Monday, January 31, 2005

What a powerful morning yesterday! The testimonies were really moving and the team did an excellent--EXCELLENT--job of leading in worship. It truly confirmed what I have been thinking and feeling about the new direction of our ministry there. We need more days like yesterday. Real stories. Honesty. A call to tell our story. Brokenness and healing. Acceptance and Love. Awesome day!

Life group was good last night too. We had some honest sharing--something we've needed more of. One day we'll get there.

This morning I had a meeting in Franklin about the South Nashville Gathering. It will be the last Sunday night in April. South Nashville churches will gather at a local outdoor amphitheater (seats around 3000). It should be cool.

Mondays are always fun for me. I usually get to spend them with my family. The meeting earlier today was a rarity. I am typically very guarded with my Mondays. I have found that if I am not, they get eaten up by things other than my family. Learning how to say "no" has not been an easy journey for me. Reading the book "Boundaries" was so helpful. I was written by...(can't think of his name--Henry Could or something). As I was saying to my mom earlier today--there are so many great things to be a part of. Sometimes, if we're not careful, we can over commit to the point of not being useful to anyone. Ministers are especially vulnerable to this. We often feel guilty for saying no to worthwhile activities. There's a voice in our heads that says, "If you really loved God and people, you'd find a way to do this or that". Or...someone hints to us that unless we get involved this event will surely suffer. It's like this weird combination of martyrdom and pride. Sometimes we end up thinking we're needed for the success of something while also feeling bitter about having to do it. Now--obviously, this isn't always the case, but I know A LOT of people who fit this description. I used to more than I do now. It's a hard habit to break. The primary thing I am concerned with is that my family gets the best part of me. I don't want my kids to grow up seeing me tired, burned out, empty, and heavy hearted regarding ministry and church work. I want to be honest with the difficulty of it, but I want to reserve the best parts of me for them instead of giving them the left overs. You can pray for me regarding that if you think of it.

Baby Sam continues to grow and kick. Maddie and Ella talk about him and pray about him nightly. It's hard to imagine what life will be like in a few months, but we are excited for his arrival.

Have a great Monday, friends.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Good morning! Praise God for a new day! WE had a great night at Belmont. Michael was wonderful--as always. It was a sweet time all the way around. I got to praise and dance with my girls. What a great blessing that I rarely get in a worship service! Being with them and singing with them--so fun!

This morning I woke up with that same sense of expectation. I just cannot shake that the Lord wants to do something really powerful here today. I pray our hearts are open to receive whatever that might be. Especially mine.

Here's our order of worship. May God bless you wherever and however you worship Him today.

DVD count down—Igniter volume 2 “Never Been Unloved”
Family Prayer—David England
Meet and greet
Praise and Worship—BST
--O Worship the King
--Come Thou Fount
--Blessed Be Your Name
--Reading from Ps 51
--Have Mercy On Me O God
--Lord, Have Mercy
--Purer In Heart, O God (verses in this order…vs 3 first and then verse 1)

Sharing—Lane Thomas, Galen Foster, Frankie Mize
--Had It Not Been the Lord
--Here In This Place

Supper—Galen and Frankie
--He Knows My Name

Offering—Lane Thomas

Ministry Moment
Shepherd’s Close—Fred Ewing
--This Is How We Overcome

Saturday, January 29, 2005

I sent out the letter I've been working on all week yesterday afternoon to our praise team members--over 70 in all. We are entering an exciting new phase and calling them to step up a little more fully. I am so blessed to have these amazing people to work with. Please be praying for me as I lead these gifted men and women and attempt to help us all be better leaders.

Last night we had a family outing to Cosco! Woo-hoo! We went with the Williamsons and made a party out of it. Our kids are so hilarious together.

Today we are working on the "big girl beds". Sheryl has constructed these BEAUTIFUL Victorian style beds for the girls. They are really excited. We'll see how sharing a bedroom goes. My guess is it will be a long process of getting used to it.

We are going to Belmont tonight at 6pm. Come join us for some awesome praise and worship. Have a great weekend.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Before I begin--let me also point you to my brother-in-law's blog. Chris ("Fajita") is a gifted writer and deep thinker. I loved his story yesterday involving the characters "Good", "Right", "Depressed", "Alone" and so on. I think you'll love it. He's been added to my links, but for ease, click here

OK--why me? That's going to be the title of my auto-biography. It's true on so many different levels. You will not believe what happened. My friend who works for the dentist mentioned earlier this week called yesterday and told me that she was so upset by what had happened that she wrote him a letter and PRINTED OFF MY BLOG FOR HIM TO READ. (collective gasps and screams) When she told me, I literally screamed. I went back to re-read what I wrote. For the love. When will I learn? Dr. Torture? Backwoods school in West Virginia? Help me. While I didn't stretch the truth--AT ALL--I still feel badly about my colorful editorial. The good news is...I don't have to go back to said Dentist. I get to go to his partner. From all accounts, he is a true gentle dentist. I told her that I would come--but only with a bag over my head. For the love. The other even better news is...THEY AREN'T CHARGING ME!!! So, a little humiliation versus paying over $700?? I'll take the humiliation, thank you.

If you can even get over the previous paragraph, (after hours of processing what happened yesterday I still found myself lost in cringe-ville and shaking my head at myself) there's more to share today. The girls are so fun to watch lately. They are still so addicted to Peter Pan. Ella has finally, to Maddie's delight, begun playing dress up. Watching Maddie persuade her to do it is the best part. This morning they both dressed up in their fairy princess outfits and were flying all over the house like Peter Pan. Very cute. They were also making fart noises and laughing hysterically, but that's another story. There's no denying whose kids they are.

Sunday continues to take shape. I feel this anticipation building. It will be a powerful day. I pray that the Spirit will do a major work here this weekend. Sheryl and I are going to Belmont to worship tomorrow night. My friend, Michael Mellett, is leading. It starts at 6pm in case any of you Nashvegas bloggers want to go.

We are selling copies of the DVD of our Christmas Show-- "A Sander's Family Christmas". (also selling DVD copies of our kids musical last summer "Holy Moses" and the DVD of the "Otter Limits" talent show) Each one is $10. I plan to post a link to order, in case any of you are interested. I haven't seen the DVD to the other ones but our Christmas show DVD is really excellent. I was surprised and excited with the quality. More on that later.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bear with me this morning. First of all--I want to tell you that my best friends and former college roommies have joined the world of blogging. Doggett joined, I think, only to shock the rest of us. Here are some funny pics of us dating back to 1992 until a few years the first pic from left to right are: Craig Fisher (Fish), BST, Chris Doggett (Dog), and Stephen Bailey (SAB). A lot of you met Stephen at the Nashville ZOE conference when he shared his story with the worship leaders.

These guys have been my brothers and closest friends on the journey ever since the late eighties. We lived together on Westheimer in Abilene. We raced naked down city streets. We laughed until we were sick. We weathered girlfriends and grades. They stood by me when I lost my father. We've walked through a lot together. We've grown up together. Even though we don't live in the same city, we still communicate several times a week. It's a true blessing.

Stephen left the world of motion pictures and special effects to be a worship minister last fall. It was a huge step. He and I have shared many stories over the last few months about church work and have wondered together how anyone stays in church work without jumping off a tall bridge. We were roommates more years than either of us can count. We traveled and sang together, we were Sing Song hosts together at ACU. We've had more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. Here's his link: Stephen's Blog

Craig is an elementary school principal (my dad would be so proud!). He's one hip dude. He can dance and will probably audition for American Idol Senior at some point. LOL. He loves the Lord and has been a real brother to me. Maddie is enamored with him because she loves to wear a t-shirt he gave her with his face on it that says, "Mr. Fisher's Reading Club". Here's his link:
Fisher's Blog

Chris was always the pretty one. We love to kid him about it. His wife, Karen, took care of us all in college. It was a great trial run for having kids later. They sure make beautiful children! Chris has such a tender heart for the Lord. I love how he inspires me to be a better husband and follower of Christ. Here's his link: Doggett's Blog

It's one of God's biggest gifts to me to have remained close to these guys all these years. Sometimes people travel different roads spiritually and that can separate them over time. The Lord has been gracious to allow us to journey together, finding ourselves more and more passionate for the Lord. Welcome to blog land, guys!

One more thing before signing off today. I was inundated yesterday with one single message. Mercy. From the beginning of my day until it ended last night with a conversation with a brother around 9:30, I was hit with the richness of God's mercy. How can I possibly overlook how merciful God has been to me? This should and does have a huge impact on the way I react to people around me. I got a couple of notes from people who attended the conference this weekend. One in particular laid me on the floor. A man who had done some very terrible things in his past and is now paying the price telling us what this ministry means to him...especially the theme of "Desperate". I woke up this morning feeling convicted again of the FACT that God is in control of this ministry. Any good that comes from it is a result of His work through His Spirit. I cannot do this on my own--not even a little. He supplies, He forgives, He softens, He heals, He ministers, He loves, He directs, He initiates, He protects. He does all that. Not me. I am more mindful than ever today of the profound responsibility of being a vessel. It honestly scares me sometimes when I see the vastness of God's plan and the way He is using ZOE to spread His love. So, this morning as I got ready I looked in the mirror and prayed, "Lord, help me today. I cannot do this on my own. I am worth nothing without You. Go before me. Create a new heart in me. Use me to accomplish Your will, and protect my family, this ministry, and me for Your name's sake."

Does that ring true for any of you? I know what I am capable of. I know how low I can go. There is nothing in me I trust. God has given all of us certain personalities and with His creative genius, has set us here to be Kingdom men and women. I am praying that I die to everything in me that is not of Him and allow Him to use me fully to His glory. If you have a sec today, would you pray that for me too? Have a great day, blog family.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I like to call this post..."One Day I'll Wear My Crown".

I am headed to the dentist in a few minutes to get a crown.'d think these things were made of gold, rubies, and diamonds. How can a small piece of porcelain be that expensive? AND--you know how sometimes when you take your car to be worked on, they wash it for you? Maybe that's a southern thing. Anyway--if I am paying for a crown on my tooth with my life savings (not really) shouldn't they throw in a little cleaning to boot? Dentists. And--why is dentistry so expensive? And why isn't it covered on our health insurance. These are the burning questions on this Tuesday.

On the more pleasant topics. I feel like I am just giddy with my girls right now. I loved being with Sheryl over the weekend (I don't really call her my girl for fear of being slapped). Ella and Maddie are just so cute. All the way to school this morning Maddie gave me those eyes--daddies, you know what I mean. The sweet, there's no one like you daddy, I love you eyes. She wanted to hold my hand too. I just want to soak in those moments. What a treasure.

The weekend was truly inspiring for me. I feel renewed and really ready to tackle some deeper harder things in my heart. God's timing is always good.

American Idol is tonight--watch for Jeff Johnson. I think this is his night. If it's New Orleans, then it is. He's a mess.

Sunday is going to be AWESOME at the creek. I can't wait. We have some very powerful testimonies. Honestly, it could be a day of great conviction and healing for a lot of people. Me included. I am already praying towards that end. If you can, please join me in praying that the Spirit of God will be on this place powerfully this week. to my coronation. Instead of champagne, I'll be getting mouthwash. And instead of fireworks, there'll be the hum of the fluorescent lights. No excitement, no parties, no carriages, no kingly thrones or long capes. BUT THERE WILL BE A CROWN! Yes sir, there will be a crown.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Back in Nashville after a long flight yesterday. Flying back from the west coast is always brutal cause you lose two hours...or three if you're Jeff Walling! While long, it was still a blast. We all have so much fun being together.

It's so good to be home. It took everything I had not to go wake the girls up and hold them for a while. The reunion this morning was awesome.

The weekend went so well. As always, the Fresno Church was completely hospitable. Sandra's organization was impeccable, and the folks at the conference were so warm and felt like family. It was a wonderful weekend, even though Mike couldn't make it. We were so heavy in prayer for all of them.

I had such a great visit with Darrel Tippens. Darrel is now the provost of Pepperdine University in Malibu. He was one of my favorite Literature prof's at ACU. I love that man. It was fun to catch up and hear about his new adventures at Pepperdine.

I was thinking about some of our Elders at Otter Creek this morning. We have some really great men serving as Shepherds. I talked to someone from a very prominent church in California who was sharing with me that their eldership runs very much a like a board of directors (something many of us have experienced at different times). It made me so thankful for our guys and their commitment to Shepherding instead of being CEOs. Men like Fred Ewing, Steve Giddens, Jerry Franklin, Bill Reider, Ed Rucker, Jim Butler, Wayne Tomlinson, and so many more. We're very blessed to be under their leadership.

I am finishing John Grisham's The Last Juror. Last night on the plane I read the part about the main character visiting all the different types of churches in rural Mississippi. He included the CofC in there. The following is an excerpt from Grisham's novel. I thought it was so rich in seeing our churches through the eyes of someone on the outside.

"The denominations were varied and baffling--how could Protestants, all of whom claimed to follow the same basic tenets, get themselves so divided? They agreed basically that (1)Jesus was the only son of God; (2)he was born of a virgin; (3)lived a perfect life; (4)was persecuted by the Jews, arrested and crucified by the Romans; (5)that he arose on the third day and later ascended into heaven; (6)and some believed--though there were many variations--that one must follow Jesus in baptism and faith to make it to heaven.

The doctrine was fairly straightforward, but the devil was in the details."

Skipping down a bit...
"The Clanton Church of Christ had no musical instruments. The ban was based on scripture, it was later explained to me. There was a beautiful solo, which I wrote about at length. There was also no emotion whatsoever in the service."

Solo? Rural Mississippi? I doubt he did his homework. Kidding. Anyway--I thought that was interesting. I don't think it requires any commentary from me. I'd love to hear some from you though. Do we wear "no emotion" as a badge of honor? What's the deal? Does our salvation from hell and the incredible gift of mercy and grace given through the death of Jesus not evoke emotion? Ok--I said I'd be quiet.

Well, it's naptime for the girls and, hopefully, naptime for Mommy and Daddy as we try to catch up. Thanks to all you bloggers from the West Coast who I met this weekend. What a joy! Let us hear from you. I am thanking God for you today. It is so great to be family.

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

We're here in Fresno. The Lord has been moving powerfully here. It's really been an incredible weekend. We're missing Mike, but we've been surrounded by the grace and power of the Lord. Powerful! The times of worship have been really moving and the people who've come from as far away as Alabama and Kentucky (mostly west coast folks though) have been extremely engaged in worship.

Here's a thought...maybe we should do something to make Sunday mornings more valuable to people. If we charged or made them drive 100 miles to get there, maybe they'd be more committed to the thought of coming for the sole reason of lifting up the name of Jesus. (of course, I'm kidding--sort of) It just seems to me that the reason these times are so powerful is because at these conferences all 500-1000 people (depending where the conference is) come ready. They're there because they want to be. They come hungry. There's an energy knowing that we're all there to lift up the name of Jesus. Sunday mornings too often lack that, in my opinion.

The team is having fun being together. It's one of God's greatest gifts to me. These people have weathered some serious stuff together. The ZOE singers are family to each other. It's a big blessing.

Tonight John York will fill in For Mike. Pray for him. It's really never a fun thing to fill someone else's shoes. He'll do a wonderful job though.

Blessings to all of you. Greetings to those of you in Nashville. Be sure to give Phillip Duncan a hug in the morning and thank him for his leadership while we're away.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

11:30am (central standard time):
Some people call them serendipities. I call them God reminders. This morning I got to the airport super early to try and catch a morning flight to Fresno. For some reason, Eric had booked me on a later flight that got into Fresno around 12:30am my time. No thank you! Thankfully, there was room on the early flight so I flew standby.

As I walked towards security I saw an old friend, Michael Mellett. He had missed his early morning flight and we discovered we were flying on the same flight to Dallas. Michael and I became friends back in the day. (old people say that.) When I came out to Nashville while attending ACU to intern for Reunion Records, Michael was just starting out too. We both were involved at Belmont Church in the college group. Michael had a hunger for music and worship. That guy has truly made an impact on the music industry. He's produced, arranged, and toured with people like Billy Joel, Avalon, Point of Grace, etc. (any complex vocal arrangement you hear from the likes of Avalon or POG is thanks to him.) He leads worship now at Belmont and is flying out to Dallas to work with the singers from the Women of Faith conference. He produced their last few records.

Michael and I seemed to both be on the same kind of personal trajectory. We married later, and we have proceeded to have our kids all around the same time. I found out this morning they are expecting a girl about a month before our Sam is due. CRAZY!

We had a great hour or so to catch up. He has such a heart for the Lord. He really loves worship. It was encouraging to be fed by that passion as I am on my way to Fresno. He's also a cut up.

I remember flying down to San Antonio with him to sing on one of Max Lucado's projects (I think "God Came Near"). We laughed at the description of what we were supposed to wear. As we recalled it today something like "fun Christmas sweaters". Yes, "fun". Anyway--good times.

Talking to him reminded me of how important it is for worship leaders to stay filled. Sheryl and I used to be better about attending Saturday night services on occasion at Belmont. It was a great way to get fed and be ready to lead the next morning. (and it was a long time before I didn't consider Belmont my true home church in Nashville.) We haven't done that in a very long time. I think we're going to try and go on Jan 29 which is the next time Michael and Fiona lead. For those of you who are worship leaders out there. You know what I mean. It's important to go somewhere different, to be ministered TO, to climb out of your box and experience worship in fresh ways.

This gift today was a "God reminder" that He really does work in our lives. I remember us talking back in 1990--looking incredibly hip in our 80's fashion--and having NO clue what the Lord's plan was for us. He is faithful. Michael reminded me today as we talked about some of these thoughts about desperation. It really boils down to trust. Do we trust the Lord? Do we really trust Him? And not just trust Him to work it for our benefit--but do we trust that He really is Good?

Last night before we went to bed Katie Earles came over. Katie is an Abilene "lifer" like me. She was born and raised. She has felt the burden of grief for the kids in Abilene struggling through Brody's death. She is feeling the distance that I remember so well. It's hard to move away from home, isn't it? I look at Katie and see this long road (like you can only see in West Texas) of a beautiful future that God is laying before her. It's so easy for people in their 30s and over to forget those horrifying days right after college. Sheryl and I are just glad she's in Nashville and we're eager to have front row seats in seeing what God will do through her. Thank you, Lord for sending her our way!

I am sitting in DFW on a layover enjoying the people watching and re-reading some of Dan Kimball's book, Emerging Worship. It is a MUST READ for all ministers out there--not just worship leaders. Guess I'll go grab some Texas BBQ while the getting's good. Have a blessed day!

4:50pm Pacific time
Walking out of the jet way into the Fresno airport brought back a strange feeling. It literally washed over me. Joe Smith. Joe was flooding my entire mind and being.

Last year at this conference he showed up as a surprise to me. He looked terrible. I cried when I saw him and felt terrible immediately for being so negative. We spent some very deep time in conversation that weekend. We both knew without saying anything that we'd never see each other again. Saturday night he finally looked at me as I struggled for words and set my heart at rest by saying, "It's ok, I know what you're thinking. I'm thinking it too and it sucks."

Sunday as we all were leaving, the rest of the group went ahead to our gate and I hung back with Joe as he changed his ticket. There was a lot of awkward hugging and silence. I remember vividly saying goodbye and heading to the gate. I didn't want to be completely morbid, but how do you say goodbye to someone when you think you won't see them again? Sure enough, that was my last face to face interaction with Joe before he went to be with the Lord.

Today as I walked into that familiar airport it all hit me again. It was unexpected. I miss Joe. It's a void. I know his family and friends in Phoenix still feel it too. It's a reminder that every day--every moment is a gift. Let's smile, laugh out loud, hug, share freely, be bold in our faith, and allow the Spirit to use us completely while we're here so that we can be a part of spreading the Kingdom of the Lord. What a gift! I'm so thankful for Joe and the way he encouraged that in me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I leave tomorrow morning for the West Coast where we will have our next ZOE worship conference. The College Church in Fresno has been one of our very favorite places to go. The people there are the very definition of hospitality. They have that reputation. (another friend who visited there for something said the same thing.) What a great way to be known! The "green room" is always stocked with lots of goodies.

The Shepherds there are hands-on, involved, engaged, passionate, and unified. I wish more of our elderships looked like that. On Saturday night each year, several of the Elders make an elaborate dinner--ribs, tri-tip (like brisket), asparagus, stuffed mushrooms, and the most amazing desserts you've ever seen. It is truly unreal.

I'll never forget the first year we went there and the entire eldership surrounded us that Sunday morning and prayed over us--very moving and passionate prayers. The Elders had tears streaming and MAN, did we! It is a very special place.

The theme to our conference this year is "Desperate". This is our first one on the road after our Nashville conference in October. I was thinking this morning that we have experienced some real desperation this week in regards to Chris Cope and the families involved in Abilene--especially the Bourlands. What do we do with desperation? It seems to be this enigma that taunts us. We are told to "be still and know that He is God" and feel the "peaces that passes understanding". Praise the Lord for those amazing gifts! But, what happens when those phrases seem empty? What happens when people in our lives are struggling to the degree that saying something like that might evoke a punch in the face? What happens when someone near to us is sitting on the "ash heap"?

There's something about this fallen world that causes us to feel desperation. All of creation groans with expectation for the time when God sets things right. There's a place in us that will never be satisfied by words or the things of this world. We are a part of the groaning. We see death and we groan. We see violence and we groan. We see poverty and hunger and we groan. We see suffering and we groan.

Sometimes, we learn the most from times of desperation. But sometimes the learning comes from suffering. Our tendency is to push the suffering aside and try to hurry to healing by skipping some steps. Maybe some time spent on the ash heap is good. Maybe when our friends are there what would help the most is our presence more than words. Maybe there's something God wants to teach us or sharpen in us through our suffering or the suffering of those close to us?

I remember people saying some pretty asinine things to me after losing my dad. I know they were trying to help, but grief and pain seem to short circuit our judgment. The best thing said to me was by Donna Reynolds. As she sat crying with me and hugging me, she reminded me that this world is fallen. God never meant for it to be this way. He never wanted death. It's not a part of who we were made to be. That made sense to me.

Desperation--it's a tricky thing. It can be Life to some and death to others. There's a Godly desperation--a hunger, a thirst, a gasp for the presence of the living God. God can use our desperation to soften our hearts if we'll let him. If we don't allow Him into those times, it's an opportunity for the enemy to tell us all kinds of stupid things.

Whatever desperation you're feeling today, may it be a tool that breeds Life and deepens your walk with Christ.

I'll close with these words of Job.

"I know you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know."

Please keep us in your prayers this weekend as we listen for the Lord, minister to people, and lift Him up in worship.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Many prayers have been lifted over the last couple of days for Chris, Austin, Julie, the Bourlands and all those involved in the horrible car wreck near Abilene. I don't know about you but I've just been heavy with this whole thing--thinking about Julie and what she'll have to live with, thinking about the loss the Bourlands are dealing with, thinking about Diane on that flight to Fort Worth thinking back to a flight with Megan over 10 years ago. There is so much to be thankful for, though. I am so thankful that Chris is ok. I am so thankful that if that had to happen, it happened in a community where the love of Christ runs so deep.

Chris is better this morning. They took the tube out and he's aware and processing what happened. He's surrounded by people who love him. The funeral for Brody is also today. Let's remember them.

It's caused me to look at my family differently. I hugged on Maddie and Ella and Sheryl yesterday more than usual. At dinner as we prayed, I confessed a realization that every moment--EVERY moment--is a gift. We aren't guaranteed any amount of time. I want to drink in each laugh, each giggle, each wink, each hug, every "watch this, daddy", and every moment with my sweet girls. The thought of losing one of them is more than I can bear. I just grieve for the Bourlands. God, comfort them in a way that we cannot even imagine.

I am feeling harried as I finish plans for the West Coast Conference. Mike won't be joining us for obvious reasons. It won't be the same. I have much to do today to get back on track and ready to leave on Thursday morning.

One last thing--there's a new compilation worship CD out there you might want to check out. ZOE is on it along with others like Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Third Day and others. (They took one of the songs off our last recording and stuck it on there) It's called "Jesus"

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A call for prayer tonight--

A vehicle carrying a group of kids from Highland traveling back to Abilene had an accident and rolled 3 times this afternoon. Mike Cope's son, Chris, was among the kids involved. He was seriously injured. As I write this, he is being flown to Fort Worth's Cooke Hospital with a lung injury and badly beaten up and bruised. Doctors are saying he'll have a long road in the next few weeks and may get worse before he gets better, but he should be fine. I spoke with Mike on the phone a little while ago. Diane had flown with Chris and Dickie Porche was driving Mike to the metroplex.

The boy sitting next to Chris in the car was killed. I cannot imagine the grief. His name is Brody Bourland. Thom Lemmon's son was also involved and was flown to Ft. Worth. I don't a lot about his condition.

Please, please get on your knees tonight for these families. It will be such a difficult recovery for everyone. I am praying that the Lord will heal Chris and the other quickly and spare Mike and Diane and all the others as much grief and heartache as possible.

Thank you for lifting this up.

The Otter Limits show was a blast last night as always. Some highlights included the Griffith Family (all supernaturally gifted) with their singing/guitar, fiddle, spoon playing children, Johnathan Vest and Keith Thompson as the middle school music teachers from Sat Night Live (Keith played the woman), Ken Switzer and Trisha Simpson as the Whiners (also from SNL), Gabe Wicks Johnny Cash Medley with new lyrics about Otter Creek--hilarious. There were many great moments. Sheryl and I sang "All I Ask of You" from Phantom. I always love singing with Sheryl.

This morning I was thinking back to the first time I sang in front of people. I had to have been around Maddie's age. Here's the song I sang (to the tune of "Dixie")

Well, I stuck my head in a little skunk's hole
And the little skunk said, "Well, bless my soul!
Take it out! Take it out! Take it out! Remove it!"

Well, I didn't take it out and the little skunk said,
"If you don't take it out you'll wish you were dead!
Take it out! Take it out! Take it out!"
I removed it.

I can imagine how that edifies you this morning. You can be expecting a ZOE arrangement of that coming real soon.

I haven't blogged at all about this yet, but I am planning some pretty major changes for our praise team ministry. I have been praying, wrestling, worrying over this for at least 6 months. It's time. I believe God has called people into leadership here. What I want to do is simply bring that to fruition and help our praise team ministry be about gifted leadership--not just gifted singing. Please pray for me. It will be an exciting and difficult time. I am really excited!

Have a great morning, everyone! We have our missionaries from Africa, the Coulstons, here today. It should be a great morning!

Here's our order of worship:

Welcome—Steve Sherman
Family Prayer— Troy Link/ Jeff Krinks
Meet and greet

Praise and Worship—Brandon Scott Thomas
--Days of Elijah
--Great is the Lord Almighty
--Ancient of Days
Reading from Ps. 67
(vs.1-2—men, vs.3—all, vs.4—women, vs.5—all, vs.6—leader, vs.7—all)
--O Praise the Lord
--Let Your Glory Fall

Sharing—Charles and Darlene Coulston
--Send Your Rain (first chorus to the end—includes second verse)
--Before the Throne of God Above (congregational version)

Supper/Offering—David Nowers
--What Can Wash Away My Sin (chorus, vs1, chorus)

Ministry Moment—Jeanine Adams and the women’s ministry
Shepherd’s Close—Leland Vickers
--Days if Elijah (chorus)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

She's Back!!!
Judy Thomas's Blog

Ryan Williamson and I had a blast today getting Mom all fixed up. She had about one million email messages. I know it will take a while to dig out but she's back in blog land!!

Tonight we are a part of the Otter Limits Talent Show at Otter Creek along with 24 other acts. It's always a blast and absolutely hilarious!!

Have a great night, everyone!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Last night Sheryl and I went to see Finding Neverland. I highly recommend it. It's tough to recover after seeing it, but it's worth it.

January 13th is my father's birthday. Typically, I try to do something to remember him on that day like go down to the inner city daycare (Wayne Reed center) and read to the kids, or try to cut snow flakes into crazy shapes, or write notes to friends--something that he would do. That helps me feel close to him. Yesterday I found myself at the end of the day and having done nothing really like that as in years past. The movie last night ended up being that thing. Sheryl and I both confessed later that we had to fight back the sobbing reflex while watching. It was wonderful.

My father was really Peter Pan in a lot of ways. He was the boy who never really grew up. He also helped others see how rigid "adulthood" could rob them of the fun of living. He taught people to "fly" by thinking of good things. He told stories about pirates, Indians, far away places, and imaginary creatures. I remember stories at bedtime about places where the trees dripped with taffy and carmeled apples, the grass was cotton candy, and the clouds were marshmallows. I remember stories about "Little Joe" who lived with his family in a hole in our garden (sort of like the "Borrowers". Of course there was the tragic day when my father was plowing the front garden and I realized he was plowing them up and ran out to stop him. He left a space where Joe's home supposedly was.) He was a man much like the author of Peter Pan. He made a difference in people's lives--especially children. He saw raw gifts in people and encouraged them to cultivate them. He was a great man.

However, just like the ticking clock inside the crocodile in the story of Peter Pan, it's a reminder that we are all being chased by the inevitable. We are but a blade of grass--here today and gone tomorrow. BUT--unlike those characters, our "Neverland" is real. We have an inheritance that cannot spoil or fade away. As Peter Pan said, "To die would be an awfully grand adventure!" It's true for us too. There is much work to be done here. There are dreams to instill. There are people to touch. There are lives waiting to be changed. There are crippled hearts waiting for the touch from the Master through our love. What an adventure we are on! To live is Christ. To die is gain. Both are incredible adventures when the Lord is with us.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

As you can see in these photos, I have been busily cleaning. The empty space on the back wall is where my piano goes. It's been sitting in the sanctuary for over a month because we used it for the show and now the "Otter Limits" variety show is this weekend and it needed to stay for that. Next week we'll roll it back in here to its new home on a different wall. I LOVED walking in to a clean office this morning. THANK YOU, TRINA!!!! We have worked really hard. I think I have thrown away 3 huge trash cans full of old music books, memorabilia, and CDs that I will never use.

What you can't see is my desk--currently clean--and my computer credenza which sits behind it. It needs some help. BUT--we're getting there!!

So, Donald Miller...whoever decided to have him at the Belcourt was not a visionary. It was more than sold out. In fact, they had to do a whole second speaking time at 9pm which I was not able to come to. My mom and I were out of luck. I am sure it was wonderful.

My night was much more fun. I went on home and played with the girls. Cleaning my office yesterday I found a bunch of old music from when I taught voice lessons. (younger music from things like Annie, Little Mermaid, etc) I took the Little Mermaid music home and played it and Maddie and Ella were really loving it. That evolved into getting the camcorder out and taping Maddie playing and singing Old McDonald, Jesus Loves Me, etc. It was a fun night. We ended up upstairs in the playroom with me in their Little Tykes house. Ella and Maddie were putting things in the microwave (unplugged) and pretending to make me dinner. So sweet! Maddie was making "Charlie Browns" (what she calls brownies--I love that!)

I am still processing some of my time with Greg Williams. Greg came to "shadow" me. He probably has no idea how encouraging his presence was. I needed his perspective and his brotherly words. It's amazing how true encouragement in the Spirit impacts you down to the marrow. I've had plenty of the opposite of that. It was a striking comparison. It makes me think about what Jesus said about fruit. You can judge things by the fruit it bears. Some of the fruit of my conversations with Greg over the course of 24 hours have been a desire to seek renewal, a longing for a deeper touch of God on those places in my heart that still need healing, and a conviction to find my joy in the things of God. It's funny--it's like God has broad sided me this week with some real conviction in areas that needed revealing and convicting.

As you go about your day today, don't underestimate the power of Spirit-filled, life giving words. You never know what God might do through you to break down walls.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Thanks for all the congratulatory messages. We are really excited. I am sure that's evident.

At the ultra sound they were taking video of all the body parts and when they got to the arm he stretched out his hand and made a waving motion. Ella promptly waved back. It was the cutest thing!

My good friend, Greg Williams, is here visiting. We've had a blessed 24 hours of sharing and encouraging each other. I didn't know how much I really needed that. It's been such a blessing. I shared some stories of last year with him. It is always great to hear from someone with fresh perspective. He asked me to share some of the things God did for good and that was such a positive exercise for me. Greg is here doing some healing of his own. It's been a real encouragement.

I am in the middle of "Clean Sweep" in my office. So far it's been a 2 day process. I am throwing SO many things away. I don't feel grossed out to be in here today--that's a good thing.

This morning I waited in line with a million other people to register our kids for Otter Creek pre-school. It's weird to think that Ella will be going this next year! It was fun to see a lot of friends there.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone! Tonight I am going to the Belcourt to hear Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz. It should be a really cool night. Lots of Otter folks are going. I'll have a report tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2005

boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, boy!

YEEEE-HAAAAAWWWWW! Everything looked great, he's measuring right on time, and has all limbs in tact. He wasn't shy either. There's no doubt...he's a boy. We are SO pumped! Thanks for being excited with us! Praise the Lord!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Good morning, everyone! Back in Nashville now. Great trip to Orlando! More on that in a minute.

Regarding the comment section on the blog over the last couple of days--no offense taken at all. This is a good forum for asking questions. My wife has labored over the years of our marriage to help me be better about asking questions instead of immediately assuming. I still struggle with that. It's not uncommon for her to say to me, "Why don't you just ask me if that's the way I'm feeling instead of assuming?" She has a great point. I am positive that I do that in all areas of life at one point or another. My deal with the Passion thing was to simply report, as one who was there, what transpired. It really was amazing. Had I not been there, I might even agree with Daren about the actions of what went on inside as opposed to the world outside. (there was a contribution taken for the victims in South Asia, by the way. No word on how much was raised, but these college students were giving generously all week.) I guess my caution to you and to me is to be slow to judge something you have no first hand knowledge of. Seems like I have a tendency to do that at times.

Even so, both scenarios are supported in scripture. Jesus encouraged the selfless ministry to others and giving all one had to people in need, as well as extravagant worship. The woman who came in to Jesus and poured expensive perfume comes to mind. That must have been incredibly uncomfortable for those watching--and wondering why she wasn't giving that money to the poor. Yet, there were many other times when He called people out of their religious boxes into a new way of thinking about Kingdom. Living it. Isn't it cool how multi-dimensional this walk with Him is? It really can be mind blowing.

The thing I appreciate about Daren, for those of you who don't know him, is his relentless search for the heart of God. It has been one of the things that has greatly encouraged me. There is much to learn on the journey. Sometimes I feel like I am riding the "short bus" to my Spiritual special ed class. Strike that...MOST of the time. I'm glad the Lord speaks to us through each other and through the Spirit. I'm thankful for the accountability.

Now, Orlando--so, Friday I went with a friend from the conference and met Bret Testerman and Charles Stovall for lunch. It was fun to see them. Afterwards, Charles took my friend, Mitch, and me to MGM to ride a couple of rides. The Rockin-Roller Coaster was about the coolest thing ever. 0-60mph in 2 seconds. It's like a rocket. It's completely dark inside and they have Aerosmith music blaring. LOVED IT.

Next was Tower of Terror. Ok, I have confessed to my great fear of heights. I decided to stand in line with Mitch and Charles to pass the time since I WAS NOT GOING ON THAT RIDE. By the time we got inside and it was time to get on, I noticed two small girls in line behind us. I leaned over to one of them and asked her age. "4", she said, and her babysitter offered that she had ridden this yesterday. I asked the little girl if it was scary and she said, "Vewy sca-wy". I figured, if she can do this I can. So I got on.

I am not sure when I came to, it was several days later. OK, just kidding, but seriously. There's a reason kids ride those things. They are more resilient. It scared the pants off me. I freaked. But I was very proud of having done it. Once is enough. Never again. Charles, you were the smart one.

It was wonderful to come home and see the girls and Sheryl. I am so blessed to have them. I pray that you all are enjoying the gift of family and friends today as you worship. It's still such a cool thought that my mom isn't just visiting. She's here!

May God continue to open our hearts to being more like Him--as radically different from our nature as it may be.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Orlando is beautiful--as always. And, as always, my flight here was delayed. Southwest cannot seem to get their flights from Nashville to Orlando ironed out. Every time I fly that route I am delayed.

The conference is ok. The Integrity worship session today brought some possibilities and I found some good dramatic sketches for Sunday mornings, but no other nuggets to speak of. One cool thing--I ran into an old friend from the Don McMinn conference in Dallas, Jason Beams. I hadn't seen him in 5 years. We got to catch up and turns out he's moved from Houston to be the music minister for a Baptist church out in Windemere, Florida. It was really good to see him and catch up. Those Don McMinn conferences are really great for building lasting friendships. I still have close friends I met there who I keep in contact with on a regular basis. Some of you music ministers should check it out. It's called the 6 Acts Conference. Go to and you'll find more info.

Today I had lunch with my friend Mitch Crowe (minister of music at a Baptist church in S.C.) and two other older gentlemen who I don't know. As we were waiting in line at Chili's, one of the older men was making a comment about the waitress. He leaned over to the other one and said, "Look at her hair! She paid money to have it look that way. Mine looks like that when I roll out of the bed without having to pay at all." Then they both slowly looked my direction probably realizing what they had said and how closely I resemble that remark. I just smiled. I didn't tell them that my hair product of choice is actually called "bedhead" and that it TAKES A LONG TIME TO MAKE IT LOOK THAT WAY! It's an art. It is, I'm serious. Whatever.

Sheryl seems to be managing well at home with the kids. I wish they were here. I am meeting Chas (Charles Stovall--a great ZOE supporter!) tomorrow at Disney for lunch. Since he's the bigshot at Disney he's offered to let us play a little out there too. Thanks, Chas! The girls would die if they knew I was that close to the princesses. Maddie especially.

I am still floating from the Passion experience. It's funny to go from that to this. It just so dramatically reveals the chasm between the emerging generation and this modern church. The good news is, the focus of worship is still Jesus. We just all speak a different language in the way we approach it. Sometimes VERY different.

I pray your day is blessed.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I am so exhausted, but let me tell you about my experience tonight. I decided to go to the late night event at Passion--which I had been strongly encouraged to do by one of the workers. I probably wouldn't have gone because it started at 11pm! It is now almost 1am.

I got there and people were waiting outside. Around 10:15 there were already close to 200 or so waiting at the doors. I soon realized that no one was talking--at all. About 10:45 there were thousands waiting stretching as far back as the Ryman--as far as you could see, a sea of people. Covering the streets waiting to enter the arena (there were probably 17,000 or so at this thing). No one was talking. You could see hands raised in prayer, eyes closed, people praying, people smiling, people waiting. The anticipation was so thick you could have cut it with a knife.

The doors finally opened and everyone quietly proceeded in (at this point I was wondering who had told them to be quiet and how they had gotten the word out). As we entered the arena, Shane and Shane were sitting on the floor in the center of the arena on stools playing guitar, the only lights were candles and a spot on them. The floor was lit so you could see where you were going. Again--silence. People came in and there were hundreds, maybe thousands on the floor (no chairs) sitting around them. The floor filled, the first level filled, then the other levels began to fill until almost every seat was taken. My guess is at least 10,000 people were there tonight. Meanwhile, no talking, no yelling, only soft, worshipful guitar playing. People took their seats and began to enter into worshipful prayer. Not too long after the singing began. It was one of the coolest beginnings to a worship time I have ever experienced. Louie Giglio talked tonight--amazing. Shane and Shane led worship, Chris Tomlin, and David Crowder. Tonight will be one of those high points of worship for me.

It has been fun being with Jeff and Jourdan. Jeff is still recovering from his experience with American Idol. I am just glad the Lord knows what He wants from Jeff--and it's not Simon! Maddie was completely star struck and had a huge crush on Jeff. We'll be hearing about him for weeks, I'm sure. That is until she sees Peter Wilson again. Maddie loves some Peter Wilson. :)

Have a great night/morning. God is good! I am grateful for a full day of worship and renewal.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Happy Birthday to ELLA!!! Two years old today. As you can see, she is a beauty AND a clown! She brings joy and laughter into every day. I am so grateful for the gift she is to our family. Happy birthday, sweetie!

It's been fun being with Jeff Johnson and Jourdan. The Passion conference is amazing. Jason McArthur and I are meeting up with them this morning to enjoy the worshiping--and hopefully finding some new music! Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder--how can you go wrong?

Have a great afternoon, everyone. Good comments yesterday. Thought provoking. I guess my question about worship would also go to life. Would an unbeliever think we really believed what we were singing about or saying? Or would we appear as most Christians do...faking it or going through the motions? Major physical expression is not what I am talking about. Sincerity, heart felt worship, expression of any kind, a simple smile--these are things that would be nice. Thoughts?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

I am sitting here tonight waiting on our friend, Jeff Johnson, to arrive. He and his girlfriend, Jordan, came to Nashville tonight for the opening of the Passion Worship Conference. Jeff is fresh off his experience with American Idol. I can't wait to hear stories. They are staying until Tuesday.

We had a pretty good morning. Lots of people traveling. Scott McDowell preached and did an awesome job. He is so tall. I told someone tonight that I thought I could wear his shoes as pants. I got up on stage after his sermon to lead worship and the music stand we were sharing was literally over my head. His message was great today. The congregation seemed zombie-fied though. Maybe it was the holiday rush being over and everyone feeling tired. Who knows? I just thought first service was like waking the dead---unsuccessfully, I might add.

This week will be crazy. I head to Orlando on Wednesday for a couple of days of Music Florida. I will also get to see a couple of friends out there. Between now and then I am trying to soak in as much family time as possible.

ONE WEEK FROM TOMORROW we find out whether this baby is a boy or a girl. I am so pumped! Either way, we just want it to be healthy and A SLEEPER! Is that too much to ask? I'll keep you posted. Sheryl felt a strong kick the other night. That was exciting confirmation that things seem to be going well.

The sermon this morning came from Mark 10. Bartimaeus called to Jesus saying, "Have mercy on me, Son of David!" Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" This was no "health/wealth" message. I despise that line of thinking, if you can even call it thinking. Imagine Jesus saying that to you as we stand in the door way of 2005. Preface it with a moment of careful thinking...and hear those words of Jesus. "What do you want me to do for you?" Would it be to remove a sin that plagues you? Would it be to give you the eyes to see--to really see--with Spiritual sight? Would it be to have discerning wisdom? Would it be to find healing in your marriage or your heart? I was struck with the lavish love of the Father today. I am not sure how I would answer that question. I liked Scott's answer though--"I want what YOU want for me." Maybe that should be our prayer this year?

Saturday, January 01, 2005

2005? How can it be? It seems like it was just 1995. I have to be honest in saying that I am not that sorry to see 2004 leave. It was a long, hard year. I am excited for what the Lord will bring in 2005 and grateful for all He saw us through in 2004.

Today we had Ella's second birthday party. Her birthday is really this Tuesday, the 4th, but we celebrated today with a small group of friends and family. It was fun having the Boones here from Abilene. Grant's parents live here and they've been here for the holidays. We had breakfast with waffles, strawberries, whipped cream, and bacon. Ella enjoyed her friends being here and we had a great New Year's Day celebration. Maybe we should make that a yearly thing?

We went out with Ryan and Sarah Williamson last night for NY's Eve and had a great time. We saw Ocean's 12 and ate at Buca Di Bepo. Awesome night! My mom volunteered to keep the girls. OUR LIVES HAVE REALLY CHANGED! The girls loved it and I think my mom did too. We enjoyed a New Year's Day supper at her place tonight--delicious "hop-n-john" with black-eyed peas!

I am grateful tonight for the blessing of my family. Watching Maddie and Ella play today was such a gift. Sheryl is such a beautiful, loving, talented woman of God and He has blessed me with her as a lifetime mate. He's given us the gift of family living close like my mom and Aunt KiKi. He's given us amazing friends who also feel like family. We are richly blessed.

Tonight as I left Maddie's room she told me she loved me and I asked her how much. She replied, "Big and strong!" That's the best way I know to describe my gratitude to the Lord for all He's given us.

Happy New Year, blog family!