Wednesday, June 30, 2004

After a long day yesterday, I was looking forward to a night out with my wife. We had received a gift card to a restaurant we love going to, but usually can't afford. We couldn't tell how much the card was worth and so we just decided to go for it. It was hilarious--we were planning to just enjoy the dinner, no matter how much we had to add to the card. Like any good cheapskate, we asked our server in the beginning to run the card so we'd know how much we were working with. When the total came back, we about danced on the table. We were like, "BRING ON THE APPETIZER!!!" (don't you love it when people use "like" in that way...sorry about that.) We had a great dinner. It was fun to be together and laugh and talk. I am so blessed to be married to someone so witty, sexy, and loving. We finished up and even had enough left to bring home a key lime pie for Steve and Karen Speake who graciously watched our kids. Thanks guys!

The plans for the Luau are in full swing. That's what happens when two creative types marry. Nothing can ever be simple. In fact, simple is completely boring. We're having fun mapping it all out and will start making leaves for the palm trees tomorrow. We ordered this CD of Hawaiian music. Hilarious. This morning I was trying to teach Maddie and Ella a Hawaiian dance. Sheryl and I just got cracked up. These girls love to dance.

I've been working on sequencing for the CD. It can be challenging--working on a good flow that varies in tempo and group vs. solo songs. I think I am close.

As I watched a bit of the Today Show this morning I realized several things. First, I haven't watched the news in weeks and feel really out of touch. Second, after so many executions now in Iraq, how devastated the family of the current hostage must feel. I just can't imagine. Third, when the segment went from the hostage situation to a segment on camping gear--overpriced camping gear--I thought about how removed we are from the horrors that many Kurds, Rowandans and other face on a daily basis. I pass our fridge and see cute little Chantel's face whom we sponsor through World Vision. I have no concept of what life is like for her. I go about my day many times without a second thought for the suffering that runs so rampant. Tony Compollo's words echo in my ear... "Who did Jesus typically side with, the rich--or the oppressed?"

Thank you, Father for giving me a warm family, a warm house, laughter, and love beyond all measure. I am so grateful and yet feel so selfish. Please keep pricking my heart and conscience over those who You would be reaching out to and show me how I can make a difference where I am. May Your Kingdom break out in these war torn, stressful, violent times.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

We had a great night last night visiting with Amanda. She's like a little sister to both of us. I am sure she probably tires of us parenting her at times or giving her unsolicited advice, but she's gracious in letting us play the roles of big bro and sis.

I am somewhat heavy hearted this morning. I got hit with several things as I came in the office today. You know, ministry is never easy. I think one reason is because you can't have ministry with out people, and basically, people are messy. I say that in all confession because I see myself as the Peanuts character, "Pig Pen", at times. I just know there are so many worries out there, so many concerns, so many disappointments, too many diseases, loss of jobs, emergency surgeries, arguments, and disagreements. It's just that today, I am more keenly aware of some of them.

In ministry, I find that sometimes I HAVE to close my eyes--not to hide in the way someone without faith might hide, but to hide in the shelter of His wing. Unless I put things into a perspective that includes the cross, the resurrection, and the Kingdom, I will always feel like life is out of control.

More later.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Highlights of a great day off--

--the family trip to Opry Mills Mall. We met Kiki's mom and dad there (uncle Sonny and aunt Joye) for lunch. We bough some birthday items and Maddie and Ella rode the fun rides.

--I got to go see a Monday movie. I saw Dodgeball. Pretty funny. I love Ben Stiller. I mean, who couldn't admire the man who ACTUALLY MARRIED Marsha Brady??!!

--Watching Beauty and the Beast with my girls

--A wonderful dinner--Shrimp and stuff--with our friend Amanda Brooks McKinney.

We are making plans for the big birthday celebration this weekend for Maddie. She will be 3 on Monday but we're having a Hawaiian Luau for her and her buddies this Saturday.

I got another draft of the rough mixes. They're sounding better and better. I still love Blessed Be--my very favorite! I am just so relieved that the recording part is over. Now we just have to get through mixing and mastering and we'll be home free! YEEE HAWWW! It's time to celebrate!

Amy Westerman, who sings alto in ZOE, posted a really sweet blog today on her site. Check it out at
The thing Amy left off was that she is one of the spiritual compasses of the group. Amy has the gift of discernment and prayer. I love to hear her pray. I am thankful for her godly presence. She's also pretty hilarious. It's so fun to be family--to laugh together, squabble, pray, cry, worship, care for, and love each other. God is so good!

Sunday, June 27, 2004

We had a great day in the studio yesterday--much better than Friday night. Peter sounds great on "Who Am I" and the trio on "Your Love Still Amazes Me" smokes. I am pleased with the way things went. There are some major deadlines this week like sequencing (not to be confused with sequinsing. Ok--it was a bad joke.) and production credits--all for packaging. I told my buddy, Craig Fisher, that I was going to list him as choreographer. That brought a good laugh. Stephen, you're going to be costumes and Chris, you'll be drums. I am retarded.

This morning we are talking more about hope. I received an email from an old friend, Dan Jocoy, this morning. Dan is a minister in Oregon and we met way back when I was singing with Take One from ACU out at the Yosemite Family Encampment (sometime around 1988-89). Do they still have that? He's been a long distance brother ever since. He wrote and told me about his daughter being severely injured by falling on a sharp rock in their yard. According to Dan, she'll be ok. But, he wrote that later in the week he "went out to the site where she was hurt and sought to reclaim it for good through the Lord."

What a statement! This is the Kingdom upside down. It's a life filled with worship even through difficulty. It's hope in seemingly hopeless times. It's such a temptation to blame God as we walk through this broken and fallen world. This was greatly encouraging to me this morning as are about to lead people in worship who are coming from many different places and situations.

Father, You are King over the flood. When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm. I will be still and know You are God. Thank you for your provision for Dan and his family. Please heal his daughter and restore her leg to full movement. No matter what, Lord, we WILL worship You.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

We had a very long night in the studio last night. We finished "Lord, Have Mercy" and most of "Your Grace Still Amazes Me". I left around 12:30. UGH!

Today we will lay down the BGV's for "Your Grace" and do the oooh bed for "Who Am I" and let Peter do his thang.

I am so grateful for community. We have friends who make it possible to do these recordings because they lovingly watch our girls. Thank you Aunt KiKi, Lea, Jill, Steve and Karen and so many others who have helped us in this recording process.

Lord willing, after today's session, the recording part will be completed. I am so glad! I think it's gone well. There are always things you'd want to go back and redo or undo or not do. Unfortunately, time and money usually dictate whether that's a possibility or not. We just have to release it to the hand of the Lord and ask that He use it for His glory--imperfections and all. So far, my favorite songs are Blessed Be (Matt Redman) and Still (Hillsongs) and Holy Praise (off the emergent record--Desperation). I like a lot of this, but those two are the ones I really love listening to. By the time this is said and done, I won't want to listen to any of it for at least 3 months! :)

Lord, as we go about our busy schedules this weekend, please open our eyes to see Jesus. Please don't let me be the busy minister who passes people by. Give me the heart of the Samaritan who gave time, energy, money, and love to someone he didn't know.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Whew! Mornin, everyone! Actually, I've been up since 6, but I still am clearing the sleep from my eyes. We had a great trip to Arkansas. Being there is like a forced detox. There aren't any malls or movie theaters to speak of. (the local shopping attraction is the Super Walmart) There aren't big restaurants to spend time or money in. There's no amusement park or go cart track. It is simple living at its finest. Sheryl's folks live on the lake in Cherokee Village. It's beautiful! It was so nice to be with them and talk about family and play cards at night. Sheryl's mom makes the best pecan pie ever. They are wonderful people. (had to throw in that food reference there for ya)

We took our time coming home yesterday. We stopped in Jonesboro to see Sheryl's sister and her family and let the kids nap. Maddie and Ella love playing with Canaan and Sierra. It was so funny to watch Maddie. For whatever reason, Sierra and Canaan (5&4) were taken with Ella. Everything she did was hilarious to them. At one point they were sitting on the floor surrounding her just watching her perform--and she can work a crowd. Maddie just stood looking perplexed. It was sweet and sad and funny all at the same time. She had this look like, what is the deal here???? Eventually, when it was clear that she could not win the attention of the crowd, she went to the playroom to do her own thing. These are interesting times. Ella was enjoying being the object of attention for once.

We enjoyed getting to see one of my best buds and college rommates on the way through Memphis. Craig and Beth Ann Fisher were there to celebrate his grandmother's 80th birthday so we got to meet for dinner. Riley and Maddie had a great time. Ella enjoyed poking her finger in baby Owen's nose. It was great seeing them.

Here's where most of my blog readers may want to sign off. I wanted to write down a few things I heard this week from Sheryl's dad. Since I am saving these blog entries, I wanted to write these things down for Maddie and Ella to read one day. My mom is a proponent of writing your spiritual autobiography. She's written a book about it and travels teaching retreats and seminars about how to do this--and WHY we should do this. Anyway--this isn't really in the format she suggests, but I wanted to get it written down somewhere so I could come back to the information before I forgot it all. The rest of this is really for us--important things to remember.

As we played cards (a new game called "13" sort of like Phase 10, a family favorite), we talked some about Sheryl's family. I can't even remember what brought it up. Sheryl's biological mom died when she was 4 of cancer. Ernestine has been the only mom she has really ever known. Here are some things we talked about that I thought were just too cool and needed to be written down for you, Maddie and Ella, to read one day. (I'm going to write as though I were talking to my kids)

Your great grandparents (PaPaw's mom and dad) put PaPaw and uncle Duane on a church bus when they were in elementary school. The bus carried them to the local Baptist church. His mom and dad would give them money to [put in the collection plate each Sunday, but PaPaw and uncle Duane would skip out early and head to the local drug store and spend the money on candy! As a young man, PaPaw (Bob Rathbun) trained horses and did all kinds of neat things. He loved the outdoors. Eventually, he and his brother Duane were baptized at the Lake Orion (Michigan) Church of Christ.

Cathy Carrier had lived a hard life, growing up with an alcoholic father. She and her brothers managed to survive with their wits and souls in tact. She had already had Chuck and Beth Ann before meeting PaPaw. He met Cathy at church and she enjoyed water skiing and outdoor things like he did. They married and went to church at Sylvan Lake CofC.

Your PaPaw took a preacher's class there with 3 other men. He said it was one of the most exciting times--full of learning and insight. He preached one Sunday morning, while the other preacher was away, about how our salvation was secure and about how the Holy Spirit lived in us and guided us--the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. At the end of his sermon, one of the "self-appointed elders" got up and said, "That will be the last time Bob Rathbun ever speaks here again." It was hurtful. They were a part of that church and were treated very badly.

Eventually, aunt Gail and Mommy came along. They were born in the early 70's. When Mommy was 4, her mommy, Cathy, went for a routine check-up and discovered that she had cancer. It was everywhere--spleen, organs, the bone, blood--everywhere. She only lived until December (1976). Mommy still remembers the day she died. She was at home with her grandparents who had made them tomato soup. That night she remembers laying in bed with Gail and PaPaw while he sang "No Tears In Heaven" to them. She remembers going to the funeral and what her mommy was wearing.

About a year later, PaPaw married MeMaw. MeMaw had lost her husband a year or so earlier from a heart attack. She already had 4 kids of her own--mostly grown. What a wonderful woman MeMaw was! (is!) She took to Mommy and her brother and sisters immediately. She had also been their Sunday School teacher at church. Mommy still remembers the warmth of crawling up in her lap. She was just what they needed.

Over the course of Mommy's growing up, they moved several times. As they came back from Houston in the 80's, the church at Lake Orion was planning to build a new building. PaPaw got all the wood and things from the old building and built the coolest house for his family there in Lake Orion. How amazing that a church building that had meant so much to him could now serve as the lumber to house his family.

PaPaw and MeMaw did a wonderful job raising their 8 kids. (Mommy is the youngest!) They have many dear friends and people whose lives have been impacted by their example. When PaPaw worked at Michigan Christian (now Rochester College), he loved being around the college kids. And they loved him!

The same year Mommy and Daddy were married, 1998, MeMaw and PaPaw retired and moved to Arkansas. PaPaw's knowledge of carpentry and his skill really benefited them in the building and selling of their home. They moved to a farm in Ash Flat. Again, PaPaw built their home. He was convinced he wanted to have cows and farm in retirement. Soon, it was clear that it was going to be too much to handle. He wanted something different for retirement and his heart wasn't in great shape. PaPaw sold their house and they moved to a vacation/retirement community on the lake called Cherokee Village. PaPaw built a beautiful house--right on the lake! It was complete with an upstairs deck that extended the length of the house and a pontoon boat for fishing and relaxing!

At this writing, PaPaw and MeMaw have been married 27 years. They just sold their lake house and are downsizing so they can travel and do some things they want to do. PaPaw still leads worship sometimes at the Ash Flat Church. He still speaks his mind. People still adore them. MeMaw has a contagious laugh and a very great sense of humor. (so does PaPaw) She likes to quote her mom by saying things like... "If you do that I'm gonna slap your face off!" She's close to 80 years old--almost 10 years older than PaPaw, but you'd never know it! She's active and full of spunk and energy. She cooks up a storm and plays with her grandchildren as often as she can. She loves being with you and often laughs at the things you'll do or say. She volunteers at a local charity that provides clothing and always has funny stories to tell about things that happen there.

Your MeMaw and PaPaw have always been, and still are, full of life. They never stop. They are funny too. PaPaw always has a new joke for us. They love stories and enjoy talking about family. MeMaw and PaPaw love singing and have pretty good voices--even now! One of the highlights of this trip was listening to them sing "The Lord Is My Shepherd" with you, Maddie. You've been saying that at night for a while and have gotten to where you now prefer the song over the spoken verse. We all loved hearing you trying to reach those high notes. MeMaw especially loved hearing you sing that. PaPaw is always humming something. It's something we'll always think about when we think of him. He truly has a song in his heart!

As you girls think about your grandparents on Mommy's side, you should always remember that they were firmly planted in their faith in God. They had openness in the way they approached him. Your PaPaw was way ahead of his time in his view of things. They loved their children and grandchildren and have given most of their lives in sacrifice for them. They are passing down a rich heritage to you. There have been many times when things looked dark for them over the years, but they never, ever gave up and managed to keep their senses of humor too! You are blessed that their story is also your story. More on Daddy's parents later.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship! And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” Romans 8:14-16

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Last night we went out with Bobby and Sonya Colvert. Bobby plays guitar, mandolin, violin, etc. for stuff at OC and Sonya sings in our ministry. They are dear friends. They had two girls early in their marriage and then a surprise third when the girls went to college. Darcy is Maddie's age and they love each other.

Bobby had some points after taking clients to The Palm and invited us to go share a dinner there. The Palm is sort of like Morton's (another one of our favorites on rare occasions). Here goes more food stuff--mmmmmmm. Lobster, asparagus, potatoes, tomato and blue cheese salad, spinach, a huge piece of chocolate cake and creme brule. I still haven't recovered.

Sheryl offered to let Darcy stay the night--Maddie's first sleep over! She wanted to give Bobby and Sonya a mini vacation. Maddie was really excited to see her still here this morning.

We just returned from the downtown public library. They have the coolest theater there that they've just finished constructing. It's for marionette shows. Today we saw Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves! The girls loved it. Sheryl takes them all the time. Today was my first trip. I'm so glad she exposes them to neat things like that. It would be easier not to take the effort, but I'm so glad she does.

Tonight we are honoring Eric Noah Wilson and his wife Natalie for all they've done for us in ZOE. We're having our party at the Smith's house. The Smith's bought the Minnie Pearl mansion several years ago. It's a really cool historic place and very warm and inviting. I suspect that has more to do with the Smith's than it does with Minnie!

Tomorrow we celebrate Father's Day at OC and then we'll head out to Arkansas. I won't be blogging this week. I'm sure I'll be back at it by Friday. I pray you all have a great weekend and a joy-filled week.

Friday, June 18, 2004

an addition to an already long blog--sorry.
Sheryl wrote some on her blog today. Check out her link. I wanted to print my response to her blog. I think all you out there who raise kids for a living deserve more credit...ESPECIALLY Sheryl. Here was my response:
AMEN! Great words, honey. It's amazing how fun the world is when we see it through their eyes. How amazing your job really is. You are impacting 2--no 3--lives in ways that you might not ever know by working somewhere else. They see you laugh. They hear you sing. They get to enjoy tackling you too cause you make yourself available to them. Never, ever underestimate the power of that job. It will last for generations. Thank you for being willing to take it when you could be doing so many other things with your gifts and talents. The thought that they are being extravagantly spent on our family is more than I could ever hope to ask for.

Loved the comments yesterday! I can't believe my wife wrote that comment. Too funny. Some of you may not know--my wife is secretly a comedian by night. Actually, there has never been a time I felt more glad to leave something as I did those costumes. Supposedly, they went to the dry cleaners on the ship each week. My guess is, the well intentioned dry cleaners (who spoke ZERO English, by the way. I know this because I tried to tell them once that they turned my favorite khaki pants pink and ended up in this hilarious exchange that only led to confusion.) only sprayed something on them each time and sent them back. I know it's TMI, but those things could have stood up by themselves.

As we approach Father's Day this weekend, I thought I'd list some things I really appreciated about my dad. He will have been gone 13 years this October. Hard to believe!
Here some things I loved about Sam Thomas:

*He loved to laugh. There were few things in life, besides family and things of God, that gave him more pleasure than pulling the ultimate practical joke. He was, in fact, infamous for these jokes.

*He was a great friend and mentor to people. My mom still gets letters from people who talk about the difference my father made for them. I used to sort of resent this because I felt like he was all things to all people, but now it's something that gives me such joy! He was this way because he had those kinds of people in his own life. In fact, one made such an impact (Scott Hayes) that he gave me my middle name in honor of him. Scott's influence on my father is what made me began going by my full name.

*He was my mom, to the Lord, to the Church. He served as an Elder and was a very wise man. He had an openness about him that only increased in later life.

*He liked to have me with him in all circumstances. He loved taking me to work. He never seemed too busy or too wrapped up in work to take care of us.

*He loved music. As a child he lost a good portion of his hearing to measles. So, along with that went most of his sense of pitch. Even so, he played the accordion in adolescence. Later in life he enjoyed playing the organ and an annoying degree. I remember the F# on our organ went out. I would lie in bed trying to go to sleep and hear my dad out playing a song. I would anticipate the notes coming and then instead of the F# being where it should be, the organ would play the F. It made my skin crawl.

*Throughout his battle with cancer he never lost faith in God. He never lost his sense of humor. In fact, the day he died, he played a trick on me. Knowing I hated snakes, he had placed an envelope on the movable eating tray near his hospital bed. He pointed to it and asked me to open it. It was one of those trick things where the rubber band was wound very tightly and when you opened it, it sounded like a rattle snake. I immediately dropped it in horror and he laughed and said... "Gotcha!"

In some ways it seems like a very long time. My dad never saw me graduate from ACU. He never saw me work as a professional actor or singer. He never knew of my adventures on the Caribbean Sea. (probably just as well!) He never knew of my near decade now in Nashville. He never met Sheryl. (He and Sheryl are peas in a pod. They would have probably disappeared on us going to work on crafts or talking about art techniques) He never knew his grandchildren. He never knew of ZOE, or our recordings, or our ministry. It's been 13 years. Some days it seems even longer, but in many ways it seems like only yesterday.

I typically try to avoid leading worship on Father's Day. Until my kids were born I dreaded that holiday--too many feelings of loss. Now, Father's Day means something different to me. It's a day to celebrate what God has miraculously given me. It's a day to celebrate a cherished relationship with my wife and cherished memories of my father. This Sunday I am leading--while dealing with conflicting emotions...grateful for my sweet children and still missing my own dad. (We'll sing "This Is My Father's World", my dad's favorite)

I'm thankful for several things today. I'm grateful that my dad left me a legacy of love. I'm grateful that he overcame a difficult relationship with his own father and was determined to be the dad he never had. I'm grateful that Sheryl's father is still living and that we'll get to see them this next week. I'm grateful for my sweet little girls who give me Eskimo and butterfly kisses every day. And, I'm grateful that my loving father gave me a healthy view of what God's love must be like. God--the Father to the fatherless! What a gift! Thank you, Lord!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I cracked up at some of the comments from yesterday. Awesome--some of you are coming on out of those shells. Love it! Yeah--I like food. I not only enjoy eating it--I love what happens in those times. The laugher, the sharing of a meal. I love it!

These blogs over the last few days are my attempt to "humor" things up a bit. I am about to share some CLASSIFIED information. I mentioned sequins yesterday. Do I have some stories! I share this stuff in an act of humility realizing how completely retarded it will make me sound.

I have been performing on stage since I was old enough to say words. As a kid I played kids parts in the local University theater program as well as school stuff. I got more and more involved and loved performing. I enjoyed acting, but loved singing even more. During college I auditioned to work for Walt Disney and was cast in a group--just not the one I wanted. I was disappointed, but in retrospect am glad I stayed in school and finished. After I graduated I decided to audition some more. The first one I went to was for Six Flags Over Texas. I got cast in the "Young Country" show there. I worked for 10 month doing that until I moved to the big broadway style show in the Southern Palace out there. Talk about a rude awakening! In my country show, there were 2 men and 2 women and we all shared a dressing room. I was so modest, I wouldn't even walk around the house with my shirt off, and here I was sharing a dressing room with these other people who, clearly, DID NOT feel the same way I did about such things. I'm not sure what was worse--enduring the dressing room scenario or having to wear Porter Waggoner style jackets with sequins, spangles, fringe--you name it. Eventually, when I moved to the Southern Palace we had huge dressing rooms all separate.

I worked for an equity theater in Fort Worth too (Casa Manana--similar to TPAC for all you Nashvillians). There are way too many stories to recount about that stint, but one day.

What I'd like to tell you about is being cast in a show for Norwegian Cruise Line. The Jean Ann Ryan Company held auditions in NYC, LA, Chicago, Dallas, and Toronto. I had already been cast in another show but decided to go to the audition anyway. To my complete surprise, the casting agent told me that she had a ship for me if I could leave in two weeks. I still remember my complete shock. I would be one of only two singers and a company of dancers from all over the US and Canada. Crazy!

I backed out of my other contract with Gaylord, packed my bags and flew to Ft. Lauderdale for the 6 weeks of rehearsal. This was potentially one of the most grueling times of my life. i felt like I was in boot camp. Never mind that in the "show biz" world I would barely consider myself a "singer who dances", I had to fake it as best I could. Learning a difficult tap routine, doing dance moves that only made me laugh inside my head (Janet Jackson style) at how I must look. Realizing that I could not hide behind the lead and hope the attention would be on him or her--I WAS the lead! It freaked me out.

We also had "weigh ins". Yes--someone at the beginning of the six weeks determined an ideal weight for us and we were to lift weights, diet, exercise and do whatever possible to look good. Little did I know why this would be important to me and my vanity!

I will never forget the nerve wracking plane ride to San Juan, which would be our home port. We all had our earphones on listening with no small sense of panic to every note and mapping out every dance move with our feet. We were to board the ship and have our first show that very night. We were a mess emotionally, physically--you name it.

THEN--after a crazy embarkation experience, we went straight to the dressing rooms where the moment of truth came. They had this rack of clothes in front of me and told me that we'd need to get a fitting on everything. I couldn't imagine how in the course of one or two shows I'd be able to wear all the things in front of me. (One of the shows required 9 costume changes for me.) The first show each week was called "A Tribute to Broadway" and it was very classic--tuxes, etc. The other show was called "Dance" and was considered the Las Vegas style show. I should have known right there that this ol boy was in trouble! When they pulled the nine costumes for that show out I literally said... "where are the rest of these costumes? There are clearly pieces missing!" I thought surely they wouldn't have me wearing some ridiculous sequin waste coast with NO SHIRT!!!??? Please! (This is where the light bulb went off in my head about weight lifting and exercise. It's amazing what public nudity of sorts will do for your motivation to exercise!) OK--so, not really nudity, but to me--yes, nudity. In that one show I had 3-4 different costumes that had a jacket of sorts but no shirt. If I hadn't been so emotionally scarred from the 6 week basic training rehearsal, I might have jumped overboard. There are many--MANY--more stories about this time in my life that won't be shared today or probably ever. It was a great growing experience for me professionally.

The schedule was the best part. Since Beverly and I were the leads, we had our own cabins and very relaxed schedules. The dancers in the show all had other staff duties like bingo and tours and well as having to share cabins. We did our Broadway show every Monday night and the Las Vegas show every Friday night. The days were spent trying to wake up my pectoral muscles, hanging out at the pool or going onto the various islands. My favorites were St. John, St. Lucia, St. Barth's and Virgin Gorda. We saw a lot of great places and I did experienced some wonderful diving. After a while the schedule became boring and we added other things to it like singing a jazz set with the band one night or singing on "country" night each week. I actually liked doing that. It reminded me of home and I was quite homesick.

I need to get to an end here because this is already long. It's just so hard to summarize such an experience in one blog. Over the course of that year I experienced loneliness in ways I had never known. Out of the 500-600 people working on the ship I knew of not one other person who claimed Jesus. Not one. I'm not talking just people who saw things the way I did--I mean NO ONE! There wasn't even a church service onboard. I remember at Easter they had a priest come on board and I was THRILLED. It was the first even hint of something I related to.

There was a girl in my cast who was a dancer named Audra. She and I had things in common and buddied up pretty quickly. We were really the only two who seemed to have an interest in staying moral--or even sane. There was never a romance there, just simply a great friendship. We called each other "bud" and she was my life saver on that ship. We ended up having many conversations about faith. She grew up Catholic, but hadn't been involved or interested. She seemed perplexed when I asked her to tell me about her faith. "There is nothing to tell," she said. In talking with Audra and Dominique and others in the cast who knew my convictions, it became clear to me the extent of the glass bubble I had built around myself. Audra and the others didn't care about worship styles or gender issues in leadership. They didn't know what communion was much less care about whether it was one cup or two or if someone sang a song during the bread. It was like I had awakened from this very deep coma. Wow! I had to get to the base of what I believed--and I had to struggle to discern what that was. (never mind that I was experiencing a coming back to the Lord myself at that time, but that's another week of blogs)

The good news is, after leaving the ship Audra was baptized and is a believer today. My small little Spiritual world was expanded and God used things like sequins and weigh-ins (which continued every single week we were employed--if we went over our assigned weight even twice, we were fired on the spot. No pressure) to show me that this world belongs to Him and that my cage needed to be rattled. Maybe this is why I have such little patience today for arguments that seem useless. Maybe this is why I feel such a burning passion for people who don't look, talk, or act like "we" do. Maybe this is why I feel like the thoughts and ideas coming from the emerging culture stuff are right on target. I don't know. I just know that there are days when I find myself daydreaming about being on the beach in St. Barth's or at the midnight buffet eating while realizing I'd have to live on the treadmill the entire next day--but not caring! I find myself daydreaming about such things and then the pictures of those costumes flash through my mind and I have to get up and shiver.

So, for people who say current worship stuff is "entertainment"...send 'em my way. I can set them straight about the entertainment world. The hearts of those leading in worship are so critical. There can be no self seeking. We must be certain of who receives the glory.

Ha--I just read back over this. I honestly can't believe I am about to hit the "publish post" button. Maybe one thing I have going for me on this blog is that it's so long most people won't make it through it anyway! Thanks for loving me. I thought recounting parts of this story might give some of you insights into the wacky guy I am today. Wackiness and retardation aside, it helped me be aware of those out there who don't speak Christian ease but still are interested in spiritual things...and they are many.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Last night we had another great dinner. What made it stand out wasn't so much that the food was great (I cooked). It was more who was there and the type of food we had. Growing up my parents used to make nachos with chips, grated cheese, fresh tomatoes, and sweet banana peppers from our garden. I loved it! Sheryl and I began a tradition of having "Saturday nachos" for lunch early in our marriage. It's easy to make and something I can usually do without ruining the meal. So--last night we had our "Saturday nachos" and for dessert we had the awesome home-made orange-pineapple ice cream.

The best part of it was the company. Juliet Bridgesmith and her daughters, Tess and Meg, shared a meal and some play time with us. Juliet is married to Lance (son of Larry and Linda who many of you know). Lance was a good friend at ACU as was Juliet. But, my friendship with Juliet goes back before we were even born. Our moms have known each other since ACU days--way back! It's fun to have friendships that go on and on. Their Tess and our Maddie have a sweet friendship.

The Won by One group from Pepperdine is here tonight. They will be singing and sharing with us. It's a little break from the norm of our Retreat to the Creek thing, but it will be a great night.

Talking about food up there reminds me of how much smells and tastes can trigger memories. For instance, Monday I was lathering Maddie with sunscreen at the pool and the smell of this particular brand took me immediately back to summers spent in New Braunfels, TX floating down the river and going down the "chute". Many of my favorite growing up times were spent there with dear friends. Eating those nachos last night made me feel like I was sitting in our dining room on a hot summer day in the country outside of Abilene, TX. hearing the windchimes blow outside.

I love the summer. I have always loved summer. What a rude awakening it was to me about 12 years ago when I graduated from college to realize that in the working world the only distinction between summer and the other seasons was the temperature. Maybe that's why I decided to go work for the Norwegian Cruise Line for a year. I find myself still taunted by the thrill of lazy summer days. Going to the pool, riding in a boat, water skiing, eating that awesome flavored shaved ice you could get off Judge Ely Blvd in Abilene--such temptations! My dad was a school principal and in those days, even principals had at least a month off in the summer. I loved our trips to New Braunfels. I enjoyed going to see my aunt Ruby and uncle Ralph in a small town near Waco where my father was raised...hearing endless ghost stories and urban legends. I loved the road trips in our hopelessly small Subaru having to endure my father driving WHILE PLAYING THE HARMONICA. How I wanted to chunk that thing out the window!

Summer is a time for making memories. Our kids should see us relaxing and having fun. They should remember things like we do. We need to learn the discipline of play. I want them to remember me being crazy at the zoo or sliding perilously down the Slip N Slide. Summer is a time for letting things go and being a little more relaxed. It's a time for making sure we soak in all of God's creation. Nashville may not be the Caribbean, but I'll take my life here with my 3 girls over life on the ship any ol day! (Besides, I don't have to wear sequins here...and on that note, I'll close)

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

forgot to mention--a couple of new pictures of rehearsal in my office over the weekend were posted on the picture site--click the photo link and once you're there click "back to ZOE pics". Have a great Tuesday!

Back at it this week. I have 2 weeks worth of worship orders to prepare since we are going to be in Arkansas the majority of next week. It will be a busy one.

I received an email from a friend this morning concerned about me after reading my blog entries over the last two days. Kimmy, who used to sing in our ministry here and now attends the People's Church which is closer to her house, has always been a great compass for me. I really miss her. Kimmy, if you're reading this and you and Wade Stapleton haven't gotten involved in the amazing music ministry out there yet, consider this a kick in the rear to allow them to be blessed by you as I have!

No need for worry. I sometimes feel exhausted about the pettiness of certain issues, but over the last year, I have been rejuvenated by a new passion and leadership from our Shepherds here to tackle the things that truly matter. I am SO blessed to be working under this leadership. I just wanted to try and spill out some of the things that were in my head after reading some of the comments. I should make a huge disclaimer at the top of this web page that says..."Warning, enter at your own risk! Spillage from the mind of BST ain't pretty!" :)

I thought I would close today telling you about a recent dream I had. Scott, who is a close friend and fellow minister here at Otter, is in training to be a "spiritual director". That may sound a little weird or different. Frankly, it's really just training to be the kind of minister we're all supposed to be--listening more than talking, praying for discernment, and dedicating yourself to prayer. Anyway--I shared this with him and he asked me what I would name the dream and helped me think through several parts of it. I named it "Hope".

In the dream I was sitting and Bud Arnold was in front of me. Bud died two years ago yesterday and was the music minister here for 30+ years before I came. He was a great mentor and fatherly figure for me. His wife, Bernie, holds a very special place in my heart and I often get to sit with her on Sunday mornings--one, because I know from my own mom how hard Sundays can be after losing a spouse, and two, because it is such a blessing for me to be around her. As Bud talked with me I was sobbing because I was so glad to see him and so heavy over the state of the world right now. I was asking him how long we have to wait, why Bernie has to endure such a hard road without him, how to continue being a leader and man of God, etc. In the background was a woman named Laurie Netterville who also attends OC. She was just standing in the background the entire time pointing toward the sky. Bud kept saying, "the time is almost here--not much longer now." (until the Lord returns) Laurie just was standing back there pointing to the heavens. Finally, at the end of my dream, there was this nuclear like explosion and that was it--Laurie had this huge smile and I was filled with this overwhelming sense of anticipation.

Weird, huh? Well, as I shared with Scott, he asked me if I was afraid of the end or death or something. I told him I wasn't--at lest to my knowledge. His read on it was that Bud representing someone in my past who held great hope and encouraged me toward the Lord. Laurie was the representative of the present and future--pointing to the heavens essentially saying, be ready! That's why I called it, "Hope". We live in a world that can easily suck us in with worries and concerns and everyday trials. We have to continue to live in a way that allows us to engage the people we meet and share the love of Christ with them while also keeping our eyes on Jesus and waiting in anticipation for His return.

I don't know if that is encouraging or not. It may be another one of those "for BST only" types of things that isn't meant to be shared. In any case, it left me feeling very encouraged and thankful for the people in my life who point me to Jesus. What a great cloud of witnesses surround us! This world is the Lord's--this world and everything in it. How grateful I am to serve an awesome Ruler who still holds my sinful heart in the palm of his hands and cares for me like a Shepherd. We are a blessed people!

Monday, June 14, 2004

What a great Monday! Today I had Ella duty (Ella has always been an early riser). She woke up around 6:15...but happy! Maddie was actually up too so we went downstairs and had eggs. I really missed them this weekend while we were recording. Sheryl came down around 7:45 to relieve me so I could catch some more zzzz's!

We went to the pool for most of the morning. Even though it was overcast, it was still fun. There's something so relaxing to me about being there.

This afternoon, Sheryl gave me the afternoon off and I went to see "Troy". I love going to the movie by myself--I know, I'm weird. I have heard mixed reviews about this movie, but I really loved it. I especially loved Hector. There's something about a character who is great in battle, a great dad and husband, and true to his family that is just inspiring. I came home feeling refreshed and like I had had a real day off. THANK YOU, HONEY!

Tonight we had one of the best dinners Sheryl has made. Awesome grilled shrimp in angel hair pasta with butter and garlic, hand cut, seasoned potatoes, and corn on the cob. YES! Have I mentioned I love food?

We read books with the girls and put them in bed. I just feel so thankful today for all of God's gifts--but especially for my family. It's more than I deserve.

I was thinking about some recent email and things from more than one person about hand clapping in worship. I was trying to figure out why it seemed so hard to muster any energy to have a conversation about that with anyone--scratch that--a debate. I think it occurred to me today that in my mind it feels akin to talking to someone about whether the Earth is round or flat. I pray God will forgive my impatience and bless me with words that are life giving. I just have to be really honest and say that those types of conversations make me feel that way. I see it as approaching the topic from two completely different pre-suppositions. If someone believed the Earth was flat and staked their faith on it, no amount of debate or conversation would be likely to convince them that we are really living on a round planet. Does anyone else feel that way?

I plan to continue to blog about the things that convict me, confuse me, produce joy in me, or make me frustrated. I don't expect to ever be without fault--at least in this life. However, there are issues that seem worth fighting for and then there are all the other things that we argue about.

Today, Father, I thank You for Jesus. I thank You for His blood that covers over our multitude of sins--mine included. I thank you for my family. I thank you for warm summer days. I thank you for the sound of my children laughing. I thank you for the warmth I feel when I hug my wife. I thank you for wanting our hearts more than our lip service and for holding my hand through the times when I have been guilty of not giving you all of me. I thank you for my brothers. Thank you for Aaron's encouragement today. Thank you for Daren's incredible news. Thank you for Stephen following Your call. Thank you for Scott and his faithful friendship. I am a blessed man. Praise your name for your ability and desire to do much more than we could ever ask or imagine. Do that today, Lord. In Nashville, in Abilene, in DFW, in Phoenix--show your power, O Lord!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Whew! What a weekend! We have been working really hard. We got a record 6 songs done this weekend. It has been very God inspired. I am excited about this project. The sound is very different and I have really enjoyed singing all these songs. I think our recording list is finally complete. Here's the tentative rundown...

--Blessed Be The Name of the Lord (Tree63)
--Hear Our Praises (Hillsongs)
--All Who Are Thirsty
--For All You've Done (O Cleanser...)
--Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy/ I Need Thee Every Hour
--Blessed Jesus
--So Are You To Me (East Mountain South)
--Still (Rueben Morgan) THANKS, RUSS!!
--Forever (Chris Tomlin)
--We Crown You With Adoration
--Your Grace Still Amazes Me
--Who Am I (Casting Crowns)
--Lord Have Mercy

That's it! We still have 3 songs left to record. But we'll do that in two weeks. Pete is going to sing "Who Am I" and I am really thrilled about how he sounds on it. Sheryl, Karin and JV are singing the East Mountain South song. Have you guys heard that CD? Unbelievable! I love it!!

Overall, a very productive weekend. We aren't recording tomorrow after all, thank the Lord! I missed my kids so much today. It was fun to come home and see them. We are grateful for people like Sheryl's cousin Kim, and our friends, Karin Speake and Lea Brown, for watching the girls this weekend.

Tonight my mind goes to Mike Cope for several reasons. Matt got married today. I know this has been extremely emotional for him. I've been thinking about them all day, wishing we could be home for the wedding.

The other reason he comes to mind is because he warned me that allowing comments would be a risky move. Clearly, based on the posted comment yesterday, he was right. However, I pray that we would continue to encourage each other to embrace what God has done and is doing in our world. These are exciting times. The movement of God's Spirit is evident. It encourages me and impacts me in ways that far outshine the sticks that will inevitably be thrown by those who disagree. I understand though. There are things out there that bother me too. It's good to allow space for conversation and long as it leads somewhere. Frankly, I'd rather spend my time and energy reaching out to a culture who desires to see Jesus in action instead of debating whether we should clap hands in worship or not.

I just earnestly pray that one day we will move beyond these surface debates and move on to being the radical disciples we've been called to be. The trick lies in perception. There are many who might define discipleship as getting all the rules right (never mind that many of the rules are made by man). To many others, discipleship is something much deeper. It is worship in daily life. It is the earnest struggle to be salt and light in a world that desperately needs Jesus, whether they realize it or not. It is walking in the confidence that God is alive and active in our lives and in our world. Sometimes the two meet. But, it makes me sad that there are those who waste so much time, not only on their own legalism, but policing the "brotherhood".

Some of you might be shocked at those words. I honestly don't mean them to be mean spirited. I pray that we will enjoy a greater sense of unity in the days to come so that we can win more souls to Christ. There are so many people searching. Don't we have better things to do than argue with each other? Let's get off our cans and do something.

Lord, help me to put my money where my mouth is!

Friday, June 11, 2004

We're preparing for the recording tonight. Peter flew in last night and is here with me this morning. We've been listening to music and trying to think through arrangements and more song possibilities. It will be a very full weekend.

Our building is about to become home to another group of believers. A group from St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church (known around Nashville as "St. B's") will be worshiping here on Sunday nights. St. B's has always been an interesting place...really an Episcopal church with incredible praise and worship. After some disappointments with the direction of the national Episcopal Church, a large group is leaving to begin a new work. Over the coming months we plan to integrate some. Our monthly Celebration Sunday night worship time will be a mixture of the two in every way. We plan to have some pulpit swaps and fellowship gatherings. We just want to be warm and welcoming and help these fellow believers as they journey to a new home. I'll keep you posted. No doubt, it should be interesting!

This Sunday Lee Camp will be preaching. Lee and his family have been at Otter Creek for a while. I really appreciate who he is. We are going to concentrate on the Lord's prayer. I'm looking forward to it.

Thank you for your prayers this weekend. Thank you for lifting us up. Please pray that our hearts will be at rest before the Lord and that our voices will endure a very grueling three days. Thank you!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I've been thinking a lot about family lately. Maybe it's because Father's Day is approaching, not sure. I am just grateful to God for the closeness we all share. We feel the miles setting us apart from both sides of our family. I wish things were different there. We're thinking through some ways to change that with regard to my mom. It's exciting and scary at the same time. My Aunt Vickie sent me an email yesterday again reminding me of the blessing of kinship. Sheryl and I head to Arkansas next week to be with her folks. I guess I am just feeling thankful that God has blessed us with sweet relationships inside our immediate families. Too many people don't have that.

We have an overstuffed yellow chair in Ella's room. I went in this morning when she woke up (it was my turn today) and sat with her in the chair. She was still a little sleepy and pretty cuddly. I was sitting there trying to soak it in. There will be a day when Ella won't want to do that. I want to enjoy it while I can.

Last night Mark Love spoke about the Biblical meaning of peace. He said it was about wholeness and bringing all aspects of life together. Sometimes we are different people depending on where we are. God longs for there to be congruence in our lives. It brings peace and rest. It was a great word for us.

We are preparing to do the marathon studio session this weekend. Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. What was that about Sabbath? Please pray that our hearts will be focused and that our voices hold up. We covet your prayers.

I'll close today with these words from Fenelon probably from around the early 1700's.

Lift up your heart to God. He will purify, enlighten, and direct you. David said, "I have set the Lord always before me." Repeat his beautiful words, "Whom have I in heaven but You, and there is none on earth I desire that compares with you."

Do not wait for the time when you can shut the door without interruption. The moment you long for inward prayer is enough to bring you into God's presence. Turn toward God simply, trustfully, and with familiarity. Even in those moments you are most interrupted, you can turn toward your Father. Instead of being annoyed by unprofitable talk, you can find relief in finding a moment of inward fellowship with God.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

life lesson #310,243:

When meeting with a minister from the local Messianic Jewish Congregation try to pick a place to eat OTHER than Corky's BBQ which specializes in pork BBQ. Thanks, Scott. Good job.

I had a great phone conversation last night with a friend who is an English professor at ACU about blogs. This is a good exercise for me. I would recommend it for anyone. Beyond talking blogs, we laughed and talked about our kids and the challenges of staying in touch with each other. Kyle Dickson and I have known each other almost our entire lives. There are just some friends who are woven into our tapestry of life in a way that even time and distance can't remove.

Last night I dreamed about Jeannette and Harold Lipford, a dear family in Abilene who has meant so much to me. Jeannette was my voice coach for years. Harold spoke at my father's funeral. I miss them.

I grew up hearing stories. My parents were educators and read to me almost every day of my childhood. But beyond the written word, I heard family stories of even greater drama and color. My Aunt Dot, affectionately known as my "crazy" Aunt Dot because of her wild and colorful personality, used to tell me stories of grandparents, great grandparents, great Aunts who had lost their minds and whacked kids with canes, relatives who were highly influential, and relatives who had "gone off the deep end". Certainly, most of these stories were stretched more than a little. But, I LOVED them. I would sit and listen with big eyes as she and my dad would paint these pictures in my mind of their childhood and all their adventures.

My dad was the youngest. My grandparents would leave her in charge of my father and as soon as they were gone she'd call her boyfriend to come over and they'd drive off leaving my father on the curb. What's worse is she'd holler back over her shoulder... "Don't let Shiny Eyes and Bloody Bones getcha!!" This fictitious character (who supposedly lived in the attic--where all scary creatures live) created much terror for my father in those days. Some of you might be feeling like that was a terrible thing or even border line child abuse. You might be right. However, it became fodder for some great story telling and always brought a laugh with our family.

My dad's family were "water fighters". There are stories beyond what I can recount here of endless summer water fights. Even one when my dad brought home a girl from ACU who the family couldn't stand. They began a water fight and that was the end of her. Thank goodness!

Stories are important. We need a place to write them down, to tell them, to keep those mysteries alive. I remember driving the old country road to my parents' house one afternoon to see my dad who was near the end of his struggle with cancer (I was 21). I remember vividly having a realization that my dad would only exist in stories for my future wife and children. This man whom I adored and who changed so many peoples' lives would become a story to them. It infuriated me. I got out of the car and screamed crying. It might have been the first time I admitted that he wouldn't make it. I can still feel the pain of that moment.

Jesus was the ultimate story teller. He masterfully told tales about farmers, crops, thieves, and people some might consider "questionable". His way of disarming and challenging people strikes a chord with me. Our culture today responds to stories. We have something to share. There are stories of faith, stories of struggle, stories of victory and loss. Overall, the One Great Hero prevails...even through the climactic moments when you think there'll be no escape. That story has saved my life. Through tragedy, loss, hopelessness, the seemingly irremovable thorns, sin, births, deaths, laughter, and tears, I hold on to the conviction that this story is true. It's not something we tell ourselves in order to feel better. It really happened. Jesus really did die and live again. Isn't that something worth sharing?

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I didn't really have the time or even energy to blog yesterday. It was a long one in many ways, but also good. I find I am constantly faced with the awareness that I am only a dim reflection of the things I long to be--husband, father, pastor, friend. Thank God that He is in the transforming business.

Sunday went so well. I honestly thought it might be one of the all time best sermons I had heard from Tim. You can check out his sermon on the OC web page--I think you can even order it. It's worth it.

At the first service we did something that made me think about the recent Mike Cope blog and comments. Tim mentioned something about Memorial Day and having people stand and show their appreciation of those who were serving. Even as I write, I am struck with the argument inside me about the appropriateness of such a gesture. I am so very grateful. I am so thankful for those who would suffer the horrors of war to ensure my freedom. I guess I still feel, on a deeper level, the conviction of knowing that becoming a Christian doesn't necessarily make me a better citizen of the country to which I belong. I agree with Mike that in many ways I have more in common with the Kenyan who lives in a hut and professes a deep, heartfelt faith in Jesus than I do with someone who lives in Brentwood, TN who will have nothing to do with Jesus. Some of the words spoken Sunday morning went like this...
"It's because of those men who suffered for us that we enjoy the privilege of meeting like this in worship and freedom."
My mind went immediately to the One who suffered to make that happen. As we stood and people were applauding these men who went to war for our country (for which I am grateful), it struck me as the deepest kind of irony. We gather as Christians in worship not to pledge allegiance to a nation or a flag. We gather instead as those called to be aliens. It's a weird line to walk, isn't it? As people were applauding, I thought of all the people clapping so fiercely for men-- who would be offended by the same outpouring of emotion about Jesus. I'm certain that I don't fully understand how it feels to go to war, but I also know that we have to continue to ask the question of whom we honor with heart, soul, mind,and strength. Before we sang Above All at the second service, I offered this pledge...

I pledge allegiance to the Son--the Father and the Holy Spirit.
And to the Church for which He died,
one family,
called by God,
united in love,
with liberty and freedom from sin for all.

I know that it sounds a little cheesy...sometimes God gives us things like that in our hearts for OUR OWN benefit and they are not meant to be shared. Sometimes I fail in knowing which is which, but I shared it anyway. (It sort of sounds like a Ray Boltz song. Help me!!) I just continue to believe that this calling is not, as some have made it out to be, an American calling. It's not a suburban calling. It's not an upper-middle class calling. It's not a calling for those who desire to live an ethical life. We are to be radical transformers walking as Jesus did (1 John 2:6). I admit, I am still working this out in my own life and faith with fear and trembling.

The other thing that hit me yesterday was the need our world seems to have for community and accountability. That may seem weird--especially the latter part. However, I was watching this documentary on Dr. Phil (ok, documentary is making it sound more highbrow than it should...I admit was E! True Hollywood Story) and the thing they kept saying over and over about the success of his show was that people kept writing in saying things like, "I want Dr. Phil to tell me how it is". He has built his success on peoples' needs for tough love and real, honest, and hopefully (from their perspective) life changing truth. Isn't that interesting? Isn't that what we are supposed to be for each other? It's another reminder to me of the things we need to improve in our faith communities so that people won't have to search for it in places like the Dr. Phil show. However, and more powerfully, we aren't called to just diagnose the problem and send them on their way, we are called to live in community with each other. This may mean messiness at times. It may mean that we don't have the "quick fix". It may mean that we sit silently in tears and prayer with someone dealing with loss or illness instead of giving them a trite "spiritual" one liner and sending them on their way--essentially saying, "be warmed and filled". This is not an easy road we're called to. It's certainly not a seminar on self-help. We are called to strip ourselves, take our cross, deny our will, lay our lives down for our brothers and sisters, to forgive--even the worst of hurts, to extend mercy--even when it seems undeserved, to never become comfortable in our search for the deeper things of God, to be bold--even when it's unpopular--and on and on. I need that reminder today. I am a man in need of transformation. I am a man in need of death to my will. I am a man in need of more boldness to become, in stronger ways, the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. In the end, I am only a man. But let it be said of me--of us--that we lived hungering and thirsting for more and more of Jesus and a life that exhibits our faith in Him.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

This one's for Debbie and anyone else who had salivated over the thought of Orange Pineapple homemade ice cream!

This recipe is for a gallon ice cream maker (if yours is a half gallon, simply split the recipe. While this may seem obvious to most, remember, I am a man.)

--1 20oz can of CRUSHED pineapple (even after telling me this last night, I ended up coming home with regular pineapple)
--2 cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
--2 liter of orange soda--any brand

Mix it all in and let 'er rip.

It took far too long to make the ice cream last night, but once it was made, it was a dream! Thank you, Lord, for such wonderful tastes! Thank you, Sheryl, for making it!

We sat and watched the all the coverage on Ronald Reagan. It was pretty cool, I thought. Alzhiemer's disease is so sad. How devastating to forget everything. Not so much about the things one has accomplished, but more the people one holds dear. Sad.

This morning we are talking about hope again. Hope brought on by resurrection. Hope of eternal life. Hope because of God's faithfulness. Someone told me recently that moderns are characterized by hope while post-moderns are characterized by a lack of hope. It bothered me. It almost made me feel apologetic for having hope in Christ. Then I remembered these words...

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Would we be accused of having hope? Would we be ready to say why?

We're singing some great songs this morning like,
You Are Holy
Days of Elijah
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
You Shine
Above All
For the Lord is a Righteous God
and an oldie but goodie...There is a Habitation

For all you old ACU folks, I can never sing There is a Habitation without thinking about Reg Cox. We rarely sing it, but it seemed to fit today.

May the Lord bless and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace and hope in the true and living God.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Saturday highlights
--Ella sleeping in until 7:30 (only because Sheryl was up with her for an hour from 4:30-5:30)

--going to Kinsey Wilson's birthday party complete with pony rides, bubbles, colored chalk, hotdogs, cowgirl hats, scarves, and awesome birthday cake (it's all about the cake). The girls had a blast!

--watching Shrek (#1) and laughing at the girls busting a move in that final sequence of music. The video has some incredible extras at the end that the original movie didn't have. My favorite shtick is still "Do you know the Muffin Man?" "The Muffin Man?" "The Muffin Man!"

--going to the pool with Paul, Jill, Mack, and Champ Young. Always eventful. Sheryl is trying to potty train and I am trying my best to help. Of course, after a day of coercing Maddie to go in the potty, she waited til she was swimming. I'm talking a day's worth--both ways--you got me?

--back home for pre-bed snacks, songs, tickles, prayers, and a brand new answering machine message. :)

--and now--the perfect way to end my day...Sheryl and I are about to make Deanna Carney's recipe of home-made orange pineapple ice cream. If I die in my sleep tonight I will have lived a full life in one day.


Friday, June 04, 2004

I have added a link to Ryan's blog for your entertainment. Ryan worked for Disney for several years and now works for Pepperdine. He should quit and start writing comedy.

I have also added a link to a blog by a woman named Jen Lemen. I don't know her personally, but after the emergent convention, I have enjoyed reading her thoughts. She is a part of some emergent women's leadership groups and providing some important fodder for discussion in these times. I'd recommend her blog for any women in leadership out there--actually, for anyone.

We had a great rehearsal last night. The songs we are certain on at this point are:
*Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord (Matt Redman/Tree 63)--already recorded
*All Who Are Thirsty--already recorded
*For All You've Done (O, Cleanser of the mess..)--already recorded
*Hear Our Praises--already recorded
*Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy/ I Need Thee Every Hour (Fernando Ortega)
*So Are You To Me (East Mountain South)
*Your Grace Still Amazes Me
*Blessed Jesus

We have a few more in the works, but these are certain. If anyone has any more suggestions, I'm really open to them.

A busy day ahead. Lunch meeting, hair cut (desperately needed), meeting at Reunion Records with Jason to listen to some new songs, and then tonight I get to play with my kids while Sheryl has a girls' night out. I am really excited about tonight on a lot of different levels. I will have a blast with my kids and Sheryl will get a much deserved break with fun friends.

I'll close today with something written on a handout given to us at the Emergent Conference. I will share more of it later, but I hope this blesses your day. It's from a sheet called "Road Details" describing some of the journey we're all on.

This is the road that reminds us to listen to all, be good for all, to bless take a sad song and make it better. This is not some open-ended, "anything goes" road; this is the road for those who have faith in Jesus and live life in the way of Jesus.

This is not a time for self-flagellation; it's a time to walk through the wide-open doors of this world. Instead, watch for the unmarked places where the goodness of God is found!

Thursday, June 03, 2004

ok--I just read one of the funniest blog entires ever. My life long buddy, Ryan Williamson who lives with his wife Sarah and their kids Sydney and Jack in Malibu wrote some pretty funny stuff. Check out his blog--

Last night went really well. As people came in we had Fernando Ortega's Hymns CD playing.(If you haven't heard this CD, it's a must have. Thank you, Merritt, for sending it to me.) Trina found a cool graphic (seen on our Otter Creek web site under the worship ministry page) of a rocking chair that we are using for the series. I wanted to promote the idea of rest, peace, and comfort. On stage we had a large rocking chair, a small table beside it with candles and on the other side a taller table with a soft lamp. Around the sanctuary were a couple of other "stations" with candles and crosses and things. As people came in, I wanted them to instantly feel peace.

The night went well. We spread out the shepherds at the different stations and many people went for prayer. It was definitely a different feel from the Summer Life concert and event schedule we've had over the last 8 years. It seemed refreshing--at least to me.

Afterwards we had a home-made ice cream social. MY FAVORITE! I have a new favorite flavor of home-made ice cream thanks to Deanna Carney...ORANGE PINEAPPLE! I think I ate about 70% of it. I think it's something like evaporated milk, crushed pineapple and a bottle of Orange Crush. That is what I want for my last meal.

Last night I got home around 9pm or so after being gone 13 hours. Wednesdays are always long days. Sheryl does such a great job of being the single parent on those days and also helping me stay encouraged. We talked a little last night and then I had one of the most hilarious phone conversations I've ever had with Paul and Jill Young. I can't even tell you why we were laughing so hard--mostly to do with the movie that scarred me for life and the unfortunate event Jill experienced yesterday when the woman in front of her ordered an Icy from this nice foreign man at the Farmer's Market. He got the cup too full and after putting the lid on, proceeded to SLURP off the excess off the top of the lid. Jill said the woman was just stunned. I think I made myself sick laughing with them. I love laughter and how it can just make you feel alive.

This morning we had a meeting at the label to see final art on the new project. I am going to include it on my pictures link. -----> once you get there click on "back to ZOE pics". I really love the direction. There might be some font size changes and other small additions, but basically, this will be it. I'd love to hear your feedback.

This afternoon I am having lunch with Randy Gill, Keith Lancaster, and Ken Young. We're meeting out in Franklin to welcome Ken. I am blessed by those guys. All of them so talented and such lovers of Jesus.

Tonight we have rehearsal for our next round of recording next weekend. We're getting there. Maddie is excited that ZOE is coming over (remember, they are HER friends) but even more excited that Aunt Kiki is coming to play with them while we rehearse. Many of you have met Kim (Sheryl's cousin) who travels with us on most ZOE trips helping with the kids. We're blessed to have her in Nashville.

As I left home this morning, the kiddie pool and Slip 'n Slide were beaconing me to stay and play. I am so thankful that Sheryl works hard to provide an environment of learning and fun at our house. Hopefully, I'll get some time on that Slip 'n Slide this weekend!

Have a great day, everyone. Don't forget to check out that art work. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My wife has joined the world of bloggers. Mr. Blog 'aint no fool. A lot of blogs out there require you to have a blog site before you can respond or comment to someone else's blog. I am just thankful that Sheryl took the bait and is adding to the fun. I know you'll enjoy reading her thoughts too. She has some great stories to share. I added a link to her site-->

Last night I spent time with Reco, Kyle and Jeff McInturff, all life group brothers. It was fun. We ate at Chang's and saw a movie. I will never, ever tell what movie we saw. I am irreparably scarred for life. Seriously. Scarred. For life. Seriously.

Tonight we begin our Retreat to the Creek series for the summer. In June we will be talking about peace and rest in a stressful world. We run so hard and do so much that often we forget to stop and listen for that still small voice. We'll be having some worship, some teaching, and some prayer stations. I hope it's meaningful to people. Afterwards, we're having homemade ice cream, possibly my favorite dessert of ALL TIME!

Question for the day...what's your favorite song right now?(worship/CCM/Secular-doesn't matter) Why do you like it?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Thursday addition--
Today is JUNE 1! That means our first nationally distributed project is released today. It's a big day for us. Thanks for celebrating with us. I went to Google and did a search for "When the Music Fades ZOE Worship" and was surprised at how much is out there already. Just like anything--you get the positive and the negative. Here was one review that was encouraging:
Zoe Worship--When The Music Fades
Zoe Group

Zoe Group is a fairly unknown ensemble based out of Nashville, TN that was first introduced to the Christian music scene via the inclusion of their version of "Be Still My Soul" on last year’s compilation CD (and companion to Max Lucado’s book of the same name) entitled Next Door Savior . While worship projects have become ‘trendy,’ this new release is a breath of fresh air as it offers up familiar modern worship songs (such as "A New Anointing," "The Heart of Worship," and "All The Heavens") in beautiful a capella arrangements. While this reviewer normally only likes a capella music in very small doses, I have to admit I’m constantly hitting the repeat button on the CD player while listening to the Zoe Group. Great songs, great arrangements, and a great value, too at under $10 (for a limited time).

Thank you, Lord! May any glory go back to You.

I am about to head into our staff meeting. There is much to accomplish today. We're beginning our "Retreat to the Creek" tomorrow night. It begins our summer series on Wednesday nights.

Blogs. Interesting things, these blogs. I find it a daily challenge to pour out the thoughts in my head in a way that will be beneficial while still staying as raw and honest as possible. As in any ministry, there are things that can consume our ministerial lives that just aren't appropriate to share on a public blog. Much of my last 5 months has been like that. Just wanted to throw that out. Some people expect one thing out of blogs and others maybe something completely different. I guess my goal in the beginning and now is to write about thoughts and questions, encounters and events in a way that will bring a human element to a ministry that can be pretty public at times. Some days I do ok at this, other days not so much. I guess that's the cool thing about blogs--they are a spilling out of thoughts. I don't want to try and manipulate the thoughts I pour out here. I hope each of you who read this will continue to bear with me as I journey.

My wife, Sheryl, isn't feeling well today. If you have a moment to pray for her, please do. She does a great job at being my partner in leading our family. I am thankful for all she does, but more so for who she is.

I am reading a book I picked up at the yard sale over the weekend. It's called In the Name of Jesus and is by one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen. I'd like to share this quote with you today because the truth of this seems to ring through my bones. Nouwen wrote this after leaving Harvard to work at L'Arche, a community for the mentally disabled. Much of the status he had enjoyed up to that point in the public world of ministry was found to be lacking in helping to minister to this new family. This is one of those paragraphs I need to cut out and tape to my mirror where I can read it every morning.

"I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and have chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life."