Wednesday, September 29, 2004

"Let Your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, Your salvation according to Your promise." Psalm 119:41

Last night I had some good prayer and think time. Most of it was in the middle of the night, but hey, it's cool with me. I struggle with perfectionism. It pervades many areas of my life. I have been working to overcome the negative implications of that. Spiritually, it can be debilitating. In marriage, it can be just as hurtful. There's nothing wrong with giving it your best, but God has been teaching me over the last 15 years that I am completely powerless without Him. I am not sure I believed it. I tried it on my own for a while and still have the scars to prove my stupidity. I am nothing without Christ. I cannot work my way into His heart. I cannot perform in such a way to win His love. He doesn't forgive my sin if I am extra creative. He doesn't call me His son if I plan the most moving worship service. The deal is sealed. Just like Maddie and Ella are mine. I am His. It's a tough concept and I find myself having to be reminded of it over and over again.

The girls have had colds for a week. Sheryl and I are now the proud owners of them. Please pray for quick healing. For whatever reason--actually, I think we all know the reason--the colds have settled in our throats. We're just praying that God will banish them from our bodies.

Our Father offers His steadfast love in abundance. His salvation is a gift because of the great price Jesus paid. Take a moment today to thank Him and then put it into action in some way. Extend a hand. Stop and engage someone in conversation in a way that let's them see you care for them. Offer a cup of cold water--figuratively or literally. Renew your saltiness today.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Sometimes creativity gets me in trouble. Sometimes it means I get a little too creative for people's comfort zones, but usually it just means that it creates more work for me in the long run. I've been so fired up about the leadership track of the conference this year. I think it will be the best yet.

We basically have 3 sessions together. Session one will begin with Kip Long and his youth praise team leading us in worship. We'll go on to talk about marriage and relationships in the context of ministry hearing from a couple spouses and my best friend who is a worship minister in TX and has gone through some very difficult stuff this year. We're going to spend some time afterwards writing a note to our mate or significant other. Then we'll split for small group time to discuss Brian McClarin's presentation that day.

Friday we will begin with Nino leading a time of worship with his guitar--something he is doing at Southlake, where he ministers. From there, Jeff Nelson and I will address some needs brought up in the email correspondence we've had with the worship leaders. It should be a time of real sharing and honesty. We'll have small group time again and talk about McClarin's presentation.

That afternoon, and here's where I've gotten myself in trouble, we are going to talk Emergent Church stuff. As I thought more about talking about Emergent stuff. I thought, why talk about it when we could just have an emergent service like we've done at OC? What a great idea--last week! I'm kidding--it's still an energizing idea. It's just consumed my prep time for the last week. I am really pumped about it though! I will lead, JV will play keys, TJ (whom I blogged about last week) will sing and play guitar and Amanda will sing too. We've got a team of folks who help make those services happen here working to help me pull this off. Lee Camp, one of our OC members and author of Mere Discipleship, will share a little. Scott Owings, my dear brother and staff mate, will also help guide thoughts. We will have several different stations representing the desert, desperation, renewal, and community. I am really pumped about it! This picture was taken at one of our emergent services.

I know it will be a real stretch for some. However, we can't really talk about being an emerging church without providing a laboratory for people to see what kinds of services we're talking about. Jesus brought the Word to life. He was the Word made flesh. He was a story teller. Can you imagine if he never told a story, or never talked in metaphor? Can you imagine if he were only 2 dimensional? These services try to take the Word and bring it to life. Instead of just hearing a sermon, it attempts to bring fresh life to the message through meditation, experience, spiritual exercises, and community.

Please pray about that for me. I want it to be a rich experience for those present. I want it to be a time of ministry without people getting hung up in the way things are done. Hopefully, by that time in the week, people will have heard some convicting things from Brian and be more open. Would you just pray for open hearts and for Godly discernment for me? Thanks!

I've already written too much. I need to go back and hit it hard. Lots left to do. Last night we had wonderful fajita quesadillas at a Mexican food place near our house and then went to the playground for some fun and frolic. It was so great. Sheryl and I met another couple there who go to West End Community Church. We know some of the same people and had the most encouraging conversation with these "strangers". Isn't family wonderful? We share the blood of Christ. It was amazing how close we felt to these people.

God is good. I imagine we'll be saying that a lot this week. Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, September 27, 2004

This is probably how Sheryl feels right about now. Mondays are my day off, and yet I am here working trying to prepare for the fast approaching conference. It's hard to turn off at night. My mind races with everything left to do. Sheryl and the girls are so patient and giving. I'll be back in body AND MIND soon, my dear ones!

The countdown has begun! 3 days left.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Phillip Duncan is leading this morning. I am involved in the service, but taking a vocal break. For that, I an grateful. Phillip will do a great job!

I got an email from the ACU alumni office saying I am supposed to send photos, memorabilia, etc for the glass case in the student center. That freaks me out. However, it's caused me to think and search through stuff. Seems like I have been doing a lot of that lately.

I am a blessed man. Although I am an only child, God has gifted me with many siblings. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. My college roommates, who are still my dearest friends, and I have shared 15+ years together of life, death, marriage, children, you name it. We still talk regularly and share humorous stories as well as very deep prayer needs. They have been brothers to me through many trials and victories. Here are some funny pictures of us through the years--Stephen Bailey (wife Stephanie), Craig Fisher (wife, Beth Ann), and Chris Doggett (wife Karen). Affectionately known as SAB, Fish and Dog.

Another dear family to me who I'll get to see--the Dicksons. Kyle and I have pictures of each other at our 5th birthday party. It's been a long friendship. Again--a brother given by God. Kyle and Camille (and Kyle's extended family) are deeply woven into my memories. Here's a great picture of them taken this year.

We are all blessed. We are a part of a family much larger than we realize. Today we celebrate FAMILY with each other. We will eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ. What a feast! What a family reunion! We share that blood between us--taking into account for all our failings. We are connected. What a blessing! Commune in joy today, dear blog family.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Wow! The days are dwindling. Mom comes in on Wednesday, others will be arriving all week for the conference, and there is much left to do. It's exciting though! So much anticipation! The Lord is up to something.

I shared a long overdue breakfast with my buddy, Cody Abercrombie yesterday. He's another friend I'll be able to say..."I knew you when!" He has big dreams for film acting. Watch for him.

I also survived another trip to the hair cutting place. "Ear Murderer" was there, but I somehow escaped her evil talons. I was glad for it too. As I walked hurriedly by her to the next available sink, her poor victim was grimacing in pain from the scrubbing she was giving his head. Bless.

Last night we went to Basante's on West End and sat out side with our friends, Ryan and Sarah Williamson. It was so nice! I'm so grateful that they are here. Their friendship is very special to us. (If any of you are coming for the conference--it would be a great place to check out if you want a really nice dinner out.)

Today is project day. We've got several things we're working on. The girls are busy dressing up in princess dresses. This afternoon, John and Ruth Rucker of Otter Creek are having a reception to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary! WOW! Congratulations, John and Ruth!

Have a great weekend everyone! May the Lord shine upon you and fill your hearts with peace and rest in His presence.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Needless to say, I am running crazy right now. I expect that will be a theme over the next week or so. Last night we had an amazing time of rehearsal with the ZOE folks. The best part of it was the prayer time at the end. Each of us feels so at a loss to know how to thank God for this opportunity and so humbled by the leadership He's called us to. It was a time of many tears and pouring out our hearts and asking the Holy Spirit to intercede for those who are coming. Powerful time!

Today I feel like I am getting things done. Tonight we are having the Speakes over for fondue. I love that! Sheryl's so cool with ideas like that. Chicken, beef, veggies, etc and then pound cake, strawberries and bananas with a chocolate sauce. Yum. I think I'm hungry.

I may have sent some of you a link to one of TJ McCloud's new songs. TJ was my intern a couple of summers ago while he was on summer break from ACU. I love that guy. Thankfully, after graduation, he and his new wife, Holly, moved to Nashville and Holly became my admin. assistant. SHE IS AMAZING!!!! TJ is pursuing his dream of music--and is catching it, I might add. Amazing things are happening with him. I'm so proud of him. I am going to link you to his website and try and link you to this song too.

You've heard me talk about our friend Amanda. She's my our little sister--amazing talent herself. TJ was no dummy in asking her to sing on this cut. They sound amazing together. Amanda just got promoted in her job at CMT--WAY TO GO, AMANDA!!

So--here goes. Enjoy TJ and Amanda (Oh--I almost forgot to mention--the awesome pics of TJ were taken by our very own multi-talented Julie Woodroof, wife of Tim. Do we have talent oozing here or what!!??)
TJ's Website
The song (ok, you have to click on the park studio link and then go to clientele. That takes you to TJ. Click on his name and thne clik on the audio link. It's a process, but you'll love it!!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I have mentioned that the countdown for the ZOE conference is running me like a mad man. I hear the theme music to Jeopardy being played in my head at almost every hour. The theme this year is Desperate. Some of what we'll be talking about is what leads us to desperation. I think I can relate, how about you?

I don't want to give too much away, but Saturday night we'll be talking some about home--and Heaven. We're putting together a video of pictures of those close to us who have gone to be with the Lord. My dad, Megan Cope, Joe Smith, Janet Kidd and others. Last night I was searching for pictures of Dad trying to get ready to hand them over to Randy Brewer today. I found myself talking out loud to him. As I poured over the last 13 years, I kept saying, "It seems so weird that you missed that, Dad". Pictures of my wedding, of my college graduation, pictures of my years of performing at Six Flags, Norwegian Cruise Line, and doing Theater in Dallas...the birth of my children, Nashville...the list goes on and on. It hit me how long he's really been gone. I know this may sound weird, but there's a little part of me that feels like it just got put on pause 13 years ago. It's like I entered this strange alternate universe where life really does go on and you learn to live without someone so dear to you. If you've ever lost a parent, a spouse, a sibling, or a child you know what I mean. Close friends are hard too, but it's different. I've lost close friends, every grandparent, cousins, aunts and uncles and still...nothing has impacted me like the loss of my father. Holidays weren't really the same. Christmas always felt forced. Father's Day was a day I liked to skip and maybe go somewhere on vacation. October 13 (he died late that night) and January 13 (his birthday) are days that are still hard.

Then came my kids. I remember being in the hospital waiting on Maddie to be born. I HATED HOSPITALS. I had certainly spent enough time in them. That birth changed my whole perspective! It was so joyous! Everyone there was exchanging smiles and hugs. Redemption! Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, FATHER'S DAY--all of these were suddenly resurrected. The shell became filled with joyfilled life again. How exciting! Family means so much to me. Without Sheryl, the girls, and my mom I'd be half the man I am today. I remember a good intentioned relative saying something to me at my father's burial... "I hope one day you can become half the man your father was." Honestly, she meant it to be encouraging...although it sure wasn't at the time. The thing dad was the man he was only because he loved Jesus. If that's the key, then maybe that will happen for me too.

As I talked to him last night--something I haven't done in a very long time-- I found myself holding back sobs. I found myself saying the things I have said more times than I can count over the last 13 years. "I miss you. It's not fair. I wish you knew Sheryl. I wish you knew your grandkids. Thank you for loving me so much." It was a good thing to be able to express.

I know this is long, but I wanted to share a couple of pictures I found last night as I searched. One in particular will show you his true character--that he was a CHARACTER! Dad--I know you're up there playing pranks on the angels. Keep it up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

This spoke to me today. As I look at it I am reminded that I am commissioned to seek the Lord. Seek His face always. Look to Him and He will make me radiant. Seek Him first over all others. Love the light. Run from darkness. Allow God to burn up all that is unholy in me. Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and watch the doors open. But seek first the KINGDOM. Yikes--that means self denial, a life of service, a letting go of the things that grab my attention here on earth, and embracing the life of the cross. Why do I struggle so much to plant myself firmly in the middle of these tenants?

Help me, Lord. I resist transformation. I need your peace. I allow myself to feel overwhelmed by things that are not the core of what you've called me to. I ask for your hand to cover me these next two weeks. I need wisdom, creativity, discernment, energy, and stamina. I feel like I lack almost all of those today. I'm counting on your power being perfected in my weakness. Thank you for using me in spite of me.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Here's a small sample of the weekend (which, other than a couple of moments like this, was really good).

Setting: BST and the girls are together for the weekend while Mommy was in Dallas at Emily Trice's wedding. My cell phone is broken--I can receive calls but can't hear them. Our minivan is in the shop for brake work. We're still living in the hotel while our house is repaired from the fire.

Saturday morning we were up and at 'em with a bang. Ella was up by 6:30, Maddie by 7. We went over for the free breakfast and had Belgian waffles, eggs, biscuits, fruit and yogurt. We even took some to go. We got back to the room and I put the girls in the bath. We all got ready to leave and were out of the door by 9:15. I was really feelin' good.

I had told the girls we'd go see Alice in Wonderland at the downtown public library. It's a live show on the weekends in their really cool theater. We rolled down the windows on the way and played "roller coaster" (Mommy's invention for sanity). The girls were pumped.

We got to the library and went up to the 2nd floor to the theater. We got settled and out came Alice. It was a great show--a little long for young kids though. Midway through the show my cell phone vibrated and I could see the mechanic calling me. (Remember I can't answer my phone since it's impossible to hear anyone on it--so I have to let it go to voicemail and then check it from a different phone. Completely annoying.) After the show, Maddie & Ella got to hug Alice and then we were off to find a pay phone. By the way, since when did pay phones start costing 50 cents?? For the love!

We found a pay phone and I called my cell to check the message. The mechanic was talking when all of a sudden... click. I looked and Maddie had pressed down the receiver. ARGH! I said, "Maddie!! Don't do that!" I dug for more change. Whew--50 cents. My last 50 cents. I had heard enough to call Sheryl and tell her what he said and in the middle of our conversation... click. ARGH!!!! "Maddie, I already told you not to do that!!" (small swat here)

ME: "Excuse me, (to a concerned bystander) do you happen to have another 50 cents I can borrow?"

So, I called Sheryl back, she agreed to take it from there and I gathered up my melted children and tried to recover. There was no recovery. I think I all but ran out of the library. Bless us all.

Having said that, once we got back to the "home-tel" they settled a bit. I took 3 doses of lithium and then gathered myself. (I'm kidding, of course--but if it had been there, I might have divided it up for everyone!!!)

Sheryl arrived yesterday--glory hallelujah. Has anyone heard the country song they've been playing by Lonestar-- "Mr. Mom"? We actually recorded several of our ZOE projects in the home if one of the Lonestar guys. Anyway--that song is perfect. Men, our wives have SUCH patience and such a gift of being wife and mommy. We need to keep telling them how much we appreciate them. They don't get the strokes from bosses or co-workers like we might. It's up to us to continue to blanket them with kudos.

This afternoon, we are home--I mean HOME. The girls are sleeping in their beds, Sheryl's at the dentist, and I am thankful to be back. I don't even want to think about our downstairs which still looks like a disaster area with furniture and appliances and toilets everywhere. I'm just grateful it's done and we can begin to get back to normal. Life is good. Family is good. It really doesn't matter where you are.

One last thing--our prayer service last night was amazing. Those of you who know Clarissa would have marveled at Julianne singing Shout to the Lord while ZOE accompanied her with ooh's. It was wonderful! Caleb Carney praying--what's better? That sweet little voice asking that God give us bigger dreams for the future? I could have just died. It was a wonderful night. You know, family really does come in all forms. We are so blessed!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

too many stories from the weekend to write right now. Just wanted to share a couple of cool worship moments from today.

1. Otter was awesome this morning. Rubio spoke and was just fantastic. He talked about spiritual adultery and used some of the passages out of Proverbs. It was wonderful!

2. I am LOVING the new kids praise CD I bought for Maddie and Ella. We listen in the car all the time. I think it's Integrity--but it's called "Here I Am To Worship". Anyway, after lunch at a "meat & three" with the Williamsons, we went back to the hotel. Before we went swimming Maddie was jumping on the bed and singing in time--"Here I am to 'weership', here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God..." the entire chorus over and over, louder and louder. She is my praise dancer.

3. Tonight as I am running copies of the folio music for the ZOE team before our rehearsal, I went out and enjoyed a bit of the service of the Church of the Redeemer (who meets in our sanctuary on Sunday nights). It's neat to see what God is doing there.

4. Tonight we are engaging in a night of prayer about our building campaign. It will be a powerful time. One of our Elders this morning said, "When people get together to pray we can expect the miraculous, and to be blessed beyond our wildest dreams." I think that is so true.

Have a great night!

Friday, September 17, 2004

3 hours in and a few things I have learned so far...

Dropping off the mommy at the airport makes for very sad children
---however, rolling the back windows down and driving pretending you're on a roller coaster (a Mommy invention) does the trick in snapping them out of it.

When getting settled at the McDonald's outdoor playground and Maddie says "I have to go potty!" (this is after we have food on the table and shoes and socks off and in the bin)...if she tells you she can wait til after she eats..don't believe her. We had a lake of pee under our table.
--however--well, there really is no however except that I guess I am glad it was pee and not, well, you know.

Listening to Maddie and Ella sing "Here I Am To Worship" at the top of their lungs is something that makes my heart leap.

Naptime is HEAVEN.

There is so much to write, I just haven't been able to bring myself to write about it all. Hotel, Otter Creek, ZOE conference, the girls, Sheryl's trip to Dallas this weekend--I mean, lots of stuff! I am going a little crazy trying to juggle it all. We have a huge event here Sunday night for prayer about the campaign for the building project. Meanwhile, I've been trying to keep my head screwed on and figure out last minute things with regard to ZOE. It's wild.

In exactly one hour, I will be a single parent for a few days. Sheryl leaves for Emily Trice's wedding today. The girls and I will have a blast. But, I'm sure a few prayers wouldn't hurt--in fact, I'll go ahead and request some. :)

God is good. I've been thinking about what it means to seek first His Kingdom. It's really a pretty scary thought. In fact, it's causing me to lose sleep at night. I want to be able to express these thoughts coherently Sunday night. Please also pray for me about that.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The First Song of Isaiah
Surely, it is God who saves me;
I will trust in Him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,
and He will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say,
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon His name;
Make His deeds known among the peoples;
see that they remember that His name is exalted,
Sing the praises of the Lord, for He has done great things,
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy,
for the Great One in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, Amen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Just a few crazy stories from the last couple of days.

Sunday was really good. I thought the morning went well and the thought put into the presentation was solid and Spirit driven. I know people have all sorts of feelings about building church buildings. However, many of them are not here on a day to day basis to see the struggle it is to maintain this worn out facility. Many of them never have to work in the nursery with infants crawling on the ceiling because there isn't enough room. Some of the nay-sayers might gripe about parking for themselves, but might never consider that there are those who drive around the block never finding a place to park and eventually leave--even some who make it in the door but can't find a place to sit turn and leave. I've been at the door when it happened. It's possible some might not have considered that a move south--right off the interstate actually puts us in the community most of our folks live in which will allow us to minister to neighbors as well as being more accessible to seekers (way more than being tucked back in the Hollywood Hills of Nashville).

Anyway--my comment about buildings was really just more about a personal struggle inside me about the Church at large. I just wonder what we'll look like in 20-30 years. Will there still be mega churches and will people really experience discipleship there? Will home churches become more and more popular? What about groups who have dreams of leaving existing churches to start home churches? What about when their home church begins to grow? Where will they go? Will they build? Plant again? We cannot know and cannot see into the future. God is moving in all kinds of places and churches that look nothing like ours. Who wants to stand and say that God will only move in one certain setting and in one certain group of people? Please let me know so I can bring my lightening rod when I stand near you.

Sunday night and Monday morning were spent trying to get our house ready for the construction and our family ready for the "vacation" to the hotel. By the way, there are certain elements of vacation that are present such as continental breakfast and a complimentary light dinner buffet. Trust me--the Thomas family is all about the complimentary buffet. :) There are other things such as sleeping in the same room with coughing, snoring, tossing, turning children that don't add up to vacation. We're just grateful to have somewhere to be this week. It ridiculous to even complain about it. Seriously--laughable.

My friend's audition was interesting yesterday. Cirque du Soleil is an interesting company anyway--out of France. Let's just say many things are lost in translation. The best part was that during the private audition at SIR here in Nashville, Dolly Parton walked in. She was rehearsing in a hall there for a tour of some sort. She saw the 10 singers sitting waiting their turn and said, "Hi Yawwwl! Whatchyawwl doin out har?" Juan said someone told her that they were here auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. Dolly replied, "Wyyeeeow! Whatchyawwl gon do in that circus?" Bless. She's really not that dumb. Sheryl sang BGVs on her latest record and we were really excited about that and for Dolly since it got a lot of critics' applause. But--that comment completely cracked me up.

Meanwhile, back on the farm at the Residence Inn, I was playing with the girls while Sheryl was at the grocery store. We were flipping channels to find something appropriate to watch. Let's just put it this way--there are many, MANY inappropriate things on TV. We don't have any movie channels or anything like that at our house. NOR do we have any adult channels. Apparently, at this hotel, one must contact the front desk to have the adult channels blocked. Have we come to this? I wish you could have seen my face. I think I may have had a small stroke.

Sorry this is long again. I feel harried today. I am really needing a nap and that's not going to happen. I am counting on the strength and patience of the Lord to course through me over the coming week. The ZOE Conference has been sold out for weeks. There's much to be done. I think today is our big release day to stores for the Desperate record. Thanks for your prayers about all those things.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Back to work! My alarm went off around 5:50 this morning and I could not imagine why I had set the alarm to go off in, what clearly seemed, the middle of the night. My goodness. Why is it so dark at 6am these days?

It was so great to see the girls. They were both very huggy when I got home. I love that! It was so good to see Sheryl too. I know it will be nice for her to escape town next weekend for Emily's wedding in Dallas. She deserves the break.

This morning we are launching our huge Reach Campaign for the new building.

It is a big day in the life of Otter Creek. As with any big day wrought with major decisions, it has been bathed in prayer and I am feeling completely in need of God's continued leadership in all this. The truth is, we need to do something. This building is falling apart, there's not nearly enough nursery space or classroom space, and parking completely stinks. I guess, the prevailing question is what. The leadership of our church has prayed and prayed about what to do and they all feel this is the direction. Along the path I've walked these last 12 months, I'm still not sure the church building is the answer. However, I think it's probably the best option for us right now. Creeeeeeamed corn anyone?

This afternoon I am going out to the airport to pick up my buddy who sings the lead in the Tarzan show at Disney's Animal Kingdom. He's coming in to audition for Cirque du Soleil. They are holding auditions here in Nashville, but I think the show is based out of Vegas.

The rest of the day will be spent trying to prepare to live in the extended stay hotel this week while our kitchen and hard wood floors are fixed from the fire. It should be an interesting experience. Sheryl is looking at it like a vacation. She has a great way of putting things in a positive perspective.

Lord, You are good. I am not worthy of Your love or of leading worship to You. I'm just not. Only by the blood of Jesus can I stand and proclaim boldy who You are. I pray that today, Lord, we would be immersed in your presence. Speak to us. Keep us from distraction. Thank you for all You give. You are our Shepherd. We are listening.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Good grief! Will everyone please continue to encourage Mike to write his book! With blog posting like the one he wrote today--click here--it's just completely obvious what a great bold and Godly leader Mike is. Thanks, Mike!

Not much time to write--I know some of you like Russ are glad that you won't have to wade through a 3000 word essay today.

Just one quick note. I had such an enjoyable lunch with Stephanie and Martha Kate yesterday. Enjoyable doesn't begin to describe it. Somehow we reverted to 12 years ago--laughing and carrying on like we were 22. Our poor server. Surely she must have wondered if we were EVER planning to leave. It's so cool to get back with old friends...especially when each has been on a journey and is rich with stories of the Lord and His movement. It was such a blessing. So many funny memories too. I remember being in the van on tour with MK singing across the country and video taping her as drove into Alabama--she will die that I'm printing this. This was back when Gene (her dad) was still the coach at Alabama. MK boldly stated that she needed to "make herself beautiful for the people of Alabama! "When I reminded her of that she blushed and said--"Surely I did NOT say that!" HA! Well, it's the bringing together of funny stories and also stories of heartache and faith struggle that makes getting together with old friends such a blessing.

I am working all day on the ZOE Conference and our Christmas show. I've been on the phone with Jeff Berry in Abilene and Victor from the Temple church to see if they could possibly join us in doing the Christmas thing. I am getting more excited about it. Please keep praying for the ZOE conference--coming up in 3 short weeks. YIKES! Help me, Lord! I need to feel more ready!

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I have discovered a truth about myself. When flying, it’s imperative for me to be reading something that focuses me on who I SHOULD be. I am way too distracted by selfishness, comfort and timeliness. I have found myself getting irritated on flights by screaming children, or “loud talkers” or snorers. Suddenly, I found myself in many of those categories. My own children were the screamers on flights, my boisterous laughter and talking were annoying to others and I might have even snored once. Might.

Last week, as I flew home from San Antonio, I saw a family of 5 headed my way. The dreaded walk down the plane aisle. You all know it…the families with small children headed your way as you silently pray, “let this cup pass from me, O Lord”. Yes, this nice family shared my row and the one in front of me. They had a 4 yr old, a 2 yr old, and a 6 week old baby. They were frazzled, tired, and cranky. The dad and the 2 yr old boy sat next to me. Needless to say being 2 is really hard. Two year olds are not content to sit and read the in-flight magazine. There is much kicking, wiggling, whining, even crying. The mom in front of us was even more exhausted. She was tending to the 4 yr old while trying to calm the infant whose ears were apparently giving her some trouble.

I confess that my NATURE is to become annoyed and want to put a bag over my head. Thankfully, I was reading Henri Nouwen. It’s hard to be self absorbed while reading dear Henri. As I read about his move to the community for the disabled-giving up all titles and accolades, I was completely convicted.

Soon, the mom and 4 yr old in front of us had to visit the luxurious airplane restroom but were presented with a problem—what to do with baby. The dad took the infant and that was about the last straw for Mr. Two sitting next to me. He lost it. My urge was to crawl into the recesses of the airplane—to search for sanctuary in the baggage compartment. Thanks to Henri (thanks to His pointing to Christ) I tried to fight my nature and offered to help. The father quickly handed me the ear troubled infant. Almost immediately she quieted. I was so moved by her “tinyness”. I was taken by her little hands that clutched my finger and was reminded of two very precious girls who have somehow grown way too fast.

The mom came back and offered feebly to take her back but I said I’d love to keep holding her if it would help. The mom basically bear hugged me with her eyes. I sat and held this sweet baby for the rest of the flight—reminding me that life against my nature is ALWAYS better.

This is already long, but today a similar experience. I found a nice women sitting in my window seat. She looked at me and I mentioned that she was sitting in my seat. Her groan gave me a clue that she really preferred the window. I offered to just sit in her seat and that began a great conversation. She had never flown and was on the first leg of a trip to Denmark to see her brand new grandchild. Flying is filled with great stories!

All this time, I’m reading Lee Camp’s book Mere Discipleship. Geez. What a convicting book! We have been engrained to think about our “rights”, our convenience, etc. Amazing how counter those things are from the call of Christ. Taking up a cross and following in His footsteps is certainly neither convenient nor is it about me. How much I need that message every day to remind me that I am a child of the King—and living like that means service, service, service.

Love, compassion, selflessness, and joy are the qualities I desire. Lord, help me continue to die to myself. You are so merciful! Thank you for transforming us daily!

I wrote the above yesterday but couldn't get the blogger thingy to work. Today I am alive and well in Big D. I am driving to Waco this morning to meet friends, Stephanie Elliot Grosz and Martha Kate Stallings Gunn for lunch and then possibly some time at the cemetery. Thanks for your prayers while I'm gone. I'm really glad to be here but already missing Sheryl and my girls.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

"O Dear Christian College We Love Thee..."

How many times have I sung those words? I think at one point growing up I was convinced it was a hymn in the hymnal. Growing up in Abilene had many benefits. It's a great city to enjoy community and family. The arts are alive and well. The Church is strong and full of excitement--well, most places. I have great memories of Abilene.

From my earliest memory I wanted to go to ACU, except for the brief flirting with Berklee School of Music. I had a wonderful experience. Some of my closest friends are still those I made while in school there. My parents both went there and my mom taught there. Purple and White runs deep.

This morning I got a call from President Royce Money telling me that I have been named the Young Alumnus of the Year. I think he thought I wasn't impressed because he began to list others who have been named that honor like Max Lucado and at least one NFL player. I told him that I was completely in shock and speechless. I's a rarity. I just can't believe that I am even old enough or qualified. However, one of my co-ministers pointed out that I should be glad the title has "young" in it. Thanks, Lee Ann.

I just wanted to share my cool news today with you, blog family. I have all sorts of feelings about it, but mostly, I am just shocked.

I was reading in Job last night about his troubles and while I know much of it is written like poetry and there is a lot of symbolism, I have always struggled with that book. It has been such a source of comfort to me at times and such a stumbling block at others. I can relate to almost every character in some way. This time reading I was left with a feeling of panic. This, I realize, is not from the Lord. I just thought, O Lord, please don't point me out to Satan. Please don't test me like that. Maybe I should pray for testing, I don't know. But I have been down that road and it's not much fun. Left to my own devices, I am pretty worthless. The only--ONLY--worth in me is found in Jesus Christ. Titles like the one I mentioned today are so amazing and make me feel so overwhelmed, but I just want to say--HEY--in case you haven't noticed, I'm not anything to be proud of...unless you're talking about Christ working in me. I've made DUMB mistakes. I've failed miserably. I've stared sin in the face and given in. I am nothing without Christ. How's that for an acceptance speech? Probably not what they're looking for. But--it's true. I have some accomplishments to put on paper--some achievements that seem cool. But, what if we were all known by our heart instead of accomplishments? I just want to be able to find worth there instead of anything I've done over the last 12 years (geez, 12 years???).

I want Jesus. I want to know Him. I want to embrace His radical upside down life. I want to love like He did. The cool thing is...I can't even do that in my own strength. Phil. 2:13 says "for it is God--GOD--who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." I remember reading that and having an "ah-ha" moment. I can't even work to please God. It's HIS presence in me that works to bring me into His will. It's really ALL about Him.

I leave this afternoon for Dallas. I covet your prayers for this trip. Please also pray for Sheryl. We're preparing to move into a hotel for the next week while our house gets fixed from the fire. Woo-hoo!

Thanks for letting me ramble a bit. I am thankful for you all. Have a blessed week.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I read one of the best blog postings today. So, I'll just point everyone to Mike's Blog and simply add my AMEN to it.

With my impending trip to Dallas tomorrow, I thought I'd share a couple of pictures of my favorite cowgirls. Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, September 06, 2004

We had a great Labor Day. We spent most of it at the Maryland Farms YMCA's end of summer pool party. It was the perfect setting for our day. It always feels like a vacation when we go. They play great music, there are good snacks, lots of kids playing, and Ella and Maddie love the slide into the baby pool. Each of us is feeling a little tired from sun and play.

Our Life Group was possibly the best ever last night. We had a smaller group and we ended up having some extremely meaningful discussion about fears and worries. Maddie even shared with us the part of the 23rd Psalm--"even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I won't be afraid cause God is with me. His rod and staff, they comfort me." Good reminders!

I was reading tonight about King Nebuchadnezzar's mental illness--the confirmation of Daniel's prophetic dream. He came out of it finally proclaiming the glory of the Lord and saying, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of Heaven, because everything He does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble."

I read this and trembled a bit. I don't want to ever be in a place that the Lord has to go to such great lengths to humble me (living like an animal, eating grass, etc--read Dan 4). I know how close I walk to that every single day. I am not immune to losing my way. I relate to Psalm 51 so often... "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love!" I praise Him for His unending love. I am thankful that He is a Shepherd for me and promises me (John 10) that I will hear His voice and even be able to discern His voice from the voice of the enemy. I claim that promise.

As I prepare for my time of retreat and preparation for ZOE and the fall, I need that voice and the discernment He's promised. I leave Wednesday for Dallas.

On a lighter note, I spoke with Jeff Johnson today. He had great stories of the whole American Idol experience. Apparently, they are really playing up his whole ministry role. It will be interesting to see how it's portrayed on TV. Please be in prayer for Jeff. These are exciting, difficult, and weird times.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Jeff made it to Hollywood!Here was Simon's quote to him... "you've got everything Clay Aiken's got but more- you're authentic!!" I would also add that he isn't nearly as goofy as Clay Aiken. Bless his heart. So, watch for Jeff Johnson this fall and keep those phone lines ringing!

Last night during bath time for the girls Maddie was cracking me up. I was washing her hair saying, "Maddie, where'd you get such pretty hair?!" She quickly replied, "Jesus brought it to me." I said, "Yes He did!" And she said, "Yeah, he was just up there makin' my hair and singin' and doing stuff." It just cracked me up.

We had a blast with the Williamsons on Friday and had a great family day yesterday. We even went to the dreaded "mawl"...but not the "Coo Sprangs Mawl". We Went to the "Green He-al's Mawl" this time.

This morning we are talking about temptation and how important it is to keep our eyes on the goal. Fixing our eyes on Jesus...such powerful words that I love to hear and try to soak in, and yet struggle to implement daily. I want to be so immersed in Him. I want my thoughts, my actions, my words, and my motives to be baptized in His presence. That's the desire of my heart. I fall short of that goal every single day. Thank the Lord for His grace and mercy.

We are singing some good songs this morning. Thanks to Murray's granddad for "Be With Me Lord". What great lyrics and music! Sheryl is also singing a song off our new CD called "So Are You to Me". It's by East Mountain South and the CD itself isn't really a Christian CD, but you'd never know it. We're sandwiching that song between 2 different verses of "My Jesus I Love Thee" and it really works well. We're also doing some other good ones like "Joyful Joyful, We Adore Thee", "A New Anointing", "Lord You Have My Heart", and "Have Mercy On Me O God".

May the Lord bless your time in worship today--whether it's in Africa in a hut, in a small house church somewhere, in a building full of people who act like they don't really need Jesus, but are dying inside, or wherever you are. I pray that your experience will be one, as Foster says in Celebration of Discipline, where "Spirit touches spirit." In other words, where we are engaged and allow the Spirit of God to minister to our hearts as we proclaim truths about our Father.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I had a hilarious call last night from a good friend. Jeff Johnson called to tell me that he has moved on to a final round in the hunt for the next...yes, you know....AMERICAN IDOL!! Jeff is such a great guy and so talented. (if you click on his name up there it will take you to his website. Listen to some of the songs from his record.) He's a worship leader who has a real heart for the Lord. We both sang at Jeff Berry's wedding last fall in the Bahamas. I won't tell too much of what I know, but Simon did actually call him on his cell phone yesterday. He flies in to New Orleans today to tape a video interview and do another round of auditions for Simon, Randy, Paula and some mystery celebrity judge. Too funny. I can't wait to see what happens with him. Here's a picture he sent of the Dallas round. Pictured with him is Jordan--his lovely girlfriend.

Now, on to other topics. We had a delicious dinner last night at Basante's. It's our favorite Italian place here in Nashville. We still had a little left over on a gift card and dropped by Sunset Grill to pick up desserts to go! What a night! It was great being with Sheryl and having some time to talk. Seems like we haven't had much time lately. The girls loved being with Amanda.

We watched a bit of the convention last night. I swore yesterday that I wouldn't go down the political road and wavered a bit in the comments. By the way, some really great discussion yesterday in the comments. We all need a place to discuss these things civilly and with respect to one anothers' opinions. We all have our own feelings on the matter, no doubt. I still say that GWB seems to be a good leader and seems to have a heart for people and the office he holds. I do differ on some of the issues, but as of now, I think he's my choice. What I will say is this...compassion, leadership, a respect for the office of President, and a heart for God are not qualities reserved to any political party. We have had Presidents, both Democrat and Republican, who have demonstrated all of these. We need to be in prayer for these next 2 1/2 months. I dread the mud slinging, sarcasm, accusations, and 7th grade behavior that seems to be looming. And--beyond any flag or country, our allegiance is still to God. We are Kingdom citizens, guests (thanks to Carol Nelson for that translation of "aliens") in this world. Yes, we are also Americans and are to be light and salt here. But, all things must fall into the context of our allegiance belonging to our Heavenly Father. My youth minister drove this verse into our heads in middle school and it's still one of my favorites. It certainly has application for us today.

"Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

Ryan and Sarah Williamson are officially in town and we are so thrilled. Seeing their faces at OC last Sunday just made everything seem in place. They are coming over tonight with Sydney and baby Jack.

I just hung up with a friend from Orlando who sings the lead in the Tarzan show at Disney's Animal Kingdom. He is asking us all to pray for folks out there. This storm could truly be devastating. Let's pray for protection and safety for all those still there and all those traveling. I expected that he would have evacuated based on TV reports. He said many people have opted to move a bit inland instead of leaving totally. I just pray they're all safe.

Today, if we claim to live in Him, let's walk as Jesus did. What does that mean? Let's pray for the intuition of the Holy Spirit as we go about our work. Let's be aware of those around us as Jesus was--with time to stop and engage them. Let's not be afraid to talk boldly about our Father. After all, we're only guests here. We have Heaven in our hearts. Let's not think twice about reaching out to the hurting we encounter today--no matter how our flesh may judge them. Let's be about our Father's business.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

I never mentioned what happened with the pictorial directory shots last week. Well, the short of it is, we never got to have ours made. (we weren't the only ones either) If your church is considering having a pictorial directory--call us first before choosing who to sponsor the event! We think this picture is what we want to go in the directory since we didn't get an official one. What do you think?

OK--so who all saw Zell Miller last night??

Whoa! Dude-this guy should be a gospel preacher. He was gettin' after it last night. I have refrained from saying much about the convention. I don't really want to take this whole thing down the political discussion road. However, it's certainly important to us. We have to be concerned with how we are behaving as a nation and as people who live here. I, personally, like W. I agreed with what Zell (what a great name) said last night about him... "I have knocked on the door of his soul and found someone home." I think that says it all. W's certainly had a rough term. I am so thankful that God put him in place for those days. I pray that God will guide us as we look to the future. I just couldn't get over last night. It was really wild! I kept saying "WHOA!" out loud. What a powerful presentation by ol' brother Zell.

More importantly, last night's service went really well. TJ and Amanda did a great job. Everyone did! I loved hearing Eve read scripture. I loved the silent meditation time. It really was a filling experience. I am thankful that our shepherd encourage these types of gatherings.

Tonight at 9pm, Sanctuary will start back up. Sanctuary is a gathering of college students at Otter Creek. (sort of like Grace in Abilene) The worship band is all made of college students and it is completely student led. I am glad they are here and when I have been able to go, I have been very encouraged by their passionate worship for the Lord.

Sheryl and I have a date night planned. Amanda is watching the girls--THANKS ABM! We are going to this cool place down off Music Row that has only appetizers. It's supposed to be very tasty!

I'm getting really excited about my trip back to Texas next week for my planning/spiritual retreat. I'm even getting to stay with Rob and Stephanie (Elliott) Grosz on Wednesday night in Waco. I'm stopping off there on my way to Groesbeck. I plan to spend some time at the cemetery on Thursday.

Have a great day, everyone!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Here's a picture of me with the Nelson's children--Christopher and Nataleigh. It was so fun to see them in San Antonio last week. This picture was taken at Mamasita's. I LOVE MEXICAN FOOD!

We had a great dinner at the Chaudoin's last night. Judson was so sweet to the girls and shared his toys. It was nice to get to know them better.

My mom's house is really coming along. It's so hard to believe she'll be here in December!! Here are a couple of pictures...

I led worship at the Lipscomb University chapel this morning. What a blessing! The kids were really engaged and it was a completely different feeling than it used to be several years ago. The first time I went to chapel at Lipscomb I was incredibly disappointed. After my ACU chapel experiences, it seemed really lifeless. Things seem to be changing for the better.

I had lunch with Ryan Porche today. Ryan is an Abilene guy who just graduated from ACU and is the new worship minister at the Highland Street Church of Christ in Memphis. It was great to see him and hear about his plans and dreams. It seems weird that I am old enough to say that I have known him since he was a little boy, but I have. God created a passion inside him for worship at an early age and here he is following that calling and ready to set the world on fire for Jesus. Too cool!

Tonight we begin our new Wednesday night service--name not yet known. It's going to be a combination of what we did on Saturday nights last year and Wednesday nights this summer...sort of a contemplative, emergent style gathering. Tonight, TJ McCloud is leading worship and playing guitar and Amanda is joining him. It will be so awesome to just be able to soak it in without any leadership responsibilities. I can't wait!

I'll close with this--Ryan told me a story today of a recent elders' meeting at Highland in Abilene (home church to both of us). A woman facing surgery came in to the meeting to be prayed over and Stormy Higgins poured the anointing oil in the woman's hands and said, "See how this oil is covering your hand--every wrinkle and crevice? It is soaking into your skin. Jesus is closer to you than even this oil. He is encompassing you even now."

What a great thought for us! As we run the race today, let's remember that Jesus is covering us and speaking His will into our lives. He is the good Shepherd and promises that we will hear his voice (John 10). Speak, Lord!