Wednesday, March 31, 2004

My temptation this morning is to write and tell you that some unknown wacko broke into my computer system and typed a blog yesterday pretending to be me. Obviously, that person doesn’t have it all together, nor does he realize that ministers must appear to have it together even when they don’t. WHATEVER!

The reality is that every day is a new day. I woke up this morning with only 3 billion things to do instead of 5 billion. I left for work as my 2 ½ year old had her Easter Bunny ears on and was hopping around and hopped over to give me a bunny kiss. My one year old offered me a kiss this morning during breakfast with oatmeal all over her face. I had my Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. It’s a new day! My mom, who is by far one of the wisest people alive, sent me a great set of encouraging email this morning. Here is a section from one of them—

I know you have done this already, but can you just lay everything down at God's feet and let him help you with a deep breath and a warm hand?
Perhaps if you can do that you can say with David in Peterson's Message Ps. 5l
"Tune me to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. God make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!"

And if all else fails, go get and ice cream cone or a Krispy Kreme and go to the movie.

A lot of people are praying for you. Love Mom

p. s. don't go see LadyKillers-- it is obscene, vulgar and a waste of money.

Good advice—all of it! I think that maybe one of the things I was feeling yesterday was the weight of what was in front of me. Sometimes we have to just climb one tree at a time when we have the forest in front of us. My trouble, as it has been all my life, is that I want to just tackle it all at once. Praise God that He is patient with me. He has given me that perspective that seemed elusive yesterday. He has breathed His life in my bones today. I am thankful for it.

I have a long day ahead. Meetings with the record label related to marketing and beginning our next project. (someone—grab the Prozac, QUICK!) I have rehearsal at 5 with our keyboardist, cello player, and guitar player for Saturday night. I have a rehearsal at 6:30 with the chorus for Easter. I should be able to crash tonight around 10pm. Even so, I am filled with the words that Maddie sang to me last night…I should note that the "YOU" should be sung at ff !

God is so good!
God is so good!
God is so good,
He’s so good to YOU!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Wow. Where to begin? When I started this here blog thingy, I committed to myself to being honest. It’s amazing how many times I find myself so tempted to portray things as rainbows and lollipops (as my friend Daren would say). Life is truly about seasons.

I fear, as I suspect many other ministers fear, that I will be judged for my very real and human journey. I have always been an overachiever. I didn’t want someone to tell me it was “good”, I wanted them to say it was the “best EVER”. I realize that at some very real level, that is what is called pride. I have found myself many times bowing at the feet of “excellence”, meaning that I would spare no expense in giving time, energy, family, mental and physical health—you name it—to the quest for excellence. Don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that the quest for excellence is a bad thing. In fact, I think in many ways it has served me well and been God honoring. I just find myself in a season where I have said yes to way too many things and have sacrificed my well being to the thought of excellence. It’s to the extent at this point in my life that it’s virtually impossible to be excellent in as many things as I have agreed to do. So, slowly, I begin to lose my grip on that realization of excellence in all things. At some point, a wise, mature man must make decisions. He must set boundaries. Here’s where I find myself today. It is exactly a week and a half before Easter weekend. I have 5 billion things to plan for that weekend. We have our Saturday night service to plan for this weekend. My taxes are due (collective groan). AND—this ZOE record just refuses to be completed. I am facing all of this while neither feeling wise nor mature enough to make the decisions that are being demanded.

My temptation here is to swing back to the other side and talk about my friends who are experiencing failure in their marriages or another friend whose mother was robbed and murdered last weekend. Life does offer perspective in ways we never expect. However, to be “real”, I must tell you that today I find myself so overcome with the maintenance of the life I have embraced that perspective even seems elusive. In case you’re wondering if I am on the edge of the cliff—I am not. I have a wife who listens, I have brothers who stand with me, and I have a faith that transcends these seasons. I hear from so many ministers who find themselves in times like this. We, as a church, aren’t sure how to handle our leaders when the people we look to for encouragement are in a place of needing it themselves.

I don’t know what the end of this story is for me. It’s possible that the next time you drive through at Taco Bell you’ll hear a familiar voice saying “whatcha want?” But, what seems more likely is that God will be faithful to bring me through this season of difficulty and give me tools for ministry as I walk ahead in faith.
One real and tangible thing that I did today was to email an older gentleman—someone I consider truly Spirit-filled. I asked him if I could spend some time with him talking through some of my current situations and seek his wise counsel. Why should I think that I am the first person to ever feel this way? Hopefully, the Lord will allow that to happen and teach me through the victories and defeats that Don has experienced.

If you are reading this today and find yourself relating to what I am saying, let’s just pray for the Lord to break through our human definitions of ministry and possibly bring new wineskins to those areas of our lives. If you are reading this today and feel like you can’t relate to what I have written here, then I would ask your prayers for wisdom as God walks me through this valley. My prayer is that what happens through this time will enable me to be an even more effective minister. But, I need to be willing to allow death to come to certain areas or activities before I can experience the new wineskins I pray that God has for me. May God’s name be praised both now and forever more!

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Sun, sun, sun! Every time I am on the west coast, I want to move here. If it weren't so expensive to live here, we'd have already moved! (well, and there's the leaving all the people we dearly love thing) It's been so refreshing just breathing in the ocean air! Thank You, Lord.

I got such an encouraging note from my friend, Julie Danley, yesterday. She reminded me that we are all journeying. She also just simply said that she understood the stress I was feeling. It was a simple note, but sometimes those are the best. I have been so blessed to receive notes like those through the years.

Not much to report--my brain is on vacation too. Some might say that's nothing unusual. I might agree.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Another beautiful San Diego morning! What a glorious creation we enjoy! This time has been good with my brothers--a time of refreshment and retreat. The conversations have been filled with purpose and spiritual encouragement. Each of us is in full time worship ministry. Jeff Berry travels and leads for many events and churches with his band. He also leads the Grace Bible Study in Abilene with around 1500 college students each week. Rich Smith works with Levi Ministries and travels leading worship and consulting with churches. He came last summer and did our music ministry retreat. Stephen Bailey, my long time friend and college roommate, is about to go into full time paid ministry. Although he has been doing ministry for years, he recently sold his share in his TV/Film special effects company and decided to work for a church. We have all come needing encouragement and filling.

While these few days have been wonderful, I still wrestle with how to provide true spiritual feeding and renewal for others and for me. Sometimes at ZOE during the leadership conference I feel like there are a lot of talking heads and some definite encouragement, but many times I leave feeling like there was so much more that could have happened. I am dealing with that this morning. While the 6 ACTS conference in Dallas that I have attended for the last 5 years has been awesome, I felt like I needed something different this year. I am not sure I have stumbled upon the difference yet. There's so much stirring in me. There are so many things happening at Otter Creek and in ZOE that have caused incredible inward stress. I wonder, many days, how long I can keep this pace. I head back to face even more stressful situations over the next couple of months. I want my strength to come from the Lord. I have felt like my fuel has been fleshly fuel lately. It leaves me exhausted. One thing I do carry home with me, however, is the conviction of choosing wisely. I must choose my family. I must choose the things that God is fueling me to conquer. Anything else will only eventually lead me to burn out. My prayers today are for wisdom and Godly insight as I evaluate those areas of my life.

I trust You, Lord, to speak clearly. You know that my ears need to be unclogged. Speak so clearly to me that there is no mistaking Your voice. You promised me in John that as a sheep of Yours I would not only hear Your voice but be able to discern it from that of the enemy. I claim that promise today.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The San Diego weather has been pretty cold until this morning when the sun came out and blessed us! We had a great night last night sharing some of our hard stories of this year in ministry. This morning we took advantage of the sun and sat outside to continue our sharing. It is a blessing to have brothers in your life who understand where you are and aren't afraid to encourage you toward higher things.

I am missing my family a lot. Sheryl says everyone is doing well, but I know it's a hardship for her to be the single parent when I am away like this. Hopefully, in coming weeks she will get her escape!

I don't have time to write the entire story today, but had a great plane ride over here. I sat next to a woman who embodies the post-modern culture. I was reading "A New Kind Of Christian" by Brian McLaren. It sparked some cool conversation between the two of us. In case any of us every wonders if there really is a world out there who doesn't get us--they are alive and well and still questioning. The real issue is whether we will engage them in their questions or leave them to fend for themselves. It takes courage for us and it takes a willingness to stretch our comfort zones. Will we ever get there?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! He is good to us. I look in my oldest daughter's face and see my father who I lost 12 years ago. When she smiles she has his sneaky, sparkly grin. It's a gift! When I look in Ella's face I see my great gandmother who had such a gentle smile. She endured so much for the sake of her family. I am a beneficiary of her faithfulness. Every time I look at Sheryl I see the grace God has extended to me through her. These are just 3 ways the Lord reminds me daily that my world isn't really my world at all. He holds all of me--my past, my present,and my furture in his hands. What can separate me from the love of Jesus? NOTHING!

Today I am blessed by His love and faithfulness poured out to me through my family. I am rich in ways that this world could never measure. Praise the Lord!

Monday, March 22, 2004

I am eagerly anticipating a trip to San Diego this week. 3 of my dear brothers and I are going out for a Spiritual retreat. Jeff Berry, Rich Smith and Stephen Bailey are joining me in a get away designed to renew the heart and challenge us for the ministry ahead. I really need this.

I pray that you prepare us, Lord, to receive from You the teaching, guidance, conviction and renewal that You have waiting.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

It's a glorious morning here. The sun is out and the air is crisp. I got my venti cup of Caramel Mochiotto at Starbucks and am sitting here staring at this computer screen waiting for the praise team to arrive for rehearsal. I had an email in my box this morning that disturbed me. It more than disturbed me, it made me angry.

One of the challenges we face in ministry is the need to give from "overflow". There needs to be Spiritual substance in us enough that it overflows on those around us. We have "living water" coursing through our Spiritual veins. However, as ministers, we all experience those times when someone catches us in the hall or right before the worship time begins and we are left to minister through discouragement and frustration. What do we do with ourselves in those times? It's such a temptation for ministers to put on so much armor that we become immune to feeling in order to not experience hurt or disappointment. I don't want to be that kind of person.

This morning, I think about the victory Christ has won and how I get to share in that. I think about His incredible grace for a man like me. I think about His understanding of difficult times and what He went through for me. In light of those things it really helps me think about the problems of today with perspective. I don't deserve any of what He has given to me, but He freely gives. Bless your name, Lord!

Saturday, March 20, 2004

This morning we sat in a conference room high above the Nashville sky line with people who have committed their time and energy over the last 8 years to the ZOE ministry. It was a sweet time of memories and realization of God's movement in our lives. It seems daunting to even pray about what the future might hold for us. We just want to be faithful with what we have been given.

As I looked around that room I thought of people who had impacted my life who I might never have known otherwise. My mind races to names like Joe Smith, Tim Castle, Sandra and Lex Henderson, Eric Noah-Wilson, Greg Taylor, Kip Long, Randy and LaJuana Gill and so many others. I also thought about the true gift it has been for me to work with my long time mentor and friend, Mike Cope.

As we pray and walk boldly into whatever the Lord has for the ZOE ministry in the future, I was reminded of the song we sing, "Be Unto Your Name". The lyric begins...

"We are a moment,
You are forever
Lord of the ages,
God before time."

We are here today and gone tomorrow. The Kingdom of our God will last forever. It certainly gives one perspective. What a joy, what an honor to serve the Ancient of Days! Thank you, Lord, for those who have given so much to make this experience with ZOE possible. May Your name be praised in all we do!

Friday, March 19, 2004

As I suspected, we're really not done with the recording. There are still some things left to tweak. I think we're even going to have to cut a couple of songs because of royalties and things. So, the saga continues. Jessica at Creative Trust (our record label) reminded me this morning that we are still in good shape--even early. That was encouraging.

I wanted to share something I came across this morning. To give some context, let me tell you briefly about last Spring. I was really struggling to figure out God's plan for me--in ministry and with my family. I had been reading Isaiah and I came upon Isaiah 35. It burned in my heart as I read it and it was just one of those moments when you realize the Lord speaking to you. Several days later I received a letter from an old friend who said she had been reading Isaiah and felt the Lord impress upon her to send me this passage. It was the same passage I had been reading. It was a cool "God thing". Actually, I'd be more accurate to say it was a complete mind blowing, Holy Spirit moving, faith affirming experience. As I continued to meditate on the words of Isaiah 35, this is what I felt God was saying to me about my own life--

Come to me in humility and I will open your mouth and a new song will pour forth. Lay down pride and self sufficiency. Stop living in the old reserves of a former walk with Me. Lay down false idols, comfort, and your dreams. Lay these down and see the man I will resurrect.

Needless to say, I felt like God was preparing something for me. Looking back over the last year, I consider the decisions I have made. We were offered the deal with the record label shortly after that season of prayer, we decided to stay in Nashville instead of moving to a different church, and I have been blessed to be a part of a brand new worship time on Saturday nights at Otter Creek geared towards post-moderns using our very gifted instrumentalists and other people blessed in the creative arts. These all felt like God inspired things. I just wonder, in the midst of it all, if I went straight to the "I will open your mouth and a new song will pour forth" part. He's definitely done that in ways I never could have imagined. But, I am convicted today in reading these notes from last April that what I need to focus more on is the laying down of pride, self sufficiency, false idols, my comfort, earthly dreams, and the temptation to walk in "old reserves". Whew. Major conviction!

God is transforming all of us from one degree of glory to the next. Sometimes I wish that process were microwaveable. What a matchless, creative, generous, merciful God we serve!

Help me Lord to be obedient. Help me to trust You. Give me a greater desire and the strength to lay down my life and find the one You have for me.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Laaaaaaate nights, early mornings! We finished the mix on the live recording last night after midnight. Today we have a mastering session and that should be IT! I am trying not to even think about the possibility of being done with this project. It has consumed my thoughts, time, and energies over the last 6 months. It's time for it to be completed.

We had a great rehearsal last night for Easter. It overwhelms me that God has brought such talent to Otter Creek. Clarissa Cox's ability to arrange music is completely God breathed. I left last night feeling less stress about that piece of the puzzle.

This morning as I start another day, feeling fatigued, I think about finding my strength in the Lord. These long days will pass. I refuse to allow my life and family to be eaten up with busyness. Someone once said, "the good is always the enemy of the best". I believe it. Lord, show me where You want my time and focus. Close the doors to those things that will only distract from Your plan for my life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

" I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ"
--Mahatma Gandhi

My wife, Sheryl, waited tables at the Olive Garden while she was in college. She said all the servers hated Sundays and would fight to be off that day. The reason? Men and women dressed in their Sunday best come into restaurants after church demanding service and timeliness (as most of us have come to expect when eating out). On typical Sundays the wait staff would find themselves surrounded by some of the most demanding people they would encounter all week. The tips, if there were any, were usually below par.

Jesus calls us to a Kingdom upside down. It's so different from every message we get from TV, radio, billboards, magazines, and even peers. It has been weeks since I saw The Passion of the Christ and it still haunts me. The image of Jesus struggling through the beatings and stumbling beneath the weight of the cross dramatically impacts how I hear His call for me to carry my own cross. I find that, even on my best days, my instincts betray me. My instincts lead me to be self serving. Jesus says, "let me wash your feet". My weaknesses often cause me to want to find the easy road. Jesus says, "pick up your cross and follow me". I struggle with these things. I want transformation in my life so much that sometimes I don't see how God is using the struggles or trials to bring about that transformation. I don't want to be like the Christians Gandhi referred to. I want to be Jesus to a hurting and lost world.

Oh, Cleanser of the mess I've made,
Your boundless love for me portrayed.
With patience for my learning curve,
By holding back what I deserve.

Oh how wonderful Your mercy is!
How awesome are Your ways!
I come, I come to worship You
for all You've done.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Oh, Cleanser of the mess I've made,
Upon the hill our places trade.
Stretched on a cross, Your body crushed,
By human hands You formed from dust.

How wonderful Your mercy is!
How awesome are Your ways!
I come, I come to worship You
For all You've done.

Oh, Cleanser of the mess I've made,
Your boundless love for me portrayed.
With patience for my learning curve,
By holding back what I deserve.

I wanted to share a couple of verses from a song called "For All You've Done" by Clint Lagerberg. Point of Grace is working on their new record due out this fall and they have fallen in love with this song. John Mays, their producer and my co-producer, shared it with me. The lyric speaks for itself. Praise the Lord for His mercy and that He doesn't give us what we deserve.

I am trying not to stress too much over planning for if any celebration I would put together could adequately express our gratitude for the cross. However, it is an important part of my job and I want to create an environment of worship where people can freely praise the Lord for all He's done in our lives. These lyrics have stuck with me. I plan to use them on Easter morning. This last verse is my favorite.

Oh, Cleanser of the mess I've made,
With everything at Your feet laid.
I watch as all my cares erode,
As from my soul these words explode!

Oh, how wonderful Your mercy is!
How awesome are Your ways!
I come, I come to worship You
For all You've done.

Monday, March 15, 2004

We had a great morning yesterday. Tim, our pastor, really got vulnerable in his message. There seemed to be a lot of positive response. I think it's tempting for preachers/worship ministers to use a lot of "you" language. We bring the Word in conviction and boldness and sometimes we forget that the message is meant for us too. I have always been positively impacted by those who preached from their own pain or weakness--using it as a tool to give God glory. I was proud of Tim. It was a great morning.

We had the all exciting family trip to Super Walmart today. I think they call it Super Walmart because you end up buying more junk than you would at a normal Walmart. I am grateful to have Mondays as family days. Not many men in the business world get that luxury. It's a life saver for us.

The ZOE Live Worship recording (When the Music Fades) is due this week. There is still so much to be done. I vacillate between excitement and dread almost hourly. I think--hope--this will end up being a cool project. However, there have been so many hurdles in this process, it seems like I should wait to get my hopes up. Ultimately, I just want it to honor the Lord and build His Kingdom. I am praying that even the things that are still rough might serve to glorify Him--kind of like my own life. We are blessed to serve a faithful God!

Saturday, March 13, 2004

"Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands.
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands,
no tongue can bid me thence depart.
No tongue can bid me thence depart."

These words were written in the early 1800's by Charity Smith. The song is just as powerful today. This morning after Maddie woke up, I asked her if she had sweet dreams last night. She said yes so quickly that it made me curious. I asked her what she had dreamed about. She replied, "Jesus". I asked her what He was doing in her dream and she said that He was praying. It might be a typical childlike response, but it really encouraged me. My daughter's simple words reminded me of the salvation that we wake up to every morning. I am so grateful that we have a High Priest wo knows our name. He is, even now, interceding on our behalf. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

The rest of the story is that she immediately followed this encouraging word by telling me that she wanted to show Jesus the Big Bird picture on her diaper. :)

Friday, March 12, 2004

"O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee. I give Thee back the life I owe, that in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be."

I have always loved that song. The melody line is haunting to me. The harmonies are so beautiful! All that aside, it's the lyric that really sticks with me. I remember singing it at church growing up. I had no context, really, for the power of those lyrics. As a college student, I lost my father to cancer and some of my favorite singers in the world sang a beautiful arrangement of it at his funeral. I haven't forgotten it over 12 years later. That experience gave me more of a context for those powerful words. It gave me hope about what life means and that our lives are ultimately found in Him.

However, I must say that it's only in recent days that I feel these lyrics have come to mean even more to me. As a minister/ worship leader/ producer/ father/ husband/ son/ friend (not in that order), I find myself consumed in busyness. I find "rest" ellusive. The thought of a sabbatical is akin to winning the lottery. Remembering a time when "quiet times" came easily--even naturally, when life seemed less of a blur, I find myself wondering how all these balls got into their juggling positions. It's in this season that these lyrics mean even more to me. I was struck this morning with the reality that if I want true rest, it's only found in learning to fully embrace the "zoe" life that Jesus spoke of. When He said he came to give life and life in abundance, he didn't use the word that meant physical life. He used the word "zoe", which means Spiritual life. That's what I really want. Until I can lay down the allure of this life and say, "I lay in dust, LIFE'S glory dead" I will never experience the fullness of what He offers. In the death of our will and personal glory we gain "life that shall endless be". Praise the Lord! Praise Him for not letting me go- even as I struggle to learn these important lessons.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

This morning we went to the Otter Creek Pre-School Spring Program. Maddie has the performing bug in her--she wanted to hold microphone for the girl next to her as well. Bless us! It was such a joy to listen to those kids singing and praising. Kids are so much more open than adults to express their emotions. Surely, Jesus was relieved when He welcomed the children to Him. They come without pretense, without legalism, and with open hearts. What a great lesson to watch them praise--spinning around, hands in the air singing "God is so good". What a delight it must be to our Heavenly Abba.

This is a crazy "season" at Otter Creek. The Lord is truly working to change hearts and seems to be taking many people deeper. As is usually the case, Satan's attacks seem even more frequent during these days. We have experienced communication breakdowns between staff members, stress on marriages, and heaviness that can only be described as oppression. It's in these circumstances that we find ourselves needing to link arms and walk with even more conviction and boldness. I find myself distracted at times with the trees and miss the forest. Last summer, in a time of searching about location we clearly felt God telling us to stay put. Since then, we have seen Him move in ways we never could have dreamed. In my heart I know full well that we heard correctly. I hold on to that conviction on days when my strongest urge is to crawl under my desk and watch from under a blanket. (or...board a cruise ship and sing show tunes for a year)

I told Sheryl last night that if I were having a conversation with God about me I would advise Him not to risk so much or spend so much time on me. (you can imagine having that conversation with a close friend about someone in their life who just seems to take their love for granted.) I think I might advise Him to move on--stop wasting so much precious time and energy on that guy. I am just floored that God loves me the way He does. His love is extravagant! I hope I never stopped being overwhelmed by it. May that love rain down in your lives today!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

It's 6:30 on a Wednesday night. I am sitting at my computer trying to ready myself to lead worship tonight after a very long and intense day. Wednesdays tend to be that for me. I met my wife and daughters at O'Charlie's (where kids eat free, thank you very much) and now am back at the church where I feel I have spent way too much time this week.

Tonight in the devotional I hope to draw people's thoughts to the steadfast love of the Lord and how He is sovereign and loving and faithful. That Lamentations passage never gets old to me. "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed" (insert a hallelujah there) " for His compassions never fail--they are NEW every morning!" Unbelieveable! How could that ever truly sink in? I am so--SO--not like that. It makes me immediately want to go to what the psalmist wrote when he said, "what is man that you are mindful of him?" I can't get over the fact that God loves me with such recklessness.

Please, dear Lord, teach me to love, to live, and to minister with that kind of heart. I beg you to instill in me a mercy and grace that is extended to others that somehow renews every day through your Spirit.

I am embarking on a journey that I pray will be meaningful, disciplining, heart felt, and even humerous. To journal about one's journey in this life certainly takes courage, but for me--more discipline than anything else. As I struggle through living the life of a worship leader, a husband, a pastor and everything else that somehow gets attached to me, I pray that God will bless this writing and that He will use it to encourage someone else. we go!

Welcome to Brandon Scott Thomas's web log. You can link to this from The Zoe Group's web site ( or NEW WINESKINS (