young Life in Botetourt County.  As he talked specifically about my family and how we were impacted by the partnership between Young Life and Orchard Hills, I couldn’t help but think about all the kids and families whose lives have been changed in Botetourt since then and how many will continue to be changed in the future.
One of the things I love most about Young Life is their style is relational and incarnational.  This means that Young Life’s proclamation of the Gospel will almost always proceed from the context of being in relationship with kids.  As God “became flesh” in the person of Jesus (John 1:14), so those involved with the ministry seek to “become flesh” in the way they proclaim the Gospel.  Young Life leaders earn the right to be heard by first doing life with kids, meeting them where they are at, and getting to know them for who they are.  This was very much what drew me and all my siblings to our Young Life leaders. Our lives were dramatically influenced when these adults came alongside of us, sharing God’s love with us and believing in us, helping us begin to see that our lives had great worth, meaning and purpose.
To date in Botetourt County, the ministry of Young Life has had far reaching impacts at Lord Botetourt and James River High Schools, Read Mountain and Central Academy Middle Schools through WyldLife, to teen moms through the ministry of YoungLives and to adolescents with physical and mental disabilities through the ministry of Capernaum.  
Although we will be in a year of transition for the 2016-2017 school year, we truly believe the best is yet to come for Young Life in Botetourt County.  Volunteer leaders will still be meeting with kids, sharing their lives and sharing with them the person of Jesus Christ.  But as the scripture says, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37).   I would challenge you to ask yourself if making a difference in the lives of kids in Botetourt County through Young Life is something you can see yourself being a part of and if so, how?  Whether it’s as a volunteer leader, committee member, donor, or something else, we can’t do this ministry without you. Visit the Botetourt County Young Life website at or contact me to learn more about the impact Young Life is making in our community and how you can be a part of it.(Alert: Shameless plug below)
I know how anyone who enjoys golf can be involved, by participating in our 14th Annual Young Life Botetourt Golf Tournament on Friday, September 23rd at Ashley Plantation Golf Course.  Please see the Young Life website or contact Hunter Crigler at 540-588-0144 for more information. 
WORK (1)
We just completed the series called Body Building which was very timely considering all that has gone into the opening of the new children’s and youth addition. I have had a special vantage point to watch so many of you, the Body, come together with your various gifts, talents and just plain hard work to make the opening of this new building possible. Throughout the day and long into the night, people have been cleaning, pulling wire, cleaning, decorating rooms, cleaning, installing televisions and sound systems, cleaning, building playgrounds, cleaning, getting permits and approvals, cleaning, putting up decals and yes, more cleaning. Even as long as this list is I am sure I missed a number of items like the construction of T.V. frames, a sound booth and installation of various building items but I think you get the point.
The Body has really come together and I am incredibly humbled. Thank you is not enough to express how grateful I am for each and every one of you. Seeing the sanctuary last Sunday overflowing to the point that children were sitting on the floor in front of the stage just to make room for adults to sit even after we brought every spare chair we had into the sanctuary was inspiring and pointed to our need to continue our pursuit of the next phase of construction which will include an 800 seat sanctuary. Listening to all the oohs and ahhs as people toured the new facility put a great big smile on my face. Walking through the newly opened Day School with all those little people and their amazing teachers has blown me away. God has been so good to us and entrusted us with so much.
We still have a lot of work ahead of us to complete each phase of the building process. It will take a lot more money and lot more labor but after seeing how God has blessed our step of faith I am confident it will happen sooner versus later. This Body Building is a lot of fun, especially when you are surrounded with so many amazing people. Let’s continue to give thanks to God for the Body He has already built at OHC and beyond and dream BIG dreams about what He has for us in the future!

The presidential election is in full swing. This has several important implications for all of us. It means that television will soon be unwatchable due to the annoying and seemingly endless political ads. It also means that solicitors and pollsters will show up on our caller IDs with unknown numbers. Finally, it means that America will elect a new president this year.  

As a Christian watching these events, it is hard to maintain a spiritual perspective on the events as they unfold. I know I struggle with that, as my wife would gladly attest. Feelings of worry, frustration, anxiety and anger are all too common as political debate unfolds on a national stage. So, as we enter the election season I hope you find these truths encouraging: 

First, God is in control. Daniel warned Nebuchadnezzar to adopt a more humble attitude as King of Babylon. Instead of listening, Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity for seven years and learned the hard way that God “does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.” God is control of this election and no one will be elected apart from his will.  

Second, Christians should intercede with God for America. When Abraham learned that God was planning to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he pleaded with God to spare the cities if just ten righteous people remained in them. Instead of indulging feelings of self-righteousness, despair, or frustration about opposing candidates and parties, we should humbly ask God to have mercy on our country.  

As American citizens we have the privilege of voting, but the biggest impact we can have on the election and our country is through prayer. Just like God listened to Abraham, he will listen to us if we take the time to talk to him. God is the only one who can ultimately change America – by changing human hearts. As the election approaches, let’s remember to talk to the one who is really in control.  

Tim Mattson,
Connection Team


Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

THE NEW BUILDING IS ALMOST DONE! Things are changing around OHC every minute, and there is such excitement about getting the new building done. It is amazing to think of how far this project has come and the amount of prayer that preceded it and is ongoing. It has been such a joy to be a part of the building process, to see plans come to life.
One of the joys of the process has been the relationships built with people. There is something about working together that strengthens relationships. When we give of ourselves, it truly is given back. If you have not had an opportunity to get in the new space to work on a project, there is still time! On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. you can come complete some projects or lend a hand cleaning. Saturday, a team will gather to assemble the new outdoor playground, and next Tuesday, others will spread mulch.
These will all be great times to give and also to receive the opportunity to connect with others! Join us as we get ready to open the building for the grand opening celebration. As we give and serve together, we receive more than we can imagine.
May God’s grace be poured out to you today, running over to those around you.



So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Last week 15 students and 5 leaders from Orchard Hills spent the week working with TeamEffort in Conway, South Carolina. We had the chance to serve a wonderful lady named Ms. Gloria by taking down her old fence and putting up a new one as well as painting her railings and shutters. Every night during our worship time the leaders of TeamEffort would ask us to share where we had seen God at our work site. I thought this is a great way for us to look at our lives on a daily basis and call our attention to how we have seen God working. We often take for granted the amazing things God does for us each day.

One of the ways that I saw God working this past week was through the love our students showed to others. One of the students from the other youth group shared how he had seen God through our students. He said that he noticed our students being nice to people who others were not normally nice to and that our students welcomed and included other people. At that moment, I was unbelievably proud of our students and our church. It is so awesome that our students are understanding that our church deeply values loving others and relationships. Our students are living out what it means to love God and love others.  

Another way I saw God was through the work that our students did. Tony was a contractor who would visit our work site and give us tasks to complete then he would move along to check on the other sites. At the end of the week, Tony shared with our group how he had underestimated all the work we would be able to do. He said that he didn’t think we would be able to get done all the work that he had left for us but we did. Tony became a little emotional and said that our students had helped restore his faith. Once again, I was so proud of our students. Our students truly glorified God this past week, and it was an honor to be a part of such an awesome group.  

Jen Hawks

Designed to

When a baby is born into the world, the father searches intensely to see if the baby looks like him. He may be too tough to say it, but every father looks earnestly into the little wrinkled face to see whether his baby looks like him or not. We want things to look like us, and if they are not born to us, we go out and make things. We paint pictures; we write music; we do something, because we want to create and everything we create is a reflection of our personality.

God made man to be like Him so that man could give more pleasure to God than all the other creatures. Only in man, as created by God, can God admire Himself. Man is the mirror image in which God looks to see Himself. Man is the reflection of the glory of God, which was the purpose and intention of God originally. Man’s supreme function through all eternity is to reflect God’s highest glory, and that God might look into the mirror called man and see His own glory shinning there. Through man God reflects his glory to all creation.

You are a mirror of the Almighty, and this is the reason you were created in the first place. This is your purpose. You are not created so that you might only take something over here and put it over there- work. You are not created only that you might develop your brain so that you can speak with cultured accent –education. Nor are we here for the thrills life brings.

Worship is man’s full reason for existence. Worship is why we are born and why we are born again. Worship is why there is church, the assembly of the redeemed, in the first place. (A.W. Tozer)

If we could live into the purpose for which we were created, perhaps we might grasp the depth of the love lavished on us by our savior and love those around us deeper as well.

Rick Troutt,
Community Care

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16

I am enjoying the blessing of seeing a good friend experiencing the overwhelming joy of a renewed relationship with Jesus. Part of the blessing is being unmistakably reminded that Jesus is source of our joy.Galatians 5:22 tells us joy is one of the fruits of the spirit. Jesus desires “that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”.  John 15:11

As my friend has become focused on Jesus in the last few weeks, it is apparent to those around him that he is more fully enjoying life. His circumstances have not changed. He has not suddenly become more successful, more popular, or wealthier but he has clearly become more joyful. My friend even sees joy in difficult circumstances and challenges.

When circumstances were really tough, Habakkuk, in one of the strongest affirmations of faith in the scriptures, was joyful in the LORD. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”   Habakkuk 3:17-18

Joy is not dependent on our circumstances. Some of the world’s most miserable people are those whose circumstances seem the most enviable. True joy is a byproduct of living in the presence of the LORD. Joy can be experienced in palaces or in prisons … anywhere.

Paul’s writing to the Thessalonians gives us the recipe for true joy.  He tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness opens our hearts to God’s presence and our mines to His thoughts. My friend now talks frequently of his thankfulness to God. It is apparent he sees the world and his place in it differently through the lens of thankfulness. But most importantly he sees his place with Jesus differently through the lens of thankfulness. And that is the source of his joy.

Paul also tells us to pray continually. Maybe the best way to practice prayer without ceasing is to be thankful frequently throughout our day. Thankfulness puts us in communion with God and serves as a launching point for continual prayer. Our prayers of thankfulness provide a solid foundation upon which to build all our other prayers.

There is a mystery in God’s gift to us: we give God thanks (regardless of our feelings), and He gives us joy (regardless of our circumstances).  It is so simple, yet so often I miss it. I am thankful and blessed my friend’s searing hot relationship with Jesus unmistakably reminds me of the source of all joy.

May we adopt a spirit of thankfulness in all things leading to continual communion with God in prayer and receive His JOY, which is His will for us in Christ Jesus. 

Jim Joyce,


I really loved the sermon on Sunday comparing Crossfit to being fit to carry our cross daily. I loved it for many reasons, but I must admit that I was disappointed that Scott did not do the snatch and clean or press and snatch. Whatever. I am not qualified to use Crossfit lingo, though I have total admiration for those who are qualified. The sermon really got me thinking about meeting personal goals and challenges. I work out like it’s a part time job – every day, at least an hour. I do hard workouts – strength, running and conditioning. But still my weight is not where I would like it to be. My body fat and all of the other numbers that your doctor throws out at your yearly physical – are not where I would like them to be. A close friend of mine who is a personal trainer tells me often – only 20% of it is what you do in the gym. The other 80% is what you eat. Sometimes I roll my eyes at this advice. Sometimes I will take the advice to heart and be really motivated to eat well for a few weeks. Sometimes I try to outwit the advice by telling myself I will just work out longer and harder. Sometimes I make excuses – I have a slow metabolism, I am over 40, I like Cheetos. What Scott’s sermon taught me is that what I should be doing to meet these goals is to get on track and STAY on track. That is how you meet your goals. That is how you become fit to carry your cross daily. In my mind, 20% would be the things you do like attend church, pray, join a Bible study. The 80% would be the habits and behavior that you demonstrate daily that draws you closer to God. It’s the things that you do every single day to follow him, to listen to his voice, to grow spiritually.

Proverbs 4:25-27 (The Message) says,
Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
that’s where life starts.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth;
avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead;
ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
leave evil in the dust.

These are the things we have to do daily. We have to be steadfast. We have to get on track and stay on track. We have to monitor our progress daily – check in with God about how we are doing. He is our very own personal trainer and he is eager to help us do all of these things. When we do these things, the blessings that will come will be overwhelming. Much better than meeting any personal goal that you may have.

April Estrada
Communion Ministry

what are youhungry for-
I was SOAPing through Acts 20 this morning and struck by verses 7-12. In case you haven’t SOAPed yet today and don’t have a Bible handy I’ll recap quickly. The Apostle Paul was visiting the church in Troas and they had all come together on Sunday for communion and the preaching of the Word. This was no 60-90 minute church service. Paul taught from the Word of God all day and into the night. Around midnight a young man by the name of Eutychus fell asleep and fell three stories to his death. Paul didn’t seem terribly fazed by it though. He just went downstairs, took the young man in his arms and Eutychus was healed. Paul went back upstairs, picked up where he left off, celebrated communion and continued to teach the Word until day break at which time the people and young Eutychus headed home.
I love the matter-of-factness with which the story is told but I feel convicted that I tend to hunger more for the things of this world than communion, the Word of God or being with other believers. I worry about how long the Sunday service is taking or if communion is running long. I find myself day dreaming about lunch or the activities of the afternoon instead of recognizing what a gift I have been given to start my week out by gathering with other believers to celebrate communion and learn from the Word of God.
My prayer is that God gives me a greater hunger for Him, His Word and others and less of an appetite for the things that are fleeting and leave me empty in the end. How about you? What do you hunger most for?
Diem (2)

 Ah, summer! This is my favorite time of the year. No more jeans, jackets, or scarfs. Just glorious shorts, t-shirts, and swim suits. Summer is also my favorite time of the year because the students are out of school and I get to spend a lot more time with them. Which in youth ministry, is the goal. The greatest gift of the summer is the two OHC Student Ministry mission trips. The first one is for our middle schoolers to Conway, SC; and the second one is for our High schoolers to Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic. These trips have a huge impact on the communities we visit as well as our own students at OHC. Every year I’m amazed by what God does with our students on these trips. Every year I get to see our students grow closer to God and closer to other Christians as we spread the good news to other parts of the world. I’m excited for the trips this year as we have many returning students and many new students attending the mission trips.  

With all this being said I want to give a big shout out to all of you at OHC!  Thank you for supporting us so that we can go on these trips. From your prayers, to your finances, to your time and energy I say thank you! Even though most of you do not go on these trips you make it possible for our leaders and students to go. Thank you to all the parents for your sacrifices to send your children on these trips. Without all of you at OHC these mission trips would not be possible and I look forward to returning and sharing with you what God as done this year.

If you are reading this and want to support us this year it’s not too late. We have a yard sale and Paella lunch on June 4th. You can shop and eat all at the same time. Tickets for lunch are available (see me, Kevin, Irma Stritsky or one of our students for tickets). We also will be running and operating a TNT fireworks stand at the Bonsack Wal-Mart from June 26-July 4th.  If you are planning on buy fireworks then come buy from us. We will be there 24/7 starting June 26th.  Send all your family and friends over to us as well.  Thanks again for all of your support of our Student Ministry.

Much Love,


One of the volunteer activities I enjoy is helping stray, surrendered or just plain forgotten dogs get from a challenging and potentially deadly environment to a loving home. I was particularly touched by a run several weeks ago where a dog had been rescued from the streets of Houston, Texas, and needed to get to a medical rescue in New York. My leg of the trip was from Wytheville to Harrisonburg. The dog, aptly named “Houston,” had been hit previously by a car and had a broken hip and fractured pelvis that did not heal properly. She was about a year old, undernourished, could walk on only three legs, had a severe case of mange, and other parasites had invaded her body…. She was a mess. Many would even say, “Why bother?” When I saw her, she looked even worse than the photos depicted. As I lifted her onto the bed that I had made for her on the passenger seat, her tail began to wag. When I bent down to talk to her and pet her blistered head and coat, she looked into my eyes and began stretching her head and neck so that she could lick my face. I was touched by this creation of God, who was in significant discomfort and who had gone through so much, reaching out to me…. to lick my face.

During the hours I was with her, I thought about how it might go if I were walking in her paws. Instead of wagging my tail and showing love with a lick to the face, would I instead growl at those around me and even at God? Would I show my anger and distrust even more by biting those who cared for me or even the hand of my Creator? Would I think that because of the mange and parasites in my life that I was not worthy or that there was no hope? Or…. Would I have the faith to praise God and reach up to Him during my challenge and lick His face?

Psalms 103 says:
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits… who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases… who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and compassion.

There is a song playing on the radio now by Ryan Stevenson. The chorus says so much about where God is when we are facing our storms:
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm    

I pray that when I face the storms I know this life will bring that I will have the faith to reach up to the one whose love surrounds me… and lick Him in the face.

Jerry Altieri, Elder

By the way, Houston made it to the medical rescue in New York and is being treated. The vet feels surgery can be successful, and she should regain use of her leg. The vet’s family also plans to adopt her. 

Confessions of a Spring Cleaner

Spring Cleaning is in full swing at the Clubbhouse: decluttering; cleaning; organizing; etc. It’s exciting to see all the (junk) valuable items leave our home. We’re already reaping the emotional benefits of the open space. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Over the past couple of weeks, Scott has been preaching about our need for spiritual Spring Cleaning. During a recent message, he made the following observation:
Soft Heart → Truthful Mind → Regenerate Soul → Purposeful Life

We recently experienced this truth with one of our children. About 6 months ago, a child of a family friend misplaced something at our house. We searched the house top to bottom, but could not find it (too much clutter). Each of our children, when asked about it, denied any involvement with the disappearance. One day last week, after family prayer (during which we had prayed for the family of the lost item), one of our kids pulled Cathy aside for a private conversation. The child blurted out, “I did it. I stole the _____. I’m sorry for lying to you. Will you forgive me?” You could see relief spread across their face. The child’s countenance changed. There were hugs and some tears. The child continued, “I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t want to tell you. I thought it would be better to keep it a secret, but now I know that it was Satan trying to trick me. I need to call my friend and tell them what I did.” So at 9:30 p.m. a call was placed, confession was made, and the offense was forgiven. With the burden of guilt lifted, this child could now go to sleep in peace.

As we reflected on this encounter, we could see how a simple sin can become a heavy burden of denial and darkness. If we have soft hearts, however, we become more responsive to the promptings and convictions of the Holy Spirit. God can speak softly, gently, and lead us to repentance. That is certainly more desirable than the painful consequences that accompany a hardened heart.

The key to walking humbly with God and living a life of repentance is a soft heart. So pray earnestly that God would soften your heart and incline it toward Him. With a soft heart, the Holy Spirit will fill your mind with truth, regenerate and refresh your spirit, and lead you in a life of meaning and purpose.

Earle and Cathy Clubb

SODA (12)
I wonder how many of us are still faithfully SOAPing the Scriptures on a daily basis? I have a feeling quite a few of us have gotten lacks and lost the discipline of spending time with God on a daily basis and returned to our old ways. If that is true of you then don’t be discouraged, you are in good company.
Today marks the end of our time in the Gospels as we read John chapter 21. The scene at the end of the Gospels is much the same as it was when Jesus first called Andrew, Peter, James and John to follow Him. The fishermen who dropped everything to follow Jesus for three years are now back to their old life of fishing because that is what was most familiar to them and they lacked direction and a plan. I find it sad to think that these men who were once on fire for Jesus and performing miracles in His name had settled for their old ways even though this was the third time Jesus had appeared to them since His resurrection from the dead.
We tend to be a lot like the disciples don’t we? We have a powerful experience with Jesus and commit to follow Him faithfully for the rest of our lives but as the excitement of the experience fades so does our faithfulness. Discipline is required to continue that long, faithful journey with Jesus. Too often we forget that or are not willing to exercise the discipline on a daily basis and as a result we return to our old way of life.
Fortunately, Jesus didn’t give up on these guys and He doesn’t give up on us. Jesus reminded them that even though He would not be with them physically for much longer He would always be their provider and as we will see in the book of Acts, He would always be with them and all His followers to come through His Spirit.
Now that we are 1/3 of the way through the year let’s not give up on our daily pursuit of Jesus and return to our old ways. Let’s recommit to SOAPing through the New Testament. Let’s be reminded that we are in this together and that the Spirit of Jesus lives within us. We will learn a great deal from the early church so SOAP on people!
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” ~Psalm 19:1
Children love springtime. They run, jump and dance in the sunshine and are delighted with all of the signs of spring. These past few weeks have been full of caterpillars and tadpoles, flowers, and bright, new leaves. It is such a profound time of year. It bears witness to life unfurling out of the death of winter. It’s a time to bask in the sun and shake off the dust of the cold, a time to take delight in the creation of our Father. 
C.S. Lewis, an Oxford professor of medieval English and a Christian apologist, wrote of Psalm 19, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” (C.S. Lewis, Psalms, p. 63.) Psalm 19 is an encouragement to be “spring” minded, to see creation as validation of the Creator, a display of the splendor of His presence. (John N. Oswalt, kābēd, TWOT #943e.) Psalm 19 goes on from declaring the glory of God through nature, to the treasure of God’s Word, and ends with a deep desire to refrain from sin in action and attitude. There’s something about the newness of this season that reveals the grime hidden in the shadow and spurs us toward Spring Cleaning! 
Take a moment to pause today. Drink in the sun and delight in the tadpoles. May God’s presence surround you. Allow Him to shake out your winter cobwebs and melancholy as He restores your soul. Blessings, 
Lisa Miles

Recently, I picked up a copy of Jen Hatmaker’s book, “For the love.” Best.decision.ever. I’m serious. If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend that you stop what you’re doing immediately, sign in to Amazon or iBooks, and purchase ASAP. Jen is a pastor’s wife who loves Jesus (obviously), loves others, and has a humor and wit that makes for an easy read. She writes about community, family, church, grace, and our spiritual/life calling. I especially love the following excerpt:

“Good reader, I don’t mean to vilify your search for a calling, because I share the desire for purpose. Rather, I want to loosen some of its manufactured chains. I see women pressing pause on their present lives while waiting to decode their “callings.” When my kids are bigger, then I’ll . . . When my platform is larger, then I’ll . . . When I’m better at what I do, then I’ll . . . When I get a lightning bolt from heaven, then I’ll . . .

In many ways, the perception of a calling is a luxury of the privileged. A life’s purpose need not be authenticated by a business plan, a 501c3, a website, a salary, or an audience. We get to labor over our “call” “ing” because we are educated and financially stable, so many of us eschew the honor of ordinary work and instead fret over the perception of wasting our lives.”

I think this is especially pertinent in light of the recent sermon series we’ve heard on “Heroes of the faith.” It would be so easy to walk away from that series and mutter some of those “when my…” statements or think that just because our life stories thus far don’t seemingly have anything so big or history-worthy in them, we don’t have a “calling” or “purpose.” This would be a tragedy. God has called us to love Him and love others. Purposeful relationships, conversations, and change will naturally evolve if we focus on those two things: loving Him and loving others.

I love that last sentence Jen writes, “…so many of us eschew the honor of ordinary work and instead fret over the perception of wasting our lives.” Instead of focusing on what “big” things the Lord could and would do if we “had it all together”, let’s shift that focus and strive for contentment in where the Lord has us now and allow Him to work through us daily. Well, that’s about all I have now because I’m only halfway through my cup of coffee and, well, it’s Wednesday.

Whitney Hughes


Looking at the political scene in America and around the world, it is easy to feel discouraged. Thousands of refugees are fleeing civil war and ISIS in the Middle East.  The recent revelation of the so-called Panama Papers showed that world leaders from around the globe have hidden away money in order to avoid paying taxes. A contentious presidential nomination process in America has been dispiriting for democrats and republicans alike. War, corruption and bad leadership seem present everywhere.  

National and international events are undoubtedly out of our control. In fact, problems closer to home such as sickness, death, a struggling business, or strained family relationships are also often beyond our control. During these times, it is easy to lose hope. I think Jesus understands what hopelessness feels like. While he was on the cross he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  

Sometimes it feels like God has forsaken us personally, or that he is not in control of world events. Jesus, however, told his disciples, “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).  While God chooses to allow events that we cannot understand, he also loves us far more than we can ever appreciate. Ultimately, we have to choose whether we will focus our attention on politics, people and events or whether we will focus our attention on God. If we choose to focus on God, then he will give us his peace and the strength to overcome the world. 

Tim Mattson,
Connect Ministry

tranquility (3)

As I sat listening to Scott’s message this past Sunday, I couldn’t help but glance to my left to see my oldest daughter and her husband and realize how true his words were when he talked about entrusting your children to the Lord. He was so right when he said that act could change history. You see, there was a time in my life that I was not seeking Christ and therefore, I had not entrusted my children to anyone but myself. My children were my entire world so how could anyone love them more? Or know what was best for them? Nope, they were my responsibility and I was determined to “fix” anything and everything that came their way. Of course life happened and along with that came some heartbreaking seasons that were unfixable by human hands … not even MOM hands.

One of those seasons began as my oldest daughter was starting her second year of college and grieving the loss of her little sister. This was a very broken time for our family and we were doing our best just to survive. This was also a time when I was determined more than ever to “fix” my daughter as I watched her struggle with her sister’s death and make choices that were harmful. The more she struggled, the more determined I was to control the situation. The more I controlled the situation, the more out of control it became. And so the cycle went …

Fortunately, this was also the season that I begin to look to God for answers. Some I found, some I didn’t. I still remember the day, March 8, 2009, (it’s written in my bible) that I finally broke down at the realization that I couldn’t control or fix my daughter. I sat there in my living room desperate for my child’s happiness and begging for God to do something. And then, it happened. Through my ranting and raving, I gave in. I surrendered and I prayed for God to guide and protect my daughter; to love her and show her His ways. I asked for more faith as I told Him I was stepping aside and trusting Him. I entrusted my first born to God (completely) and then I waited…

That was seven years ago. I would like to tell you that immediately everything went from chaos to harmony, but it did not. It did, however, go from restlessness to peacefulness. I watched as God transformed my daughter from an angry and confused child to HIS child, filled with love, happiness and a desire to follow His ways.

So last Sunday, glancing to my left, I thanked God for His patience with me but most of all for answering my prayer and giving me the strength to entrust my daughter to Him, which changed the course of history for us, for her family, and for future generations to come!

Trusting In Him,
Missy Phillips
Church Administrator

AG Soap
God Loves It When You SOAP

We are still receiving amazing stories from people who are SOAPing. The following story was shared with us from a mother of a 2nd grader who attends OHC. As you will read, this young girl has not only grasped the concept of SOAPing but is taking it a step further and encouraging others to join in.

After attending the family service on SOAPing in January with my 2nd grade daughter I had no idea what she was about to take away.

On the following Monday morning during our drive to school, she asked, “Mom can we SOAP on our way to school”? I asked her what SOAP stood for and she quickly spouted off Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. So I said sure even though I was driving the car. We thought of a scripture and she SOAPed (talking instead of writing) first followed by me.

The next day on the way to school she said, “I told my teacher how to SOAP yesterday and she thought that was a neat idea, can we do this again on our way to school?”

A few weeks later when we had the big snow she had been upstairs playing for some time with a cardboard box cutout and she asked me to come see her church. Not only did she make a church building but she had her SOAP papers and the offering plate as well as scriptures all around the inside of the box.

And, last Saturday she was riding next to a friend in the back seat of my car who does not attend church. I heard her start talking about SOAPING to her. I will admit I cringed when I heard the conversation because I did not know what the little girl might say to her and I was fearful it would be something that could cause my daughter to not want to talk about this again. The little girl listened quietly and then said I don’t understand. My daughter said, “Oh its easy, you just read some of the Bible, pick out something from what you read, see how you can apply it in your life, and then pray to God to help you with it.”

Finally she wrote this message to share:

“SOAPING is fun because you can read the Bible and the Bible holds God’s word. It’s always fun to SOAP together. You can SOAP on any Bible verses you want. It’s good to read the Bible when you SOAP. It’s good to SOAP a lot. I like to SOAP. God loves it when you SOAP a lot.”

Are you SOAPing? Are you encouraging others to SOAP? Let’s learn from this young lady’s example and connect with God through SOAPing and share our experiences with others. After all… “God loves it when you SOAP a  lot.”
If you have a S.O.A.P. story or picture to share, please email Missy
SOAPing With The Girls

Most every Friday morning before school, I meet with four sweet high school girls at the local coffee shop. They are freshmen and sophomores. We mostly spend time catching up with what is going on in each of their lives. The last twenty-five minutes or so we either read from a chapter book that spurs conversation, read from a devotional book written for teens or we read from the Bible. Last Friday we read from James 1. We SOAPed.  After ten minutes of reading scriptures and writing observations, and learning how the scriptures apply to us, the girls then shared their take on the scriptures. They are so wise.

After each girl shared from her heart. It seemed the theme was one of trials, joy and humility. We all agreed we should be humble because God gave us everything we have. Then one of the girls shared how her week had been so hard. She said, “I am really struggling,” with tears in her eyes. As she explained her struggle, I soon realized it wasn’t hard because she didn’t make the soccer team or she failed a test. It was hard because one of her friends was hurting. Hurting deeply…heartbreaking. She was so caring, compassionate and had empathy for this friend. She was distraught and crying. We all commended her for being such a caring friend.

I then proceeded to tell the girls a story. Sadness used to overwhelm me when I saw a person on the news or a child in need on a commercial. So much that I would not know what to do with that sadness. I continued to explain that I learned that we were not meant to carry that sadness. We are to give our hurt to our Daddy, our Father God. We can trust Him. He loves them more than we do. We can trust Him with our hurt. I then said a short prayer for the girls and all they are dealing with.

The girls were most chatty in the car ride to the high school. As I reflect on that time, it seems that possibly a heavy burden was lifted and an intimate bond was formed. They learned about their God who loves them intimately and friends who can walk along side them when they are hurting. Oh, how we all want to be loved and accepted unconditionally. It all started because we took ten minutes to hear from God with a very simple agenda- SOAP!

Diane Brinkley

2016 Building Update
The children’s and youth building and the office addition are moving along and should be completed by June. This is very exciting and the additional space will enable us to better do what we are already doing plus open up the opportunity for the Orchard Hills Day School which will open August 1st. I can’t wait!
The money from the pledges to the building campaign continues to come in and looks very promising. THANK YOU for giving and making this building expansion and ministry expansion a reality. We expect that the expanded facility will add to the growth of God’s Church through the growth of Orchard Hills Church and correlate to growth in our general operating budget as well which will be essential since the new building brings a higher mortgage and higher utilities. We have faith that God will provide the money needed to pay for and operate the expanded facilities but we all need to join together in prayer to that end.
So what’s next? Once the children’s and youth building and the office addition are completed we will relocate and occupy that space. We then plan to connect the two buildings through my existing office and the men’s bathroom and utility room. We also plan to expand the foyer by removing Missy’s office, the copier room and the women’s bathroom. This will give us some much needed space to get coffee and gather between services. 
The phase to follow will be the demolition of the current classroom wing and the construction of a new sanctuary. The elders have decided that it would be prudent to wait on the new sanctuary construction until we see improvements in our giving to the general operating budget to ensure that we can pay for what we build. We do not want to be unwise and experience financial pressure that would distract us from the ministries we are called to at OHC. I’m sure we all know from personal experience how difficult it is to focus on what is most important when we are financially strapped and we want to avoid that. We are hopeful that the sanctuary delay will not be long and that we can complete the remainder of the expansion and renovations in a timely manner because we still desperately need a kitchen and a large gathering space so please be praying for all of that as well.
These are very exciting times at OHC. We are finally realizing the expanded vision God has given us. I am very excited and optimistic about what awaits us. I believe with all my heart that this large step of faith that we have taken will result in God’s Kingdom growing and lives, families and our community being forever transformed. Thanks for your continued commitment to People Investing in People for Eternity. Your commitment of time, gifts, talents and money are already reaping eternal rewards!
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16
My friends, I have a confession to make. This passage in Mark is one of my life verses. It has shaped my choices in career, has shaped the culture of our home and the style of my parenting, but over the past few months, I have had to face the reality that I have lost some of my intentionality. I have strayed from the focus and purpose of this passage and have just been going through the motions instead of inspiring excitement and wonder in my youngest child to pursue Jesus. In my busyness, I had gotten to the place of the grownups in the story, not taking the time to encourage my child’s one on one experience with Jesus. (Let’s face it, the daily-ness of a quick bedtime prayer and short devotion while hurrying into bed isn’t really inspiring…) 
So, we have started together. My sweet girl does not ever want to be wrong, so getting her to the place of sharing her thoughts on a passage has taken time. She has to be encouraged and validated. I have to put aside my preconceptions of a passage and not correct her thoughts, allowing her the opportunity to learn from the Holy Spirit and giving her space to think through the passage. 
Here is what I have learned: her observations are usually quite short, her applications are always way simpler than mine, and her take away is always powerful. Her journal says things like, “Jesus is powerful”, “Jesus cares about us”, “God loves us and saves us”, and “Jesus can take care of me even when people are mean”. My journal has way more words and often the applications have lots of “I am” or “I need”. The experience of refocusing my sight to receive as she receives has been a gift. The reality is that I make things way more difficult, when what I ultimately need is that simple time on Jesus’ lap taking Him at His word. 
Join me and take a moment today to allow yourself the opportunity to be a child and read His Words without making it complicated. He is powerful. He cares about us. He can take care of us. He loves us… Praying for a child-like focus for all of us today, 
SOAP is not something you apply once in your life and then you are done with it but something that we need to apply daily. Folks that regularly apply SOAP have a much sweeter aroma about them and are much more enjoyable to be around while those that don’t, well … they tend to stink and some don’t even realize it. I want us to be an aromatic church where we apply SOAP on a daily basis not just occasionally or once in our life. Last Sunday was a start and forced everyone present to apply SOAP. For some it may have been awkward since you aren’t used to applying SOAP. To others it was refreshing. My challenge to all of us is to continue to apply SOAP to ourselves but also encourage others to apply it as well; without telling them they STINK of course.
I’m often humbled by my children. They tend to be much godlier than I am which I am thankful for but challenged by. Just last night I was having a conversation with Lindsey. I asked how her day was and she was so excited to share how she had invited a couple girls from school to meet her at LOTH Coffee Shop that morning to try out this new, cool way to study the Bible. These were not ‘church’ girls just acquaintances. Well, one of them actually showed up. Lindsey shared with her the SOAP method, gave her a journal and pen, the one I actually gave Lindsey for Christmas, and they proceeded to individually SOAP. After 15 minutes or so they talked about their observations, applications and prayer. She said, “It was AMAZING and so easy.”  She can’t wait until next week to do it again.
Think about when you were in high school and how insecure you often felt. Can you imagine putting yourself out there and asking someone you are not well-acquainted with to meet you at a coffee shop and SOAP with you? I know I can’t. And yet it was one of the most rewarding experiences Lindsey has ever had.
So what’s keeping you from applying and reapplying SOAP? Who might God have you invite to SOAP with you? SOAPing is fun, rewarding and potentially life-changing. Let’s commit to SOAPing and see what a difference it makes. If nothing else I believe we will be a much more aromatic bunch and certainly not STINK!
Smith & Sons
 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,
you will receive what he has promised.” 
Hebrews 10:36 
Hope you were able to overcome Snowmageddon this weekend and hear Scott’s message on Sunday. If not, I highly suggest you listen on-line or pick up a CD. It was a great message! 
Scott spoke about the pleasure we get from the strokes of feathers and how we tend to seek those experiences out. (Careful, listen to the message!) But, the real shaping of our lives doesn’t come from the smooth, soft feather, but from the sharp, cold edge of the chisel that is needed to chip away those things in our lives that are damaging to our relationship with the Lord and with others.
I thought about this more while clearing snow. It was fairly easy to move the top layers of snow and the progress felt great! But, when you hit that little one inch of hard packed snow and ice at the bottom, things changed. It became more difficult and progress came to a crawl. The easy thing would have been to ignore the ice, move to a different area and continue feeling good about the progress being made and how much closer you were to the hot chocolate! However, the dangers of the ice would still be there. So, to keep it from causing potential harm or damage, it has to be dealt with. Removing it requires more focus, more time, more effort and more perseverance.
Our lives are much the same. We all have those icy patches that can cause us or someone else to fall if we do not deal with them. It will usually be challenging, it will take time, we may not succeed at first; and there will usually be an easier alternative of simply ignoring it or throwing a little snow over it and moving on to something else that will feel better. Yet, we have to persevere through the strength and guidance of the Lord and continue working to eliminate the icy patches in our lives. He can help us identify them and He has the tools to help us eliminate them. That’s His will.  And we will receive what He promised if we do it.Happy Shoveling!
Jerry Altieri
As I was SOAPing through Matthew 4 a couple of weeks ago and focusing on Jesus’ temptation in the desert, I was reminded of two important points:
• When faced with temptation, Jesus turned to the Scriptures to rebuff the tempter.
• Satan also uses Scripture. There’s always a nugget of truth in what he says, but he twists it and uses it to destroy us.As I see it, there are four main groups of people:
1. those who don’t know what Scripture teaches
2. those who think they know Scripture, but misunderstand the text, teachings, or both
3. those who use Scripture to bring about evil intents
4. those who know the text and teachings of Scripture and also how to rightly apply itAll of these groups are in a bad way, except for group 4.
• Group 1 is in danger of being misled by groups 1, 2, and 3.
• Group 2 is in danger of misleading groups 1 and 2, and being misled by groups 2 and 3.
• Group 3 will unscrupulously mislead groups 1 and 2.
• Group 4 is far less likely to be misled by any of the other groups and can help groups 1 and 2 to rightly understand Scripture. This is the group to which Jesus belongs and where each of us ought to strive to reside.My application of Matthew 4 is that a good understanding of the Scriptures will help me avoid being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14 ESV). I was reminded by Jesus’ readiness to quote Scripture of my own need to memorize “The Word”.As we continue SOAPing together this year, let’s make an effort to not only read, but to understand and even to memorize the Scriptures. (You may have noticed that Jesus didn’t have a Bible app like YouVersion to refer to when dealing with Satan or the Pharisees.)I’ll leave you with this passage from Psalm 119:
“How can a man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Your word.
With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments!
I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”Earle,
If you have been in church on Sunday, you have heard Scott talk about how important prayer is at Orchard Hills. We pray a lot around here! That is why one of the very first ministries at OHC was the Prayer Ministry and why the Prayer Rail Team was created. So let me explain a little about this team and those who are “called” to serve the church in this capacity.  
Towards the end of each service on Sunday, there is an opportunity to receive prayer from a prayer rail minister. Standing up and coming to the rail for prayer takes courage but becomes easier each time; some like me are “frequent flyers”. Receiving small group prayer is a sweet time; and not a place where advice is given or judgments made. Confidentiality is a biggie! It is so important that what is said at the rail is never discussed away from the rail with the individual seeking prayer or others; and seldom, if ever, is there follow-up. To a prayer rail minister, the person requesting prayer is the most important person in the room and they humbly ask the Holy Spirit to come. There are times when listening to the Holy Spirit leads them to anoint you with oil; however this is never done without your permission. Orchard Hills prayer rail ministers are a humble and committed group of prayer warriors who have been invited to serve others through prayer and love to do so.
Are you in need of prayer? Who isn’t? Maybe this Sunday, if you feel led to go forward, just do it! Or, maybe you would like to learn more about the Prayer Ministry or becoming a prayer rail minister, if so, please feel free to contact me directly at,
Donna Cudworth,
Prayer Team
Your guide to healthy living

I really dislike the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions. I have been asked a handful of times already what my 2016 New Year’s resolutions are. I think the last resolution I made was three years ago and I can’t even recall what it was. My feelings towards resolutions are if I really wanted to become healthier, or save more money, or volunteer more, or have more quiet times or read my Bible every day – I would have started in March or April or May or June or July or August or September or October or November – when the thought crossed my mind no less than 100 other times throughout the year. I think this is why statistics show that somewhere between 80 and 92% of resolutions fail (yikes!), because we actually fail to make any effort throughout the year to change behaviors we know need to be changed.

But I do see the appeal and even the benefit of starting the New Year with a fresh mindset and desire to be different than I was the year before. A friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook and it really stuck with me. She said, “As I reflected on the year, a question came to mind, how did I serve this year? There are 525,600 minutes in a year. How many of those will I use to serve others rather than myself? The resources and gifts I’ve been given, how will I steward them to love well this 2016 year? He served with His. WHOLE. Life. Challenge: Serve well in 2016.”

What if THIS was our New Year’s Resolution, to serve well in 2016? So that is my challenge to myself and to Orchard Hills, be mindful and intentional with the resources and gifts we have been given in serving in 2016 and let’s see what happens. I have a feeling it will be our most successful New Year’s resolution yet.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” –Mark 10:45

Brittany Crigler,
Missions Team

I enjoy writing our annual McLucas Family Christmas Letter because it forces me to reflect on the year and make an attempt at being funny at the same time. 2015 has been a rewarding and challenging year for me and OHC on various fronts. There are some parts that I hate to see go but I am so excited about the possibilities and opportunities that await me and us in 2016 that I am eager to move forward.
One of them involves S.O.A.P., not the type that you wash your body with but the type that Ephesians 5:26 refers to when the Apostle Paul says, “… washing with water through the word”. This washing through the word cleanses us and unclogs our ears, minds and hearts so that we can better hear from God and experience Him more profoundly. I will explain how to use S.O.A.P. on January 10th but in the meantime I don’t want us to miss a beat as we begin 2016. We have OHC Journals for sale for $5 and instructions on how to use S.O.A.P. for everyone. If you have signed up on our webpage for the daily devotions then you will also receive a daily New Testament reading Monday through Friday or you can pick the reading plan up at the church. Together we will read through the entire NT in 2016 but not just read it but go deeper as we learn to better observe and apply what God is saying to us.
I am so excited to make S.O.A.P. a part of our daily lives in 2016 and beyond. I truly believe that the effects will be everlasting and we will experience firsthand what it feels like to be a disciple and make disciples. After all, that is what Jesus commissioned all of us to become and do.
Looking forward to 2016!

Everyone remembers that an angel appeared to Mary, and then to Joseph, to announce the birth of Jesus. Mary – told that she would become pregnant as a virgin – responded “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” Joseph, likewise, followed the angel’s advice and took Mary as his wife. But there was one person who did not believe the angelic messenger sent to him. That person was Zechariah. Ironically, he was a priest who was offering a sacrifice in the temple when the angel Gabriel appeared to him.

After being told that his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son, Zechariah protested that she could not have children because they were too old. The angel Gabriel responded that Elizabeth would have a son and he would not speak until the son was born because he did not believe God. Why didn’t Zechariah believe God? Possibly because he had been disappointed in the past. Who knows how many years Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for a child to no avail? Probably many. Zechariah may have reached a point where he no longer believed that God would or could give them a child.

Do you feel disappointed in God? Have you asked God for something – even something good – that he has not given you? Have you reached a point where you no longer believe that God would or could? The apostle Paul writes that since God has given us his son, “How will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV) Even when we are disappointed, God still loves us. After all, God has given us his son. Don’t stop believing, don’t give up on God, you never know when or how he will answer our prayers. Just ask Zechariah.

Merry Christmas!
Tim Mattson, First Impressions

wishing you all a

Well, here we are with only a few shopping days left. That seems to be the theme for most this time of year. The focus seems to be on what we will purchase for everyone on our list, as well as, what gift we will get for Christmas. I have to admit that it is easy to get caught up in all of the “things” surrounding the Christmas season and even easier to forget its true essence.

On Sunday Scott touched on Advent and what it means, “the anticipation of the Coming of Christ”. I often wonder if I am focused on this as much as I am all of the other “things” we associate with Christmas. It is very easy to become distracted. There are parties to attend, decorations to hang and gifts to purchase. We can become so bogged down with all of this that we forget to keep Christ at the center. As a result, I asked myself the question, “What does God want for Christmas?” I even googled it. Unbeknownst to me, Darius Rucker has a song with this title. It’s a good song but it did not sufficiently answer the question. He did have a great line in the song, “What do you give the One that gave his only Son?” I found this very compelling.

Consequently, I wondered what could I possibly give God that would show gratitude for such a gesture as giving your only son? I feel certain that he gave us that answer in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God didn’t just give us his Son, he gave us eternal life and he gave us the means to achieve it through his Son.

Unfortunately, we create many obstacles that keep us from knowing Christ. Scott spoke about these obstacles on Sunday and how we can begin to remove them and make the road smooth, so that we can know Christ on a personal level. Scott also discussed how we can help others come to know Christ through relationships. I feel that this would be the ultimate gift to God. He wants us to be involved with others and to enrich each other’s lives for the sake of salvation. When we genuinely care for one another it is the greatest gift we can give to God.

Merry Christmas to All!
Ray Puckett, First Impressions

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I have been to four Christmas parties in the past three days and I have two more to attend this week. I have had lots of fun at these parties, but they have also been very emotional experiences for me. I work for a human services organization that provides foster care services to children who have experienced abuse and neglect. We also help to find adoptive homes for children in foster care who cannot return home to their own families. The parties I have attended have been for the children that we serve and their foster or adoptive families. Every year as I travel around Virginia and talk with and play with these amazing kids, I am reminded of how it came to be that I even know them. I know each of these kids because they have suffered tremendous abuse and neglect at the hands of people who are supposed to protect them and take care of them. I held a five-month old baby on Sunday who came in to foster care at 9-weeks-old with two broken legs, multiple broken ribs and fluid on his brain from having been shaken. Hearing his story rattled me to the core and broke my heart. But holding him and seeing his smile and laughter, gave me so much hope. When you see these kids together in one place, for one purpose – you can’t help but be struck by the amount of suffering that these tiny, sweet children have endured. They have been taught that people are not trustworthy. They have learned that people hurt you – sometimes even physically. They have learned at a very early age that life is not fair. Yet, when you see these kids you see sweetness and innocence, hope and the desire to belong. And you see their desire to have someone that they CAN trust. When you talk to our families who foster and adopt these kids – you also see their hope and their desire to make a difference and be the person that these children can trust to provide for them. But it is hard to live in this world, and have your heart broken. To be disappointed. To feel like you have no protector.
Being with these kids and families during this Christmas season – when their eyes are filled with wonder, their voices are filled with excitement and their wishes are filled with hope is very humbling. Although these kids have been disappointed by life over and over and over – they are able to live with hope. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in man”. This season, I am trying to take my cue from these amazing young people that I am so honored to know. Life is not always fair. People are not always going to love us and treat us well. Our hearts will be broken – in small ways and enormous ways. But God loves us. And he is trustworthy every second of every single day.April Estrada,
Communion Ministry

I had a great Thanksgiving holiday because all my children were together. We weren’t sure if Andrew would be able to join us since he is living in Texas now but we held out hope. A couple weeks before he let us know that he was approved for leave and that he would be flying in to meet us. Still I was uncertain if all would go as planned since flying during the holidays can be so unpredictable but I remained hopeful. Then the day before Thanksgiving arrived and so did Andrew. Our hope was realized. It was great to spend time with him and the rest of our children and extended family. We shared our stories, played games, watched Iron Will and laughed together. We had much to be thankful for.

Last Sunday marked the beginning of Advent and the first week of Advent is known as the week of hope. Advent is marked by a hope realized, the birth of Jesus Christ, and a hope yet to be realized; His coming again. It seems that most of us focus on the hope already realized which is great, sure and certain but we have an even greater hope yet to come that is equally great, sure and certain.

As you find yourself preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth don’t forget to also look to the future for His return to earth as a conquering warrior, eradicating evil and rescuing His bride. I can’t imagine life in this increasingly evil world without this future hope of Jesus’ return. Take a couple of minutes and read Titus 2:11-14 and contemplate how we are to live as a people of hope.



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“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1

Thanksgiving is a time set aside to give thanks. Yet for me, it often turns into a crazy mess of cleaning, cooking, and setting unrealistic expectations on myself and others. Instead of taking the time to pause and give thanks to the creator and sustainer of all things, the week becomes over scheduled and hectic.

Writing this enews and taking the time to focus for a moment on my Father is just what this soul needs. The first thanksgiving was not born out of a time of ease. It came out of a time of great struggle. Yet the community turned their focus and gave thanks to the One who never fails even during great adversity. May we be a community that turns our focus on our Heavenly Father with a heart of thanks.

Thank you, Father, for your great mercy and love. Thank you that you never leave or forsake. Creator and Almighty, thank you for being the God who sees us in our mess and teaches us to find ourselves in You. Holy Spirit, place within us a heart of thanks. Show the gifts of your Spirit through us this season that others would see us and come to know You.

Happy Thanksgiving!

KAIROS . . . (1)

One of the things I love about our church is the focus we place on missions. We actively support mission work in Rwanda, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. Closer to home, our young teens serve in South Carolina, we actively serve those in the trailer park, and the list goes on. Truly we are a congregation reaching out in Jesus’ name. Actively serving means we not only support this work with our finances but also with our service.One such “closer to home” ministry is known for its cookies, coffee and captive audiences – Kairos Prison Ministry International. In Virginia, teams of men volunteer their time to serve in nearly every state corrections facility. Twice a year, armed with thousands of homemade cookies, enough coffee to float a battleship, around the clock prayer warriors, and the good news of God’s love, these teams go into the prisons for four days of ministry – to listen, to love and to share the gospel with men who, for the most part, have been reduced to merely surviving in a harsh, unloving environment. During this time, lives are changed, hope is reborn, friendships are formed, and God is glorified. And, for those who have been on mission, we all know that we are changed as much as those we seek to serve.

Jesus said to go and make disciples (Matt. 28-19), even if you have to go behind bars; and Jesus said he was sent to proclaim freedom to the prisoners (Luke 4-18). As Christ followers, we should do likewise. If you are hearing the call to proclaim freedom to the captives, I invite you to contact me for more information about opportunities to serve in the Kairos Ministry.

Larry Necessary

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Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

…. That he lay down his life for his friends. Easy words to speak, but do we really comprehend what it means? Do we really recognize the cost of the freedom and security we are so blessed to enjoy? When our natural reaction is to run away from gunfire, out of burning buildings and away from disaster, who is running towards the gunfire, into the burning buildings and trying to reach the disaster? Our military, law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel…our veterans. It takes someone special to actually do this without a second thought. Their compensation is not proportional to the significant risk they take, and they are usually recognized more often for the few mistakes they make in the split second of a high-stress situation and not the daily dedication and sacrifice they make, and their families make, for their friends’ freedom and safety.

This Veteran’s Day, let’s take the time to reflect on what we enjoy because of our veterans and the price they have paid for us. Let’s use this day as not just one day to remember veterans, but as a reminder for us to personally thank and regularly pray for the members of our military, law enforcement and fire and rescue, as well as their families, throughout the year… each time we see them.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, set the example. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14) Because of His love for us, Jesus ran towards the disaster of our lives, into the burning wreckage we had created and toward His own death on the cross to save us, His friends.

Thank you, Jesus!

Jerry Altieri

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This past Sunday Orchard Hills commissioned its first group of Stephen Ministers. For some of you this was the first time you heard of this ministry. So I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a little more information.

Stephen Ministry is a highly effective caring ministry already used in thousands of congregations. The Stephen Series is a complete system for training and organizing congregation members to provide one-on-one Christian care to hurting people who may or may not attend Orchard Hills Church. Through Stephen Ministry, Stephen ministers provide emotional and spiritual care to people experiencing grief, divorce, illness, job loss, hospitalization, and other life difficulties.

Mark Vinson and I have been trained as Stephen Leaders and oversee the ministry. Our job is to recruit, train and supervise our Stephen Ministers. We also take referrals and make assignments for our ministers.

Once matched with a care receiver, our ministers are encouraged to meet with them on a weekly basis for about an hour. These same-gender one-on-one relationships are kept completely confidential and continue for as long as needed.

Stephen Ministers are not counselors. They are not there to give advice or make judgments. Stephen Ministers are caregivers, Christ is the CURE giver. By providing a distinctively Christian presence, Stephen Ministers listen and bring the love of Christ into the care receiver’s situation.

If you would like more information about this ministry please contact me at 977-6800 or You can also visit the Stephen Ministries website at for more details and to hear testimonials from those in the ministry.

Rick Troutt
Community Care

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.
Set an example for the believers in what you say and in how you live.”
1 Timothy 4:12

This past Sunday at OHC, the children were discussing the importance of showing Jesus to the people in their neighborhood, school, and family. One boy raised his hand and said, “Yeah… my dad never reads a Bible, or prays, or goes to church…” The small group leader and other children immediately encouraged the boy, and they had a discussion about sharing what you’re learning in kid’s church and the importance of praying for his dad. In a different class, the children were having a discussion on the same topic. The small group leader asked them to think about someone they knew that was strong in their faith that was an example to them. As the children took turns going around the room and naming different people, one girl’s answer was, “My Dad.”I was struck by the profound difference in the answers of the two children.

One child is longing for a dad to pray with him, read to him, take him to church, and lead him to Jesus. This sweet child’s heart is sad with the knowledge that his dad does not have a relationship with Jesus. Even though he is very young, he is learning how to pray for his dad and be the one to live a life that shows the love of God to his family.

The other child is celebrating what her dad is doing for their family. I’m sure if you asked the dad, he would say he is far from perfect and really trying to step out and follow God. But his child is watching all the while, cheering him on, wanting him to lead her family to Jesus.

As I thought about those two dads and the discussions the children were having about the memory verse, I thought about all of the things we allow to hinder us from being the example for others. For many of us, youth is no longer the issue, but there are plenty of other insecurities that rise up and cause us to hesitate. The children we serve at OHC would tell you, they don’t need perfect, they need Jesus. They long to look up to us and name us when someone asks who models a life with Jesus.

This has caused me to think through things this week. What example am I setting for my children, for my neighbors, for my community? Am I letting something cause me insecurity and hindering me from leading well? Would my child name me as someone who inspires them to follow Jesus and love like Him, or do they see me just going through the motions?

Father God, give us courage to love others the way you love us. Holy Spirit, strengthen our resolve and remind us to take every opportunity to set an example in what we say and how we act. Give us a tender heart toward those around us and eyes to see them as You do. Let our children rise up and lead those around them to Jesus. Give them hearts of compassion and determination that they may be an example of Jesus even in their youth…



The Old Testament. Probably everyone’s favorite part of the Bible. It’s full of history, wonderful stories, awesome characters, it’s boring, it doesn’t apply for life today, and for lack of a better word…it’s old. I bet this is almost everyone’s view of the Old Testament. Maybe part of this description is true but I will say, lately, I have found the Old Testament to be pretty awesome.

A few weeks ago I made the decision to read the Old Testament in large sections just to see how it all pieces together. It’s been pretty great for me and I encourage you to try it sometime. (Maybe you are better than me and have already done this.) So far, I have picked up on how the Old Testament describes a group of people that are pretty much like a lot of us today.

The group of people I’m referring to is the Israelites. The Old Testament describes the formation of the nation of Israel; and then follows their journey through ups and downs to the Promise Land and all that happens after they reach the Promise Land. God rescues them from Egypt, takes them to the Promise Land, and then makes them into a great nation. Throughout this whole journey you see the Israelites in deep love and worship of God and then you see them turn their back on God. This is the theme I want to point out. God rescues the Israelites and they love him. Life gets a little rocky and they turn their back on him. Then God reminds them of what he did for them and they love him again. Life gets hard and they turn away…again. You get the point.

I know it’s not super deep but it’s probably the biggest, most obvious theme of the Old Testament. So it is good for us to realize this theme because it describes a lot of us (or all of us if you are being honest). At some point God has rescued you. If you have committed your life to Jesus then He has rescued you. When we were rescued it was so easy to be in love with God and to follow him. Then when life gets a little rocky, we turn away or don’t trust God. When this happens I think God would say the same thing to us as he said to the Israelites. “Remember what I did for you, when I rescued you.” God wants us to remember the “rescue” moment and be encouraged.

So, if life seems a little rocky for you, just think back to the time God rescued you. Press in to that moment and remember what God did for you and know that he loves you. Focus on that moment you fell in love with God and, like the Israelites, I think you will turn back to God. At the same time, don’t be like the Israelites and continue to forget the moment God rescued you.


T H E L O W - D O W N

I love the changing seasons we have here in our valley. Every few months we have a time of transition. Our schedules change, our wardrobes change, the activities we are engaged in change. As the cool mornings and colors of fall overtake summer, I’m very aware of the changes around me. Not only that, but a feeling of transition within me.

Emotions that I felt in control of, have recently overwhelmed me. I don’t look at this as a bad thing, but one that causes me to pause. To consider the changing seasons of my life. And it has brought to my mind a question, “God, what do you think of me, who am I to you?” The answer came in a most unexpected way. But isn’t that just like the Father as he deals with us? When we least expect it he shows up.

I get to spend time with my grandson, Wyatt, on some early mornings when his father is coming off a 24 hour shift and his mother is going to work. There is about an hour and a half we spend together. Yesterday morning as I watched him crawl around the living room floor, surrounded by his favorite toys, he stopped and came over to the chair where I was sitting. He pulled himself up on his feet and stretched up his arms for me to pick him up. As I did he laid his head against my chest and just looked up at me. It was then that I got the answer to my question. You see, at that moment Wyatt felt safe and loved, knowing Grandpa had him. I felt God saying I’ve got you, you are loved, and you are as special to me as this little boy is to you. Trust me. You are a beloved son.

Later that day as I was reading I came across a prayer General Douglas MacArthur regularly prayed for his son.

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

I’m excited to see what the coming seasons bring.

Rick Troutt,
Community Care

So after swearing that I/we are done with pets, especially dogs and cats, my tenderness and compassion broke through my hard façade and we acquired yet another ‘used’ dog. We named him Bo, short for Boaz, which means STRONG. He is half German Shepherd and half Great Pyrenes. He is big, beautiful and strong. When I heard that Bo needed a new home I was struck by the fact that we have a great yard for dogs to run and play, with an invisible fence to keep them from wondering off. And so we adopted Bo.
But here is the thing; Big Strong Bo is so terrified of the little shock that the fence produces that He will hardly leave the confines of the house. Even though there is a wide perimeter for which he can enjoy with Hallie, our half blind chocolate lab. Hallie on the other hand loves to run and cover every inch of the yard and is hardly bothered by the little shock the invisible fence produces so much so that she has on numerous occasions bounded through to explore the world that is out there even though she may be in jeopardy of losing her life by a passing motorist. Two different dogs, two different responses to the invisible fence.
Bo and Hallie represent two different responses that we have to God’s Law and His grace. The invisible fence represents God’s Law. It is meant to protect us from what lies beyond the fence that can potentially prove fatal while also providing an abundance of grace for us to enjoy in His house and around the wide perimeter. Some of us are happy to live by grace, much like Hallie does the majority of the time and enjoy the blessings of that grace, but there are still moments where we grow discontent and endure some momentary and potentially long term pain for the thrill of the forbidden. Others of us are like Bo who is so fearful of going beyond the boundaries that God has established that we can’t even enjoy the vast freedom that He has provided within and so we take very few risks and seldom venture out. Ideally we need a third dog who is content to remain within the boundaries which have been set and enjoy all that God has provided without pain, guilt or shame. Sadly, there is probably a fourth dog among us as well who is never content and chooses to live outside the safety of the invisible fence.
As we continue to explore the heart of God as found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount consider which of the four dogs you can best relate to. Hopefully as we come to better understand the loving heart of God we will choose the third dog and the healing and wholeness that comes from a right understanding of God’s Law and grace.

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                                                                                                                              Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7The good news is Jesus loves us so much He bears our burdens and anxieties for us. He delivers us from our fears and our troubles and gives us His rest.Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 :28 to come to Him when we “are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”Faced with a burden I cannot carry on my own, I asked Jesus to carry the burden for me. He answered my prayer and I felt His rest and the burden lighten.Over time, doubt began to creep in and I wondered whether I had done what I needed to do to deal with the burden. Rather than allowing Jesus to carry my burden as He said He would do, I took it back up myself. My doubts and my questions focused on me and my response to the burden.Feeling overwhelmed, I finally talked to Jesus again about the situation. He clearly told me He was carrying my burden all along. He told me if I wanted Him to carry my burden, I needed to trust Him to carry it for me. He showed me my doubts were my own lack of faith and not complete trust in Him to do what He said He would do.1 Peter 5:6 tells us we must humble ourselves before God so that He may lift us up. With my recommitment to trust in Him, His rest returned.Psalm 68:19 says: “[p]raise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” When we humble ourselves and trust Him, He bears not only our big burdens, but our daily worries and anxieties. This is truly good news! Our Lord daily bears our burdens and we do not have to carry them on our own.In Psalm 34:4 we read a beautiful account of David seeking the Lord who delivered him from his fears and troubles. At the time of the Psalm, David was fleeing from Saul who was trying to kill him. With such a great burden, David sought the Lord who delivered him from all his fears.We serve an awesome God who invites us to daily cast all our fears on Him. He will daily bear our burdens because He cares for and loves us. We need to humble ourselves and trust Him and He will give us rest. What an incredible encouragement we have from our Lord Jesus!Jim Joyce

Judgement has become a controversial topic in churches today. Some believe that as Christians we are never to make judgements, while others believe we are to judge. We know that Jesus “will return to judge the living and the dead” (Apostle’s Creed), but as followers of Christ, how are we to handle judgement? How do we personally discern and judge a current issue?

In John 7:24 (AMP), Jesus says, “Be honest in your judgment {and} do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly {and} righteously.” Righteous judgment is judging according to God’s law, not man’s law or our personal opinions. It is not always popular to take a stand on righteousness or what is right. We are faced every day with making righteous judgments.

Our righteous judgment should always start with ourselves. In Matthew 7:5, Jesus tells us, “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” As we are going through the process of judging, we start with ourselves. Is what we believe grounded in the Word of God or are we following the culture? Are our actions and thoughts reflective of Jesus?

When sharing judgement with others, the Bible tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We are to avoid condemnation. We are not to judge the individual, God will judge all. And our conversations with Christians who disagree with God’s Word are to be different than the conversations we have with those not yet following Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans14:12). Our judgements are to be founded in the Word of God and shared in truth with love knowing we are held accountable to God. Remember, judge with righteous judgment, holding fast the profession of our faith without wavering. Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Willie Ratliff

A Tale of Two Citizens
Pop quiz – List the following:
the 10 Commandments
the two Greatest Commandments
the five freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment
the three branches of the Federal governmentHow did you do? Don’t worry, most Americans would get maybe one of them correct. There was a time, though, when Christians knew the teachings of the Bible from early childhood and all Americans, from the farmer up to the most successful businessman knew and understood the Constitution and their rights and duties as American citizens..As American believers, we have a dual-citizenship. Most of us were born as American citizens. However, as disciples of Jesus we have also become naturalized citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Each of these domains has a blueprint that lays out the format of the government and the rights and responsibilities of its citizens. The blueprint for the Kingdom is the Bible. The blueprint for America is the Constitution.As citizens of the Kingdom, we have the privilege of direct access to God through prayer, blessings resulting from obedience, and insight and empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Along with the privileges comes the responsibility to share the gospel, to love our neighbors by meeting their physical and spiritual needs, and to study the Bible. Knowing the Bible is essential:“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” – Ephesians 4:14.As American citizens, we have access to one of the most powerful tools ever given to man: the U.S. Constitution.“To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.” – Calvin CoolidgeThe governmental structure, powers, and restrictions laid out in the Constitution afford us an opportunity few people in history have had: the ability to choose our own leaders and to throw them out when they run amok. This is a great privilege and an important responsibility: when we choose leaders who fear God and are faithful to the founding principles of our country, America is a beacon of hope and freedom. When we don’t, well…look around.“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John AdamsTomorrow is Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day), the 228th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. So go read, as a family, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and other Amendments, and help ensure that the leaders we elect are godly, upright men and women who will uphold the principles on which our nation was founded.“every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country, and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them”. – John JayEarle Clubb,
Elder* By the way, Federal law requires that any educational institution which receives Federal funding shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17th of each year.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Change is always a guarantee. And change is guaranteed to stir things up in us.There can be some strong feelings and thoughts that leave us feeling paralyzed and helpless as we face new circumstances and challenges. But I think that adversity in our lives can show us a lot about our hearts. If we see negative feelings and thoughts stir as we encounter change, it can be an indicator of where we haven’t grabbed ahold of the truth about God. About His nature and character. Or where maybe we haven’t spent enough time with Him to know what He’s like, and to know what it means when He promises us that He is with us wherever we go.

Let’s get back to the verses. Let me start a little before this. Jesus just came back to life, He’s raised from the dead. He is having his disciples meet him on the top of a mountain in Galilee. Can you imagine how they must have felt at that very moment? Jesus is alive! He was just dead a few days ago and all hope seemed lost, but now He’s inviting them on top of the mountain with Him! Now imagine how they must have felt as he turned everything over to them. They are going to be the ones to go into all the earth and make disciples of all nations, teaching them and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything just changed for them. They weren’t physically following him around as he ministered anymore. Jesus just handed over the keys to His ministry on earth and turned them loose. His encouragement to them was “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I don’t know that I would have had a really warm and fuzzy feeling after He told me that. But this is one of those “salt shaker” moments that Scott was talking about on Sunday. If you missed the message, go to the website and download it.The point is that God doesn’t want us huddled up in our own little group of Christians where we can feel safe. He actually wants us to be out in the world, being salt and light that draws people to His goodness, His nature, His character, in such a way that makes people want to have a relationship with Jesus. And He does that by having an intimate relationship with us, that changes how we think, perceive, and act in the world.

“I am with you always.” That can be the most comforting statement, if we have truly spent time with Him, learning about who He is and what He is like. That can give us a confidence that is rooted in Jesus; in His power, in His nature, in His character. Change is a guarantee. And if we use change as an opportunity to dive deeper into our relationship with God, it can be a vibrant and beautiful thing in our lives.

Jeremy Johnson
Worship Leader


As I am writing this they are erecting the steel beams for the new children and youth building. It is very exciting for a number of reasons but as they move down the line and approach my office windows I have begun to notice that the amount of sun light that cascades through my office windows is diminishing. It won’t be long until very little direct sunlight illuminates my office. So now I am a bit torn. I love that the building is progressing. It is much needed and for a great cause but it is eclipsing the sun shining in my office.

As I reflect on my own life I am confronted by the fact that there are many ‘good’ things that I am involved in like church activities, sports with the little boys, school events and recreation as a family but I’m afraid that some of these ‘good’ things may be eclipsing the SON, Jesus Christ, in my life and the life of our family. Our family is probably pretty typical. We are trying to give our children opportunities and activities that will enable them to ‘succeed’ in life but the busyness is overwhelming. Making time to just have an unrushed dinner together is a chore. Finding quiet time to sit and read the Bible together and pray is challenging. We have erected so many ‘good’ activities that they are beginning to eclipse the SON in our lives. Sure, we may throw a Bible devotion or prayer in here and there but are we truly allowing time to bask in the SON?

So what ‘good’ things do you need to reconsider so that you and your family have more time in the SON? The decisions won’t be easy. You will have to give up some good things for the latter thing but the long-term benefits will far exceed the costs. After all, probably none of our children will go on to become Rhodes Scholars, professional athletes or even receive a D1 athletic scholarship or dance scholarship but they will always have need of the SON.


Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Scott spoke about being a Godly peacemaker on Sunday. He noted that peacemakers are activist not pacifist. I couldn’t agree more with such a statement. I think we are called to be active in our walk with Christ. However, I think that when we hear this we are called to go out and reconcile our differences. Although, I think this is important I feel that we could even take it one step further and be proactive. I feel that we can do more by working on our internal nature and attempt to avoid controversy altogether.

If we take a look at what most of our disputes are over it is usually some type of offense. I am sure that a lot of you have read the book, “The Bait of Satan”, by John Bevere. If you haven’t, put it on your list. In this book it is revealed that Satan gains a foothold in our heart with offense. For those of you who have listened to “John Boy and Billy” you have probably heard Robert D. Rayford refer to America as the United States of the offended. It seems as though our society has bought in to the notion that being offended empowers you. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, once we are offended it manifests into anger and that anger upsets the balance within us. Consequently, when you are offended, you are without peace.

In the book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey talks about self-control. He mentions that anger is one of the biggest enemies of self-control, because when we are angered, we are being controlled by some other person/situation. The first time I read this it was like a revelation. Certainly, I didn’t want anyone else to control me. God warns us about anger and gives us guidance in several passages.

Proverbs 19:11 “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 29:11 “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”

Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”

James 1:19,20 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

So I challenge you to quickly reconcile if you are at odds with someone. But, I think the bigger challenge is to avoid it altogether. We can all work on this and keep our anger in check by not being so easily offended.

Ray Puckett,
First Impressions Team


I thought I would share with you two paragraphs from the Andrew Murray 365 Day Devotional, August 13:

There is no way of knowing a fruit except by tasting it. There is no way of knowing the light except by being in it and using it. There is no way of knowing a person except by conversation with him. There is no way of knowing the Holy Spirit except by possessing Him and being possessed by Him.

To live in the Spirit is the only way to know the Spirit. To have Him in us, doing His work and giving us His fellowship, is the path the Master opens when He says,”You know him; for he…shall be in you” (John 14:17).

The Father has sent the Spirit so that we may fully share in the glorified Christ! Let us yield ourselves completely to the indwelling and teaching of the Spirit whom the Son has given us from the Father.

Donna Cudworth
Prayer Team

the bloom AND DOFF presents

Our Stephan Ministry topic this week was ministering to people experiencing grief. Part of our class time was spent developing a grief timeline of our own lives. Events, from birth until the present, that have had a life changing effect on our lives. This is to help us have a proper perspective on the grief we have experienced so that we can better empathize with those we may be in a caring relationship with who are experiencing grief.Tim Keller, in his book, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, makes a statement that I think speaks to this fact of life that we will all deal with at some point: “No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career—something will inevitably ruin it. No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. We all know this intuitively, and those who face the challenge of suffering and pain learn all too well that it is impossible to do so using our own resources. We all need support if we are not to succumb to despair. I will argue that inevitably this support must be spiritual.”

The world we live in is full of pain and suffering, whether it has impacted you directly or not, exposure to it is unavoidable. Our support is spiritual, our hope is in the Lord. He is our remedy, our comfort, our guide. May our attitude be that of the Psalmist: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Psalm 34:1-3)

Rick Troutt
Community Care

THE (1)

Well, I’m coaching six and seven year olds in soccer again. I said ‘no’ numerous times but they were extremely desperate. I had all the excuses from my extreme busyness to my lack of expertise but in the end I agreed. We just completed our first practice. One of my favorite games to play is ‘World Cup’. If you aren’t familiar it is soccer’s version of musical chairs. You begin each round with one less ball than players. The balls are thrown out until everyone has scored a goal but one. This progresses until there are just two players left and one ball; the one who scores wins. The kids love it. They are determined to score a goal and will battle to the end to win.In the last few days I’ve been contemplating what my goal is in coaching these six and seven year olds. Is it to equip them with basic soccer fundamentals? Is it to develop their character? Is it to establish a relationship with them and their parents? As I’ve pondered what my goal is I believe it is all of these but more. I believe that the real goal is one of eternal significance. The Apostle Paul said in Colossians 2, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This is my ultimate goal in coaching.I don’t know how this will be accomplished. I don’t plan to have prayers before or after games. I’m not going to read the Bible to them. I don’t even plan to tell them I’m a pastor unless they ask. But my goal is that somehow God will use me , in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.So what is your goal for doing what you do professionally or personally? Is it the obvious temporal one or the more subtle eternal one like that of the Apostle Paul? I’ve found that by adopting the more subtle eternal goal I have gone from a feeling of reluctance to one of excitement and anticipation. Like I said before, I don’t know how this goal is going to be accomplished; however, I am determined to battle to the end so that some of these children and their parents are won to Christ!


I have been thinking about Scott’s sermon from Sunday. Specifically his reminder that WE are the church. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” God’s church is not the building. It isn’t the Sunday morning services. Sure, the appearance of the building, the format of the music, the relatability of the sermon – all of those are important to draw new believers to Christ. You want people who come to your church for the first time to have an experience that makes them want to continue to come. When I was searching for a church in Roanoke many years ago, I went to services at many churches that were beautiful. I heard many sermons that were interesting and relative. I sang old hymns and contemporary Christian songs – both of which spoke to my heart. Those things are replicated in church buildings all over the Roanoke Valley and the world. It was none of those things that caught my interest and kept me returning to Orchard Hills. CS Lewis said, “The perfect church service, would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.” That is what makes our church special. Our service feels Christ centered. It is not meant to be flashy, to impress newcomers or to hold our ever shortening attention span. Another thing that kept me returning was the fact that people at Orchard Hills love people well – which is exactly what we are called to do as Christ followers. We are called to love each other (our church family) AND love on people in our community who need Jesus. Scott’s sermon reminded us that we ALL need Jesus. Just because we come to church services regularly does not mean that we don’t need Jesus. We need Him just like non-believers in our community who don’t even know yet that they need him. It is our responsibility to love on them, show them a different way so that they realize that they need Jesus. This kind of love doesn’t come from a pretty church building. It comes from the heart of believers who are given the capacity to love like this because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Orchard Hills gets that! So why do we need a new building? We need the building so that we can love people even better and on a larger scale. So that we have the room and the tools that we need to love others well and draw them to Christ. We also need the new building so that we can continue to build up and support believers through small groups, Bible studies, and children’s programming. We need space to come together so that we can learn more about God, grow spiritually and learn to apply the things we learn to our lives. God will use this building to glorify his kingdom, but we should never forget that we are God’s ultimate tool. He wants to use US for his glory above all. We are the church, Jesus is our foundation and our new building is going help us to engage our community in ways we can’t even dream of right now. God knows his plans for us! How exciting is that?April Estrada
Communion Team
“Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked,”
1 John 2:6
Burden versus load. Until I started my journey in Stephen Ministry training, I never really thought much about the difference. According to my studies, a burden is “something that is exceedingly heavy for ONE person to manage” while a load is a “manageable normal daily weight.”To me, a load can sometimes seem just as heavy as a burden if we don’t have the strength/endurance to manage the weight while it is upon us. I can best compare a heavy emotional load to one of my demanding CrossFit training lifts. While desperately struggling to complete a back squat lift past my current PR (personal record)… in that very moment of pushing physically past the pain and anxiety…while all the time thinking I might just have to bail from this load… I think about the rush of excitement as I burst through into a firm stance… achieving that new PR! The difficult loads we bear in life are not much different; though they are tough in the moment God knows that without these loads we will never challenge ourselves to continually strengthen our faith, to look to Him, and to seek His guidance. If we remain too comfortable, with no challenges to make us stronger, not only will our bodies and minds begin to fail us, but our spirits will likely weaken as well. “Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually,” 1 Chronicles 16:11. God’s amazing grace offers us the strength/endurance we need to manage the load. With Him by our side we will NEVER have to bail! Patricia Heaton (actress in Mom’s Night Out) stated, “I have to keep reminding myself: If you give your life to God, he doesn’t promise you happiness and that everything will go well. But he does promise you peace. You can have peace and joy, even in bad circumstances.”So, what do we do about this burden thing, this emotional weight that is too heavy for ONE person to manage? I can easily recall one burden after another that I have had to bear in this journey called life. However, what I recall more vividly are the people who came along side me to help me manage these burdens. I am so blessed to have what I now proudly call my church family, coming along side me and simply being present and praying with me. In essence, they were “spotting me” (last weightlifting reference, I promise)! Spotting is referred to as “the act of supporting another person who is lifting weights (or burdens) with an emphasis on allowing the participant to lift or push more than they could normally do on their own”. Every time I was being mentored through a burden, I was learning and essentially shifting these burdens to become nothing more than light loads. I started seeking God’s strength and deepening my faith in Him. Don’t get me wrong, we all, no matter how long we can say we have been Christians, still face burdens. But if we continue to stand along side each other and become proficiently equipped in our own understanding of how important God’s presence is then we will naturally begin to “pay it forward.” There is nothing more encouraging than a tight knit circle of God’s children holding hands while always keeping Him in the center. We become stronger with each others help and we NEVER stop seeking a greater PR of becoming more like Christ.Tamara Bell,
Women’s Ministry
17 students…6 adults…1 trip: The Demonstrated Life
I know what you are thinking. Here is another long description of yet another student ministry trip with a lot of crazy moments, funny stories, and memories that will last forever. I’m not going to lie. We do have a lot of stories and memories that will last forever but I’m not going to tell you all about that here. So, I encourage you to read and pay attention. 
The middle school student ministry just returned from a mission trip in Conway, SC. The theme of the week was “The Demonstrated Life.” Obviously, we were there to serve the community so we were demonstrating the love of Christ through service. But we all learned so much more about what a “Demonstrated Life” really means. 
Our group was assigned to work at an elderly lady’s house during the week. Her name is Ms. Rosa. On the outside it didn’t appear that Ms. Rosa needed much help. She lived in a decent house, has worked hard all her life, and didn’t have any health issues keeping her from doing the work that was assigned to our group. The students didn’t ask any questions but worked hard all week in close to a thousand degrees temperature. They never complained once and even took the time to talk with Ms. Rosa. The group learned that even though it didn’t appear that Ms. Rosa needed any help, God knew what He was doing. Through conversations with Ms. Rosa we learned that she had served her church and God her whole life. She was taught never to take anything for free and to work hard for everything she needed. However, before God sent us to her house she was ready to give up serving the church and serving God. She was tired, worn out, feeling like she wasn’t making a difference anymore, and felt like she had given enough of her time. As Ms. Rosa watched the students working extremely hard and going above and beyond with the projects she was rejuvenated. She told us that seeing the way the kids were loving, working and giving without complaining she learned that she needs to keep serving and serve more.
Our group, me included, felt like we weren’t really doing that much to impact the community at first. Honestly, how can you in only a week?  But, God used our students to impact the community by teaching sweet Ms. Rosa to keep on serving her church and community. I think the point is that God wants us to keep serving Him and others even if we don’t think it’s making a difference. God can take the small things and can turn them into really big things. 
It made me think about Orchard Hills and how we serve here. If you are serving here at OHC, I urge you to keep serving in big ways and small ways. If you are not serving here at OHC, well I hope that you will start. You may say I don’t have time to make any real difference. If you have learned anything from reading this I hope it is that any bit of time you can give will make a difference. Find a way to serve here and I guarantee that God will use you in a way that impacts the future and eternity. God used seventeen students and six adults to change the course of someone’s eternity in one week. I am sure He will use you too! The time is now to start serving.  Kevin
Student Pastor
Being The Body (1)
Ephesians 4:11-16: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”So what is the purpose of the church?When I look at this passage of scripture it seems like the church is supposed to exist in order to help each member grow and learn how to contribute to the maturing of the body of Christ. Basically, we are supposed to become a living picture of what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth; wholly submitted to the will of the Father, and walking out the good news of a living and active relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit.Maturity in the body of Christ means that every person has a place, every person has a role in the body that helps us become more Christ-like. This is done through love, not striving and human zeal. This is done through an active relationship with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, in the context of community. When we encounter our shortcomings in the love of God and surrounded by a community of people that want to support and encourage our development, maturing is not painful, but joyful. Growth in the body of Christ is not just adding numbers to the Kingdom, it’s also going deeper in our relationships with Jesus and with each other to make us look more like Christ. What would it look like if we spent our time building people around us up in love? What would it look like if we spent our energy allowing the Lord and our community to help us become more Christ-like?Jeremy
Worship Leader
Ah, the merry-go-round… One of the delights of childhood! These children could not get enough and neither could their leader, Steve Forbes. He ran around and pushed until he was crazy dizzy, and still the kids cried for more! Personally, I stood back, laughed, and took pictures. They were so full of joy, it was contagious to all who were around.When was the last time you road on a merry-go-round? It seems that we often feel like we are on a merry-go-round in our lives, but we don’t look like these kids full of contagious joy. Each day we go through our routines only to come full circle and do it all over again the next day. It’s often called the daily grind. Sounds very boring and negative! Or sometimes, our merry-go-round seems a tad too fast and scary, and we wish it would stop.However, as I was watching these children and the thrill of the merry-go-round, it didn’t seem like the repetition was boring. As the ride would slow, they would yell to the grown-ups to push harder, faster, and longer. The children were fully engaged in the joy of the moment, savoring each turn. They would shift their positions to allow themselves the opportunity to create a different perspective. It was far from a “daily grind”, and there was no fear of the speed as they trusted their leader.As days change and run one into another, there are moments when it begins to feel like a “grind”. Time keeps going, and life does not slow. It may seem like it is a season that is going full speed or a time when it’s simply repetitious, spinning through the same patterns. Whatever your experience is right now, I pray you would throw up your hands to God and ask for more. Ask Him for a different perspective. Ask Him for a harder push. Ask Him for laughter and delight. Ask Him for contagious joy!I invite you to join with me and engage with these children in the Summer Enrichment Program. Join us as we delight with them and experience the joy of God changing our perspective to see things through their eyes. Our program starts June 16th at 9:00am. We still have a few open spaces for you to join us on the merry-go-round! www.ohacenter.orgPraying for you to be filled to with joy! (John 15:11 NLT)
An Obstructed View
The view outside my office windows has changed considerably over the past few months. I used to look out at the grassy hillside, picnic pavilion and tree covered mountain but that view has been obstructed. Excavators and dump trucks have removed the grassy hillside and now the forms for the cement walls are being erected which will soon support our new children’s and youth building. I get excited about the progress and possibilities that the new building and first phase of our expansion efforts will bring. I love growth and new creations but I have to admit that as exciting as all of this is my beautiful view outside my windows has been obstructed and more importantly, I have let my view of God be obstructed as well.
I love speaking about faith and trusting in God but actually applying those words has been difficult for me as of late. Our financial situation at the church has not been as strong as it has been in years past and the increased cost and responsibility of an expanded facility has led me to focus more on those things than on God. I believe with all my heart that we are doing what God wants us to do but then I wonder where the additional people will come from to occupy the new space and help pay for it. I pray to God to show me exactly what He wants me to do but my view seems to be obstructed. The cares and worries of leading an ever growing church with its many demands clouds my vision at times and my view of God is obstructed. In my quiet times (they tend to be in my car in a parking lot somewhere) I beg God to let me see His face in a literal and figurative sense. I struggle to clear my head and remove the obstructions knowing that He is right there but I strain to see Him.
Perhaps you can relate to this in your life. I’m sure your concerns are different but maybe your view of God is obstructed just the same. Let’s commit to praying for one another in the church. Let’s ask God to remove the obstructions so we can see Him more clearly. Let’s press in, reach out and grasp His hand as He pulls us through the obstacles that obstruct our view. God hasn’t moved. He is right where He has always been just like the mountain outside of my window. The objects that obstruct our view are movable and if we join together we can push each other through as God pulls us through.
He is high and lifted up. May we rise to His level so we can see His face and follow His ways.
“… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10Do we trust God’s promises?For the last several weeks, I’ve been thinking about the promises God makes to us in His word. What are those promises? Do I really believe God’s promises? Do I live like I believe His promises?Three Sundays ago, Marc preached about Abraham. God promised Abraham “You will be the father of many nations.” Genesis 17:4. God said he would establish His covenant through Abraham’s son Isaac. Genesis 17:19. When God later told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham absolutely trusted God’s promise in spite of appearances to the contrary. Abraham acted on his trust in God’s promise and as a result Abraham and the nations through him were blessed by God. A few years ago, our Life Group (then a “home” group!) did a study on God’s promises. A friend gave me a small book The Bible Promise Book which is a compilation of more than 100 pages of God’s promises from throughout His word. WOW! God has made a lot of promises to His people. God tells us His word is true and we can trust His promises. Revelation 21: 5. Jesus tells us he came to bring us full life. There is life in His promises. There is hope in His promises. There is comfort in His promises. There is salvation in His promises. We can trust His promises.For us the test comes when what we see around us or what we feel doesn’t seem like what we want or what we expect. There are times in our lives when, like Abraham, we are called to simply trust in God’s promises despite the appearance of things. Even though we may not see fully now, Jesus is making everything new. It is impossible for me to imagine what Abraham felt in his gut as he approached Mount Moriah with Isaac carrying the wood to make the burnt offering requested by God. We may not be called upon to exhibit the level of Abraham’s radical trust in God’s promises, but we are regularly called upon to trust God’s promises or trust in ourselves. God’s blessing results from our trust in Him and His promises.What would our life look like if each day we lived out total trust in God’s promises? How would God bless us and through our trust in Him bless others? Psalm 125:1 tells us, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” I challenge us to seek out God’s promises for our lives and to trust His promises fully. Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have life “to the full” and to live life unshaken “like Mount Zion.” With God’s help, we are promised such life is available to us.Jim Joyce,

Something happened three weeks ago at my Life Group that I’m still wrestling with. A little card with three verses of Psalm 119 was handed out with the instruction to read it out loud every day for two full weeks. Before I go any further I need you to read those verses.

“Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”
Psalm 119;35-37

I started reciting these words at traffic intersections on my way to work. Three verses and then I would turn the radio on. But as the week progressed I noticed I wasn’t reaching as quickly for the dial. The words were now more familiar and strangely more comforting each time I read them. “Which of your statues do I need to start bending my heart toward?” Almost immediately commands would pop in my mind. “What worthless things should I turn my eyes from?”

During the day He would point out things. Not necessarily bad things, but things that I do that really don’t matter. The morning commute times spilled into the day at work, and I noticed something else. The more time I spent with those words…the more those words changed me. I could literally feel my heart turning at the strangest moments. My eyes seemed to see things I often missed and I began looking at people and feeling differently.

These verses began to become MY verses… not just seven lines on a small 3X5 index card. Perhaps for the first time in my life I began to memorize scripture not because I was forcefully cramming it in my head, but instead because I couldn’t get those words out of my mind.

So that’s the risk of getting too close to, “The word of God (which) is alive and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, that penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” Hebrews 4:12

Steve Forbes

Rejoice and Act!

Rick Trout recently posed a question during a sermon about the sacrifice made for us by Jesus, “what do we do with that, with a savior who sacrificed for us?”I thought about that question a lot… And here’s what I came up with…First, REJOICE, I’ll say it again, REJOICE! Phil 4:4-7 The Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, sacrificed himself for you! But more than that, He actually created you, He adopted you, gave you gifts and talents and abilities. The Lord gave you people to fill up your life with, family, friends, kids, teachers/coaches, pastors etc. The Lord created beauty all around you, in the mountains and the seas, in the plants and the animals, in the seasons in the rising and setting of the sun. Not only all of that, the Lord enters into relationship with us. He is with us and counsels us, protects us and heals us. And on top of all that, He grants us love and joy and peace and patience, regardless of our circumstances. How great is that! So rejoice in Him, and His creation, in and all he has done and continues to do for you.

Second, ACT! James 2. Considering how much the Lord has done for you, and knowing that He loves those around you, how can you not reach out to others? To pray for them, to help them get through rough times, provide a helping hand, to assist emotionally and physically and financially? Not only is love expressed through action, it is the only reasonable outgrowth of our rejoicing over what the Lord has done for us. Love begets love and kindness begets kindness and the Lord has expressed love and kindness in immeasurable ways toward you.

REJOICE and ACT, not only does it sound like a good name for my next band, it’s also how we should live our lives! That is what we do in response to a God and Savior who loves us and sacrifices for us, who participates in our lives and has our eternal best interest at heart. Why wouldn’t we REJOICE and ACT ?!?

Ronnie Clay


Every now and then, a desire of mine that lies dormant just below the surface of my consciousness is awakened. When this desire is aroused, it becomes almost all-consuming. It occupies my waking thoughts and gives me sweet, exhilarating dreams as I sleep.I dream of a day when I own 20+ acres of land where I can explore, hunt, and be alone with God. A place to live off the land, where my children and grandchildren can run and play and hike. I dream of a wooded lot with a creek or two flowing through it, an acre or so of grass around the house, and space for a nice garden.Recently, this desire was re-awakened when some friends mentioned a 50-acre lot they were looking at. They couldn’t buy it on their own, so they were thinking of going in with another family. As I thought about being that other family, my heart began to pound and a wave of excitement rushed through me. I spent the next few days praying and talking about the possibilities with Cathy, and researching the land on Google Maps and the Botetourt County GIS.Then God spoke. Not audibly, but through a whisper in my soul and a well-timed sermon. I can’t remember the details of the ensuing conversation, but I know God was asking me what’s wrong with the place He has me now. In a message on Contentment from Life Church’s podcast, Craig Groeschel perfectly summarized what God was saying to me:

“Enjoy what you have instead of longing for what you do not have.”

I believe God is telling me to make the most of my current situation: to be more intentional in building relationships with my neighbors; to practice homesteading on our current land (e.g. garden, canning, chickens, etc.); and to find my fulfillment in Him.

Maybe we will move to a huge tract of land sometime in the future. But for now, I need to learn to be content and maximize the opportunities God has given me now.

Are there areas of your life where you are struggling with discontentment and longing for something more? Are you, like me, coveting what some romanticized version of your future self possesses? Maybe it’s more stuff, marriage, children, a better job, or a bigger house. Are you missing out on today’s blessings by living only for tomorrow? Trust in God’s goodness, provision, and plan for you. Learn to be content and make the most of what He has given you today.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” – 1 Corinthians 7:17

“Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.” – Ecclesiastes 6:9

Earle Clubb


“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10I love the spring time. There is new life: grass is growing, flowers are blooming, and leaves are coming in on the trees. Life is stirring. The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, and the sun is shining (well, at least today it is). There is a lot of activity. And I think we are all getting caught up in the excitement of the new season. There are sports to be played, trails to be hiked and trips to be traveled. Life is beautiful and vibrant. We’re all shaking off the winter blues and smiling about the sunshine.If you look around the church right now, we have a lot of things going on. Programs are in full swing! There are events and life groups happening and ministries being developed and launched at the church. There are a lot of good things happening. But in the midst of all the activity, are we stepping aside from the commotion intentionally and frequently to spend face time with the Lord? Are we sitting in His presence without any agenda or time limit? Is that more appealing to us than all the other options we have before us?I want to challenge you (and myself) in this season of excitement and activity to be intentional about being still before God and listening to the Holy Spirit’s direction for our lives, our families and our community. There are a lot of good things that we can do. But if we aren’t careful we might miss the God things that He would have us do this season.Love you all,

Music/Media Team

I’m not sure how I was scheduled to write the eNews article the week after Easter since the last few months I have felt as though I’m in some sort of a spiritual “slump”. So I can’t promise you this post is going to contain some life altering words following the celebration of His resurrection and likely no scripture or strong biblical teaching either. This very well could be my first, and last, invitation to write the eNews article.It’s dawned on me that I think I have just been discouraged rather than in a slump. Discouraged by what Christianity has become to so many people; both believers and nonbelievers. How has everything become such a political or theological debate with Christians at the center as the ones stirring up the drama many most of the time? It has truly pained me lately to watch how “Christians” behave towards people they do not think are as righteous as them or share the same theological mindset. Whether it’s through national media or the things I see from the people around me every day, what message are we really sending? Many of you have probably heard of Bob Goff. I actually have not yet read his book, Love Does, but I have heard him speak twice and I follow him on Instagram (along with 87k others), so I feel as though that carries some weight. I recently heard him speak again at the Spark Conference two weeks ago and it was so refreshing to see and hear from someone like him. When he speaks it’s nothing overly-spiritual. It’s not complicated to understand. It’s totally conversational and personal. He said something that I can’t stop thinking about lately. He said, “If someone gets their theology wrong, you don’t need to be in your archer stand with your bow drawn ready to protect baby Jesus. Read Revelations – Jesus is good, he doesn’t need your help.” Then he said, “Mary came to the tomb after Jesus was buried and she didn’t even recognize him, and you know what, Jesus didn’t make her sit down and have a bible study…He said her name. If you don’t know someone’s name (or anything about them), then shut up.”I could have charged the stage and given him a huge bear hug and not let go when I heard this.THIS is why I have been so discouraged.THIS is why I have felt like I have been in such a slump. Being a part of the body of believers, it’s been hard lately to not think we care more about what is theologically sound or right than knowing people, than just loving people. Loving people with no agenda and no strings attached, no matter who they are or what they believe. Earning the right to eventually talk about the other stuff. I’m not discounting the importance of theology and speaking truth. I believe it has its place and time, but when you forfeit love for those things, can you truly be embodying the Spirit of Jesus? I just don’t think so. So maybe there is a Resurrection message here after all, because I believe the best evidence that Jesus is still alive, is how we love those He created. And it’s not hard to do! Let’s put our bows down and stop thinking it’s up to us to protect Jesus from our archer stands (or from our social media pages).Read Revelations. He wins! We win! Let down your guard and learn someone’s name and something about them. And as Bob Goff says, “Love everyone, always! And start with the people who creep you out the most!
Brittany Crigler
Missions Team
I went to the SPARK Conference this past weekend and learned a number of things, one of which I will share with you here. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling much like going since it was a Friday afternoon, evening and all day Saturday event. I’m busy like the rest of you and had plenty of excuses but fortunately I ended up going, for most of it anyway, mainly because I had made a commitment to be there. It proved to be just what I needed and as I sat there I thought of all the other folks who needed it as well but weren’t there for various reasons.
Anyhow, one of the speakers was talking about how we lack commitment these days, except to youth sports of course. He used a term that I wasn’t familiar with, FOBO, Fear of Better Options. All of a sudden the light went on for me. I think FOBO is what keeps me and us from committing to things. We want to keep our options open in case a better offer comes our way. I mean think about it. You don’t want to miss out on an invitation to the Tech Football game, dinner out with friends, playing golf, going shopping or seeing a new movie release do you? I know I don’t; not even a Tech Football Game as long as it involves tailgating.
Then the speaker cut me to the core by stating, “Many of us treat God like a hobby.” Ouch. We really like God but we really don’t want to commit to God for FOBO; Fear of Better Options. I/we don’t want to go all in because we might miss out on something ‘better’. And then reality struck as I was sitting there. There are no better options than God. I am at my best when I am closest to God. I experience more peace and contentment when I am close to God. I feel like my life has greater purpose when I am serving God. So why do I still battle with FOBO? I buy into the lie that the things of this world offer me better options.
Now that my/our lack of commitment has a name, FOBO, let’s see it for what it truly is and begin to commit to the BEST option we have, Jesus Christ. Let’s draw near to Him and engage with Him to help others realize that He is their BEST option as well.
As a football fan I’m sad that the season is over, but excited that the NFL draft is only a month away. One of the most interesting aspects of the draft is how well players fit on different teams. A player might be an All Pro on one team, but a benchwarmer on another team. How can that be? Especially in football, the strength of the team is not just determined by the ability of individual players, but how well they play together. If the players’ abilities do not work well together, then the players and team both suffer. The church (thankfully) is not a football team, but each of us has gifts and abilities from God that we are responsible for using. In a letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul compared the church to the “body of Christ” and explained that “each one of you is a part of it.” Everyone at Orchard Hills is part of the “body of Christ” and has a unique role to play. Like a human body (or a football team), “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”Christianity is not just about our personal relationship with Jesus, but also about being part of Jesus’ body – the church. Everyone has a role to play, whether that is inviting a friend, joining a Life Group or serving on a ministry team. When we choose not to participate in the church, everyone suffers. We suffer by missing out on what God is doing at Orchard Hills and Orchard Hills misses out on the unique gifts and talents God has given to you. It is difficult to believe that March is almost over and ¼ of 2015 is already in the history books. Time seems to go by faster and faster. Don’t miss out on what God is doing at Orchard Hills – God wants you to experience being a part of his body and find the role that he has gifted you to play. Tim Mattson
Connect Team Leader
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Wow! How nice it has been to see the sunshine and for the temperature to get to the point where we can wear some shorts, a t-shirt and maybe some flip flops (except for Kevin Hughes….. this is how he dresses year-round). I find it interesting that when 60 degrees comes around in the spring, it is hot enough to break out spring attire, but when it drops to the 60’s in the fall it’s time to put on a sweater. For the most part, we are all too eager to change our wardrobe.
Unfortunately, we don’t apply this to our spiritual wardrobe. As Rick has discussed for the last couple of weeks, we have a tendency to want to keep our old sinful nature around, and we occasionally slip it back on because it is so comfortable.
In our life group, we discussed the first lesson in “My Bad Church Experience” and found that what keeps a lot of us from a closer walk with Jesus is something in our past that we have failed to confess and repent. For some of us, it is our old sinful nature or maybe it is shame that is holding us back. But once we realize that there is grace in abundance and that a relationship with Jesus is the only true way to having peace, we will be willing to put down the old and pick up the new.
So I challenge each of you as you do your spring cleaning, don’t pack away that old jacket that represents the old you. Go ahead and throw it in the trash, or take it outside and burn it. Just do whatever is necessary to rid yourself of that burden and find peace and comfort in a fresh new wardrobe designed and created for you by Our Savior.Ray Puckett
First Impressions Team Leader
Romans 12-2
I will admit that reading Scott’s article in the e-news last week gave me a shiver. It’s difficult to think about evil being all around us and us being oblivious. It’s easy for us to believe that we are immune from evil in our community because we aren’t exposed to atrocious acts daily. If our heart can’t take hearing about a fellow Christian being beheaded, or a teenager being stalked and killed or a suicide bombing we can turn off the news and put those images out of our mind. However, Scott’s article got me thinking about more subtle evil. Evil that has become mainstream and widely accepted in our society. Just last week I stopped what I was doing to gape at my television as a commercial came on that I think was selling food of some kind but it really could have been selling underwear or any number of activities that were not at all related to eating. I realized that we are living in an “anything goes” world. Commercials have become more and more risqué, television shows have themes that are laden with sex or violence, top 40 songs are full of innuendo, and the list goes on and on. The spring clothing that is out for young girls (I am talking elementary school age) consists of very short shorts and “belly shirts”. If you aren’t paying attention it is easy for these things to become “normal” because they are everywhere and no one blinks an eye. The danger of becoming immune to these things is that we lose sight of God’s will and our purpose. When we are surrounded by and completely immersed in these images and behaviors, it’s easy to forget that we are called to live in this world, but not to be of this world. We have to be vigilant, we have to think carefully about the talk and images that we let into our minds and into the minds of our children. Otherwise we are risking becoming accepting of what the world is telling us is ok. We risk becoming cynical about our relationships, about our financial status, about what it means to be a Christian in today’s world. Always remember that Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” April Estrada
Communion Ministry Leader
Our team is leaving Friday for the Holy Land which I am very excited about and not fearful of in the least but I’ve been paying more attention to the news and happenings in the Middle East more than ever. There seems to be so much evil in that part of the world from the sensationalized beheading of Christian men to the talks to allow Iran nuclear weapon capability in the next ten years. Evil seems so easy to spot and it is unfathomable to me how anyone can embrace such practices. And yet there may be an even more sinister evil that lurks around us in our homes and community and we are not even aware.
Keith Farmer and the folks at Straight Street have begun a ministry called Street Ransom which is designed to combat the evil of human trafficking in our area. How many of us are oblivious to this heinous evil in our midst? Who would do such a thing? Well the culprits are people that look like you and me. People who are eating at the same restaurants as us, purchasing tickets for thousands of dollars to the Super Bowl, operating businesses and yes sitting in our churches or even preaching in them. The face of evil is seldom masked with black bandanas but marked by clean shaven faces.
Evil is all around us and yet we are oblivious to it. Sometimes it is easy to identify in the form of beheadings or sex trafficking but other times it is more subtle and comes in fifty shades of grey. So let us be on guard against evil. Let’s be wise as serpents yet gentle as doves as Jesus instructs in Matthew 10:16 because we are His sheep living in a world of wolves. Evil is real and it is all around us. If you are a part of the flock be sure to stay close to the other sheep and closer to the Good Shepherd and if you see a lonely, wandering sheep around, pull them back in.
Oh my goodness, be careful what you pray for! I prayed for one big snow for my boys as they desperately wanted to “sled at great speeds, build big snowmen, create massive snow forts and have a snow ball battle with daddy!” Prayer answered… in a BIG way! I am terrified to drive in the snow and ice so I was housebound for seven DAYS! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my precious boys and husband, but I can definitely speak for Dakota that he WANTED to go back to school for a vacation from his little brother! A little bit of distance certainly can make the heart grow fonder!This distance does not apply when strengthening our relationship with our Father. As a wife, mother, therapist, housekeeper, cook, etc. there are times in my life when I feel I struggle to devote even a couple of minutes to my Father. I can’t seem to find that 25th hour of the day to spend with Him, one on one, as His daughter. I strive to live out all my “titles” with God as my constant, my guide and my strength. But do I find time to spend just with Him? No interruptions, intentionally listening to Him? Honestly, there are days that go by that I don’t and those days, most often, are not fulfilling or productive…I know it can be hard to hear God’s voice above the noise of everyday life so I encourage you all to find that quiet place (a closet, bathroom, car, basement or even your crawl space) to carve out some time every day to be silent with Him. April 17th through April 19th, we have a great opportunity to carve out a whole weekend at our Women’s Retreat at Glade Springs Resort! Allow yourself this opportunity to get a fresh perspective, with extended time to listen, process and worship.  But, “I hate retreats,” you say. Well, I can certainly speak to a time when I would have wholeheartedly agreed with you as I found it very difficult to go to group events. It took a lot of courage for me to even go to my first women’s bible study. But I can now speak with strength that my marriage would not be built on such a firm foundation, my kids wouldn’t be as far in their spiritual journey and that all the valleys I’ve come through the past several years of my life would not have been as joyful, spiritually filled or peaceful had I not stepped into that bible study years ago. Some of my closest friendships have been formed simply from being faithful to His calling for me to step out of my comfort zone. I realize now that I was missing out on so much. When we spend time with other women worshipping, praying, and learning about our precious Savior it makes us stronger. If God is nudging you to attend the Women’s Retreat but you are uncomfortable and experiencing feelings of doubt, have faith and be obedient. Hebrews 11:7 says, “He obeyed God…and he received the rightness that comes by faith.”My prayer for you is that you get a chance to slow down, build stronger and lifelong relationships with your sisters, create massive amounts of spiritual energy to bring back to your homes and have victory in the battle against your subconscious thoughts of “but I should be doing” that keep you from spending one on one time with your Heavenly Father! I have faith this prayer will be answered in a BIG way!Amahoro (peace)…
Tamara Bell
Women’s Ministry
We Do What We Want To Do

As many of you know, on January 11th, we launched Upland Church! It has been a WILD experience being able to watch God bring people from all stages of life into our church. We’ve been able to see people’s lives changed already, and in such a short time, we were able to see over 100 people come to our church!

As a Lead Pastor, however, there is one thing that I’ve realized has stressed me out big time: church attendance! It’s like, when a lot of people show up you feel really successful and effective. But when a lot of people do not show up, it’s easy to feel like a failure or that you did/are doing something wrong. Our first few weeks were above and beyond our expectations when it came to how many people showed up. But the past two weeks…not so much. It’s amazing the reasons why some people don’t go to church! Let me give you a few examples.

Two weeks ago, if you were able to be outside, it was just an incredible weekend. I think Saturday was around 60 degrees, and then Sunday topped 72 degrees! That’s a first for me, being from up North. But as 10:30 a.m. approached (church time), I noticed that not too many people actually showed up. It was a bit discouraging to be honest. The reason? It was too warm! People wanted to enjoy the day and be outside!

But then this past week, it was the complete opposite. Before I went to bed on Saturday, it was freezing outside. Literally, 14 degrees. I had two text messages on my phone asking me if we were still having church because it was so cold. The forecast said it was supposed to snow (which ended up being a light flurry). When I woke up on Sunday, I had three emails asking me where the information was on our website of our church closing. One even wondered why we didn’t put the inforamtion on WDBJ7 that we were closed. So again, 10:30 a.m. rolled around and we had even less people than the week before. The reason? It was too cold outside to go to church. 

The point I am trying to make is that a lot of us have our priorities a bit mixed up. And the reason I know this is because our church meets in a movie theater behind Tanglewood mall. All weekend during this “winter storm”, people showed up for a new movie, 50 Shades of Grey. As a matter of fact, even during such a crazy winter storm all over the Northeast, this movie broke tons of records and became the second-best movie release ever in the month of February (coincidently right behind the Passion of the Christ). 

It was interesting to see how many people, even on Sunday in Roanoke, came out to see this movie. People without 4WD. People who needed to scrape the ice off their windshield. People who needed to bundle up. People who needed to get the car running early. People who had to pay nearly $12 a ticket. Clearly, even with all of the inconveniences and hindrances, getting to the movie wasn’t an issue. 

But for church? Even the slightest disturbance in our lives can make us throw in the towel, right? “My child coughed once or twice? Better stay home.” “Having family over in the evening? Probably should use that time and clean the house.” “Stayed up a bit late on Saturday? Should probably get some extra sleep so I don’t get sick.” 

What it comes down to is the fact that we do what we want to do, and if we don’t want to do something, we’ll find an excuse. My challenge to you is to examine your priorities in your life. What are you willing to do, no matter the hindrances and annoyances? Is God one of them? Is church one? Someone wise once said, “Action expresses priorities”. Consider this week how high (or low) your priority with God is in your life. Not by your words, but by your actions!

Matt Barber

Ephesians 4:12: For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.

There has been a lot going on around Orchard Hills Church. There is a lot of dirt that is being stirred up, new structures are being planned and put into place to help us grow. You can literally feel the ground shake. But I’m not just talking about the new portion of the building that is being constructed. I’m also talking about the new team structures, serving schedules, and commitments. It can be a lot to take in. Things are getting stirred up in all of us, and it can be a little unsettling, like the ground we are walking on is shaking. Right now there are gigantic piles of dirt out back. But we have to remind ourselves of the vision of what that dirt pile will be one day.

I know the heart and vision of Scott is to follow after the Lord, and for all of us to grow and deepen in our walk with the Lord. And I know that the OHC staff and leadership want the same thing. We want to be a part of what Paul calls in Ephesians 4:12 “building up of the body of Christ” … to become a unified picture of faith, maturing in the way we look and act to become more Christ-like.

One of the beautiful things about the body of Christ, that we are all a part of, is that each person has a distinct function and role. I am not gifted in children’s ministry, but I am thankful for people like Lisa Miles who have a passion and skill set that are perfect for that function of the body. And our children wouldn’t grow like they are if we didn’t have folks like you and Lisa to invest your lives into them. 

So as we are heading into this weekend where we are talking about service, I am praying that we will all be seeking the Lord about what part of the body He would have us really invest ourselves into. I think it helps to remind ourselves that we are not just doing a particular ministry, we are literally pouring our time, energy, and love into a group of people, with the hope and expectation that we will all become more like Christ in the process. I am praying that all of us would have a joyful heart to see ourselves, and the people we serve, grow in Christ; growing in depth and maturity in our relationship with the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. It’s an incredible thing to invest our lives into other people from a heart of love, don’t you think?

Worship Leader

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” 
I have been struggling as of late to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. The responsibility to be sure that I am hearing from God as I lead His church, the huge commitment of a much needed facility expansion and the demands of a family of nine have caused me to be overwhelmed by my circumstances and look to myself for the answers instead of Jesus. At first glance I don’t think I am struggling with sin but as I look deeper I see that I am in hand to hand combat with the sin of self-sufficiency to name just one. I say I trust God. I say I have faith in Him. But when times are especially stressful I tend to glance at God and glare at myself and my circumstances. I ask myself questions like, “What can I do to motivate others?” “What do I need to do to capture the hearts of the people for God?” “How do I convince folks to follow God in all areas of their lives?” “Why isn’t God responding in the tangible ways that I need Him to, when I ‘need’ Him to?” Do you ever find yourself asking similar ‘I’ questions?
The challenge I/we face is to take Hebrews 12:1-3 from theory and theology to reality and practicality. One thing I am trying to do is visualize Jesus feeding the 5000, giving sight to the blind, providing for the disciples as they head out in pairs with only the shirt on their backs, carrying MY cross and then rising from the tomb. I am finding that when I think about and visualize the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life I am better able to trust Him with my life. My problems and concerns begin to fade as I consider all that Jesus did, overcame and promises to do for those of us who truly follow Him. Thankfully, as I write this I find that my weariness and faintness of heart are beginning to dissipate. Maybe the same can be true for you. FIX your eyes on Jesus. STOP glancing at God and glaring at yourself and your circumstances. PRAY for a more intimate revelation of who Jesus truly is and embrace Him.
The mountains are yearning. (3)
John 14:12-21
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.
He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

“If you love me you will obey what I command.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever –
the Spirit of truth.
The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.
But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.
Because I live, you also will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
2015 will be a landmark year for Orchard Hills! As our facilities expand and new faces come through the doors, may we not lose sight of what holds us together…our abiding faith in Jesus Christ and a genuine love for one another.
To better serve our congregation and as an expression of this love, OHC is starting the Stephen Ministry, which is a new ministry that offers great promise for those among us who are suffering and in crisis. In this program, lay caring ministers called Stephen Ministers support and care for people who are hurting. Stephen Ministers are not counselors, therapists, or evangelists. They simply listen to, encourage, and pray for those in their care. In other words, they are God’s love made visible. They bring the knowledge of His love and His caring presence to those who feel lost and abandoned. In their ministry to those who are suffering, Stephen Ministers carry God’s love to those who need it most. This is just another way that we can serve each other.
As we “bring one, join one, and serve one,” remember the One who holds us together.
God’s Peace,
Investing and impacting the lives of
Investing and Impacting the Lives of Students
I hate the winter! Seriously, I don’t like it. It’s cold, dark, and the ending of football. Not to mention I can’t wear shorts. DISCLAIMER: You might hear me complain about this at some point during the next few months. However, this winter has been, and will be different. We have a lot of exciting things going on here at OHC. For starters, my office has been relocated from the back yard to the front parking lot. I like to think of it as moving up in the corporate world but without a pay raise. The view from my new office location is the real exciting part. Construction has begun at OHC! This means more space and state of the art facilities for impacting our community for Jesus. This is what I am most excited about! Impacting our community for Jesus has always been a goal of mine specifically with our students at OHC and the surrounding community. With the new building coming I know that it will allow for greater and more opportunities to accomplish this goal. Students mean the world to me! They deserve the attention of us all because they are facing life’s most challenging time. See, I think many of us adults forget what it was like to be a student. We forget that what a student learns at this age is often times what they become as they get older. We forget that a student often times just wants to feel important and valued. We forget that a student desires adults who care about them and will fight for them. Students need men and women to come along side of them and offer them the knowledge they have gained in life and the heart of following Jesus. I think that we at OHC have shown that we care about our students by providing them with the facilities necessary to impact them. For that I thank you.  What our students need now is for men and women to show up and step up to walk along side of them. The facilities will only go so far. Think about how great OHC will be when we have more students becoming men and women who serve, love, and reach out like many of you do because you have taught them how to do it. I am excited about this winter! I am excited because I know that we are getting new facilities to impact our community and students for Jesus. I am excited because I know we have students who will and are showing up every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Thursday night, and throughout the week in small group. I am excited because I know many of you want to join the team of serving and leading these students to become greater men and women of Jesus. So, answer the call on your heart if you are being called and come join our Students’ Ministry Team!Kevin
OHC Annual Meeting
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21
Earth is moving at OHC! It is so exciting… definitely falls under the “more than we could imagine” category of answered prayer. This Sunday evening, our church will gather to hear updates on the building, as well as ministries, and finances. There will be questions, concerns, healthy discussion, and laughter.  We will try to be good sports during the chili competition, knowing there will be trash talking and “encouragement” to vote for certain numbered pots! There may even be some tears, as we reflect on 2014 and the experiences we have shared. Our yearly meetings are unlike any I have experienced in my many years of church.
It all comes back to the heart of OHC being rooted and established in love. Being grounded in the love of Christ allows for discussion that is healthy and productive. It enables us to find the fun in competition and the laughter amidst the vying for votes. We can share in the excitement over the new building without the tension of personal feelings becoming stronger than the ultimate goal of serving others. Being rooted in the love of Christ is how our meetings are so very different.
I encourage you to come on Sunday evening at 5:00pm. Be a part of the joy of fellowship and the power of grasping the love of Christ in the community of OHC. 2015 is going to be an exciting time for us! Join me in praying that it will be “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to his power (love) that is at work within us” and that everything will always be for His glory.
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Bring One, Join One, Serve One
If you were in church on Sunday you heard about our 2015 goal for everyone at Orchard Hills and that is Bring One, Join One, Serve One; BO, JO, SO. I believe that this is the year for us to bear more fruit and BO, JO, SO will be instrumental to that end. So what am I talking about? We want everyone to commit to bring one person to church this year. Notice I didn’t say invite one person to church this year but bring one person, there is a huge difference. Second, we want everyone to joina home group/life group and/or a men’s or women’s small group. This will help us to grow closer to God and others. Third, we want everyone to serve somewhere in the church. Serving is a great investment that reaps dividends in our lives and the lives of others for eternity.
This isn’t a lot to ask of any individual but if all of us commit to BO, JO, SO it will have a tremendous impact on OHC and our community. I am excited about the year ahead. We should be breaking ground on our building expansion this month and holding a preview service of our Sunday 5 PM service on February 15th. This will provide even more opportunities to serve and grow so join with me in this exciting time at OHC.
Grow in 2015
As we begin a new year many people make a resolution to read the Bible from start to finish. I’ve done this a number of times and enjoyed the One Year Bible and the Chronological One Year Bible. Now with modern technology you have the ability to get various Bible reading plans for free on your phone or computer. If you haven’t already, download the YouVersion Bible App. It is a wonderful resource and follows you everywhere you go since no one would think of leaving their home or even the room without their phone.
I don’t know what 2015 will hold although I have some great expectations. I truly believe it will be a year of growth for those of us at Orchard Hills in so many ways. One thing I do know is this; a deeper commitment to God’s Word will equip us to make the most of the opportunities God brings our way and help us endure and overcome any obstacles that come our way as well. The Word of God should be our firm foundation upon which we build our beliefs and actions and it should be the rudder that steers us through the waters of life.
So why not make a plan to read the Bible in the coming year. “Unless desire is met with a plan it seldom amounts to much.” A quote by Scott McLucas. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and I PLAN to see you all Sunday for the beginning of a great new series,… With Me, that should set us up for a prosperous new year.
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…With Me
I’ve never been to a Women’s Christmas Brunch before or had much of a desire to go with the exception of eating some really great food and spending time with the amazing women of OHC. But this year was different. There was a lot of excitement surrounding it largely due to our speaker ‘Jamie the Very Worst Missionary’. With a name like that you can’t help but be intrigued to hear what she has to say. I always appreciate self-deprecating humor and so I was curious as to what she would say and honestly a bit nervous as well. Fortunately nothing inappropriate was said and she brought a message full of humor that spoke to the hearts of women and men I might add.
But do you know what excited me most about the brunch this year? The way so many of our women reached out to others inside and outside our church and invited them to come. There is power in an invitation to something but even greater power when that invitation is accompanied by two simple words, with me! Think about the difference between someone asking, “Why don’t you come to the Christmas Brunch?” or “Why don’t you come to the Christmas Brunch with me?” Which do you think is more effective? Which would lead you to say, “Yes”? I think it is clear that we all would prefer the … with me invitation than the more generic one. Thankfully, many of the women used the … with me approach and as a result, others came to the brunch and some even came on Sunday because they had such a great experience.
We are starting a new sermon series in January entitled … With Me. We are going to focus on the power of those two words and I believe it has the potential to elevate our church to new levels of effectiveness. People Investing in People for Eternity doesn’t happen apart from the … with me component. So thanks to all the women who already get this. I am excited to embark on the New Year with a simple yet powerful focus. I am hopeful that each of you will come, grow and go with me in 2015!





A Gift We All Can Give and Receive
It has been said, “It is better to give than to receive.” That’s true. The feeling of making someone’s life brighter because of a gift you have provided is pretty special but I’ll be honest, I still LOVE receiving gifts. Now that I’m ‘old’ I don’t need as many material gifts other than some new socks, underwear (boxer briefs that is) or oh yeah, a STIHL chainsaw! But there is a gift that I appreciate getting year after year and a gift that I need to be better at giving and that is The Gift of GRACE!

In the midst of this hectic time of year, and any time of year for that matter, aren’t you blown away and so appreciative when someone gives you the gift of GRACE? GRACE is something we don’t deserve and we can’t earn and maybe that is why it is priceless and so special. It is a gift that humbles you when presented with it and uproots bitterness if you allow it.
But there is a catch. You can’t give the gift of GRACE if you have never received it. You have no context for it. You have no example to follow. You may be able to intellectually articulate it but you cannot emotionally embrace it. It requires humility to receive it and humility to give it. So what’s the answer? Take a few minutes and read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Look for the expressions of God’s GRACE to others and then place yourself in the story as the recipient whether it is as a blind beggar, the woman caught in adultery, a lonely outcast leper or any of the many who experienced firsthand the GRACE of God through Jesus and His disciples, then pray to receive His GRACE. Jesus died for all and that includes you and that co-worker or family member that tests your patience and even that mass murderer who definitely is not deserving of GRACE and certainly not mercy 1 Peter 3:18.
So as you prepare to give and receive gifts this Christmas why not consider giving the gift of GRACE even when that person takes your parking spot at the mall or family member gets on our nerves. Jesus freely gives His GRACE and we can freely receive it and extend it to others. Don’t allow your pride to cause you to miss out on God’s Amazing GRACE.
Peace and GRACE,




advent candles
What is Advent? The dictionary defines it as “The coming or arrival of something or someone that is important or worthy of note.” Nothing in history has been as important or worthy of note as the birth of Jesus and nothing will be as important or worthy of note as the second coming of Jesus. We plan to teach on the various aspects of Advent over the next three Sundays but in the meantime I want to be sure you are aware of something else that is important or worthy of note and that is the Advent Devotionals that members of Orchard Hills have written and are available to you on a daily basis if you sign-up for them on the bottom right-hand side of our web page.
We are three days into the devotionals and I am so impressed with the wisdom of those writing them. I marvel at their insights especially those written by our teenagers. After reading these I know I need to step up my game! How inspiring it is to see how God is growing our people in deep, spiritual ways. I am humbled by those in our church family who quietly pursue Jesus, experience Jesus and then share Jesus with the rest of us. Who knew we had so many talented people in our midst? Well, I guess God did.
So I have two challenges for you this week. First, look forward with great anticipation to the 6:00 a.m. arrival of your daily devotionals because they are important and worthy of note. Second, begin writing your own. You don’t have to publish them but at least try your hand at writing one or two. Take a verse from the Bible, in its proper context of course, and see how you can apply it to your life. I believe this exercise will unleash a new found passion for God’s Word and marvelous encouragement that a seminary degree is not what is needed for one to have spiritual insight.
It’s time that we live expectantly with regard to what God is going to reveal to us through His Spirit and through others. I can’t wait for the next devotion to come. Let’s fan into flame the gifts God has given to each one of us at Orchard Hills.






I love Thanksgiving! It involves three of my favorite things; food, football, family and more food. But did you also know that it is the cure for anxiety? That’s right, thanksgiving is the cure for anxiety! How many people aren’t a bit anxious especially around the holidays? If you don’t believe me just ask God because He is the one who said so. Look at Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. I have memorized it and I repeat it to myself and others almost on a daily basis. Anxiety has a way of creeping into our lives and robbing us of God’s peace. Anxiety is actually a great warning sign that we have taken our focus off of God and put it on other things that are competing for our affections like health, wealth and prosperity. I believe God gave us the emotion of anxiety so that we will remember to turn to Him in prayer but what kind of prayer? THANKSGIVING! When our minds are turned to the reasons we have to be thankful both now and forever then our hearts turn from anxiousness to peacefulness. Don’t we all want less anxiety and more peace? The answer is THANKSGIVING.
So, when you feel yourself becoming anxious this week because your family is coming over or you have burned the rolls for the fifth consecutive year or you just can’t seem to please everyone, pray prayers of THANKSGIVING and exchange YOUR anxiety for HIS peace.
Happy Thanksgiving and God’s peace!



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Building Update

We met with the architects and builder this week to discuss the progress of the building and how we would phase it in. One of our big concerns was losing the trailer classroom at the beginning of the process and figuring out what to do with the children and youth for 10 months or so. The good news is that it appears that we can continue to use the trailer until the classroom building is complete then relocate the children and youth, move the trailer, add the offices, tear off the existing classrooms and construct the new sanctuary and finally renovate the existing sanctuary into a common area and kitchen. THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS and should be the least disruptive course of action.
We are still waiting to hear back from the county on the site plans but we are hopeful to still break ground in January. Thank you all for your support and financial sacrifices. This is an exciting time. Even though the new facility will be 3X the size of the existing one I see every inch being utilized. Keep praying that God surprises us with a large financial gift to help with the cost of construction.







A Sunday Night Service?

For months now I have been talking to people in and around the church to see if there is interest in a Sunday Night service. I have had a heart to reach people we aren’t currently reaching and provide another opportunity to engage in worship through music and the teaching of God’s Word. My thought is to offer a service from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. that would have the same great messages and music as our Sunday morning services but not have communion. Part of the purpose of excluding communion is because I would like to reach some non-Christians who would not be able to participate in communion and also to appeal to folks who don’t value communion as much as some of us do. We would also continue to offer communion at our morning services for anyone that would like to participate. Here are some of the reasons for the service in bullet form:

  1. Opportunity to reach people that we aren’t currently reaching.
    1. Some people, especially non-Christians, aren’t interested in communion.
    2. Some people want a shorter service.
    3. Some people are traveling on the weekends and can’t make a Sunday morning service.
  2. Opportunity to serve those who are serving.
    1. Some people serve on Sunday mornings and could just come and worship.
    2. It’s one more opportunity to worship God with others.

I am looking to form a team of men and women who would be excited about a service such as this and reaching new people in our community. If that sounds like you please contact me via email My goal is to start this after the first of the year sometime.




Six Words That Can Change a Culture

The staff just spent a day together discussing how we can become a ‘great’ staff and a ‘great’ church. I already think we have a great staff and a great church so maybe I should say a ‘greater’ staff and a ‘greater’ church. We watched some leadership videos by Andy Stanley and had a lot of great discussion late into the night. There were six words that Andy shared that can create a culture where people thrive and want to be a part of. These six words aren’t just effective for church staffs but I believe will change your secular work culture and the culture in your home. They are pretty simple but will have a profound impact on your life and the lives of those around you. Are you ready to find out what they are? Ok, here you go,


Now I know you were probably expecting something more profound but think for a moment about the implications of living in a church, work, school and home environment where everyone is asking the question, “What can I do to help?” Don’t you sense that there would be more cooperation, more encouragement and more would be accomplished for the greater good than if everyone were just looking out for themselves? Don’t you think that you would experience more satisfaction living in an environment where everyone is committed to helping and not just consuming?

I have found that I have allowed my busyness to rob me from the joy that comes from asking, “What can I do to help?” The reality is that we are all busy and tired but when we link arms together at church, work, school and home and seek to serve those around us we reap rewards that last not just a little while but for all eternity. So what if we each took it upon ourselves to start asking, “What can I do to help?” at church, work, school and home? I am willing to wager that it will change the culture and environment of each of those places for the good of everyone. Are you willing to accept the challenge? If so, share with me some of your experiences as time goes on.



What Motivates You?

So I just finished taking the GRIT Class at the BAC. It was 30 minutes of squats, lunges, clings, presses, rows, pushups, planks and other stuff that I have erased from my mind. Now I am pretty faithful at going to the gym and working out but I seldom work up a sweat. I like to pace myself you see. But today was different. Karen Prince was teaching this new class and she was desperate for participants. I told her, “No” but she eventually guilted me into it. We hadn’t even gotten through the warm up before I started sweating. I did my best to hide behind Travis, the guy in front of me, so as not to draw added attention to myself and the chastisement from Karen for my lackadaisical effort. I succeeded in that area or perhaps she just took pity on me. I survived but my performance was less than stellar.
I’ve come to realize that guilt and peer pressure do tend to motivate me to do things that I otherwise would not; sometimes for good and other times for bad. What motivates you? Is it fear of ridicule or failure or maybe self-improvement and well-being? How about in your spiritual life? Do you read the Bible or pray because you feel obligated to or maybe because you want to look good to others? Those are certainly not the best sources of motivation but even so good can result. After all, at least you showed up to meet with God and He always provides some encouragement or insight when we do. But what if our motivation was based in a deep and sincere love of God and desire to be in His presence? Those tend to be the best times aren’t they? Times when we long for some quiet time with the one who not only created us but recreated us and continues to recreate us.
I’m thankful I took the GRIT Class today even though I complained the whole time and continue to complain. I know I will be better for it. I am also thankful that I took time to open God’s Word and pray this morning even though I was eager to get on with my daily plans and tasks. I wish my motivation was more pure when it comes to working out and spending time with God but I am so humbled and grateful that He will take whatever I am willing to give Him and produce remarkable results. I’m going to pray for God to purify my motivation so that I am not only thankful after my encounter with Him but excited before it. How about you?

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Fame or Faithfulness

I was reading Acts 1:12-26 the other day. It deals with the selection of who should replace Judas as the 12th apostle. The remaining eleven had to choose from among those who had been disciples (followers of Jesus) throughout Jesus’ ministry (from the time of John’s baptism until Jesus’ resurrection from the dead). Evidently there were quite a few who met these criteria but the 11 apostles narrowed the field to two men. Anyone remember their names? I doubt many of us can answer that question accurately off the top of our head unless we grew up playing Bible trivia games. We are told that the two were Matthias and Joseph who also went by Barsabbas and Justus (sounds like he may have had an identity crisis). Anyhow, they used an ancient selection process called ‘casting lots’ that is not recommended today and Matthias won the day and replaced Judas as the 12th apostle.

Hang with me if I haven’t lost you already. What struck me was not the selection process but the faithfulness of these two men and the many other unnamed men and women who had faithfully followed Jesus for three years and yet received little to no recognition. Honestly, I was also struck by the fact that I can’t readily rattle off the names of all the original eleven apostles. I always remember the tremendous trio of Peter, James and John who are recognized throughout the gospels but seldom do I think of the others with the exception of my boy Andrew. And yet despite the lack of name recognition and notoriety, these people served Jesus and others faithfully. Clearly they were not in it for the fame as is so often the case.

As I reflected on the passage I had to ask myself, “Do I serve Jesus for fame or faithfulness?” It’s not like I am some famous pastor or leader whose name is well-known but I am the leader of the most amazing church in the world; Orchard Hills which I consider one of the greatest honors to be bestowed upon a person! But even if that weren’t the case, would I still serve Jesus and others faithfully even if no one noticed or said thank you? I would love to say, “Absolutely!” But I’m not so sure that I am that secure and that faithful.

How about you? Are you content with being a faithful servant of Jesus whose name may only be known by God himself and a few others or do you desire personal recognition and ‘fame’ however that may be defined in your context? I think it is a question worth pondering for all of us because it reveals our true motivation. Let’s pray that we are made up of faithful people and not famous ones.








I don’t know about you, but I am excited about this new season in life. I’m newly married, recently moved from Lynchburg, Va, and gratefully resigned from engineering (or “engiNERDing” as I like to call it). I have been given the privilege of taking up this new role as the Worship and Creative Arts Leader at Orchard Hills. It is such a blessing to me to be able to bring the passion and talents that I have been given and put those into the Lord’s hands.God has been doing some incredible things in this body and I am so excited that I get to be a part of discovering and uncovering the beauty, life and purpose that we have to offer up to the Lord, to each other, and to the community around us through worship and the creative arts. And I am grateful that He can use all of us. I love the way Jesus lays it out in Matthew 14:17  “We have here only five loaves and two fish”, they answered.
 “Bring them here to me,” [Jesus] said.Five loaves and two fish don’t seem like much, but when we put those gifts into His hands they can be used to do an incredible miracle! No gift is more important than another. No gift is too small. Someone who is tech savvy, or loves administration is just as important as someone who can play the piano or sing. We all need each other. All that Jesus asks is that we bring what we have to the table, and let Him multiply it for His purposes. So maybe you can bring your tech savvy to help us incorporate new technology into the worship service, or maybe you can bring your administrative gifting to help organize worship for a new Sunday night church service, or maybe you have a passion to see more videos created, or programming skills to help with websites, or maybe you want to join the worship team.I want to hear your story, I want to hear about the talents that the Lord has given you. I would love for you to send me an email and tell me about yourself, and tell me what you would love to bring to the table!  In His Love,Jeremy
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by Stephanie Browning
Many times when I wear my Nkombo Island t-shirt I am asked, “What is Nkombo?  Where is Nkombo Island?”  I usually respond with a brief description of its rural location in Rwanda and the need that is faced there.  However, after my trip there last December and serving on the Nkombo Island Project Committee, I realize that Nkombo Island is so much more.  Nkombo Island is an opportunity.  An opportunity to love, serve, and most importantly to grow and go.
One of the things I love about Orchard Hills is the many opportunities to serve and meet the needs of the communities around us here in the Roanoke Valley.  Another piece of that opportunity to serve is in missions abroad, and what I have realized is that you do not have to physically go to Africa to make a huge difference there.  By sponsoring a child or giving to the Nkombo Island Project you are “going” in spirit and love.  You are sending the love of Christ through food and support.
Nkombo Island is also an opportunity to partner with others for a purpose greater than ourselves.  It is the opportunity to change the lives of children and to see the difference you are making. It is an opportunity to work together with churches around the world to help an area in need.
Nkombo Island is also an opportunity for transformation, not just for the island but for you as well.  Whether seeing the children healed from malnutrition, the growth of Christianity on the island or the opportunity to build relationships in the name of Jesus take this opportunity to grow and “go!”


As we begin a new month and new season of the year, I’m excited about the new season in my walk with Christ and my new role at OHC. Debbie and I have been a part of the OHC family for seven years. The people and ministries of this church have had a profound inpact on our lives. It is a privilege to take on our new congregational care ministry.

We are here to provide prayer support, counseling, visitation and coordination of people and resources to address the many needs of our OHC family. I will work closely with Scott and the OHC staff and other ministries to build continuity and unity in the body of Christ, specifically at OHC. As we endeavor to make Christ known by the way we love one another, think about how you might use your time and talents to serve.

Please feel free to contact me anytime at or (540)915-8612. Thanks for all of the love and support you have shown us.

In His Grip,

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The Power of Pride
I was reading the account of John the Baptist’s beheading in Mark 6 the other day and struck by the power of PRIDE. King Herod and John had a contentious relationship primarily based on the fact that John confronted King Herod with his sin and told him it was wrong and unlawful for him to marry his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. You would think that King Herod would have an extreme dislike for John as a result but that does not appear to be the case. Mark 6:19-20 describes the situation this way.  19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
I believe Herod genuinely liked and respected John even though John confronted him and challenged him. Herod was committed to protecting John from the vengeance of his wife but then his PRIDE got in the way. You can read the rest of the story but Herod made a foolish promise to his step-daughter who then consulted with her mother who then asked for John’s head on a platter. All this happened at a party with lots of influential people around. Because Herod’s PRIDE would not allow him to admit that he had acted irrationally for fear of looking weak or foolish to his guests, he complied with the request and sent his servants to kill John and deliver his head. I imagine Herod tried to play the whole thing off by looking strong but deep down he must have felt sick. His PRIDE caused him to lose someone he respected and admired, someone who was willing to stand up to him and speak the truth.
PRIDE is the root of all sin. I have been more and more convinced as of late that PRIDE is what is causing marital strife and even divorce in our midst. PRIDE is keeping us from being honest with ourselves and others and hindering our personal growth and development. PRIDE is what is keeping some of us in financial bondage. PRIDE is separating close friends from one another and I could go on and on. I bet that any issue you are struggling with is the result of PRIDE on someone’s part. Think about it.
In James 4:6 we are told that “God opposes the PROUD but gives GRACE to the HUMBLE.” I suggest that we recognize that PRIDE is our enemy and not an acquaintance, friend or loved one. Let’s commit to being humble so that God’s grace might abound in our lives and the lives of those around us!







Walk Wtih Me

Two weeks ago, Sarah Phelps and I were in the Hollins Trailer Park doing home visits and meeting new families. I felt rather famous as “Mrs. Lisa! Mrs. Lisa!” was being yelled by children around the neighborhood as the kids hurriedly rode their bikes home to let their parents know we were coming by. It was amazing and humbling to remember that in the fall of 2011, Lindsey Forbes and I had parked in an empty lot in that neighborhood and prayed. We prayed for those children and families that God would allow us the opportunity to somehow build relationships and bring God’s love and provision into their community.
On the day Sarah and I were walking around, it was quite hot. I texted a mom who comes to Orchard Hills on Sunday mornings to let her know we were in her neighborhood, and she texted back, “Yay! Come by and say hi!” When we got to her side of the neighborhood, her son greeted us in the yard with hugs, excited for us to visit. They welcomed us into their home, had made us fresh, ice-cold juice and had the air conditioner on high! Oh, were we so thankful!
What was most precious was the feeling of family as we chatted; the husband came in from work, the brother-in-law came by, and we were included in the everyday of their lives. My friend had names of neighbors she was concerned about that she hoped we would visit. It was a short but sweet time we were able to spend with them.
This relationship is the direct result of the Mom and Me Preschool program at Orchard Hills. Last summer, this mom was feeling isolated and disconnected. When we first met, it was to enroll her son in preschool. She volunteered to come with him and serve. Through relationship with the preschool volunteers and the Edmondson family, this sweet family now has a church home. They are committed to making a difference in the community, and often give to others out of their own need.
Preschool started yesterday with five children in the 3’s class, five children in the 4’s class, and four moms that came to volunteer alongside my friend. These are moms looking for the community that embraced my friend. This preschool program is a tremendous opportunity to bring the light and hope of Jesus through filling an educational gap in our area. It is an opening to connect families with a community who follow Jesus and will walk out the gospel with them. One of our Orchard Hills families has partnered with the program, sending their children here for preschool, making the decision to support the program financially, as well as through building relationships with the other families enrolled.
I am amazed by the faithfulness of our God. His love for families far outweighs mine. That He would allow me to participate in His plan of reaching them and walking out life with them is astounding. The continual reminders He gives of lives that are being changed are a testimony to His unfailing love shown through the relationships Orchard Hills has built. If you are a family with preschoolers, maybe you would be interested in having your child be a part of this program. Your family might be the relationship that brings Jesus to a family not yet walking with Him.

soccer kids
Where Do You Find Your Value?
It’s been a long time since one of my children played instructional soccer but I am right in the midst of it again. Craig is on the Mudcats and they have now played two games. The first game was a blowout with our team winning by 9. Craig ran around with a smile on his face the entire time but didn’t score. He seemed more interested in what everyone else was doing than dominating his opponents. I told myself that was fine after all, we won and he is only 5. The second game was a different story though. The other team was well coached and they even had one kid hang back to defend the goal. We were shutout 5-0 and Craig hardly touched the ball but he had a smile on his face.
I played it all off. I told him what a great game he played but deep down I really wanted him to perform better. When we arrived at home I could sense my frustration. I was short with the boys and eager to put the game behind me. I was irritated with myself for not practicing more with Craig and teaching him to be more aggressive. I couldn’t help but feel that I was being judged based on Craig’s performance.Now I know some of you ladies are shaking your heads and thinking that I am overreacting and you would be correct but the men that are reading this are feeling my pain. The bottom line is we all receive value from our performance or the performance of our children when we shouldn’t. If you have been a Christian for a while you know that your value should come from God who created you uniquely in His image and values you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you so that He could be in a relationship with you both now and forever. Our value should come from the fact that God chose us to be His children. There is no greater honor and yet the performance of a 5 year old at an instructional soccer game can completely derail us (or I guess I should say, “Me”).“The Lord does not look at the things man
looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7)
Even though I know my heart is not completely pure I find comfort in this passage because God does not judge us like we judge ourselves. God is ultimately concerned with our hearts and He is in the heart transplant business.“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)So the next time you find yourself frustrated at one of your children’s sporting events, receiving an email from one of their teachers or feeling embarrassed because you messed up at work, school or home let it go. God has given you a new heart and a new spirit and that is ultimately what He is using to evaluate us. It’s all about Him NOT about us!Peace,
At the End of the Rapids

Last week I talked about how I feel that I and we as a church are in the midst of the rapids. I didn’t mean to sound whiney just honest. Anyhow, I received this response from Willie Ratliff and felt so encouraged by it. I hope in resonates with you as well.

I have been down the rivers many times. The amazing thing is the best fishing is at the bottom of the rapids, just as you come into that still deep water. That is where we find rest for the next rapid.

That is so true. I’m not a big fisherman but I have found that what Willie says is true; the fish love hanging out at the end of the rapids. It seems like all you have to do is throw your line in the churning water and BANG! You’ve got a fish. I believe we are going to find a lot of good fishing at the end of these rapids. I believe our church is really going to grow with more amazing people who God will transform and give new life, hope and purpose. I also recognize that the calm still waters are just a time of preparation for the next rapid. Fortunately, each and every rapid we survive gives us the confidence we need to face the next one and not only with survival in mind but thrill, adventure and expectancy of greater things yet to come.

Thank God He is purposeful and uses the rapids in life to shape us and grow us and thank God that He also provides still waters for us to catch our breath, reflect on where He has brought us and get situated for what is next. I am so thankful for each of you. Shooting the rapids in the same boat has been amazing to this point and will be even greater in the future.



7/30/14white water

Shooting the Rapids 

Lately I have felt like I am in the midst of shooting the rapids in a raft. The white water is raging all around, rocks project upward and some are hidden just beneath the surface. There is a lot of yelling, “Paddle right, paddle left, paddle backwards, paddle forwards,” “Does the guide know what he is doing?” But we continue to navigate the treacherous waters with success and a great spirit of adventure along with some fear and uncertainty.
At Orchard Hills we are in the midst of a critical building campaign that will determine our continued success and effectiveness as a church that is engaging with our community and helping lives to be transformed. At the same time we have major staffing changes that cause a sense of sadness and loss as well as excitement for the future for those who are going and those who will be coming. This time last year we had a large financial surplus and this year we have an equally large financial deficit. And then there is my home life. My family is experiencing the transition of Andrew graduating from college and having a career in the Army where he will find himself in life-threatening situations. Mary Kathryn is heading off to college which causes a father some heartache. Maybe more so than when the boys left, but fortunately Alan will be there to watch out for her, not that she needs that. Lindsey is the last of the FAB FOUR remaining at home with the three little boys which will be quite a transition for her. Craig is off to kindergarten and Sam and Cody will be in preschool. On top of that Carolyn not only teaches but ministers to the Hispanic children in our community.
There are moments that I feel a bit overwhelmed but I know God is faithful and present; directing my way. As Donna Cudworth and I met to pray on Tuesday morning she shared Oswald Chambers’s devotions from Monday and Tuesday. They were exactly what I needed and I commend them to you. Just go to to read them in their entirety. Here is an excerpt that I found encouraging in the midst of the rapids of life.

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

I am so thankful that God has a purpose for our lives and that nothing is wasted with Him. I need to embrace the process and the time in the white water rapids of life because those are going to be the times that I look back with the most excitement and find that God did the most shaping of my life. Thanks for being in the raft with me. Let’s not try and just get through this turbulent time but ENJOY IT and be shaped by it!




Living Out Our Vision
“People Investing in People for Eternity” and “Come, Grow, and Go” are more than catchy phrases or mottos at Orchard Hills; we actually live it! With that said, it can be painful when God leads those we love to GO. This is one of those times where three of our dearly loved staff members are being called to GO from the BUILDING we call OHC but not from the FAMILY. It will be sad not to have Bryan, Matt, and Lindsey around all the time but it doesn’t look like God is taking them far away. Plus, they won’t be leaving us immediately, but transitioning to what God has for them next.
Lindsey shared a few weeks ago about her plans to pursue a nursing career, and Bryan and Matt are sharing below what they are sensing from God. So, please join me in praying for them; those of us who physically remain at OHC; and those who God is bringing to replace these wonderful folks. If you have any questions feel free to contact me directly.
A note from Bryan:It was 1980, summertime in Western Pennsylvania. I was a year old and vividly remember crawling around and starting to take my first steps. I remember feeling awkward, clumsy, and frustrated as my attempts to walk failed over and over again. I remember my mom picking me back up, brushing me off, and encouraging me to try again…until, at last, I took one step, then two steps, and so on until I was cruising up and down the halls creating all sorts of trouble! That story of course is not true! I can’t remember where I put my keys, much less how I learned to walk! However, it is a true reflection of what the Lord has been doing with me and Steph as of late.As many of you heard this past Sunday, I am stepping down as the Worship Minister at Orchard Hills. Much like being a toddler, I find myself again learning to take steps and find myself a little scared and awkward, but at the same time excited about what I am about to learn. These steps I am taking now are steps of faith as I honestly don’t know what the Lord has for me next.
Here’s the fun part, though: this is not my first step, nor is it my second or third! The Lord has been having me take these steps of faith now for almost 18 years, and, like most things you practice for a long time, you get better and better at it! So, even though this move has the potential to be scary and unsettling and to cause me to lose sleep at night…it’s not! It has been quite the contrary. I am so excited to say “yes” to the Lord, and it’s awesome to be able to look back at the last steps the Lord has had us take and remember His faithfulness and how He has always seen us through in amazing ways. So, I am extremely sad to say goodbye to my OHC church family of 9 years, but I am confident in the Lord and His timing, His plan, and His heart for me! Please pray for us as we continue to discern what this next step is. My hope is that you will be encouraged to say “yes” to the Lord in whatever he’s calling you to do. He is faithful, He is good, and He always, always has our best in mind!
Much Love,
A note from Matt:During the past 8 years, God has been using the ministries that I’ve been a part of and the relationships I have been blessed with to form a desire inside of me to plant a church. My time at Orchard Hills has been one of these blessings. Nevertheless, the time has come where I know that God is calling me to take a step of radical faith in the direction of planting a church in Southwest Roanoke. The direction of the church will be guided by the vision of creating a place where every man, woman, and child can come to grow near to God. It will be rooted in a deep sense of outreach and a goal to see people who are far from God grow near to Him.
Lindsey and I are exceedingly grateful for our time spent at Orchard Hills, and we are excited to work alongside the leaders here to see God’s kingdom come and will be done in our great city! While we hold this timeline loosely and know it is in God’s hands, our plan is to continue to grow and raise the support we need over the next few months and aim for an official launch in January of 2015.
Again, Lindsey and I thank all of you for helping us, guiding us, and growing us into our next chapter of ministry.
_______________While we are searching for a new Music Minister, Bryan will continue in that role. Matt will be at OHC part-time through the end of the year. Pat May will remain here part-time and will assume the responsibilities for discipleship, while Rick Troutt will join the staff sometime this fall as our Care Minister.
The most exciting adventures involve some element of uncertainty; fortunately, we know that God is in control of all that is going on at OHC. I am excited to see where He leads all of us in the next few months!Peace, Scott



God Loves Us!

In the children’s ministry office, there is a picture of Kyle Felts on a mission trip to Rwanda. I love this picture because it shows children running through the village toward him. I love to look at the excitement and joy evident on their faces. It has been the start of multiple conversations with adults and children alike.
Last summer, a child enrolled in the Summer Enrichment Program was in my office. She was staring intently at the picture and asked where it was taken. I told her about my friend Kyle, and his trip to Rwanda to help children. I said, “See the children running? They are so excited because Kyle is there to tell them about Jesus.”
She began to seriously ponder what I was saying. I showed her the picture on the opposite wall of children in the food program on Nkombo Island. I explained their lack of food and shared that my friend Kyle and others with him wanted to make a difference. “Jesus loves children, and wants to take care of them.”
As we left my office, I could tell she was still seriously thinking . She turned to me and said, “I bet that’s why you do all those things for us. Because Jesus told you to.”
Honestly, I was taken aback that she connected the two. I stopped and hugged her and said, “You’re right. Jesus really loves children and he really loves you.” She went on happily with her day, carrying with her the reminder that she is loved so much that Jesus sent people to help her. I went on with my day, humbled that God would entrust me to be an expression of His love to His children.
Yesterday was the first day of this year’s Summer Enrichment Program. It was the best program day we have ever had. Children were excited, waiting at 8:30 a.m. on their doorsteps for the arrival of the bus (or limo) yelling goodbye to their parents as they ran. Our theme of the day was love. God loves us, so we can love others, 1 John 4:11-12, “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”  As we focused on explaining this to the children, I remembered the conversation about Kyle’s picture. God loves us, so we can love others.  
Being an expression of God’s love to others is not an easy task. My actions, words, and expressions must reflect His love and care. It is often a challenge to set aside personal irritation and expectation and exchange it for God’s grace. There ARE many times I fail and fall short, and those are the moments I am humbled, increasingly grateful for the Holy Spirit whose gentle character resides within me. God loves me, so I can love others…. I pray you accept His love for you today and through the power of the Holy Spirit, freely express His love to others.



Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are special because they help us to take a moment and show our parents how much we appreciate them. I personally like Father’s Day because it is a day of self-indulgence. Carolyn and the children ask me what presents I would like, what I want to eat and what I want to do. I’m not in need of a lot of ‘stuff’ so I don’t readily have an answer for the present question. I long for food in an unhealthy way and so the food question is usually pretty easy. And then there is the, “What do I want to do?” question. Things that come readily to mind are; play golf, go to the lake, float the river, go to the beach or simply lay on the couch and be left alone. Does this resonate with any of you? Did you notice that there was nothing spiritual or godly about any of my responses?
So I am writing to share my conviction with you. As I looked out at the crowd on Mother’s Day I noticed a woman who typically comes to church by herself but this day her husband and children were with her. I couldn’t help but wonder how she answered the question, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?” I bet her response was, “For you to come to church with me.” Then as I scanned the much smaller crowd on Father’s Day I noticed a Dad sitting with his daughters who seldom attend church with him. I wonder when posed with the same question if he didn’t have the same answer as the woman did??
I was convicted because it revealed what I truly treasure in my heart. My first, second or third thought was not godly, spiritual or church related but focused on my own leisure and spiritual laziness. I say, “God is most important in my life” but my actions and thought life don’t necessarily support that. So my admiration goes out to that woman and man I saw in the congregation with your families. Thank you for showing me by your actions what is lacking in my life. I am praying for God to fully capture my heart and to recognize that the greatest gift my family could give me is to worship God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. I am praying that I become a more godly leader who is worthy of following not just by word but deed as well and I am praying for God to do the same for all of you.


Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of presenting some highlights of the Student Ministry at Orchard Hills. One of those highlights I mentioned was our high school bible study, #TheWord. Actually, during the first service I completely forgot to include it in my highlights of the Student Ministry. I was kicking myself and kicking Abby (I didn’t really kick her…), for not remembering to include #TheWord. This bible study is one of my favorite times I spend with our high school students. Every Thursday I see God teach us all so much about His Word and I see the students making connections with His Word and their lives. I also am encouraged every Thursday by the students’ desires to show up to study and learn after a week of school. They even get mad at me when I cancel #TheWord.  I started #TheWord at the beginning of the school year, and I remember praying about it and God telling me to host this study even if only one student showed up every week. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened because every Thursday multiple students show up.  Until…this past week.  Well sort of. 
I sent out my weekly reminder text to everyone. A lot of students that usually show up responded and told me that they wouldn’t be there. The spring season is busy because of sports. We have several Lord Botetourt baseball players and a few soccer players that come on Thursday. Well, last Thursday these fine athletes had away games. Others were busy as well and couldn’t be there.  So, now I faced my test.  Would I cancel #TheWord because I knew there would only be one student or go ahead and have it?  Since, I am the great person and leader that I am, I followed through with what God told me to do.  “Have the study even if only one student comes.” 
Taylor, our one student, came in at 7:00 p.m. and sat down with a smile and said, “Well, I guess I’m the only one coming tonight.” We waited for several minutes before starting and then that’s when my phone began to light up with text messages. “Our game has been canceled due to rain. See you in 15!” and “Hey man, we are all coming to #TheWord. Games cancelled.” Jacob Barnard walks in and tells me that the guys are coming but they will be late. It was one of those moments where I just sat there having a little conversation in my head with God and I’m thinking, “I almost cancelled. What are you going to do tonight, God?” 
We have been going through the book of John and we were at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. The way I have been leading #TheWord is to not only just teach the Word but to teach the students different ways of studying the Bible. I decided that with this story I wanted to just give a history lesson to teach us the story instead of the traditional route of teaching a gospel story. So, we began to look at the history between the Samaritans and the Jews. We learned how the interaction of Jesus with this Samaritan woman really was about Jesus tearing down social norms and revealing that his purpose was that he came for all people and he loves all people no matter what path you have taken in life.  Since, these students that come to the bible study are Christians they related so well to this story and Jesus. They made the connection that they are to also break through social norms and interact with all types of people and love all types of people not just those similar to them. I believe that God made a connection with them and how they can love people at their school where maybe it is “socially” unacceptable to interact with someone different than them.  They made the connections that Jesus has come for all people and I could see the excitement of them wanting to share the love of Jesus with all people at their school and around the world. After the bible study was over I was overwhelmed with what God did that night.  I almost canceled the study because I was discouraged that no one was coming and it wasn’t working out how I thought it would. God made me realize that I can’t ever give up and I can’t measure success by what I think success is. God changed the lives and hearts of each student that night and to think I almost stopped that from happening was humbling.  God is faithful and God is moving at OHC and in our Student Ministry. 

Thanks for listening,


I was reading the enews last week form Church of the Holy Spirit and found the following article by Perry Noble on giving very inspiring. I hope you will as well.


4 Reasons Why I Give 

By Perry Noble

Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church


I surrendered my life to Jesus in 1990; however, I did not surrender my finances to Him until 1999.


It was a battle! I believed I could trust God with my eternity, but was not sure I could trust Him with my money. How insane is that?


BUT…in 1999 I COMPLETELY SURRENDERED my finances to Jesus. I began to tithe and also tried my best to listen to the Holy Spirit as He led me in certain situations to be generous.


If someone were to ask me why I give-the following four reasons are my answer. 


#1 – I want to be a fully devoted follower of Christ.


I once heard someone say that He is either Lord OF ALL or He is not Lord AT ALL. And it took me quite a few years to realize that this included my money as well.


I began to see verses like Colossians 1:17 – which is a promise that IN HIM ALL THINGS hold together. 


I took a look at my finances, which were completely in shambles, and realized I had tried to do it all on my own and was NOT being very successful. By the time I married Lucretia in April of 2000, we had over $100,000 in debt and didn’t even own a home! 

  • I saw that Jesus said that I should tithe in Matthew 23:23.
  • I saw that Jesus said that my heart will always follow my money in Matthew 6:21
  • I saw that Jesus said that I could not serve both Him and money in Matthew 6:24
  • And I heard someone tell me that until my wallet was fully surrendered to God that my walk with Him would always have a limp. 
  • I finally came to the conclusion that it was a spiritual impossibility to be a fully devoted follower of Christ without being completely surrendered in my finances. 

#2 – I believe that it is impossible to out give God!  

  • The Bible says in Proverbs 3:9-10 that if we will put God first He will bless us-period.
  • The Bible says in Malachi 3:10-12 that if we will tithe (give the first 10% of our income) that God will pour out so much blessing that we will not have room for it. 
  • The Bible says in II Corinthians 9:6-15 that if we sow financial generosity we WILL reap generously. 
  • The Bible tells a story in John 6:1-13 of a little boy who had five loaves and two fish, put them in the hands of Jesus and He multiplied them, fed over 15-20 thousand people and then took up 12 baskets of leftovers!! 

I can honestly say I believe it is IMPOSSIBLE to out give God. When we, in faith, put Him first He will honor us doing so because He said He would.


#3 – I believe there is not a greater organization with more potential to change the world than the local church!


Let me say that before I begin my explanation that there are godly people who really do love Jesus who are on both sides of this issue. However, I personally believe (based on my study of Scripture and personal convictions) that the tithe (the first 10% of our income) belongs to the local church-period. 


I believe with all of my heart that Christians should be THE MOST GENEROUS people on the planet and should be the first to financially support worthy causes. But I also believe Scripture is clear that the tithe should be brought to the local church.  

  • Malachi 3:10 says the tithe should be brought to the house of God. 
  • Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that HE will build HIS church-which I believe means it is His house. 
  • Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:22 say that He is the HEAD of the church! (If He is the head, meaning he is like the CEO, then believe me…IT MATTERS!) 
  • Ephesians 3:10 says it is THROUGH THE CHURCH that the wisdom of God should be made known to the world! 
  • In the book of Revelation we see Him come back for HIS CHURCH! 

When the local church is working right-there is nothing more powerful and breathtaking in the world because it’s the place where lost people are found, found people grow to love Jesus more, addicts are set free, people who were excluded get included, hopeless people find hope, marriages are restored, forgiveness is extended to other people and God gets the glory for it all!! 


#4 – I Believe Giving Protects Me From Materialism And Greed.


After I surrendered my finances to God I realized that MY NEXT STEP after tithing was to get out of debt-and that required a PLAN (Proverbs 21:5)!  BY THE WAY-NO ONE HAS EVER PRAYED THEIR WAY OUT OF DEBT!!! After being seriously committed to our plan, my wife Lucretia and I were able to become debt free in 2006.


And that is when I began to REALLY notice passages such as Luke 12:13-21I Timothy 6:6-10 and I Timothy 6:17-19. And these passages shook me to the core to see that greed and materialism had the potential to take my eyes off of Jesus and put them in places they do not belong…and as a result my desire to acquire could go haywire. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think it is a sin to have nice things. It does become a sin when nice things have you. 


People who are able to get ahead financially often forget that EVERYTHING on the planet belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). HE is the One who actually gave us the ability to produce income (Deuteronomy 8:18)! It is so easy in our culture to get so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of how good God is and how many awesome things He has done.


Let me conclude by saying that these are my personal reasons as to why I give. They may not be yours. You may need to develop your own list of why you do (or do not) give. My prayer is that they will serve you as you continue to think, research and pray about the financial decisions you need to make in your own future. 


You really cannot out give God!!!

I hope all of us at Orchard Hills come to know God as our provider and learn to give extravagantly!



I spent Tuesday away from the office to pray and contemplate the future of not only Orchard Hills but a possible church plant in Lexington, VA. Matt Vaught, who has been attending Orchard Hills with his wife Megan and daughters, Ella and Sophie, joined me. They have lived in Lexington for the past year and moved from Winchester so that Megan could take a job managing the office for the Young Life Camp at Rockbridge. Matt left his position as a pastor to enable Megan to follow her dreams and has spent the last year discerning whether or not God is calling him to lead a church plant in the area.
We had a great day alone and together working through questions, concerns and possibilities. I felt a bit guilty being away from the office but came to realize that what I was doing was necessary and should produce dividends for the Kingdom of God for years to come. I was also struck by the fact that it took me nearly two hours to clear my mind of the issues that are pressing within my life and our church and focus on the need to plant a church in Lexington. As Matt and I gathered in the afternoon to talk the time went quickly. There was so much to talk about and so much to discern. By the end of the day I believe we have a plan for moving forward. I look forward to each of you meeting Matt, Megan, Ella and Sophie and I would ask for your prayers as we take the next steps.
I also want to encourage each of you regardless of your profession to schedule a day away. YOU NEED IT! You may think such a day is a luxury but I would argue that it is a necessity. We live such busy lives, full of distractions. Being still and quiet is not only difficult for us but awkward. We often pride ourselves on our busyness and sail through life like a ship without a rudder, being blown from here to there. So, stop! Take out your calendar, and schedule a day or half a day away now before another week, month or year passes you by. You will be so thankful you did!



Those of you who have ever spent any time with me know that summer is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love the sunny warm weather and being outside enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.  I am dedicated to spending as much time as humanly possible at the pool, beach, creek or lake as soon as the temperature creeps into the 80s. Another great benefit of summer is the activity level around our house decreases significantly. School, sports, clubs and church activities slow down and we get a chance to reconnect with one another.  

The month of May seems to be the time when most of our activities gradually come to an end for the year. It is a time I spend anticipating the relief of another school year behind us and the freedom of long days spent at the swimming pool right around the corner.  This year I felt a little sad to see one of my weekly activities coming to an end.  The Ladies Bible Study that has been meeting on Thursday mornings is taking a break for the summer. 

We have been studying the book of James for a few months through a Beth Moore study. Being in the Word together has been a great chance for me to get to know some ladies in the church I had not spent much time with prior to the study. I have felt disconnected from the church since the little boys came into the picture.  Being in Bible study again has been a refreshing, much needed opportunity for me to renew old friendships and develop new ones that are built on a mutual desire to grow in faith and develop relationships with other women.

  So, while the respite of summer is beckoning and I am longing for the busyness of life to wind down for a few months, I am also excited about starting Bible study again in the Fall. I invite any ladies who are looking to connect with the Lord through His Word and develop a sense of community with other women at Orchard Hills to consider joining a morning or evening Bible study, home group or small group in September.   It has been one of the highlights of my year!

In faith,

Carolyn McLucas

Hebrews 10:24+25- NIV 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,

but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”



I love the south. Call me crazy, but I love it down here. Not so much the allergies I’ve developed, but I do love me some mountains, warm weather, and Chick fil a! Actually, one of the first things I noticed when I came down here nearly four years ago is that people are FRIENDLY! People are nice! People are welcoming! And this works out perfect because I consider myself a friendly person too! I smile a lot (often times too much). I love to say “Hello” to strangers. I love to hug. I love to be nice!
Ok, Matt, what’s the point? Well, I think that as Christians, we need to make sure that we don’t mistake being friends with people to being friendly towards people. It’s too easy to leave home group early. Its too easy to rush out of church. It’s too easy to just give a few dollars here and there to support “outreach” ministries we have in church. It’s much harder to invest in someone’s life. To listen to them when you don’t want to. 
I read something convicting this week from a great book called, “Jesus Is…,,” and the point was that we can be duped into thinking we have become like Jesus, a friend of sinners, when in fact all we have done is become friendly towards sinners.
It’s one thing to stand near broken people, but a completely another thing to stand with broken people. It’s one thing to send food or relief to the poor, but a completely different thing to go eat with the poor.
Let this be a challenge to you this week as it is for me: Are you following Jesus and becoming a friend of sinners? Or, have you settled for being friendly towards sinners? 

Your Friend,




A Cure to Overwhelmingness
I’m not sure overwhelmingness is a word but it is far more likely to be than some of the words I make up when playing Scrabble. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed as of late with my varied responsibilities. Quiet is hard to come by at our house and when it does come I am usually asleep. I tend to be a morning person and sadly, the boys are as well, but Tuesday morning I won the day.
I awoke early and planned to head to my car for a quiet time but as I made my way stealthily (yes, that is a word) down the stairs nobody stirred. I decided that perhaps I would not be relegated to sitting in the driveway after all and so I took a chance and perched myself on the living room couch. I opened my Bible with a great sense of anticipation to Ephesians. As I began to read I heard the dreaded footsteps on the stairs and sure enough, here came Sam. I was determined however to win this battle. I turned on some cartons, filled a sippy cup with milk and positioned Sam comfortably on his own couch in the other room. VICTORY!
I was able to spend the next 20 minutes reading, praying and journaling. It was an amazing time with God. My sense of overwhelmingness began to dissipate as my spirit was renewed. God’s Word is so refreshing, calming and invigorating. Satan wants to keep us overwhelmed and distant from God but this morning I was reminded of the cure; time in the Word!
Perhaps you are feeling the same sense of overwhelmingness that I was. If so, fight for some time in the Word. Don’t relent. The cure is just a few minutes away and perhaps a sippy cup and cartoons.


A Gift of Encouragement

I am very excited about the prospects of expanding our facilities. Every area of ministry has a clear need for more space and I believe we will be able to accommodate the needs and wants of pretty much everyone, with the exception of those who want a fishing pond. Fortunately God has blessed us with the Wolfe’s who have an amazing fishing stream and have opened it up to us this Saturday. Anyhow, I know deep within my heart that we need to take this on even though it would be easier not to. I have moments of great faith and confidence and others where I let the size of the task overwhelm me. I wonder, “How are we going to raise soooo much money? Will we all commit to this and give sacrificially or cling to the limited dollars we have for fear of losing them?”
Well, Missy called me last Friday afternoon. She had just checked the mail and found an anonymous bank check to our building fund for $15,000! How encouraging! It restored my confidence that God is behind this and that others do believe in what we are doing, even those outside of our church. I know God will continue to surprise us as we continue this campaign because it is not just bigger buildings we seek but the heart of God and the hearts of people who are desperate to know God personally.
There are so many people that still don’t know that Orchard Hills even exists. Thousands of people drive by our property and don’t notice us or know that we are an awesome church where people can COME and be themselves, GROW in relationship with God and others and then GO and make a difference in the world that will last forever. I believe OHC is the best kept secret in the Roanoke Valley but that is about to change!
Thank you God for your gift of encouragement last Friday and thank you for your daily gifts of encouragement. Jesus, you are amazing! Holy Spirit, please keep showing up and having your way!




The Sunday before last was one of the most encouraging and eye opening Sundays ever at Orchard Hills. I have heard numerous comments of how people had no idea how large our church family actually is. We filled up the gym at Lord Botetourt and had such an energetic worship service followed by a great tip-off to our building/heart campaign. Seeing the throngs of children descend from the bleachers and head upstairs for fun and games was a powerful reminder of the great responsibility God has entrusted us with to love and train these children in the ways of the Lord.

I was late heading into the cafeteria for lunch and overwhelmed that the entire place was packed and not one of the 600 plates remained. As I gazed around the cafeteria I saw people sitting and talking, children carrying off entire plates of cookies, folks serving and cleaning and overall a very festive atmosphere. I couldn’t help but think how pleased God must be at a sight like this and I was moved by the incredible work He has done at Orchard Hills over the years. Although I have moments where I feel overwhelmed by the task before us and my lack of faith, I am comforted and excited that so many have joined us for this next chapter.
Nearly 160 people have signed up to serve on one of seven teams. That is amazing! However, we want everyone to participate and be a part of what God is clearly doing. The time commitment is fairly small but the relational rewards will be great. We plan to continue to add to the teams over the next two weeks. There will be cards in your bulletins for you to do so or you can contact Missy directly at Below is a brief description of each team.

Administrative Team-led by Rob Mioduszewski and Bill Todd– This team is comprised of individuals that keep the teams on task and proof printed materials before they go out to everyone. They are the “business managers” of the campaign teams.
Appreciation Team– led by Connie Masching and Lauren Mattson– This team will develop appropriate ways to thank those who make a pledge and/or volunteer during the campaign.
Celebration Team– led by Paige Puckett and Debbie Troutt– This team will plan and manage the information gatherings as well as our celebration event following the campaign. This group of people are planners and gatherers…otherwise known as “the party people!”
Children & Youth Team– led by Erin Edmondson and Karin Kaerwer– This team will focus on ways to involve our young people in our campaign.
Diplomat Team– led by Bill Bushman and Kelly Vrescak– This team will be the primary point of contact for Q & A. They will be the “go to” people to answer questions about the campaign and goals of our church.
Media Team– led by Josh Gruber and Brooke McGlothlin– This team will develop our campaign theme. They will assist with newsletters, brochures, website, Facebook, posters, and other communication pieces.
Prayer Team– led by Nancy Necessary and Mark Vinson– This team will plan organized prayer efforts and arrange ways to involve everyone in our church in praying for God’s will to be done during our campaign plans and with our church mission.

Please take a moment to pray and consider which team you would like to serve on. Choose one that looks fun to you! This shouldn’t be a burden but a joy. And please pray for the hearts of each of us to be like King David’s and the Israelites as God gave them the opportunity to give of His resources toward the building of His Temple. While our needs for expanded facilities are obvious our need for hearts that long to please God no matter what the cost is paramount!



Another Way We are Investing in People for Eternity
by Lisa Miles
Orchard Hills Mom and Me Preschool has almost completed their first school year! This pilot program has been a wonderful adventure helping children without adequate educational resources begin kindergarten prepared for school. The idea for the program grew out of concern about the need for preschool education in our area. Each fall, as a new school year begins, children without adequate resources or who don’t speak English start kindergarten significantly behind their classmates. These learning gaps are difficult to bridge and often cause difficulty well into later years.  It would change a child’s entire educational experience if they went to kindergarten prepared, and their parents were encouraged to be an active part of the educational process.
So, through much prayer and a leap of faith, a donation based, volunteer staffed program began at Orchard Hills! Trinity United Methodist Church in Buchanan donated the funds to buy the startup supplies for the program through offerings they collected throughout the previous summer. Erin Edmondson volunteered to create the curriculum and teach the class each week, scheduling her own job around the commitment to invest in these children on Tuesday andThursday mornings. Stephanie Mioduszewski, Lupe Yibale Altamirano, and Lynn Edmondson faithfully volunteer each week and are an active part of the program. Other volunteers have served at various times throughout the year. These people are amazing. Their love for others and commitment to serve with excellence is humbling. In fact, I will probably be in trouble for putting their names in the enews!
September’s program began truly as a pilot program. Could we successfully run a donation based preschool class with all volunteer staff? Would moms engage with the learning process and feel comfortable with our staff? How would we handle the language barrier? Would non-English speaking children and English speaking children be able to learn in the same class? So much was completely unanswered at the start. God in His amazing sovereignty had already worked out all of our questions. We just had to walk through the process and watch His provision. God is good, and His plans are perfect.
As we are nearing the end of this first year and seeing the progress of the sweet children who have been attending, I cannot describe the ache for those children and families not yet receiving any care. I am burdened for them, longing to find a way to pursue them and envelope those in this amazing community called Orchard Hills. This preschool program is a tremendous opportunity to bring the light and hope of Jesus through filling an educational gap in our area. It is an opening to connect families with a community who follow Jesus and will walk out the gospel with them.
Our hope for the fall is to have a 3 year old class and a 4 year old class. Although we are praying for funding, it may still be completely volunteer staff. It will continue to be donation based, as licensing cannot be pursued in our current facility. If you are a family with preschoolers, maybe you would be interested in having your child be a part of this program. Your family might be the relationship that brings Jesus to a family not yet walking with Him.
Join me in prayer as the plans are being made for the fall preschool. Pray for funding, staffing, but mostly, pray for the families, the ones in need and the ones who will be walking with them. God is good, and His plans are perfect. 




March Madness is Upon Us!

I love the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It is a time when you see Davids slay Goliaths like Mercer beating Duke. That win was nothing short of miraculous. Bob Hoffman, the Mercer coach, was so overcome with emotion during the post-game interview that he was searching for words. So what did he come up with? “Praise the Lord!” I would say that is as appropriate as you can get.
As Orchard Hills gathers as one family this Sunday at 10 a.m. in the Lord Botetourt Gymnasium to celebrate our Building Campaign Tip-off I am expecting to see God do the miraculous. I believe God is going to bring people in the church together like never before. I believe new relationships will be spawned, common vision will be grasped, energetic unity will be experienced, dynamic spiritual growth will occur and the kingdom of God will grow! Oh yea, and I think we will also experience generous, sacrificial giving and the expansion of facilities and ministries at Orchard Hills. By the end of this campaign I believe the only thing we will be able to say is, “Praise the Lord!”
So be sure to spread the word to everyone you know via Facebook, Twitter and personal conversation about the service this Sunday. Remember to bring your side dishes if your last name begins with A-M and a dessert if it begins with N-Z. We also have some very special activities planned for children so everyone should have a great time. And in case you were thinking of not coming because of the uncomfortable bleachers, we have reserved padded chairs as well.
I am really looking forward to worshipping as one family, eating as one family and tipping off this campaign as one family!




A Lenten Challenge

Lent is a season often known for people giving something up. I’ve never been big on that, not for spiritual reasons but for selfish reasons. I like my food and conveniences! Well, I believe this Lent is going to be different for me and I want to invite all of you to join me. I am proposing that everyone at Orchard Hills pray daily for our church family, our community and our world. Specifically, we are engaging in a capital campaign to raise funds for much needed facilities’ expansion. The ministries at and through OH have grown to the point that we are out of space and being stifled. When growth is slowed at OH then the impact we have in our community and around the world slows. We give 21 cents of every dollar we receive away to various ministries locally and around the world. God has honored this heart and practice of generosity as He has enabled us to give in excess of $1.3 million dollars away over the life of our church! I am convinced that God wants us to continue to expand, grow and give.
In addition to praying daily I want to encourage each of you to join me in a sun up to sun down fast every Wednesday of Lent. Fasting has never been one of my favorite spiritual disciplines because I love food so much but God does expect us to fast and honors it. I really believe God has amazing plans for our church family but I also recognize that the Devil is not happy with what He sees. Lives are being transformed here because God is present! So please join me in praying daily and fasting every Wednesday. 
I’ll be honest and tell you that I have been a bit anxious lately with the monumental task that is before us. I have become distracted as I try and please people but God keeps whispering in my ear, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33  May we not become distracted during this exciting and challenging time of growth!



We had our follow-up meeting to the Congregational Meeting this past Sunday afternoon. The purpose was to have the Cogun folks share with us their initial plans for expanding the facilities at Orchard Hills so we can better minister to the many needs of our church family and community. Jim Couchenour led the presentation, which should be on our website in case you missed it. Many good questions were raised and either addressed or made note of for further investigation. I have also received emails from many of you and changes will be made as a result of your feedback and input so THANK YOU!

We have so many needs and wants and limited financial resources. Children have always been a priority at OH but not to the exclusion of others. We adults are more adaptable and have been willing to share space with the children but I want to ensure everyone that there will be something in the expansion plans for everyone! There will be dedicated adult classrooms, not one but TWO kitchens, multiple gathering spaces, a gym, game area, amphitheater style meeting room, an amazing sanctuary, safe and secure children’s area with an indoor play area and eventually offices for the staff. There may even be a Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Shop. Even with all of this and roughly 4X the current space we have it won’t completely satisfy everyone. We will have to compromise. We will have to be patient. We will need to continue to dream about the future needs and opportunities. But most of all we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus or off of the ministries He has entrusted to us.
Buildings are exciting for many reasons. I can’t wait to have more space to better accomplish what we are already engaged in and to make room for more folks to participate. I love the creative process.  I love seeing construction take place. I love seeing land and materials transformed but most importantly I love seeing lives transformed!
So please join me in prayer for God to be pleased and made famous by what is accomplished at OH throughout this building process. May others look at the love and unity we exhibit and marvel at God. May He perform miracles in our midst that we all can celebrate!




Your Presence Is Needed
First, let me start by saying that the feedback I received from the Sunday Night Prayer and Praise Service was phenomenal!  People were moved, touched, inspired, healed, encouraged, undone and just about any other positive adjective you can attach to the experience. As always, we prayed for God’s presence to be there and He certainly showed up. I continue to say, “The Prayer and Praise Service is the best kept secret around; or at least the most underutilized.” We plan to hold them more frequently so stay tuned for the next one.
Second, your presence is needed this Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. We are going to discuss expanding our current facilities. We took everyone’s input from the Congregational Meeting in January and passed it on to the folks at Cogun, Inc.  They in turn have done their best to compile a master plan for facility expansion at Orchard Hills. I have had a chance to look at their preliminary drawings and am very excited by what I see. But here is the thing; we need YOUR FEEDBACK to make this incredible. We each come at things from a different perspective. Some see things that others do not. Some are all about aesthetics and design while others are about practicality. We need all viewpoints.
So, please care enough to show up at 3:00 p.m. this Sunday. It will be exciting to see what the Cogun people have come up with and it will be really fun to dream together! God has blessed us incredibly. I believe He has much more in store for us and the facilities will only help to enhance what He has to offer through us. We will provide childcare for the littlest ones and the bigger children are encouraged to come and give their input. We need EVERYONE’S FEEDBACK! I hope to see you Sunday morning and afternoon.



Stranded in the Midst of a Storm


So, I was going to share an inspiring story about my trip to the Holy Land but with the impending SNOWPOCALYPSE I found myself praying for those who may be adversely affected and thus, a change in subject matter. As I was praying this morning for those who have no choice but travel in the midst of threatening storms and more specifically, those who end up broken down, wrecked or stranded in the midst of the storms, I was overcome with dread and compassion (if you can believe that) for those who will not only have to endure the storm but will experience great suffering in the midst of it.
I don’t know if you have ever been one of those people who are stranded on the side of the road in the midst of a terrible storm but it is the worst! I mean, it’s bad enough you have to be out in the storm but then to be broken down and stranded? You feel like everyone and everything is against you, including God. While being stranded in a snow storm is bad, being stranded in the midst of the storms of life is even worse. Sometimes an end to the storm can’t be seen and you wonder how you will ever survive.
I believe some of our church family and those we are associated with are in the midst of just such a storm. I have felt overwhelmed this week with sad stories of marriages that are breaking apart in the midst of the storm of what appears to be ‘irreconcilable differences’, of bodies that are being ravaged by the storms of disease and dreams that are being crushed by the storms of addiction, disappointment, rejection and failure. These are horrible storms that most of us will face in some form and to some degree in our lives but what I find most tragic is that many will feel stranded and alone in the midst of the storm.
In our greatest time of need we often find that people don’t meet our expectations and provide the support and assistance that we hope for. This disappointment is often times transferred to God and we cry out, “God where are you? Why don’t you rescue me? Why don’t you at least make yourself known to me?” These are heart wrenching cries and I wish I had a simple and comforting response. The complexity of our individual situations warrant more understanding but this I do know from personal experience and the Bible, a life built upon Jesus Christ will weather the storm!  Take a minute to read Matthew 7:24-27. I find this to be a passage of hope and conviction. Hope that I will survive as long as Jesus is the foundation that I am building my life upon but conviction that perhaps I have failed to heed His Word and His instructions. Conviction may not be what we are looking for in the midst of the storm but perhaps that is what we need in order to weather it.
I love you all and it breaks my heart to see and hear of so many of our family who are suffering without the hope we have in Jesus Christ. When all else is stripped away, Jesus will remain. How closely are you standing to Jesus and heeding His wise counsel? Take hope in the fact that Jesus is the rock of your salvation who will endure forever!



Do I know What the Master Wants?

(part 2)

 Last week, Matt wrote an eNews article based on the parable about a master who goes to a wedding celebration and puts his servants in charge in His absence. With Scott and Carolyn out of town, it was easy to parallel the passage to human behavior when the “boss” is away. Often character is revealed most strongly with the absence of the leader. Some will continue in faithfulness with the job placed in their hands; others will question the validity of the work and try to change or recreate their position as is best in their own eyes. As I read Matt’s article, I was challenged to ponder the implications of the passage and do a little reading.
I read another parable about a landowner, the parable of the mina in Luke 19. Ten servants were each given a mina (about 20 dollars). When the master returned, only two of the servants had worked with the mina and multiplied it. Only two! The character of the servants was revealed in the absence of the master. One servant was lazy and fearful and did nothing. The other 7 servants took the money, denied the authority of the master and attempted to overthrow his rule. So even though my workweek is consistent and job is done, what is the character of my heart? At what point have I multiplied and produced more than expected? At any point have I resisted the Master’s authority and tried to overthrow his rule?
The two servants who produced did so under the authority of the master. They operated on his behalf and for his honor. Upon the master’s return, both answered, “Sir, your mina has earned… more”; the master’s talent had earned more. They were comfortable with the realization that ownership was not theirs. There’s the rub. Ownership is not mine, not ours, but God’s. The work that is done when the Master is away is for His glory. The goal of increasing the talent placed in my hands is to bring honor to the Master. It is not and never should be a means of selfish exaltation or source of prideful identity. My heart should continually be delighted in the invisibility of service, when others see the multiplication and attribute it to the work of the Master.
“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others…13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:3-13
What is God working on in you this week? Are there some things you’ve left undone that the Master has given you the opportunity to accomplish; something that could point someone to Him? How incredibly humbling to be a servant entrusted with an opportunity to fulfill the good purpose of the Master!


“Do I Know What The Master Wants?”
At first, I really wanted to make this eNews article a plug for Home Groups and getting people signed up, but as I spent time in the Word this week, I was confronted by a couple of questions Jesus implies in Luke 12. “Do I know what the master wants?”
There is a parable in Luke 12, verses 42-48, where Jesus is comparing himself coming back (or us dying) to a master who goes to a wedding celebration and puts his servants in charge in His absence. Essentially, the master gives two scenarios. The first, is that the master comes back and the servants were waiting for him, greeting him at the door. Jesus even gives mention to waiting late into the night. However, there is a second scenario that is focused upon a bit more. It is that the master gets home from the wedding celebration only to find that his servants weren’t waiting for him. Instead they decided to stuff their faces with food and get drunk. Most likely, pass-out drunk.
As it might seem, I don’t believe Jesus was teaching about the sin of getting drunk. Obviously this is in the mix, but I believe Jesus was talking about the way we are living our lives while he is “away.” It comes back to that same question, “Do I know what the master wants?” Maybe another way of asking it is, “Do I know what I am supposed to be doing while the master is away?”
In the version of the Bible I was reading, it records Jesus saying this, “The servant who knows what his master wants but is not ready, or who does not do what the master wants, will be beaten with many blows!” Intense, I know! My question for you as you read this is the same. Do you know what the master wants? Do you know what you are supposed to be doing while the master is away? I wish I had the answer for you, but I don’t.
Later, Jesus implies that there will be different things that He wants each of us doing. He says that, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” Followed by, ” That to those whom He has trusted with much, much more will be expected.” 
So what has Jesus given you? What has He trusted you with? Do you know what the master wants? Are you ready and waiting for him to come back?




Seeking God First
Hey Everyone!
So as most of you know a few days before Christmas I fell off a ladder and broke my wrist.  Not good news for someone who swings a hammer and plays a guitar for a living!  But I’m here to tell you how good The Lord is.  I’m not a big theology guy so I don’t know if God “allowed” me to fall or “planned” for me to fall, or if He just pushed me off that stupid ladder! But what I can do is testify to how good He is and what He is doing in my life because of this situation.
I’ve long heard that Satan’s biggest tools in this world are noise and busyness, and if you guys are anything like me, life lately has sure felt really busy and really noisy.  Its so hard to find the time to get quiet and still and just be with The Lord, but like the song we sang last week says…”in the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness, You are there”!  Man that is so true!  I have been forced into a time of quiet and stillness and I am finding The Lord like never before!  Through my time with The Lord and multiple (and I mean like seven or eight) sermons I’ve been listening to, I have been pushed to seek Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Not His stuff, or His revelations or His blessings or whatever…just Jesus.  So I have sought Him and its been incredible!  If I can encourage you with one thing today it is this.  Seek Jesus, seek His face.  Spend time with Him and in His Word.  Your time can not be spent any better than doing that.  When you do “seek first His kingdom” he really does take care of the rest.
Finally, on that note, I want to give a shout out and a thanks to God and to my family at Orchard Hills.  Being out of work for two months or with no real idea of how you are going to make ends meet is not a super fun place to be.  But it was in that place I really felt like God was saying, “just trust me, seek me first, I’ve got you.”  So I said,”Ok!” (That little statement is a whole other Enews article in itself!) So over those first few days that’s what I did, just sought The Lord… and I’m not kidding you, everytime I turned around it seemed like God was providing for us.  The Church, the worship teams, individuals, home groups, all sorts of people from all the best and unexpected places were stepping forward and blessing us!  It almost became laughable the number of times I’d call Stephanie and say, “Well, The Lord did it again,” and we’d cry over the phone at how awesome He is!
So in summary, The Lord is good!  He is faithful.  You really can seek Him first and trust that He will provide for you…maybe not the way you think He should, but it will be the way that is best! And so, The Morrells would like to thank all of you for being faithful to God’s prompting whether it was through your prayers, helping us financially or both. It really is an amazing blessing to be a part of a church who really lives out People Investing in People for Eternity!
Much Love,


The Congregational Meeting in Review

First let me thank everyone who came out to the congregational meeting last Sunday evening. We had a fabulous turn out and incredible chili as well. The competition for the best chili was tremendous with over 30 entries. Missy has included the results in the enews and the trophies will be distributed on Sunday. But as good as the food and fellowship were I want to share about the meeting.
It was a fast moving meeting with updates from the staff and ministry heads. Much was shared in a short period of time. Instead of a long, slow meal it was more like a hotdog eating contest where a great deal of exciting information was communicated in a short period of time. We have placed a link to the video from the meeting on the website. This video will be available to view after 5:00 p.m. this evening. The culmination of the meeting was when we broke into small groups and began brainstorming about the needs we have for expanded facilities. Each group arrived at their TOP 3 NEEDS and TOP 3 WANTS. They then shared them with the group. Here are the results:
1. Gym 1. Gym  
2. Kitchen/Fellowship Hall 2. Transportation/Parking  
3. Sanctuary Space 3. Bigger/More Classrooms  
4. Classrooms 4. Outside Play/Activity Area  
5. Playground/Basketball Court/Safer Equipment 5. Lounge/Coffee Area/Expanded Entry  
6. Church Area for High/Middle School Students 6. Bigger Restrooms/Changing Tables  
7. Children’s Restrooms 7. Storage  
8. Storage 8. Prayer Room  
9. Improved Sound System/Acoustic 9. Windows/Sanctuary-Stained Glass  
10. Office Space- Improved and Expanded 10. Preschool  
11. Windows 11. Indoor Playground  
12. Prayer Rooms 12. Facelift- look more like a church  
13. Mommy’s Room 13. Washer & Dryer  
14. Maintenance 14. Library  
  15. Sports Complex/Residential Hall-for visiting missionaries
  16. Bldg. for Community Outreach  
  17. Better Baptistery  
  18. Enhanced Audio for Hearing Impaired  


I must say that I was honestly surprised that Gym was at the top of both lists and that restrooms were an issue. In response to the need for changing tables we have ordered two for the main restrooms and hope to have them installed shortly. That’s how we roll! I have submitted the findings to the folks at Cogun, Inc. and they are preparing some plans to share with us on Sunday, February 23rd at 3:00 p.m. Please mark that date on your calendar and plan to attend.
I am extremely excited about the enthusiasm and unity that was birthed at the meeting and I can see great things in our future. Please join me in prayer as we move into a new phase of People Investing in People for Eternity!


Annual Congregational Meeting This Sunday!
Our Annual Congregational Meeting at 5:00 p.m. this Sunday is going to be the most important meeting in the life of Orchard Hills. We have exciting news to share about how we are fulfilling our vision, People Investing in People for Eternity, and our values, summed up by, “Come, Grow and Go”. Aside from the inspiration you will receive and the awesome chili following the meeting, we need your help as we brainstorm together what we need in an expanded facility. We have come to a point in the life of the church that our facility is limiting our ability to GROW. We have done our best to maximize the use of every square inch of the facility and we have brought in trailers to meet some of our needs as well but the time has come for us to explore more permanent solutions. Who knows, maybe we can even give the front of the church a face lift so it doesn’t look so much like a warehouse!
So please make it a priority to join us this Sunday evening. I know everyone is busy but it is so important that all of us are together as we look to the future. Communicating to the entire church family is always difficult. We try and use various forms of media to communicate, e.g. bulletin announcements, e-news, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but nothing is better than face to face. Since we don’t like to take away from our worship time on Sunday morning for long announcements, although Ronnie Clay did get a good one in this past Sunday, our annual congregational meeting is an important forum. I hope to see you there and I will be praying that God brings a sense of unity and excitement that has seldom been experienced at Orchard Hills!


Daily Bible Plans
If you are like me you need structure in order to maintain a faithful reading of the Bible. We send out devotions every morning during the workweek but they are not structured plans. There are a lot of different options out now but I want to suggest that you download the YouVersion Bible App if you haven’t already. It offers all kinds of daily reading plans from reading through the Bible in a year to more topical plans geared specifically for men and women, interests, struggles, pretty much anything you can think of.
Without an intentional plan we seldom accomplish anything of significance. We all seem to desire the results that a disciplined life produces but seldom do we want to adhere to the demands of discipline. I know I want more from my life than I have settled for and I want more for Orchard Hills than we have settled for but to achieve more we must become more devoted. So why not pick a Bible plan now for the beginning of 2014 and share the stories of how God is speaks to you, comforts you and encourages you along the way.


Tis the Season for Giving 
This Christmas season members of Orchard Hills purchased 83 chicks, 28 goats and 12 pigs
through generous contributions made in memory of or
in honor of their loved ones!
This Christmas season members of Orchard Hills made donations and contributions
to help feed and give gifts to 52 children in our community!
Thank you to all who helped make this possible.
We are Investing in People for Eternity!


The Army/Navy Game
Last weekend Carolyn, Alan, Mary Kathryn, Lindsey and I went to the Army/Navy Football Game in Philadelphia. Andrew is a senior at West Point and this was our last chance to experience America’s Game with him. We arrived three hours before kickoff in order to watch the cadets march on to the field. It is an extremely emotional experience and makes you proud to be an American. The weather was frigid. We did our best to stay warm as the snow, sleet and freezing rain began to fall. Most of you know how much I hate the cold so try and picture me there.
The game was anything but thrilling. Army mounted little offense and ended up getting beaten handily by the midshipmen. This is the 12th consecutive year that Army has lost to Navy; not something that sits well with West Pointers in particular because they view this as much more than a game. As a result, the next day the coach was fired. The letter from the Superintendent of the USMA was direct and fairly harsh. He stated, “When America puts its sons and daughters in harm’s way, they do not expect us to just “do our best”… but to win.  Nothing short of victory is acceptable.  That fundamental ethos is at the heart of this Academy.  It must be ingrained in every one of our athletic programs.  Our core values are Duty, Honor, Country.  Winning makes them real.”
As I reflect upon the game and the Superintendent’s response I am encouraged in a number of ways. First, I am thankful that I am not a losing football coach because the pressure to perform is extreme. Second, I’m thankful to know that while we are in the midst of a spiritual battle for the souls of people around the world and as Christians, we have placed ourselves in harm’s way, we will WIN! If our confidence and hope is in anyone or anything other than Jesus then disappointment and tragedy awaits.
As Christmas approaches stop and consider for a moment what a wonderful gift we have in Jesus. Consider how special you are to be chosen to be on His victorious team. Commit yourselves to Him and carrying out His game plan of making disciples in 2014.



People Are Watching
“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good; so be good for goodness sake!”

We are all probably familiar with the lyrics to Santa Claus is Coming to Town right? Well these lyrics came to mind as I read a newsletter article from Mary Kathryn’s guidance counselor. Not only is Santa watching our every move but so is the world. Mary Kathryn’s counselor referenced a recent study by Kaplan Test Prep that revealed that 31% of college admissions offices now review an applicant’s social media posts while considering them for admission. Sadly, the percentage of applications that have been negatively impacted by social media searches nearly tripled from 12% in 2010 to 35% in 2011. I can only imagine what the figures will reveal today.

It breaks my heart that careless words and pictures will keep some students from getting into the college of their choice. It also concerns me that employers are also conducting these same searches and some of us may not be selected for a desirable job or promotion because of our careless posts. Even though I am not on Facebook I still hear of ridiculous things celebrities, world leaders, community members and even church family members post. I often wonder, “What were they thinking???” I don’t mean to sound judgmental. One of the reasons I am not on Facebook is to keep myself out of trouble!

While I think of the horrible implications of our misguided postings I am reminded that before there was social media there was Santa who knew and saw everything. Just kidding there but I am seriously reminded that God has always known and seen everything. I am embarrassed that one day I will have to give an account to God of every careless word I have spoken and every inappropriate action I have taken (Matthew 12:36-37 and Romans 14). The fear of facing God provides some positive motivation for me to watch what I say and do, which is a good thing. I think it is important for all of us to realize that God will hold us accountable. But here is the incredible flip side to that, for those of us who have placed our faith and hope in Jesus, He has taken our shame and the penalty for our careless words and actions upon Himself. In our time of judgment we can simply point to Him for our justification because He has already paid the price.

So remember that we live in an age where all eyes are upon us; nothing seems to be hidden. Use that as a positive motivation to live your life in such a way that you don’t need to fear being exposed or examined. Take time to reflect on the amazing gift of GRACE that is ours through Jesus Christ. While we deserve punishment and shame, He has taken that upon Himself so we can walk up right before God and man.




Good Works and A Servant’s Heart
For quite a while, I have had a stirring in my heart that the Lord was leading me out of leading the Women’s Ministry. At first, I wondered, “Lord are you sure you are asking me to step aside?” and then the answer came, not as an audible voice, but from His written word. Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This particular good work, for me, is completed, and I am handing it to Tamara Bell to continue leading the amazing women of our church. Please pray for Tamara and encourage and come alongside her as co-laborers in Christ.
I am simply ending this chapter in my life and anticipating the next good work God has planned for me. It is a privilege, an honor, and an expectation from God’s word that we serve. How about you? What has God planned in advance for you to do? The neatest part is that you don’t have to create that good work. God has it all planned out. All you have to do is recognize it, and if you  can’t see that good work clearly, without a doubt Scott will show you the needs our church has and will give you a good work to do! I will end with my favorite verse, Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
I look forward to seeing what God is going to ask of me. For I have been given so much!
Irma Stritesky


       lovingwell                                                                                        Lessons from Lisa
Have you ever noticed how amazing God is?  This fall has been a crazy time for me and yet, God continues to draw me close and send encouragement my way. He is so faithful. I would like to share some of these encouraging stories with you in hopes that you, too, will smile and know that His love for you transcends your schedule and calls you to continue faithfully loving those around you.Two weeks ago, I received a call from a friend of mine. He was working on a research project for his master’s degree on volunteerism in the community. He called to tell me he had just completed two separate interviews with Botetourt County officials and both had brought up Orchard Hills as having a positive impact on the community. My friend called to tell me what a great reputation we had and how impressed he was that these men brought up Orchard Hills as a group that helps others well.
Honestly, I was impressed, too!This past  week, I ran in a quick change oil shop to have my oil changed in my van. As I was waiting, the owner began a conversation with me about what was going on in his life. He mentioned church and asked where I went. When I told him Orchard Hills, he started to smile and told me he had heard so many good things about our church. He had heard different things we were doing to help the people and youth in our community. He said he’d just like to visit a church like ours one day and see what it’s like.  It just touched me to be known by association with a group of people called Orchard Hills who love others well.Then, while talking with a family last week about how they came to know Jesus, the son told me his story. He said he didn’t remember the teacher’s name, but he knew the first time in her class on a Sunday morning at Orchard Hills that he wanted what she and the other children were talking about. It’s been several years since his first Sunday, and he firmly believes his decision to follow Jesus took place in that classroom.
Orchard Hills, you challenge me and create change in my life. What you do during the week, how you invest in others on Sundays and beyond, is incredible.  You all are living life in a way that is creating change. You may not be able to see the eternal impact your faithfulness is having, but others are watching and learning about Jesus through your daily actions. God’s love is flowing into our community through you.So thank you. Thank you for giving free music lessons, feeding teen moms, leading small groups, helping children with homework, going on missions trips, serving with WyldLife and YoungLife, volunteering in all of our schools, serving the homeless, teaching preschoolers, filling backpacks with food, praying with prisoners, driving a bus (or limo!), delivering meals to those who need comfort, coaching teams, praying with someone over coffee, opening your homes, loving the unloved, singing to the sick, befriending your coworkers, giving to others in your own times of need, listening well, faithfully loving and serving on Sundays,  for all the ways you touch our community, thank you.I pray God continues His work through you and in you. It is my joy to be a part of your community.Blessings, 


Surviving the Holidays

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are upon us. I have mixed feelings of excitement and dread. I love time with friends and family members but I hate the over consumerist nature of them. I still associate the holidays with fond memories and joy but for many among us that is not the case. My friend Todd Meyer at Church of the Holy Spirit recently wrote this enews article and is offering an opportunity for us at Orchard Hills to participate with them on what I believe could be a very helpful event. Read what Todd has to say and the hope they are offering.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years come with a grimace, not a cheer, for some in our church. I was just in a meeting where 3 out of the 4 church leaders present admitted that they viewed the holidays as an amplifier of pain, past or present, not exclusively a season of joy.
  • A parent dies and Christmas at grandma’s is no more.
  • Empty Nesters carve a Thanksgiving turkey alone…again.
  • A separated couple divides the Christmas ornaments the kids made.
  • A widow sits in silence by the tree on Christmas morning.
  • A single person watches the couples kiss on New Year’s Eve while personally wondering if they will ever find love.
So as a church how can we respond? I have a few suggestions:
Open your home: Think through those in our church, your neighborhood, or family who have suffered loss this year or might be lonely. Reach out to them and invite them over for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what it means to “do to others as you would have done to you.”
Add to your traditions and include others:
  • Walk the “Drumstick Dash” for the Rescue Mission on Thanksgiving with others and have dinner together.
  • Visit a nursing home as a family on Christmas after opening presents instead of watching movie re-runs!
  • Invite the divorcee or widow to Christmas Eve service with you and ask if they want to come over on Christmas morning!
  • Be creative and include others!
Have a plan: If you’re the one looking ahead to the holiday season with dread, then plan ahead. Now is the time to put together a schedule for yourself and know what you are going to do!
One of the best places to get the tools to do that is at an event in November called “Surviving the Holidays.” We will be hosting this event on Friday, November 22nd from 7:00- 9:00 PM. You will receive practical solutions to challenges that you may face during the holidays if you are separated, divorced, or widowed. The $15.00 registration fee covers a meal and a survival guide. Please let us know if you plan to attend by sending an RSVP in response to this email by November 18th or signing up at the Connection Center on Sunday. We want to make certain that we have plenty of food and survival guides available for everyone.
We live in a fallen and broken world; the very reason we need Christmas. Isn’t it a paradox that the season we may dread is also the only answer to bring us peace. Christ came to this earth to heal the hurt and sin in our life. My prayer it that we would experience peace through Christ, and through His people reaching out, this Christmas.

If you can relate to Todd’s article then why not gather with other extended church family members on November 22 at Church of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps a new ministry at Orchard Hills will be birthed or at least some people will experience a more joyful holiday season!



Friend Sunday?

Have you ever been a part of a church that has ‘Friend Sunday’? It is a designated Sunday when everyone in the congregation is supposed to bring a friend to church. That has been suggested to me before  and I have always balked at the idea. To me it seems so contrived. I’ve always been of the mindset that every Sunday should be ‘Friend Sunday’. But when was the last time you actually brought a friend or acquaintance to church?
We all have our excuses and I may have more than most. I understand that it may be awkward or inconvenient but it has the potential to bear eternal rewards. What if an invitation is exactly what that person has been waiting for after all, visiting a new place, especially a church, can be very intimidating. I am a pastor and visiting another church is one of my greatest fears. I don’t know their customs and norms, I don’t know what to do with my children, I don’t know where the restrooms are and I don’t know how long I will be there (not in the restroom but the service). But having a friend to guide me through the process makes it so much better!
So let me ask you again, “When was the last time you brought a friend to church?” If it has been a while why not invite someone to come to church with you in the coming weeks. Most people make plans to go to church somewhere for Christmas and they don’t want to look like hypocrites so having visited before then may make them feel better and less awkward. And who knows, maybe your invitation may change the course of the rest of their life!
Your friend,



Ponderings from Pat

This past Tuesday morning, I woke up looking at the landscape outside our new home and Psalm 8 came to my mind:
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
This is kind of what I felt as I was looking at this beautiful scene of God’s creation surrounding me and knowing that God has blessed me so greatly to serve you Orchard Hills Church! “What is man that you are mindful of him” – God is being extraordinarily good to my family and I by bringing us to Botetourt and the Roanoke Valley in order that we may love you, and serve you and this community to the glory of God. It is an honor and a privilege to serve you as one of your Associate Pastors and I am excited and eager to get to know all of you and call you friends. It will be an extraordinary adventure as we “invest in people for eternity,” and as we proclaim together, O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!Peace,


Praying In Circles

Some emails I receive aren’t very uplifting but here is one that was very encouraging and I would like to share it with the rest of you. Please take the time to read Marc’s email and if you feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit, stop by and pray for the Orchard Hills Achievement Center and anything else God puts on your heart. After all, prayer is the most single important thing any of us can do for everything in our lives.Peace,
ScottFrom Marc Chandler
I wanted to share something that was put on me and ask for some assistance as well.   Here goes and stay with me, I am trying to keep this under 1000 words.A couple of weeks ago Josh Yerton came and gave a sermon on “Praying in Circles” and at the end of the sermon Scott asked everyone to write down a few prayer requests and take them up front. One of my circles was the Orchard Hills Achievement Center.I remember when I first heard about it from Scott. He shared with us the vision of this building that he had. I remember talking to Sarah telling her that I really loved the idea of what Orchard Hills wanted to do and how awesome it would be if it was built. This feeling has never left. I have always wanted to be involved with this project; however, I have to sadly admit that I only wanted to be part of the project after the financing was there. I didn’t think that I had the time to devout to fundraising or anything else at the beginning of this project. So I have done nothing to get really involved. Sure, I have said some prayers for this Center intermittently but nothing that would show God any real conviction.After Josh’s sermon, I received a phone call from my mother-in-law. She began telling me about this book, “The Circle Maker.” She felt that there were some people that she knew who were supposed to read the book.  Sarah and I were two of those people. To be honest, I can’t say that I was excited about reading a book. I am not a book reader… at all.   However, God has prompted me to read the book and I started reading it this past weekend.On Sunday night after reading some of the book, I felt convicted that I needed to stop by the church where the Center is to be built and pray for the Center.  I felt that I was to do this every day on my way to work or any other time I drove by. It has struck me, that during all this time of wanting to see this Center built, I have actually never stopped by the land and prayed for the finances and everything that is needed for it to be built.  I had forgotten that the single most important thing I could do for this project would be to lift it up in prayer to God with conviction from me.  A prayer that only He could fulfill.  I thought that I didn’t have the time to be part of the first phase, but I had the first phase totally wrong. The first phase is prayer. Stop by the site and pray. That is what God and this project is requiring of me.So, every day this week I have stopped by the church and prayed for this Center.   Initially, I thought I would not share this with anyone; however, yesterday after praying, I think God told me that I needed to get more people to stop by and pray at the site where the Center is to be built. He gave me the idea to email all of you and ask you to stop by the land and pray.  But I didn’t send the email yesterday. I got to work and let doubt get the better of me. “What if they are already doing this?” “What if they have a plan?” “Will I look foolish for sending this?” Then today, after praying, I felt it again… send the email…. and again I had doubts.   I even sent a text to Kevin this morning to look for an update. That way I would know if I was supposed to send the email.  Then, I decided to get rid of the doubt and send it. (FYI, I have not received Kevin’s reply and he is normally quick to answer my texts.)So here it is.  Please stop by where the Center is to be built and pray. Say a prayer that only God can deliver, so no other can take the credit when it is fulfilled. Sorry for the book, I hope it made sense.



I continue to be amazed by the great things God is doing through Orchard Hills. The Orchard Hills Achievement Center is growing into a movement that will transform the lives of the under-served in our community, valley and beyond. Take a moment and check out the for more details. Along with that is the newly launched Nkombo Island Project .
Last Sunday, Penny Felts gave a powerful introduction to the Nkombo Island Project. Briefly, Nkombo Island is an impoverished Island in Lake Kivu, Rwanda. Close to 20,000 people live on this island, 80% of which are eighteen years of age or younger. The island only recently received electricity, education is limited, health care is almost nonexistent and the spiritual condition of the island is dark and hopeless. Many of the children are malnourished, uneducated and spiritually dead or dying. We have created an opportunity by working with Bishop Nathan Amooti from the Cyangugu Diocese to change the destructive course many of these children are on. For just $20 a month you can sponsor a child and help provide nutritional food, increased access to education, health care and a church they can call home. Just go online to the website and choose your child.
God has entrusted us with these amazing opportunities. We have a responsibility now to see that they are done to the glory of God. I am so thankful for the talented and generous people God has assembled at OHC and our partnering churches. Together we can change the world one person at a time! Won’t you join in?



No Way Up The Mountain

 I recently went on a mission trip to Costa Rica and it was by far the most physically demanding trip I’ve ever been on.  As demanding as it was, I was able to see and do some incredible things.  To begin with, it was a 4-hour drive on bumpy roads to get to the place where we stayed the first night and day. Then to actually get to our mission site, it was another 4 hour bus ride, followed by a 2 hour boat ride, followed by a 4.5 mile hike up a muddy river and then straight up the muddy mountains of Costa Rica.  Our destination was a tiny village of native people.  By the time we made it to the village, we were absolutely and utterly spent.  I remember several times standing in the mud at the bottom of yet another straight up climb and thinking, “There’s got to be a better way!”  But there never was, we just had to do it.

              The first day we got to Costa Rica we did have a day to relax and recover from our travel, but we spent a lot of that time in the word, praying, and worshiping together.  It was during a worship time that I really felt like the Lord gave me a theme that he wanted to teach me not only for that trip, but for life as well.  We were listening to a song by Rita Springer called “All I Need” (   A line in that song jumped out like the Lord was speaking directly to me.  The line is, “No way up a mountain but to climb it”.  I didn’t think too much more about it then, but I sure did the next several days as I was physically being spent day after day, going up and down this mountain, wishing, hoping for an easier way.  But there wasn’t.  That’s not how God seems to work.  It’s through the hard times, through the trials, that God really reveals Himself to us and we really see who we are and where we stand in our beliefs.  I think that God uses the physical world to impart spiritual truths to us. As our time in Costa Rica was nearing an end, I began to think of life back home and the several mountains that were waiting for me.  Mountains that I have been praying about and asking God to move or change or do something in but He never had.  But then that theme settled in my mind again.I realized that I had some work to do.  There were things I needed to do differently in my life and changing those things was going to be tough.  But it’s the hard times that truly do refine us, test us, and ultimately make our faith stronger.  They are the things that God uses to make us more like Jesus.  We don’t like those times just like we don’t like climbing up a mountain, but we sure do like the view from up top.  Sometimes in life, there’s no way up the mountain but to climb it. So, let’s get climbing!



When Phrases Catch On

First, let me begin by apologizing to Ronnie Clay and Quigg Lawrence for stomping on their pictures in the paper during the second service. Clearly I have issues that need to be dealt with by a professional. Secondly, for those who failed to get the correct answer that Andrew was the first disciple of Jesus, I apologize that some of you were so focused on proving me wrong that you didn’t hear the rest of the message. For everyone else, your welcome for yet another new phrase to quote, “I need to be more of an Andrew” or as was posed to me later Sunday afternoon,YOU need to be more of an Andrew!”
When preparing a message I never quite know what people will get out of it, if anything. I hadn’t planned on coining a new phrase and didn’t even have it in my notes but the, “I need to be more of an Andrew” just came out and compared to other unplanned comments that have come out of my mouth I am pleased that this one did. I believe we need reminders that humility should win out over our pride. We also need to set our minds on becoming FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS of Jesus who care more about making Jesus FAMOUS than ourselves FAMOUS.
So let’s continue to use our new phrase as a fun way to remind us of the nature of a true disciple of Jesus. Let’s embody the attributes that we find in the Apostle Andrew and go forth making Jesus famous in our community, country and world.
Andrew, I mean Scott



Observations from a Visitor

While on sabbatical I visited five different churches. I like visiting churches because it reminds me of what it is like to be a visitor and I’ll be honest, it stinks! There is a lot of anxiety when you walk into an unfamiliar place where you don’t know anyone or perhaps know only a couple. You don’t know the protocol; you don’t know what the service is going to be like and even as a Pastor I feel like an alien. Some churches had greeters with shirts on that said ‘WELCOME’ which made an impression although I don’t recall any of them truly welcoming me other than maybe a hello. Others had official greeter name tags to distinguish them from the rest. Still others had no formal greeting system. On a couple of occasions nobody said a word to me which was fine; I kind of wanted to be anonymous but not completely. The good news is none of them made me stand up and feel awkward. Overall, each church seemed to be filled with friendly people just not terribly friendly to me.
Carolyn pointed out that I have a tendency to be overly critical and I believe she is correct. I thought each church could have done a better job of making newcomers feel welcome and wanted, with some formal programming  but ultimately  with a culture of welcoming. I then thought about our church and how well we do at welcoming people. We have greeters outside and in, heck I even tell everyone to ‘pass the peace’ at the end of the service. We must be better than the rest, right?
Well after church on Sunday we went to lunch. During the meal a first time visitor recognized me and came up to say hello. He was visiting from another church in the area. He said, “Can I offer you some constructive criticism?” I of course said ‘yes’ although I cringed at hearing it. Evidently he had been waiting on his family out front, standing alone for a couple of minutes and no one approached him or welcomed him. Once he was united with his family they went into the sanctuary to find a seat and saw Bibles on the seats. I’m sure someone was saving seats for some family members who tend to be late, probably the Clays, but it left these visitors with the impression that they weren’t welcome.
On Tuesday I had lunch with a great couple who has been checking Orchard Hills out. They are new to the area and really seem to love the church but then they asked, “Can we tell you one thing that bothers us?” Again, I said ‘sure’, cringing over what would follow. They shared how they didn’t find the church very friendly. They recognized that the people at Orchard Hills seem very nice and friendly but hardly anyone had spoken to them or introduced themselves to them. In the midst of a sanctuary filled with nice, friendly people they felt lonely, longing for some new friends in a new community.
So here is the deal. We need to be more intentional about introducing ourselves to people we do not know or know well. Take a moment to get out of your comfort zone and try and meet someone new and make them feel at home. New people aren’t hard to spot. Let’s try and get over our insecurities and let the outside world see us for who we truly are; friendly people who love Jesus and are glad they have come to worship with us. Let’s work on creating a welcoming culture at Orchard Hills that goes beyond a formal program, name tag or t-shirt. Take a risk and talk to someone new, maybe even invite them to brunch or lunch? Maybe you’ll make a new friend and help to grow the church at the same time!


Say Yes


Well, it has been an exciting couple weeks since Scott has been on his Sabbatical. In the beginning it was quite challenging to adjust to the pace of always having something “next”. I think I fit myself in quite nicely though! It was a great experience for me because I foresee myself doing this full-time at some point, but what it also did, was give me even more respect for Scott having don’t this for the last 10 years. There was a huge sense of relief after the second service on Sunday, knowing that I had survived the 6 weeks (also that the Church hadn’t shrunk to a handful of people).

I loved created the series ‘Going All-In’ and think that God has, and is, doing some amazing things through it. I hope that it becomes something for many of us to look back on and seek the truth and conviction it challenged us with.

My final challenge in it would be for us to put our “Yes” on the table. Not just mindless obedience, but a careful, yet faithful obedience that drive us to do things for God that are radical in our lives!




Scripture is Unavoidable

Last Sunday, many of you have requested that I send the list of questions we talked about when it came to obedience. The link below is where you can get it from! I hope and pray that if this is something that we have been taught differently in life, or understood differently, that we would examine it. It is easy to hear one thing, but then to reconcile it with the Bible is completely another. My encouragement for everything this week would be to read through chapter 6 in the Book of Romans, and chapter 2 in the Book of 1 John. I think that although sometimes scripture is hard, it is also unavoidable. This is one of those things.

– Matt


Imprison Your Sin

This is the onset of week three in “Going All-In” at Orchard Hills, and every single week so far, I have seen things in the Scripture that I haven’t seen before. It’s like a call to a new level for me as well, to live more radically, and submit myself to the Lord in FULL. One of the ways that I have experienced that, and encourage you to experience it, is by radically fighting against the temptations that we have on a daily basis.

The whole premise for this series is to take salvation beyond a “decision” or past your childhood choice to become a Christian.  It is to take God’s word seriously.  To read the Truth and see it as more than a recommendation or a good idea, but the truth that leads to life.

This week, we are going to talk about it even more, but for now, I encourage you to put in prison every thought of sin or inkling to indulge into disobedience.

-Fight against the pride, lust, greed, and envies of today.
-Make a decision as you wake and live to not be content with the satisfaction that sin brings only for a moment.
-Know and be sure that it will fade and will deceive you, but Christ will pull through.

He will come through in His promise to satisfy every desire you have. Continue in your pursuit of going all-in and giving it all to the Lord!

– Matt




Recently Orchard Hills’ staff received the following email from Whitney Hughes.  We would like to share it with the rest of our church family so you may be “encouraged and push forward.”  Thank you, Whitney, for sharing this blog with us so that we, too, will know the answer when someone asks, “Where is the Sanctuary?”

from Whitney Hughes
“This is kind of a random post but as I read an entry from a blog I follow entitled, Jamie The Very Worst Missionary, I couldn’t help but think of Orchard Hills.  The blog entry on June 5, 2013 was called “Where’s the Sanctuary?” and it ended with these words.

 “If the Church is to be the last bastion of light and hope for the world, we must open our big glass doors. To everyone.
If the Church is to be a stronghold for the weak, the starved, the sick and dying, we must invite them in. And welcome them.
If the Church is to lead people to the foot of the Cross, then we better have a d*** good answer when the world asks, “Um, excuse me. Where is the Sanctuary?”

…This is us now.  This is the direction of Orchard Hills and what we (in my opinion) exhibit not only on Sunday mornings but throughout the rest of the week.  I love that we have men and women from the Red Shield Lodge and the Rescue Mission show up every week and have people willing to drive them and take time out of their morning to do so.  I also love that while our church is filled with typical “white middle-class” people, we have a growing population of Hispanic families.  I love that we have high schoolers handing out lunches to the homeless and people visiting jails to pray with inmates.  I love that while we don’t have typical white church vans, we own limos and short buses that bring so much joy to kids and adults alike.  I also love that we have families that foster to adopt precious children and forever change the direction of their lives.  (By the way, Scott made me say that. Ha!)  I could go on and on.  But I won’t… mostly because I don’t want to inflate any egos and because I am tired of typing.
But seriously, I say all of this to make the following point: When I think of Orchard Hills, I see the life of Jesus Christ being lived out daily.  I see the New Testament come to life.  I see that we’re taking His words literally when He said to take care of the poor and the needy and to above all love each other.  And I don’t mean this in a “pat-ourselves-on-our-backs” sort of way; instead, I wanted to share it to encourage and to push us forward.
(Also, if you have time I highly recommend reading the entire blog entry.  It can be found at  However, I must warn you that Jamie is a bit  “edgy” and may throw a few curse words in at times.  Basically why I love her blog so much.)”




I’ve really been encouraged and moved of late by the generosity of the people at Orchard Hills. We put out a call for people to purchase a goat for a needy family in Rwanda and 71 goats were provided! Then, Pastor Florie Santiago shared with us some of the financial needs in the Philippines and without being asked, five students in the pastoral training school have been sponsored for a year and money given over and above that for the sponsorship of pastors in the field. Thank you!

I felt challenged by Florie to give up some of our conveniences for the greater good of God’s work here on earth. We are so blessed financially. Most of us make more in a year than a pastor in the Philippines or Rwanda will make in a lifetime and what do we have to show for it?

The more we fall in love with Jesus and see the need for others to hear about Him the less our ‘stuff’ will matter. I don’t want to give up all my conveniences but certainly I can give up something in order to help out the cause. I’m willing to bet that at the end of the year I won’t even miss the money I gave away but be thankful that a life was changed for the cost of a weekly high calorie drink or snack.

So continue to try and give more than you think you can. Continue to ask God to reveal His heart to you and change your heart and see if He doesn’t open up the floodgates of Heaven’s blessings to you.




Through the Eyes of a Visitor

Last Friday evening I received an email from a friend in Raleigh that he and his wife may visit Orchard Hills on Sunday. Sure enough, they showed up. It was great to see them but what was even greater was their impression of Orchard Hills. Here is an excerpt from the email he sent me Tuesday morning.


“Barbara and I really enjoyed worshiping with you and Orchard Hills.  Great sermon, Great music.  My biggest take-away was the great way we were greeted.  At least 6 persons/couples took time to say hello to us and welcome us, asked if we were visiting, gave us coffee, etc.  Great way to make someone feel comfortable on a first visit.”


I often wonder what kind of reception people will receive when they come to Orchard Hills. I do my best to be out front and greet folks, especially those who appear to be new, that is unless it is below 40 degrees. I know, I know, I’m a bit soft but when you are as thin as I am the cold weather affects you more. Anyhow, once they get past me I hope the rest of our Orchard Hills family will go out of their way to make people feel welcome. This doesn’t always happen but it sure did Sunday, despite the fact that many were away. THANK YOU!


So I want to encourage you to go out of your way to greet others, offer them coffee, invite them to sit with you or maybe even go out to lunch afterward. We all want to feel welcome and wanted and we all need a friend, especially in the church. If you have lost sight of how it feels to be a visitor, I encourage you to go and visit a new church this summer while you are on vacation. Take note of how you felt and go out of your way to authentically welcome people when they come to Orchard Hills!








As many of you know our adoption of Craig, Sam and Cody will be finalized today. It has been a long process to get to this point. The boys have dealt with the challenges of acclimating to a new home, new parents, new siblings, new rules and a new life. There have been times of frustration on their part due to a lack of understanding as to why we expect them to behave in certain ways, probably rooted in a lack of trust that we actually have their best interests in mind. We have tried hard to explain and exhibit unconditional love to them despite the fact that they lacked a previous context for it. But finally, after more than a year of daily reassurance and consistency I believe they are beginning to trust more readily as evidenced by greater obedience and a reciprocation of love and affection on their part. There are still times when they push us away and battle against us which isn’t surprising considering their lack of maturity.

Well, today marks the end of our pursuit to adopt them. It is a day of celebration, Adoption Day, as the boys receive their new names, Craig Patrick McLucas, Samuel Arthur McLucas and Cody Matthew McLucas. They will be officially recognized as ours and even given new birth certificates confirming such. But while this is a monumental day in their lives and ours it simply marks the beginning of the rest of our lives together. I know the days ahead will not be easy. There will still be distrust at times especially when they think they know better than we do but that is part of the growth and maturity process. We will have our struggles but I am convinced that the intimacy of our relationships will deepen and they will be forever changed. It’s hard to imagine how different and difficult their lives would have been had they not been adopted into our family.

I believe this is a great picture of our lives as Christ followers. God pursues us, not the other way around, because we are powerless and vulnerable. We have a difficult time understanding what a relationship with Him is really all about. His offer of a new home, a new father, new siblings, new rules and a new life is enticing at some level but terrifying at another. I’m sure much of the fear is a result of our lack of understanding as to why He expects us to behave in certain ways, probably rooted in a lack of trust that He actually has our best interests in mind. He has tried hard to explain and exhibit unconditional love to us despite the fact that we lacked a previous context for it. But finally, after days, months and sometimes years of reassurance and consistency we begin to trust more readily as evidenced by greater obedience and a reciprocation of love and affection on our part. There are still times when we push Him away and battle against Him which isn’t surprising considering our lack of maturity.

But then comes Adoption Day, a day of celebration when we receive new names as children of God and we are officially recognized as His even given new birth certificates, the seal of His Spirit, confirming such. But while this is a monumental day in our lives it simply marks the beginning of the rest of our lives together. The days ahead will not be easy. There will still be distrust at times especially when we think we know better than He does but that is part of the growth and maturity process. We will have our struggles but I am convinced that the intimacy of our relationships will deepen and we will be forever changed. It’s hard to imagine how different and difficult our lives would have been had we not been adopted into His family.

And so I invite you to celebrate with us the adoption of Craig, Sam and Cody into the McLucas family. I also hope this is a reminder to celebrate our own adoptions into God’s family and recognize the similarities especially as we deal with doubts and distrust in the future. May we never cease to acknowledge God’s unconditional love for us and may we walk in obedience, trusting that Father knows best!








A Reflection on the Refiner’s Fire

I enjoyed Matt’s message on Sunday, as always. He has a gift and depth that most of us long for. I was a bit jealous of the fact that he got a ‘softball’ passage after I have been thrown a couple of ‘hardball’ passages but that is how the game is played. Anyhow, I love the imagery of God as refiner and us as precious metals of immense value. The only thing that stands between us and the realization of our true value is the purification process; painful yet purposeful and necessary. I can’t think of a greater outcome than the privilege of reflecting God’s image to a hurting and lost world.

As we have been going through this difficult book of the Bible I have been so encouraged by the response of our church family. Instead of being argumentative and stubborn, folks have been humble and pliable. I love that about our church! We are a people who know we don’t get it right all the time and fall short of God’s best and are not afraid to admit it, confess it and repent of it. There is no shame or guilt in repentance only restoration and strength! Repentance is the way of refinement and I believe we are well on our way. I long for the day that people look at me and see Jesus as I see Him in so many of your faces! Let’s continue to submit ourselves to the Refiner’s fire and marvel at the results. Thanks for the blessing of leading you.






Lord, Lord

It seems the majority of people in our country cry out, “Lord, Lord” in their greatest time of need, expecting God’s blessings but spend the rest of their time in defiance of God. We seem to want the blessings without the obedience. We seem to have a low view of God with regard to His commands, precepts and statutes, doubting that His ways are truly best and the best for us. What is revealed is a lack of faith in God.

Some of us are blessed with a ’simple faith’. We just trust that what God says in His Word is true and we do our best to follow it, recognizing that along the way we will mess up but reassured that we can confess our mistakes to God, repent of them and be restored to a place of blessing. Others of us have a more difficult time trusting. Perhaps it’s because of past hurts and disappointments or a need for more tangible revelation from God.

Carolyn pointed this out in the lives of our little boys. When they came to live with us over a year ago they were very disobedient. Why? They didn’t trust us. They had been hurt in the past, known a lot of disappointment and abandonment. Yet as the time has passed they have learned that they can trust us and that we have their best in mind. We desire not only good but great things for their lives and we see the potential in them. As a result, as their trust has grown so has their obedience. Clearly they have a long way to go as evidenced by the clogged up toilets but they are making strides!

So as we continue through this difficult series on Malachi I am praying that our trust in God grows. Hopefully we can believe more readily and trust His Word more fully. Hopefully we can better discover His nature and trust that His heart for us is good. Hopefully greater obedience will be the end result followed by blessing. May we live our lives for an audience of one, Jesus Christ, and not the masses of popular opinion.






Priming the Pump

Let me just prime the pump for what you can expect this coming Sunday. As we have been discovering, the Book of Malachi addresses many difficult issues that I know I would rather brush past but in good faith cannot. We have been tackling them head on with GRACE and TRUTH. This Sunday should be no different. We will be addressing issues that are front page news such as homosexuality and same sex marriage, sexual promiscuity and abortion.

I know, that pretty much covers all the most divisive issues that we face in society and the church today but I just don’t see any way to avoid talking about them. So plan to come with pens in hand and bring a friend or two who have questions about these important topics or strong opinions on either side. Then be prepared to engage in some real, raw conversation that is full of grace and love over the coming days.

We can’t ignore these issues. God has something to say about them. We need to determine where we stand and be prepared to explain why we stand where we do. So please come and please pray that I will present this message in a way that honors God.








Scott’s wisdom will return next week.  In the meantime, lets hear from our newest member of the Orchard Hills’ staff, Missy Phillips, also known as, The Church Lady.





First of all, I would like to say that I am very excited to join the Orchard Hills staff. I cannot think of a better place for me at this time in my life and I truly appreciate the opportunity God has given me to serve a community who has done so much for my family.With that said, as I finish out my first month on staff at Orchard Hills, I thought it only right to share my top ten observations of working at Orchard Hills with the rest of the congregation.

So here they are:

10. Do not leave the front door open unless you don’t mind sharing your space with a snake.

9. Never, EVER, move the red extension cord.

8. If you need furniture moved, call Mike Moffitt and Company. Best rates in town!

7. Yes, Lindsey Forbes is “THE favorite.” How could she not be?

6. Lisa Miles gets more accomplished in an hour than most people do in a month … AND she remains calm, cool, and collected.

5. One of my favorite parts of the week is listening to Bryan Morrell practice worship music in the sanctuary. We are blessed with his talent!

4. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, fazes Kevin Hughes, except maybe when he cannot wear shorts because the weather is too cold.

3. Matt is always first to volunteer to drive the church buses for the Homework Helps Program. I guess he just really likes hanging out with … those kids???

2. One of Scott’s best abilities is to multi-task … and by that I mean delegate!

1. Orchard Hills is by far the best place in Botetourt to work, worship,   and call home!