Tuesday, August 31, 2004

OK, a word on creamed corn. If the world is going to be using this, I want to make sure everyone understands its roots. My buddy, Deanna Carney, brought us this awesome creamed corn from a Mennonite farm in TN. I wrote about it several times and then wrote about the creamed corn we used to enjoy in Groesbeck, TX at my aunt Ruby's house. I love creamed corn. I know--I am weird. When I lived in Nashville the first time and worked at Reunion Records, I basically lived on canned creamed corn--it was cheap. So, it has a positive meaning to me. I realized one day that I was writing about things like creamed corn and completely avoiding writing about the very, very difficult things I was going through in ministry. Those weren't appropriate to write about. Usually, some of the hardest parts of ministry are people related and to write about it would be almost slanderous. Even when I have written trying to be as vague as possible and protect identities I have gotten blasted--and I mean blasted. So--creamed corn became a phrase I began to use that was sort of code in saying, I-really-can't-talk-about-what-I-want-to-talk-about-so-I-will-write-about-creamed-corn! HA! There you have it. The official explanation of the new phrase making its way into every home in America (kidding). I guess one could say that this word has become a pejoration. Look it up. :)

So, last night at MTSU. Interesting. We had some sound issues--with the system and with us. Having said that, it was a wonderful night. That campus ministry is doing some amazing things. How exciting to be with students who really worship! Tomorrow I am leading worship at Lipscomb University's chapel. It will probably be a different kind of experience. But, I am looking forward to that too.

Here are a couple of pics from last night--

The Desperate CD has finally arrived!!! I am getting my first copy tomorrow. It's been a long road and it's always nice to finally see the finished product. Praise the Lord!

This afternoon my family is gathered in Groesbeck, TX for my aunt Ruby's funeral. I miss being there. I can't believe they are all there and I am not. But--I am at peace that this was the right decision. I will be in Dallas next week and will drive to Groesbeck. That will allow me some personal time at the cemetery at my father's grave and everyone else's.

One funny story I was remembering--besides the cemetery frights, hide-and-go-seek in the old barn, 4th of July fire works, etc--is that my dad told me that when he was a boy he'd play tricks on Aunt Ruby. She would get so mad at him that she's chase him down the street chunking used, shucked corn cobs at him as hard as she could. He got hit a few times and barely recovered. The woman had some serious guts. She loved to laugh, she loved to tease, she loved to talk about family, she loved the lake and her trot lines. She was really something. We'll miss you, Aunt Ruby!

Monday, August 30, 2004

Today was the perfect Zoo day! Sheryl was so smart to buy the season passes. We met Jill, Mack and Champ out there and the kids all played and screamed for a couple of hours. It was a fun day except for a goat with some attitude who didn't appreciate Maddie touching it's horns. (petting zoo part)

I have decided not to go to Groesbeck tomorrow. It was a really hard decision and I am, even now, vacillating back and forth on it. However, I think it's for the best. My heart will certainly be there tomorrow. I think I will be able to visit the cemetery in a couple of weeks.

I had such a serendipitous experience on my way home. My best friend and brother, Stephen, lives in the DFW area with his family. I was delayed because of weather and had a 2 1/2 hour layover. It was the perfect amount of time for Chili's and fellowship! Actually, fellowship seems trite in describing that afternoon. There's no way to describe my friendship with Stephen. He was my roommate through ACU and afterwards--even in Nashville. He counseled me through many things. He has been a brother through very difficult times. When we're together, we just pick right back up. I probably either talk to or email my 3 college roommates at least once a week. Those guys have remained my closest friends. We've seen each other through a lot--good and bad. My heart has been heavy for the Baileys over the last month. It was so great to see him and hear how God is working. What a blessing we have in the family of God. (that sounds kind of corny, but how else can you say it? It really is amazing.)

Tonight we sing for the Christian Student Center at MTSU--a huge university outside Nashville. This is our 3rd year to do this welcome back to school party. The first time I went, I had really low expectations. I don't know why. I was completely BLOWN away! It has been a highlight of my summer ever since. Those students pack the place and their passion is hard to describe. They are just extremely on fire for Jesus. It should be a great night.

Father, God, thank you for family. Thank you for my aunt Ruby who loved you and was faithful to you. Thank you for her spry attitude. Thank you for making her ornery. Thank you for the splinters she pulled out of my feet over the years (not very carefully, I might add). Thank you for the way she loved my father and my family. Thank you for Frankie who has taken such great care of her for the last 10+ years. Thank you, Lord, for that cemetery. Such a beautiful place of peace. Thank you for the heritage that it represents to me. Thank you that the grave is NOT the end.

Thank you for family like Stephen and so many others who are siblings in Christ to me. Praise your name for filling my life with these who have been your voice, arms, and legs for me over the years. I am truly blessed.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I got word yesterday that my Aunt Ruby died. This is my aunt who lives in Groesbeck, TX...close to Waco. I wrote about the many childhood memories I have from our visits there. It's a very sad loss. It's the end of an era. No more Thomas family in Groesbeck--except for a host of relatives buried there...including my father. I want to go so badly, I just don't think we can afford the ticket. I am also not sure I would feel good about leaving Sheryl to be SUPERMOM for another couple of days. I don't know...Please pray about this for me. The thought of missing that funeral and being with my relatives as they gather there is really weighing on me. I haven't been to my dad's grave in several years. I'd really like to go. I just need some wisdom in making these decisions.

What an amazing morning it's been! WOW! Tim is preaching on the baptism of Jesus and specifically on God's words to him...You are my Son...I am pleased with You...I love You. He spent the morning talking about our own baptism experience and that we should be hearing the same words--they should be life shaping. What a powerful message! We sane songs like "I Will Praise You", "You Are Holy", "What the Lord Has Done In Me", and "I Will Change Your Name". I honestly think it's one of the most encouraging mornings we've had in some time. I borrowed this from a poster in my office and wanted to post the version we did today as a congregational reading.

As Believers We Are:
Saved by grace through faith—Romans 5:1,2
Forgiven--Eph 1:7
Accepted--Rom 15:7

Beloved of God--Rom 1:7

Servants of the Most High God--Acts 16:17
New Creatures--2 Cor 5:17
Dead to Sin--Rom 6:11
Alive to God--Rom 6:11

Walking in the Newness of Life--Rom 6:4
Baptized into Christ Jesus--Rom 6:3
The Temple of the Holy Spirit--1 Cor 6:19
Clothed with Christ--Gal 3:27

Holy--Heb 3:1
Blameless- 1Cor 1:8
At Peace with God--Rom5:1
Christians--Acts 11:26
Born Again--1 Peter 1:23

Partakers of the Divine Nature--2 Peter 1:4
Empowered by God-- Eph 3:20
Children of Promise--Gal 4:28
One in Him--Gal 3:28
The Body of Christ--1 Cor 12:27

Vessels of Honor--2 Tim 2:21
Salt of the Earth--Matt 5:13
Light of the World--Matt 5:14

Seated in Heaven--Eph 2:6
Kingdom Citizens--Phil 3:20
A Royal Priesthood--1 Peter 2:9

Soldiers of Christ--2 Tim 2:3
Fishers of Men--Mark1:17
Ministers of Reconciliation--2 Cor 5:18
Victorious!-- 1 Cor 15:57

God bless your day of worship and rest. Thanks for your prayers. God is good.

It’s been a great weekend. It seems like it’s been longer than three days. My time with Jeff and Carol was especially meaningful. Life certainly does change. I remember before we all had kids how easy it was to get together and visit. But, our energies and our time is split now…as it should be. It was nice to be around their entire family and to watch Jeff and Carol parent. They are great parents and their kids obviously adore them.

Thursday night I had Mamasita’s Mexican food. Oh my. It was so delicious. Sorry, Rose Pepper Cantina—but there is truly nothing like Mexican food in San Antonio. I mean, for that matter, Taco Cabana was a welcomed sight!

My time with the Elders, staff, and worship committee at the Northside Church was good. They are blessed to have great elders. I was encouraged by being with them. Thanks for your prayers about that. I hope what I had to offer was of help.

Before I left I ordered a couple of Christmas Musicals trying to figure out what we are going to do this year. I have come to discover that we are an even “odder” duck (or otter—ok enough) than I once thought. There just aren’t many things out there that fit us. I want something fresh, hip and a little edgy. Apparently, I am in the .00001% of churches in America with that desire. So many of these published musicals and concerts out there by WORD and others are just either canned sounding or plain ol borning. Last year we turned a youth musical into our Christmas production. It was based on the City on a Hill Christmas CD. We basically just recreated it with our own band, stage, lights, and singers. I was really cool. Year before last we did that except I took the Avalon Christmas CD and made it into a Christmas show.

This year I ordered a preview pack of King of Glory, King of Love. It was put together by some guys I really like. Travis Cottrell leads worship at Belmont Church where I used to go and leads for the Women of Faith Conferences and Beth Moore Conferences. He’s a great guy and one of my favorite worship leaders. He wrote some of the stuff in this musical and arranged it. Dave Williamson orchestrated it. Overall, I love it. I was so surprised to love it, but I do. There are a couple of things we’ll take out or substitute, but most of it is wonderful. It starts off more contemplative with a song called “Hunger and Thirst”. Given that this has been a year of searching for me, I really love the feel of that and the lyric.

There are other cool songs in it like the totally hot worship song, “Resonate Your Glory”, the Avalon hit, “Everything to Me” and a cool medley of a song called “Come with Love” paired with the Jernigan classic, “When the Night is Falling”. There are also lots of great Christmasy songs.

I have already listened through this CD probably 20 times. I don’t mind going to all the trouble to do a big concert or production as long as it’s something that energizes me and pumps me up. This is doing that for me. I may also try and bring our friends over from the Temple Church again. (An amazing African American choir that completely makes you want to do backflips.) We’ll start rehearsing in a month or so. It will be interesting to see how Wednesday nights go since we are basically moving our Saturday night service to Wednesdays this fall.

One last note. Maddie is proud of her poop. It’s the first thing she tells people. “I went poo-poo in the potty!!” Um..well! Yes, yes, you did. Yesterday when I talked to her on the phone she boldly proclaimed that she had indeed gone poo-poo in the potty and clogged it. Nice. I’d love to continue down that road for a moment, but I am trying to refrain myself…believe it or not.

Sheryl has done a great job of being Super mom this weekend. I am so grateful to her. I have missed her. It will be great to get back and see them all.

How can it possibly be Sunday again tomorrow? It seems like it’s always Sunday! It will be a great day of worship. I pray we all give our entire hearts in worship not only tomorrow, but every day.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Greetings from San Antonio. Had a great flight--way too early though. I had a nice lunch with Jeff and we talked about Oak Hills, OC and everything in between. Our friendship goes back at least 16 years. There's never a shortage of conversation. Jeff is a dear brother and mentor. I'm thankful for him.

I got to see some other folks from Nashville as we came back to the house. There was a filming going on with Lucado in the living room. Some of the guys doing the filming are buddies from Nashville. Watch for this DVD. I think it's going to be called Healing Rain and will be released with MWS's song of that same title. It was good to have a moment to visit with Max. His ministry is certainly far reaching.

Last night with Keaggy was really awesome. The man is 53--what a voice! Man. We had a very meaningful time of prayer before the concert and some good visit time afterwards. Bernadette was there and looking as beautiful as always.

Sheryl is doing SUPER mom duty this weekend. Keep her in your prayers. I am constantly amazed that I scored someone like her. Thank you, LORD!

Tonight I will immerse myself in Mexican food. REAL Mexican food. Tomorrow brings on the consulting time with the Northside Church here in SA. Thanks for your prayers. Keep em going! I'm still not feeling 100% and need to for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Maddie loves to dress up. She loves make up. She adores eye shadow. She is a true girly girl. Sheryl paints her face into characters all the time. I finally figured out a way to post some pictures. Hope you enjoy them!

My sweet Ella! Her first point is scored by wearing a bib with a Texas theme! She just gets cuter every day! Love that girl!

I will try and get some more pics in here at some point. Pics of Sheryl!

Tonight we have the amazing Phil Keaggy at Otter Creek.

It should be a wonderful night.

I am preparing for San Antonio--thank you for your prayers on that. Please keep them up. I have the "crud" again. I just can't seem to shake this nasty Summer cold. Much thanks to my brother Phillip Duncan. He brought me a Rice Krispy treat yesterday the size of a small house. Thanks, Phillip!

Have a blessed day. I will try and blog some over the coming days if I can.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tonight we celebrated with friends. Ryan and Sarah Williamson have returned to Tennessee! Friends like George and Merritt Rowe, Adrian and Shelly Church, Lance and Juliet Bridgesmith, Darah and David, Ryan's mom and dad, Byron and Beth and all our kids gathered to celebrate their return.

It was fun talking with George. His new album is due out later this year produced by Michael W. Smith. His experience with Rocket Town Records has been great. I love that guy. He has a great way of telling stories. It had been a while since we had gotten to see them.

When I was in 9th grade, I "went out" with Wendy Wray (now Wendy Ogren--married John Ogren from Harding). Wendy is Ryan's first cousin. That was my first introduction to the Williamson clan. Ryan was a junior higher. He and Wendy shared a MaMaw--who I still call MaMaw to this day. Katherine Witherspoon is one of the most beautiful, poised women over 80 you'll ever meet.

Eventually, Ryan came to ACU, pledged Gamma Sigs, and became even more of a friend and brother. When I moved to Dallas and performed at Six Flags, Ryan's parents lived there. Byron was the president of WORD Publishing in Dallas. Their home became one of my homes away from home. Beth was a such an encouragement! A couple of months after I moved to Nashville, WORD moved Byron to Nashville. It was my greatest dream! I had family here! My mom and I spent holidays eating, playing games, laughing and having fun with the Williamsons. They hosted our pre-wedding family gathering at their home, they have loved our kids as they've joined the family, they've been counselors and parents to us on many occasions.

When Ryan and Sarah moved here around 1997, it seemed too good to be true. Then Walt Disney called and they moved to Los Angeles. We were so bummed. In our wedding program I remember having printed a note to Ryan (a groomsman) saying "MOVE BACK!!" It's taken 6 years, but they're baaaaaack! Praise the Lord! We've enjoyed so much our visits with them in Malibu. Sheryl and Sarah's friendship has developed in ways that have been so cool to watch. Ryan and Sarah have both remained the "speed dial" type of friends even after 6 years of cross country distance and tonight we got to celebrate their move to Nashvegas! Their new house is only about 5 minute from us. It couldn't be better! Adrian and Shelley (Ryan's little sister...and mine too) were here as well. They will be Nashvillians by next July, Lord willing. I have often wanted to print the link to Adrian's blog, but haven't yet. It's not for the faint of heart. Adrian is the chief resident at an ER in Kansas City. His blog is of weekly enjoyment to me, but isn't for everyone. If you're brave, check it out... Adrian's blog. There are some stories there that will make you cringe and laugh hysterically.

It was a great night. I just can't believe we are gathering friends and family in Nashville--the Williamsons, my mom! Crazy! Maybe the end is near.

Tonight, I am grateful for friends. As Sheryl is out having desert with Amanda and we have both come off a dinner of such joy filled celebration, it's easy to feel grateful. In the midst of conflict and other stuff going on, the Lord is reminding me of the joys of relationship--true relationship. We are really blessed.

Have a great night, everyone.

BSTmobile lives!

How many praise team members does it take to charge a battery? Apparently more than three. Well, actually, it appears the battery was completely dead and beyond charge. So--happy towing fee to me!

I am just thrilled it's nothing more costly. Watch out Nashville, I'm back on the streets!

Sunday was a very long day. The morning was punctuated by amazing worship and teaching on Jesus calling the 12. Having the college students back makes SUCH a difference! Wow--there was some serious energy Sunday.

ZOE met at our house for much of the afternoon discussing some of the details of the recording and things that went well and not so well. It was one of the most encouraging experiences of recent weeks. God has blessed us so much with family in that group. We've been together now 8 years and there's just something that happens over that length of time. We know each other--our strengths and weaknesses. There's protection, there's accountability, there's grace. It's really something. I was relieved to discover that the things I had been thinking were shared by all. If I'm crazy, at least there are 8 other crazy people standing next to me. I am so grateful for each of them. That's really all I can say. Anyone want some creamed corn?

As ZOE was leaving our house, folks from our Life Group were coming in. We had a lot of people out Sunday night, but there were enough of us there to talk through some of the issues related to our kids and how to try doing things in a new way. Instead of hiring, we're going to have everyone take turns with a partner. It should work out that they only have to do it every 8-10 weeks. When I was a single at the Lake Highlands Church in Dallas, we did that in our home group. I am still very close to the kids in our group--even though many of them are either in college now or about to be. I hope we can find something that works.

Yesterday we spent lunch around the pool. It was fun. Maddie and Ella are really doing well with their swimming. Sheryl is such a great teacher and encourager. Nap time allowed us to watch more of the Olympics. I never mentioned it, but did anyone see the trampoline stuff? I mean, that's just weird. Wow--loved Justin Gatlin's finish in the 100m. Incredible! Paul Hamm...poor guy. He's had a rough week. That crowd last night was really something. Not sure what...just something. Nice job, judges.

I went out to dinner last night with JV and Nathan. It was a great night. I am encouraged by what God is doing in both of their lives. It has been something that has spurred me on these last couple of weeks. As we were about to leave, I got in my Blazer and...prrrrrrrllt. brrrrrlttt......click...click. Creamed Corn!!!! For the love! This is like strike 15 for the dear ol BSTmobile. As I write, my now close friends at the car place are towing it to be fixed. Unbelievable.

This morning we took Maddie to begin her new school year. She was so thrilled! Ella was not. Ella is in the cutest place where she has to do everything Maddie does--even imitating the way she stands. Sheryl has pointed this out and it's just too cute. She'll miss Big Sister while she's at school.

I am trying to get ready to go to San Antonio this week. I am going down to consult with a church who wants to begin a more regular praise team ministry. Pray for wisdom for me as I try and offer some words of experience. It's hard to offer advice or wisdom when you aren't exactly sure of their culture and personalities. One mistake I think churches make is trying the "pattern" approach. I fully believe the Holy Spirit wants to do a unique work in each of our churches. Maybe I can at least help them think through what that might look like for them. I will also get to stay with Jeff and Carol Nelson. I can't wait to see them. Sounds like things are really going strong at Oak Hills. I know Jeff has to be exhausted.

Tomorrow night is Phil Keaggy! If you're close to Nashville, plan to be here. Doors open at 6:30 and it usually fills up quickly.

This has been haunting me this morning from Hebrews 12... "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." Great words to remember today.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The 23rd Psalm...in Maddie-ese.

The Lord is my Shepherd
I not want
He makes me lie down in greens paaaastures (lots of drawl)
He leads me beside still "woaters"
He stores my soul.
Even when I walk through the valley...of the shadow...of death
I not be afraid
cause God is WITH me
His rod and His staff they comfort me
He prepares a table..."Daddy, I have a table downstairs" (every single time)
for me in the presence of my enemies
He anoints my head with oil
My cup overflows
Surely goodness...and mercy...will follow me all the days of my life
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for-EVER.
Amen. (pronounced Aye-Meee-in)

Sweet words I get to hear just about every night. When Maddie was born we included on her birth announcement the scripture from the Psalms about how "God has ordained praise from the lips of infants." It's so true. Her prayers, her heart for God, her honesty before the Lord all encourage me greatly.

Thank you, Lord for bringing me to worshiping You through my children. I could never have imagined the beauty.

Good night everyone.

For the second time, our pictorial directory photog had to cancel. This means huge headaches for Holly and Trina who end up having to make lots of calls and field even more questions. Oh well. Thankfully, our Saturday didn't have to be planned around the dreaded pictorial directory.

We went out to see how my mom's house was coming along. We were completely surprised! The walls were all up, windows in, and the roofers were putting on shingles. We walked through it and could just picture where everything would be placed. As we drove into the subdivision I tried to imagine my mom living in there. I can still not even picture it. It will be such an amazing thing to have her here! I just still can't believe it's happening.

I have forced myself not to write about the Olympics over the last few days, but trust me, I've been just as addicted. Wow! That relay race last night was so amazing. Sheryl's last words before the race were, "We're going to sleep right after this race, right?" I think my blood pressure had doubled and any sleepiness that once existed had now been replaced by adrenaline. It was awesome.

I also love track and field. I ran the 400 and mile relay way back when. I was a fast little booger back then, but have slowed as of late. Our male sprinters were really incredible. Great times and great form. Can someone please explain the fingernail thing with Deavers? What in the world. I know it's been her trademark, but that's just a little gross. Sorry to any fingernail lovers out there. I have struggled with biting my fingernails for years. It's like a feast to my eyes. Ok, I just grossed myself out.

This morning we are talking about the calling of the 12. Formative times in the ministry of Jesus. I am looking forward to it. I borrowed this from the Common Book of Prayer to use as a benediction today. I re-worded it a bit to make the language more understandable. I'll close with it.

We ask You, Almighty God, that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may, through Your grace, be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honor and praise of Your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Man, this week. All I can say is creamed corn. How's that for using code?

OK, so yesterday a good friend called me and told me he had some free tickets to the Wilson County Fair. I was pumped! I knew it would be a great way to have some fun in a week that's been otherwise. I used to count the days when I was a kid til the West Texas Fair happened in Abilene. Man, I still can remember getting sick as a dog on the Octopus ride. Gag.

So, we decided we'd get an early start and leave at 5pm. Hmmm, what else happens at 5pm? Anyone? Yes, rush hour. We sat in the car for what felt like hours while Maddie and Ella watched Sleeping Beauty. Maddie calls her "Sleeping Booty" which adequately described parts of me by the time we got there. It was all worth the wait! We had a blast. Carsen, Maddie, and Ella all were able to sit together on most of the rides. It was hilarious! My favorite was the rollercoaster where they all just had open mouths and Maddie raised her hands in the air and screamed.

There were also lots of animals for the kids to see and pet. Our girls really loved the baby pig. Sweet ol' pig. Someday I'll share some pig stories with you. That was a former life.

A couple of observations from the Wilson County Fair:

*The mullet is alive and well. (I tried to provide a link so you could see what a mullet is, if you've missed out on this very fashionable statement--but there were none clean enough.)

*If one were to capture the scent of the Wilson County Fair and bottle it--like the "new car scent", it could only be called "Fair Foul". I beseech you, if any of you have not invested in this nifty invention called DEODORANT, please, ask your local pharmacist.

*After 30+ years, a Fair diet consisting of only cotton candy, shaved ice, and a bloomin' onion will still leave you feeling nasty.

*Carnies. Enough said.

*A well intentioned female vocalist was completely murdering "I Can Only Imagine". She took the Reba approach. Bless.

*Somehow, Fair fun has made this weird transformation from actually enjoying a ride yourself to now enjoying it vicariously through your children. There really are few things better than watching your kids have the time of their lives.

*Rabbits, chickens, sheep, pigs, cows, and turkeys stink. There's really no getting around it. Wait, maybe that was the B.O.

*In case anyone wonders, they still have those fish bowls where you try and throw a ball in and if you get it in the bowl, you win the fish. What they neglect to tell you and what most young children come to discover after county fairs, those fish have a life expectancy of maybe 48 hours. At best.

*There's something about the lights, the games staff crying out for players, the sound of the rides operating, and the smell of corn on the cob that just breeds a childlike joy.

*That familiar ride home from the fair--exhausted, dirty, thankful, chatty, and ready for bed.

I recommend a visit to your local county fair. It's really fun and it will be something your kids won't forget. This weekend we have pictures for our Church pictorial directory. I have already heard stories. Maybe there'll be some good blog fodder coming in a day or so.

Have a great weekend, blog family!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

This morning was Snoopy Day for Maddie at school. (Parent/child orientation) It was great! Dele Wilcher and Diana Reed will be her teachers. I love them so much and can't believe we have the gift of their love and teaching this year for Maddie.

I found this in the Common Book of Prayer today. I thought it was so great. I'll try and post more later if my day gets any less hectic.

For Church Musicians and Artists

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Wow--what an amazing relay swimming race last night! Incredible! Did I mention I am a junkie?

I began blogging about 5 months ago. I was in the middle of some pretty difficult stuff at OC during that time and while things have gotten better relationally, the year seems to have held that same kind of feel. It's probably been the hardest year of my adult life and definitely the hardest year ever with regards to work, ministry, etc. I look back and wonder if it might have been the Lord pushing me towards blogging through the use of several influential voices. I wonder if He knew I'd need a place of safety (well, some days!) to sort out all the stuff going on around me. I wonder if he knew I would come to rely on this blog community for wisdom and strength on hard days. It's a cool thing. I am thankful for you all and for your encouragement on the journey. Thanks for allowing me to use this method to vent and to express things that might not always be pleasant to read. Thank you for giving me extra measures of grace along the way. I have to believe that, somehow, God is using these blogs to allow us to talk about the deeper things of life and to encourage each other. I am always amazed as I search the net and read other blogs of friends like Donny, Stephanie, Chris Lockhart, Clarissa, Mike, Greg, Ty and others. The things being discussed are deep truths, sometimes struggles, always inspirational. It's not because any of us proclaim ourselves to be writers or authors--well, except for Mike and GT. I think the reason all these blogs (and there are many more than what I have listed here) are so awesome is because we get a peek inside regular lives on a journey with the Lord. Hopefully, the hard questions we all ask will be softened as Jesus says, "Come learn of me!" "My yoke is easy, my burden is light." "Come find rest for your souls."

We are siblings on a journey. Some days it's easier to blog about creamed corn than it is the harder issues that seem to cover me like a prickly blanket. I think that's ok. Creamed corn is just as much a part of the journey. It's mundane and wonderful. It's family, it's fellowship. Without the creamed corn type of blogs, I'd go insane.

Yesterday I had one of my major meetings that I have been dreading this week. It went pretty well. There was much to process last night. Sheryl amazes me. I mean, she is really incredible. She loves me more than I deserve. Her empathy and words of wisdom and understanding were so soothing last night. She is a treasure.

I have a lot on my heart to write regarding the meeting yesterday, but again, not blog appropriate. So, back to creamed corn. But seriously.

Tonight we are talking about holiness during our Retreat to the Creek time. I look forward to what Tim has to say. Next week we finish out the summer as we have for years with Phil Keaggy, a very wonderful man of God and a freak on the guitar. I always enjoy talking with Phil. There's a quiet presence of the Lord in Him. He is one of those guys who is amazingly gifted and yet seems to breed calm in those around him. That seems to be such a rare quality. I love his story. I love his wife, Bernadette. I am so thankful for his ministry and love of OC. If you're near Nashville and can make it next Wednesday, please come. 7pm!

I have rambled some today. Hope that's ok. God is good. That is something unchanging and something that anchors us all. We can count on it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I am an Olympics junkie. There, I've confessed it. I can't get enough. My stomach muscles are sore from the anxiety each event brings. Men's gymnastics about sent me over the edge. What an amazing show by the Japanese! I just can't wait for Track and Field. If I could, I'd hermit myself off and just watch them all day. It's ridiculous.

I have been feeling extremely exhausted with regards to ministry. My friend and mentor Don Finto tells me that when I begin feeling that way it means I am doing things in my own strength and not in the Lord's. That is a constant battle for me. I go to the point of burn out and then gripe about being in burn out. When will I learn? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way!)

My friend, Jen Lemen writes about some of her struggle with church today. I related to much of what she was saying. I know it may sound crazy, but it's true. I have felt the need to push the "reset" button a lot lately. What that will look like for me is undetermined, but surely necessary.

There's so much talk out there about the church and what's good about it and what stinks. Several comments have been meaningful. Jen said something about wrestling with a love-hate relationship. I love the Church! When I first entered ministry, I had big dreams and bold initiatives to make some changes that seemed important. Perhaps they were. However, I remember one Sunday looking out at someone whose face was completely empty until we sang an old hymn. I had this epiphany that day. My role is a layered role. While it's good to challenge and boldly lead, it's better to love. If I am truly a music pastor that means that I must be sensitive to the needs of the flock. Is my most critical role to teach new songs? Is it to help churches start praise teams? Is it to stand up against the complacency that so infects our churches? Is it to bring the most creative special music, drama, or art to the table? I mean--the thought of all that exhausts me today. No--my role is to lift up the name of Jesus. Yes--all those things are helpful in doing that in certain ways. However, sometimes, the things take spotlight over Jesus.

I believe God loves the church. I believe in the power of community and witness. I believe in sharing in the hurts and victories of fellow followers of the Way. But, I am not convinced that our current method of doing things is the only way--or even the most God honoring way. In the end, whether I believe it or not, I am called to love. Love above all else. Love the idiosyncrasies, love the diversity, love the "progressives", love the "heel draggers", love the people who agree with my views and love those who don't. (As if my views were any kind of reference anyway!) The concept of love transcends modernity, post-modernity, and whatever will come after that. It truly is the stuff of Jesus. Now, the struggle comes in putting thoughts into action.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A couple of weeks ago our friend, Deanna Carney, brought us a bag full of goodies...fresh basil, rosemary, mint, and other great things for cooking. There was fresh blueberry-lime jelly and fresh corn off the cob from a Mennonite farm in Tennessee. We've been enjoying all of it, but tonight we had the corn. It was so great! It took me back to my great aunt Ruby's house in Groesbeck, TX. She would pick her corn from the garden and make creamed corn for dinner in a black skillet. It was unbelievable. This was every bit as good. THANK YOU, DEANNA!

I miss my aunt Ruby and the days of spending the 4th of July in Groesbeck hearing stories of urban legends and going out to the cemetery (yes, I'm serious) after dark just to get a good scare. This cemetery is where most of my paternal relatives dating back to my great grandparents are buried. It's very, very old, and has huge trees. The ultimate scary cemetery! One night my cousins and I begged my dad to drive us out there after dark so he put us all in the back of his pick up and away we went. Little did we know that my aunt Dot and uncle Sam were already out there hiding behind tombstones. Into the cemetery we drove...the fright was so thick you could cut it with a knife! My cousins and I huddled in the back of the truck laughing at ourselves and loving every second. All of a sudden my father slowed the truck and we were hearing these weird noises. These two large figures came out from behind a tombstone with sheets on. We screamed so loudly I am positive we woke several other dead people. My father had already locked the doors and we were screaming and beating on the roof of the truck cab. It was horrifying. And exhilarating! (This tells you something about my sick personality as a kid!) I don't think my dad ever got the dents out of his roof. I'm not even sure he totally wanted to. It was evidence of a scare well planned and executed.

In Aunt Ruby's back yard stood an old barn that looked at least 100 years old. It too provided many scary moments. We'd play hide-and-go-seek with my father. It was always all the kids against my dad and we were still outwitted. As we crept back to the barn we were all filled with complete terror from every story we'd heard about the things that "happened" there. (let's just say some colorful fibbing going on) It never failed that there would either be someone out there waiting for us or a really scary dummy dressed as a mean old man waiting around the corner. Some of my favorite memories were made visiting Groesbeck.

We've had a great day playing in the pool with the kids and just hanging out. Tomorrow I go back to the office and a very full day. I am so thankful for these few days to rest and enjoy the things that are most important to me.

Thank you, Lord, for my family. Thank you for such a rich heritage and so many wonderful memories. Thank you for my mom and dad who taught me to enjoy life. Thank you for my dad who played with me constantly growing up. Thank you that Maddie is asking about him. Thank you for Sheryl--for the joy she brings me and for the way she is a kid at heart too. Thank you for the way she loves the girls and me. Thank you for the way your love is poured out in our lives, Jesus. We need you and we are dependent on you. Have your way in our lives.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Two words...va-cation.

It's been so nice being out of our normal routine. Sheryl and I had a great weekend together. We stayed in Cool Springs at the Embassy Suites and saw a couple of movies and just had a great relaxing weekend together. This morning we went to Harpeth Community Church which was birthed out of Otter Creek 7 years ago. It is doing quite well. It was fun seeing old friends there. The worshp time was very meaningful and Chad Harrington, who was 10 when they left Otter Creek, led the communion thoughts this morning. I was so blessed by what he said. Chad leaves for Harding tomorrow. That just can't be possible.

Tonight we came back to Otter for the Children's Musical, "Holy Moses". The kids did a great job! Maddie and Ella enjoyed watching them. Julianne Cox and Annie Grace Netterville blew me away with their solos! What talent!

I have a week of conflict resolution coming my way. I'd really appreciate prayers for wisdom and discernment as I dive in head first this week. It's really not appropriate to blog about, but there are at least 3 different situations. What's the common denominator in all of them? ME. Hmmm...maybe this should tell me something.

One of the difficult things about blogging is that I really want to provide an honest approach to ministry, but what I am realizing is that most of what makes ministry difficult are the problems and issues behind the scenes--none of which are ever appropriate for public discussion. Those of you in ministry feel me on this. We are imperfect people walking a treacherous road of ministering to imperfect people. It can be a recipe for disaster. I think that's why Paul was so open about his own failings in Romans. How comforting to know that God's mercy covers all of us. As if we did any good without the entire glory and honor belonging to the Father. As if we ever have the right things to say without the help of the Holy Spirit. As if we can offer much of anything worthwhile in our own strength and effort apart from God. Such important things to remember as we all walk the road together.

I hope your weekend was enjoyable too. May God bless your Monday and be with those kids out there starting school. On that note, please be in prayer for Sarah Woodroof (Tim's daughter). Her roommate at ACU (I think her name is Sheralyn Halbert?) was killed in an automobile accident last night. Such a difficult loss for that family and for Sarah. We can't take anything for granted. Every day is a gift. I'm grateful for the sweet gift of time with Sheryl this weekend and with our girls today. God is good.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Great day off today. We went to the completely overwhelming Opry Mills Mall ( or as Sheryl calls it, Shopryland).

Last night we stayed up way too late visiting with Jeff and Anna Berry. Some friends are just so close it's as if no time has passed when you've been away for months at a time. What sweet fellowship we had! What a great night of worship last night! We were blessed by Jeff's leading.

We went to a new little hot spot over in east Nashville tonight where we find ourselves becoming repeat customers. It's called the Rose Pepper Cantina. Any of you Nashvegas types out there would love this place. Live jazz, outdoor seating, amazing Mexican food, and cool surroundings. Thanks to Lea Brown for turning us on to Rose Pepper!

Our 6th wedding anniversary is this weekend (15th). We decided a while back to go somewhere without kids for the weekend and we have been really looking forward to it. As the time grew closer, we grew less and less excited about any kind of road trip and equally depressed at the thought of airfare. So, in keeping with our original agreement to go out of town, we are driving 15 miles down the road to Franklin. HA! We are so excited about it. People keep asking us where we're spending our anniversary. We just reply... "Cool Springs". (or as people in Tennessee say it... "Coo(no L) Sprangs". We can't wait to have just a fun weekend to sleep in, watch movies, swim, and enjoy being together. I'm a blessed man. I remember the very first time I heard the voice of Sheryl Rathbun. I was traveling with a group from ACU and she was traveling with a group from Rochester College (MCC back then). We were in Nashville, of all places. I heard her singing a solo and about dropped my teeth. Unreal. I married that girl. The Lord's hand was definitely in that one. She transferred to ACU as I was leaving. She moved to Nashville before I even lived here. We didn't even live in the same city until 1995. What a plan we see in retrospect. We've been through some really hard things and are stronger for them. I admire my wife. I love my wife. I can't believe how beautiful she is. She is a woman to be honored. She is such an amazing mother to our children. She hurts when people hurt. She laughs with all her might--even when I'm not so funny. She has more creative juice in her pinky finger than I have in my entire being. I am one blessed dude.

I won't blog again till the weekend sometime. I hope you all have a great week. One last thing, Maddie has been cracking me up using this phrase lately-- "When you get little..." She hears us say, "When you get bigger, blah blah blah". So now she's begun saying things like "Daddy, when you get little you can sleep in my bed if you want" or "Mommy, when you get little you can wear my dress". What a great perspective! She's fine with where she is--she's in no hurry. In fact, she's inviting us to stop acting like getting bigger is some great deal.

So, here's what I want when I get little. I want my go cart back and I want to spend every Saturday riding in the neighbors' yards (what was I thinking??!!). I want to crawl back up in my dad's lap and have him scratch my back one last time. I want to sit at my beloved Aunt Dot's bright red player piano singing Rubber Ducky with all my favorite cousins. I want to be in my Christmas pajamas huddled around the fire on Christmas Eve with my father dramatically reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas". I want to have nothing better to do than to be 3 years old in our front yard with my mom petting our dog and picking flowers. I want to spend the night in the tree house in our back yard out in the country. That's what I'm planning to do "when I get little".

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Today will be a great day. I am declaring it! There is much to celebrate today.

1. I had vocal therapy this morning and it went very well. (I'm working mainly on my speaking voice)
2. Tonight we have Jeff Berry in a wonderful night of worship! His whole band couldn't make it, but Jeff Giddens (an Otter Creeker who is now at ACU) is playing with him this summer on the road and will be here to play guitar with JB on keyboards. It's a highlight for us. I think this might be the 7th summer we've had him. It's a treat! Jeff and Anna are staying with us so we'll have plenty of visit time. We go waaaaay back. Jeff's sister, Kristen, and I stayed at the same babysitter's house when we were 4. We have known each other a long time...even though he is MUCH older than me. Kidding. Jeff and I even worked at the famed Jeffory's Village Peddler together back in those college days. Jeff was at Baylor and would work holidays. We had probably too much fun. I am really proud of what he has done with his life and talents. He started the huge Grace Bible study in Abilene combining students from all three major Universities. There are around 2000 kids from all different denominations who worship together with Jeff and his band every Tuesday night. He tours through the summers and a good bit of the year. His lovely wife, Anna, is also an Abilene girl and a friend from way back. I am excited that they'll be with us tonight. Jeff is a GIFTED worship leader. If you don't have any of his worship CDs--check out his website. They are some of my very favorite worship CDs.
3. This morning I think Maddie got confused between the words "too" and "two". I told her I loved her too and she started telling me she "loved me twice." I kinda like that!
4. I am eating lunch at Baja Burrito--a trendy California Burrito style place where you're sure to see all manner of people and interesting sights (my second very favorite Nashville restaurant)-- with the staff to honor all our summer interns.
5. I am getting a much needed hair cut.
6. Today is like Friday for me since I am off the rest of the week to celebrate our anniversary!

I wrote the top part of this before lunch and hair cut and didn't have time to finish. I must add a section here about getting said hair cut. Last time I went, I had recently gotten a certain addition to my left ear in the upper cartilage. I have neglected to blog about said addition for fear of being excommunicated by Leviticus loving brethren. Anyway--if you can even keep reading after that shocking announcement, the last time I was in there this very weathered, older, African American woman was new on the job back in the hair washing dept. She literally tried to murder my ear. I am not making this up. I honestly let out a yelp that was completely involuntary after she seemed to try and pull said addition out of my ear (because she was being rough and even after asking her to please be careful on that side--forgot). I was determined as I went in today to get one of the other nice ladies who have washed my hair a thousand times before. I walked into the back room and they were all washing hair except for...you guessed it...Ear Murderer. She approached me (I wish I could underscore this with music). There were two basic choices. Either I run, or I take one for the team. Since I fancy myself a team player at times, I decide to go with that. I also didn't want to offend the nice ear murderer. I sat down and she began her work. Sure enough..about 5 seconds in, YANK..."YEEEOOOWW!"..."I'm so sorry, I saw that and forgot it was there." (now that just doesn't make sense)

The other "technique" used by Ear Murderer is what I call the scrub-til-every-hair-is-gone plan. The woman appears to be small and somewhat fragile. Not so. She went at my head like you would take an SOS pad to a pan caked with cheese and tomato sauce. I wanted to say, "Excuse me, Ear Murderer, have you noticed that I am in need of every last hair I have left??!!" But, I didn't. I thanked her, tipped her and went on my painful journey to Billy's chair to get my the cut. He and I laughed about it, but I just know that I will be dreading my next trip. I can already see it in my mind...walking this dream-like narrow hall to the hair washing place and seeing Ear Murderer there with soapy hands in the air laughing in an evil manner..."Waaa-Haaa-Haaa!!"

Have a great Wednesday! I wish you could all be with us tonight as we raise the roof in worship. We should plan a blog reunion sometime. Maybe Stephanie should plan that...and invite the kids.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Clearly, I am an idiot. It comes as little surprise to anyone who knows me well. :) In venting yesterday about my current state of mind regarding our kids and how to have any meaningful time in a small group setting, I fear my words might have been misunderstood. I just want to say publicly, in no way was I making light of any desire or idea to do something meaningful in those small group times. In fact, what I was trying to say is how much I agonize over the fact that it seems impossible to do such things. It was a Calgon Take Me Away moment that seems to have backfired a bit. I enjoyed reading all of your comments. Good words and good advice. I am sure there will be more blog-worthy stuff in the coming weeks about the direction we'll take with these things.

This morning I am doing the staff devotional on the first chapter of Proverbs. It's been good to read. The importance of seeking wisdom is critical to our spiritual health. The words in Proverbs the first chapter are pretty pointed, actually. Knowledge, in and of itself, is useful to a point. However, Proverbs tells us that the beginning of knowledge--first and foremost--is the fear and honor of the Lord. It's only through that relationship that knowledge will really take the transforming power it's meant to have in our lives. "Fools despise knowledge and discipline." I think when we get it aligned under relationship, knowledge and discipline fall in line a whole lot easier. There's a desire to know God, to know how to live how He wants. There's a stronger urge to discipline ourselves to spend time with Him, to re-shape our lives according to His will and purpose. The book of Proverbs is about worship in action. Making wise decisions. Following God with intention. It's the Holy Spirit who draws us in and helps us make those changes. It's by His voice that we are taught, soothed, comforted, prodded, and nurtured. As we embrace the Holy Spirit, the Word comes to life in new and exciting ways! Here's a verse from William How (1823-1897) that I would like to close with this morning.

O Word of God incarnate
O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging,
O Light of our dark sky;
We praise You for the radiance
That from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps,
Sines on from age to age.

Monday, August 09, 2004

I have some new pics of the kids and such. These were taken over the weekend at home and at the park where we celebrated Nathan Fite's New foot. Click here

Life Group last night was interesting. We had several who couldn't make it, but we were still almost outnumbered by kids. We've tried a bunch of different methods. We went through an agency to hire sitters for a while, but they charge a fee for placement and then the rates per child are rather expensive. It got to where not everyone wanted to leave their children because it was costly and then Sheryl and I ended up paying the bill. That happened several weeks in a row and we decided to nix the college baby sitter. It's weird. This agency is run through Lipscomb and employs a lot of the college students we know. The trick is, they can't work outside the agency--so we end up having to put up with the fees and red tape. It's the babysitting Mafia.

We've tried switching adults in watching the kids. Again, it's too much. I think everyone is so ready to be there and enjoy that it's difficult to commit to that.

Then there are the children. If these kids were a little older, they might be more easily corralled. It's virtually impossible for them to want to sit through the worship time. Here's why--we have Kit (5), Maddie (3), Mack (3), Anna Kate (2), Ella (1), Christian (1), Lettie Jane (1), and Champ (9mo). These ages aren't the best for sitting and worshiping. At one point last night, it was as though the cry fairy had dropped her poisonous dust on every small child in our house...especially Ella who must have been dealing with some teething issues or something. The dogs in the neighborhood were even howling (well, maybe not, but I wouldn't have been surprised!) Maybe we can look for someone who would be willing to come keep our kids upstairs in the play room while we do our thing. We just haven't had any luck in finding that person.

There have been times on this journey where I have been frustrated at this stage of life...like when Maddie was on the verge of talking for what seemed like 35 months and could only say, "uh-uh-uh-uh-uh!" over and over and over! (That's where Ella presently finds herself) You've read many posts from me saying how awesome and fun these years are. They are! I don't want to miss a second with my children. But--the challenges of finding small group intimacy are real and ever present in those times too. It's all worth it, I just needed to vent a bit.

Some of the singles in our group have made some great suggestions for things to do in our worship time--like turn the lights off, have some candles and go through a series of intimate worship disciplines. Great ideas...but I just had to laugh at the thought. It's like that Hallmark commercial where the romantic music swells and the nice couple sits at dinner gazing into one another's' eyes when all of a sudden a big pile of spinach or something is catapulted onto one of their noses and you realize the kids are there and the romantic music dies and we're able to hear the real sounds of the chaos in the room.

The approach I have taken with this is that our kids are a part of us. We spent a year out of life group before this because there was no where to go with our kids. We've told people as they've come to our group that we embrace all ages. So--when the screaming or crying begins we'll smile and keep singing--or just stop and laugh at the chaos. That's been good for a while, but it's time for a change. Either it's time for a change or I need to readjust my expectations for those times. The trouble is...the mom's usually get the hardest job. I usually lead the group so Sheryl is stuck with the kids. There have been times we've switched, but it's never easy.

Ok--thanks for letting me vent a little today. I don't like sounding so negative, but then again, I am reminding myself that when I decided to start this blog thingy, I wanted to be as honest as possible. As my good pal D says- "Life's not always rainbows and lollipops, Brandon." True dat.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to advise. (Laughing to myself--as if any of us in the blog community need permission to advise!)

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Praise God for steam cleaners! My mom got us a Bissell for Christmas and we have loved it! This morning, months worth of dirty foot prints, Bear hair, dropped candy, spilled coke and juice, and who knows what else was miraculously lifted from the carpet by this wonderful contraption. It's amazing how a little thing like clean carpet puts everyone in a great mood! I'm so glad Sheryl took the initiative to take the thing out of the garage today!

We went to the pool this afternoon. It was so fun! Sheryl is the pro at packing everyone up and getting all 900 neccessary things from home to the pool. Maddie and Ella made some buddies and I got to play Shark Attack with them. Has anyone seen the previews for that new movie where the tourist scuba divers get left in the middle of the ocean? Completely freaks me out to even think about it.

This afternoon after the girls arise from their beauty and anti-monster naps, we plan to go to the park to celebrate Nathan Fite's new foot. Nathan, as you may recall, lost his foot in a horrible accident when his dad accidentally backed over him with a lawn mower. It was such a difficult thing, but such a testament to real community how their life group and many from our church came to their sides. Nathan is so pumped about his new foot and loves showing it off! His parents are throwing a party today for everyone to come and celebrate. Isn't that a great way to handle things? I love parties.

Last night our friend Kyle Rigsby ended up eating dinner with us and playing cards. It's so cool to have a life group of mixed demographics. Kyle is a mid 30's single-again guy who is a part of our home group. We have several singles, some close to marriage, some married folks without kids, and some who are old pros now at raising kids. It's neat to see everyone together. Our girls adore Kyle, Amanda, Eve, Aunt Kiki, Reco, and Trayce. There's something about their singleness that affords them time and energy and our girls love it. Of course, Paul and Jill, Jeff and Christy, Rick and Jane Ann, Jason and Alisha, and Jody and Stephanie also rate high marks with them. When everyone comes over, Mack and Maddie usually hit their routine of chasing each other in circles. What is it about running in circles that is so exciting? And...Ella attacks Christian McInturff. Bless him.

We've had a couple of weeks off from Life Group and tomorrow night we'll be back together. I think we are going to start trying to share some communion together in those times. It seems really close to what the Church is supposed to be--breaking bread together, sharing lives, laughter, tears, struggles, remembering Christ, and worshiping the Father. I'm more convinced that those settings are closer to what we're supposed to do than anything else. No one thinks twice when Trayce prays over someone. No one blinks when we pull out the guitar and I play piano and we worship. No one is interested in out dressing anyone else. There is openness for new comers. Seekers are more than welcome and would, hopefully, be made to feel very at home. There is fertile ground for sharing heartache--without an invitation song. The Word is shared and lives are touched. Relationships happen. Community happens. I really like it. I'd love to hear about some of your small groups and what's working well.

Have a great weekend. I'll be thinking about all of you in the morning as we join in celebrating the Lord--wherever we may meet.

Friday, August 06, 2004

We are enjoying somewhat of a weird cooling trend here in Nashville this weekend. It will only be in the mid 70s today and shouldn't get above 81 all weekend. It makes me think about my days in Dallas when it would get so hot there were ozone warnings. Seriously.

My mom sent some fun books for Maddie and Ella yesterday. She has been a children's Literature specialist for many years--which is so nice for our kids. Her work with the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature has been such a blessing for her and for them. Authors and illustrators from all over come and showcase their work. We have so many really cool autographed books for the girls as a result of her work there. The latest care package we got yesterday had several Berenstain Bears books. Maddie and Ella loved them!

Perspective. In the grand scheme, There are things that call me to what's important to me. It can even be little things like laughing at Maddie calling a jump rope a "jumper-loop". Or, as she did last night, telling me that I had "stinky feet". Listening to Sheryl talk on the phone with grave concern over someone dear to her and seeing her agonize over their current state of being. Talking to my long time roommate and best man on the phone as he and his wife wait on the Lord and try to put their hearts at rest with regard to expanding their family. Walking through the door and hearing Ella screaming "DAH DAH!!". Watching people hurt all around me. It brings one to consider the things most important.

I listen to people talking about election, bantering non-stop with each opinion obviously trumping the other.

I listen to people dismiss the importance of connecting with this future generation calling it a "phase" or a "bump in the road".

I hear close friends talk about church related things with increasingly more angst and cynicism...and often times, rightly so.

I see more and more people hungering for deeper faith and deeper truth. And I see more and more people content with status quo.

There is a struggle going on. Is it any different than what's been happening for centuries? Maybe. These are new times. We are getting to a point where we are no longer a Judeo Christian culture. The things we have taken for granted can no longer be assumed.

If you've ever seen the Igniter Video's we use in many of the ZOE conferences and worship times, you need to check out volume 2 that's recently been produced. An old ACU buddy, Rob Thomas, is creating great things with this. Volume 2 has a classic--CLASSIC--clip on there called Christians of Genius. Check it out. It's a hilarious look at how we use our dumb Christian-ese. I think you can even watch a bit of it on the Zoe site.

OK--enough from me today. Have a great Friday everyone!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

My Mom had a cool posting on her blog today. She talked about school supplies. It really took me back.

My weakness in school supplies was always the cool lunch boxes. It still is. I think I bought one for Maddie when she was 1 1/2. She marched off to school last year with her very sweet Madeline lunch pail. I was tempted to buy her a new one when we were at Six Flags a few weekends ago. But, our budget for that trip kept me from it.

What was your favorite lunch pail back in Elementary School? Maybe it was a cool Star Wars lunch box. I think I had one or two of those. Maybe for you girls out there it was a Wonder Woman lunch box. Or Maybe for those children of the late 70's /early 80's it was a Muppets lunch box. I know I had one.

Ahhh. Back to school. Memories of fall. Football games, new uncomfortable school clothes, locker combinations. Any stories to share?

Feeling a little better this morning. Slowly but surely. Being back at work this morning reminds me of those awful days in school where you'd get sick and then even the thought of homework piling up made you want to die a quick death.

It's hard to believe summer is almost over. Maddie starts school in another week and a half. The college students will soon be filling our pews again. Every commercial on TV reminds us that it's time to shop for school supplies. By the way...anyone else notice that JC Penny has gone totally ghetto this year? What's the deal?

I was reading a section of Brian McLaren and Tony Compolo's book Adventures in Missing the Point. Brian writes that we Christians often choose to either be completely of the culture or completely isolated from culture. Both are equally damaging in our witness to the the world. Brian says, "Jesus invites us to remember our identity and mission. He wants us to join him in entering the world to enjoy and celebrate all that's good--and to seek to transform all that's not."

I'll close with one section that I thought was especially powerful.

Consider Jesus:
*He was sent into the world as a seeker of lost treasures, a doctor to sick
people, a friend to the friendless. Do we share his mission?

*He was an expression of God's love for the world. Could we be called the

*He wants to redeem and save the cultures of the world. Do we similarly
respect and love the world's diverse cultures?

*He attended parties and so was accused of being drunk and a glutton,
companion on tax collectors and other sinners. Are we too isolated to be
similarly accused?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Still feeling awful today. I finally bit the bullet and went to the doctor. Once the medicine takes effect, I should be good to go.

Have you ever written an email in haste and sent it only seconds later wishing you could reach through cyber space to retrieve it? Email comes with all sorts of downsides. You can't read voice inflection. Sarcasm is difficult to determine. You can react in a knee-jerk moment and have it recorded for all time.

Well, I was the recipient of an email that I am hoping was written under that kind of influence. It was extremely generalizing in nature and used some pretty pointed words.
I am hoping that once feelings are put to words, the tension will dissipate some. But, either way, it will be better handled in person than through email.

Communication can be so challenging. It's so much easier to settle for communicating through voice mail or email--especially in challenging situations. I've been guilty of it myself. Just because it's easier does not mean it's best. This is a lesson I need to keep learning--and that I am learning from the opposite end this time.

On a lighter note, potty training stinks. Pardon the pun. We stopped about every 10 minutes last night in the van because Maddie kept telling us she needed to go. We'd get her out of the seat and let her sit on her little potty. FINALLY, she went. Too bad this type of thing isn't instantaneous!

Our dear friends, Ryan and Sarah Williamson, are moving back to TN. The Williamsons have been an adopted family for many years. Sheryl and I are thrilled that we will be in the same city again. I know it's a loss for Pepperdine, but we are thankful!

As I look ahead to the next 6 months I realize that my mom will be here, the Williamsons will be here, and...AND...we will FINALLY have a Blue Bell Creamery here. It has been a long 9 years in a dry and weary land without my dear ol' Texas Blue Bell ice cream. It truly is "the best ice cream in the country"! (My friends at Purity Dairies hopefully aren't reading this.)

What more could a guy ask for? If everyone had Blue Bell, there'd be no nasty email messages, no war, no drugs, no crime. It's really not an overstatement.

Have a happy and HEALTHY Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I am feeling awful. I came up for staff meeting but I am about to head back home and go back to bed. I just wanted to share this recent BST moment with you. (anyone who knows me well knows what a BST moment is...not unlike a "senior moment")

Setting: sharing a meal with two close friends at Las Palmas in Nashville. Enter a very nice couple from Otter Creek who I have known for years.

Brandon: Hi guys! How's it goin?
couple: great--so glad to see you.
Brandon: I want you to meet my friends. This is Daniel Green and Brian Hoppes. Perhaps you've met them--they also go to Otter Creek.
couple: yes, we've seen you before. Nice to meet you!
Brandon: guys, this is Dennis and Brenda Haer.
Marcus (aka Dennis): Um, that's Marcus
Brandon: How embarrassing! I am so sorry--of course that's your name. What was I thinking? I don't even know a Dennis.
Daniel: Um, except for my dad (who I definitely know)--his name is Dennis.

enter awkward silence.

Moments like these can't be bought. Geez. I could blame it on the fact that I was sick. I could tell you I never make those kinds of mistakes. But, the reality is, dumb things come out of my mouth pretty much all the time. There are more stories--enough to fill a book. This would rate waaaaaaaay down the list as most embarrassing. However, it's most recent, so I thought I would share. Anyone else have a recent embarrassing moment to share?

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Three things tonight to add...

One very important. Our Maddie, who has always gone about things in her own fashion and at her own speed, decided today was the day to "put the pee-pee in the potty". Can I get a hallelujah??

Second, a great quote I heard yesterday from Eve Clevenger that I must incorporate. Eve told us her mom would always say, "If you're going to laugh about something eventually, you might as well laugh about it now." I love that.

Sheryl is out with friends at a movie. I got to read and pray with the girls tonight. Maddie read me The Mommy Book, The Daddy Book, and Brown Bear. She did a great job! Ella and Maddie both sat on my lap and we prayed together. I may sound like a broken record, but it's those types of moments I pray will stay etched in my mind. Precious.

Now, I'm off to bed with my friends--Sudafed Cold and Tylenol PM. Nite nite.

We had a great day in Birmingham. What a great group of people! It was so fun to see old friends too. Lynn Anderson has been a father figure for many many years...back to childhood days. His son and I competed against each other in High School track, he was the preacher at Highland for many years, then at Preston Rd. where I attended some in the mid nineties, and has remained a dear friend ever since. It was great seeing him and other Abilene buds like David Wray, Joey Cope and Charlie Siburt. I also got to visit some with Greg Miles and Kip Long, two worship leaders I really love.

The worship time was powerful--not because of anything we did. It was evident that people had come with a sense of holy expectancy. The Spirit of God was in that place. It made me think this morning about how different all of our churches would be if we came like that every single week. With a sense of anticipation wondering what God will do in our midst today. Too often Sunday mornings are more like a programmed response.

I couldn't resist kissing Maddie this week and have, in turn, come down with her cold. Last night I had the whole chill, snotty, overall yucky sensation. This morning will be interesting. I have a great team today and plan on relying on them a lot.

I am thankful for a safe trip yesterday, but more thankful that we experienced such a blessing from God in worshiping with our extended family in Birmingham. Blessings to all of you. It was so cool to finally meet TL,and DJG who often comment. It's weird how this blog community feels so much like home. It was great seeing Ed Harrell and Craig Kelley and others who were such an encouragement in visiting afterwards. I am grateful to the Lord for all of you!

Have a great Sunday!