Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I am sure we all have stories to share from our Thanksgiving holiday. We had a long trip to Arkansas after sitting on I65 for an hour and 45 minutes waiting on a wreck to be moved. I kept thinking about all the people in that long interstate line. Where were they going? How had that wreck messed up their plans? How would the holidays be affected for the people involved in the wreck?

It was nice to be in Cherokee Village. There's absolutely nothing to do. It forces you to relax and slow down. The girls were so excited to see their grandparents. Our dog, Bear, was extremely happy to be on a family trip and enjoyed the turkey bone she had on T-Giving. We enjoyed time with Sheryl's parents. Chris and Gail, Cindy and Billy and all the kids were so much fun to be around too.

Sunday morning we went to the Ash Flat Church of Christ...not quite as backwoods as one might expect. I'd venture to say that Ash Flat is one of the more progressive churches anywhere out there. However, I couldn't help but be struck with the cultural influences. Everything was laid back--the song leader actually said from the pulpit after being asked from the pews to repeat what song number it was... "I've told you twice, now everybody listen up and let's sing!"

There was a flag by the stage and while the singing wasn't devoid of emotion, an emotional current came forth as we all rose and sang "My Country Tis Of Thee". Can you recall those lyrics? I promise, I'm not anti government, but that seems a weird song to be sandwiched into a worship period. "Of Thee I sing?????" I've always marveled at how church members can trod through praise songs and then come to life in honor of veterans or of our country. It always makes me feel like I am in a Kiwanis Club meeting instead of a worship service.

Having said that, I am glad there's a church as genuine and loving as Ash Flat for the Rathbuns to attend. They really love it and I am so glad that it's a place where at least there aren't sermons on how clapping is a sin or other ridiculous notions like that.

One last thing on Arkansas in general. Who knew that camouflage could be worn in so many different variations. It is THE fashion statement there to wear camo. There was one sort of upscaled baby shop that had nice toile stuff and things we would never buy...including a velvet camouflage blanket. I am not lying.

We headed back Sunday night and I rehearsed all the way back--running lines, listening to the music and trying to be ready for our rehearsals this week. Sheryl was a tremendous help!

Our rehearsal last night was light years from last week. We had a great night. The show is coming together and I think we were all really encouraged. If you are around Nashville, plan to join us for one of the shows. It will run 3 nights on the weekend of December 17, 18, 19. I hope you'll try and come.

It's cold, rainy, and dark today! Where is my beloved summer sunshine? Sorry--no poems about winter flowing from me today. Tonight is our staff Christmas party. Is it December yet? We always have a blast.

Yesterday we put up one of our Christmas trees. The girls had so much fun "helping". It only gets better with each passing year. The older they get, the more excited they are about the tree, the season, the stories, etc. It's so fun! It really has made the holidays a thing of joy after enduring a decade without my dad and not loving this season as much.

Speaking of, Maddie has gotten to where she wants to hear "Poppy" stories every night. "Poppy" is what we're calling my dad. Her favorite one right now is how my dad would sometimes wait until I went to sleep and tie my big toe to the end of the bed. She can't get that out of her mind. She also likes the one about how Dad used to dress up like an old man and go to the school where he was Principal and trick people. I love that she's so into that.

Finally, my mom's house is really coming together. We have the final walk through on Dec 8--just a week away! Mom closes on the 15th. It's happening very quickly. She is having lots of parties and send offs in the meantime. I am so grateful for the friends she has in Abilene. I pray that the Lord will surround her with meaningful relationships here in Nashville. He is good to supply all we need! On that note, have a great day realizing his supply for you!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Drive safely, enjoy your families, and remember God's blessings this holiday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Sunday night since it had been a long day and I was still under the weather, we opted out of life group and went down the street to Ryan and Sarah's for some chicken and dumplins. They were really great! I love that our girls play with Sydney and Jack so well.

Monday I woke up feeling even worse. We did make it out just for sanity's sake. We went to the Hickory Hollow Mall where they have a great play area for kids. I just sat slumped watching Maddie and Ella while Sheryl did some Christmas shopping. We went downstairs as before we left and got to see Paul Shoun playing Santa. Maddie was thrilled when Santa actually called her by name. Of course, at this age, they don't expect anything less.

Last night we had the rehearsal from the bad place. Everyone was off their game and feeling punky--especially me. Time is ticking. It will be a great show--in a few weeks!

The kindergarten upstairs invited the staff to their Thanksgiving meal. It's a yearly tradition that we look forward to. I am so glad Maddie goes to school up there with such wonderful people.

We will get in the van tomorrow and drive 6 hours to N.E. Arkansas where Sheryl's family lives. It will be tight quarters, but we'll all have fun. Have I mentioned that Sheryl has 7 (yes, SEVEN) brothers and sisters?? Yeah. This holiday only 3 of the kids will be there, but even at that, we're talking 15 people. Holidays with the Rathbuns are always fun and full of amazing food and competitive card games. I think we're even taking Bear with us this time. It's hard to get a house sitter when you have the FLOORS BEING REDONE FOR THE FIFTIETH TIME. Sorry--just a little floor rage built up in me.

As I mentioned, we'll be leaving tomorrow night so that the kids can sleep most of the way. I'm somewhat hesitant to do that because the last time we drove at night like that was 4 years ago or so. I went to sleep somewhere near Dyersburg and ran us off the road, totaling our car and sending Kiki's friend to the hospital. It was horrible. So, please pray for our safety and for me to stay awake. 6 hours in the car with 2 kids...priceless.

I am thankful for many things this holiday. I am thankful mostly for the Lord and His continued work in my heart and life. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my wife--for everything about her. I am thankful for my kids and their love for each other and for me. I love getting those hugs and hearing their laughter. I am thankful that my mom will soon be living here. I am thankful for the friends and family God has so richly blessed me with. I am thankful to have a roof over our heads and food on our table. I am thankful that I've discovered this outlet this year. It has been a very therapeutic tool for me on many days. And...I am thankful for you, blog family. May God bless you this week and keep you safe. May His love and warmth fill your homes and satisfy you like the richest of foods.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

First Fruits Sunday...the kids were great! They sang "A Penny In My Pocket" and were really cute. Here's our worship order for today:

Call to Worship-BST
Family Prayer--_______/_____________
--My God Reigns
--Give Thanks to the Lord


--Give Thanks to the Lord (chorus)
OC Children’s Ministry—“A Penny in My Pocket”

First Fruits Offering

--Thank You (Jernigan)
--All Things Praise Thee (all verses, please—GREAT verses!)
--Lord, Take My Life
Prayer—David England
--Before the Throne of God Above (Eve Clevenger-solo)
--We Praise Thee O God (vs 1, 3)

Supper/ Offering--_________________
Ministry Moment—Rusty Bragg
Shepherd’s Charge---_______________
--We Praise Thee O God (vs 5)

I am suffering from a major head cold--sinus stuff. David England agreed to lead second service for me so I could take some time to recover before rehearsal this afternoon. I pray all of you had meaningful worship experiences. Enjoy this day that the Lord has made!

Friday, November 19, 2004

What an awesome night! TJ rocked! The band sounded amazing! It was such a success. I really feel like a proud parent. I cannot imagine that this record won't take off and be a huge hit for him. He is really a great entertainer and singer. AWESOME JOB, TJ!!

It was fun to be in that venue with friends from Otter. It was fun to see so many people come out in support of TJ. It was cool to look on stage and see TJ and Blake Howard both playing and doing what they love and to think of them interning at OC a few summers ago. For those of you who remember Blake, he's doing really well too. He's still involved at Harpeth Community and playing bass any chance he can.

Thanks to those of you who offered some feedback on the onion thing. Chris--you're right about the flavor. But--has anyone noticed that onions can also smell a lot like really bad B.O.? Sorry.

Does anyone else still have sacks filled with Halloween candy? Sheryl and I are convinced that candy is poison--all of it. If I hear Maddie ask for candy one more time I might have to scream. AND--I hear it a FRACTION of the amount Sheryl hears it.
"I want some candy please"
"No candy, Maddie. Don't ask again."
(a few minutes later..mumbled just in case that might work better...)
"I unt su can-ee"
"No candy!!"


It's rainy here. Thanks to all you Texans who sent it this way. I hope you're all feeling nice and dry today! It's FRIDAY! Yee-haaw! We don't really have any big plans this weekend--for which I am grateful! We have our "first fruits Sunday" this weekend where we're asking people to give the first amount in their pledge for the building. I'll let you know how that goes. Have a blessed and safe weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Another shameless plug for TJ. Tonight is the big release party for "Kind of Life". It will be really fun. The band is playing and we'll all be there to celebrate with him. Apparently, his record is selling like crazy. Everyone in the office is walking around singing songs from it. This morning on the way to school Maddie wanted "TJ!". I looked back and she was singing all the words to the first song--my favorite one on the CD and the title cut. (click the link to the right and have your computer speakers on!)

Today is Holly's birthday. (Holly is TJ's wife and my admin assistant) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HOLLY!!! I remember where I was when I turned 24. Crazy times. I was working in the Christmas show at Six Flags and about to leave for my contract on Norwegian Cruise Lines. That seems like another lifetime. 24. sigh. Holly is really missing TJ these days while he's traveling. If you would, please pray for them--for her as he's away and for his safety on the road.

Last night we finished blocking ACT 2. We're really making progress. We got to the part where Sonya does her monologue as Vera. I about wet my pants laughing. It is so hilarious! We are going to have a lot of fun over the coming weeks as we put it all together.

Life in the Spirit. Sometimes it really makes me feel like TJ's song.

This kind of life I kind of live,
This kind of love I kind of give,
And I'm tired of the real thing slippin away
I need Your real life...today.

Sometimes I feel like life is like an onion (not a box of chocolates). There are so many layers and sometimes our layers almost drown out the voice of God. I had an experience this week where I woke up in the night with what I am convinced to be the Spirit singing over me. It was an old hymn that in the daylight hours I can't even recall, but the lyrics were exactly what I needed in my spirit. A call back to the heart of the Father. It just almost seems like that voice in me is sometimes so buried beneath the layers of everything else in my world and life. I'm feeling much like that onion today. Does anyone else resonate with that concept?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I woke myself up last night singing Silent Night in Spanish. Scratch that---poor Spanish. Jason McArthur and I like to call it Spanglish. It's ridiculous. Anyway, this show is fun, but enough of the Noche de Paz.

Last night we went to the hospital to see Daren and Christy Stanley's new baby--Eliza. She is so pretty! Maddie and Ella were more interested in seeing Mary Carsen (Eliza's big sister) and climbing all over poor Mary (Carsen's Granny). Ella was pretty intrigued with Eliza--the girl loves babies, remember. It was great to see them. I remember when Ella was born saying in the hospital, "We are now a family of 4!" I could not get my mind around that--I had never ever been a family of four.

Some other things I want to record for posterity about Ella--
Ella doesn't say "hot" she says, "hop". I love that so much!
Santa Clause is "Ho-Ho"
Maddie and Ella both refer to each other as "Sissy". If you ask Ella her name she won't say "Ella". She'll say, "Sissy!!"

I'm discovering that there are so many things that you forget as your kids grow older. I want to write them down somewhere so we can remember. I remember Maddie used to call birthday cakes "happy cake". I loved that too!

This morning I am headed to the DMV. It's time for the license renewal and new picture. Thank goodness. My picture from 9 years ago looks like some weird computerized version of George Jefferson off the Jefferson's TV show. Seriously.

Tonight, more rehearsal. More Noche de Paz. Wednesdays are long days. Does anyone else feel that way?

Has anyone seen Polar Express yet?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Here are a few of the pictures taken yesterday. Hope you can see these--

Wow--what a great couple of days we've had! Couple of stories to begin with...

Sunday night we had a great life group meeting, although we had been uncertain we could have ANYONE over since we had been suffering through a clogged toilet downstairs. I'll spare you the details. I brought home an industrial sized plunger and saved the day.

After life group, Maddie was just over the edge and off the hook. She had not taken a nap and that's always trouble. She was screaming and crying and just losing her mind (as were her mommy and daddy). I finally, in frustration, said, "MADDIE!!! Get a grip! You have GOT to think of something joyful and happy and pull it together!!!"

Maddie stopped crying and in a whimper whined out, "I'm just so cited (excited) that the downstairs toilet is fixed."

I fell on the floor laughing. She began to laugh too and it was the perfect end to the fit. We both got into Maddie's bed and began to "talk"--she'll say, "I wanna talk." She asked me about Poppie--what we call my dad. It was so touching for me. I got to tell her stories of the tricks my dad used to play on me. The one she couldn't get over was how he would sometimes tie my big toe to the end of the bed while I was asleep. I think this really concerned her. She's asked about it every day. I love that she is beginning to ask and know about her Poppie.

Well, the day hit. I am now 35. We went as a family to have our family pictures made at this new place called Portrait Innovations--AWESOME deal going right now. The girls did exceptionally well and we had a great time and got some amazing pictures out of it. I'll post some later.

After the picture place, we went as a family to see the Polar Express. I cannot say enough good things about this movie. I know some critics and families are saying that parts of it are too dark for kids, but it was one of my favorite movies in recent years. Maddie and Ella loved it. I leaned over to Sheryl at one point and said, "this will become the new Christmas classic." It certainly will for us--right along side Christmas Vacation!

Sheryl had bought and scheduled a massage for me yesterday afternoon. It was so awesome. I still feel like a noodle. What a great gift!

Last night we had rehearsal and it was so fun. We got to block at least half of Act 2. The Christmas In Other Lands Medley is one of the most hilarious things I have ever gotten to do in any show. They do these songs in foreign languages and butcher them--all very very funny.

Again this morning I was reminded of how much God has given me. As I left the house with Maddie in tow (on the way to school), I looked at Sheryl and Ella and thought, why me? I do not deserve the grace of our Father. I am just so thankful for 35 wonderful years, for friends that stick closer than a brother, for family who have sacrificed to help me know Jesus, for a ministry that has allowed me to encounter some of the most wonderful people I've ever met, and for ZOE life--life in the Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for your goodness and for showering it on us.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I've added a link to TJ's website you can keep up with him and listen to some of his record there. They were selling like hotcakes this morning at OC. I'm so proud of him!

Last night the girls were in the bath tub cutting up--they have so much fun together and it's so enjoyable to watch. They got a little overboard and started having a screaming contest. I was hanging clothes (from my early birthday shopping spree--thanks, mom!) while Sheryl was downstairs fixing dinner. Finally, it got to me and I had to yell over them to STOP SCREAMING!!! (makes a lot of sense) They giggled and went on with their playing. After a minute or two they were really quiet--any parent knows this is a sign of trouble. I stepped out to see what they were doing and they were both sitting holding hands while covering their eyes with the other hand and Maddie was praying. I about died! They heard me come in and I said, "Don't stop! I want to hear you!" At that point each uncovered their eyes and offered me their free hand. Maddie's prayer went like this:
"Dear God, thank you for Mommy,
thank you for Daddy,
thank you for Kiki,
thank you for Mommy,
thank you for Mommy,
thank you for my baby sister named Ella,
thank you for all my friends named Abby,
thank you for Bear,
I love Jesus so much.
It's in Jesus' name we pray, A-me-yan." (I'm pretty sure that last sentence--at least--is in thanks to her teacher, Miss Delle.)

Those are moments that are better than just about anything I can imagine in my limited parenting experience. It about made me cry. And, just in case anyone wonders, they are almost always squeezed between someone hitting the other or screaming or saying "mine!!" It's a glimmer of hope that gives us great joy!

This morning was one of those praise team mornings. I was a little too ambitious without considering my team. Usually, I look at the list to make sure there will be at least one on each part who know the more challenging songs. I overestimated a bit this morning. I write this for several reasons--because I want you to know that EVERYONE has those mornings and because it was really my responsibility to help the team feel really prepared. I think everyone just felt harried today. The front TV monitor was out--no lyrics. There were at least two songs that were still a gamble when we went in. And--other stuff that added to an already stressful morning for everyone. Honestly, I felt ok about it and tried not to let it crawl all over me which I have done SOOOO many times. The thing I feel badly about is that I didn't help our team have the tools they needed to lead as effectively as possible. Before we went in I told them, "Let's just take a step back and look at the grand scheme. God is God. He will be praised. While we don't want to do anything that will distract in worship, I'd much rather you just WORSHIP instead of stress about notes and other stuff." It was just one of those mornings and I would say that the Holy Spirit really worked through us IN SPITE of us. It's always that way, but mornings like this one are a good reminder that it's not by power or talent--but by THE SPIRIT!

Daren and Christy Stanley had their daughter this morning! Daren called about 6:30 am to say they were on the way to the hospital. I told Maddie and Ella that Mary Carsen's sister was being born and they were really excited. Eliza was born around 10:30 and weighed 7 lbs 9oz. I'm sure she's gorgeous. We will hope to see her tomorrow.

We went to see how Mom's house is progressing on our way home from OC. It's looking good. The 3 men working on it were taking a break inside sitting in the living room SMOKING. Is this typical? I am sure there are things no one would ever want to know about the building process. I just have such an aversion to the cigarette smoke smell in a house that it irritated me...not to mention that the master bath completely smelled of urine--they'd been going in the shower. Hello! There's a nice little porta-potty right outside. Anyway--it appears to be on schedule. Smoke and all.

Rehearsal begins in 10 minutes. I'm going from here straight home to life group. Sundays are long days. It's like packing a weeks worth of stuff into one day. It'll be nice to have life group again after a couple of week break. Tomorrow's D day--or should we say "B" day. I decided that 35 is as far as I'm going. Next year I plan to turn 34.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Order TJ's new record here


I found that picture I was writing about yesterday. Sorry--just had to post it. It still cracks me up.

Last night was very enjoyable. We went with the Woodroofs to Basantes. I could eat there every day if I was a millionaire. Man! Great food and even better fellowship. It had been a very long time since we had been with them in that kind of setting.

This morning was my morning to get up with the girls (we switch off every other day). As much as I love to sleep--I've gotten to where I look forward to those days. This morning Ella was so snuggly. Those are moments daddies live for. Maddie and Ella both were in such playful, funny moods. I really love who God has made them to be.

No word from Jeff Johnson who is presently in Hollywood doing American Idol. They narrowed down to 90 yesterday. By the end of the weekend, it will be on to the finals. Jeff called Monday to say he was there and about to begin. Nothing since.

Lea Brown came over last night to watch the girls. She is really such a member of our family. Our friendship spans a decade and we've had a lot of fun together. Sheryl and Lea enjoy each other and are great friends. Lea was a Sing Song Host at ACU back in 1995 when I was working for ACU directing Sing Song and the traveling singing groups. Since then we all ended up in Nashville and Lea has sung with ZOE and been a leader in our praise team ministry. History with friends is such a neat thing.

I listened to NPR this morning on the way in. I like NPR sometimes. Sometimes it just bugs me. This morning it was bugging me. I love that sketch on Saturday Night Live where they have the NPR type hosts talking really low and serious. That's what it was like this morning...except they were whining about something to do with computers all in that tone. Give me a little TJ McCloud instead.

I know I mentioned TJ's new record being released--I am telling you, it's my very favorite. Maddie won't even listen to kids praise anymore. She wants TJ! I think it will be my Christmas gift to people this year. It's the only thing I'm listening to right now (besides the music from Sanders Family Christmas that I am desperately trying to memorize). If you're interested in getting a copy, let me know. It's Bebo Norman and even better.

Lord, thank you for the joy of being a father. It is one of the most amazing blessings you've given me. Thank you for the warmth of home and family. Thank you for showing me how to be a dad through my dad and other great men like Ronnie, Harold, Kirk and others. Thank you for blessings TJ's ministry. Keep him safe on the road and be with Holly as he's away. Help us to surround her with love and support. Lord, be with my eyes today--guard them from things not of you. Be with my heart today, protect it and make it more sensitive to your Spirit. Be with my pride today. Open me up to more of your servant heart. Help me to get over myself and have more of a heart for the lost.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Several thing to mention today...

funny conversation between Maddie and Mary Carsen on the way to school today. They were talking about getting their big girl beds and then it somehow transitioned to talking about Mary Carsen's dog, Rudy.

Maddie: Does your dog talk?
MC: Ummmmmmmm...no, he doesn't talk.
Maddie: Oh, I was thinking that your dog talked.
MC: no, he's just a dog.
Maddie: is she getting bigger in a few minutes so she can have a big dog bed?
MC: No, she sleeps with my mommy and daddy.
Maddie: Oh, but she COULD get a big dog bed if she wanted to.
MC: yeah.

Not sure why that hit me as funny, but it did.

I feel like I am on an escalator trying to run backwards--away from November 15th. My birthday is Monday. I have never really cared about age. For some reason, though, this year is really bugging me. I actually had to count back the other day to make sure that I am turning the age I'm turning. I just wouldn't believe it. I know, it's dumb.

Sunday I had a conversation with Sallie Miller--new to our praise team ministry. She said, "Hey--were in a group at ACU called Take One with a guy named Jon Paul Findley?" I replied, "Yes, that was 100 years ago." She said, "I know, you guys came to Camp Deer Run and sang. I was 9 years old." Is it wrong to hit a woman?

I pulled out a picture post card I had of that Take One Summer--this cheesy picture of all of us hugging and laughing--very staged. We had a good laugh about it. Actually, a couple of times recently people have mentioned having some of those old Take One tapes (yes, TAPES--not CDs). It always makes me want to ask them to please throw them away. Perhaps it was seeing that picture again, I'm not sure--but I had a hilarious dream last night. I literally woke myself up this morning laughing.

In my dream ZOE was somewhere singing. It must have been a small town somewhere. Anyway--we were in this bookstore and I saw a CD cover and picked it up. I did a double take--the picture was that Take One picture with JP except, there were other people who had been added with computer enhancement. The weirdest thing is they were people like Jay Jones (high school friend--quarter back who went on to play for ACU and almost went pro). It was like they had lifted a high school year book picture of him in full pads but smiling really cheesy like the rest of us. He was in the bunch. Then there was Suzahn Roach. (A girl from high school with an extremely unfortunate last name.) She was randomly in the bunch. In the dream I was freaking out showing everyone this CD cover wondering why in the world someone would do that. Then, one of the Zoe guys was opening the paper of this small town and there in the entertainment section was an ad for Shrek 2. However, the ad had the same theme--that Take One picture--all of us cheesily gathered around and POINTING to Shrek. I couldn't believe my eyes--except in this picture it was that Take One group plus the group with Stephen, Kellie and John Scott. It was like someone had cut out our pictures and placed them all around Shrek. Then I began to notice more ads that were just like that. It was truly a twilight zone moment. I am not lying when I say that I woke myself up laughing. I tried to find one of the tape covers to scan so you'd see what I was talking about, but I couldn't.

In case anyone has any doubts, age is not a cure for weirdness or dorkiness... especially in my case.

We have a date night tonight and we're going out with the Woodroofs to one of our favorite restaurants, Basantes. I hope you all have a great day. I, for one, will continue to laugh all day about the thought of Jay Jones being in that Take One picture dressed in full pads. My mind is a scary place.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

It's been one of those days...just long and tiring. Seeing Sheryl, Maddie and Ella at dinner was the shot in the arm I needed. So, instead of writing... I'll just say amen to what Mike said.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Maddie and Ella both enjoy their cheerleader outfits their Nonnie bought them in Abilene. Maddie was completely fascinated with the cheerleaders we saw in Abilene. It's no wonder that she has developed an interest in doing "cheers". Her aunt Kiki is the cheerleader sponsor where she teaches here in Nashville. She also helps Maddie with the "jumps".

This is Maddie's cheer she likes to say right now. It completely cracks me up.

The Wildcats are HOT!
(insert out of control screaming and jumping here and then a pause long enough to yell...)
We're number TWO!!!!!

She'll be the new breed of cheerleaders...realists.

It was a great weekend. We had our big pledge Sunday--totals are still being counted...hanging chads and all. I had rehearsal all afternoon Sunday and again last night. It's going well. There are quite a few lines to memorize and I am wondering when I'll be able to do that!

I can't wait to hear the bluegrass band playing with us. I know they will be fantastic. JV is really the only "Sanders Family player". Actually, all the actors are supposed to sing and act and play the instruments--but that was just a little too much--even for Music City. However, JV is saving us from too much disgrace. I believe in the course of the evening he is playing the piano-with one awesome ragtime type solo, the trumpet, and an accordian. What a multi-talented guy! The other instrumentalists will be playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and others.

Is anyone else in the holiday spirit? Some years it's easier than others. This year it seems Sheryl and I both are getting there early. Christmas has always been my favorite. I enjoy having the tree up, the stockings, the lights. I love that warm family feeling. After my dad died, I dreaded holidays like Christmas. My mom and I tried to do things out of our norm to break up the grief. We spent the first couple of Christmases in NYC--something everyone should do at some point. However, it wasn't until we had kids that the holiday really came back to life. I LOVE BEING A DAD! I find myself on pins and needles waiting to see their joy and surprise. Maddie can hardly stand the suspense of knowing we've bought things but having to wait until Christmas--truly my child! She saw a "purple thing" that Sheryl bought recently. It's a pair of Disney Belle shoes in a purple package. Not a day has gone by that she hasn't bugged one of us about the "purple thing". "Where is it? When can I have it? Where did you put it?" A couple of nights ago she thanked God for the "purple thing". Sheesh.

As the season approaches, schedules get tighter and tighter. If it's any indication, we had to back up our office Christmas party to November 30th. I just pray that we'll be able to take the time to enjoy and celebrate birth, hope, family, and all that we have to be thankful for. My mom will be packing up "the dreams God planted" over the coming weeks--not just a chapter of her life, but almost an entire novel. Moving is never fun or easy. However, one of the things I have always loved about my parents, and Mom especially, is their eagerness to try new things. I have the adventurous spirit deep in my DNA. I am excited about this new chapter in her life and ours. Thanks for you continued prayers about her transition.

God is good! Today we have the opportunity to live and reflect that truth. It happens in grandiose ways, yes. But, in truth, it happens more poignantly in small ways...the way we treat our spouse, the way we talk to our server at a restaurant, the way we handle people who treat us rudely, the way we respond to those who disagree with us, etc. Those scenarios sometimes take us by surprise. Maybe we could agree together to be on the lookout today for opportunities to show the glory of God in the small ways...an decide ahead of time how we will react.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

This weekend we had a 24 hour period of prayer on our new property that culminated with a prayer walk headed by our teens. What a great day!

There were 5 or so stations that each group went to. At each station were several teens who read scripture and then led the group in prayer. I wish every single Otter Creeker could have been there if only to hear the prayers of our youth. To hear Lindsay Netterville lead such a sweet prayer, hearing Eric Innis comment on why we were there in such a mature way, being admonished by James Woodroof...this was a very special day!

At each station we had a different prayer theme...like praying for our youth, children's ministry, and kindergarten or our church neighbors or those who have yet to know Jesus..etc. We are in the Bible belt, yes. However, if we have to be surrounded by other churches (that's a whole different blog) I am so glad to be neighbors to Fellowship Bible and Brentwood Baptist. Both churches are filled with Spirit filled, passionate, faithful followers of Jesus. It's exciting to think how we might partner with them in community events.

I loved hearing the prayers of our elders and their wives too. I have always been blessed by hearing our shepherds pray, but it's not often enough we get to hear the powerful prayers of women like Paula Franklin and Jeanine Adams. What a blessing!

Tomorrow is our big pledge Sunday. It's a major day for us. I pray that it will be a day that honors the Lord and paves the way for a new season at OC.

Here's our order of worship for Sunday (one note--every first Sunday of the month, we have "Birthday Sunday" which we've been doing for over 30 years. Bob reads the names of the kids who have birthdays that month, they come down and we embarrass them to death by singing to them. Then they go eat cake.)

Welcome--Tim Woodroof
Family prayer
Meet and greet

Praise and Worship--Brandon Scott Thomas
--God of Grace and God of Glory
--Great is the Lord Almighty
--Send Your Rain (start with "soften our hearts".. into verse two to the end)

Prayer--Justin Mundie
--Lord, For Your Glory (sheet music in the bulletin)
--Great is Thy Faithfulness (chorus)
--I Will Praise You

"Threshold Moments"--Tim Woodroof
Testimonies--Otter Creek Elders
Shepherding Prayer


Commitment by the Otter Creek Family
--Had It Not Been the Lord

Supper/Offering--Tim Woodroof
Birthday Sunday--Bob Enkema
Shepherd's Charge--_____________

--Forever (chorus)

Friday, November 05, 2004

Speaking of cancer and prayers...

Can we add John Edwards to our list? One can only imagine the depression he must feel this week after the loss. So much time, energy, money, dreams...gone--or at least put on hold. Then--the day you lose to find out the woman you love has breast cancer? Almost too cruel. Let's not forget, this is also the family that has suffered the loss of a child--something I cannot fathom.

Father, we lift up the Edwards family. We ask for healing for Elizabeth. Please grant them peace and rest right now. Keep them from despair. Draw them close to Your heart. Protect them from mean things being said and help them to see with Your eyes.


Great news everyone--

The mass taken from Jeff WAS NOT CANCEROUS! Praise God! The mass was indeed pre-cancerous and would ahve turned malignant, but they got it in time! HUGE answered prayers. Everyone is doing well.


Last night we went to P.F. Chang's with Steve and Karen Speake. The Speakes don't have kids and love our kids. They have been like older siblings to us over the last 6 years. One of the best memories we have together is our trip to NYC back in 2000. They are really a hoot.

Last night at Chang's, we wisely requested a booth. We've learned that in a booth we can at least attempt to corral the kids. It cracks me up now when younger people encounter us in places like restaurants or airplanes. It's the familiar deer-in-the-headlights-look that is far, far more effective than even teaching abstinence. Both of our servers last night had that look. It's the wide-eyed, I'm never having children, someone please save me look. And--I think our kids are pretty well behaved in public. (You see, I know that look quite well because for 30+ years, I had that same look!) Of course there was the whole incidence with Maddie throwing the plate on the floor and it breaking into a million pieces. But that's another story.

We got home and had the talk every couple loves to hate about money and finances. What a year we're staring into! I can't go into all of it here, but there are some major expenses coming our way--not to mention trying to pledge money to the building campaign.

Speaking of--my trip out to the World Outreach Church this week really got me pumped about some possibilities for our new building. Check out that page if you get a chance. The architect and interior designer both go to Otter Creek and our building will be similar. They have three different places of worship--3 different services going on at the same time. All live worship stuff and the sermon is basically broadcast in from the main sanctuary. One of the rooms has a 45 ft--yes, FOOT, long screen. It was amazing.

I am having lunch with my brother, Randy Gill, today. I love that guy. I am so glad we're both in Nashville. We don't take advantage of our proximity as much as we ought to.

Please keep praying for Jeff. He's in a regular room and is in a lot of pain. He had a slight fever yesterday, but that's not that abnormal. There's a chance that pathology might come back today.

Father, please be with Jeff today--HEAL HIM! Surround Carol and Jeff with your loving care and give them peace. We ask you in the name of Jesus to eradicate any cancer from his body. May Your name be praised through this. We all agree together in this prayer as siblings bound by tyhe blood of your Son.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thanks to Kyle for sending me this picture. This was taken a couple of weeks ago in Texas. I'm still enjoying the warmth of the time spent there with people and old friends.

Last night at our emergent service there were three stations--giving, receiving, and encouragement. At the giving station people used clay to sculpt what they wanted to give to the Lord--something representing it (a gift, a sin, something you hold to tightly to...etc). There were the COOLEST clay sculptures there. In fact, Scott said they ran out of clay!

At the receiving table those who wanted to received the Lord's Supper. The encouragement table was a place to write encouragement cards to others. I heard it was a great night.

Meanwhile, we were in rehearsals that began at 6:15 and ended close to 9:30. The show is really going well. I am amazed--and always have been--at the talent in this place. I have been in professional paid productions with people who weren't half as talented as those here at the Creek. It really blows me away. I have to think that God would not gather people like that all in one place for us to just waste the gifts. It certainly calls us to something higher and deeper.

This show is so hilarious. My character--Pastor Oglethorpe--is such a fun guy to play. He has it bad for June--the Sanders Family sister who "doesn't sing, she signs". Anyway--fun stuff.

I heard from Carol Nelson this morning--things went well with Jeff. His surgery was only about 2 hours long. The doctor thought the liver and other organs looked ok. As for what was removed, we're waiting on pathology which could take as long as Monday. The doc said it was about 50/50 as to whether it was malignant or not. However, he did feel like he got it ALL. Jeff was in ICU last night but is expected to be moved to a regular room today sometime. This is good news so far! Thanks for the many prayers for them. Let's keep it up. They said they could really feel the prayer coverage.

My mom SOLD HER HOUSE!!!!!! Yeeee-hawww! This has been a stressful thing lately. Not only did she sell it, but it seems that God has worked everything out just as it needs to be with timing and stuff. She'll close there on the 10th of December and close here on the 15th.

Thank you, Father, for caring about our every day concerns. Thank you for being involved in our lives and not just a stand-offish being. Thank you for your touch and for speaking through unlikely things like clay sculptures. Thank you for laughter. Thank you for reminding me this morning of your sovereignty. And YOU will reign forever and ever.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I refreshed my links and added a few new ones. Hope you enjoy.

What a nail biting night! Sheryl and I were at a movie and it was killing me not to check every 10 minutes on my phone. Isn't our system fascinating? What if it had come down to a tie in the electoral vote and the decision went to the Senate and House?? Isn't it weird to think Thomas Jefferson was elected that way? Amazing stuff.

On that note, why can't we figure out a way to have a systemized way to vote? Voting is different not only state to state but county to county too! Maybe there are benefits. What are they? Some places have stupid chads that don't punch. Some places lose votes by turning the power off. In Oregon, no one goes to vote--everyone mails in their ballots. In Arkansas, my in-laws filled out their ballot with a pencil and slipped it in a box like it was 1892. Other states neglect sending out absentee ballots until 4 days before the election. I am just glad to know that being an idiot isn't reserved for church work. It certainly seems to apply to government work as well.

My mom came through her cataract surgery this morning with flying colors. Still waiting to hear something from Jeff. Let's continue to pray...for each other, for our country, and more importantly--that we will be Kingdom people (more than US citizens--citizens of the Kingdom of our Lord and God that has no borders). Let's also pray that I don't get any more calls from cast members today.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Here's how my yesterday went with regard to the play and casting. (by the way--rehearsals have already begun and man 2, who is usually cast in a leading role wasn't cast this time because the vocal part fit man 1 better.) Enjoy.

Scene 1 (phone rings at the Thomas house)
Brandon: This is Brandon
Man 1: Brandon--I can't get my schedule to work out for the rehearsals. I cannot do the show. We've had some doctors drop out of our practice and the scheduling just won't work.
Brandon: I hate hearing that! I don't know what we'll do about voice parts, but we'll figure something out.
Man 1: sorry man.

Scene 2 (Brandon calling man 2)
Brandon: Hey bro! Ok--I have something to ask you...if we re-arranged the voice parts is there any way you'd consider doing the show?
Man 2: why should you have to?
Brandon: well, Man 1 had to drop out and I really need you.
Man 2 (loving the fact that I am squirming here): well, I guess I can swallow my pride and take the role.
Brandon: man, you are so awesome. Thank you so much. You know how weird this is for me. See you tonight at rehearsal.

Scene 3 (phone rings an hour later at the Thomas house)
Brandon: this is Brandon
Man 1: Brandon--this is (insert name). I got everything worked out!! My schedule is free now! I just wanted to call and let you know.
Brandon: wow--I just hung up with someone else who is taking your place. But--we really need you for that vocal part. Let me call Eve and see what to do. Thanks for working that out!

Scene 4 (this is after calling Eve and agreeing that we need man 1 since he had already begun the show--calling man 2)
Brandon: Hey man. Ok...soooooooo, I just got a call from (man 1).
Man 2: laughter
Brandon: Dude...I don't know what to say. He's worked things out and I think we need him for that voice part.
Man 2: go on..grovel!
Brandon: I am dyin here! Please, please forgive me!
Man 2: Just be glad we're good friends.

Scene 5 (this is just 45 minutes before rehearsal--phone rings at the Thomas house)
Brandon: this is Brandon
Man 1: Brandon--I am so sorry to have to do this.
Brandon: NO!!!!
Man 1: I came home and talked with my wife who said the schedule of rehearsals is just too much for her. She has asked me not to do it
Brandon: NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
Man 1: I am so sorry
Brandon: OK--you're really doing the right thing. I understand. I'll take care of it. (inside...I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!!!)

Scene 6 (minutes later--calling man 2 back for the hundredth time)

Brandon: Hi
Man 2: laughter
Brandon: so....what is your definition of friendship??
Man 2: more laughter
Brandon: yeah, soooo I just got a call from (man 1) and he is definitely OUT.
Man 2: you must be kidding.
Brandon: nope. I am begging. I am groveling. Please, please, please take this role.
Man 2: You'd better be glad it's me.
Brandon: see you at 6:30?
Man 2: I'll be there.

The rest of the story-- man 2 is perfect in the role and the re-arranging of vocal parts will be minimal. God provides! Who says worship and arts people lead stress free lives? Have them call me!!!

In case you're reading this for the first time today--please read the entry from this morning and keep praying.

So many thing to pray about today. Let's pray for our country and that we will watch how we behave with each other over the coming days. It's one of our gifts here to be able to vote. Be sure and take advantage of that right.

Please be in prayer for Jeff Nelson. I just got word this morning that the doctors found a large mass in his colon and he will be having surgery tomorrow to remove it. The biopsy seems hopeful that it's not malignant. However, the surgeons are treating it like cancer and removing lymph nodes and everything. Please, please be in prayer for him. Jeff is a long time friend and mentor. I am not sure I'd would have even known what worship ministry was had it not been for his leadership.

More later.