Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Today I'd like to print an email I got and ask you for your impressions, feedback, etc. You know, sometimes I feel like I am standing in the middle of this shouting match--the world on one side asking to be heard and zealous religious legalists on the other side (from all points of view) screaming that their way is the only way. Frankly, I'm exhausted from it. I'm exhausted from those who say if you don't believe in just the right way, you're condemned forever and I'm exhausted from those who say if you DO believe, you're not quite as enlightened or intelligent. One of my favorite quotes from the Emergent Conference was from a really funny woman who was talking about a need for balance. She said, "About the only thing I know of balance is swinging through it from one extreme to the other!" It was meant to be funny--and it was. I'm guilty too.

Here's the email. I'll let it speak for itself. And--honestly, I get stuff like this a lot. Perhaps I am reading too much into it--but all you have to do is read the wording carefully and you'll understand their position. What would your response be?

We are in search of answers to identify your groups beliefs, so can you please answer the following questions:

1) How does your group define the steps necessary for eternal salvation?

1) Must one read the New Testament in order to be saved? Or can it be revealed directly from the Spirit without the necessity of the printed word?

2) Must one believe all biblical scripture as divinely inspired? Can there be other authoritative documents, besides the "Bible"?

3) Who must one believe in as crucial for salvation? The God Father? The Holy Spirit? Jesus? Mary?

4) Must one repent of "all" sin in order to be saved or can "Grace" save without "complete" repentance?

5) Is any type of confession necessary for salvation, such as: confessing "Jesus as the Son of God", or can one confess "Mary"; the "Holy Spirit" or "God the Father"? Or any mix thereof?

6) Is baptism essential for salvation? If so, what type, "spirit baptism", "water sprinkling", "immersion baptism"?

7) Is there a specific order of events for salvation?

8) What type of worship do you endorse? Accapella singing, instrumental worship, speaking in tongues? etc?

9) Can one believe in any form of "Christian" movement / denomination / body and be "saved", such as Catholicism, Seventh Day Adventist, Southern Baptist, Methodist, etc?

As a group we are looking for the answers in order to determine if we will endorse (and or embrace) the use of "ZOE Worship", conferences, etc., within the body we represent. So as to determine unbiased answers, we at this point have elected to remain anonymous to you. We seek your response without any preconceived notions as to how you may view our group by name. If you are not qualified to answer these questions (for the ZOE group, conference, worship, etc), then please forward the email to the appropriate individual.

We Thank You for your consideration in this matter.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day by the pool...what could be better? Perhaps Memorial Day in the hospital? Nah. We enjoyed this beautiful day with Lea Brown, Trina, Kim Ewing, Kiki, my mom and the girls. The water was absolutely freezing, but we didn't care.

So far, no baby. No contractions. Nothing. Big, fat, nothing. (that was a descriptive adjective describing "nothing" not Sheryl.)

Speaking of Sheryl...she is out of control. She began a "While You Were Out" type project on a friend's house this weekend. She's redesigning and remodeling their kitchen--with the help of many others from church. I am telling you, not only is Sheryl a great friend to have, but the girl has energy running out her ears. Could this be a sign that the end is near??

For lunch today we had grilled burgers, hotdogs, chips, baked beans, and my mom's homemade banana pudding. Praise the Lord!

Do you ever have those weeks or days where you find yourself in a place of processing? That's where I currently am. I am processing a lot of things--spiritual, personal, physical. I know motivation will come but, presently, it's elusive. One thing I do know--I need to get off my rear and do some cardio tomorrow. Please continue to pray for Sheryl and baby Sam. If not before, he'll be here one week from today!!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Thank you, Julie, wife of Tim, for your hilarious comment yesterday. And...Joel, the only thing funnier than your comment is that Jake really is "son of Corky". His father's name is Corky French and he used to be a minister at Otter Creek. HAAAAA! I had myself a good ol laugh about that one too.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful last night. The actual ceremony took place in a church building that was erected in 1859. It's such a cool old place. The reception was where the real party was, however. I only wish I had taken secret photos. What a great night. One of the highlights to me was watching Jim and Ginger McAlister completely tear up the dance floor. Though in their sixties (or maybe seventies?) they can swing dance better than most couples my age. What a great night!

OK--the first guess on birth comes this morning (Phil's--with water breaking at 10am). Guess we'll see if he's right!

Here's the line up this morning...

Call to Worship—Igniter Video (I Believe)
Welcome—Tim Woodroof
Family prayer—Steve Speake/ Mark Baird
Meet and greet
Praise and Worship—BST

--You Are Worthy of My Praise
--Lord Most High
--Because We Believe
--Shout to the Lord (verse and 2xchorus)
--Fairest Lord Jesus
--Christ Above Me

Teaching—Tim Woodroof

--Spirit of the Living God (1x)
--Open Our Eyes Lord
--Holy Spirit Breathe on Me (1x and tag)

Supper/offering—Galen Foster

Ministry Moment—Scott Owings (Summer Line up 2005)
Elder’s Close—Terry Frisby
--Lord Most High (chorus)

Friday, May 27, 2005

This masterpiece is by Carrie Cowart. I like to call it "Prison Stripes meets Six Flags meets Sunday Morning Worship". Carrie drew this during worship on Sunday. Thanks, Carrie!

Speaking of the Cowarts...Christine is marrying Jacob French (son of Corky) tomorrow night. Congratulations, guys! We're looking forward to the wedding.

The guesses are coming in good and strong. My favorite is Phil Wilson's. He guessed even the time of water breaking. Hmmmm. That's about as far as I want to go with that.

Happy Holiday, everyone!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Keep those birth date guesses coming! It's anyone's ballgame.

American Idol (or "A Miracle Idol" as Maddie and Ella call it) ended last night with a bang. I still say Vonzell. It was a total toss-up. Did anyone see the ad for the show coming on this summer by the same producers called "So You Say You Can Dance" or something like that? I want Craig Fisher to be on that.

The main reason for posting today is to point you to the Larry James/Central Dallas Ministries link over there----->. Larry James is a personal hero of mine. I know Cope feels the same way. He is speaking truth into our churches, small groups, fellowships, and immediate families about social justice and the need for Christians to get off their rears and serve our neighbors. If you haven't already, you should add him to your daily blog read. In fact, I'd echo Cope in saying if you can only read one blog a day, forget mine and make his your home page. Powerful stuff!

Sheryl's doing well. She looks like a fake pregnant person. Her body is the same except for this HUGE protruding growth right in front. She's definitely carrying Sam differently than she carried the girls. And I always thought that was a wives tale.

Happy late anniversary to Stephen and Stephanie Bailey. I think they have finally surpassed the amount of year living together that Stephen and I shared. They are a great witness to the power of faithful marriage and service to each other. 9 years, guys--what a blessing!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Didn't mean to make anyone nervous by posting late in the day. Sheryl is still her pregnant self. She is feeling tired, but thankful for every day the baby can "cook" so as to be completely healthy. Thank you for your prayers. (Hopefully not 27 lbs of baked Sam)

The guesses on day and weight are clipping right along! Keep 'em coming. It will be fun to see who is the closest. Don't email them to me because the chances of them getting lost in that abyss are too great. Post them on here in the comment section so we can all go back and find out who was closest.

Have you thought much about dreams? My co-worker, Scott Owings, is going through the "Spiritual Director" training this year. He's our minister of outreach and spiritual formation. It's been fascinating to hear some of what he's learning. For those of you who think I'm talking voo-doo and magic, it's basically just helping ministers do what ministers need to do--but better. It's training in being quiet and processing what the other person is saying. It's training in discernment and listening for God's voice. It's training in asking questions to help the other person process. It's really a wonderful thing. It was cool to see that the Emergent Conference had Spiritual Directors available this year (I think they have had them in years past too.) Scott and some of his other SD's were at the ZOE conference and were available for prayer and counsel at different points. We got great feedback on that.

I want to tell you about two dreams. The first is Maddie's. We haven't been mentioning Jonathan Shaub as regularly to them as we had in weeks past. Monday Maddie told me that she'd had a dream about Jonathan. I asked her which one (Vest or Shaub) and she said, "The boy who got hit by a truck". I asked her what he was doing in her dream and she said, "He was walking, driving a car, running, and playing!" I thought that was pretty cool! I pray that he'll be doing those things soon.

Last week I had a cool dream. It's sort of hard to explain because it was so surreal that putting it into words somehow looses the impact. It was simple and basic, but when I tell you about processing it with Scott you'll see how I was reminded of God's goodness. In my dream I was over a huge lake. It was as if I was either standing or sitting right on top of the water in the middle. The water was as smooth as glass all the way to shore and I was leading the song, "It is Well With My Soul" (When Peace Like A River). There were hundreds of voices singing along, although there were no people to be seen. I just remember feeling engulfed in the music and looking all around me feeling this peace and serenity. I woke up and felt so full. I didn't feel the need to process it or think much about it. I mentioned it to Sheryl and that was it. It just made me so happy and was so encouraging.

Today I finally mentioned it to Scott. He began to ask me questions like, "What does a lake represent to you? Were you on top of the water? What were you feeling? What does the song represent to you?" These were interesting questions. I told him that the lake is a place of fun and peace to me. I was definitely on top of the water and it almost as if I were sitting Indian style or something--weird. I was feeling completely full of God's love and peace. The song doesn't really represent anything to me--well at least I didn't think. I've always loved the story behind the song. Scott asked me why and I told him because it was as if the guy made a choice between faith and despair. Scott then reminded me that last summer I had shared another dream with him (and now I remember that I shared it with the worship leaders, while sobbing and talking about my year, during the ZOE leadership conference). In that dream I was sinking and all these people were around me just watching me and talking to me as if nothing were going on--oblivious. I had completely forgotten that dream. He said that to him it was significant that this time I was sitting on top of the water and that the water was a smooth as glass. WOW! I hadn't even thought about that. SO COOL! He reminded me of the Psalm that says something like, "Even in the night God's Word instructs me." It was a great conversation.

And now for something completely different...

Tonight is the American Idol Finale. Glory Hallelujah. Last night Bo and Carrie went head to head. To me, it's a complete toss-up. Who's gonna win??

One last thing to add to this already long entry. (Keith Brooks--hush.) Here's the schedule we're getting ready to release for our Summer program on Wednesday nights. The worship time will be different each week--sometimes the band, sometimes no band, sometimes drama, sometimes youth or kid led. If you're in town, come join us for dinner first and then family time at 7pm. The topics and speakers are as follows:

June 1 -- Lisa Harper -- "The Greatest Thing in the World"
June 8 -- Karyn Henley -- "Raising Children in a Post-Christian World"
June 15 -- Kent Vaughn -- "What Time is it?"
June 22 -- Randy Harris -- "Living Simply in a Complicated World
June 29 -- Rubel Shelly – “The ‘D’ Word: Talking about Death before it’s too late”

July 6 – Jim Williams – “Parenting on Point”
July 13 -- Matt Duncan -- "Can anything good come out of Hollywood?"
June 20 -- Phil Ware -- "Wonders and Worries of the WWW"
July 27 -- Don Finto -- "Who is my Neighbor?"

August 3 – Leslie Collins – “Anger Management”
August 10 -- Chris Peck – “A Wounded Healer"
August 17 -- John Mark Hicks – “Finding God in the Pit”
August 24 – Phil Keagy Concert
August 31 – Michael Card – “A Cord of 3 Strands”

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The doctor appointment went well yesterday. Sheryl is really not as far along as he would like. Apparently, white boy babies struggle with lung development and he's afraid that if Sam comes too early, he might not be as developed as he needs to be. SO--it's a wait and see game. If Sam does not come by June 6th, then we will check into the hospital that morning. It's hard to imagine Sheryl going another two weeks, but we're both really ok with this. We want him to be fully ready and not have to leave him in the NICU. Please pray for Sheryl over the next two weeks.

Attention! For all of you who plan to have kids one day one of the best pieces of advice I have to offer is to polish up on your spelling expertise. It cracks me up how many words, and sometimes now sentences, we end up s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g.

"Should we go to the p-a-r-k today?"

"What day is that p-a-r-t-y happening?"

Now, a word to the wise--some spelling can be tricky. For instance, one has to get creative when spelling things like z-o-o or p-o-o-l. Our kids, 2 and 3, get those right away. Do any of you have stories or thoughts related to spelling or code words in front of kids?

Ella and Maddie are truly my children, for they love to say the word, "poop". Please, Lord, help me. Sheryl finally put her foot down and said that "poop" is a word that can only be used in the bathroom and is definitely not appropriate for the dinner table. (Maddie and Ella would sometimes just look at each other during dinner and say, "poop!!" and then die laughing.)

For the most part, they are complying. However, they've now discovered ways around it. For instance--last night in the van on the way home they began to say "poop!" and we reminded them that it wasn't appropriate. It was like there was a period of processing for about 30 seconds and then Maddie exclaimed,"Well, I actually (yes, "actually") have to go poo-poo, so that means I can say it. I have to go poop!"
I mean, how can you argue with that? Oh my.

One more sort of random thought today. Back to my post on Sunday about people struggling with their faith and spiritual life in general...it strikes me as interesting that many people who read and deeply soak in the writings of McLaren end up at this crisis of faith. It makes sense to me. I LOVE his books and they've caused me to have to think and process my faith. Honestly, it's something we should have to go through. However, for some, it's been this paralysis that seems to take over--not sure what they believe about church, not sure what they believe about Jesus, not sure what they believe about anything. Again, in my opinion, that's probably extremely healthy. I just wonder about those who seem to camp there without moving through it. The reason I wonder is because if we are to know people by fruit, what does skepticism , bitterness, confusion, anger, apathy, etc say about us? (I'm talking about people who stay in those emotions for years--not "visit") Those are all emotions I've dealt with at different times on this journey and still do, depending on the day. When I look at Brian (McLaren), I see a man who has the ability to ask questions and grow in his understanding without abandoning the joy of the Lord. The man is bubbling with the fruits of the Spirit. Why do so many people reading his writing not reflect that same fruit? I wonder if it's just that McLaren is way down the road in this discussion. I wonder if it's his spiritual maturity. I wonder if it's his connection with a local church, and all it's messiness that helps him balance things. I wonder, since he interprets scripture as a narrative, if he also is able to view his life and faith journey in that way--allowing for the times of serious questioning and doubt while still holding on to the anchors of faith. Just things I am thinking about today.

I am grateful for the freedom to explore what being a part of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ really looks like. Certainly, there are less walls than we imagine. Certainly, it's more about heart and less about form. Certainly, God wants us to care for the poor and struggling much, much more than we do. I can't wait to see how these things take shape. The Kingdom of God is much bigger and probably spreads in spite of (IMHO) what we do on Sundays. It's the hands and feet of those out in the work place. It's the lunch discussions that happen every day. It's the water cooler and coffee break encouragement that happens in office buildings around the world. It's people like David and Sarah Wilson giving up a high paying lawyer's job to live in Kenya and work with street kids for 6 months. It's people like Sheryl's cousin Kim going back to teaching in order to make a difference in the lives of kids. It's striking up conversation with other parents at the park and showing you care. It's caring for your neighbors and asking them into your house. It's how you treat your employees. There are so many things that seem to be Kingdom related that often go ignored. We think that if we could only get them into our church building on Sunday then, praise God, they'll be saved. I'd say that it's much more about what happens outside of that time that has a lasting impact in the lives of those around us. For those of you in the secular world, my heart, respect and prayers go out to you. You are making a difference. Praise GOD for you! Here's a part of a liturgy we did Sunday morning. It's my prayer for all of us today as we are light to a very dark world.

"O Savior of the world, who redeems us by your blood, we believe in you.
Shine your holy light upon our hearts, forgive us for our sins and loosen our tongues to speak of your glory."

PS: I liked Stephanie's idea--any guesses on day, time, weight, etc? Now that tomorrow's induction is off this could get really interesting. Let's see--the winner gets a free ZOE CD mailed to you by me.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

It was a great day at the Creek. We were in John 5 where Jesus makes some extremely bold claims about himself--claims that many people have a hard time swallowing. Searching, asking questions, and digging deeper into spiritual matters is a great thing. I think even having to wrestle with the question, "Is Jesus really who he says he is?" is a great thing to struggle through. It helps us land on our own spiritual feet. It helps us own our belief. It allows us to move on to something better and more exciting. However, it seems that that question seems to be a stumbling block for people. Some people I love deeply are struggling through those issues even now. I guess faith is like life--fragile, ever changing, and full of highs and lows. But that's why it's called faith--isn't it? Being certain of things unseen? There isn't much call for faith in general these days. Usually we see and get what we want. The whole idea of being certain of things unseen seems almost ridiculous. Maybe that's a consequence of our culture. I just know that when I think about that definition of faith it makes me realize how timeless that truth really is.

Tonight we had life group--small. Though small, it was really awesome. I love those times when the sharing is intimate and more personal. I'm thankful for what God is doing in our group.

Maddie has been the major song writer this week. At every available moment she is making up songs about her day, clothing, books, or pictures. Tonight she was reading "Miss Fannie's Hats" or something like that. In the book there was a picture of a church building. I caught her sitting on her bed with that page opened. She had her eyes close and her hand in the air and she was singing these words, (don't judge her theology)

"You live in the church, that's where we praise you
the mommies and daddies sing praises to you
We love you."

Now, I'm not about to stop her song to tell her that God lives in our hearts not the church building! It was so sweet, it made me want to cry. She was really into it too. She had her eyes closed and was really emphasizing the words. I told her today that some people write songs for their job. She said maybe she would do that too.

Sheryl goes to the doctor in the morning and we should know more about the trajectory from there. Overall, she's looking great and feeling great. Thanks for your prayers. We attribute her good health and comfort to the many prayers on her (our) behalf. Thank you!

Friday, May 20, 2005

My brain is tired. I have a had a great week. I am just tired of processing. I feel like watching Dumb and Dumber or Ron Burgundy. Mindless.

This morning my learning community studied scripture with Brian McLaren and another Brian whose last name I can't recall (that's the trouble with being partners with McLaren). It was a great session. Some of it I was on board with and some not. That's the thing about all this. The power of community and discussion with regard to spiritual matters is never to all come to the exact same conclusion. I challenge anyone--no matter how conservative the church--to admit that everyone in their family of believers is in total agreement on every issue. It's not realistic. So--why should we run from organized religion into another form of organization where everyone has to think alike? (Not that anyone said that today, just something I'm thinking. Some people seem to think that all post moderns or emergent types think the same--not true). It was cool to approach scripture as a narrative story. One guy suggested that it might be like a God breathed play, piece of art or even a family album. I love that imagery. Yes, it's God breathed. But we can't camp out in one verse and make a doctrine out of it to the disregard of the rest of the story--any more than we could turn to a page in a family album when someone was three years old and study it and think we completely know them based on that one picture. Ridiculous, right? Well, we're certainly guilty of that when it comes to scripture...especially in the CofC. (although we truly don't hold the patent on that!) When we think of scripture as a narrative, it helps us put things into context with regard to God's story. This is our family history. All of it--not just bits and pieces. The mass genocide in the Old Testament, to Jesus' teaching of turning the other cheek. McLaren suggested that we know things by their fruit. Certainly those who practice what scripture teaches have much more credibility--like Mother Teresa. Scripture is best interpreted by itself and through the fruit it bears.

Not everything this week has resonated with me. Yet, I have really enjoyed the open discussion in a setting where it's safe to disagree. Why we have to polarize people really confuses me. Some post-moderns shake their fingers at the "moderns" sitting in their churches (some really making a difference in the lives of the poor and hurting, I might add). Some "moderns" shake their fingers at the post-moderns who long to seek after spreading the Kingdom of God in new and exciting ways thinking it needs to look just like they have always looked. Why can't we just say to those who are making a difference and excited about spreading the love of Jesus and ministering to the poor and oppressed, "GO FOR IT!! More power to ya!"???

Maybe the next movement after this whole emergent thing will be to combine all of these things, and be full of a little less talk and a lot more action. Perhaps that's what's happening now. I really hope so.

On a different note, Matt Elliott helped me find a website this week called blogbinders.com. Check it out. You can take your blog and turn it into a paper back book. For those of you like Stephanie Gross, Clarissa, Stephen, Val and others who write things for your kids to read later , it would be a great way for you to keep these writing and pass them on.

Tonight my mom took the whole family out to Houston's. YUM! We went from Houston's to Ben and Jerry's. It was a lot of fun and some GREAT food. So much for the calorie counting tonight.

I pray that some of this writing about Emergent has been coherent. Some of it has not, I'm sure of that. Sometimes you just have to say things out loud or write about them before you really know how you feel about them. Sometimes, even then, you aren't quite sure. I am not that concerned about landing on absolutes. The only absolute I need is my faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He's called me to serve. I don't even really understand the extent of that calling. I may never know. But what an adventure to seek it out! I hope I haven't offended anyone in these posts. It's not really my intent. I just want to share what I've heard and what I'm trying to process as all these things rumble around in my head. Thanks for allowing me to process with you.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Warning--long post coming.

Tonight we saw Star Wars III. AWESOME! Although it was dark, it was really so great and set up the final 3 that I grew up on with such clarity. It made me wish that Josh and Jeremy (Morse--my cousins) were here with me to see it. Sheryl wanted to go see it on our date tonight. I was so excited! There's no one I'd rather go with.

Today was another great day at Emergent. This morning in my "learning community" we talked about "church" for 2 hours. How to think about and be the church in our post-modern North American context. The facilitators were Doug Pagitt and Al Roxburgh. Here are some things I wrote down during that time:

*Tension is--how to be missional while also being a community you can JOIN and find transformation.

*We should be a witnessing community on a journey--that's church. We tend to camp--to build and stay and make ourselves comfortable. We are to be sent--we're on a journey.

*Look at Luke 10. What was the location of the church? Where was it to be found? Jesus sent the disciples OUT. Out, with and amongst people. Church should not be what many of us have made it--a gated community that sends out a posse to bring people in--we are to be sent out. How TRUE!! WE are to be SENT OUT!

*3 characteristics of the way the church was formed in the 20th Century--
1. Corporate images and systems
2. Formed out of deeply individualistic view where the church is the provider of goods and services to self actualized individuals. (BINGO!)
3. Commerce driven society.

The next session I attended was Brian McLaren's class called "Spiritual Formation in Worship". Here are some notes:

*All practices become formative and define us. For instance--if we allow ourselves to watch pornography, that becomes spiritually forming (or malforming). The same holds true for gossip, etc.

*In order to really succeed at something you must engage in the practice of--running, playing an instrument, etc. Let's say you love music and have a passion for the violin. If you've never played it or practiced, when you pick it up to play you're going to really stink! Spiritual formation comes from discipline and practice.

Here are 10 Spiritual Practices for Public Worship--
1. Ritual--doing things I may or may not feel like doing to bond to the meaning they represent.

2. Inconvenience--going to a place I didn't choose, at a time I didn't choose, for a purpose I DO choose. Choosing to inconvenience ourselves as a discipline to get out of our selfishness.

3. Association--we meet with some people we like and some we don't for a purpose we believe in.

4. Speed--altering my pace to see what I've missed or to feel a different rhythm.

5. Hospitality--using my presence and our space to help "the other" feel welcome in the presence of our community. (Made me think about having the praise team spend some time welcoming people before church--helping guests connect once they are up front leading)

6. Attentiveness--waiting receptively for what I may receive. For instance--the sermon. Practicing a ritual of attentiveness--stopping to listen, training ourselves to stop and listen. We have to practice.

7. Generosity--taking greater pleasure in being fruitful than consumptive--practice of giving--money, talent, music, drama, art. The practice of joyful giving.

8. Modeling--exposing apprentices to masters. In prayer, teaching artistry, faithfulness, service, hospitality.

9. Justice and Mercy--preaching, singing, praying, signifying, announcing justice. Many times mercy gets the spotlight at the expense of justice...God's desire to help the poor, hurting and oppressed.

10. Catholicy-- (recognizing the church is bigger than just us) quoting others, affirming others, praying for others, inviting others.

The other thing that Brian said that I loved is that everything in our service from greeting in the parking lot, to meet and greet, to singing--or whatever-- should be spiritually formative. For instance--we should approach it in such a way that during meet and greet or whatever we have like that when we SEE SOMEONE DIFFERENT THAN US, WE SHOULD BE DRAWN TO THEM AS A PART OF OUR WORSHIP EXPERIENCE...the practice of inconvenience, etc.

Finally, the last learning community this afternoon was on "Humanity". I wasn't able to stay for it all, but we talked about two extremes. Many pastors or leaders end up feeling the "Super-pastor syndrome" while the other end is the "Struggling pastor in despair". To me, Emergent and deconstruction has paralyzed some people into the latter category--all gripe and little joy. I've been guilty of that too. Deconstruction is so important for new beginning...but there MUST be a new beginning.

All the sessions were great today. I'm looking forward to more tomorrow. Thanks for the comments today and last night. It's been a cool experience. The thing is--none of us should be afraid of having the discussion. We won't all ever--EVER-- end up on the same page, but the discussions are important and necessary. It might be time to pull up camp, Church. Are we too comfy? Are we resistant to the journey Jesus is calling us to? Are we willing to follow Him over following our man made rules? The adventure excites me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What an interesting day it's been! I had lunch plans with Cole Young (Ken's son) at, yes, Baja Burrito. (Clarissa clearly does not get the deep profound meaning of good Mexican food.) As I waited for Cole, I talked with Greg Wilson who was also waiting for DAREN STANLEY. As Greg and I talked it was like a teaser for my afternoon at Emergent. Even though Greg and I share many of the same opinions, even though we worship together at Otter Creek, even though we have similar backgrounds, we were still missing each other with terminology. (nothing huge, but still) Too lengthy to get into, but it struck me. Communicating can be so tricky. Words like "missional", "Church" etc. bring a certain amount of baggage--even though they're great words. Greg encouraged me so much in talking through some things but as we talked I thought it's no wonder we have such a hard time communicating with the world. Sometimes we can't even understand each other! Hold that thought.

So, at Emergent, they have us broken into these things called Learning Communities. We have 4 sessions with the same community and then there are the other seminar offerings where you can choose for yourself where to go. My Learning Community heard from Todd Hunter and John Franke today about "Truth". Now, as you can imagine, it was DEEP. Geez-o-pete. Seriously, some great stuff! It made me really think about communication...our communication with God and each other. We are finite beings. God is Infinite. As I listened to John Franke speak I wrote in my notes, "The language of God and man intersects at our ability to understand the infinite." God reveals Truth (Himself) to us in ways that we can somehow try to grasp, and yet--he IS Truth. He IS Infinite. We are boxed by our understanding, our surroundings, our background, our sin, etc. We are finite. It made me think about Maddie and Ella. There are certain truths I want them to know. And yet, I can't talk to them like I would to an adult. I have to try and put it in their frame of reference. I might use stories, illustrations, etc. to help them understand, and yet they are still somewhat limited by their experience and age. Is this making any sense? We make these outrageous claims to know all truth. I think that through relationship with Truth, He gives us peeks into His nature and His will, but we can never fully know (in my opinion) the fullness of the Infinite. We are like Maddie and Ella--trying to understand in our limited way. The funnier thing is when Maddie and Ella try to tell each other the right way to do things. (While either not making any sense or sometimes completely missing the point.) Again--like us. Obviously, there is a role here for the Holy Spirit--wisdom, discernment, etc. But, in our most Spirit filled moments, we are still, as Paul said, "Looking through a glass dimly." One day, my friends, one day!

The thing Franke said toward the end of the session that I thought was so good was, "The best apologetic is not an argument but a way of life, community and a living faith. Many people are won to community before they're won to faith."

This totally resonates with me in things I've been thinking about lately. Community is so important. Through community we can hold each other accountable, practice group discernment, pray for real needs, hold up tired arms and feeble knees, and practice real Jesus-breathed love.

I know these are random thoughts at best as I am processing through today. I believe there is absolute Truth with a capital T. God is Truth. I won't ever pretend to fully grasp Him. My life will be spent in that endeavor, and through His Spirit I will have moments where He will give me glimpses into the Infinite. But only glimpses. Through relationship with Him I can become more and more familiar with Truth as it changes my life.

I'll close with this. There's such power in authenticity. People really don't care if you know all truth. They care more if you're truthful. Are we authentic? Is our faith a way of life? That seems such a more difficult challenge than to claim to know all truth.

More tomorrow.

Since Maddie's class at school spent time on Mommies a few weeks ago, they graciously allowed a day or two for dear old dad this week. Maddie came home with a card written in Miss Dele's beautiful calligraphy. Neither of us could make it all the way through the card without busting out in laughter.

"My Daddy"

"My Daddy's name is 'Dad' and he is 40 years old. (Excuse me???) He sorta looks like Mommy! (um...) His favorite restaurant is McDonald's because his favorite food is french fries. Green is his favorite color. He likes to play with me and go on dates with Mommy. My Dad's job is to work on a 'keyboard' (piano) and 'work with clothes'. (that's the part that we totally cracked up at.) At church, his job is singing. I love my Daddy!!"

I love to hear random extemporaneous thoughts from 3 year olds. I am glad she knows I love to play with her and I am glad she also knows that I like spending time with "Mommy".

So--American Idol last night...I might have to eat my words (hush, Deanna). In my opinion, Bo was the best last night. In fact, my girl, Carrie, might have been third. Not sure. It's going to be really close. What I love about Vonzell is her spirit. Carrie's voice is so amazing, but she seems to sometimes lack the emotional connection to the song that Vonzell has. That's such a huge thing.

This morning the girls came in and crawled into bed. I was a Daddy sandwich. They are both so cuddly and love to snuggle. There's no better way to wake up.

Emergent continues today. Yesterday and this morning, the critical concerns courses have been going. I'm looking forward to the main conference starting this afternoon. More on that later.

Baby Sam! He's almost here! If not before, then one week from today we'll be at the hospital having Sam. Yee-Haw!

PS: please pray for Craig Powell...long time friend of Stephen Bailey (see Stephen's blog)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Rosepepper...yum! Such a cool little place out in East Nashville. If you're in town, stop by.

Last night as we were trying to get the girls settled down, I asked them about their day. (We've been loosely following the "examen" principles.) I'll ask them what the best thing about today was--or what blessed them today? Then I'll ask them what was something hard about today? Then we pray. It's been so interesting to see how girls ages 3 and 2 respond to this. They get it more than you'd imagine. Last night when I asked Ella about the day she told me that the biggest blessing was riding her bike at the park. The hardest thing to her about the day was "seeing Geoff". "He made me cry." OH MY. Ella got so embarrassed by her crush on Geoff that at dinner she literally turned into a statue and buried her head first in my chest and then Sheryl's. We really tried to underplay it so as not to make it worse. Bless her! Only the beginning.

After praying, Ella hugged me and said, "Daddy, I love your hat. Daddy, I love your hair." Then she stroked my arms with her tiny hands and said, "Daddy, I love your arms." Cue the sappy music and bring on the Kleenex. I would have given her anything she ever wanted in that moment!

These times are so, SO precious. Sheryl and I have been looking at the girls over the last week and marveling at how big they are. It just seems to be like sand running through your fingers. It goes so fast. Pat, Otter Creek's pre-school and kindergarten director, tells the parents every year at the orientation meeting, "These are long days and short years." So true.

One last thing on the movie--"Kingdom of Heaven". I have a lot of friends who are serious movie and theater critics and I tend to be one myself at times. However, I took that hat off as I went to see this movie yesterday. I had already heard negative comments from some of my friends. The reason I liked this movie was because it was about character. There are so many movies that exemplify lead male characters who are money hungry, power hungry, sex craved, immoral, and fanatically appearance conscious. This movie's main character, though flawed deeply and fully aware of his own sin, chose the high road. He heard from his father a challenge and followed it. He risked his life for the lives of those unable to defend themselves. He gave up power and wealth for conscience. "A kingdom not built on conscience is not a kingdom at all." I long to be that way and find myself lacking. So, when I see a character like him, that's something I want to support and say--go see.

Sheryl has a girls night out tonight. I am really excited for her. Sarah and Jill and others have put a night of fun together for her before the storm hits! Have fun, honey!

One last little funny--I have gotten into the habit over the last year of calling Maddie and Ella "honey". "No, Honey, you can't do that." "Come here, Honey Bunny, and let me give you kisses." Things like that. Maddie and Ella are both now saying that to each other and it's cracking me up. Maddie will say to Ella, "No, Honey, you can't have that crayon." Now Ella has picked it up and it's about the cutest thing you've ever heard. Of course, I'm biased--as any father ought to be.

Have a great day!

Monday, May 16, 2005

This is a post from Maddie.

"Thank you, Amanda for having a birthday."

"Thank you Ella for having a birthday" (?)

"Thank you, Mommy for having a birthday"

"My favorite thing about today was dressing up with Ella as the Queen of Hearts"

"I don't like spiders in the garage. They're nice, but I don't like them."

(we cleaned out the garage today. Bless us all)

Ella says,

"I liked riding my bike" (at the park today where we also took Bear. That's another story)

When asked who her favorite person in the whole world is and who she loves, Ella replied,

"Geoff!!!!" (Amanda's fiancé)

The girls wanted to contribute today. Just returned from seeing "Kingdom of Heaven" I loved it. I know others haven't enjoyed it, but I really like it. We're off now to Rosepepper Cantina to celebrate Amanda's birthday.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

We had a great weekend together. Friday night my mom graciously kept the girls and allowed us to go out on a date. We had a blast with Mary Ann and Daniel Green and Brian and Tara Layton. It has been a long time since we have been out with the Greens and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening. We ate at what is quickly becoming one of my favorite Nashville restaurants--El Texano. It's run by a Hispanic family from Texas who makes authentic TEXAS BBQ. Brisket, ribs, sausage. It's awesome! And--it's in Nolensville. The Greens are trying to convince us to move south and join them in Nolensville. Who knows? Maybe we'll do it sometime.

Yesterday we spent the day enjoying our family and playing. It was great to be home and great to be together. Last night Maddie told me that I was "the King" and I asked her who she was. She replied, "A big scary woman". I'm not real sure what that meant but it made me laugh really hard.

This morning we're focusing on the healing of the paralytic. I think it will be a great morning. Tonight is our monthly Celebration service. We're going to do a repeat of sorts of the late night at Pepperdine that focused around the desperate theme. I'm looking forward to it.

Today is Kellie Curtis Miller's birthday and tomorrow is Amanda Brooks McKinney and Kyle Dickson's birthday. All three of these friends have meant a great deal to me. Happy birthday, friends!

This week is the Emergent Convention here in Nashville. I'll be sitting at the feet of Brian McLaren, Tony Compollo, Dan Kimball, and others. I can't wait! I'll be sure and let you know how it goes. If you're coming out for the conference, let me know. Matt--we need to be sure and get together!

Have a blessed day!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Sheryl continues to progress. We're so excited to see baby Sam!! Thanks for your prayers.

Last night we had a blast playing outside and eating with Daren Stanley and his kids. You'd think Maddie and Ella had never had a friend over. They were all over Mary Carsen. It was fun to hear their screams of delight as they ran around together. These are such precious years!!

As we were getting into bed, we got a call from Amanda and Geoff. THEY'RE ENGAGED!! We are so thrilled! They drove by to show us the ring and let us celebrate with them. Congrats, guys! We love you!

I am still laughing today over memories that came flooding back as I wrote that list yesterday. Oh my word. Seriously. Some thing I forgot to mention--

1. Willard Tate's "life learning skills" class. "You've all got an A in here. Your job is to keep it." Who can forget the banjo and singing songs that had to have been in the original soundtrack from "A Mighty Wind"? )"Boooorn to win, Booorn to win...")

2. Validine

3. PE. I chose Scuba, Snow Skiing and Advanced Snow Skiing, and Bowling. Now THOSE are my kind of PE classes.

4. Welcome Week. It just got more and more fun each year.

5. Breaking into Jennifer Money, Shellie Braddock, and ??'s (can't remember who else lived there) house and taking all the labels off their canned goods in their pantry.

6. Chris Seidman doing a hip jiration in chapel while leading "I Love the Lord Messiah" (deep down in my heart...UHGH!)

7. Clint's dog, Daisy, who HATED Stephen. She would literally go back to our bedroom and under his bed to pee.

8. Senior Sing Song--the Flintstones!! Ba, ba ba--ba Barney rubble, Ba, ba ba--ba barney rubble...short and squatty, funny little body Barney Rubble. Torey Barnhouse rules.

9. The cast from "The King and I" maintaining a weird orange tint to their skin all through the week of performances. Ask Melissa Kirby, Jane Ann Myers, or Beth Ann Fisher!

10. Michael W. Smith Concert at ACU. Awesome.

11. The "Return to Gilligan's Island" social.

12. Taking dates to the Paramount. The Changling...ooooohhhhhhh!! Why was everyone so creeped out by that movie?

13. The dollar theater.

14. Kyle meeting Camille.

15. Singing "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" during the closing chapel each year. I still remember standing there singing it on that last day of our Senior year.

16. Jeff Berryman

17. "Hair" and "Messy Eater"

18. Reg Cox, Brad Small, Wed night Bible study, and the campus ministry at Southern Hills

19. Winkie James.

20. Those windy days at Shotwell stadium watching football and hearing the Big Purple play the ACU fightsong. Purple, white, purple, white, fight-fight-fight!

OK--I won't subject you to any more. It just felt so good to go there yesterday, I thought I would do it again today. There's that old country song that says, "Ain't it funny how a melody brings back a memory? Takes you to a certain place and time, completely change your state of mind." How true! There are songs that take me right there. Restless Heart does it for my ACU experience. "Long Lost Friend" especially.

Any songs that take you back to your college days? I realize this will date us, but hey--who cares??

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sorry for the rant yesterday--wait, that's not true. I'm not sorry for it. Just sorry if it scared anyone. I am really fine. Thanks for the email from concerned friends. Honestly, there are days when I need to vent like that, but can get up after venting and go on about my day. I never want to underestimate the power of words though. Clearly, as Owen so beautifully wrote, we are all under grace--even the knuckle heads who don't think they are. :) My opinions are precisely human--filled with as many holes or more than those with whom I disagree.

Now, on to something lighter today. I have to say that I am loving "The Vonz" (Vonzell Solomon) and Carrie Underwood on American Idol. I love Carrie's voice--she can belt. WOW! I love Vonzell's presence and her heart. Gotta hand it to the mail carrier. (she's a mail lady in real life) I'm not a Bo fan. This will draw serious boooos from Kiki and others I know. Too bad. Don't like him. Next week is the finale. It should be a lot of fun!!

Taking a lesson from my old roomie, Fish (See Craig Fisher's link to the right), I am going to list off some fun college memories. For some of you who were there, maybe this will mean something. For others of you, this will be a direct confession of my idiocy.

Some of my favorite memories include--

1. Late night laughter in Mabee Dorm with Stephen Bailey, Alan Brown and Matt the Wildcat. This includes the infamous dingle berry man.

2. Brent McCall locking me out of my dorm room our freshman year. He was bitter because I made him hang his Taco Bell uniform out the window because it smelled like dead cats. Someone stole it. He locked me out and I had to go outside and crawl into the window in nothing but my towel--not realizing I was giving the entire communications building a clear shot of my essentials. I heard lots of great comments on that one.

3. Chris Seidman dreaming about football and calling the game in his sleep.

4. Fish and his big ol glasses.

5. Stephen Bailey almost leaving us to join Acapella. (I was thinking about that the other day, Stephen. What would I have done if you had left??)

6. "Bi-focals, bi-focals...I have to wear my bi focals, they make me feel irate. I have to wear my bi focals how will I ever get a daaaaaa--ate? I first saw her in the burger line (bam bam bam) blue eyes cryin in the bean...(later in the song) there I told her that I loved her so (bam bam bam) blue eyes cryin in the bean. The she choked on her red jello (bam bam bam bam) blue eyes cryin in the bean." YEA, SING SONG 89!!! We were eye balls. Stephen directed us and we all blinked and changed colors from brown to blue--bet you could guess what other song we sang about that.

7. Take One all those summers. Especially when Stephen, John Scott Davis, Kellie Curtis, and Sheila Johnston traveled. The Yosemite Family Encampment!! I first met Dan Jocoy when we sang there. Dan now ministers to a church in Oregon and I get to see him every year at Pepperdine! Hi Dan!

8. Laurie Smothers, Shellie Braddock, Kimberly Meador, Trish Savage, Traci Dunn, Amy McRay and others. Bless all of their hearts.

9. Junior Senior Wars and getting kidnapped my Senior year by the traitor, Clint Findley. And racing naked down Westheimer with shopping carts. Don't ask.

10. Scaling the walls of then deserted McDonald Dorm with the leaders of the Senior class. (If they only knew) We all got in and played hide and seek on the top floor. Pitch dark deserted dorm rooms are the creepiest thing EVER.

11. Senate meetings where Tara McKnight (now Seidman) would announce how many days left til marriage.

12. Pledging with Chris Seidman. That's really all I can say.

13. My roommates, Stephen Bailey, Chris Doggett and Craig Fisher. The sick hat, the goodnight dance, Stephen's sheets that went unwashed for 2 years, that awful wig that ended up burning on top of Fish's lamp, Dog's study habits--relentless, Stephen's dates, Beth Ann and Karen--our guardians and future roommate wives, Days of Our Lives, Oprah (Chris getting really mad about topics), Po' Folks and the Better Business Bureau, glassy and glossy-the mascot glass heads of 1541 Westheimer

14. Puppy Chow candy that made Craig and Clint so sick that we then offered to the annoying visiting magazine salesmen. We'll answer for that one day, guys.

15. Happy-sad

16. Sing Song 1991. Being a host with Stephen and Val and having to sing "Man in the Mirror". If only we knew!! Also singing "If I Sing, You Are the Music" to my dad sitting on the front row.

17. Kyle Dickson, Donjalea Reynolds, Mark Reeves and others--Victory nights, late night prayers, asking hard questions about God.

18. Being called into Jack Reese's office with Ty Lovell to be warned about talking about the Holy Spirit. Apparently, people were becoming a little too excited. My goodness--how things have changed. Jack and I have laughed about this.

19. My summer in Nashville doing an internship at Reunion Records. I lived with Kent Roberts and Michael McCoy. It was such a formative time for me. I still admire those guys so much.

20. My senior year. I lost my dad that year in the middle of rehearsals for "Big River". The musical was a nice distraction from the bewildered feelings I had. I remember the singers at my dad's funeral--the best in the world. I remember those who drove all the way to Groesbeck, TX to help me bury my dad. Their presence was the greatest gift of all. I remember Chris Doggett sitting outside waiting for me to get home and hugging me and letting me bawl. I remember my roommate and brother Stephen ministering to me even through his own pain in the loss of my dad. I remember David Lewis and his great counsel to me. I remember Vic Bliss and his words of comfort that ring in my ear to this day. (Vic lost both of his parents in a freak car accident) I remember directing GSP to victory as doctors and surgeons. I remember graduation and going through the first major mile marker without my dad. I remember having to pack up the house on Westheimer. I'm not sure any of us believed it was over. THEN--the infamous trip with Fish to Cancun. Hilarious. It was the perfect cap to that difficult month.

There are 20 memories--there are many more. Perhaps I'll do a sequel. I'm thankful to have such great memories. For some reason, the warm weather and graduation in the air makes me think about such things. I know we all have great memories like that. Hope this made you think of some that bring back a smile. The thing I'm most thankful for is that after 16 years or so, my best friends are still those guys from Westheimer. I'm a blessed man.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Interesting comments on the blog yesterday. Thanks for contributing your remarks. I had an interesting email today. Someone wanting to know where scripture gives us permission to do some of the things we do at OC. It's always hard to answer questions like that because, coming from a communication background, I realize that we're talking on two different levels. Neither of them higher than the other necessarily, but still two different presuppositions. One sees scripture as a mandate or list of rules for church and the other sees scripture as the thing that breathes life into those institutions and allows us the freedom to truly become what Jesus wanted us to be. Religious people hated Jesus. He went against the norm. I'd love to hear what He'd have to say about some of our unspoken rules we've set up in the CofC. Not all unspoken. Ludicrous.

Why are we more concerned with proof texts than action? Why are some men spending their intellectual gifts on circulating papers about instrumental music? (See the recent Christian Chronical) Do we have nothing better to do? Are we more concerned that we'll lose our identity as acapella churches over whether we're reaching the lost? Is that what we think will save us or show our good works when we see Jesus? Jesus said, "Do you love me? Then feed my sheep." When will we in the church wake up to see that we are all OBESE and have spent this feeding on ourselves instead of those who don't know Him? "Bring them from highways and byways, from the streets--all who thirst, all who hunger. Invite them to the banquet!" (loose translation there) We worry about who his sheep are. We worry about what our sheep pins look like. We argue over building new sheep pins and how much to spend or not spend. We worry about how communion will go and whether we should sing or not sing during it. We worry about how we worship. Don't you just want to stand and scream sometimes and say HELP US, LORD!!!!! God save us from navel gazing.

Jesus talked to people he shouldn't have by the standards of his time. He ministered freely. He healed on the Sabbath. He challenged the law when it interfered with the glorification of His Father. Seems to me we spend too much time defending what's comfortable for us and not enough time getting out of our comfort zones in finding ways to spread His Kingdom.

That, my blog friends, is called a soap box. Sorry. Time with the girls was sweet last night. Watching them jump on the counch cushions all over the den floor and fall down laughing and not be able to stand back up--all so sweet! I am a blessed man. Sam was doing some serious gymnastics last night. Wow--it was wild! Sheryl's doing well.

I neglected to mention after returning from LA that I had an amazing night with my cousin Shannon and her family. They live in Tejunga (near Passadena). Shannon is the daughter of my mom's brother, Mike. I prayed for her for many, many years. It's so amazing to see the Lord work in her life. They are a powerful couple with 2 kids who are just beautiful. They are deeply commited to their church, but beyond that have a heart for those who don't know Jesus. It was so neat to be with them.

Also--John Chisum sent me his new CD yesterday. Some of the ZOE folks and a couple of other OC singers sang BGVs on it. It sounds great! It's called "A Table in the Wilderness". You'll be able to find it in stores, or you can go to John's web site and order. John continues to travel with Integrity Music doing conferences and things. I think he's going to join me for the Nashville ZOE conference this year. FINALLY!! I'm excited. Go order one of these CDs. I know you'll like it.

Have a great day, bloggers!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What a great pic! This was taken right be fore the group headed off to LAX. It was a beautiful day in sunny Malibu. Thanks to everyone for such a wonderful week of ministry and fun.

I am still recovering. Being back in staff meeting this morning was rough. I feel like I have missed a month worth of stuff. There is a lot going on at the Creek right now. I can't really go into it all. Just a lot of stress on the staff and elders. Ministry to people is never easy. I know--I am a minister AND a person with all the baggage that being one of those people things entails.

In LAX I bought the new Time Magazine because it had Darth Vadar on the cover. For all you Star Wars lovers out there, it's a great read. But, there was another article in there that really made the magazine a prize for me. Please run out and buy it before it goes off the stands. I tried to create a link to it online, but you can't read it unless you subscribe online to Time. The article is entitled, Faith and Frat Boys. The subtitle asks, "Can devout Christians reconcile their beliefs with college culture?" It is an EXCELLENT article. Seriously. Go read it. I worry so much about the youth culture around here. Longer story there, but basically, there seems to be such a tepid sense of spirituality. I don't understand it. Reading this article made me want to jump for joy. These kids are truly being missional. I want that so much for Maddie, Ella and Sam. The immersion of kids into church bubbles does not seem to do the trick. I know there are always exceptions, but it seems to me that most of the kids in that environment struggle to keep their faith alive. Maybe some of you have seen this or experienced that? What's the deal? It's like our Christian private schools (secondary--not necessarily college, although it's there too) suck the spiritual life right out of them. Especially those in this area. Any thoughts?

Sheryl has Bunko tonight. I know she's excited to have some time out. I am so glad things went well last week. I am so blessed to have a wife like Sheryl. The girls and I are going to party down while she's out. Just don't tell her. Oreos and singing. What could be better?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

My mom is an incredible woman. Her heart for God astounds me. She is 67 years old and yet, she absorbs spiritual matters like a sponge--always learning, always growing, always stretching. She is not one of those people who get under my skin who think they've "arrived" at all spiritual wisdom and understanding, and yet, she knows more than most. She is a Godly woman who lives her life in the shadow of the cross. She invests herself in things that matter. She loves deeply and she is a wonderful mother. She has walked with me for many years and always challenged me to seek the deeper things of God. I am thankful for you, Mom!

Sheryl is one day going to read words like this written by her own children. She is teaching them the things of God. She is investing herself in their lives and making a difference. I cannot imagine a better influence as a mommy for my girls. I love to watch her with them. I love the way she cares for them. I love the way she loves on them. I am blessed to be married to a wonderful mother. Maddie wrote something at school this week about Sheryl for Mother's Day. Some golden nuggets included, "my mom is very old, she looks like she has a baby in her tummy, she likes to eat salad and cupcakes, for fun she likes kissing daddy, and she likes to go to the store." Salad and cupcakes. Well, that just about says it all, doesn't it?

There are others who've mothered me over the years like Darla Lorenz, Jeannine Nichols, Kaye Price Hawkins, Jeannette Lipford, and Donna Reynolds. My life would not be the same without their influence. I am grateful for the way God uses women to shape the lives of girls AND boys. Thank you for your influence and your love.

Got back last night from Pepperdine. I am too exhausted to write about the final couple of days, but I will tomorrow. I am just thankful to be home with my family. I loved getting to cuddle and kiss all three of my girls last night. We're having Mother's Day lunch at my mom's. It will be wonderful. Enjoy your day with your mom or thinking about your mom. If your mom is no longer living, I pray that today will be a day of sweet and peaceful memories.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Sunny!!! Praise God for sunshine!

We had a great day yesterday. Before class we met in the sacred stairwell in Smothers Theater. We've been meeting there for years. We discussed all the things we've laughed and cried about in that very stairwell over the last few years. We talked about our need for the Lord. We prayed for Sally and cried tears of joy that there was actually a forum this year addressing sexual issues. We prayed for another friend who we recently met who is here this year after getting out of prison (19 months). He said that at times he would just sit in his bunk and sing "ZOE songs". Such information is almost too difficult to process. What a blessing and honor to be a part of peoples' lives. By the time we were done praying we were a mess. THEN we had (got) to sit through another heart wrenching message from Mike. What a blessing to be a part of that class with him. There were so many people crammed in to the theater that people were sitting on stage and even to the sides of us. There is no more powerful time of worship (except the night sessions at ZOE Nashville when everyone is busting out). The power doesn't come from us--it comes from being in a room full of people who are panting to engage in worship. It comes from a God who meets those who seek Him with all their hearts. It comes from a higher level of expectation--expecting God to show up! It's definitely not us. We just get to be beneficiaries. What a HUGE blessing!!

We went to celebrate Cinco De Mayo by eating some great Mexican food at a little dive in Malibu. We were excited when Pierce Brosnan came in with his family. There's nothing like eating chips and salsa with James Bond!

Afterwards, JV and I headed off to get coffee while the rest of the group drove down to the Colony (a beach front residential area near Pepperdine). When we came back to the dorm they were glowing. Apparently, they saw Brad and Angelina. Like they need last names. We couldn't believe it!!

We eventually left to go rehearse for our late night time. We talked about the theme of desperation last night. It was truly a powerful time of worship. My goodness. Something just happens at night. Have you noticed that? For whatever reason, people seem more open at night. There was a huge outpouring of worship and openness. The open mic time was powerful. One man shared through tears his desire to be undivided. We could all relate. Other men and women shared beautiful passages of scripture that had fed them through times of desperation. I think we could have stayed there all night. Afterwards, I got to visit with a young brother who's 16. His desire is to be a worship leader and he wanted to share and pray about some things. I just can't get over the honor of being able to hear stories like I've heard this week. Another woman approached me after the late night session and told me that our session last year had started her on a year long journey to healing from abuse. What does one do with such information? I feel like a fly on the wall getting to hear and see such amazing things. We all know that God is the one doing these things and moving in hearts. Why He is allowing me to witness His glory like this is still beyond me. I am eternally grateful.

I got up this morning and ate breakfast with the group who is all leaving me today. I am doing class alone with Mike. That's a first. I'll really miss them. Towards the end of breakfast Eve began a story in her best story telling voice. She told of a group of friends who went to eat Mexican food and saw a movie star. She told of two of the friends who jumped in their little red car and sped off for coffee leaving the mini van full of other friends in the dust. She told of how the mini van drove to the beach to see who they could spot. Then she went on to say, "And since we didn't see ANYONE important, we made up a great story that our friends in the little red car completely bought!" I slammed my hands on the table and in my best Elaine impersonation said, "GET OUT!!" They totally got us. And we bought--hook, line... So, no Brad and Angelina.

I am thankful to be here today. I am thankful for the memories of this place. I am thankful for friends and stories I've yet to hear. I'm grateful beyond expression for ZOE. I love them so very much. I'm thankful that Sheryl and the girls are thriving at home. But I can't wait to see them! A very cute little red headed girl was dishing out yogurt across the line from me today and I almost wanted to go and hug her. I am ready to see all my girls. Love you, Sheryl! I'll be home tomorrow. YEE HAWW!

Meanwhile, I think I'll enjoy this beautiful day in Malibu. God is good.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cold and rainy. Cold and rainy. Cold and rainy.

We had a star sighting yesterday down at the Malibu Country Mart. Nick Cage came in to get coffee. My friend, Sally, was proud of herself for not creating a scene. He's a small little guy and sorta goofy. Who knew?

Our class time yesterday went well. I always love hearing Mike speak. Late night last night went well too. It's always amazing to me how hearing the Word of God read aloud can be so very encouraging. I had a chance to visit with some people and I know it was more of a blessing to me than it was to them.

Please pray for Sally today. She is sharing something very difficult in a forum here. I want to tell you about it, but I'd need her permission. It's a topic we desperately need to learn to talk about in our churches.

I miss my family--a lot. It's not the same out here without them. I've been coming here a lot of years and part of the fun is the family craziness. It doesn't seem fun at the time, but it really is. I got to talk to my girls last night and it made me really homesick. Talking to Sheryl was such a blessing too. I miss her! She seems to be doing well. Thanks for your prayers.

We're doing class again this afternoon-- "By Their Scars You Shall Know Them". Mike always delivers such a word of hope and healing. I love being a part of that class. Tonight we'll do another late night (9pm West Coast time, 11pm to my body--brutal). We're continuing the theme of this years conference tonight--"Desperate". I expect it to be another powerful time of worship.

If anyone is in Nashville, tell Tim Woodroof to call me! Have a great day--

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hello from the internet cafe on the campus of Pepperdine University! It's cloudy and cold here. BOOO! However, the warmth of seeing so many familiar faces has been cool! I just spent an hour sharing and catching up with Chris Seidman. Our friendship goes back many years. It was great to visit with him.

This morning we sang at the Wineskins thing and this afternoon we'll do class with Mike. Tonight we have our first late night. It's a lot of singing. Please pray for our voices and our hearts. Pray that we will have the energy and strength we need.

Last night I got take out from my favorite local restaurant and took it over to an area that had outdoor seating in Malibu. I sat and ate my shrimp scampi and thanked God for the beauty of cration and the stillness of that moment alone with him.

I'll report more tomorrow. Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, May 02, 2005

We had a great time in Florida! Even though the weather didn't cooperate the entire time, it was still worth it. We found a nest of shells and dug out some really cool ones to bring home. We ate lots of great seafood and the girls and Jack all had a blast in the pool. Oh, how I LOVE vacation! Ryan brought his camera and got some great shots. I wanted to share some with you.

That last picture of Maddie just melts my heart!

I leave for Pepperdine tomorrow. It will be a very full week. Please pray for us as we travel. If I don't get to post while I'm out there, I'll give the full report next week. Have a wonderful week!

PS: I spoke with Jeff Berry today. He's doing well after he scared all of us to death with that heart virus. He thanks everyone for their prayers.