Monday, February 28, 2005

We're having fun in Arkansas. The girls are loving seeing their cousins. It's been nice to see Beth Ann who is visiting from Indiana. I've enjoyed talking with Chris (Fajita). I love that we're family! We're leaving to drive home in an hour or so. Quick trip.

I was pumped for Jamie Foxx last night. What an awesome performance in Ray. Have you seen it? It was so great.

Thanks again for the encouraging words yesterday. We ministers have those days every now and then. It's typically a warning sign that there are too many balls up in the air that I am attempting to juggle.

This week I'll be preparing to lead a retreat for the Crossbridge Church in Alabama. I am looking forward to being there.

Have a great Monday and please keep praying for the Shaubs and Griffiths. I really thank you for your prayers yesterday. I am always in need of them.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Confessions of a minister...

Sometimes I have those days where I ask myself...what am I doing here? Am I making a difference? Has my effectiveness ceased? Whine, whine, whine, etc. Those are all pretty self absorbed questions, but sometimes they're needed.

Today is one of those days. What am I doing? What are we doing? Are we really offering a place for people to come and lay their burdens down, or is it only a masquerade ball? What would we do if Jesus appeared in our midst? What would we do if we felt the sense of urgency about His coming? Would it change us?

I saw a mixture of tears and struggles, joys and hopes, and indifference this morning. I just pray that we all have a place to share those. I doubt it's on a Sunday morning--in this context at least.

We'll worship this morning at Otter Creek with all our hearts...and yet it seems a piece of our hearts is in NYC with the Shaubs and at Vanderbilt Children's hospital here with the Griffiths.

Immediately following second service, Sheryl and I are taking off with the girls for Jonesboro. It's a fast trip there today and back tomorrow. We're going to see Beth Ann--one of Sheryl's sisters. I have never met her. That's another story. Please pray for our trip. We're tired. But, this is important.

Sheryl's singing "Before the Throne of God Above" this morning. That will be such ministry to me and to many.

Have a great day! May God's hand join us all this morning as we worship.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Please continue to pray for Jonathan tonight. So many of us find ourselves glued to their blog during the day in the desperate attempt of feeling closer to them while they are so far away. This family means so much to so many. Nicole sounded tired this morning. I remember that feeling. You don't want to go home because in some ways it's more depressing at home and yet everyone keeps telling you to go home and rest. We just need to pray for renewed strength and energy for all of them. I've added a link to the right for updates on Jonathan... or you can click here --either will work. We need to specifically pray that the infection gets under control and that his wound heals. (Nicole told me it was 5 inches deep by 3 inches wide. It's where they think the truck might have drug him.)

Otherwise a great day. We went to the park and played with Paul and Jill's kids and the Mangrum's kids. Beautiful day! Tonight we celebrated Ryan Williamson's birthday by eating sushi with them. It takes a good friend to compel me to eat raw fish.

Father, bless Jonathan tonight. Please give him rest and healing. I pray that you give the family some time to rest before surgery and allow that to be postponed until Monday. Strengthen and renew them. Bless Otter Creek tomorrow as we worship you and as we are so mindful of the Shaubs and the Griffiths who are suffering right now.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The doctors brought even better news this afternoon. Jonathan seems to be breathing on his own--really a miraculous improvement. They hope to take the ventilator out tomorrow. Nicole sounded encouraged. It was a much more joyful phone call than the one last night. Thank you so much for your prayers and concern for this family.

Here's a picture of us at the Cope's house last week. Chris was looking good and even able to get up and walk a bit.

Here's a picture of one of the nights we led in the coliseum.

Have you guys listened to any of Rob Bell's sermons? Please do. I love to hear him speak. Check out some sermons to download here and enjoy!

Here's one more site to look at: alternative worship

I'd love to hear some feedback from some of those things.

I can't think "church" today. I can't concentrate on the retreat I am supposed to do next weekend in Alabama. I have no energy to read the blog list I normally try to get to each morning. I have no desire to pontificate on modern/postmodern/evangelicals/politics etc. I couldn't go to sleep last night even though we were up at 4:15 yesterday morning. Sheryl and I laid in bed quietly sobbing trying to find words to pray for Jonathan. It's in those times you realize your utter dependence on the Lord. I wanted to get in my car and drive to Manhattan. Maddie and Ella woke me up about 6:15 this morning and the only thing I could think was call Nicole. GOOD NEWS. His fever broke last night and it appears the infection may be gone. They are waiting on the doctors to finish rounds and then they'll know more. Keep checking here for up to date information.

It's been a long couple of months of suffering for people we love. We're ready for some relief for those we love. Last night Thomas Griffith (son of John and Alice here at Otter) fell from a zip line and had major internal injuries. He lost one kidney and had some other things wrong, but he'll be fine. Life is so tenuous. Diane Cope and I were talking at their house on Tuesday about immunity. Can't people who've suffered loss be granted a pass that says they won't have to endure such things anymore? Of course not. Diane said it best--it's just the world we love in. We live in a broken world. People get hurt. Kids die in Yukon accidents. Close brothers get hit by oil trucks in NYC (although, I'd say that's pretty unique). Kids fall and get hurt. Marriages dissolve, people become addicted, we search for filling in other places but God, dads get cancer.

This world is not my home. But I feel home with those I'm traveling with. There's a piece of home in you and me. It's what connects us--that blood of Jesus that covers and washes us. It's why times like these are so difficult. It's no wonder we hurt when our loved ones hurt. We are all longing for home. Sometimes the longing presses in and feels a little more urgent. Days like today.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

PLEASE when you read this get on your knees for Jonathan. He is not doing well. The surgeon came back this afternoon with bad news. Things look more grim than we all once thought. He has an infection that is potentially life threatening. Tonight is critical. I just hung up from a very tearful conversation with Nicole (his sister). She said they are all cried out tonight. I just hurt so much for them and want SO BADLY to be in New York so I can be with them. Distance sucks. Please, please, please join all of us at Otter in praying God's healing on Jonathan. We are asking bold things. They are updating their blog as things progress. Check here for that information.

Father, we ask you with all we have to heal our friend and brother. God, please PLEASE spare his life. He is so young. He has touched so many people already for you. PLEASE LORD! Please don't put this family through that. Please, O Lord, I beg you. Be his surgeon. Take away that infection. Heal every injury. Blessed be Your name. Please, God.

First things first--since I have been gone to TX, one of our very dear friends was hit by an oil truck on a street in NYC. Jonathan Shaub is still in critical condition and facing a lengthy recovery. They have set up a website to help everyone keep up with his recovery. Click here to see more. The Shaubs were my Otter Creek family when I moved here. Sharon was my liaison from the hiring committee. I have been very close to them for 10 years. I even lived with them briefly before getting married. Jonathan and I shared a room and lots of laughter. Please be praying for him.

I am not even sure where to begin in writing about our trip to Texas. What an emotional, wonderful, fulfilling week! We enjoyed what we could HEAR of Sing Song. Gamma Sigs knocked it out of the park for another win this year. Siggies were awesome as "ants". Lara Seibert completely blew me away as a hostess. She's one of the best talents I've ever seen or heard at ACU.

Sunday morning was probably the most incredible service I have ever experienced. I cannot imagine a better day to have been there. They had all the emergency response crew, as well as passers by who stopped (some came from as far away as New Mexico!) come to Highland that morning. At the end of the service, Mike called all the families up who had been in the wreck. Even the Bourlands were there (they lost their son). It was extremely emotional. A couple of the kids shared and then Mike asked the special guests to come forward. This is when things really got teary. He had the Elders and their wives come up and they all surrounded them and prayed over them. At one point I wondered if I was going to be able to pull it together enough to lead "The Lord Bless You And Keep You". It was really amazing.

We got to spend some quality time with Chris, Mike and Diane Cope on Tuesday when the ZOE folks went to their house for lunch. There were some hilarious moments--my favorite was Chris sitting in the recliner in his brace shooting baskets to his inside goal but using Jason McArthur's head as a backboard. It was priceless.

The lectures were all great. I've been going to Lectureship for years and I have never seen the coliseum that energetic! People really seemed to be engaged in the worship. It was such a neat thing to behold. We led every night and got to hear some great speakers...especially Randy Harris. Randy smoked it last night--amazing. If you can--order the CD. It's completely worth it.

I realized while we were there this week that I have been so blessed to have some pretty amazing spiritual fathers over the course of my life. My own father would have been blessing enough, but while we were there this week I was reminded of how men like Ronnie Lorenz, Lynn Anderson, Harold Lipford, Mike Cope, Jack Reese and others have "fathered" and "brothered" me for many, many years. Lynn took me aside each night and talked with me as my father would have about how proud he was of me. Things like that are worth gold to me. I honestly do not know how people survive without community.

Here are some specific moments or things I'm thankful for from this week:

--Spending time with my ZOE family. After 7+ years, it works.

--Getting to stay with the Lorenz's and see Maddie and Ella grow to love them even more.

--playing at the park with our kids and Brooke and Ali (82 degrees that day--can I get a hallelujah?!)

--one day during lunch in the campus center, I took Ella with me to the men's room. We were in a stall and the guy next door was really letting it fly. It sounded like fireworks going off. Ella starts laughing her hilarious grunt laugh and exclaimed, "HE TOOTS!!!" I totally cracked up--could not hold in the laughter. I took her to the sink and gave her instructions to stay put while I washed my hands. One second later she was gone and I looked back and there she was on the ground looking up under the door of that man's stall to see what all the commotion was about. Thankfully, he was laughing too.

--Sheryl's brother, Chuck, came and we had some awesome time together. He bought the girls some kites and they had their very first kite experience. Maddie LOVED it! She really got hers going.

--I got to meet several from the blog community this week. Katherine, Kathy, Jenni, Wes and Jason. I got to see my cousin Janie and her mom, got to see Alan and Holly Brown, Michael Miller, Russell Heil (thanks for that comment Kari--so great to know where you are!), and so many more. It was a great blog reunion!

--I got to spend time with long time friends like Hainey Price and Sally Gary. I got to visit a little with Joel Quile (Joel--your son took our tickets this morning at the airport!) I got to talk with Jeannette and Harold Lipford several times and even got to see their daughter Amy Saturday night. We also got to see our "creative genius" friend--Rob Thomas! What fun! Man--I miss him. Rob, Jason and I had some incredible times together.

--EATING!! Yes, Lord. Can I get an amen for JOE ALLEN'S?? I think I had it for at least 4 meals. We ate in the Bean a lot. A LOT. We got meal passes and were all trying to conserve. The entire ZOE team ate there every day for dinner. It ended up being a blast! The Bean has certainly gotten better since I was in school. Besides--they have BlueBell ice cream now.

Again--I'd have to say the highlight of the week was Sunday at Highland, and yet, I can't help but play over and over in my head the sweet faces of those worshippers each night in the coliseum. (good crowds too!) It was a week of blessing for us, that's for sure.

It's good to be home. Maddie and Ella went straight to the playroom. Ella attacked the baby dolls and Maddie began her routine of trying on every single costume and princess dress. They seem glad to be back too. We are all in constant prayer for Jonathan. Please be praying about him too.

Now...what should we talk about tomorrow?? Missed you all! Hope you had a great week.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Yesterday and today I feel like I have "Flight of the Bumblebee" playing in my head...except that someone turned it on slllooowwww speed. I've been trying to get ready for Abilene. Being down all week hasn't helped. I think we are finally well enough to travel. Please pray for Melissa Kirby, one of the ZOE-ettes. She has this stuff and threw up all night last night. BLESS HER! Will it seem weird if I walk onto the airplane with a surgical mask on and latex gloves? I have tried that herbal thing--"Airborne" before. Looks like I might have to again. (Hello??? Howard Hughes! I told you.)

I am looking forward to seeing Sing Song tomorrow night. It's hard to believe that 10 years ago tonight I was preparing for opening night as the director of hosts and hostesses. What a fun group we had! Lea Brown, Emily Trice, Amy Shepherd, Jason McArthur, Rob Thomas, and Kendall Massey were hosts that year. WOW! It's so cool how many of them have gone on to great things. Lea and Jason live in Nashville and go to OC and sing with ZOE. Lea teaches in the inner city. Jason is a record label executive. I actually dated Emily later. And then she was a bridesmaid in our wedding. Go figure. She and Sheryl are close friends (brilliant move, BST). She's now happily married and living in Dallas where she is continuing to sing too. Amy Shepherd is married and in Chicago or somewhere. Rob Thomas is the genius behind the igniter videos that many of you have seen and used. Kendall is the director if Sing Song and teaches a music industry/recording class of some kind there at ACU. I called them my "chickens". I am so proud of them! 10 years. Yikes.

That means it was 14 years ago when I was a host. When did I become a geriatric? We had an amazing group too--most of whom went on to sing and bless people. You've heard me talk about Stephen. He was my roommate and best man. He is also a creative genius, in my book. And, you also know Val from blog comments and his own amazing writing. Stephen and Val continue to sing and minister through their voices. We had such a blast being hosts that year. It was such a pleasure to perform with such amazingly talented people! The girls were Kimberly Meador (daughter of Prentice), Martha Kate Stallings (daughter of Gene), Darcy Washburn, and Kristen Behrends. They've all continued to sing--some professionally. What a blast. It's hilarious to look at that video. We watched it recently at my mom's. We were all much thinner and I had a LOT of hair. we're talking TONS. Think Richard Marx. Scary.

Sing Song is such a huge deal in Abilene...population 120,000 SAL-UTE!! Although there are three other Universities there, when ACU Homecoming or Sing Song happens, it's a city-wide news event. I grew up in awe. IN AWE. Watching people like Holly Dunn, Brown Banister, Cindy Lipford, Clay Hale, Nelson Coats (just saw one of his recent movies--a John Grisham one. Can't think of the title), Kellie Curtis, Michael McCoy--and so many more. All I ever wanted to be until 1991 was a Sing Song Host. How's that for some deep ambition? OK--maybe there were a couple of other goals in there, but basically, it was true. It was such a fun time in life!

After graduating ACU and performing on the ship and doing professional theater in the Dallas area I commuted back to work with Sing Song in 1995. I never thought anything could be as fun as actually being on that stage, but directing them was even better. All that to say, it's been 10 years since that weekend. Time flies!

I am meeting John Chisum for lunch today. John is here with Nancy Gordon finishing one of their children's records. I miss John. I have never forgiven him for moving--you hear that, John??!! John has blessed ZOE by allowing us to sing some of his Let Your Spirit Come, I Come Expecting Jesus, Healing Grace, and Christ Above Me. He's down in Mobile now working with a church and doing some stuff with Integrity Music. We miss you, John! Maddie named her teddy bear "Ali" after John's beautiful red haired daughter.

I've bored you with trivia today. Sorry. Sometimes it's fun to think back. Some of you know these names and I thought it might be fun for you too. Otherwise, tune back in later for more ramblings and less trivia. I'll try to post next week, if possible.

PS: my mom's birthday is Tuesday!! Shhh--don't tell her I told you!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Remember the old show "Hee-Haw"? It was a Saturday night highlight for years. I remember sitting in my grandparents' house in Hamlin, Texas enjoying a greasy hamburger from the local dive and sitting in their small living room eating off TV trays watching "Hee-Haw".

Hamlin, Texas--population 2,248...."SAL-UTE!"

The reason I bring this up today is because all I can think of is that famous song from "Hee-Haw" which perfectly describes how my flu is progressing...

Gloom, despair and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery!
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me!

Please, dear Lord, let this sickness end. Sheryl's back at the doctor with Ella. We need to get well! Please, Lord, Please!! I promise never to sit on a porch wearing overalls singing that song...just please heal us!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Feeling awful today, but here are a couple of sites of interest.

Click here to read Brian McLaren's review on the movie, Hotel Rwanda. (Thanks for that link, Sunny!) Awesome stuff here.

News on my buddy Jeff Johnson in Crosswalk today. Check it out.

More American Idol tonight. Even the flu can't keep me from it.

One last thing-- I wrote today on the Wineskins page a brief thing about the song "All Who Are Thirsty" which we sang Sunday at Otter Creek. Do we really mean those words? Doesn't that have an impact on our discussions last week?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

I love Sheryl Thomas! She is beautiful, patient, kind, funny, and deals with all my issues like a champ. What more could I ask?

Did anyone see Michael Buble on the Today Show this morning? He's my new favorite. We have his old CD. I need to go buy the new one.

I am in the bed today, mostly. Everyone else is feeling better. Praise God for Sonic and Cherry Lime Slushes. That's the true tonic for healing.

Question for the day...
What is your most memorable (special or embarrassing) Valentine's Day moment?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

I live in Flu-ville. Seriously. This stuff is nasty. I have managed, through the grace of God, to not be hit yet. However, it's been a long week for Sheryl and the girls. Today is day 6 of fever and flu stuff. Yesterday morning Maddie was at 103 and Ella at 104. Bless their hearts--they haven't wanted to eat or anything and when they do, it's about time to take more medicine which means whatever they ate is coming back to visit. Sorry for that imagery.

Last night as Sheryl was laying in bed, Sam was making his presence known (baby Sam, I should point out). I leaned over and started talking to him and I would say, "Give me a kick, Sam!!" And he would. This went on several times. It was funny.

Thank you to everyone who left comments over the last few days. Is it just me, or does there seem to be a real need to talk about some of these things? The thing I thought was so cool was that both sides seemed to struggle to express their convictions, feelings, etc, while showing a spirit of love (mostly). Thank you.

We have so much to learn about doing what Brian McLaren calls "the dance". I've added McLaren's spot to the links. Check it out. If you haven't read any of his writing, please do. He was our guest resource for the ZOE workshop last year.

This morning we start a series on the book of John. I know it will be good. Here's our order of worship for today:

Welcome-Tim Woodroof
Family Prayer--Chad Milom/ Matt Miller
Meet and greet

Praise and Worship--BST
--Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee
Reading from John 1
--O For A Thousand Tongues
--Holy Ground Medley

Teaching--Tim Woodroof
--Here I am To Worship
--We Fall Down
--Lord We Come Before Thee Now

Teaching--Tim Woodroof
--All Who Are Thirsty

Supper/ Offering--John Webb

Shepherd's Close--Jim Butler
--On Zion's Glorious Summit

Friday, February 11, 2005

I have joined several others in writing for the new Wineskins Blog. Click here. I am going to write a bit about cruise ships today.

I have some experience with cruise ships. Someday, when I am brave enough (as if I haven't already been a big mouth the last month), I'll write about some stories from the ship days. Oh my. There ARE stories. Audra, are you reading this? Audra lives in NYC, is a dancer and was in my cast on the ship. She's very talented and was a great friend to me in those days. It's amazing the people out there reading. Dentists included. (Insert extreme embarrassment and regret for that post.)

Well, as it usually happens, the "gift" of sickness is being passed around our house again. This morning all three girls had fevers. For the love! As long as we can all get well in a week, we're good. We leave a week from tomorrow for TX to sing.

Thanks for the comments yesterday. As I said, it's interesting to see who's out there reading. Just so you know--I'm so thankful you're ALL out there and welcome and greatly appreciate your comments. Those of you who are speaking from the position of "ex-Christian" or "gay Christian", etc--we need to hear from you. It's not fun seeing our faults in a mirror as you write, but we need to hear from you. I want to make sure it's known--you are welcomed at this blog table. Pass the creamed corn, please.

The sun is out today. Praise the Lord!! We are such summer people. Would anyone be interested in starting a church on the beach in the Virgin Islands? Scratch that..would anyone be willing to fund the starting of that church? I'm ready!

Just a quick aside--the praise team meetings are really going well. I have been SO greatly encouraged. It's funny how God works. My intent is to spend that time encouraging these awesome team members and yet, the Lord is using it for MUCH mutual edification. I am a blessed man. I am having lunch today with another team member--Laura Troup (she doesn't sing, she signs. Kidding--Sander's Family Christmas joke there.)

I'll close with a few of my favorite things on this Friday.

--Having a wife who loves laughter, people, compassion, and me!

--Ella's new mischievous laugh. It's a clear sign she's doing something bad, but I LOVE the sound of it.

--Ella calling me Dad, but pronouncing it "Dod"

--Maddie's love for Bible and "Poppie" stories at night. We always have to sing either "The Lord said to Noah..." or "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin", depending on whether it's a Bible or Poppie story. (I also love poopie stories, but that's another blog)

--The Chris Tomlin song "How Great Is Our God" that I cannot get out of my head these days

--Feeling Sam move and kick and get stronger every day.

--PF Changs. Can I say it enough? We were supposed to go on a date last night and were salivating at the thought of those lettuce wraps. Sick girls took precedence.

--Seeing what God is doing in hearts all over the world. Amazing!

--My lunch yesterday with Greg Taylor. What a great friend! We're so blessed to have him working with Wineskins.

Have a great weekend, blog family!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't. When you're's usually the former. Someone stuck this picture on my door from Camp last year and it made me laugh. The picture says it all.

There is much to blog about today. Some of you might want to tune out a little later in the blog. First, I wanted to mention something about Ash Wednesday. Last night at the Emergent service they celebrated Ash Wednesday. People put ash on their foreheads and everything. The stations were really, really cool. Great night all the way around. The ZOE rehearsal went well too.

A few years back I went to the Grammy's in NYC. I am a voting member, but that year I went with a good friend (who was a groomsman in our wedding), Jeff Gregg. Jeff is an agent for the Creative Artist Agency and is in charge of Christian acts and country acts and was able to get us better seats. Turns out, the president of Reunion Records ended up sick so we got to use his tickets which also came with a pass to the after Grammy party--that's a whole different blog full of nuggets. (At one point I pulled a complete BST in talking to a woman Jeff kept referring to as "Bob's wife". Finally, I said..."Ya got a last name, Bob's wife??" She politely answered, "Carlisle.")

Back to the point--we landed in NYC that Wednesday and I swear I thought I was in the twilight zone. All these people were walking around with weird smudge marks on their foreheads and seemed completely oblivious. I really thought we'd been abducted by aliens or something. Finally, in the elevator of our hotel, I asked this woman standing next to us dressed in a beautiful fur coat if she knew there was something on her forehead. She looked at me with a priceless expression and told me it was ash. DUH!! I had never-EVER seen that. Who knew? I had to think of that as people were leaving with ash on their foreheads last night. It is really a great reminder of what Jesus did for us.

OK--I need to just vent for a moment. I am so sorry to subject you to my venting lately and thought about not saying anything, but it made me hotter to think of NOT saying anything. Last night we watched "Wife Swap". It's interesting, if you've never tuned in. Last night they swapped this very "conservative, wealthy, Christian, Republican" woman with a "liberal" woman living with her lesbian partner. (Is this sweeps week or something??) The program began by showing the Christian woman praying with her family, reading the Bible, talking about respecting people and treating people with kindness, etc. You all know where this is going. The short of it is...they swapped and the "liberal" woman seemed to care about the Christian family--in spite of their differences. She seemed unassuming and very friendly and helped the family enjoy each other and laugh a little. Meanwhile, the "Christian" woman came in like a bull in a china closet. She was nice at first, but then took full advantage of the "rules change" to order them around and completely overwhelm them with her self righteous attitude. Sheryl and I kept cringing. Finally, in the end when the couples all met, the Christian woman went off on the lesbian couple calling them freaky and depraved, saying they are only shacking up, that they didn't constitute a family unit, and that the woman who had traded with her not only "Brought nothing worthwhile to our family" but that she was immoral for even coming into their house where there was a teenaged girl (suggesting that she might sexually abuse her or something).

At this point some of you are wondering where I am going with this. Maybe I should leave it hanging. I am reminded of the famous Tony Compollo story where he was speaking to a large group of Christians saying something like..."Most of the world is dying from starvation and disease and you all don't give a sh*t" Then he said, "And besides that, most of you are more concerned with the fact that I just said sh*t than the statistic".

In Sheryl's and my opinion, what happened last night on national TV was an embarrassment to everyone who follows Jesus. She was more concerned with her own self-righteousness than loving those people. She had way more fun wagging her finger than serving them. She kept referring to the word of God and what it said about them. Nevermind that she had just bragged about her own wealth and loving the 9 carrot diamond on her finger. She informed them that they were depraved and going to hell. Maybe they are. But, she should go on a serious camel-style diet if she's planning to fit through the eye of a needle.

My mom has this really cool lamp in her living room. It's very ornate with these wooden squares that have a design on each square and then are connected with wire to made a really cool lamp shade. It looked awesome in the store...very beautiful and put together--even ornate. Trouble is, we got it home and the thing doesn't give off much light. It was a great idea someone had. Just not practical. The little squares are all so tightly woven together that the purpose of the lamp seems to have been overridden. Even at night, it puts out little to no usable light. Hmmmm. I wonder how many of us are like that lamp?

I am not making any statements in support of their lifestyle or living situation, but when true colors were revealed last night, the one claiming Jesus revealed a very ugly pattern of self-righteous, mean spirited colors. Hollywood loves to portray us that way. Trouble is, they're more right about us than we'd like to admit.

Look for people in your path today who need the love of Christ--the LOVE of Christ. Think about how scandalous it was for Jesus to spend time with some of the prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. How can we put that love into action today? How can we be a light that makes a difference--not just a useless ornamental lamp that gives off little to no light?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sheryl had Bunko last night (the mindless dice game where Christian women gamble for money...but that's another story) so I had the girls. Maddie is sick. Bless her heart. She has a fever and her ears are completely blocked. She reminded me of my father. (my father wore hearing aids after losing his hearing at an early age thanks to the measles.) I had to practically yell at her for her to hear me. They were ready for bed early.

This morning Sheryl took her in and Dr. Leeper pulled out a Shrek sized wad of ear wax (you're welcome). She should be hearing better soon. Turns out she also has Pink Eye and an assortment of other annoying ailments.

I am going to a luncheon today at the Belle Meade Country club to hear about Continent of Great Cities. Grant Boone is working with them and hooked me in. It will be good to see him.

Tonight we are rehearsing more for the recording. Has anyone heard the Avalon song, "You Were There"? Really beautiful! If any of you have song ideas and can send me an mp3 of the song, please do.

I was continuing my thought process on church stuff last night. Elders...why would anyone want that job? In the old pattern (which many CofC's are still following) the Elder position was quite prominent. They were the CEO's of the church. They were the acting Board that passed approval or disapproval on just about everything from parking lots to women reading scripture. But--thankfully, some Elderships have decided to follow a more Biblical example and operate as Shepherds. They have given up the parking lot and financial operations of the church and opted to be about ministry to people. These men (as I have witnessed here--you might have your own stories) have given up the prestige of the CEO type persona for a far less grandiose role. These men give time and energy to loving and serving the body of Christ. They prod and push us to be about that ourselves. They spend time in prayer over people instead of arguing about which minister is over budget. They spend extra time at the hospitals, at funeral homes, in homes of hurting people, at weddings, etc. They pick up the phone and call those who are struggling. They spend their lunch hours in ministry. These guys bleed for those they love.

And yet, much like being a parent toward the teenage years (so I'm told--Lord help me),those they love and care for often take them for granted. We all do it. It's a natural human condition. We gripe and complain. We judge and criticize. We gossip. We wonder why they aren't doing more for us.

In the old model we didn't have to worry about that as much. They had their meetings, their mandates, and their lovely pictures in nice frames in the foyers of our church buildings.

In this new model...the Biblical model, they are in the trenches and hurting with those they know and love and some they don't know. They feel the pain we feel. They carry burdens home with them and sometimes lose sleep over the issues we're dealing with. They feel the gravity of their Spiritual role and yearn for a deeper vision and walk with the Lord. They carry the weight of the love they have for each of us.

I'm thinking about some of our guys at Otter. Great men! I'm thinking about some of the incredible men at Highland--men like John Willis, David Wray, Ronnie Lorenz, and so many more who have hurt and cried, rejoiced and laughed with us over the years. I'm thinking about the elders at College Church in Fresno--amazing men. Every year they outdo themselves in service to us and then it culminates in a prayer where they surround us on the last day and, through tears, pray blessings on us, our ministry and our families. What servant hearts!

Who would want the job of Elder? They bleed for us in many ways and yet we seldom notice. They spend time on their knees for us, and yet we are quick to judge their motives. They quietly serve us in ways we may never know and yet we often want them to do it differently or better. They are just men, and yet we want them to be Supermen. Who would want that job? Thankfully, there are many who are called to it. Thankfully, many of us are in churches where these men lead by example. Thankfully, their Spiritual maturity overcomes our Spiritual immaturity. Thankfully, they are willing to follow Christ and lay down their lives for others...for us. I'm thankful today for those Elderships who have boldly chosen to be Shepherds.

What about you?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

We're working on the 2005 ZOE Conference. As you've read in my blog, the recording is already least rehearsals for it. Michael Card has agreed to join us and do a concert on Saturday afternoon as well as teach a couple of classes. That should be cool. The other main speaker(s) for the leadership conference are TBA. :)

I've been thinking a lot about Church lately. It seems to me that sometimes in our deconstruction or construction--wherever you are--that we often lose the true sense of who we're supposed to be. Take for instance our families...all of us have crazy relatives. Some of our families are more dysfunctional than others. Sometimes we go to counseling or do radical things to bring our family together or bring healing. But, more often than not, we live with the reality that they ARE our family. When Uncle Billy Bob says or does something completely stupid we don't have the option of running down the street to the Smith family and knocking on their door and asking if we can join their family. We know in our heart of hearts that this group of people is our family and we're stuck with them for better or worse.

Now, this metaphor could be taken as a prescription by me to never change churches. Actually, sometimes I think that's the healthiest thing one could do if there's conflict...especially if you're the one causing conflict. I guess my thought is that while we really do have options with regard to the Church, we often use that as a crutch or abuse it. The beauty of family is that there is something holding you together in troublesome times. Sometimes it's the pain of being together that's the hardest thing to bear. But in churches we often reserve the right to bolt when it no longer satisfies our needs or meets our expectation. (I am thinking about the first chapter of Dan Kimball's book, Emerging Worship--pg 2-3.) How many of us have had things arise at home or in our extended family that made us want to bolt? Why didn't you? What kept you there? What made it better?

Just a thought today.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Last night we celebrated the Super Bowl with the Williamsons (Jr and Sr!). It was a blast. We did a lot more talking and laughing than watching, but it was really fun.

We went to the Williamson County Rec Center today to take the girls for a swim. OK, let me just say that 82 degrees may sound warm (that's how "warm" the water was), but brother, let me tell you--it aint. Maddie through chattering teeth said to me at one point, "I'm so exxxxccccciiitttted!" They had a blast. I lost about 156,987 brain cells from the frigid conditions. Sydney and Jack Williamson joined us, along with Sarah, of course. We all had a lot of fun. It made us even more ready for Summer!

We had dinner tonight at my mom's house. The girls always have a lot of fun over there. Maddie was introduced to the idea of a "sleepover" at Nonnie's. One day soon, we'll try it.

It's a really busy week. More praise team meetings, much planning left to do for Abilene, work on the upcoming recording, plus managing my time around the office. The thing that I don't like about weeks that are so busy coming into them is that I feel less able to be there for the emotional needs that seem to always rise up. With 70+ people involved in this ministry, there's always something going on. I just want to be able to be what I need to be this week and not lost in "tasks".

I pray your Monday was good. It's so rainy here. Makes me want to just crawl in bed and sleep or watch a movie for the rest of the week. Seriously...maybe I will!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

This morning, the ZOE team and I are leading worship. A part of that team is Teresa Newsome. What a gift she has of expression! She signs, but really that doesn't describe what it is. It's as if she is taking the longings of our heart for the Lord and expressing it in ways we cannot. I am so glad she's joining us. Tim is also back off sabbatical. It will be a great morning!

I've been jamming out this morning since about 6:30 to Chris Tomlin's record, "Arriving". Love it! I recommend it.

Here's our order of worship for today:

Welcome & Intro New Members--Tim Woodroof
Family Prayer--David Rubio/David Netterville
Meet and greet

Praise and Worship--BST and ZOE
Reading--We Welcome Jesus! (special readers--Eve Clevenger, Philip Henry and Shapiro)
--At the Name of Jesus
--Shout Hallelujah
--A Wonderful Savior
Prayer--Jason McArthur
--Blessed Be Your Name
--Ancient Words

Teaching--Tim Woodroof
--You Are Holy
--Days of Elijah

Supper--Joe Haubenreich

Ministry Moment--Scott Owings
Special Video promo for Valentine's Banquet
Birthday Sunday--Bob Enkema
--You Are Holy (chorus)

I am thankful for all of you. Let's rejoice around the table this morning. We have so much to celebrate and thank God for. May the Lord bless you today!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Thanks for allowing me to have a day of questions yesterday. I had a couple of conversations with people who seemed too quick to jump to judgment about our elders and their hearts right now. Assuming that because we're in a building program that they no longer care about people is absolutely insane. I do my fair share of questioning this whole building thing, but I also have a front row seat to watch how they are handling it and in watching others losing sleep because of their prayerful hearts and concern for the right thing. I guess it's one of those things where like with your own parents--you know their faults and their tendencies in failing at times. But, when someone else says something about them, you jump to their defense. That's about 10% of what was going on with me yesterday. I just feel so grateful to be serving under men who are shepherds. I have watched them cry with people, hold the hands of dying members, walk the trenches with suffering or addicted members, stay late counseling couples, be at every wedding or funeral for support...the list goes on and on. I am so grateful for these men. Yet, they are just men. Sometimes we expect something Super Human from leaders. Some of them come close in my opinion. I just feel thankful today to be working with them.

Went to Granny White Park today--beautiful, sunny day. The girls had fun running around. I am ready for summer...wherefore art thou, Summer???

I am at the building getting ready to film a promo for the Valentines Day banquet. I think I am playing Simon (from American Idol). We'll see how this goes!

I left a comment late last night on my blog from yesterday. If you haven't seen "Ray" yet--GO! It's worth it. Amazing performances and a great story.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Why do people have to suffer? Why do church people usually have no clue how to respond? Why do suffering people typically expect church people to be super human ( I know I do sometimes)? Why do people gossip about church leadership and decide how things are without finding out for themselves? Why is it so easy to pass judgement on people in leadership positions? Why do too many people in leadership positions come across as though they have all the answers and make people in their care feel stupid for asking questions? (Larry King etc) Why does hurt and suffering sometimes color one's impression of faith and the church? Why does the church not do better with hurting and suffering people? Why are we so reluctant to admit our pain? Why does a church filled with hurting people, broken marriages, addiction, grief, and other things typically find themselves staring at an empty front during response time? Why does brokenness come so easily for some and never come to others? Why do some people find physical healing and others don't? Why are we afraid of questions? Do we really think we have all the answers and if we don't then we're going to hell? Why do we try and paint a world that is filled with so many bright and wonderful colors into shades of black and white? Why do I hate it when that happens and still find myself doing it? Why do I allow myself to get into places of frustration without breaks in my day to even it out? When will I learn that when my spirit and mind begin to tell me that I'm speant DOESN'T mean keep going at 100mph until I crash? Why am I taking my frustrations out on Blog world today by asking questions? :)

Blessed be your name in a land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow,
Blessed be your name.

Blessed be your name when I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name.

Every blessing you pour out I turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in Lord,
still I will say,

Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Blessed be your Name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Blessed be your glorious name.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

brush your teeth
brush your teeth
teeth are very special
teeth are very special
and they're free
and they're free.

Just a little song to the tune of "Are You Sleeping". I have to say--my NEW dentist ROCKS. R-O-C-K! It was like the exact opposite from my last visit. Of course I desperately tried to crawl under the carpet back to the chair for fear I'd see the other guy. I was really embarrassed. The very sweet assistant took great care with her work and the Dr. was just awesome. The way he did the deadening didn't even hurt. Praise the Lord! He had to re-do everything and I still have a temporary, but even so--it was a pleasant experience. Not many people can say that. I'd love to advertise his name, but then you'd know who the other guy is and I don't want to be responsible for that.

We had a great rehearsal with ZOE last night. We're working on our new record. I'd love some song ideas if you have some. Clarissa was with us and played some things she's arranged and we worked on several others. Some of the ones we're thinking through and working on are:
Sing to the King
Holy is the Lord
You Raise Me Up
Living Water
More Than Enough
How Great is Our God
Living Prayer (Alison Krauss)
Children of the Living God
Beautiful One

Any ideas? Please share if you have one or have written one. We've got a couple of original tunes we're working on too. They're pretty cool.

We're (ZOE) also preparing to go to Abilene in a couple of weeks. We're leading at the main lecture every night and at Highland on the morning of the 20th. It will be a fun week.

Please keep Sheryl in your prayers. She has had a back problem for the better part of 17 years. No doctor has ever been able to diagnose it or really offer her help. It seems to come and go at will. Anyway--she is dealing with it again and it's really wearing. She had a hard night last night. Thank you for your prayers there.

My mom got to serve communion last night at our emergent style service. I am so glad Scott used her. I know she is hungry to do things like that. She has also signed on with a couple of other ladies from Otter Creek to be room mothers to a class at an inner city elementary school. A lot of you know JV who sings and travels with us as well as Lea Brown. They both teach in the inner city and have some great stories. I am sure it will provide some fun and poignant moments for Mom's blog later.

Have a great Thursday, everyone. The Lord is good. Take a minute to still your heart this morning and remember His kindness towards us.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

one more thing today--guess where I'm going this afternoon?? Yep--the dentist. Well, it's not the same guy, but it's the same office. Anyone have a bag I can use for my head? I pray I'll ahve good things to report.

Well, one more successful night of sleeping girls. Maddie told me that Ella woke up this morning and came and got in bed with her. So sweet! They are really loving being together like that.

Last night Sheryl made the famous Chicken and Noodles...a.k.a. "sick soup". My aunt Dot and cousin Linda Thurber on my dad's side perfected this recipe. It was delicious! Mom came over and ate and brought fresh, hot gingerbread and real whipping cream. It was so yum!

I just finished putting the final touches on the order of worship for Sunday. I am really excited about it. ZOE will be leading with me and Teresa Newsome is coming over to be with us. Teresa travels with ZOE and does what I call "expressive sign". It is really so beautiful and helps me connect in worship. So many people are blessed by what she does. I am thrilled that she's coming!

Several of you have asked me to post parts of my letter to the praise team. I am thinking through how to do that. I think it might be helpful to some of you, but I want to be sensitive to our team here and not get ahead of myself. We have over 70 people involved in this ministry. Somehow, between now and the next 2 months, I have to schedule a meeting with every single one of them. I am looking forward to that, but it seems daunting right now.

Until I do post the letter--or portions of it--I'll just say this about it... I have become increasingly convinced and convicted of our need for a recommitment to strong leadership in our praise team ministry. Let me start by saying that this is an Otter Creek thing--not a pattern for anyone else. It's where God is leading US right now. Over the course of the last year our church has weathered some things. Building programs, malcontents, ministerial issues, etc. Those are for us to know about and deal with. God has brought us through 2004 and has set us in a new place--a new time and a new year. However, there have been days, as you've read me blogging about, when I have felt in my spirit that there was a cloud of heaviness or something over our church as we worshipped. Over time, the praise team began to mirror the church. With some exceptions--very little expression, communication, or feeling. I felt convicted by the Lord that to whom much is given, much is expected. God has gifted us with more talent than any church I know. More amazing vocalists, more incredible actors, painters, readers, instrumentalists, writers, etc. The list goes on and on. For several years now I have laid out a vision to our praise team calling them to something higher than just a singer. From the moment they step into this ministry they learn that they are looked to as worship leaders, not just singers. I don't want to get up on Sunday and be the worship leader with 8 back up singers. I want these gifted people to grow into ministry themselves. I felt it was time to take that to the next level.

SO--over the course of the next few months, given the year we had last year, I have scaled the team down to just under half of the original number. Not permanently-mind you. There are some who are already doing what I've written about. Even we need to be reminded of why we're up there. I want to start with those folks and allow them to be igniters. Beginning with those 30 or so, we can re-evaluate, re-energize, re-assess, and re-focus. I'm counting on them to set the tone. In the meantime, I am setting up visits with every single praise team member--even those 30--to talk about the vision and allow them to either say, "yes! I want to be a part of that!" or "No. I can't do that right now." Either way--no guilt, no pressure. I feel strongly enough that this is of the Lord that I know He will make it clear. It actually is very, very exciting. It's affording me the opportunity to get back into the lives of folks in my ministry, it's allowing us to all re-commit and be better leaders, and hopefully, in the end, it will bless the Body here.

That's the gist. I'll keep you updated. So far, I'd say the Lord has already worked powerfully through it. He's brought us to our knees--most all of us involved in this ministry. He's invigorated the teams the last couple of weeks, and He's providing grass roots leadership and energy during worship by those praise team members who aren't on the schedule that week. It's what we're supposed to be doing. It just got easy to exist with a schedule and format that worked. Even though this is more challenging (on all levels) and there is always the potential for misunderstanding, it will be worth it. All of it. I've had to make sure that I am communicating what this is about and what I am expecting. It's not about vocal talent. It's about leadership. It's not about any of us, it's about bold leadership in worship and being willing to put our comfort aside for the sake of honoring the majesty of Jesus.

One little example of how I am reminding us of this and then I'll shut up. Sunday, we talked more about this whole notion and what it means to lead worship. My point has been--many of us look either tired, scared, mad, or indifferent. None of those expressions leads people into worship. We're combating a history of being told we CAN'T why should we be surprised. Anyway--I keep reminding us to inform our faces of what our hearts are feeling. What helps is thinking about the text of each song.(I'm also video taping each week's worship time just to have as a tool) Sunday as we rehearsed "This Is How We Overcome" I had to stop the team and remind them of the text. It helped them.

Worship expression is tricky. There's no "right" way. But--there should be something there. If thinking about what Jesus did for us, his majesty, his death, his resurrection, his healing, God's creation and the beauty of who he is--if that does nothing to us, something is wrong. And especially if you're leading worship. If you can't connect with some sort of feeling with regard to those things--gratitude, brokenness, joy, awe, sorrow, etc then you shouldn't be leading worship. I firmly believe that. There are times in life when all people can do is sit and soak in and trust that the person sitting next to them can sing on their behalf. I've had times like that. But--as worship leaders, we have a responsibility to minister--or at least offer a sacrifice of praise. When we're in that place of not being able to, we need to be better about exercising the right to have someone replace us that week, or month, or year, or whatever. Because, the reality is, at some point, all of us will have those days or seasons.

OK--I've already said more than I intended to. Like I said, this is not a prescription for any other church. It's what the Lord is doing here and what I have been convicted about in leading these 70+ people. He's given us much--MUCH. And He wants us to use it. The thought of 9 people fully engaged in leading worship on a Sunday morning is so cool and has the potential for really blessing our socks off each week. The thought of ALL of us--every single member of our church--coming with that attitude is even better--too incredible for words. After all, there is only ONE audience and He's worth every amount of energy, heart, expression, WORSHIP we can muster. Are we offering Him all we have? Or are we allowing the words to the songs we sing to blindly pass over our lips and our hearts to lie asleep in their beds of comfort and our fear of what the person down the row will think to dictate the offering of worship we bring before the King of Kings? It certainly convicts me.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Staff meeting was good this morning--always long, but good. I am swimming in responses from praise team members about the new effort and direction of the ministry. 99% of the comments are great and in full support. It's that 1% that usually gets to me. I just want prayers for wisdom through this whole thing. This is much bigger than me and I don't want to get in the way or hinder any of it.

We had a MAJOR night at our house last night. We finished putting up Ella's big girl bed (a matching one of Maddie's). The beds are incredible. I'll try and post a picture sometime. Sheryl made them look so lovely. My wife--she's amazing. She can take something that isn't worth very much and isn't very nice to look at and make it into this incredibly beautiful thing. What a gift!

Ella and Maddie, for the very first time in their lives, spent the night in the same room last night. I only had to get on to them once. I heard giggling and walked down the hall. Ella was out of bed (mind you, she's never been able to do that since she's always been in a crib) and was over poking Maddie's face. I told her she had to get back in bed and she got really upset about it. I used my best daddy voice and said, "Ella, if you don't stop fussing and go to sleep, I am going to have to put you back in your room in your crib." It was as if I had pressed the mute button. She immediately stopped crying and looked at me. 5 minutes later, she was sound asleep and there was not one more peep out of either of them. Of course, if they only knew--Sheryl and I were down the hall waiting with baited breath. We NEVER expected them to make it through the night or get quiet enough that first try. But they did. AND--they slept all night until 8am. There is a God.

It's funny how some moments come and go without fanfare. We made a big deal about the big girl bed thing, but the truth is, it's a HUGE deal. As we walked past the nursery last night and saw it empty, it was a strange emotional moment. Our girls are growing up. This is one of many life changing stages we'll witness over the years. What a treasure! Each moment. Each moment.