Wednesday, August 31, 2005

So much devastation in the Gulf from hurricane Katrina. It's heart wrenching. Every time we pray, the girls insist on us praying for the children who are suffering. They really don't know the extent, but I'm glad the Spirit is laying it on their hearts. Horrific pictures. It's hard not to be obsessed watching the news.

I had a great visit with Adam Stunkle today--campus minister at Lipscomb. He's an Otter Creeker and I just love that guy's heart. It was encouraging to hear what they are planning and doing in the lives of students there.

After coffee, I met Chad Jarnigan for lunch. Chad and I met through the blog world. He is the youth worship pastor at the People's Church in Franklin. He's also the lead singer for Among Thorns. Cool guy. We had a great discussion about church--what it is and isn't and what it CAN be. We're hoping to start a small group of worship guys to spark transformation in each other and in our churches. Check out his blog (linked to the right).

Tonight is our last TGIWednesday. It's a preview of the school year Wednesday night service called Vespers. It's basically a mix between an Emergent and a contemplative service. Lee Camp is speaking tonight. I can't wait!

Tomorrow morning Sheryl will check into Baptist Hospital at 5:30am. Please be in prayer for us at 7:30 as the surgery begins. Her parents will be here and my mom is here and there are several Life Group people helping. So there will always be several people helping manage the house and the kids. Praise God for community!

Here's a song off that Lincoln Brewster CD I mentioned. It's called Surrender (by Marc James). JV's playing keys tonight and Amanda, Philip and I are singing. The words seemed especially appropriate for me today.

Verse 1
I’m giving You my heart
And all that is within
I lay it all down
For the sake of You my King
I’m giving You my dreams
I’m laying down my rights
I’m giving up my pride
For the promise of new life

I surrender all to You, all to You
I surrender all to You, all to You

Verse 2
I’m singing You this song
I’m waiting at the cross
And all the world holds dear
I count it all as loss
For the sake of knowing You
For the glory of Your name
To know the lasting joy
Even sharing in Your pain

I surrender all to You, all to You
I surrender all to You, all to You

Have a great rest of the week. I'll try to post updates as soon as I can.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

We had a great weekend together. Sheryl had the great idea of making Saturday nights "Movie Night" at the Thomas house. So, this weekend we had movie night (Sunday night instead of Saturday since we were at JV and Liz's Saturday and we were so exhausted after Sunday and just needed some family time). Here you see Daddy with the kids eating popcorn and watching "Pete's Dragon". (Remember "Pete's Dragon"? Apparently, I didn't remember it well enough...b-o-r-i-n-g!!) It was still fun. We made it through about half of it before switching to "Babe, Pig in the City"

The girls have been driving us crazy about Jonathan Shaub. It's all they can talk about. SO...we arranged for us to spend part of the day with Jonathan on Monday. They were hilarious. Their eyes were like saucers. He has been the subject of their prayers and thoughts and every time they've seen him they just look in awe. Here's a sweet picture of Jonathan holding Baby Sam--even Sam is looking in awe!!

Sharon has treated me like a part of the family since the first phone call about the music ministry position here over 10 years ago. It's fun to see her with my kids now. They loved getting to spend time with her in the reading corner! They were also ENTHRALLED with Jonathan's bed made with sand and water so that he can essentially float on his back and all the wounds can continue to heal.

Ella wanted to pose with Jonathan too! They were so excited to be there and he even let them see some of his "boo-boos". He is really healing so well. He has a long way to go with more surgeries expected next Spring and Summer. One thing we all love about JD is his endearing smile that never ends. It was such a great and encouraging time with them.

Last night we stayed in and watched the approaching storm. All of us played and ran around the house chasing each other. At one point in the evening I captured this picture that I anticipate being one of my favorite pictures of them for years to come.

These precious children are a gift from God! Sheryl and I look at them and marvel at God's grace and creation. For these blessings, we PRAISE GOD!

Sheryl's surgery is set for Thursday morning. We're coveting your prayers.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Many prayers for those caught in the middle of Katrina. Last night before bed we talked about the story of Jesus calming the storm. The girls were so amazed. This morning while watching the news and seeing all 9000 of those people in the stadium in New Orleans Maddie said, "Some of those people don't know Jesus but he's going to protect them anyway." I pray that that is a prophetic word.

Lord, bless your children along the gulf coast. They need your comforting hand. Let your glory shine so that men and women, boys and girls may come to know you.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Last Sunday night I was so surprised to see Mark Meador walking down the aisle towards me at our Celebration service. When I turned and saw Shelli and their kids I wondered what was going on. He told me that they had just moved to Nashville and I am pretty sure that I let out a pretty large gasp of disbelief. I am SO excited about them being in Nashville! Mark's sister, Kimberly (now Conder) was a good friend and Sing Song host with me at ACU. Shelli's brother, Scott, sings on our praise team and is my bass section leader for the music ministry. Mark and Shelli are moving here from Houston (First Colony area) but before that lived in Abilene. Shelli is a DREAM for any church. She sings, she produces children's musicals, and she's a blast. Mark is a born leader and is so much fun to be around. Their kids, Cole, Chase, Carson, and Madison are adorable.

Yesterday afternoon I called them and asked them to meet us for dinner at...yes, you guessed it, BAJA BURRITO!! Everyone needs a good dose of Baja when they are new to Nashville. We had so much fun. It was hilarious to watch our 7 kids together. Maddie and Ella acted like Madison was their long-lost sister. Those kids are so sweet.

After dinner we went to the park and the boys took special care with the little girls to make sure they could swing and play. It was so neat to see how tender their hearts are. Did I mention that I am so glad they are all here??

As for the comments the other day, I've been thinking. I spouted off some stuff about "function" without really explaining what I was meaning. The concept I like about "A Church That Flies" is that we should really be more interested in function over form. We have concentrated so much on form for so long that many of the most important functions of the church have been put on the back-burner and left to atrophy. What a great way to approach a post-modern era...even a "church without walls" concept. Instead of worrying so much about what church will LOOK like, let's just BE the church. I know it's easier said than done, but that's what I meant about function. Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Why? Because he came for the sick and the lost...and not to hold up form (or law) over function. Why do you think he was in such trouble all the time? He was touching the sensitive places in our hearts. It's so much harder to adopt a life-style instead of a rule book. At least it is for me. (This is in NO way an indictment on any commenter.) I just think that when we look to how we're supposed to function and our supreme witness, lifestyle, heart, etc...then we are set free from the bondage of crossing every "t" and dotting every "i" to make a perfect offering. Gofer wood and all that. :)

This morning I put the girls in the jogging stroller and we went up to Christ Church next to our house (by way of some ridiculous hills behind our house). They have the coolest indoor play area that makes the McDonald's playland look like a ride at Wal-Mart. They leave it open for the community to come in and play--even when nobody on staff is there. What a cool thing for the community! We had a blast.

Now I must go and try to bring feeling back into my legs after the climbing. Tonight is Otter Creek Singles babysitting night HALLELUJAH...and all the angels sang. We're going over to JV and Liz's house with the ZOE folks and other friends to celebrate Liz's birthday.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, August 26, 2005

How precious it is to be able to agree in prayer with people you're related to by blood. I am so blessed. I have a precious mother who seems to have this endless need to grow and learn. WOW! It's no wonder why I am easily annoyed by older people who have the attitude of having arrived spiritually. You know the kind I am talking about. In fact, that horrible quality is not reserved for those older...many around us seem to feel that way. My mom is a spiritual sponge, soaking in every new drop of growth in Christ. She has not limited herself. She is always seeking, always finding. She's teaching a class Sunday mornings at Otter Creek this fall on Spiritual Formation. I know it will be powerful. I only wish I could go! Since our classes and services run simultaneously, I can't.

I had the surprise this morning of hearing from 2 of my cousins by a three-way call. Linda and Daphne called me--one from Houston, one from Atlanta. We got to laugh and talk about our parents (their mom and my dad were siblings and completely nuts). They are coming to visit us in November. Towards the end of our conversation we were able to share some scripture with each other and then pray. We read Isaiah 35 and Ps. 40 and claimed it over our family and over each other. It made me weep to think about the joy we share in Jesus. We're all in such different places in life and we have all had hard experiences but we find true commonality in Christ even more than our family bond. What a blessing!

Anyone else digging the Lincoln Brewster Live "All to You" CD? I'm LOVING IT! I love track 8, "Surrender". I've loved that song and this is a great version of it. Check it out.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Maddie and Ella woke up this morning SO excited about Snoopy Day at school. Today was orientation and they got to go meet their new teachers and see their new classrooms. Maddie couldn't wait to see her school friends and Ella was excited about meeting hers!

Pat Ward is the principal of the Kindergarten and Pre-school. She spoke with the parents as the kids went to their classrooms. Again, I was reminded of what a huge blessing this school and its teachers are to all of us! (not to mention how big Jeremy Hiett's head really is)

Maddie has Mrs. Fisher this year. She's been at the Otter Creek school for over 20 years. She's a wonderful teacher and we're so glad Maddie has her.

One of the coolest things is that Maddie and Sydney Williamson (seated next to Maddie here) get to be in the same class. Maddie is really excited about that. She was also glad to see her other school friends back after the summer. Especially Ellen, seated on the other side of her.

Ella's teacher is Miss Betsy. Miss Betsy is such a fun teacher. She sparkles--perfect for Ella! Ella went in to her class without even looking back. She is SO excited to be going to school this year and to be riding in Daddy's car!

Phil Keaggy was INCREDIBLE last night. He is always so real and honest. I love how he ministers. Oh, and, uh...I guess he can play the guitar a little. UNBELIEVABLE--that guy smokes. I am always re-amazed (yes, made up word) at his abilities. I got to sit with Burnadette (his wife) and made funny comments. It was also fun for my mom to be here to see him--her first time. If you've ever seen Phil--you know how he plays and samples his own playing or singing and then plays it back and sings or plays over what he just recorded. It's unreal. Ella got to go up and say "hi" into the guitar mic and Phil sampled it to make a percussive beat. It was fun!

I think this might have been Phil's 6th or 7th summer to play at Otter. He's become a good friend. I love that he is the real deal. He cares more about ministry than his reputation.

Sheryl's surgery was set for a week from today. She'll have to stay the night at the hospital. Thanks in advance for your prayers.

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Left to right: Taylor, Laura, Mason, and Chuck Rathbun (Sheryl's brother and his family), BST, Cindy and Haley Yates (Sheryl's sister and her daughter)

It's been such a crazy 4 or 5 days, I just haven't been able to blog. So, be forewarned...this might be a bit long.

Saturday morning I flew to Houston and met with the worship search committee at Bammel Church of Christ. There were probably 25 or so there that night. They are a great group of people. We spent about 3 1/2 hours together. They asked some great questions and I hope I was able to be of help to them. I was there to help them focus in on what they should be looking for and how to maneuver through the difficult waters of making a hire like they are about to make.

Sunday morning I led worship for both services at Bammel. It was the first time I've led without a praise team in a LONG time. Not my favorite thing. To me, there's just so much power in having team leadership. I much prefer it. However, I think it went well. They DO have a "stealth choir" that sits out all over the church with the head-set microphones on to aid the sound. They were really good. Overall, the church seemed open and they were really ready to worship. Such sweet, hospitable people! I was blessed by being there.

I got to see and stay with Sheryl's brother, Chuck, and his family. It was so great to be with them. Chuck is like a brother to me and I always love being with his family. AMAZING kids. Cindy and Haley drove over from Lake Jackson Sunday morning and it was wonderful to see them! I also got to see Colter Lewis from old ACU days. So fun to see him! Sunday morning I rehearsed with the "stealth" singers and Sarah Bass was one of them. Sarah is legendary. She has an incredible, INCREDIBLE, voice. She had been a Sing Song Hostess many years before me and then always came back to sing back up. What a talent and what a heart!

I saw several others from days gone by--ACU friends and even Jill Starr (niece of Kenneth!) whom I did shows with in High School. It was really fun to see her and her THREE kids. Goodness. She's married to Brad Mitton. Remember Brad Mitton, Stephen and Val??

I flew home right after church and got back just in time to rehearse the team here for our Celebration Back To School service. It was a total BLAST! I had assigned solos for the three verses on "Shine Jesus Shine" to 3 kids...Tyler Swafford, Julianne Cox and Will Roberson. I began to get nervous on the plane ride home, hoping they were ready, hoping they knew it, hoping they could sing it. Needless to say, I was completely blown away. BLOWN AWAY. They were amazing. Melanie Brown (one of our children's ministers) did an object lesson that night about Fathers and sons and used David and Benson Rubio. She asked the kids to notice how much Benson was like David and then used that as teaching tool for being like Jesus. It was wonderful! After ZOE sang and did worship for a while, we called all the kids down and Melanie got on stage with them and led some songs with them. They used the Jana Alayra instrumental tracks for the songs and the kids (and adults) were jamming. Melanie led one song called "Jump into the Light". It starts by saying... "Jump, jump, jump into the light, light, light..." and Melanie had all the adults jumping up and down. So fun. It was like a big mosh pit. Well, not really, but it was still fun.

Monday night Donald Miller was here. What can I say? It was amazing and fantastic. It was better than I expected. I know some who came were on the outskirts of faith. I think it was really encouraging for many of them (several I've spoken with). But, there were others who came with a heart cynical about Jesus and they left with a heart cynical about Jesus. At least they came. Miller did a brilliant job comparing Romeo and Juliet to the gospel and the mystery of God's love. I can't even begin to describe it. But on that note--he talked about mathematical equations and how we try to make love an equation. You can't do that. There's something mysterious about it. I am in love with Sheryl for many reasons..but if you brought someone else to me who had those same qualities, I wouldn't feel the same way--there's just some weird mystery to love. What is it about relationships? Why do we love at all? How can you put definitions around it? It always fails. There's a holy mystery. That's how God's love is for us. At least, that's what I took away. Wonderful, wonderful night! The place was packed and there were also some good Q&A time at the end. I wish it had been longer though.

Yesterday I had meetings all day long. OC and ZOE. Looks like this 3rd service is going to be coming quickly...maybe even mid-October. More on that later. I may be hiring an intern during the school year...anyone interested?

We put some more finishing touches on plans for the ZOE Worship Conference yesterday afternoon. It's almost FULL. 1100 are registered and that leaves only 100 more spaces. Call today to register if you haven't!

Thanks for your prayers about Sheryl. Apparently, women don't like having their ureters talked about on the internet. Obviously, I'm retarded, but I'll use my "beinng a guy" excuse here. I think guys would probably take theirs out to show them off if they could. So, sorry for over-sharing. Sheryl will be having a laparoscopic surgery in the next 2 weeks sometime. We'll definitely want your prayers.

OK--this is long, but one last thing...Pat Robertson--are you kidding me? What the heck? I mean, he's always seemed a few fries short of a happy meal to me, but calling for an assassination? For the love. When I hear things like that it makes me want to run an ad in every paper and magazine saying, "Not all Christians feel like this!" But the sad reality is, for centuries Christians have put the call of Jesus on the shelf to take up other causes that feel better or seem to make more sense. Ironically, so many of those causes involve violence...the OPPOSITE of the message of Christ. In my opinion, Robertson's remark deserves some critical response from the Christian community.

OK--seriously, one LAST thing. To end on a positive and happy note, here's a picture of our Sam. He's just growing so fast! Amazing BOY! Have a great Wednesday!

Friday, August 19, 2005

We're getting geared up for an exciting week next week at Otter. Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and other books, will be here Monday night. It's been sold out for a couple of weeks, but there are tickets that have come available. Seems as soon as they do, they're snatched up again. I talked with Phil Keaggy by phone yesterday working on some details for his performance here Wednesday night. He was also looking for tickets and some came available right after I talked to him. SO---all that to say, if you're interested in coming and don't have a ticket, call the office and we'll put you on a waiting list.

I am really excited to hear him speak. I know he's not the best speaker in the world, but he always seems to talk about things that we could never talk about otherwise. He stirs things up in a good way. I love that quality in people. Shocking, huh?

Phil Keaggy will be here next Wednesday. He'll be playing for about an hour. If you're in Nashville--or near--come be our guest that night. Doors open at 6:30 and the concert starts at 7pm.

I leave in the morning for Houston. It's going to be a very fast trip, but I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends. I pray that my time with the folks at Bammel will go well and that I can be of help to them in some way. Andrew--are you interested in that job??

Here's the deal on Sheryl...looks like her kidney is functioning at about 15%. (and her other one at 85%) The doctor said that if she were 55 he'd recommend it coming out, but since she is young, he thinks we should go the other route and split the urator so that it can function with what little is left. We like that option--especially since the surgery can be accomplished laproscopically. It's less invasive and definitely a shorter recovery. Thank you for continuing to pray for her.

I spent all day yesterday moving my office UPSTAIRS. It was ridiculous. Tim, Rubio and Scott conveniently took the day off. They can smell manual labor. HA! Doug Sanders and I are sharing an office until we can get to the new property. We'll move in those offices sometime this fall--Lord willing! Today I'm sore and trying to get adjusted to sharing an office. It's like living alone for 10 years and all of a sudden having a roommate. It's a good thing I like him! :)

Have a great and fun weekend. May the Lord watch over and protect you. May He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace. And as He blesses you with peace, may that spill out on everyone you encounter. Be a light!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I love these pictures taken this morning. They really show so much about these girls! Ella is my little Bohemian. What a cutie!

Maddie is so girly! She loves to dress up in her princess dresses and talk about what it will be like to get married one day and wear a white princess dress.

Last night Sheryl made an incredible dinner and then the girls and I just played for over an hour. It was just what I needed after a really long day. Tuesdays are always hard because of meetings, but yesterday seemed incredibly draining emotionally, although also really good!

I had a conversation with some friends yesterday about modesty and culture and our kids. Sometimes I want to go dig a hole and stick my head in it. I remember feeling that way before we had kids. I remember thinking, do I really want to bring children into this world? Into this culture? Can I protect them and teach them enough to help them make wise decisions? What a responsibility. How are some of you dealing with modesty and purity with your pre-teen children? I know how important that is. While our kids are not pre-teen, THANK THE LORD, I feel like it starts now...teaching them to respect each other and talking about what's appropriate, etc. Anyway, I'd love to hear from you on that.

Tonight John Mark Hicks is speaking. It will be a great TGI Wednesday. I am also still working on the Houston stuff and trying to pack to move tomorrow.

By the way--no news yet on Sheryl's test yesterday. Thanks for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sam was posing for the camera on Sunday. He's doing so well! Sam came to work with me this morning as Sheryl went to have her kidney tested. He's really so much fun. I love that he is recognizing me now and giving me huge smiles.

Maddie, Ella and Daddy. Maddie likes to get all dressed up for life group. Sunday night she chose her Swan Lake Barbie dress with her Tinker Bell hair things as bracelets. Also--there's our dear Bear in the background. Bear is about to celebrate her 7th birthday. She was our very first child!

Here is one of those smiles that brightens my day! I found a baby picture of me when I was close to his age. FRIGHTENING. I'll have to post it soon. We look identical. Poor guy.

Yesterday we had a day at the doctor. We decided to get it all over with at once--so we have a "well" visit for all three children...shots, eye exam, general check out. Wow. What a morning. Everyone was so brave getting their shots.

I am working this week on several things that are immediately coming. I leave this weekend for Houston. I'll be leading worship at Bammel Road on Sunday and then meeting with their worship minister search committee to help them narrow their focus in what they are looking for. That night I fly in just in time to lead Celebration at OC--the big back-to-school bash. Then--the next night, August 22, Donald Miller is here. So I'll be rehearsing with the band and helping Scott set up on Monday. Lots going on in the next few days. Did I also mention that I am packing up 10 years worth of junk in order to move my office? Our entire office space downstairs is becoming nursery space. We desperately need it! We are averaging 40 new births a year. It's a zoo! So I have to be out by this Friday--on top of everything else. Anyone want to help me move??

One last story for ya. All parents can relate to the whole spelling things in front of children. We do it all the time. The other day Sheryl was talking on the phone to her mom about her brother's prognosis and the seemingly lack of common sense shown on the part of his doctor. Sheryl was frustrated and said, "Mom, I just feel like he is such an i-d-o-t!" Kiki and I were sitting in the same room and we immediately dropped to the floor laughing. It was just one of those moments that seemed so funny in the moment. I looked at Kiki and said, "Yeah, he is so d-u-m!" in my best valley girl voice. Of all the things you don't want to misspell--idiot. Love it. So now, we love to say "idot".

I know I can be such an "idot" at times. Bless. Thank the Lord that He loves me when I'm making wise choices and also when I am making dumb choices. Where would I be without His unconditional love??

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I figured it was time for another peek at Baby Sam! What a CUTIE! And, as you can tell, his sisters are crazy about him. It scares me to look at Maddie in that picture. She seems so old. CRAZY! We had a great morning together yesterday. Wrestling, laughing, coloring, snuggling--what can be better?

Sheryl and I had a great date yesterday, thanks to Kiki. We spent the afternoon and evening together. We saw Batman Begins and ate some great food at Stoney River. The best part, however, was the quality time together and having un-interrupted conversations. I loved it!

Friday night ZOE traveled to Huntsville. Sheryl wasn't able to go so Clarissa went in her place and did a fabulous job. I'm not sure what I was expecting. I knew it would be a fun trip and I knew that church (Twickingham) had a great reputation. Any expectation was completely blown out of the water. It was such an amazing group of people and such a sweet night of worship. Greg, Lincoln, Mike, Tim, Janet--all of you who made our time there so special, THANK YOU! There were so many neat conversations. I didn't want to leave. WE ended up getting home later because we couldn't stop talking. The trip itself was incredible. Aside from one un-named driver almost killing us. hmmmm. I feel sure there'll be a comment on that one. HA!

This morning we are in John 10, perhaps one of my all time favorite chapters in the New Testament. The promises there are so comforting. Not only are we His sheep, not only will He lead us, but we will hear His voice--and not only hear His voice but be able to discern it from the voice of the enemy. LOVE THAT!

Here's our order of worship for this morning...

Welcome—Tim Woodroof
Family prayer—Tony Swafford/ Jesse Savage
Meet and greet

Praise and Worship—BST
--Blessed Be Your Name
--To God Be the Glory

Readings by praise team
Cong Reading—John 10: 27-30
--I am a Sheep (Jernigan)
--A Shield About Me
--He Leadeth Me

Teaching—Tim Woodroof
--The Joy of the Lord
--Take My Life and Let It Be
--He Knows My Name

Supper—David Carden

Shepherd’s close
--He Leadeth Me (chorus)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Seven years ago tonight, friends from all over the country were coming into Nashville for our wedding. Sheryl and I were filled with nervous anticipation. The fellowship hall had been transformed into a Caribbean tropical paradise and the steel drum player was warming up. Our friends and family were putting on clothes and getting ready to drive over from the hotel. It was really happening. It's one of those surreal moments. You've wondered all your life who you'd end up marrying, or if you would ever marry. Could it possibly be happening? Really? After the rehearsal, the dinner and an interesting night out with the boys at Buffalo Billiards where I was tattooed with a black Sharpie, I knew it was truly happening.

Then, the big day hit. Mike Cope was up front with me prepared to bless our union. Stephen Bailey stood next to me as my best man and at one point reached over to hold me up. A choir of about 20 or so from all over the country sang the most beautiful music I've ever heard directed by Jeff Nelson and Wendy Wray Ogren. John Catchings was melodic and perfect on the cello. Kirk Nofsinger sang and played the guitar and it was heavenly. Then the wedding party began to enter. Nika Maples, Kyle Dickson, Paula Agnew, Shane Holland, Kellie Ingram, Craig Fisher, Phillis Osborn, Josh Morse, Emily Trice, Jeff Gregg, Kim Girdley, Ryan Williamson...then Gail (Sheryl's sister) walked down. As she reached the front, The chorus hit the key change on Shine On Us and Sheryl entered with her father. This is where Stephen had to hold me up. Sheryl was exquisite. Unmatched in beauty. I was a raving mess. I had what is referred to as the "ugly cry" going on. Unbelievable.

Mike, full of humor and heart wrenching stories, preached the perfect wedding ceremony. We left as the band struck up Shout to the Lord and the choir sang with all their hearts. WHAT A DAY!!

The reception was at Woodmont Hills. It was nice and open and non-claustrophobic (my requirement!). 7 years ago this weekend we walked out of the reception as people blew bubbles in the air. We walked out to start our new life together.

One month ago this weekend I preached Jason's wedding, we went to Woodmont Hills for the reception, and we stood outside and blew bubbles as they ran out to begin their new life together. There was one MAJOR difference. The Thomas two had not only become one, they had become FIVE! It was a surreal moment. We stood there remembering our special day, holding our 3 children and praising God for all He's done.

The last seven years have been filled with laughter, love, births, deaths, pain, victory and seeking. I feel like the most blessed man in the world. Praise Your name, O Lord, for making Sheryl Rathbun. Thank you for watching over her, protecting her, guiding her, teaching her to be passionate for you, giving her the most beautiful voice I've ever heard, and leading her to me.

August 15th--what a day!! Happy Anniversary, honey!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Last night was so much fun. Doug and Nan Smith's daughter, Elizabeth Hill, her husband, Tommy, and their 7 children led us in worship. Tommy has put the entire book of Galations to music. The kids were so cute and did such a great job! What a neat family!

After the worship time, Chris Peck shared about Christian Surfers. Chris grew up at Otter Creek--the son of amazing parents. He was baptized like so many of our youth and yet nothing ever really connected. He is truly post modern. He experimented with about every kind of drug available, ran away, spent time as a dealer, etc. He got involved in the surfing culture in South Florida. While coming back through Nashville on a holiday, he met a guy in a coffee shop who began to ask him questions about his life. This guy had also been an addict. The short story is--he and his family offered to pay for Chris to go to rehab. While at rehab, one of the men there shared Jesus with him in a very real and raw way. Chris's first response was--"Dude, I've tried it all--even Eastern religion. There's nothing to any of it." The guy basically said, "It's your choice if you want to die like that"...and flicked the ash from his cigarette and walked away. Chris remembers going to his room and falling to his knees and asking Jesus to show himself.

I'll never forget the Celebration Sunday a few weeks later. Chris had just gotten out of rehab. We asked for 3 people to share what God was doing in their lives. He said that he just wanted to hide but knew he had to say something. He got up and spoke through tears and lots of snot. Chris is now working with Christian Surfers which is an organization that is purely missional--an outreach to surfers. One of my favorite quotes of the night was Chris saying, "Basically, the surfing culture in South Florida is very laid back and mellow because everyone is either a Christian or stoned." It was so encouraging to hear what he's doing. Maybe this is my beach get away???

The rest of the night Chris talked about overcoming his addiction. It was SOO powerful for our teens to hear someone who was so rebellious who is such a cool guy talk about his dependence on Jesus and his deep love for him. What a great night!! I'd highly recommend bringing Chris in to talk--or helping support that ministry financially. They are working to provide the "Surfer's Bible" for as many men and women as possible.

On a different note, I am still working to get my office packed and moved. It's amazing what you can accumulate in 10 years. It's disgusting, really.

One last thing--for those of you who are spending time with your kids talking about Jesus--how are you doing it? I'm curious. We're looking for ways to teach our kids and maybe even something more structured. We're thinking about having a Bible story time with a craft (since Sheryl is so great at that and the girls think that's the funnest thing ever) coupled with some other stuff...maybe like the Monday night dinner with the Room in the Inn folks. But--we need help from those who have tried some things and found something meaningful. I remember rolling my eyes as a kid when it came to family devo time. Boooring. Isn't that awful? I just want to approach it in a way that will really be fun and mean something. I'd appreciate your feedback.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Today we all went to lunch as a staff--all 17 of us (including interns). We created quite the scene at PF Changs. We went to wish Trina well. Trina has been on staff here for 2 1/2 years as an admin assistant and communications coordinator. I am really so sad that she's leaving. But we had a blast at lunch. Pictured left to right: Vicky Atnip (lovely, Vicky), Lee Ann Rice, Emma Phillips, Trina Gehl, and Jordon House.

Sorry for not being the best blogger this week. There've just been too many things eating at me that are not bloggable that it's been hard to even want to write about anything else.

Last night Maddie could tell I was sad and I told her I had a hard day. She kept asking me questions about it--so sweet! (This was at bed time and I was on her bed with it could have partially been to stall :) ) I just told her that sometimes Mommies and Daddies have hard days too. We get sad, we get frustrated, we feel tired--just like she does. As I was saying this a tear slipped out of my eye and she reached up and wiped it. That was all it took. I was smiling at her sweetness but definitely shedding more than one tear at that point. Maddie took my arm and began to "scratch" it (softly). She said, "Daddy, I can tell you a Poppy story. That will cheer you up." So she proceeded to make up a Poppy story about the fair that was so cute and made me laugh and truly did cheer me up. Sometimes it feels weird being vulnerable in front of them. There definitely IS a filter there and should be, but I also don't want them to be able to say that they never saw real emotion from us. I think it helps them know that it's ok.

The ZOE Conference is filling up FAST. If you want to come, please register. I was SHOCKED at how full it already is. I want everyone to be able to come. Maybe one day we'll be able to have it in a place where we can all fit. The max this year is 1200. Registration is somewhere near 800 as of yesterday. That's crazy!

Tonight, Chris Peck is speaking to us at TGIWednesday. Chris grew up in this church but got lost in drugs and alcohol. He overcame them and now runs a ministry to surfers in Florida. It's going to be a cool night!

Thanks for the words of encouragement and prayer. When we head of for St. John, I'll also be sure to write a sticky note so as to not forget Baby Sam. That just goes to show what kind of week it's been. Communication--it's not rocket science. Even though I have a degree in communication, I still botch it up all the time. However, it can not be overstated that communication in churches, in families, in business--is one of the MOST important things. When we fail at that it gives the enemy a foothold. I'm guilty of it a lot of times but this week I've been on the other end of it. It's not fun. Communication breeds trust. And the opposite is also true--no communication can breed distrust. This week I am dealing with my very raw, flawed human response to being on the receiving end (or non-receiving end as the case may be) of all this. I know there have been times when I've made others feel the way I've felt this week and it has really made me stop and think about how I can try harder. We're all flawed. It's just that when those flaws hit head-on, it can really hurt. Praise God for Sheryl who loves me and seems to always know the very right thing to say--even if it's only a hug. I am so blessed!

Peace of Christ to you today.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sheryl found out yesterday that the stint stays in for another two weeks or so. BOOOOO. We were very disappointed. Please keep praying.

We went to the Williamson County Fair Sunday night--what a blast! The girls even got to ride the huge ferris wheel with Paul Young. It was a great family fun night.

Since Monday night I've had my fill of "creamed corn". I just haven't even been able to bring myself to blog about it. And--I can't. Blog about it. I want to take Sheryl and the girls and move to the Caribbean. Maybe we will. At least it's a nice thought.

(for those of you new to this blog, creamed corn= stresses, issues, irritations, communication problems, or really anything else you want it to mean when it's your blog. HA! Ironically, I really LIKE creamed corn. The term just sort of happened to stick last year in a series of similar blogs related to work stuff. Thanks for playing.)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Inspired by my brother and former roommate, Chris Doggett, I am going to list a few things that really bug me right now...or maybe always. All in fun, people. All in fun.

1. People who drive slow in the passing lane...putting on make-up, reading a book, talking on their cell phones. Oblivious.

2. Rubber-neckers. Can I get an amen, Chris?

3. The Kroger commercial right now for 10 for $10. If I have to hear the words "meat weiners" one more time I am going to have to scream. Meat wieners. ugh.

4. People who write notes to you through your church website trying to incite you into an argument. Bless.

5. The most phlegmmy cold I had about a month ago that refuses to let go.

6. Church people who think America is the leading Christian nation and who don't see it as a mission field. (or care about social justice)

7. The eternal overlooking of the side of ranch dressing. (I'm trying to get over it. It's not that big of a deal. I mean it's only happened 2,967,418 times. But-it's ranch dressing.)

8. The irony of #6 and #7 right next to each other and the parts of myself that are exactly like that.

9. Robert Tilton.

10. Dealing with life in the physical. Sheryl's pain and physical issues, my mom's, etc. What will our new bodies be like?

After Rubio's sermon Sunday, I've really been trying to deny myself this week. This list is an indulgence but things like traffic frustration (several notches down from road rage) and ranch dressing are such stupid things to get worked up over. I wish I didn't get as frustrated as I get. I wish that my life were characterized with less selfishness and more giving. That's a prayer request right now for me. Thanks!

Wednesday night was completely amazing. Oh my goodness. Father Strobel was amazing, and the homeless men who came were amazing. I talked with Billy--one of the men--for a while over dinner. He encouraged me beyond words. These guys are really on the path to healing. Have you noticed that there's something inspiring about that? When we meet people who are overcoming pain or heartache or mistakes, there's something in us that wells up with encouragement and cheer. I think it's because, if we're honest, we see ourselves in them. We are all overcoming something. We're all medicating in one way or another. It may not be through drugs, alcohol, or sex. It might be through shopping, or spending lots of money on material things, or being a work-a-holic. Some people medicate through co-dependent relationships. We all medicate to some degree. I found myself so inspired by what I heard from these men. I saw the same need in me. They are a part of a program that gets them back on their feet and the first phase is a centering. They are trying to replace all the other stuff with a centering on Christ and the ability to be silent, confess, and listen. POWERFUL. Don't we all need that?

Sheryl is really hurting. Please pray for her. I am going to spend most of the day at home today helping and trying to tend to the kids so she can rest. The stint comes out Monday. Not a day too soon.

Last night I crawled up in bed with Ella. She gently stroked my face and kept saying, "I wuv you Daddy." My reaction was surprising. I found myself on the verge of really weeping. Such sincerity. Such honest love and devotion. It is one of the truest, most precious gifts of God to be a father. I know you dads out there can relate to me. I am a blessed man.

I pray that your weekend is full of wonderful time with those you love. Thanks again for your prayers.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

These pictures were taken yesterday in Sam's room. I like to call this next little series of pictures, "A Day in the Life of Samuel Scott Thomas".

Baby Sam is thinking..."Ugh--you're squishing me! Hey--hold my head up, please! Um...can somebody please help me??" and finally, "Look, here's how I see it guys (speaking to Maddie and Ella)--you can hold me as long as you aren't too rough or too out of control. I mean, come on, I am only 8 weeks old. Comprende?"

Ahhh--the joys of brotherhood he has in front of him! As you can see, there's no shortage of love from his sisters. It just cracks me up sometime pretending what he could be thinking. It's usually, GOOD GRIEF--get a grip, people!

Now, on to the news you're probably wondering about. Sheryl did really well yesterday in her procedure. It went fast. Basically, there's an artery blocking the urator so the doctor put a stint up there that will stay for a week. 2 weeks from now he'll look at the kidney to see if it's working. If it is, he'll re-route the urator over the vessel. If it's not, he'll remove the kidney. So--please keep praying. Sheryl is in discomfort today, as you can imagine. She can't take pain killers because of nursing--so fun. Please pray that she can get some rest today and feel better.

Couple of other stories for you. Sunday night we had a great time together at Life Group. During prayer request time, I was sharing about Sheryl's surgery and turned to some new friends who were visiting (they are really seeking the Lord but still haven't lost their sometimes salty vocabulary) and said, "Basically, Sheryl has a kidney the size of a football." One of the guys said, "DAY-UM!" and all the air was sucked out of the room. We all laughed and I replied, "Yeah, that's basically what I thought too." Now, that's a classic Life Group moment.

As long as we're rated PG today, I don't know how Ella can be so girly one minute and so Bevis and Butthead the next. They are both into the Annie story right now. I tell it to them at bedtime and we sing some of the songs. (It's actually a GREAT tool for talking about hope and how to treat other people--ie: Annie was sad, had no parents, etc, but sang about hope. AND--Ms. Hannigan treated Annie unfairly but Annie acted with kindness..etc) The very first night we began this little tale I sang the song, "Tomorrow" that we all know. We got through the second line (bet your bottom dollar) and Ella was over in her bed grunting in laughter..."huh, huh, huh 'bottom', you said bottom!" Maddie never gets that stuff. So--they always want to sing it and after much explanation as to what "bottom dollar" means, they can almost make it through that part without losing it. They are like 8 yr old boys. For the love.

Sheryl's parent left today. It was great having them here. We all played cards last night with my mom. What fun! We are so blessed to have loving families. I keep trying to emphasize that to the girls--not everyone enjoys the treasures we have in family and love. I'm so grateful.

Tonight Father Strobel is speaking to us. He, along with an Otter Creeker, began the Room in the Inn program in Nashville years ago. It now involves many different churches and clothes, houses and feeds hundreds of men throughout the cold months of the year. Tonight we'll be hearing about some new opportunities. I am really excited about it.

Have a great day, fellow bloggers.