Monday, October 31, 2005

Ella's prayer tonight:

"Dear Gahh... tank you for Jesus Chriiis. Tank you for Jesus. Tank you that he wants to live in our tummies. Tank you that he lives in Mommy's tummy. Tank you that he lives in Daddy's tummy, sissy's tummy and Baby Sam's tummy. (Sheryl whispers,"In our hearts...") Tank you for our hearts. Tank you for my friends' hearts. Tank you for Jamie's heart. Tank you for Adell...Mommy, Adell was Jo-Jo for Halloween!! Tank you for Miss Betsy and Ms Teresa. And that's all."

Oh of my favorites so far!! This is when we wish we had the digital recorder in there with us. What made it even better was Ella's infamous little raspy voice.

Lots of neighborhood Batmen, princesses, unicorns and Buzz Lightyears. More about tonight and last night at trunk-or-treat tomorrow.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Yesterday was the perfect Fall day! Sheryl had a day of relaxation and time with friends and the kids and I had a blast together. Katey came over and was a huge help. The day went off without a hitch--except for about and hour in there when Ella and Sam melted down at the same time. At one point while I was up with Sam, Ella crawled under the table to just sit and scream. That girl can wake the dead. No lie.

Here are some pictures of our day...

We began with carving pumpkins. The girls helped. Once we carved them out, we baked the seeds and ate a toasty Fall snack. (I feel like I'm writing an article for Martha Stewart. Except she would probably call the pumpkins "orange globes" or something.)

Katey is a wiz with Sam! This pic cracks me up! It looks like the baby with the world's largest head.

After carving pumpkins we went outside and played in the leaves! The girls loved it. It was a beautiful day!

Sam was not going to miss out on the action. It was sunny, but very chilly! He liked watching Maddie and Ella play.

The back of our yard has quite an incline. There's a tree swing that the girls LOVE playing on. Last week I was pushing Ella (they love to go high) and she let go. After flipping through the air, she landed on her back and rolled. Scared me to death. She only suffered a few scrapes and, obviously, it didn't keep her from getting back on yesterday!

After naps, Sheryl suggested we all go eat at the El Texano grill. It's in Nolensville and rivals Joe Allen's. It's a Texas BBQ place that feels very authentic and is constructed much like Joe Allen's or Cahoots in Abilene. The Texas OSU game was even on!

I had ribs, brisket and sausage--yummmmm! (It was my splurge for the weekend!) The girls had brisket tacos.

It was a wonderful day! After the girls went to bed Sheryl and Katey got busy working on their costumes for trunk-or-treat. Sheryl's abilities at pulling rabbits out of her hat in constructing things never ceases to amaze me. She's definitely INCREDIBLE! (Mrs. Incredible, that is!)

This morning we're talking more about the Holy Spirit and the gift of PRESENCE. What a powerful gift! Isn't it wonderful to know we're all connected today? He is with us, in us, and all around us. May the peace of Christ guard your hearts this morning.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Today was awesome--more on that tomorrow with pictures. The perfect fall day!
Here's a near word for word transcript of my bed time conversation with Maddie and Ella:

Daddy: Girls, tomorrow morning we go to worship! Do you know why we go?

Maddie: Because Jesus is Love!

Daddy: RIGHT, Maddie! Wow--that's so cool!

Ella: Mommy says I can't have any peanut butter.

Daddy: I know, Ella. Girls, did you know that God is always with us? When you're afraid you can talk out loud to Him and say, "God, please be with me!"

Maddie: Do you remember when Baby Sam was in Mommy's tummy and I would sing "Twinkle Twinkle" to him?

Daddy: Yes!

Ella: I love Sissy.

Daddy: Me too!

Maddie: Daddy, you know when I said that about 'Jesus is love'...I was just thinking about it and said it.

Daddy: That's good, Maddie. Did you know that the Holy Spirit is God's presence in us and He helps us think about those types of things?

Ella: oooooohhhh--eeeeeeee!!! I love the Holy Spirit!!! (in this weird voice--loopy because it's bedtime)

Maddie: Sometime I want to be the Holy Spirit for Halloween.

Daddy: Let's pray.

Night-night, everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Baby Sam got slighted a bit yesterday with all the pictures of his big sisters. This is a typical expression for Samuel Scott Thomas. Happy, joyful, charismatic, laid back--all these describe this boy. His sisters were making him laugh this morning and I captured this photo of him.


A friend called me this week to tell me he'd voted for ZOE after getting the Grammy Nomination forms. I had heard "Desperate" was on there but hadn't opened my forms or logged on to vote yet. We're one of 30 listed under Gospel choirs or special groups in the Christian Music section. If any of the rest of you out there are members of the Recording Academy, check it out and vote. I can't really solicit votes, and, frankly, there's no possible way we'll make it to the next (final) voting stage...but...! Brad--you may be the only one. Vote!


Speaking of weird things with ZOE--this is hi-larious...I got this random email from the folks at Gaylord looking for choirs to audition to sing at the opening night for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show that comes here each year. I noticed that the audition piece had to be unaccompanied so it intrigued me. However, the date is when I'm in TX. Just on a whim I sent an email back to them saying I thought it was a cool idea and to keep us in mind for the future. I attached a clip of "Living Prayer" and "You Were There". The lady called me back saying she loved the songs and had forwarded them to the execs at Gaylord. I was cracking up. They want to work out an alternate time for us to come and sing for them. Now, here's a hi-larious thought--ZOE and the Rocketts!! I've always thought that the key change on "Days of Elijah" needed a kick line. Maybe now's our chance. In all seriousness though,there would never be a more apropos moment to sing "One of these things is not like the other" acappella! (Can't you just imagine the "Spiritual Sword" write-ups?)


I've been doing really well on my new diet and exercise regimen. So far I think I've lost about 14 pounds. And then...dum dum dum...I'm in Kroger this week and I see my diet nemesis. Eddy's Special Edition Peppermint Ice Cream. The good news is...I didn't eat it in one sitting. The better news is, I ran it off the next day.


Tonight, the Crislers are coming over. We're looking forward to spending some time getting to know them better. Tomorrow Sheryl is having a little vacation day. She's using a nice gift package at Blue River Canyon Day Spa (thanks to Stephen and Stephanie Bailey!!) and having lunch with friends. So, I'll be hearing that country song, "Mr. Mom" in my head all day long. Katey is coming to help. It's fall--maybe we'll just throw them all in a pile of leaves and be done with it. Hmmmm. On second thought, perhaps the park would be better.

I hope the weather wherever you are is as beautiful as it is here. This weekend is supposed to be the climax of the leaves changing colors (sorry to all you West Texans--mesquite trees losing their beans just don't count). Sunday night is trunk-or-treat and we've had almost 500 people say they're coming and those are the ones who've RSVP'd!! 109 of those are from our inner-city Lindsley Ave. Daycare. It will be a fun night.

Have a great weekend, blog family!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Warning--another long blog with pictures. Last night was Parade of Bible Characters. The pictures begin there. It was absolutely hilarious and a lot of fun. The clues are always very interesting. It's chaotic, but a great learning tool for the kids (and adults too!).

Maddie and Audra pose as they wait to go "on stage". They make pretty cute Spiritual Gifts! Brad wrote our clues and did a great job! Sheryl and Dawn did a great job on the "gifts"! Maddie was the "gift of compassion" which is definitely true for her. Ella was at home sick. Bless.

The fellowship hall and long classroom hall are places of chaos as the parents try to round up the kids and get them lined up all while keeping up with their clues! This is our good friend, Daniel Green, with his youngest daughter, Caroline.

Maddie teamed up with Audra and Carmen Crisler and went as "Spiritual Gifts". They were so cute!! However, as M.C., I was definitely stumped again. Philip Henry commented that the title of the evening should have been, "An Exercise in Old Testament Ignorance". Perhaps we'll change it next year.

After the parade of Bible characters, Miss Janet read a story to the boys and girls called The Spider and the Scarecrow. It's about God's gift of friendship with Him and with each other. Afterwards, she prayed over all the children.

Maddie and her buddy, Darcy Colvert, posed for a picture after the festivities were over. Darcy's mommy and daddy are very involved in the music ministry here. Sonya is a wonderful singer and Bobby plays about 5 million different instruments.

This morning Maddie and Ella had their school parties. There are some great pictures of those too.

Maddie and Ella woke up excited this morning. They couldn't wait to put on their costumes and walk out the door to school!!

Maddie's class had yummy treats and fun games like smashing baby plastic pumpkins. Seriously. What in the world???

Maddie and Sydney Williamson are in the same class and love hanging out. They were both princesses this year. What 4 year old girl ISN'T?

Ella loves Ms. Betsy's class! She had all kinds of fun crafts for their party today!

Ella and Avery are big buds. Avery's daddy, Gabe, used to work for the record label we were with.

The school kids always come down to trick-or-treat. Doug and I went all out this year. Actually, all the upstairs office staff went all out. We wanted to make it special for the kids as each class from the school came around for treats! I had to convince him not to play howling wolves on the stereo. We settled for creaking doors and Michael Jackson--which was scary enough. We had the dry ice going and reached into the pot of smoke and pulled out candy for them. They all thought it was really cool--well, most of them. Jacob Donnelly gave me a look like I was the most terrifying thing he'd ever seen. But I'm used to that from most people.

Maddie and her class came down the hall and stopped at all our offices to ask for candy.

On the whole, we don't really like celebrating "Halloween". My mom's always preferred "Harvest Day" or some title like that. But, the teachers did a great job of explaining that what we're doing is dressing up and pretending. It's fun for the kids without all the witches, goblins, blood and weird stuff.

One week from today I head to Abilene!! Yeee-Hawwww!!! I can't wait! I've been viewing the films I'm supposed to be judging. There is some great work represented! More on that later. Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tonight is the annual "Parade of Bible Characters" at Otter Creek. It's one of the most enjoyable events of the year. The place is packed out and we'll have over 100 kids with clues in hand ready to stump the congregation. The frightening thing for me as M.C. is always trying to remember kids' names. They're supposed to have their names on the back of their clues, but typically only about 30% of them do. I end up doing what my mom used to do with her Kojies when she was a sponsor--lots of "Hey cutie" and stuff like that. Hopefully, I'll not call anyone by the wrong name. But what's worse is when they don't write the answer to their clues on the paper and they stump me too. It's embarrassing having to ask a 2 year old which Bible character she's playing.

I remember several years ago we were desperate for an idea and Maddie and Mack Young went as chickens. Bible character? Why yes. It's all in the clues, baby. All in the clues.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This post may be a little long, but I wanted to provide what we did Friday night in our stations as a resource. These pictures do not capture the real mood of each room--aesthetics is so important in setting the mood. Use low lighting, candles, scents, sounds, etc to help create sacred space. There was a CD player in each of the rooms--except the silence room. I'm going to include the text that Scott wrote as a guide for the evening as well as some description from me on the way we set each room up. I'll add pictures next to the station descriptions. Many thanks to Scott, Eve, and Sallie for helping set up and for the creativity they added to this!

Inward Journey (second floor)

God is constantly calling you, in the words of CS Lewis, "to journey further in and higher up." This journey towards God, however, is not always easy. There are obstacles in the way, both external and internal, that can trip you up and darken the path. As you go to these stations, may the Spirit convict and comfort you.

Noise Room 214 (read below first! And then stay in this room for at least 2 minutes)

Countless are the noisy sounds we hear each day: TV, radio, and mindless chatter to name a few. And then there's The Accuser: that noisy, lying voice that says you are not good enough, smart enough, spiritual enough. Though some of these noises may not seem all that bad, it is difficult to listen to the voice of God and the noise of this world at the same time. As you enter this room may you be reminded of all the things in your life that make it difficult to hear the still, small voice of the Lord. (CD--Plank Eye playing loudly, TV--Muppet Show Video playing loudly, blue strobe light, chairs and pens scattered.)

Hurts Room 215

Forgiving others (including ourselves) is an important but difficult task in the Christian journey. In fact, failure to forgive is one of the major obstacles to the abundant life that God has designed for you in Christ. In this room, you will find paper and pens on the benches on which to journal.

Begin this exercise by dividing your life into 10-year segments (i.e, birth to 10, 10 to 20, etc.). Begin with the current phase of your life, asking the Lord to reveal events and/or people that have hurt or wounded you. Be honest, and write them down! Slowly work your way backward in time, writing down everything you can remember.

After you have done this, look over your list. Then one by one, ask for forgiveness, even if the person (including yourself) does not deserve it. Take the paper home and burn it or throw it in the trash can in the room. (CD-Above the Storm, John Elliott piano music. Dimly lit with candles and one lamp. Pens and paper available)

Letting Go Room 216

As you enter this room, pick up a rock. Turn it over in your hand, thinking about how your life is like this rock: at times heavy, smoothed over by the water of God's love, perhaps even a bit hardened by the pressures and stress of life.

Read the song by Nicole Nordeman.
Before leaving, place your rock in the water as a prayer to God that you are wanting to "let go" of your life to his care. (CD--stormscapes--rain sounds and piano. A platter of rocks, a basin of water to drop them in, dimly lit with one lamp)

Resting in God (ground level classrooms)

Perhaps the most important part of your spiritual journey is to rest; to be aware that Christ is in you, has gone before you, and will always be beside you. Augustine said it this way: You have made us for Yourself, O God; And our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.

Contemplating the Love of God Room 111/113
In this room you will find several stations to contemplate Jesus' call to "come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." (These stations were in one large room on opposite sides. Lights were out but some spot lights helped create the effectively dim lighting while still being able to see. Mirrors, a broken mirrored homemade cross, ink pads, parchment paper burned around the edges for fingerprints, wine or juice, bread, and candles for the Lord's Supper table. CD--John Catching's sacred cello music)

Lord's Supper

The bread and wine are tangible reminders that Christ is alive. Take a piece of bread and dip it into the wine. Before eating, thank Christ that he has invited you to rest in him. His body and blood are real food and drink to refresh you on the journey.

Reflected in a Mirror

Before looking at your face in the mirror, read over the verses below several times, slowly pausing to let each word sink into your awareness.

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

Take some time to look at your image in the mirrors on the wall. As you see your reflection, remember that you have been made in the image of God. That is, there is more to you than meets the eye! You are a spiritual being that is being transformed by the Spirit! Before leaving this station you might want to sing in the spirit of your awe of God's unseen but very real power in the world and in your life.

Stamped In His Image

At this station you will find an ink pad and some paper. Place your thumb in the pad and onto the paper. After you do this, you might want to journal about how you perceive your image. Are you humbly becoming the person God has called you to be? Or are you driven to fit into the crowd or to be what someone else expects? A good litmus test is to consider whether you are at peace with yourself.

Sharing Silence Room 110 or outside

Take some time to sit (or walk) and rest in silence. The silence may be awkward at first. The events of the day, your "to do" list for tomorrow, sexual desires, guilt, happy memories and a host of other things may surface. Don't let these alarm you. To help with this, you might want to quietly repeat one of your favorite descriptions of Christ, especially if you feel bombarded with "noise". As you stay with the silence, you will become more aware that God is here to provide rest for your soul. (No CD. Pillows would be great in here--anything to make it comfortable. Scented candles--lots of them. Make it a soothing scent--not overpowering. Tea lights, etc. Dimly lit with candles.)

Outward Journey (Sanctuary area)

The Spiritual Life includes being incarnational; that is, being Christ in the world. Thankfully, you are not asked to this with your own strength (God's Spirit is in you!) or by yourself (You are part of the body of Christ!). These stations are designed to remind you of the call to be missional; to pray, as St. Teresa of Avila did, "Lord, love the world through me." (Have scriptures scrolling on the screens)

Throw Yourself Like Seed-- Side Lobby

At this station you will find some seeds. Pick one up, hold it in your hand, even toss it around, thinking of the reality that your life in Christ is like a seed. You are small and insignificant. And yet, there is an incredible, life-giving potential in you.

Next, take your seed and bury it in the pot of dirt. Consider: you are called to die daily so that you might bear fruit. End this time in prayer, asking the Lord to take your life and make it fruitful for the sake of others and his kingdom. (CD Fernando Ortega's Hymns played over sound system. Candles.)

Let your Light Shine--Back-Center of the Auditorium

Spend some time looking at the candles in the auditorium. Through the ages candles have been lit to remind the people of God of his Presence! Spend some time silently considering how Christ IS present: in your life, in nature, in this church, in Scripture, and throughout the universe. The world is also a very dark place, filled with sadness, loneliness, grief, depression, and despair. Many people you know live in darkness.

Ask the Lord to reveal to you the name of one or two people that need to know the light of Christ. Then take an unlit candle or two (representing those the Lord has put on your heart) and light them. Spend some time in prayer, asking that the Lord would use YOU to bring this person or people to the Light. (CD Fernando Ortega's Hymns played over sound system. Enough tea light candles to go around--spread out over the table with stones and other decorative things in-between. Framed picture fSeveral Passion of Christ. several long candles to serve as "lighters".)

Prayer for Power and Love-- "Cave" area in the Auditorium

God has not given you a spirit of timidity but of power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1.7)

Though this is a promise from Scripture, we often need the prayer of others so that we might not forget this reality. At this station you will find others to pray with you and for you, so that you might go into the world and love as Christ has commissioned you to do. (Black fabric draped on the ground to signify the area. Candles around. Fernando Cd is heard over the system. At least 2 people--men and women--there to pray over others.)

The i55 guys added greatly to this weekend of retreat. They facilitated our worship and brought hearts that were perfect for leading. Their humble spirits only brought more attention to the greatness of God.

I've known Jon Paul a really long time and watched what God has done in him over the years. God has molded him into a powerful worship leader. I'm so thankful for his work with i55 in Dallas and I'm so thankful that J.P., Jeff and Dillon were willing to drive up to bless us last weekend. Thanks, guys!!

We had another treat last weekend. My old buddy, Allen popped in for an official Pepperdine visit to Otter Creek. It was great seeing him. Turns out he and Rubio are great friends from Memphis days. Here are their happy faces for your enjoyment!

This post is certainly long enough. Hope you're all having a great week! Thanks for stopping bye.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

We had an absolutely incredible weekend together on our retreat. The i55 guys did a fantastic job and the time together in prayer and sharing was one of the highlights of my year. Thank you to everyone for your prayers. They were definitely answered! More details on Tuesday.

Great question by "Anonymous" last Friday...
"My question for all of you "leaders" is...when do we, as "followers", speak up?? When is it when we say..'You know, I hear God leading us in a totally different direction....'. When it's five or six "leaders" leading a direction the majority of a congregation does not feel is led by God, do we just follow....or do we speak up????"

My immediate answer is, you speak up! That's why leadership is so tricky. There's this weird balance between leading boldly in Godly leadership and exercising communal discernment. I wonder, however, if this scenario presented by Anonymous is accurate. Typically, when a person feels a certain way, their view is cast in the light of the majority. For instance, how many times have you heard a complaint that goes like this...

"Look, the majority of people feel__________"

"Really? Thank you for bringing that to my attention! Can you give me some names? I'd like to speak to them."

"Well, I can't remember right now, but I know my family feels that way and maybe one other that I can think of."

Now, this is not to belittle "Anonymous" by any means. I think you have a good point. I'd like to hear others weigh in on it. I just think it's easy to paint things in light of our own view like 5 or 6 men versus an entire congregation. Perhaps that's true. If it is, then the problems extend beyond the decisions being made. Communication seems to be needed immediately!

One thing that I do believe is that leadership does NOT mean communication is shut down. Just because someone's in leadership it does not give them free reign to march ahead without regard to the hearts of those they're leading.

Weigh in on this. I'm sure many of you have experienced things like this. What words can you offer?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Amazing, incredible, peace-filled time of worship last night. The i55 guys were awesome. The stations were such a success and really helped me quiet my soul and find some peace. It was such a neat night. More today!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Full steam ahead!!! Praise team retreat this weekend! Yeee-haww! Jon Paul Findley and the i55 guys are in route even as I write. The stations are being prepared and we're looking forward to a great weekend together.

Watching The Apprentice last night caused a discussion between Sheryl and me about the weird nature of leadership. When you're a leader it seems people either love or hate you. On that show, if they lose the challenge then it's usually the project manager who takes the heat and the others feel like they need to pick it apart for fear of looking like they approved of a losing strategy.

Some of us in ministry or leadership of any other kind experience the same thing. When you make a decision people like, you're heralded. When it's an unpopular one, the torches begin to blaze. No wonder it's so easy to lose yourself in people pleasing. It's much more difficult to really listen to the voice of God and lead boldly from there in spite of how popular it may or may not be. I have to remember this too.

Sometimes when decisions are made, it's so easy for me to want to critique. Sometimes the critique is very needed by both sides. Sometimes it's just a critical heart. I don't know what I'm saying really except that we, as leaders, must always wrestle with pleasing people over pleasing God and be open to the fact that sometimes we get those things confused. Our pride gets in the way, we don't take time to listen or search, or maybe we just operate in the flesh instead of the Spirit. I know I'm guilty of this at times. It's something I'll always need calling on.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a cake connoisseur. Bakery cake, that is. I attend weddings, anniversaries, and birthday parties with one thing and one thing only on the brain...cake. And, furthermore, a cake from the Kroger bakery does NOT cut it. Like I said, I love cake.

It's been a somewhat stressful morning solidifying details regarding the retreat this weekend and feeling heavy hearted for some friends who are walking through a period of deep faith struggles.

This morning a friend came by and was talking about the cakes at "The Flour Shop", a bakery in Brentwood. Doug Sanders, my office mate, and I were salivating as she talked.

A few minutes ago Doug called on his way back from lunch and announced that he couldn't resist and was coming back with CAKE in hand! Hallelujah, the angels rejoiced!

Doug Sanders, you rock!

Lastly, Maddie began reciting the pledge of allegiance the other day out of the blue. Apparently, they do that at school. She says the entire thing with a few little modifications:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the "unicorn" of America
and to the Republic for which it stands
One nation under God, indivisible
With "liverty" and justice for all.

I have certain feelings about the pledge, I have certain feelings about a country without borders and what it means to be God's people in this world and to be true to Him only. I believe that His call on our lives should be the main thing--over our country for sure--that impacts our allegiance and our actions. However, now I've got a daughter pledging her allegiance to a unicorn. Hilarious. Maybe that should have been our national symbol instead of the eagle. Maybe that should be a children's book. Mom...go for it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tonight we begin rehearsals for King of Glory, King of Love--our Christmas concert. I'm really looking forward to it. The thing that attracted me initially to the recording was Travis's voice. He recorded the demo, I guess. He's one of my favorite worship leaders at Belmont. So, 7pm tonight--we're jumping in!!

I'm working on the praise team retreat this weekend. I'm planning a prayer walk as part of Friday night with about 9 stations all over the building. Scott's helping me with that. I'm really excited about it. Jon Paul and the i55 guys are going to be driving from Dallas so please keep them in your prayers. They'll lead worship for us Friday night and Saturday. I'm looking forward to connecting with the people in this ministry more than I normally get to.

Happy blogging!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Here are some photos from the Music and Molasses festival last weekend!

Maddie and Ella pose in front of a very large cow statue. (This is in no way meant to endorse Mayfield ice cream over Bluebell!!!) They have purses in hand with their coins ready to purchase a pumpkin.

We stopped to watch this family playing blue grass music. The kids were just amazingly talented.

Maddie and Ella loved watching the boys playing guitar and upright bass!

This was a family of cloggers. You know what they say...the family that clogs together, stays together.

Baby Sam was enjoying the day. He was kicked back taking it all in--imagine that!

We took a picnic lunch (fried chicken, grapes, goldfish crackers--who could ask for more?) and sat and ate under a tree.

The festival people had put out all these old fashioned wooden toys and other things for kids. Maddie and Ella were enjoying the twirly things.

Maddie and Ella pause to pose during lunch. We were listening to some guy dressed up in cowboy attire do covers of Johnny Cash.

Some funny moments from last night...

While we were stripping wall paper in the bathroom Ella announced that she had to go potty. I told her to wait a minute or go upstairs and she said, "But I have to go poo-poo and Jesus likes for us to go poo-poo." Yes, he does, Ella.

At dinner, Maddie was really hungry and about to dive in to her dinner. I asked her to wait til after we prayed and as we grabbed hands she whispered, "Hey daddy, make it a real short one!"

Last night as we tucked them in Maddie grabbed me and squeezed my neck saying, "You're the best daddy in the whole world!!" Moments like that cannot be described. What a gift!!!

Finally, in answer to Shannon's question yesterday (she and Sheryl talked by phone last night but I wanted to answer on here anyway), yes, there are so many moments when we fail to parent in a way that honors God. There are many moments of frustration. Ask our life group members! However, God has been teaching and showing us how to handle them and how to walk with Him through all of these baby/pre-school years. They really are short years and I really believe that through prayer He is giving me a deep sense of appreciation for them--even on the hard days. Even when we've been ready to put them in bed at 5:30 pm, we can still sit and look at each other that night and feel extreme gratitude. There are times when they get on our nerves and we're ready to put a for sale sign on them and stick them in the yard, but those days are fewer as of late. It's just such an adventure, isn't it?? These are great days--and ones we'll always remember!!

Finally, I was thinking about Sam last night and the direct correlation to the story of Samuel in the Old Testament. Hannah prayed and prayed for that special son. Sheryl and I feel the same way. We prayed and prayed and prayed for a baby with his disposition. I secretly prayed he'd be a boy. Seeing him, watching him smile, cuddling with him, and watching the way the girls adore him just makes me pray like Hannah prayed:

"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
"There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

1 Samuel tells us that he "grew up in the presence of the Lord and the Lord let none of his words fall to the ground." He grew up to judge Israel and even got to anoint young David. I pray that my Samuel will have such experiences as he walks with the Lord!

Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2005

After our worship services yesterday, Mom said, "Come go eat brunch at Mere Bulles. I'm paying!" Didn't have to ask me twice. We gathered everyone up and headed to Mere Bulles. We like going there because they have out door seating. (Outdoor seating makes eating out a possibility when you have three kids.) It's a beautiful old Brentwood mansion that has been converted into a restaurant.

The food was wonderful. The weather was perfect. The kids did great...until that point. You know...THAT point? Most parents can relate. You have this window of opportunity to eat and leave. If you miss it. You regret it. But, they really did well.

Our real cue to leave came when a server cleaning off the table next to us dropped his tray and a wine glass hit the brick floor shattering into a million pieces, bouncing all over the patio. Actually, I got showered with it. It was nice and dramatic--I had blood dripping down my forehead. (This is chapter 45 in my Why Me book.) Check, please.

Actually, come to think of it, when the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, I said something smart like, "Yeah, I need that like I need a hole in my head." Silly waiter--I was NOT being literal.


We're finally tackling our downstairs bathroom that we haven't touched since we moved in three years ago. We had a family party this afternoon trying to tear off wallpaper. The girls are really into it.

I love days off. I love being with my family. I love it when Maddie or Ella says, "Chase me, Daddy!" And they run off squealing in delight. These are sweet days. So many people have told us they pass so quickly. As Pat Ward says, "Long days, short years!!" It's true. We're soaking in every minute we can.

Have a great Monday, bloggers!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thursday, 14 years after my own dad died, Galen Foster's brother, Tanksley, died suddenly leaving a family in deep grief. This morning I did the music for his funeral. Galen is a dear friend. His brother was 58. His son is 22 and in college at UT. I sat today at the funeral where I was almost facing him. It was so surreal. It was like a flashback to 1991. I saw myself in him. I recognized his expression and his disbelief. I wanted so much to run over to him and tell him that things will not always be like they are today...but now is not the time. I couldn't--wouldn't--hear that for another year or so. My heart went out to all of them.


On a separate note, Sheryl and I sang at Kristen Butler's wedding last night. Talk about your polar extremes! What an amazing wedding! Wow! The song we sang was quite challenging. But, we got to sing with a full string quartet and the excellent Mrs. Clarissa Cox on piano. It was a lot of fun. The reception was at the Belle Meade Mansion. Truly indescribable. WOW!


Today I've had this weird homesickness for Abilene. Some people long to get away to the beach (don't get me wrong, I'll take St. John any day over Abilene) but I was longing for the good ol' Key City today. It's ACU Homecoming. The 100th anniversary Homecoming. Quite the shin-dig, I'm sure. I was really homesick today. I was imagining standing at Bitsy's Flower shop where we always stand for the parade. I was imagining Gamma Sig Homecoming breakfast (and then I remembered that I swore never to go again! I can always throw biscuits at Maddie and Ella and not have to pay $10 to do it!!) Tonight I've been thinking about the Homecoming Musical--Suessical, which I'm sure is fabulous. I wish we were there. I'm ready to visit. November 4th can't come soon enough!


Today was full of family fun. We went to the Music and Molasses festival. heard me...Music and Molasses. It was really so much fun! There were people dressed up in frontier garb and cooking over open fires. There were horse-drawn wagon rides. There was homemade ice cream! There were cloggers--yep, cloggers. There was music, and great music at that. However, I'm not sure I ever saw any molasses. Hopefully, Stephen Bailey had more luck at the Modern Dance and Syrup festival. But you'll have to ask him about that.

Tonight Sheryl made shrimp scampi, corn on the cob and broccoli. I think it was the best thing I've ever eaten. As we sat down to eat, we talked about how thankful we are that we both came from families who sat and ate together. It's really such a fun time for us.

God bless your Sunday--wherever you are...Africa, Abilene, Manhattan, San Francisco, Kansas, Virginia, South America, or right here in Nashville. We gather together in a sense, and join a great cloud of witnesses as we declare the glory of the Lord. May our hearts burn with conviction to be passionate about the things He is passionate about!

Please keep the Largent family in your prayers. Sheryl's oldest brother, Shelby, lost his son Thursday night. He died in his sleep at their home. Kye was only about 30 years old. As you can imagine, they are devastated. Please keep Shelby, Susan, Pam and the entire family in your prayers.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'm going to borrow from something I wrote last October and edit it a bit for today's entry...

Fourteen years ago today, my father died. That day is embedded in my memory. I had a very real Holy Spirit experience that morning and knew he was not well, so instead of going to the Sunday morning assembly, I went straight to the hospital. He had been fine the day before. Upon my arrival, it was obvious that he was not fine. While there were moments of laughter and sharing with him that day, he was near the end.

Gradually, the word got out and friends began to spill into the room. By that evening, we had college students up and down the corridor praying, singing, whispering and sometimes laughing. So many faces are etched in my memory.

Around my dad's bed were people like my crazy aunt Dot (his sister), my grandmother, my mom, Sally Gary, Paula Agnew, Shane Holland, and others. I was at the foot of his bed watching his labored breathing and rubbing his feet. We were all telling stories and laughing. I know Dad could hear and was probably loving every minute--AND wishing he could interject.

That night, a little after midnight, he took his last breath. I just stared at him. I couldn't believe it was over. He was definitely gone. It was both a deeply spiritual moment and also extremely frightening. I didn't feel ready. I WASN"T ready. It was so surreal.

We left the hospital and the Harold and Jeannette Lipford met us at our house. Brent McCall drove me there and stayed that night. We sat around and talked and I kept feeling like I was outside myself just looking and watching everything going on.

The next day, my roommates and I cried together. Stephen, Craig and Chris had walked with me through much of his illness. I wouldn't have made it without friends like them. Kyle, Shane and Brent had listened to me and eased my fears many times. Paula, Shelly and Trish had prayed so ferverently for him. Mom and I were surrounded with community. The Lorenzes were closer than family to us. They held our arms up.

Days and weeks went by. I dove even deeper into school, covering my pain with trying to make a 4.0 and doing every social activity possible. I had no context for how to deal with something like that. Eventually, it caught up to me. There was community then too. Praise God.

As I look back over the last 13 years, I see how God walks with us--even through the valley of the shadow of death. Even on days when my lack of faith wouldn't allow me to say "I'm not afraid", he was STILL with me. His rod and staff comforted me. He has led my mom and me beside still waters and allowed us to drink from the bounty of His goodness. He has warmed our hearts and filled our emptiness in ways we could never have dreamed.

I don't like it when this date comes around every year, but it forces me to remember how God walked us through such a difficult time. He is good. And...maybe the best thing I learned, He is PRESENT. His abiding presence does not depend on whether we feel Him there or not. He's there. His goodness is not dependent on how we feel about life. He's always good. His faithfulness is not contingent on our faithfulness. He's always faithful. Death is not the final chapter. There's more. He is the Father of the fatherless and He writes our names on the palms of His hands. I am a rich man because of the love He's allowed me to know.

Thanks Dad (and MOM!) for pointing me to Him. You laid a foundation that He has strengthened even through hardship. I miss you, Dad. I wish you were here today. There'd be so much to talk about. So much to laugh about. You'd love Sheryl. She's YOU in so many ways. You'd love Otter Creek. You'd adore these girls. You'd be amazed at this little guy who bears your name. We miss you and thank God for the legacy of faith you left for us.

After Dad died, the Abilene Independent School District built a school and named it after him. Here's a picture-

What's amazing to me is that for the first time in 14 years, there's a new Sam Thomas in our house. There's a new spirit of joy. There's a spirit of adventure implanted genetically by his grandfather and by his Heavenly father. Look at his eyes--ready to take on the world!! God has truly blessed us. Dad--I wish you could see him! He's a gift!

Two nights ago I went into the girls' room to get one last look before bed (it was around 10:30 or so). Maddie was wide awake so I laid on her bed and she asked me when we'd get to see "Poppy". It brought tears to my eyes. I reminded her that he was in Heaven. She said, "I know that, Daddy, but when is he coming back??" Then she began to process some about death and cancer and asked some really good questions. It's both wonderful and painful to talk about it with them. I know they'll experience loss in their lives, but I'd love to protect them from it. They'll know pain and hurt sooner than I'll ever be ready for them to. I just hope they'll hear those words from the 23rd Psalm that they've known since they could talk echoing in their heads.

We love you, Dad! I think about John Mark Hicks' interpretation of Hebrews 11 and think about you joining us in worship...a part of the great cloud of witnesses. What a powerful thought.

Also, my mom has written a moving blog today about my father.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Why do weird things always happen to me? That should be the book title of my autobiography.

Yesterday Kyle Rigsby called and I called him back. A voice answered, "Hello, this is STAN GUFFMAN!" (name's been changed to protect the innocent...namely, ME!) He said it in a real animated and almost sarcastic way...sort of like a TV car salesman. It was clear to me that it was Kyle. He was joking around and being stupid.

So, I said, "Well hello there, STAN GUFFMAN (real sarcastic and animated just like he said it), this is BRANDON SCOTT THOMAS!!!" He laughed nervously.

"What's up, bud?" I asked.

"Not too much, just finishing some things up at the office," He replied.

It sounded like Kyle. Was it Kyle? Why was he at the office at 5:00pm. He's a P.E. teacher for crying out loud.

"Cool," I said.

Long pause.

"I'm wondering if I have the wrong number," I finally blurted out.

He quickly asked, "Well, who were you trying to call?"

"Not STAN GUFFMAN!" I said and nicely excused myself.

So, then I find out that "Stan Guffman" is this real estate guy who has ads all over TV and radio. He probably thought that no stranger would possibly kid with him like that. And beyond that, I'm sure he wondered how I could have possibly gotten his cell number. Poor guy. He was probably scratching his head going, "Brandon Scott Thomas....who in the world???" And he seemed like a really nice guy. Hopefully, I didn't freak him out. I'm on my way to Cool Springs to meet Brad and on the phone with Tim Woodroof who is out writing this week. I'm telling him my funny story and at the end he says..."You know who that is, right? It's ________'s best friend (a member here). He's been to Otter Creek on numerous occasions to see Christmas and Easter productions. He knows EXACTLY who you are." I could have died. Twice.

Why me? (Why me is right. I think it's the spirit of Sam Thomas. Dad, you've gotta stop this!)

Speaking of why's...this morning the girls were watching the Disney version of Peter Pan. (I know, shock.) There's this song in there about the Indians and Tiger Lilly. "What makes the Red Man red?" Now THAT'S PC for ya. Good job, guys. Check it out. It's pure comedy.

Speaking of songs, I'm meeting Brad Crisler in a minute. Brad and Dawn are new to Otter Creek. Rumor has it they even blog on occasion. HEY GUYS!! Brad wrote one of my favorite recent country songs, "Sweet Southern Comfort". Buddy Jewel sings it. (He's written lots of other stuff too--for Tim McGraw and other artists.) I love turning it up and singing it at the top of my lungs. They both have talent oozing from them and God has dropped them at Otter Creek. I can't wait to see what God does through them.

Still processing the weekend. I stared at the ceiling last night thinking about my class on Saturday. Long. Verbose. Borrrring. I don't think I was able to really get to the heart of what I wanted to communicate. Mainly, saying that the most radical approach to worship ministry to me is trying to keep it real. Scratch that. The most radical approach to MINISTRY period is trying to keep it real. We play games and tell people not to be plastic and meanwhile we're writing the book on being plastic. It's a constant battle that any of us in public ministry will have to face, however, we HAVE to talk about it. We have to combat it. If we don't, we're a joke.

One last thing and I'll stop. 14 years ago this week I was watching my father die. It will be 14 years tomorrow. I'm having lots and lots of memories and tears. The tears are sweeter than they used to be. For those of you who've experienced loss, know that at some point you can actually think about it--even cry about it without always feeling that raw wound. Sometimes, it's still raw just like that day. But, overall, God uses time to bring healing and wholeness. More on that tomorrow.

Blessings to you today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

This will be mostly a picture post from ZOE. Thanks to Scott who's on vacation, I have a computer to work on this week. (I'm preparing for our praise team retreat which is a week and a half away. (WHAT WAS I THINKING???!!!!!)

These will be in chronological order:

We were so blessed to have so much family here for the conference this year. Here's Sam enjoying time with MeMaw.

We're so blessed that Chris Lindsey is connected with ZOE. Chris works for Media Shout and always does our ZOE presentations. Chris is leaving Media Shout and heading to Rochester, MI to be the worship minister for the Rochester Church. Since that's Sheryl's old stomping grounds, we're thrilled for all of them.

The crowd gathers at the ZOE conference ready and eager to worship. It's one of the coolest weekends of our year. The sheer sound coming towards the stage is almost deafening. I mentioned Sunday morning that it was like leading wild horses. It's so energetic and fun!

My good buddy, John Chisum, was in concert Friday night. He also helped me do the Worship Leaders' track on Saturday. John is a gifted writer and travels with the Hosanna/ Integrity Worship conferences as a presenter. It was a blessing to have him with us!

It was so fun to have my best friend and his wife (Stephen and Stephanie Bailey) with us for the weekend. The girls were really excited to see them--but they would have preferred to have Rainey there. (Rainey and Maddie are only a few weeks apart in age.) Stephen has always been a brother to me. Sometimes we communicate telepathically. That's a really scary thing.

Another ACU roommate of ours, Craig Fisher, married up--waaaay up. Beth Ann Souder's dad, brother and nephew were all there this weekend. It was fun Having Scott, Sam and Gary. 3 generations of Souders! Hmm...we've never even had ONE Fisher. But, I'm not bitter.

Sam and Scott are great guys--you just tell by looking at them. It was a blessing to have them with us.

Baby Sam did great all weekend. True to form, he just went along for the ride. It was a blast being able to show him off! I couldn't wait for Stephen, Stephanie, Sally, Hainey, Amy--all our friends--- to see him.

Michael Card gave a concert on Saturday afternoon. It was fantastic. His songs were a perfect fit for our conference and theme. I had a good visit with him during lunch. We've been trying to connect with each other. I look forward to learning from him. He's a great teacher and thinker--not to mention a brilliant musician!

Peter Wilson sings with ZOE but he lives in Malibu, CA. We miss him when we're not together. Maddie and Ella love him. LOVE him. Maddie has had a crush on Peter for well over a year now. Poor girl, she can't even be normal around him. She turns dorky--like a 7th grader. Bless. She wouldn't even let him hold her for the picture.

It was fun having Jay Duty and his father, John, at the conference this year. Jay was my intern about 4 years ago. He's active in the children's ministry at the Farmer's Branch church in Dallas. He's a nut--can't you tell?

This was taken Sunday morning at Otter Creek. This is Peter with his amazing girlfriend, Lindsey. We all LOVE Lindsey. She's a part of our ZOE family. We love hanging with her in California, but it was nice having her at the Nashville conference this year. It just seemed right for her to be here.

It was fun having our extended ZOE family (they affectionately call themselves "Chloe") singing with us some this year. Sunday morning was such a blessing. All those energetic conference participants infused our assembly with joy and exuberance!

After church we had about 20 people at our house for lunch. Two life long friends were here this weekend. Hainey Price and Amy (Nichols) Boone. We all grew up together in Abilene and had a blast laughing again. Amy and I used to call each other and speak in weird Chinese languages back in junior high. We all grew up singing together too. Amy married Grant, son of Nick Boone and nephew of Pat. While he doesn't have the singing career Pat or Debbie have enjoyed, he wears some nifty white buckskin shoes like his Uncle Pat. We asked him to sing "You Light Up My Life" at the conference but he refused. Apparently the golf channel is more important than ZOE. Thanks, Grant. Next time we'll just have to resort to asking Joel Quile.

This is only a section of the people who were with us Sunday. Left to right as pictured: Stephanie Bailey, Ella, Sheryl, Julie Danley, Hainey Price, me, Katey Earles (doing a marvelous job of managing her crowd anxiety here, I must say!), Gina Lewis, and Amy Boone.

What a marvelous time of challenge and worship we shared together. There's much to blog about but it will have to wait until I can decompress a little.

Have a great Tuesday, blog land! (I tried publishing this once and lost everything. I'm still a Christian.)