Sunday, October 31, 2004

There is a church I know of who is trying to articulate a vision for the future in this post-modern era. I read this last week and found it quite intriguing. I know it's a little lengthy, but it's worth the read. Let me know what you think. For his sake and his church's sake, I've left them anonymous.

A Note About Church and Culture

As is evidenced by any number of sources, the dominant culture of the western world is undergoing a major cultural shift. This is not simply a generational shift (such as from “Baby Boomers to Generation X) but rather a shift in overall epistemology (how we come to know things). Not since the Enlightenment has the world experienced anything like this. Most churches are not aware of this change or view it as simply a passing fad to be ignored and/or opposed (much like most churches initially ignored and/or opposed the Enlightenment and subsequent modernity before realizing it’s scope and impact). After being totally caught off-guard by the modern shift, the church did a pendulum swing and married itself to Modernistic/Enlightenment thought, which also wasn’t the best move for anyone involved. Instead, we propose that be ahead of the cultural curve and engage the postmodern mindset. What we are advocating is quite different from the way that the church embraced the modern mindset (in many ways to her detriment). What we are proposing is much more along the lines of what the apostle Paul advocates in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “take(ing) captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. Looking at this passage in context reveals that it is not referring to one’s personal “thought life”, but is rather talking about taking captive the dominant philosophy for the cause of Christ; redeeming what we can out of it for the sake of the gospel and refuting what we have to (in the most appropriate and effective way). This is also a principle that Paul modeled on Mars Hill when he actually used a pagan idol and heathen poets to reveal the Living God. He redeemed their epistemology and dominant philosophy and made it obedient to Christ. This is the course that we believe should take in regards to the postmodern shift. This will involve letting go of some presuppositions which are thoroughly rooted in modernity and not Scripture (though it may at first seem like the opposite ). This is not simply a change in worship styles or moving from “traditional” to “progressive”. It is instead a radical rethinking of how we engage the dominant culture with the message of Jesus (more on the message of Jesus later).

This will involve the following:

1. Changing Our Attitude Toward Change

In the past, we have worked hard to change attitudes towards specific beliefs and practices only to have to fight different battles a few years later. What if we changed our overall attitude toward change so that we can engage a culture that changes at the speed of light? What if change was something that was understood to be woven into the fabric of our being?

2. Renewed Emphasis on Story (narrative)

Propositional truths ring kind of hollow (and shallow) in the ears of postmoderns. Emphasis on the (true) story of Jesus and the stories of his followers (including those at ) fascinate them and communicate truth in a less threatening and more engaging way. People begin to see their lives as an extension of the story and begin to believe “truths” that they couldn’t be argued into.

3. Become Less “Event Oriented” & Instead Become More Process and Community Oriented

We must begin to view evangelism and discipleship less in terms of “Big Events” and more in terms of a process by which disciples (apprentices of Jesus) involve themselves in the lives of both other disciples and the community around them and are thereby spiritually formed.

Focus On Experience(s)
Talk about truth without ways to experience truth seems sort of inauthentic to postmoderns. We must find ways to facilitate opportunities to experience truth (whether through metaphorical physical activity involving activities other than hearing or reading, or by offering opportunities to be a part of the mission of God, even if one hasn’t yet become a believer). On a weekly basis (but not a rigid programs or ministries) we would like to give opportunities to incorporate Biblical truth into their lives.
Less focus on “Ministries and Programs” and more emphasis on community, opportunity, and mission.
To postmoderns, all of our ministries and programs may make our church appear to be a marketed product that we are selling. Most immediately lose interest (the cardinal rule is “don’t let your marketing show”). For those who are attracted to such a sales pitch we have to ask: are we creating people who are MORE self-centered rather than less? Are we simply creating “Christian” consumers?

The Kingdom Of God

We propose that adopt the theme “On Earth as it is in Heaven,” for 2005. This is obviously taken from Jesus’ sample prayer found in the Gospels. In this prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” are not separate items, but rather a reflexive restatement of the same idea. The “Kingdom of God” does not simply stand as a synonym for “the church” (with a leader, members, etc.), nor does it refer implicitly to the “second coming” (in it’s popularly understood form) and the subsequent end of the world. Instead, it is an ideology…a vision…a dream that God has about how this world is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to work. It’s a mission…a grand adventure that God invites us into whereby we become a part of how that ideology, vision, and dream becomes reality “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Looking at things through these lenses radically changes what they look like and what they mean to us. Evangelism becomes less about saving one’s personal soul so that they can go to Heaven one day when they die (though this is a part of it), and more about one becoming a part of the Mission of God whereby things on Earth are beginning to line up with God’s will the way they do in Heaven. Discipleship becomes less about being persuaded to mentally agree with certain propositional ideas and more about the people actually immersing themselves in the Way of Jesus and being formed into His image by the experience of it. Church becomes less about doing the right “acts of worship” in the right way and more about a redemptive community that through interaction and a common mission forms those it encircles into the people Jesus would be if He lived their lives. Life becomes less about me and more about God and you. The world becomes less a frightening place to be fought against and more the creation of God desperately in need of both the good news we are called to embody, and reconciliation in it’s broken relationship with a God who is madly in love with it (John 3:16).

The leadership dinner was nice last night. The real festivities after dinner didn't begin until around 8pm which meant that one of us had to go get the girls and take them home and to bed. (Our girls are usually IN bed by 8) Since Sheryl has not gotten to be a part of many of the discussions, I thought it might be nice for her to stay--so I went to get the girls. I am really glad she had a chance to stay. It allowed her to feel more connected. Who knows, maybe I'll get in trouble for leaving early--oh well. People who schedule things late like that either don't have kids, or have endless resources for home babysitting--I'm convinced of it.

This morning we are going to see a 15 minute DVD full of testimonials and stories of OC and what the Lord has done in our presence. This is all leading to next week's big comittment Sunday.

Here's the order of worship for this morning:

Welcome—Tim Woodroof
Family prayer— Brennan McGehee/ Mike Blankinship
Meet and greet

Praise and Worship—BST
--A New Anointing
--Lord Reign In Me
--Blessed Jesus

Readings by praise team
Ephesians 1:17-20 (TJ McCloud)
2 Cor 17-18 (Jeff Krinks)
Gal 3:26-29 (Eve Clevenger)
1 Cor 12:12-13 (Steve Speake)
Eph 3:10-12 (ALL)

--Here In This Place
--Above All

Supper—Phillip Allen
--Surround Us, O Lord

Offering--Phillip Allen
--Thank You

Special Video
Reach Campaign News—Jim Butler
Shepherd's Close
--Days of Elijah (chorus only)

Tonight we have "Trunk or Treat" in our parking lot with Church of the Redeemer. It should be a lot of fun.

I pray your Sunday is filled with conviction about real Kingdom issues. I pray that we'll all be awake enough Spiritually to not miss what the Lord wants to say to us. And I pray that would be especially true for the messages outside our church building walls...where God sometimes speaks more clearly and plainly.

Friday, October 29, 2004

I've been enjoying the CD Sam sent me. Here are the lyrics to one of the songs that really ministered to me this morning--

Here I am, Lord, kneeling at Your feet
A broken spirit longing for mercy.
My heart is longing, Lord
This is my plea--
Take my sin and purify me.
Lord, I give you all of me.

words and music by Sam Middlebrook (c) 2003

There are several others that have been especially meaningful--in fact, I found myself wishing he'd been with us at ZOE to share some of these songs. Thanks again for sending this, Sam!

This weekend we have a lot going on. Maddie is so excited about Sydney Williamson's birthday party she can hardly stand herself. One night she even slept with the invitation--perhaps it's because it's a princess party??

Saturday night we have a leadership dinner for all those in leadership at OC and those who are steering the Reach Campaign. We will all give our pledges for the campaign that night and let that be the starting point for the church in its giving.

Sunday we'll enjoy some time of worship together and Sunday night we'll have "trunk-or-treat" in our back parking lot for the kids of OC, Church of the Redeemer and maybe neighborhood kids too.

Speaking of Redeemer, I met with Thomas McKinzie yesterday--pastor of the new Church of the Redeemer who meets in our building on Sunday nights. I was surprised to find him around my age. We had a great conversation and a good laugh. I left there feeling so thankful that we've been afforded this opportunity to journey with a group of people we wouldn't otherwise have much contact with. It's a cool thing they're doing.

This weekend we'll see lots of kids dressed up as all sorts of things. Again, it occurs to me that often we send a message on these types of holidays. It completely makes sense to me why people don't want to "celebrate" a holiday that was marked for evil purposes. However, sometimes I think our closed doors and humbug attitudes can send a message that can be misinterpreted. (Don't bother us, we're religious. We don't care for you. You're less than--because you're trick-or treating. God is exclusive and you're out) That may sound over the top, but believe me, it's the impression Christians give all through the year--not just on holidays we may or may not share with the world around us. I'm not saying go out and have bloody eye balls on your door or witches flying from your windows, but let's at least be ready with warmth and cheer. Really, how many times do our neighbors come and knock on our doors. It's an opportunity!

Here are a couple of pics from Maddie's Harvest party at school. Ella's not dressed up but will be this weekend. Maddie's teacher, Ms. Dele was Cinderella. The girls are both fairy princesses--along with EVERY OTHER GIRL at school. Of course, not every other girl has mommy who can make her costume! Sheryl is a wonder--for sure!

Have a safe weekend and let me know if there are ways you're being creative with your candy giving.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Stephanie Bailey sent me this picture today. This picture was taken at the reception during Homecoming weekend. The roommates' kids! We were missing the Doggetts' kids--which would have almost doubled the amount of children!

Listed from right to left are:
Riley Fisher (son of Craig and Beth Ann)
Maddie Thomas (ours)
Rainey Bailey (daughter of Stephen and Stephanie)
Ella Thomas (ours)
not pictured: Owen Fisher

This morning was trick-or treat at the OC kindergarten and pre-school. The kids were so hilarious! Maddie is a fairy princess and looks ravishing, of course. Pictures soon to come.

Last night we had the parade of Bible characters where the kids dress up and the church gets three clues to guess who they are. We had over 90 kids involved. They were hilarious too.

Afterwards, we had our first rehearsal for "Sanders Family Christmas". Although it was long, it was really fun. It's such a funny script and such a great cast! The read and sing through was interrupted by uncontrollable laughter many times.

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Here's another picture from the weekend that my buddy, Kirk Nofsinger, took as the parade was coming to an end. Thanks, Kirk!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Last weekend was so much fun! The carnival ended up being inside Bennett Gym. We all sweated off about 7 lbs each. Maddie and Ella proudly wore their ACU cheerleader uniforms that "Nonnie" had bought for them. In fact, they wore them for about 3 days straight. We had to peel them off.

Saturday morning I ended up going to the Gamma Sig breakfast. I was glad I did. There was no biscuit throwing. The skits were pretty funny. I got to catch up with my old pals Don Heyen and Corey Curtis. Corey lost his dad this year. It was good to talk and find out how their family is doing. I got to see ol' Jay Duty (former Otter Creek intern) and spend a little time talking with Justin (boyfriend to Sarah Woodroof from Otter Creek). It was a good time to visit.

The parade was so much fun. We got to ride in this amazing cherry red classic Chevy convertible. The girls had a blast throwing candy. Ella's aim was a little off. She kept hitting the nice man driving the car in the back of the head.

The car took us on to Chapel. It was so cool--I had coerced the alumni office to ask my best buddy and college roommate, Stephen Bailey, to lead worship (which they were smart to do). He did a great job! AWESOME job! Jonathan Stites spoke. I was sitting there watching them thinking--aren't we here, in school, 20 years old, at chapel, with the whole world ahead of us??!! It was easy not to feel old until Dr. Money got up and talked about how the Young Alumnus award has to go to people under 40. My 34 years were suddenly very present. The cool thing was, I had decided to talk a bit about the song "Had It Not Been the Lord" and the scripture Jonathan picked to speak about fit perfectly. I love it when the Spirit does that. It was a really cool moment.

Afterwards they whisked us away to the Williams Performing Arts Center for the reception. It was so amazing to see friends from so many years past. Some of our relatives showed up too. The Nofsingers were there--my family when I lived in Dallas (and still). Their kids were so old it broke my heart. How does time pass so quickly??

One of the coolest things was that the Fishers and Baileys drove out from the metroplex to spend the day with us. Craig and Stephen were my roommates at ACU and have been my brothers in life. The most fun was watching our kids run and play together and have so much fun.

Maddie and Ella got reacquainted with their kids as well as Colin and Chloe Dickson. It's such a joy to see our kids connect and have a blast with the children of people who mean so much to us.

That night we went to the Homecoming Musical--"Kiss Me Kate". It's not my favorite show. HOWEVER--it was awesome! Maddie got to go for the first act and really loved it. She felt so big getting to be there and watch. She said it was her favorite thing of the weekend. The show was incredible. The dancing was amazing. The theater dept has always been the best of most any place I know. Over the last decade as they have become more and more competitive, it really shows in the quality. I think they are only accepting 12 majors a year. Every role was outstanding. It's cool to know that those kids are being trained to such a degree of professionalism by people who are passionate for Jesus. So rare in that field!

It was wonderful to be at Highland on Sunday. HOME! Mike's sermon was wonderful. My buddy Jan Meyer read scripture and they played the baptism DVD I love so much during Mike's sermon. What a wonderful morning!

It was a wonderful week--restful, encouraging, energizing for the future, and rich in fellowship. There were a few people I didn't get to see as much as I wanted, but it was still wonderful. Jeff Berry and I at least had Starbucks. I got to see Val open his door in his underwear, Kyle and I got to have Mexican ice cream, I got to spend at least 10 minutes with the Lipfords, I got to visit with the Wade twins and the McCalebs at the carnival, I got more time than usual with Wendy Wray Ogren, and got to at least laugh on the phone with Joel Quile after promising each other we'd visit at some point that week. He's a blessed guy--what a beautiful family!

We're home now. I've been buried today trying to dig out. One bright spot was my call from Sam Middlebrook--thanks, Sam! Your prayers are such an encouragement!

Actually, there were many other bright points today. I spent all morning with Mike Cope, Jeff Walling, Randy Gill, GT, Larry Bridgesmith and Phil Harrington talking about ZOE and the future. It was an exciting morning. We're looking ahead to our next conference on the West Coast in January. COME JOIN US!

One other thing I neglected to mention--in the last 2 weeks I completely changed gears on Christmas. I am securing copyrights and we had auditions last night for "Sanders Family Christmas" a wonderful musical comedy...the sequel to "Smoke on the Mountain". We had a great turn out and a wonderful cast as a result. We hit the ground running tomorrow night.

Tomorrow morning I will lead worship at Lipscomb chapel again. Please pray for me so I will know how to encourage them and do something that honors the Lord.

It's good to be home. The hardwood floors in our house are STILL not right after another go around this past week--but that's another blog altogether. Let's just boil it down to some good ol' creamed corn.

This is long already, but after this morning, I keep thinking about the future and what might be on the horizon. I know tomorrow a large group meets in Dallas from the Churches of Christ (Lynn Anderson, Cope, Walling, Rubel, Rick Atchley, and others) with leaders from the Independent Christian Churches. On the census of 1906 we were divided for the first time. We're coming up on the 100th anniversary of that date. Leaders from both groups are looking to bridge a 100 year old gap. I think that's a cool thing. Let's pray for those men and women tomorrow. Whatever the case, we serve a God who is bigger than all of us put together. Today was a day of being reminded of that.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

This weekend has been incredibly indescribable. I'll have to blog about it some through the week. The girls absolutely loved that parade. More on that later too. This picture was taken in chapel during the presentation on Saturday. Pictured with me are Royce Money, ACU President and Linda Giddens, ACU Alumni Board President.

We're exhausted and feel full. It's been a wonderful time of blessing and being with friends and family. We fly home in the morning. More after we get back!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Rain! I remember several heavy rains while at ACU--the kind where you go from your car to the nearest building and look like you swam under water. Today we had one of those rains here. Sheryl and I waded to chapel.

Chapel was really cool today. They did all the Homecoming court stuff up front and then spent the rest of the time in worship. I just always feel so encouraged when I get to be here on the Friday worship days. Honestly, ACU really is unique. The kids really sing. They really seem passionate about worship. The praise team up front did a great job. All the football players were sitting on the floor towards the front. One of the players just stood up at one point with his hands in the air in worship- not caring at all what anyone thought. There were kids like that scattered all over the coliseum. BUT--the thing that really freaked us out was how many ZOE arrangements and songs they sang. It's really weird to be singing in a coliseum of students and hear girls mimic things Sheryl made up in the studio. I honestly had to stop at one point because I was so overwhelmed. The passion of the students, the volume with which they sang, the heartfelt leadership of the student leading worship... it was really cool.

We spent some time in the campus center. The "shrine to Brandon", as Sheryl calls it, is completely embarrassing. The girls think it's pretty cool though since they're pictures are in the case as well.

That reminds me, this morning Maddie popped off, "Daddy, your hair looks weird." I said, "Is that a good weird or bad weird?" She replied, "BAD weird." Alas, I am already embarrassing my daughter...a trend I hope to continue for many, many years.

I have decided to break down and go to Gamma Sigs' Homecoming breakfast in the morning. I ran into some friends who convinced me to go. Hopefully, I've talked Kyle into going. We were remembering some things about pledging this afternoon. At one point during the brutal bid night experience, we were out on this property doing something secretive--but it involved all means of torture and humiliation (well, not really--only mostly). A lot of it had to do with physical stuff--running, etc. But the worst was the eating. Kyle was reminding me--we were in the same group with Chris Seidman and others--how I took it all. Meanwhile, he was spitting things out right and left while no one was watching. When he told me the next day, I was so mad. I had eaten who knows what and he had done the MUCH smarter thing. All you GSP guys out there know what I mean.

One of the funnier moments in Gamma Sigs happened later after I graduated and came back as an alumnus for bid night. Donny Vaughn, several others and I were in charge of the alumni fire. We made up some story about one of our club songs... "O come ye brothers to the call..." We totally lied and said that one time a group of GSP members went to work on a Native American Reservation back in the 60s. These Native Americans did something they termed "the call" and we'd imitate it yelping and doing all sorts of stupid things. We taught the pledges how to "call" and said that all through the night and on into the 6 week pledging period that any time they saw their brothers from across campus, they should "call" to them. For whatever reason, it stuck. Throughout the night, every time we'd hear people doing it, we would have to just bite our lips to keep from completely breaking down in laughter. Remember this, Donny? Apparently, "the call" is still a part of GSP legend.

My mom needs to sell her house. Please keep that in your prayers. She closes on her new house in Nashville on December 4th. That's coming QUICKLY!

I think I decided that I might want to go get my Masters in worship ministry through Integrity. At some point, I'd like to be back in Abilene and teach at ACU and be a part of encouraging young men and women in that area. That might be a few years off, but it's really been something on my heart while we've been out here. Who knows what the church will look like in 20 years. We may all be moving to Africa. We might be selling our huge buildings and embracing a new paradigm. We might actually become missional in nature. I just think we've got exciting days ahead. There's a lot of groaning and complaining out there and I'm doing my fair share of it. I just feel like the truth is this--God will glorify Himself through all of this. Whether it looks like it does now or something completely different and outside our boxes, it has always been and always will be his bride. I can't wait to see how these current stirrings impact, convict, and improve the world-wide fellowship of believers we all belong to.

It's raining, the girls are asleep, and it's time for a nap. Hope all of you are having a great week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The flights to Abilene were some of the best we'd ever had. Even American Eagle only threatened near death 3 times as opposed to the 20 or so that are expected on such a flight. We've had such a relaxing, wonderful time!!

We spent some time with our friend, Sally Gary on Tuesday night. Afterwards, my life long friend, Kyle Dickson came and kidnapped me and we went to Val Durrington's to borrow a squirrel trap. Yes, a squirrel trap. I loved Val's face as he opened the door--only expecting Kyle. One of the best things about going "home" is getting to see your friends. It's been great in that respect already.

This afternoon I helped Mom clean out some stuff. We also went through some old video tapes...Wylie High School concerts where Shawna Duff and I were singing Daddy's Hands and other less memorable moments. There was one tape of my dad interviewing my grandmother about all her memories. We enjoyed watching bits of that. There was a recital from ACU where many faces and voices of old friends--all Jeannette Lipford's students--came to life. John Scott Davis, Kellie Curtis, Gayla Hester, Julie Corlew, Wendy Wray, David Chrane, Holly Sparlin and on and on. (This post is for you, Anonymous. I like to call it my "names a plenty" post.)Like it or not, each of us has a history made up of names and faces. Some bring warm memories and others bring pain. These are the warmest of memories. Getting to see my dad on tape, my grandmother, my cousins and others in New Braunfels as we were kids. It was really a riot. Maddie exclaimed at one point, "Daddy was YOUNG!" Ouch.

Tonight we went over to Kyle and Camille Dickson's. Our kids had so much fun playing. Colin and Chloe were great hosts. It was nice just getting to visit in a low key environment. (Yes, 4 kids running and playing is lower key than the Homecoming weekend.) Being with them always makes me feel like moving to Abilene. They are great friends.

Tomorrow I am tackling the storage shed. Never mind that someone forgot to change the thermostat here--it's 94 degrees!! UGH! We are spending some time tomorrow night with our family's long time friends, the Lorenz's. Ronnie and Darla have been parents to me so many times over the years the lines were often blurry between who's child was whose. It will be nice being together.

Friday begins the festivities. Since Mom is moving, I am having all these nostalgic moments. I think we might even take in the Wylie High School pep rally that morning before ACU chapel. That evening is the carnival. The girls have been asking about it every day this week.

Saturday morning is Homecoming breakfast--do I really want to go pay $10 to eat with people I pledged with and under...only to watch men throw biscuits at current pledges? Doubtful. However, the parade starts at 9 and so we'll be getting ready for that. Maddie has her candy all prepared to throw. The rest of the day will be really full with the presentation and whatever speech I am giving at chapel and then the reception in the performing arts building. That night will be the Homecoming musical...Kiss Me Kate. It will be a full weekend, but lots of fun, I'm sure.

I honestly feel like I am on vacation. I know I needed this. I am thankful to God for the respite and the time with family. The girls have been so much fun. It's fun to watch THEM have fun. They love being here and have been so happy. Sheryl and I are loving the down time. Thank you, Lord, for providing rest for us!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Here's that picture I wrote about yesterday. I haven't had a place to publish our orders of worship each week, and haven't really felt a need to. But, I think I might start doing that. I am certainly not doing this in a spirit that says...hey look what we're doing. I've just had a couple of people ask if there was a place where it was published each week and thought I'd just do it here.

Welcome--Tim Woodroof
Family Prayer--Phil Gibbs/ Phillip Duncan

Worship Leader--BST
--Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
--Come Thou Almighty King
--We Will Worship You

--Guided Meditation

--The Lord is in His Holy Temple
--Be Still and Know
--We Fall Down

Supper/Offering--Bill Lokey
--Be Still and Know

Reach Campaign News--George Buck
Ministry Moment (top 10 reasons not to miss fall festival game show)--David Rubio
Shepherd's Charge--Ed Rucker
--We Will Worship You (chorus)

Yesterday, as I mentioned, was so powerful. It was an example of how the Holy Spirit is truly the main worship leader and worship planner. Tim's guided meditation time really ministered to me. At one point he invited us to step outside our broken, human selves and into the perfect holiness of the Lord to hear what He has to say. I realized that I have not been able to get past my brokenness to hear God in recent weeks.

Then, Bill Lokey completely spoke to me during the supper. He talked about Jesus in the boat with the storm all around and then went on to refer to the time when Jesus appeared and asked Peter to step out. He talked about times when we feel as if we're drowning--HELLO??? Powerful stuff. I was a mess. It was such a day of ministry to my heart--by some of the things people said, but more so by the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst. I am so grateful to God for what He gave me yesterday. It was a warm hand, a tight embrace saying to my heart, "I hear you. I am with you. Don't be afraid. I have all things in my hand. Trust me." I needed to hear that yesterday.

We leave for Abilene in the morning. I will probably blog while I am out there as I can, but if I am silent, just know we're having a great time.

One last little funny--last night Maddie and I were laying in her bed talking. Sometimes she'll say, "I wanna talk." She was propped up on her elbow and just rattling on. I told her I was so glad she was my daughter and she said "Dr. 'Leader' (Leeper) is my daughter." I laughed and said, "No, Maddie, Dr. Leeper is a doctor not a daughter." She got this funny teenager look on her face and said, "I know, I know, they're all the same words and colors to me!" and sighed and laid down. I was cracking up. We both just laid there laughing and laughing. I love those kinds of moments!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

From the sublime to the ridiculous...

This morning was really amazing. I think it goes down as one of my favorite Otter Creek mornings. Tim did a great job and really "pastored" today. We had a time of guided meditation that was really great. It is amazing how just stillness before the Lord can be such a blessing. After the morning I felt calm and a peace that could only be of the Holy Spirit.

We went to eat at the Chinese buffet we love so much in Green Hills. At lunch, Maddie asked about the power point background to one of the songs this morning. It's an old art piece showing Jesus on the cross with the wound in His side. I used it for the background to "We Fall Down". Maddie was concerned. She kept asking about the blood and his wound. It was a really cool thing to talk about. How he went through that because he loves us. She was even more concerned at this point. She wanted to get him a "boo-boo" (bandaid) and asked if she could blow Him kisses while He was on the cross. It may sound a little off, but I know He must have thought it was so sweet. It was her best offering.

Of course, we left the buffet and the conversation went right back to "poop", "poo-poo". Alas--aren't we the same?

Last night we had the most excellent "Supper Soup". On a brisk November evening back in 1969 our good friend, Pat Phillips, brought it to our house as my parents were bringing me, in infant form, home from the hospital. Ever since then I've been enjoying that soup. Here's a list of ingredients and a loose recipe. It's really great!

--small head of cabbage
--bunch of onions
--2 stalks of celery
--package of baby carrots (the regular sized one)
--3 long skinny potatoes
--1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
--can of green peas (14oz)
--2 large cans of whole tomatoes (the largest can)
--1 can tomato paste (the tiny little can)
--1 can beef broth

Chop the onions up into the green part and cut the celery. Brown the meat with the onion and celery added. Add the other ingredients into a large pot. (Core and cut the cabbage, peel and cut the potatoes into wedges.) Cook for about an hour and a half. About midway through add a couple of table spoons of parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 8-10 servings.

I went over to Ryan and Sarah's last night to paint some. It was fun getting to talk. Painting like that is rarely enjoyable, but the thing it affords you is concentrated time in one place with people you love, therefore making it extremely enjoyable! Things are really looking great over there.

I am staring down the barrel of the shotgun called Christmas at Otter Creek. I have had this program planned out for a while. However, I have doubted what I am doing as of late. I ordered a few scripts from a company in London and have been waiting to see if I like any of the stage plays better. It's time to start--past time. This morning, I am listening to my original idea and am thinking maybe that's the way to go. It's a cool worship concert--just almost too similar to what we did last year. For those of you who were in the worship leader track of the ZOE Leadership Conference, the song "I Hunger and Thirst for You" is the first song in the show. I like that it starts like that. It quickly moves on to more upbeat songs like "Resonate" and Avalon's "Everything To Me". It's published through Benson for you music ministry types out there.

We leave Tuesday for Abilene. We've been trying to prepare Maddie for the Homecoming parade and our ride in the convertible. I told her that she'll get to throw candy to all the kids along the way. Her response... "Can I just eat it?"

Ella is talking so much! In fact, she and Maddie have learned to crack each other up by Maddie saying "poo-poo!" and Ella responding, "poop!" Geez...these are surely my children.

Have a great morning as we all worship. It's cool to think that we are connected in so many ways. I'll be thinking of you as we gather around the table that makes us siblings in Christ.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

O'Charlie's--where kids eat free--simply rocks. Free commercial message there. Those sour dough rolls...mmmmm. Oh yeah-- gym, eat less, cut back, no candy corn and hot chocolate after 9pm. sheesh. Does that include sour dough rolls? What if they're drowning in butter? Thought so.

Today is clean sweep day. We've been a cleaning machine at the Thomas house. It's amazing how awesome it feels to have things neat and clean...virtually impossible with two kids 3 and under. Maddie does a fairly good job of helping pick up, but the concept is lost on Ella. She's getting there though.

I am about to go participate in Greg and Jana's wedding. It should be really nice. However, if you know me well, my favorite part of any wedding or reception, any anniversary or birthday---the cake. You simply cannot beat a bakery cake with that frosting. Kroger will not do. Baskin Robbins? Please. Give me the wedding cake. When I was in college I used to order birthday cakes just randomly for my roommates and me to enjoy. The reception today is at the home of Doug and Nan Smith. Where's the cake? More on that later.

Tomorrow morning we are talking about being still and listening for the Lord. What a needed message in our time. I especially need that reminder. Have a blessed and peace-filled day!

Friday, October 15, 2004

I am still shaking this cold that I have had for weeks. Something is weird. Melissa Kirby is suggesting I go see an ENT specialist about my sinuses. Maybe that would give me some relief.

Ella was so cute last night. She was singing parts of "Forever" using a toy microphone. Actually, it was the mic and then it was a toy radish which seemed to work just as well. She can't just sing it--it has to be with the pretend mic and she has to move and sway. "Sing Paaaays, si paaaaayys" So precious!

Maddie informed me last night that there was a scary monster living in her room. I said, "Oh Maddie, you know there's not really a scary monster in there." She replied, "Yes there is! I had to get up last night and hit him with my shoe to make him leave!!"

Then she informed me that there was also a scary monster in the play room upstairs. However, according to Maddie, he's not quite so scary since he is red, purple and orange in color. Apparently, when scary monsters are multi-colored, it just doesn't play well with the scare factor.

Sheryl and I are staying in tonight. I think we're just so thankful not to have a million activities going that we're loving the stillness of just being home together. I'm looking forward to it.

This weekend, our good friend Jana Ross from Otter Creek is marrying Greg Perry--long time Abilene guy. We are so pumped that they are getting married--they just seem so perfect for each other. It was worth the wait for Greg. I'm not giving away anyone's age, but when I was in 7th grade, I played a child role in the ACU Homecoming Musical "Shenandoah" and Greg was one of the leads--at least in his senior year at ACU. He has moved his World Wide Youth Camps office (which many of you are probably familiar with) to Nashville and it will be fun to get to be around Greg again. I am leading worship in their wedding tomorrow--such a joyous occasion for those families and all of us who love them.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Thanks for such kind comments yesterday. It's cool to be family through the blog, huh? Reminds me of a good friend who came up to me at the ZOE conference and proudly proclaimed she had been reading my "blob". Trust me, there's enough blob to read these days, but I knew what she meant.

Speaking of blob--I've begun the long road back to working out. UGH. Honestly, I have eaten my weight in great foods this year. It's time to put a stop to it and try to regain some ground in the physical fitness department. Why is it always so hard to go BACK to the gym?

Sheryl and I watched the debates last night. I thought they were pretty good. I agreed with one random woman after the debates were over who said that Kerry's plans sound good but how he can do all of that and pay for it is a mystery to everyone--maybe even him. I cannot tell you how ready I am for this to be over.

My favorite part of the night was when the candidates answered the last question, "What have you learned from the women in your lives?" We all saw both men soften and it seemed like we saw the real men there. They answered with honesty and seemed to let their guard down a bit. I almost expected one of them to say, "You said you learned this, but that wasn't true at all, what you really learned was..." which would have been fitting with the rest of the evening.

Other interesting notes--Bush saying something about Laura's mastery of the Engligh language. I really like that he can make fun of himself. Did he say something like "Laura speaks the English more better than me?"

Another great moment was Kerry talking about how he "married up". He was cracking me up. I thought it was interesting how he chose to talk about his mom over what he's learned from the women in his immediate life. What he said was good, but he might hear about that one later!

I wrote bills today. Can I just say how much I hate that experience? I really hate it. I know it's a part of life, but yuck.

We are getting really excited about our trip to Abilene next week. It will be fun seeing friends and getting to help my mom clean out stuff. I am certain there will be many things to toss. Mom has never had a problem tossing things. Dad and I were usually more of the pack rats. When Mom moved from my childhood home out in the country several years ago (not bitter), I cleaned out the attic. There were check stubs from the 1950s. Hilarious. It will be hard, but I know we'll be tossing or "yard selling" tons of stuff. Think anyone'll want check stubs from the 1950s? Kidding.

Have a great Thursday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Sam A. Thomas
13 years ago on this date the day was Sunday. I was beginning my senior year at ACU and my dad was sick. I went to pick up a friend for church, Shelly Braddock. Shelly had been a prayer warrior for my father during his illness with cancer. I knocked on the door that morning and she opened it looking really sick. She told me she'd been throwing up all night and felt like something was wrong with my dad. Shelly had the gift of intercession...and I mean that literally. I knew something was wrong.

Dad was in the hospital again. He'd been in and out and always seemed to muster up strength and energy to move ahead. In fact, he'd had a hair cut on Saturday and was giving the nurses a hard time, as he enjoyed doing. He was a live wire most of the time. His personality lit up any room he was in. He was a practical joker. Months of chemotherapy and the cancer in his bones had certainly weighed him down. But, through his suffering you could still see that spark in his eyes. Whatever made him who he was was still alive and well in there. In fact, I had not yet come to terms with the fact that cancer was eating him from the inside out. I fully expected him to recover as he had so many times before. He would get very sick and then go back to work pulling his legendary pranks as the kids' favorite principal.

After talking with Shelly, I sped to the hospital. I ran to his floor and walked in the room to find him looking so completely different than I had ever seen him. He looked so pale. He did not seem himself. There were nurses around him tending to him. I was afraid. I almost didn't wan to walk in the room. I was afraid he was gone.

I had prayed one constant prayer (besides "HEAL HIM, LORD!) throughout his illness. I had a weird fear of something happening to him and getting a phone call or something. This had caused me to pray time and again that God allow me to be there with him when he died. (which seems weird because I wasn't convinced he WOULD die.)
The thought of either made me sick to my stomach, but being with him and experiencing that with him seemed the better option for my young and frightened mind.

I walked in the room and was relieved to see his chest moving. He was so out of it. I had never seen him look like that. It was almost like he'd had a stroke or something. He just appeared to be near the end. I stood there looking at him wondering what to do, how to feel, who to call. Was this happening? Could it really be that God wasn't going to heal him after all? I'd had one or two moments where that possibility had hit me and had had to pull the car over to scream and cry. But, this appeared to be more than a possibility. The reality in that room at that moment was cold, impersonal, and depressing. I felt like I was looking down on myself in amazement that any of this was happening. It would be a feeling that lasted most of that day.

I called our church building to have someone locate my mom. (This was before the prevalence of cell phones.) She came as quickly as she could. I was there with Dad for a good while by myself. Dad gradually came out of his coma state for a while. We talked a little. Mostly, he listened and squeezed my hand. At one point he asked me to go get this little package on the shelf. It was one of those stupid rattle snake egg packages. The dumbest practical joke ever. I, of course, fell for it as it went off in my hand (my aversion to snakes has EVERYTHING to do with my father!) My dad laughed out loud. It seemed fitting for that to be one of the last exchanges we had. We also said "I love you" to each other as we had almost every day. I was also able to tell him that it was ok to go on. He'd fought really hard and we all knew he was tired. I think that helped him--but it was good for me to say it out loud too... to remind me that it was really ok.

The day wore on. Mom got there. Gradually, the word got out and friends began to spill into the room. By that evening, we had college students up and down the corridor praying, singing, whispering and sometimes laughing. So many faces are etched in my memory.

Around my dad's bed were people like my crazy aunt Dot (his sister), my grandmother, my mom, Sally Gary, Paula Agnew, Shane Holland, and others. I was at the foot of his bed watching his labored breathing and rubbing his feet. We were all telling stories and laughing. I know Dad could hear and was probably loving every minute--AND wishing he could interject.

That night, a little after midnight, he took his last breath. I just stared at him. I couldn't believe it was over. He was definitely gone. It was both a deeply spiritual moment and also a little frightening. I didn't feel ready.

We left the hospital and the Harold and Jeannette Lipford met us at our house. Brent McCall drove me there and stayed that night. We sat around and talked and I kept feeling like I was outside myself just looking and watching everything going on.

The next day, my roommates and I cried together. Stephen, Craig and Chris had walked with me through much of his illness. I wouldn't have made it without friends like them. Kyle, Shane and Brent had listened to me and eased my fears many times. Paula, Shelly and Trish had prayed so ferverently for him. Mom and I were surrounded with community. The Lorenzes were closer than family to us. They held our arms up.

Days and weeks went by. I dove even deeper into school, covering my pain with trying to make a 4.0 and doing every social activity possible. I had no context for how to deal with something like that. Eventually, it caught up to me. There was community then too. Praise God.

As I look back over the last 13 years, I see men who've stepped up to be fathers to me, I see friends who have literally been brothers and sisters to me, and I see how God walks with us--even through the valley of the shadow of death. Even on days when my lack of faith wouldn't allow me to say "I'm not afraid", he was STILL with me. His rod and staff comforted me. He has led my mom and me beside still waters and allowed us to drink from the bounty of His goodness. He has warmed our hearts and filled our emptiness in ways we could never have dreamed. I don't like it when this date comes around every year, but it forces me to remember how God walked us through such a difficult time. He is good. And...maybe the best thing I learned, He is PRESENT. His presence does not depend on whether we feel Him there or not. He's there. His goodness is not dependent on how we feel about life. He's always good. His faithfulness is not contingent on our faithfulness. He's always faithful. Death is not the final chapter. There's more. He is the Father of the fatherless and He writes our names on the palms of His hands. I am a rich man because of the love He's allowed me to know.

Thanks Dad (and MOM!) for pointing me to Him. You layed a foundation that He has strengthened even through hardship. I miss you, Dad. I wish you were here today. There'd be so much to talk about. So much to laugh about. You'd love Sheryl. She's so you in so many ways. You'd love Otter Creek. You'd adore these girls. We miss you and thank God for the legacy of faith you left for us.

After Dad died, the Abilene Independent School District built a school and named it after him. Here's a picture-

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

It hasn't really been a newsworthy week. We saw plans for the inside of the new building in staff meeting today. They were really cool. It's wild to think that by the time we get in, it might already be too small. I guess God knows how to best lead this process.

We went to the Williamson's tonight and made pizzas. We were going to help them hang pictures but the girls pre-empted us by spreading finger paints all over the carpet upstairs in the play room. Sheryl is there steam cleaning as I write. I brought the girls home to put them in bed. They were ready.

I lead worship at Lipscomb University's chapel tomorrow. I have really enjoyed doing that this semester. It's a completely different experience than the last time I did it several years ago.

I am so ready for this election to be over. If I get one more forwarded email proclaiming to know the inner thoughts of either candidate, I might have to scream. Honestly, I am taking them with a grain of salt now--coming from both sides. Today I got one proclaiming George Bush the anti-Christ. Please. Recently, I read a blog picking apart W's appearance--ears, eyes, etc. The comments were equally critical. I hate what politics does to people. How can we be salt and light in this without using rhetoric, anger, and throwing a spin on everything we say? Please, Lord, soften our hearts and help us listen to You. It seems as if we're spinning ourselves out of control.

I've had weird dreams this week. I won't go into them here, but I typically don't have dreams that I remember--at least not frequently. I'm praying for peace tonight. I've got a lot on my mind. It's good to remember that the Lord invites me to lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Things I have learned over the course of one weekend:
1. I don't really like the single life.

2. Ladder 49 is too long and the same scene repeated about 15 times.

3. Walking downtown was pretty cool. One t-shirt worn by a group of men from a gay community church read "Church shouldn't be the place you go to catch hell". As I mentioned, there was a noticeable lack of church involvement in this AIDS walk...aside from the churches like the one I just mentioned. Does support for those suffering with that horrible disease mean you have to embrace the lifestyle? I certainly don't think so, but it seemed kind of polar to me. One good thing--Jars of Clay was performing before the walk began. Dan had some really good comments and came across as someone who really cared. I wanted to stand and cheer. Praise God! It was an interesting day. I was really glad to be with Amanda and Geof.

4. I am extremely blessed by the friendships God has given me.

5. Friday Night Lights was AWESOME! I really loved this movie. It was really cool to see a lot of it filmed in Abilene at Shotwell Stadium. It brought back a lot of memories.

6. People seem to use sports and, perhaps, especially football to either bring good things into lives or to belittle. It's always been that way. How many fathers did we know who were like Tim McGraw's character? I thought Coach Gaines was portrayed in a positive light although his personality wasn't nearly as cool as the real Coach Gaines.

7. This point was proven after the movie when we ran into a friend who made some smart remark about sports to me that was neither funny or cool. He has since apologized.

8. Sometimes, I fear, Christians do the same thing. We use the cause of Christ to either bring good or to belittle.

9. I cannot watch any TV show or movie where little kids get hurt (ER re-run). It literally makes me sick to my stomach.

10. I am not sure we can apply business principles to Kingdom. And yet, we do it and put a Christian spin on it and make ourselves feel good about it.

11. The Church is a body--based on the Corinthian letters and every body, like it or not, has a sphincter. (Tim preached this morning on the power of the Church as a body of believers and said, "not everyone is a hand or an arm...some are sphincters and some are toenails." I wanted to die--laughing.)

These seem random. That's probably because I had a lot of random thoughts this weekend. Sheryl and the girls are driving even as I write. Hurry home!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Sheryl and the girls come home tomorrow. I am really ready. They have had a good time seeing Sheryl's parents and some extended family, but it will be nice having them back.

Watched the debates last night with some friends. "Can someone please answer the question?" That is what I wanted to say almost every 5 minutes. Politics. Geez. I cannot pretend to even know what it would be like to run for President. The pressure. The expectations. The temptation to put a spin on just about everything that's uttered. I thought both men did a pretty good job, considering. But--the skirting, the posturing, the spin--all of those things are part of what makes these elections so hard on everyone. I miss Karen Hughes. I wish she was still on the Bush Administration. However, she made the better choice in going home to be with her family. Enough said. There've been enough cans of worms opened this week. The thought of worms served with creamed corn is enough to make me want to hurl.

Finally, I have someone to recommend to you. Phillip Duncan is in the market for a ministry job. He has been singing with us at Otter Creek for 5 or more years. He has been leading quite a bit over the last 2 years. I love what God has done and is doing in his life. He has a passion for worship and ministry. I have been in the room as he rehearsed the praise team while beginning by preparing them for MINISTRY. There are a lot of people out there who enjoy music and leading, etc. There are far fewer people who really "get" it. Phillip gets it. His heart is in the right place and God is sculpting and molding him into a powerful force for the Kingdom--not just the church as we know it. He and Mary Alice (and baby Jack) have definitely had their share of difficulty over the last year. What it has produced in him is Spiritual fruit. It's so amazing to see God work in peoples' lives right before your eyes. I am not sure if any of you reading know of a worship leading position, but please let me know. While I feel selfish about losing Phillip, it's just gotten to the point where I believe we need him out there serving in this way. He will be a blessing wherever God sends him.

Have a great day--more later on my experience to come this afternoon.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Creamed Corn

- 3/4 vegetable broth
- 3 cups corn kernels (fresh, cooked; canned, drained; or frozen)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons margerine
- 2 tablespoonss all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a 1-quart sauscepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the corn and simmer, covered, 7 minutes. In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt the margerine over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour until absorbed. Add the corn-broth mixture, the cream, and pepper; stir until mixture comes to a boil and sauce is thickened, about 1 minute.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Update on Jennifer Goodman--came through surgery without any complications. She is talking a lot, looks good and hopes to go home tomorrow. Praise God! We also continue to lift up thanks for the good results from the bone and organ tests this week.

Two more questions--and I am not trying to open cans of worms. Trust me, anything even nearly resembling a snake is off limits to me. Just thought it would be good to hear from some of you on this.

1. I am considering doing a Nashville Cares AIDS walk on Saturday. My co-worker, Phil, shared this article from Christianity Today with me. Click here
How does this article strike you?

2. Any of the McLaren stuff that didn't resonate with you?

OK--I ranted a bit about Corporate Church yesterday and then had an amazing experience last night. As I have said, I love this place. I love the diversity. I love the freedom. I love the expressions that are so genuine and unique. I am a blessed man to be on staff with people passionate about the Lord. I am blessed to serve under an eldership who hungers for God. MAN! Seriously!! I am so blessed.

So, last night, at the emergent type service we have on Wednesdays, Scott talked about fruit. He encouraged us to think about the fruit we were producing for the Master. The stations included one where you take a seed and consider whether our seed is good or bad and then plant it in a pot of dirt essentially putting to death all that is not holy in us.

There was another station that was covered in fruit. We were invited to take some fruit and eat as we wrote down on a card what kinds of fruit we wanted more of in our lives. What kinds of fruit do you desire more of? I know it was an easy thing for me to write. There are a couple I long to have in more abundance.

The other station was an encouragement station where we were invited to write encouragement notes to people and leave them in a bucket to be mailed.

There were also Shepherds there to pray over people if they desired. I never made it that far, but always love that.

It was nice to sit an meditate for a while. It was even strangely nice to hear a college student struggle through leading a couple of songs at the beginning. As hard as it was to listen to, it was certainly authentic. One of our college students, Amanda Henry, read a passage from the Psalms. It was wonderful! Sonya Colvert and her husband Bobby sang and played guitar for the final worship set and it was the perfect way to end.

Speaking of scripture reading, Adam and Donna Hester did a class on drama in worship services at the conference last weekend. They talked about scripture reading at one point. My mom was telling me some about their comments. I wish I could have all of our public readers listen to the CD of their class. It's so important as we read scripture aloud to read with understanding, inflection, and passion. I cannot stand it when people get up to read scripture and sound like they are reading an obituary (and poorly, I might add). Many times as we have congregational readings I will stop mid sentence and have everyone begin again and "this time, let's read it like we really mean what we're saying". It's not that people don't mean it, it's just that sometimes we worship leaders have to help people think about what we do in corporate assemblies so as to not just trudge through. I am not saying we have to read everything with a dramatic flare--that could even be worse. I'm just saying how important it is for us to take everything we're doing in that context and make it the most real, genuine, heartfelt offering we can.

Good comments on McLarin. Clearly, he has some great ideas. We must be able to translate and, as someone said, do the harder job of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us boldly as we forge new ground and honor God. Isn't it Phil mentioned that "new ground" isn't really new at all. It might mean just a return to the Great Commission. While missional churches might be redundant, it's a sad truth that many of our churches have to begin to think differently and adopt redundant terminology in order to wake us from our long term, navel gazing daydream.

In other news, while we grapple with "churchy- churchikin" stuff, many of our families in our churches are walking difficult roads. We cannot lose sight of those hurting in our midst. While we had an amazing testimony Sunday by Maria Creech about Julia who has been cleared of Cystic Fibrosis (PRAISE THE LORD!!!!), I looked out into faces of others who were literally waiting on life or death test results to come in, a divorce to finalize, a parent to breathe their last breath, or waiting for the moment to finally confess and lay down addictions. My heart is heavy this week for Jennifer Goodman. Please be praying for her. Her husband, Randy, is the president of Lyric Street Records (Rascal Flats, etc) and they have two small kids. Jennifer found out a few weeks ago that she has breast cancer. They also found it in 17 lymph nodes. She got great news this week that her bone scan and organ scan came back clear, however she is in surgery right now. Please lift this family up. They are very special to all of us at Otter Creek. Jennifer is one of our Ministry Coordinators (what we call our deacons).

Father, for all those hurting, we ask your hand of grace and healing. For all those searching, we ask that we find YOU over systems and methods. For all those discouraged, give us your eyes. For all those ready to give up, please remind us that you have not left us as orphans. For all those in in leadership, give us soft and moldable hearts. You are so good to us.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Well, the world of Corporate Church work never stops. The term corporate church work probably brings both positive and negative things to mind. I mean it in all those ways.

We're in the middle of our building fundraising campaign. It involves a lot of time. It's hard not to feel like there's a "spin" put on certain things. The good news is, I think our leadership has a sincere heart towards seeking the Lord in all these things. It's just so hard to know what to do with the corporate American church and all the things I've been reading and hearing from people like McClaren. The issue isn't buildings, it's more philosophy. I find that I am in complete inward turmoil over how to be the "new kind of Christian". I am immersed in modernity. I love this place and the freedoms we have here. I love our leaders. I just want to know how to build the Kingdom in ways that are lasting for this and future generations. Thankfully, the Lord knows how and, I am convinced, will show all of us.

There's so much on Tim right now. I am worried about him. Please pray for his strength and spirit right now. He's got a lot on his plate. His eyes seem tired. It's not an easy job to lead. Most of us know that. Would you mind just mentioning him by name and asking that the Lord empower him with wisdom, energy, and boldness from the Holy Spirit?

I am staring down the barrel of another deadline. We are supposed to begin Christmas rehearsals next week. I have an entire program mapped out, but am still questioning whether it's the right thing to do this year. We have done everything from a simple candle light service to a huge Broadway style, two act musical (Two From Galilee). The past few years we've gone more the concert route. It's Nashville, after all. Here are a few pictures of last year's show. It was based off the City on a Hill Christmas CD. It was so much fun--I think I am worried that nothing we find will be as fun as that was!

Pray for wisdom for me in planning. I always have a blast once it's going, but the planning part can sometimes be the hardest.

Anyone out there chewing on what McClaren said?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

WOW--thank you so much for the comments yesterday. How very encouraging! I still feel full--yes, tick full. I will never live that down. Sometimes my west Texas farm raising comes out, as you saw Saturday night. I still think it was a good analogy. TICK, TICK, TICK!

Yesterday was spent resting and just enjoying being with family. My mom was still here (she left this morning) and the girls were just so thrilled that we were both home. They are so gorgeous! I know I am biased as their daddy, but I am just so in love with those girls. Actually getting to talk with Sheryl about the weekend and family was great too. I am such a blessed man!

The conference began with a bang with McClaren. How can anyone top McClaren? He was rocking my world. I just wish each of us could sit our entire church down and listen to him talk about that stuff and then discuss. How convicting!! I was especially convicted by the part about us living in our Christian bubbles. If we aren't actively bringing people into the Kingdom of God (which, by the way, doesn't necessarily mean getting them inside the church doors) can we truly call ourselves disciples? Reference the great commission in the end of Matthew.

While McClaren rocked our world in the main hall, the worship leaders' track was doing about the same thing. It began with Stephen being so open about his year. Isn't it incredible how vulnerability breeds that in others?? Satan is so tricky in telling us to keep things to ourselves--don't over share. BUT--the impact of openness is INCREDIBLE! It was only continued by Nino the following day as he so boldly shed light onto dark places while we all looked on. It was POWERFUL. The song he sang over us was a highlight of my entire weekend. Hearing Jeff Nelson read about the struggles these ministers are dealing with, seeing people worship with such passion, overhearing small groups really breaking through the surface stuff and talking deeply, and having some pretty amazing conversations with people over the weekend just made me feel like I was in heaven. The video Saturday night set to "I Can Only Imagine" was the thing that finally broke me emotionally. Seeing pictures of my dad was such a surreal experience. It was so special. Then--seeing Joe Smith's face. It's been such a tough year with his loss.

I am not sure what it was--except the Spirit--but this conference was my favorite one ever. I actually had good quality time with people. One night I got to go to dinner with my friends, Stephen Bailey, Nino Elliott, Val Durrington, Ryan Christian, and my mom. Being with those guys was such a blessing. Such dear friends--all involved in worship now. Honestly, we all sang together in college and to think that so many are now in ministry is so amazing (Chris Seidman was also in our graduating class!)

The time with the ZOE team was extra special this year too. I think we all had a clear sense of God doing something and were just in complete amazement at His work.

I am so grateful for the connection I feel with so many of those who come to ZOE. It's just like a sweet family reunion. I was sorry to see it end.

Now, how to process all that happened, all that McClaren said, all the stories I heard from struggling ministers, and everything God did!! What a glorious time.

Cope and Walling hit it out of the park as usual. Thanks, Mike, for your encouragement. I always love being with you. How great was it to see Diane this time??!! The pic below was of a comedy moment from the weekend. Like Walling and Cope could EVER put any of us to sleep!!

I am now diving into Christmas...yet, convicted to take another look at my schedule and commit to people like "April" out there. The Kingdom of God is so much larger than what we can see. I want to embrace it all.

Have a great week, everyone.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Words simply fail in describing what we've just been through. What a powerful weekend. I think I was at max capacity in my brain and heart after the leadership conference. McClaren completely rocked. Then the weekend kicked off and it was almost like a Spiritual and emotional binge! Mercy!

I am completely worn out. I have a lot I want to say about the conference, but it must wait until tomorrow or Tuesday when I can be a little more coherent.

This morning we'll have many guests at our place from the conference. We've already been extremely crowded. It will be interesting to see if we can squeeze people in. Phillip is helping me lead today. My cold got better but decided to settle in my throat over the weekend. I am feeling fine, but just a little froggy.

Wow--can I say that again?! This year was special. Sheryl and I were discussing it. There was something about it that seemed more authentic, down to the nitty gritty, and honest than other years. I even feel like I got good QUALITY time with people--unheard of in settings like that. I just praise the Lord. He is so good to us. THANK YOU, Lord for your provision and feeding this week. I love belonging to You!