Friday, September 30, 2005

Thanks for the prayers. We've really needed them. Last night and today have seemed eternal. Ella was miserable all night and her sweet little voice is just a graveled mess right now. She can't even call out for us. So, Sheryl slept next to her and we both tried to tend to her through the night. Maddie continues to say, "Poor ol' Ella". I think it's partially because she feels bad for her and partially because she's very worried about coming down with it herself. (She's a germaphobe like her old man.)

Sam had a rough morning. Poor guy. He cried for about 2 hours straight...all this while my mom had taken Sheryl to the surgery center and Ella was moaning in the other bedroom. He's better this afternoon. (Sheryl is doing GREAT!)

Parenting is tough no matter how you slice it. In the beginning you want to protect them from sickness and there are some things you just can't take away. I imagine that holds true for a lot of other things they'll go through over the next 20+ years. I so desperately want to fix it, but I know I can't.

Meanwhile, ZOE planning is going full steam ahead. Yeee-Hawww! Please, please, please continue to pray for all of us as this week approaches. There's a flurry of activity here, but I so desperately want to have time to be still and KNOW. I really need that this week.

Have a great weekend. PRAISE GOD for this amazing weather!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Please pray for us today if you have a moment. Sam is still recovering. He's just been pitiful, but still smiles all the time--even with those sick eyes. Ella came down with it last night...103 temperature and all. They both have Croup. It's so sad to hear them barking.

Maddie and I left this morning and Ella was not happy about not getting to go to school. Maddie was so sweet as we drove. She kept saying over and over from the back seat in this pitiful little voice, "Poor ol' Ella!" She made me turn off TJ's CD and pray for Ella. Precious!

Rehearsal went well last night. We spent some time on "You Were There". It's going much faster now than it did in the studio. One more week. WOW! Just please pray that if I am going to come down with all this sickness that is can happen BEFORE next week.

We're praying for all of you who are coming. I can't wait to experience what the Lord has in store.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Thanks to the “Lizard of Oz” I woke up at 6:30 this morning hearing the very strange voice of Glenda the “good witch” singing “come out, come out wherever you are and meet the young la-dy who came from a star”. What’s with her voice anyway? It’s a terrifying way to wake up.

Great, great comments yesterday. It’s so cool to know that so many people are interested in education. Both of my parents were educators. My dad was a school administrator after teaching 6th grade for several years. My mom was school librarian, then an LRC coordinator for the Abilene school district and then taught Children’s and Young Adult Literature at ACU for ten years or so. I still remember my father talking about kids and how things were different then than they ever had been. My feeling is, every generation has wondered and dealt with these types of issues. My dad was a very positive leader. His method was to help kids develop a passion for learning. He would have HATED all this test goobledy-gook. (It’s fun to take the kids to Sam Thomas Elementary when we’re in Abilene and tell them that it’s named after their “Poppy”. Some day they’ll understand more about that.) Both of my parents were very influential in the lives of children and helped to shape character and even faith…and all of that was in public schools.

Speaking of school, I almost literally ran into Amy Grant in the parking lot last week. Vince and Amy’s daughter is in school here. All her kids have gone through here. She’s such a neat woman. Have any of you seen her new show, “Three Wishes”? It’s really cool. It’s neat to see her ministering—even on prime time television. (It would have been just my luck to have a collision in our parking lot and it be with her or someone like that...but it would have made for a great story!)

I’m really excited about the conference next week. It’s so hard to believe that one week from tomorrow we’ll be getting started. I have a real sense of anticipation about it!

ZOE’s rehearsing tonight and we’re celebrating Melissa’s birthday. It’s been so fun to sing all these years with people we love. We’ve all sort of grown up together…getting married, having kids, etc. Now we’re also getting to celebrate the upcoming marriage of David’s son. I can’t imagine ministry without these folks. I love them dearly. We’re looking forward to being reunited with Peter too. He flies in from Malibu next Thursday. Cope also comes in Thursday. Can’t wait to see you, bro! Not sure yet when Walling gets in.

Here’s a schedule of events and speakers for those of you who are coming. Maybe this will help give you an idea of what to expect. Word of explanation--Discerning Communities will be assigned when you arrive (much like the Emergent Convention). Affinity Communities are comprised of those who are in similar jobs--like worship ministers, praise team, tech, Elders, children's ministers, etc.

Thursday, October 6
11:00 am – Registration Opens
1:00 pm – Worship
2:00 pm – Discerning Communities
4:00 pm – Affinity Communities
5:00 pm – Dinner Break
6:30 pm – Worship
7:00 pm – Discerning Communities
9:00 pm – Late Night Program (this is when the Otter team and band will do our thing)

Friday, October 7
8:00 am – Affinity Communities
9:15 am – Worship
10:00 am – Discerning Communities
11:30 am – Lunch Break
1:30 pm – Worship
2:15 pm – Discerning Communities
4:00 pm – Worship
4:30 pm - End

Guest Resources:
Mission - Leonard Sweet & Larry James
Kingdom - John York & Wade Hodges
Incarnation - Mike Cope & Randy Harris
Healing - LaJuana Gill & TBA

Leonard Sweet
A popular speaker, Len has written more than twenty books, including the postmodern trilogy AquaChurch, SoulTsunami, and SoulSalsa. His web-based preaching resource in partnership with Group Publishing is .

Larry James
Larry James is President and CEO for Central Dallas Ministries, a human and community development corporation serving inner city Dallas, Texas.

Friday, October 7

5:30 pm – Registration Opens
7:00 pm – Worship--BST and Mike Cope
9:00 pm – Late Night Program (John Chisum Concert and a taize worship experience are two of the choices)

Saturday, October 8
8:30 am – Worship--BST and Jeff Walling
10:15 am – Workshop Session I
11:30 am – Lunch Break
1:00 pm – Michael Card Performance
2:15 pm – Workshop Session II
3:45 pm – Workshop Session III
5:00 pm – Dinner Break
7:00 pm - Worship--BST and Mike Cope

Guest Resources:
Mike Cope, Abilene, TX – Jeff Walling, Charlotte, NC – Michael Card, Franklin, TN – Jill Maxwell, Abilene, TX – Donna Hester, Abilene, TX – Larry & Linda Bridgesmith, Nashville, TN – Larry James, Dallas, TX – Wade Hodges, Tulsa, OK – Randy Gill, Nashville, TN – Brandon Scott Thomas, Nashville, TN – John Chisum, Mobile, AL – Eddie Plemmons, Franklin, TN – Randy Harris – Abilene, TX – John York – Brentwood, TN – Matt Maxwell, Abilene, TX – Media Shout, Nashville, TN and many more.

Workshop Sessions:

Missional Church – Spiritual Direction – Children’s Ministry – Worship Planning – Church Leadership – Recovery Ministries – Youth Ministry – Worship Ministry – Drama Ministry – Audio and Media Ministries – Songwriting – Voice Clinics – Media Shout – Technology – Arranging Music and many more.

Have a blessed day, everyone.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blogging may be sporadic over the next week or so as the ZOE Conference looms. I did want to ask about something though. We have friends teaching in Davidson and Rutherford Counties who are really frustrated with the school system. Apparently, because of "No Child Left Behind" (that's another blog for another day), no teacher is allowed to give a student a failing grade. No child can earn less than 60% on any assignment or test. And, if he or she does not make the grade, the teacher must give endless opportunities to either re-take the test or do the homework over. Any child who is in special ed. cannot receive below a 70% no matter what.

For instance, a student was recently in juvenile detention for 2 weeks. Upon her return, the teacher was instructed to wave all of her assignments from that time and not count them against her...not even requiring her to make any of it up.

Similarly, when students are disrespectful or curse at the teacher, there appears to be little backing from the administration. "Write it up and keep a list" is what they're told. Maybe once a student brings a gun to school then someone might say something. Might.

Upon hearing these stories, I have been angered and disgusted. It appears the state is becoming more and more concerned with the technical "passing" of the student as opposed to them learning anything or having to face consequences. Because, after all, if a student fails, it can't possibly be their fault. What happens when the kid gets into the real world and expects 25 opportunities to get the assignment right? Haven't most of us learned more from our failures thatn our successes?

There's no way to say this is true across the board, but are any of you seeing the same things? A friend recently told me that if she were us, she'd think again about public schools. This was troubling because I believe deeply in public schools and want our kids to have a multi-cultural experience. However, I also value Christian education. I'm a product of both and had valuable experiences in both arenas.

How do you make a decision about this stuff? I'd love to hear you guys weigh in on this and I know there are a variety of opinions on this topic. I don't mean to open a can of worms. I just wonder if any of you are experiencing similar things or have had to wrestle with these issues.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Yesterday an announcement was made about a possible detour in our building program. The Living Word church in Brentwood (formerly Brentwood Baptist) has contacted us and offered to sell us their building. This happened several weeks ago and it's been the buzz around the office, as you can imagine. While I still can't fully blog about this, I must say that it's one of the most exciting possibilities in this LONG 7-8 years of building talk. There are all variations of opinions on the matter, but to me, this would be such an answer to prayer. There are a lot of details to consider and I'm not holding my breath, but I am hopeful.

It's rainy here. The girls are building small towns and dressing their Polly Pockets for action. Of course this is after they watched parts of The "Lizard" of Oz this morning.

Have a happy Monday!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Yesterday we met Geof and Amanda, Lauren and Emily and my mom at Sonic for an outdoor lunch. While we were there this guy walked up to me and said, "Are you Brandon?" (That always terrifies me and makes me want to say, "I didn't do it!") When I told him I was he told me his name and said he used to live on my street in Abilene 25 years ago. Now that's WEIRD. I looked at him and tried to remove 25 years and remembered! He is also a music minister in Nashville. Small, small world.

After lunch we went up to see Geof and Amanda's place. It's so cool! It won't be long til they're both living there--married. The Vickers Family. Amanda Vickers. It's so cool!

Last night it was easier to just stay in (Originally we were bringing the girls up for the Singles' childcare night). We watched "Two Brothers". Even though I had to fast forward through some parts, the girls really loved it. Those tigers were so cute! Thanks for all your suggestions on movies. We've got those stored away.

I'm sitting here this morning listening to "King of Glory, King of Love", which is what we're performing for Christmas at Otter Creek this year. I'm really looking forward to beginning rehearsals. After the ZOE conference, we'll begin.

This morning we're talking about service and I am teaching Clarissa and Michael's new song--"Let Us Be You". (or...Lettuce Baptist University as Chris Yoakum and I liked to call it.)

Have a great day, blog family. It's cool to think that we are joining in fellowship around the table this morning--all ages, all nations, men, and women, the weak and the strong. We are blessed!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

If some natural disaster hit Yemen and they required assistance...

If we sent them "help"--what would it be called?

And could the news anchors call it that with a straight face??

(this blog is inspired by Ella's 2 1/2 year old vocabulary and speech)

PS: Looks like many folks missed the worst of Rita. When you can, let us know how you're all doing down there.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Many prayers are being lifted for those in Texas and especially for those still reeling from Katrina in Louisiana. I cannot even imagine. The reports coming from Texas look very menacing.

As you may have read in the comments yesterday, Sheryl's brothers, Kevin AND Shelby, are staying in Houston with their families. We'll be anxiously awaiting news on how they are doing.

Also, Since my father was from Houston, I have many relatives there. Most of my cousins are staying put too. The lack of gasoline, the interstate parking lots and the risks of trying to get out seemed too much. We'll be praying for you guys.

I heard this morning that there's a chance that Rita could just park over East Texas and dump over 25 inches of rain. I cannot even imagine that. The weather guy said that in New Orleans, the rain had already caused Lake Pontchartrain to rise. Talk about compounding despair. We really need to be praying for them.


Usually on Sunday afternoons around nap time I hear this constant drum one might hear from a car passing when the bass is turned up really high. Eventually, I discovered that it was my neighbor who rehearses on the top floor of his house in the room that faces our bedroom. One night I had to call him about 11:45 and ask him to knock it off. I was THAT guy. I felt bad, but it was loud. And he's such a NICE guy!

Yesterday we were all out for a walk and Maddie was riding her bike and Rick was out washing his car. It was the first conversation we've had in a while. After he poured out apologies over the late night of music, we got to have a pretty cool conversation. Turns out he and his wife moved here from NYC where she was in marketing for a record label and where he used to play drums for groups like Nine Inch Nails and the RAMONES! I was impressed! (I'm not advocating the Ramones here, but still...) So THAT'S why I always think I'm hearing drums. Whew! And I thought I needed to check into Cumberland Heights or something. (Remember how they'd always start hearing drums on Gilligan's Island?) It was cool talking with him and, hopefully, building potential for some dialogue later. Cool guy.


Any suggestions for Movie night this weekend? We may resort to Charlotte's Web again since the girls have been begging for it and Sheryl never got to see it.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Many prayers are going out to those of you in the port cities of TX and LA. Please keep us updated on the state of things.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Here's a somewhat humorous picture of my parents and me at their 25th anniversary dinner back in 1987. Nice glasses, guys.

Here's a picture of my father after one of the large snows that I remember us having in Abilene. Weird--it seems like it snowed more there than here.

I've been thinking about my father lately. I always do around this time of year. I'll post more on that around the 13th or 14th of October. It will be 14 years this year since he died. Almost unfathomable.

Last night as I was tucking Maddie into bed she told me that she had dreamed of Poppy (what we call my dad who she's heard a lot about but obviously never met). She told me that in her dream he was standing by her bed saying a prayer for her. Now, how sweet is that?? I love those moments.


I had a nice lunch today with Adam Ellis and Phil Wilson. It was great getting to actually visit with Adam in person instead of by blog or IM. He's here taking a short graduate level course this week. Phil, well, Phil I get to see on a regular basis. Ah, Phil. Bless him. You know I love you, bud.

Here's a nugget Adam shared with us from John Mark Hick's class this morning on Systematic Theology (or better put, Narrative Systematic Theology). He spoke some about the worship assembly and John Mark said something like, "In the assembly, we are present with God in a way that we are not individually." Quoting from the Hebrews 12 passage about the great cloud of witnesses, he said that sometimes during communion and worship he imagines joining the host of witnesses who have gone before us...including John's son who died...worshiping the Lord and communing at the table. It was a powerful image for me today as I thought about my own dad.


This Sunday at Otter is going to be about service and being the hands and feet of Jesus. Whether it's the washing of feet (John 13) or being an Elder or participating in Katrina Relief...we are called to lay down our lives for each other. There's more coming Sunday that I'm really excited about but can't blog about. Oh, the anticipation!!


As Fajita wrote today, please pray for our BONEHEAD brother-in-law who is refusing to leave the Houston area. Maybe after castigating him on the internet we can guilt him into leaving. For some reason he thinks riding the hurricane out will be fun. Sheryl has 4 siblings in the Houston area. Chuck and his family have evacuated to Austin. Cindy and her family (except for Billy who works for Dow and has to stay because he's part of crisis management or something) are headed to Arkansas to Sheryl's parents' house. Shelby and his family are leaving on Friday. But Kevin is staying as of now. Please pray for them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Warning: I need to rant a bit this morning.

Congratulations, Red Cross of Nashville. You are making a city-wide plea for more volunteers. You've advertised on the news, you're sending out mass email, and you're using organizations like Hands-On Nashville to recruit more help. BUT...B-U-T you CLEARLY want to make it as hard as possible for anyone to volunteer. I've taken your dumb online course that took an hour and was basically useless. I've signed your forms--twice! I've registered online. I've also registered through Hands-On Nashville with whom I've already volunteered through NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). And NOTHING. You say each time you'll get back to me and it's been two weeks. Nothing.

Yesterday I got an email from Hands-On Nashville which pled for more volunteers. When I went to the link it was to the Nashville Red Cross. They wanted me to take this online training course again, which I've already done, promising that at the end of it there was a way to report for duty, which there isn't. Then, when I followed the other link to training sessions, the only date posted was in the past. There was no note of instruction except one saying, "This date is in the past."

I've even been to your shelters. The only way I got my foot in the door was by playing the "clergy card". The directors of the shelters claim there's no need for more help. If that's true, then why the plea for more help?

I knew that interest in helping would wane. I figured that financial support would dwindle. I wondered if the immediate "romantic" idea of helping would pass. But, I have to really hand it to you guys for making it even more impossible for those who are still interested in helping.

Thankfully, there are many, MANY others who have gotten frustrated and started their own helping organizations for real families in need. For those who are looking to help and help NOW, that is definitely the way to go. It's disappointing because, at least in Nashville, it seems you have to be a dectective to actually meet one of these families and try to give them assistance. And now they're saying we're getting 3000 more people?

Thank you for the assistance you're giving. Thank you for the food, clothing, beds, and counseling you're providing. I can only imagine how overwhelming it must feel. But, for the LOVE, get it together before making an appeal for more help. It's completely ridiculous. And that's all I have to say about that.

Now, I must go and eat some Baja Burrito and soothe the savage beast.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Here are some pictures from the weekend...Maddie is so into wearing her "wedding dress" right now. Saturday she got her bouquet and rode her "wedding bike" all around the downstairs. She's enamored with the idea of weddings right now. I think Alisha's wedding this summer was the trigger.

Geof held Sam through a lot of our life group meeting Sunday night and Sam was loving it. Geof had the touch!

Last night Maddie and Ella went off by themselves. We found them in their room sitting on Ella's bed reading books. What a JOY!

Maddie and Ella wanted to pose together after story time.

I had coffee this morning with Charlie Brandon. Officially, he's a "former" elder at Otter Creek. But, in reality, there's no such thing. He has a shepherd's heart. It was of great encouragement.

My heart is heavy today for people going through stuff. It's so hard to offer it up to the Lord and not want to "fix" it. I'm also feeling like the ZOE conference is blowing in and I have a tiny little umbrella. There's a lot left to do. I'm meeting tomorrow night with the band to rehearse for the instrumental time on Thursday night the 6th. I think we're going to do some Lincoln Brewster stuff as well as some instrumental versions of songs off of In Christ Alone. What I LOVE about the ZOE conference is that God collects these people from all over the country and the world on that weekend and does something that none of us can even imagine. Just pray for discernment for me in my planning. I'm SO overwhelmed every year about this time with the honor of being a part of that weekend. It is so humbling to know that God works in spite of me and such an honor to be a part of that. I always leave feeling like God spoke to me through people who come. It is truly an emotionally draining weekend--in a great way!

Have a great Tuesday. Thanks for your prayers for the conference.

Monday, September 19, 2005

There is no way I can even describe what happened yesterday at Otter Creek. In fact, to even attempt to get into all of it would somehow cheapen it. Suffice it to say, it was an incredible morning. We had multiple responses. It's like the Lord is really lifting the veil on brokenness and renewal is happening in ways that are blowing my mind.

I sat next to Jeremy and Hailey Hiett during first service. As I listened and then saw people pouring out their hearts before the Lord I was taken back about 8 years ago before I was married when Jeremy and I were roommates. Jeremy walked with me through a very difficult time and showed me the unconditional love of Jesus. It was a powerful moment reliving that yesterday.

Last night at life group we had similar experience. So many people sharing from the depths of their hearts in a truly confessional way. I just can't get over what God is doing in our midst.

Have you ever noticed that confession breeds confession? The enemy tells us in the recesses of our minds that if we confess, it will drive people away. "If they knew how you REALLY are, no one would love you," he says. The reality is, some people do respond like that, unfortunately. However, when the Spirit is moving, what happens more times than not is that confessing allows others to share their struggles too. We're seeing that right now and I praise GOD for it.

Today we went to Granny White Park and spent the afternoon with our friend Shelly and her daughter, Caroline. Shelly is the short blonde who sings in Point of Grace. Weird story, but we go way back to movie nights with Jeff Berry and Heather (another POG girl). The weirder thing is that long before they were married or even thought about it, her husband, David, and I became friends in early in 1990 when I interned at Reunion Records. Later, after moving back to Nashville, I discovered that Sheryl was working for him at the William Morris Agency. Go figure. Such a small, small world. He and Shelly later married and then had Caroline. Caroline and our Ella are almost the same age. It was fun to catch up and spend some time hanging out. We also took the jogging stroller so that the girls and I could go for a little run. Bless my old fat body. I'm trying to get back in shape. I know, I've been saying that for a while, but it seems this time it's actually happening. Slowly but surely. Why is it so easy to put weight on and so difficult to take it off?

My heart is full of praise for what's happening in our lives and in the lives of our friends and church family. Although there are many, many difficult situations and it seems that some lives are coming unraveled, I see the hand of God working in our midst in ways I haven't seen in YEARS. And, I'm finding the freedom to be more open about my own struggles. God is good. I told Sheryl that it seems like almost overnight something happened and all of a sudden we ministers are overwhelmed with the things that we really SHOULD be about. I LOVE IT.

Praise God for His timing and for the Spirit who keeps reminding us that this world is NOT our home. Therefore, anything we seek to fill us up from this world will only hurt us or distance us from the true Source of Life. It's so much easier to write that than live it, but I'm finding such strength in community to walk that road. For that, I'm so grateful!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

It was a great weekend of family. We tried Alice In Wonderland last night for our family movie night. Neeexxxxt.

Katey Earles went to the Mall with us yesterday and she got a first hand experience of the three-ring circus it can be. She was a great help! She even got to stay for movie night. The girls were glad.

This morning we're studying John 12 and Tim is talking about seeking the praise of God over the praise of man. Wow. No matter what he says on the topic, it's already convicting. I want to seek His praise only. I know that I don't.

I hope you guys all have a great morning worshiping the Lord. Please pray for us. A close friend is responding this morning in second service. I know it will especially difficult.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Last week Paul Johnson brought to my attention that the front cover of our new CD looked like the statue of the robed Christ behind the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square in New Orleans. The designer confirmed that it is that very statue. He had taken the picture while in New Orleans a couple of years ago. And--he finished the CD cover earlier this summer...before Katrina.

In the picture above you can see that only the finger was broken. The statue remained in tact. This is a shot through the fallen debris. Thank you to Paul for these pictures.

I couldn't believe the irony. WOW. It reminds me of September 11, 2001. We were preparing to present our conference titled "Deep Calls to Deep" with sort of a lament theme. We had no idea what would happen on 9/11. A lot of people were feeling the need to lament that year...for many different reasons.

The conference theme this year, In Christ Alone, will be about being a missional church. What does that look like, what does that mean? I just can't get over the irony. As we sat last Novemeber 2004 to begin plans, we all felt that burning in our hearts about a missional theme. And now, in ways we haven't seen in decades, the church is getting outside themselves and into the lives and hearts of people. It wasn't planned, it wasn't even wanted. It just happened. I'm not saying that God is responsible for Katrina by any means. But, as we all reach out and give of ourselves, we're getting a crash course in what it means to be missional. I do believe that God's hand is in that.


Lauren Gingles....what a blessing to our family. With three kids, babysitting can be expensive. Thankfully, we have my mom and Kiki who are so great to help. But, Lauren, who is not a part of our physical family (but definitely a member of our spiritual family), calls us almost weekly to ask when she can come give us a night out. What a gift! Thank you, Lauren!! We had a great dinner last night with Geof and Amanda. We laughed and talked wedding stuff. I am going to be a groomsman. I'm really honored to stand with Geof. So, we'll be flying to TX in November to sing and participate in their great weekend.

I took this last night of Sam. He's such a little boy! (even if he is subjected to sitting in his sisters' old bouncy seat!) It's cool to see him developing and loving his sisters. Not a day goes by that I don't praise God for the gift of my children and wife.

I'll close with this great prayer by St. Augustine. (Thanks to my mom for this. She's using it in her Spiritual Formation class on Sunday mornings at Otter Creek.) There are some folks really hurting at Otter right now. This was very encouraging for them. I hope it can be for you today as well.

God of our life,

There are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down;

When the road seems dreary and endless, the skies gray and threatening;

When our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage.

Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise,

Tune our hearts to brave music;

Give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age;

And so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life,

To your honor and glory!

St. Augustine

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Before we get started today...guess where the picture on the front of our new CD came from. The correct guess, and it's unreal, will get a free CD. Paul Johnson gets the credit for noticing this one.

There are several books I'd like to write someday. I've not sure when that will ever happen and really only a couple of these are viable.

1. I'd like to write a book about embarrassing moments. I mean, come on, who is more qualified? On that note, this morning a friend sent me an email with an attachment from someone else. The attachment was quirky and I made some comments about it and ended up sending it to THAT person instead of my friend. Perfect. Good job, BST. Some things never change.

2. I want to write a children's book about the reverse of growing up--or maybe the beauty of being a child. Maddie would always say things like, "Daddy, when you get little you can sleep on a bed like mine!" Or, "Daddy, when you get little, you can play with toys like these." There's a book in there somewhere.

3. I'd like to write a book about grief. I remember going through such a rough time after losing my goodness, such a rough time. I remember going to the Christian bookstore and searching for hours for something that I could identify with. The only books on dealing with grief that were available were, in my opinion, completely retarded. I've had some email correspondence over the years with other friends going through grief struggles. A part of me wants to write a book and call it "Letters to Tony" (or some other made-up name). I think that when I was in the middle of that it might have helped to read the real struggles of others to know I wasn't alone. Maybe a peek into someone's journey to healing could be of help. Who knows?

4. Then there's always the worship book. I have lots of ideas here. Maybe a tie between some passages in Isaiah and Matthew. But, the market is so saturated with worship-type books. I'm not sure that we really need another one.

5. And lastly, I'd love to write a book of collected stories and ideas on the missional church...practical ways to get the church off their collective butts and into the community. It seems to me there are a number of books talking about the importance of it and even some that share stories, but I think we need some good, solid ideas and suggestions. I'm not saying I'm the one to write that one. I just really love the idea.

On a similar note, Teresa Kelly at Otter Creek has orchestrated an adopt a school program for one of Nashville's inner city schools, Kirkpatrick Elementary. Different groups are adopting each class room. For instance, the "mature" classy group who call themselves the "Ya-Ya's" are taking the entire 1st grade. They'll split up the classes so that each of them will be a room mother to one class. I am a room father to a 4th grade class. I'll be getting to spend this year with Ladarius, Santangila, Mercedes, Ty'Quisha, DeQuan, and name only a few. The goal is to get involved in the lives of these kids and families and to provide an opportunity for all Otter Creekers to get outside themselves. We're partnering with an African American church in the inner city to provide a Thanksgiving dinner in November. That should be fun. In fact, once I get started with my weekly room parent stuff, I'm SURE I'll have some good stories. Don't worry, I'll only share what's appropriate to share. (well, "appropriate" is subjective, now isn't it?)

Lastly, and I know this is long. Sorry. Here's a blurb for all you OC folks out there. This is from Doug. We need your resources TODAY! I'll sign off here. Blessings!

All of the household furnishings and furniture donated and warehoused at the King House are already 100% depleted and placed with some of Katrina’s relocating families. Otter Creek has furnished 4 apartments completely but more donations are needed desperately. The requests for more are still coming and the King “Warehouse” is empty. Another 16 apartments have been donated and families are ready to take occupancy but these families will need everything for their new homes: furniture, beds, linens (kitchen, bed & bath), kitchen ware, lamps, EVERYTHING. Please take donations to the King House as soon as possible. If you cannot deliver your items, please call the church office to arrange for pick up. May God be glorified through these efforts.

Thank you, Otter Creek family, for all you do!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

As my bro-in-law, Chris (Fajita), put it, "The romance of Katrina is coming to an end." Now, you may think "romance" is a weird term, but I think it's dead on. In the wake of tragedy there are concerts, benefits, news stories, headlines, etc. We're now coming to the grim reality of what we're left with after the immediate drama of Katrina. We're left with many homeless and jobless people who are still searching for family members and a way to put their lives back together.

Charles Marsallis and his family are from New Orleans and they are living with Jerry and Sandra Collins. Charles is working at Otter Creek right now with Ed Rucker helping with maintenance. As we talked yesterday about all the needs, you could see the overwhelmed look in his eyes.

Linda Green and her son Jonathan are staying with Otter Creek member, Betty Brigham. They, along with the Marsallis family, were stranded in the balcony of their church for a week. When her son, Jonathan, went to find food, the rescuers came and everyone had to leave. Linda and Jonathan were separated from each other for several days until learning that each one was safe. They are now reunited and a part of our family.

The stories go on and on. We have partnered with another church in Nashville who is placing families in apartments and empty houses. Our role is supplying furniture. It's a huge thing to take on and seems a bit overwhelming. We've organized a furniture supply at the King House on our new property. We're asking everyone to bring donations of furniture. Please--no junk. We already have quite a bit and have been getting the place organized. It will be manned from 4-7pm Monday-Friday. We need volunteers, we need men who can lift, we need people who can make deliveries, and we need people to help organize the stuff as it comes in. Please call Doug at the Otter Creek office (615) 373-1782 if you have furniture to donate or want to help in any way. Yesterday was our first day. We had lots of furniture and it's already gone and in the hands of those families who needed them. I'm really excited about that!

Doug and a huge group of OC folks are leaving tomorrow at 6am for Picayune, MS. They'll have to cross FEMA borders to get through. They are taking 8000 bottles of water, cleaning supplies, chain saws, you name it. One of the nurses from the area wrote asking everyone to come prepared--physically and mentally. They haven't been able to even get to removing the bodies so the authorities have resorted to putting an "x" in blue tape across all areas with dead bodies. She said there are x's everywhere--over cars, piles of debris, houses, stores, everywhere. Please also be in prayer for those going. This will be life-shaping for many of them.

On a lighter note, we are meeting tonight to rehearse for the upcoming conference. It's been a while since we've all been together and I'm really looking forward to being with ZOE again. There's nothing like family! We're also working on last minute conference details. Our praise band and I will be doing a late night worship time on Thursday. John Chisum will be doing a worship night on Friday night. Michael Card will be playing on Saturday. There are a lot of cool things coming. Randy Gill and Chiz will be handling worship for the leader's conference (Th-Fri afternoon) and then ZOE and I will lead through the weekend at the main conference. Those of you bloggers who are coming, leave a comment and let me know. I'm excited to see you all!

Tonight is Vespers and ZOE rehearsal. It's a beautiful day in Nashville! I hope your Wednesday is full of peace.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Three cheers for Sheryl! Rochester College (formerly Michigan Christian College) just named her the Outstanding Alumnus of the year for Christian Service. Way to go, honey! Now you're old like me! This award will be given the first weekend of October. We're proud of you, Babe!!!

Amazing morning yesterday at the Creek. My favorite quote went something like this...
"There is NO SHAME in the struggle. The shame comes from the secrecy. And our secrets are polluting our assemblies."

How encouraging AND CONVICTING! One small step for Otter Creek. One giant leap for those desiring authenticity.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

We had fun at the Greek Festival yesterday...even if it felt like it was 102 degrees. We normally go at night, but decided to try the day time when the crowd would be a little less. Now I know why there's such a crowd at night! It's cool enough to enjoy yourself. Here's Maddie enjoying a ride on "Lady Bug".

Ella also had fun riding "Dusty". They were so excited about the ponies. I got to tell them about my pony growing up, "Tiger" (OK--so I had animal confusion). After watching Charlotte's Web I also got to tell them about my pig, Wilbur, and show them pictures. One day I'll post that picture, but it's in the embarrassing category of my time performing for Norwegian--and maybe worse.

Adrian and Shelly Church went with us and reluctantly allowed me to snap this picture of them inside the Greek Orthodox sanctuary. I'm so glad they live here now.

One of the highlights of the Greek Festival is always watching the dancers. Maddie and Ella loved it. Maddie would not go dance with them but later imitated everything she saw them do.

This morning is the anniversary of 9/11. We're also all still feeling the effects of Katrina. So, we're going to talk about storms this morning. The storm of life. There are many lives experiencing terrorism of the soul and winds blowing against their marriage and their very will to go on. Sometimes it's good to stop and acknowledge our desperate need for Jesus. As the Psalmist said, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

May your day be blessed as you remember the love and gift of Jesus.

Friday, September 09, 2005


It cost me $54 to fill up my Blazer yesterday. I wanted to make a protest right there, but I was just glad gas was only $2.99 a gallon. I thought it'd be interesting to see what prices you guys are paying out there. Leave it in the comment section at the bottom of today's post.

And now for something completely different and light hearted for this Friday...

Speaking of the price of gas...(sorry--Mom, stop reading HERE) now that I am sharing an office with our Senior Minister (or Director of Ministries), I'm finding that there are all kinds of cramps in my style. This is especially true in the area of freely being able to expel. Yeah. That's another price of gas I'm dealing with. The freedom to just tear it up in the privacy of one's own office is extremely valuable.

There was a precious woman who USED to work at Otter Creek (come to think of it...maybe this is why she's no longer here). It was like this sick timing. EVERY single time I passed gas in my office somehow she was near and needed to speak to me about something in my office. I remember hearing that knock and thinking to myself...good grief, it never fails. In she'd come and try her best to talk to me through the cloud of green smoke. She'd always have this sort of squinty expression like she was wishing for an oxygen mask or something. Bless. She MUST have thought I was the most vile individual on earth. You might too, now that you've read this. But, seriously, it NEVER failed. It became a joke.

Now, I am sharing an office with Doug Sanders. While I value my freedom of "expression" I also value my roommate. It's hard...all these gas wars. Yes, very hard. We're all paying the way or another.

Tonight's movie night...Charlotte's Web and Newsies! Mom's coming over to join in the fun. Sheryl's getting a much deserved girls' night out. This weekend is also the Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Church on Franklin Rd. It is NOT TO BE MISSED. If you're in or near Nashville, go check it out.

Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

YEA!! Today is the official release of IN CHRIST ALONE!

If you've pre-ordered, it's on its way. Thanks, everyone!

Doug went down to Clearview Baptist last night--one of the Red Cross shelters here. He said that many of the survivors from Katrina were in the parking lot and it had this "camp" feel. They were playing their guitars and jamming. The music was obviously Cajun and kids were dancing in the parking lot. I'm thankful they could find some respite in music last night.

We are working to narrow the focus here. There are so many people wanting to help and all efforts seem to be a shotgun approach at best. Perry and Paul Rogers who are now with us minister with the inner city church in New Orleans. We hope to help them track down folks from that community in shelters and bring them to Nashville and house them with our members.

We're also partnering with a church in Bay St. Louis (where the eye of the hurricane hit). They've lost everything--EVERYTHING. We felt like partnering with one group would help us build relationships with them and give an in-road into the community there. We hope to be taking 2-3 groups over the next couple of months with chain saws and shovels to help them dig out. Anyone want to go?

One other thing for you Otter folks out there--we're trying to form a clearing house for furniture. There are people in Nashville right now who are being given housing but they have NOTHING. Yesterday Doug took mattresses to a family who got placed in an apartment. There was absolutely NOTHING in the apt. They need cooking utensils, couches, chairs, etc. We decided that since that will be a pressing need maybe we can help there. So, Otter Creekers, get your furniture ready. We're hoping to have a clearing house out on the King property.

Sheryl is doing better. Neither of us got much sleep night before last. Every child was up 2-3 times in the night. Must have been a full moon. Or could it be that Code Red I gave them before bed?? Just kidding. So, last night we were asleep by 9:30 or so. I feel like a new man today. Praise God for rest! I know that one of the families who is with us at Otter Creek is having to leave the light on all night for their children. You can only imagine the trauma involved after all they've experienced. I'm grateful for rest and pray that they'll be able to find peace soon.

Lunch today with Justin Mundie was amazing. Thanks, brother. "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity..." Ps. 133. I praise God for you, bro, and for the impact you're having on lives at MTSU, whether you realize it or not!

Also, can I just say THANK YOU to the food ministry at Otter Creek? For cryin' out loud. These folks have really saved us over the last week. And it keeps on coming. THANK YOU!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Immediate needs in Nashville--
There is a convoy leaving this afternoon and then again on Saturday from the Crieve Hall Church of Christ. They have specific needs. If any of you in Nashville have time to run by the store during lunch and drop a sack off at CH, please do. They are leaving today at 4pm.

--sheets, pillow cases
--Hand towels
--plastic utensils
--non-perishable foods
--cleaning supplies of all kinds
--baby food
--Children's clothing

There's also another drop in Cool Springs. If anyone is interested, email me for directions. They are taking clothing of all varieties today and tomorrow.

Chad Jarnigan and I are working to plan some sort of worship night/benefit for the Hurricane survivors who are here. (Does anyone else think "refugee" is a media term? I hate that term. While they ARE refugees, it only seems to add to their despair to call them by that term.) We're contacting other artists to try and plan something encouraging for these folks in Nashville...soon to be over 20,000.

The needs only grow daily. Here's a thought about housing from's a definite issue when you have kids. While it sounds bad, we still have to be careful and discerning. However, if there's someone else you're close to who is willing, move in together and allow a family or two to take the empty home for a while. Some of you may be finding success with housing surviving families, but we are running into real problems here with the Red Cross. They don't even want to talk about individual families opening their homes for fear of liability. And I can understand that. So...all that to say, there ARE ways to still help while being wise and discerning.

Yesterday Ella was going all over the house saying, "We need to give them that piano. They don't have a piano. We need to give them this high chair. They don't have a high chair. We need to give them our van. We could all ride in Daddy's car and baby Sam could just ride in the back (the hatch)." So cute. We have a real opportunity to teach and show our kids what it means to give of ourselves. Last night Maddie was upset at some of the stuffed animals we were collecting to take with the clothing. Sheryl told her to look around at the playroom full of toys and think about it. That did the trick. This morning she told me that she dreamed that someone came in and took all her toys away. Then she said..."It wasn't really that bad." HA!

Keep sharing your stories and ways to help. I know, at least for me, it's very inspiring!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One of the things that we were so sad about last Thursday was that we missed the girls' fist day of school...and Ella's true first day, ever, of school. So, today we took pictures and video and acted like it was the real first day. Here are two back-to-school beauties.

I've sensed this collective depression over what's happened in the Gulf. We're feeling it at our house. The girls always want to watch the news and pray for the people and Sheryl and I are trying to get certain images out of our minds long enough to sleep at night. Last night, with abdomen throbbing, Sheryl said, "We can't go one more day without doing something."

So...not sure exactly what that is. Are any of the rest of you finding it hard to find ways to do hands-on helping? There's always the dropping off of food and clothing and that seems easy--needed, but easy. I just want to go help. It's weird how difficult it's been this morning to track down information about Red Cross training. Thankfully, Linda Benthal, one of our missionaries to China is here in the states and has extra time so she's helping to coordinate Otter Creek efforts for Katrina survivors. Doug, Steve Sherman and Beck Cowart took off for Mississippi today with a huge truck and trailer full of supplies and water. Linda's helping us who are here figure out the best way to direct our efforts.

Sheryl continues to heal. Yesterday wasn't as good, but she's making steady progress. Thanks for your prayers.

Prayers. I feel like I am running out of words. What to pray? How to come before God in all of this. He truly is God above the storm and over the flood, but it seems to me that all I really want to do in prayer is be quiet. I don't understand this whole thing and I still trust Him, but I feel like my words are blather at this point. We're praying for comfort and safety. We're praying that God would soothe loneliness and grief and we're praying for provision. Other than that...I am at a loss.

One thing I DO know...God sees and knows about the pains and hurts more thoroughly and completely than CNN, FOX, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, any governor or President or even survivor. Even if he seems distant, He sees. He is in the hands of those comforting. He is in the arms of those rescuing. He is food and water. He is with those dying. He is Emanuel, God with us. It's hard to even say that and not feel like a cheesy Christian commercial. But I believe it. It's a part of the tapestry of my life. I don't even feel like I am choosing to believe it. I believe because it is in the core of my being. Even though I doubt and want to shake my fist somewhere--heaven, govt.--somewhere, I still believe.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

We've had a good weekend. Sheryl is really sore, but recovering well. Her parents have been a great help and my mom too. Kiki spent the day with us yesterday helping me with the girls. Each night has ended with a laughter-filled game of "13". Even Sheryl played the first few hands last night.

We are so grateful for the many, many prayers. There have been churches praying for her healing and we are so thankful for the prayerful support. Please continue to pray. She still has a couple of procedures left--nothing major.

My brother-in-law, Fajta, has been writing some especially good blog entries about the hurricane and the situation we find ourselves in. Check out his link over there to the right.

So many of you are writing or calling with amazing stories of helping those so devastated. I feel like I am getting to live through you vicariously. Hopefully, we'll get to visit a shelter this week. I'm hoping that ZOE can travel to Louisiana to sing. Keep praying, Andrew! All you blog readers out there keep sharing your stories. It's such an encouragement to so many to show how we can take our light to those who are hurting.

This morning we are still in John 11. I know we'll have some folks with us who've lost homes or friends in the storm. I pray that the message of resurrection from our own spiritual death will be encouraging. Even in the midst of unbelief, there is hope. It's so hard to see though. The scenes from CNN and FOX are burned into my head. How long, O Lord? We need you.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Yesterday was a long one for all of us. Sheryl's surgery began at 8:00am and lasted until 1pm. We'd been sitting in the surgical waiting room watching all these doctors come visit with families and about 1:15 a nurse came over and said, "Are you Mr. Thomas?" I said that I was and she asked if I had any other family with me. I began to get nervous and told her, "yes". She said, "Doctor Dasari would like to meet with you and your family down the hall in a private room."

I freaked. PRIVATE ROOM?? Why the private room? Why not just say everything's fine? Why is he not here himself like the other doctors?

So, we followed her down the hall and sat in this little room with couches waiting, waiting, waiting. 10 minutes Dr. Dasari. I don't know when my stomach has ever been in knots like that. Sheryl's parents and my mom were with me and we were all just looking at each other.

FINALLY, the doctor walked in and said everything went well and that she was in recovery. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief. He spent about 20 minutes with us and was very thorough. We liked him very much. He did an amazing job. PRAISE THE LORD!!! I have never been so glad to see her!

Sheryl is still there and may not get to come home until Saturday. We're waiting to get the word. I'm waiting for Sam to wake up from his morning nap so that I can go up and see her.

Praise God for community! Yesterday between my mom, Sarah Williamson, Jill Young, Lauren Gingles, Katey Earles, Molly, Amanda and who knows who else...our kids were well taken care of. In fact, they enjoyed the bustle of different people playing with them throughout the day. They also had their first official day of school since it got cancelled on Monday because of Katrina.

While we waited for 5 hours until the surgery was completed I watched CNN. Horrible, horrible conditions. I just can't fathom. Talk about a time for people who love God to stand and make a difference! I've read blogs with people talking about the philosophical significance of such a disaster and the wealth of America. I've read people jabbering about economic policy. I feel the same way as many of my friends do who've written those posts...I just can't bring myself to even blog about it. The irony just seems too thick. Here we are blogging from our comfy chairs in our air-conditioned offices or homes, maybe eating or drinking something. It just makes me sick to my stomach. All those people starving and dying. We need to keep blogging and writing and calling people to action. BUT--we can't stop there. There needs to BE action. Thanks for the link yesterday, Jana!

THANK YOU for your prayers for Sheryl. Please continue to pray. Pray that she can come home tonight. We love you all.