Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Things are CRAZY right now. I haven't really had time to blog. Things are really FUN, but crazy. We're working on the Christmas thing(s). Next week a few of us are singing at the Lyric Street Records Christmas party. That should be fun. The next week is our Christmas concert here and then the following week is the Radio City deal.

This season is really so much fun...especially with kids! Every time we pass a house that has even one little branch decorated the girls oooh and ahhhh like it was the most amazing thing ever.

Some really COOL things happening at Otter Creek! I can't blog about it yet, but I am turning flips of joy!!

Tomorrow and Friday the ministers will all be retreating together discussing future stuff. Doug's had us all read George Barna's Revolution. Talk about a kick in the face! It's AWESOME!!! I highly recommend!

We are rehearsing tonight beginning at 6pm and then joining with the band for the first time around 7:30. It should be a lot of fun! Have a great night.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving was unbelievable! We went to my mom's house (fun that she now lives here!!) and had some of the best food I've tasted in a while. Kyle Rigsby and Aunt Kiki were there too. We laughed, ate, played cards, watched the girls play and praised God for a wonderful year and for precious friends and family.

Early that morning, around 2:30am, Laura Rathbun's father passed away. Laura is married to Chuck (Sheryl's brother). We've been praying and praying for them. I'm just so sorry it had to happen at this time of year. I know how difficult that can be. Please offer up a prayer on their behalf. Laura's mom's name is Judy.

After Thanksgiving was over, it was time to hit Christmas full swing ahead! We spent all day Thursday and Friday putting up Christmas stuff. The girls were in heaven. I even mustered enough courage to climb back into the loft over our front door to set up the snowmen and lighted trees that the girls love so much. It was a fun couple of days. (We found a really inexpensive little pink tree for the girl's room. They went to sleep last night in a pink glow from the lights. It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where Kramer got face burn from the neon Kenny Rogers' Roaster sign outside.)

While we put the den tree up, Maddie and Ella ran around singing Christmas songs. Sheryl had put their hair up in rollers--that didn't last long. But they were so cute!

Here's Sam with his favorite bear. Thanks to our friend, Charles, who works for Walt Disney for giving Sam this bear. Sam was so smiley all weekend. He loved all the commotion.

How can you resist that sweet smile?? We praise God for you, Samuel Scott Thomas!!

This morning the ZOE and the extended ZOE singers are leading worship. I'm really excited. I always love leading with them. It just feels like wearing your favorite shirt or pair of shoes. It's like home. I can't wait!

Here's our order of worship:

Welcome--Doug Sanders
Family prayer
Meet and greet

Praise and Worship--BST
--Shout Hallelujah
--Sing to the King
--A New Anointing
Prayer of thanksgiving--meditation exercise
--Days of Elijah
--Let Us Be You
--A Living Prayer (Sheryl Thomas)

Teaching--Doug Sanders
--Who Can Satisfy My Soul?
--How Great Thou Art

Supper--Randy Brewer
--Mighty Is The Power of the Cross

--Great is Thy Faithfulness/ He's Always Been Faithful

Shepherd's Blessing-
--Lord Reign In Me (chorus)

The next few weeks will be a little nuts. It was nice to have a few days at home to play and relax and be refreshed. I pray that you had a great weekend. May God bless you today as you gather in worship.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Last Sunday night I joined Victor Wynn in leading the city-wide Thanksgiving worship service. It was held at the historic Ryman auditorium. What an amazing night it was!

We first sang together at the Nashville Arena back in 2001. That was a cool night too...and a night of building long lasting friendships. Here's a picture from that night.

Since then, we've visited each others' churches, they've come and joined us for our Christmas concert one year, and Victor and I have shared many meals and prayers together.

When Janet Sladen from Operation Andrew called and asked us if we'd consider doing this, it was a no-brainer. Any chance to sing together is a blessing for us! Operation Andrew is an organization of over 100 Nashville Churches and its purpose is to promote denominational and racial reconciliation. It's a wonderful organization.

Below are some pictures from our night at the Ryman last weekend. (you can click on the piture for a larger version.) The Tennessean did a very nice story on the evening. Interestingly enough, it mentioned that the Otter Creek choir was there. HA! As you can imagine, we got some email and phone calls (none from Otter Creek people) about that. Please--don't you wonder if people have better things to do than to police the "brotherhood"? At any rate, they're coming from a completely different perspective. Typically, I find it's not even worthwhile to get into the discussion about it. Nothing could rob me of the joy we experienced that night in worship together.

I got there in plenty of time to take a deep breath and prepare my heart and mind. It was also fun catching up with old friends backstage. Monique and I shared pictures of our babies, we told stories and we all laughed a lot. Here's Jeff and David.

Here's a shot of Eve and Karin.

This was during the welcome. As you can see, Otter Creek and Temple each brought 9 people. It was like a WAVE of sound. Oh my goodness! I wish I could have bottled it!

Here's a shot of part of the worship time. It was such a sweet time of praise!

I was sandwiched between Dana and Victor. Gotta love that! Victor and I have been great friends since around 2000. While we minister in different kinds of churches, he's been a tremendous encouragement to me and a great brother.

This was taken during the last part of the night. I like this picture because of the lyrics that are on the screen..."people from every nation and tongue, from generation to generation...(goes on to say) We worship You! Hallelujah, Hallelujah! We worship you, for you are GOOD!" That's been a favorite song of mine for a while. Singing it with Temple and their band about made me come out of my skin with excitement. You cannot stop moving!!

Here's a picture of both groups--ZOE and Temple.

left to right--Jason McArthur, JV, BST and David England. This is a view with from the stage. It was so amazing to stand up there and think about all the people who've sung on that stage and for that night, the Ryman had gone back to what it was built for--a house of worship! (funny--in the back ground talking enthusiastically is Ken Young)

I'm thankful for so many things this week--Jesus, my family, my co-workers, my friends, and on and on! I'm also grateful for this blogging community. I pray your holiday is full of joy. Have a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

This blog is dedicated to Geof and Amanda's wedding. I'll be posting some pictures of the Ryman tomorrow. (One of the coolest nights ever! That's what it will be like in heaven--and I want a seat near Victor!)

Here are some shots of our weekend in TX at the wedding--

Amanda has been like a little sister to me. It was so fun being at the rehearsal dinner and hearing all the great things said. The BBQ was out of this world too!

It was such an honor to stand with Geof. We've prayed so much about this union and love them both so much individually--it seemed like such an answer to prayers that their wedding day had finally come!

Geof and Amanda made such a handsome couple!The surroundings were so gorgeous--I know they'll have some great pictures to look at when they return from their honeymoon!

This was the entire wedding party. Did I mention this wedding was outside?? The rehearsal about gave us all pneumonia. But, the weather ended up being beautiful for the wedding day!

It was really fun for us to be away for the weekend together and Baby Sam was such a joy! This was taken right outside the reception tent. There was a table next to us with the groom's cake and carameled apples on it. I love me some carameled apples!!!

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It's been a very fun weekend in Tyler, TX. Amanda and Geof's wedding was absolutely gorgeous. It's fun seeing two people joined from such strong families. The rehearsal dinner was fun too.

Baby Sam has done so well. He's such a trooper! It's been fun being with him and watching him give smiles to everyone he sees.

We're getting on a plane in a while. Please pray for our safe return. Tonight is the thing at the Ryman. I'm really looking forward to it.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Melt downs happen. I need a bumper sticker saying that. Last night it occurred to me that we are really, really close to our Christmas show with few rehearsals left. I felt a bit stressed. We had to kick it into overdrive. Then I left one rehearsal and went to another. By that point I was done. I had a small, yet meaningful, meltdown. It only took me about 5 minutes to regain my composure, but I did. It's funny the perspective meltdowns give us. When you're living by deadlines--especially in ministry or music--it's easy to allow the deadline to rob you of the joy of the process. Anyway, God reminded me last night that sometimes things just aren't that big of a deal. He gave me a spiritual sedative and I was much better. For the love.

Christmas rehearsal went well. Our show is the weekend of the 17-18th of December. Come join us!

Afterwards, we worked on stuff for the Ryman this Sunday. It's always fun joining Victor and the group from Temple. We're excited for another opportunity to sing together. Join us at the Ryman this Sunday night (November 20th) at 6:30pm.

We fly to TX tomorrow for Geof and Amanda's wedding. I'm standing up with Geof and Sheryl and I are singing too. It'll be such a blessing to be there. My flight gets in at 5:30 Sunday--and the event at the Ryman begins at 6:30...yeah, brilliant. Apparently, I'm going to get to see the backstage entrance. They have a security guard who'll be waiting for me at the back door and Doug Sanders is picking me up at the airport. Since he's the Director of Ministries at OC, I guess God will give him special permission to speed. Driving up the alley and entering the back door will be kind of exciting! It's very Coal Miner's Daughter.

Finally, last night I got what might be one of the coolest birthday gifts EVER. A good friend gave me a belt buckle that's a Civil War relic. It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. It has a US on the front and was found back in the early 80's around the 1st days battle line of the Battle of Nashville. SO COOL! My ACU History prof would love it.

Happy wedding weekend to Geof and Amanda!!
From Psalm 20--
"May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May He send you help from the sanctuary
And grant you support from Zion.
May He give you the desires of your heart
And make all your plans succeed.
We will shout for joy when you are victorious
And will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Today was a much better day at Kirkpatrick. I brought the kids some Thanksgiving suckers with turkeys and things on them and Mr. Adams let me distribute them and then we talked about their plans for the holiday. (click on the picture for a larger, better resolution picture.)

I also asked them what their favorite Thanksgiving food was. There were some great comments! It made me really hungry! Mashed potatoes, collard greens, sweet potato pie, turkey, dressing, could see their eyes sparkle. Most of them were headed to their Granny's or an "aunties" house.

They were also working on a writing exercise..."Someone I Admire". It was touching to read what they were writing. One said talked about her Granny writing that she was always on her side. One talked about her mom writing that she protected her from danger. It was good to be with them again.

Preston Shipp re-wrote the lyrics to Days of Elijah. It's tongue in cheek and a little sarcastic, but sometimes sarcasm is a good thing. It's a mirror in some ways. I thought this was great...

These are the Days of Indulgence
Of selfishness, apathy, and greed
And these are the days of indifference
Ignoring the millions in need

And though these are days of prosperity
We have more than we'll ever need
Still children in Africa and downtown are hungry
If we love Jesus, His sheep we must feed

Behold He comes
Homeless like before
Eating with addicts
Hanging out with whores
Give away your stuff
It's the year of Jubilee
If we die to ourselves
Salvation comes

These are the days of great comfort
And living in rich neighborhoods
We kneel to the idols placed before us
Like any American would

And though Jesus warned us of riches
We don't think He meant what he said
So rich people put fish on the backs of their cars
But He had no place to lay His head

(Repeat chorus)

I drove up in my Lexus (x 4)
There's no car like my Bimmer (x 4)
There's no watch like my Rolex (x 4)
I hope it tells time in heaven (x 4)

These are some good thoughts as we enter the coming month. Good and convicting!

Rehearsal tonight for Christmas and then rehearsal after that for the Ryman. Also--if anyone's interested, I have a few tickets at reduced rate to the Radio City Christmas show at Opryland on December 22nd. We're doing a little pre-show thing that night. If anyone around this area wants to come and wants reduced rate tickets, please let me know.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

This week is a week of celebrating. Last night we went to the new Cheesecake Factory here in Nashville. We've been to the one in Woodland Hills and Beverly Hills (both in California) and we were so excited when they began building the one here. (It's actually in Green Hills--maybe they are all in something Hills.)

In honor of my birthday today I'd like to list 36 things I'm thankful for from the beginning of my life. It's ironic since I'm only turning 26, but still. Ahh....26. Those were the days.

1. My parents--Sam and Judy

2. The house in the country outside Abilene where I grew up

3. Abilene

4. Wylie Schools and teachers--mainly Sally Gary

5. Paul Phillips, Scott and Christy Rogers, Brooke and Robyn Lorenz, Kim, Kirk and Lee Ann Lomax, Amy Nichols, Hainey Price, and so many other childhood friends.

6. My horse, Tiger

7. My pigs, Wilbur, Sir Charles, and Henry

8. My go-cart

9. Shannon Hosch, Shannon Crowe, Shawna Duff, Bo Sanford, Steve Justice, and other school friends who stuck with me from elementary through High School.

10. Lewis Fulks and allowing me to be in ACU Homecoming Musicals as a kid which developed a passion in me at a very early age.

11. Ronnie and Darla Lorenz, Morgan and Pat Phillips, Dave and Ann Jones, and other close family friends.

12. Aunt Dot and Uncle Sam, Butch and Jan, Rob and Vicky, Mike and Margaret Ann, Uncle Chow and Jerri, Granny and Paw-Paw, Mow and Big Paw, Granny Tucker, Aunt Ruby and Uncle Ralph--so many sweet family memories.

13. Jason, Shannon, Deana, Linda, Daphne, Connie, Paul, Shawn, Sean, Shane, Shannon, Shamber, Staci, Johnny, Andy and Jenni, Robert and Jerry and other cousins who gave me hours of enjoyment and laughter.

14. Josh, Jeremy and Mary--really more like siblings than cousins. Christmases spent together, watching Star Wars 27 times in a row, supporting each other through joy and hardship.

15. The trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas with Josh, Sam and Jan. We'll never forget the view at the Grand Canyon--AND the view at that Vegas show. Bada Bing.

16. Dale Horton, Dennis Morris, Vicky Cannon, and others who had a deep Spiritual impact on me as I was growing up.

17. SummerStage at ACU. Performing and then having to go BACK to high school was such torture!! John Scott Davis, Gayla Hester, Julie Corlew, Mike Hart, Brent Bolin, Holly Sparlin, and others who became life long friends as a result.

18. The ACU experience. So many people. So many life-changing times and struggles.

19. Kyle Dickson, Donjalea Reynolds, Brent McCall, Shane Holland, Chris Seidman, Tara and Shannon McKnight, Paula Agnew, Trish Savage, Shelli Braddock, Julie and Jennifer Wade, Camille Coleman, Ty Lovell, Val, Nino and so many other friends who are still woven into my heart.

20. Stephen Bailey, Craig Fisher and Chris Doggett. These roommates and friends are some of my BIGGEST blessings. Still my best friends. And their wives...Stephanie, Beth Ann and Karen, also family.

21. The ACU community, Minter Lane, and Highland Church during the loss of my father in 1991.

22. Mike Cope planting a dream in my heart and being my mentor.

23. Six Flags Over Texas, Casa Manana Theater, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Crystal Clear Studios and other places that gave me opportunities as a performer after graduation.

24. Lindy Heath Cabe--God planted a believer in my life during a period of great darkness. Lindy was my vocal coach at Six Flags and then we preformed together at Casa Manana.

25. Paula Agnew, Dennis Coleman, Stephen Bailey, the Reynolds Family and Jeannette and Harold Lipford--they helped rescue me from my darkness. How can I ever thank them?

26. The building of Sam Thomas Elementary

27. NASHVILLE! Belmont Church, Don Finto, Bobby Harrington, Otter Creek, the OC elders, Melissa Portell, and that whole weird calling from the Lord back to a CofC. He is good to lead us in unexpected paths.

28. Sheryl, grace, voice,!

29. Wedding bells, Mike Cope, friends, music, nerves, tears, JOY, St. John USVI, new life, God's mercy! New family! Chuck, Cindy, Bob and Ernestine, Kiki and so many more who've filled my life with blessings.

30. 424 Barrywood Drive. Our first little house. Bear, our first "child". Still with us after more than 7 years!

31. Maddie. What joy! What beauty! She won my heart.

32. Ella. Great excitement! Adorable! Again--my heart was won. How can you love THREE people SO much?

33. Sam. Prayers answered. What a gift! A blessing from the very beginning! He has such a spirit of joy! How can you love FOUR people so much????

34. Otter Creek music ministry. 10 years, amazing people, family! Getting to share that with Sheryl.

35. ZOE Worship--a huge dream turned into reality. Family. Life! Getting to partner with Sheryl here too!

36. Jesus Christ--the same yesterday, today and forever. He's been there every step. His blood has saved me. He never gives up.

Thank you, Lord, for life. I am nothing without You.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Happy birthday today to Chris Doggett (a.k.a. The Pretty One). He is such a brother to me. I have laughed myself hoarse, cried my eyes out, and talked through deep spiritual struggles with him. It's been such a blessing over the last 13 years since ACU graduation to remain so close to my 3 college roommates. I'm so glad God made you, Dog! Happy birthday--you ARE the oldest. 36. Wow. You must really be feeling it.

Yesterday was incredible with Rubio and the youth. Oh my goodness. I wish you could have all been there. It's impossible to describe but they had us in stitches one minute and complete conviction the next. Great job, guys!!

Life group last night consisted of us helping put Geof and Amanda's programs together. It was a lot of fun as we talked about the upcoming week and what profound implications this wedding will have on future generations. I'm so excited for them!

This week (or thereabouts) marks my ten year anniversary at Otter Creek. It's a pretty major thing for me. I don't think I ever would have believed it. It's a cool milestone. I've seen a lot of changes in these 10 years. I plan to blog about that over the coming week.

Meanwhile, today is family day and we're going to see Chicken Little later. I hope your day is great.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

We've had such a great weekend. It will be really sad today when the Lorenzes have to leave. The girls are pretty sure they're here to stay. Thanks to Robyn and Brooke for providing such a great time for us all. Here are some photos from the weekend...

Friday morning we enjoyed just being together around our table and eating breakfast. The sitting didn't last long though. Soon the girls were up and running around being chased by Ronnie. Darla and Ronnie both played and played with them. Darla even hid under the table with Ella (thankfully, this time Ella wasn't screaming bloody murder!)

The Sam Thomas/Ronnie Lorenz combo has always been there's a new era of trouble with the new Sam Thomas and Ronnie Lorenz! It was fun watching them together.

The girls have had such a blast with Nanny and Abba-ba. It's so neat that our kids can have a relationship with the Lorenzes.

We spent Friday out at the Opryland Hotel, one of Nashville's coolest spots. It employs over 3000 people and has something like 2800 rooms. It's the largest hotel and convention center in the world. They had begun decorating for Christmas and it's looking very nice!

This morning, David Rubio and the youth are doing most of the service. It's going to be GREAT! There are a lot of things going on here at the Creek. Some bog decisions ahead. Please continue to pray for us!

After church this morning Otter Creek folks are sponsoring a Thanksgiving lunch down at the Wayne Reed Center. It's going to be a lot of fun and great food.

I pray your day is full of praise and fellowship!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I had an early morning meeting with the Operation Andrew folks. Victor Wynn (from temple Church) and I are leading the Greater Nashville area-wide Thanksgiving worship service at the historic Ryman Auditorium (famous for the Grand Ol' Opry). It's going to be a blessed time.

Victor and I have been friends for years and it happened through Operation Andrew. He is a music pastor at a huge mostly African American community church in North Nashville. Our churches look and operate differently. However, we've joined forces for other things like city-wide worship services held at the arena downtown. He also came and brought his group and joined us for our Christmas concert several years ago. They are simply AMAZING.

We're roughly the same age and have kids around the same age. Our friendship has been a real blessing to me over the years. We've talked church. We've shared frustrations. We've prayed for each other and we've walked this road of ministry together. Unity in the Body of Christ is a beautiful thing. There are way more commonalities than differences.

We're going to team up again, and this time on stage at the Ryman...which was originally a place of worship back in the early 1900's before it became the home of the Grand Ol' Opry. We'll get to fellowship and love on each other and lead God's people in worship with varying styles--but with one heart.

If you can make it--come join us Sunday night, November 20th at 6:30. The terrifying thing is that we are in Amanda and Geof's wedding in TX and don't arrive until 5:30 that night. Yeah--terrifying. However, God will work it all out. If something happens and we're delayed, Victor can handle it.

The Lorenzes arrive in about an hour. I am so excited to see them and Maddie and Ella keep asking for "Nanny and Abba-ba". Ella is especially fond of Ronnie (Abba-ba). I'm taking the day off tomorrow so that we can take them around Nashville. We're going to spend some time out at the Gaylord Opryland hotel and other places. No matter what, it will be nice just being together.

Darla was my father's secretary for years. Ronnie and Darla and Mom and Dad were the best of friends. When I was in high school and my father had his first cancer surgery Ronnie took the day off and drove me around to talk and keep me occupied. He's always been a second father to me. In fact, I still call him "Dad" and he calls me "Son". There's no way to describe the impact they've had on us. After losing my dad, they stepped in and continued to be family to us. They are very dear. Thanks to Brooke and Robyn for sending them. We can't wait!!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Crazy day. This morning I led worship at Lipscomb University Chapel. It was a better experience than times past. After leading worship at ACU chapel last Friday and leading at DLU today it was an interesting comparison. It's really not apples to apples, but similar enough to consider.

I was blown away at ACU chapel last week. It was deafening...the student body really sang and really seemed engaged. However, it always feels like I'm singing a solo at DLU. Today was better though. It's interesting to be in these settings and see how different chapel can be from school to school.

After DLU I went to Kirkpatrick Elementary. I'm a room parent for a 4th grade class there. It was good to see the kids again. They are hilarious. Today I sat with the boys at lunch. Here they are!

The girls were being a little more high maintenance. None of them really wanted their pictures taken and they were all in a fued of some sort. Girl drama.

After lunch I went with them outside for recess. The recess yard backs up to some of the projects and is separated by only a chain link fence. As we were outside all of a sudden...BANG, BANG, BANG. Yep--gunshots. Toto, we're not in South Nashville anymore. Mr. Adams quickly rounded up the kids and went inside to begin Science. Interestingly, none of them seemed at all shocked or concerned. It was a real reminder of what many of these kids face on a daily basis. Bless them. They are so precious.

Tonight we have rehearsal. Please pray for us. I know it will be a great night. My parents' long time best friends, the Lorenzes, are coming to town tomorrow. We're all so excited! More on that later. Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I had such a BLAST in Abilene and Dallas over the weekend. It's impossible to describe it all here. I flew in Thursday night and Stephen Bailey and Craig Fisher (college roommates--Chris Doggett couldn't take off Friday) rode with me to Abilene for Film Fest. Stephen and I were judges, along with Les Hunter, Cary Roberts, David Leeson (just recently won the Pulitzer!) and others.

When you get Stephen, Craig, Chris and me back together it's just trouble. This weekend was no exception. SO MUCH FUN!! There's such a gift in the knowing looks, the ability to read each others' minds--even after 13 years--and sharing what the Lord is doing in your life in the here and now. I couldn't have asked for anything more (except for Chris to have been there).

It was so generous of ACU to bring us in and it was so cool to be able to talk in round table discussions about Christians in the arts/entertainment/media. Saturday ended with a Symposium with the students. They are so smart, so talented, and have such a bright future! It's exciting to think about what God will do with them. It was funny to sit and think about others like Nelson Coates who's a major art director for Hollywood movies and Bonnie Curtis who began as an assistant to Steven Spielberg and now produces for him. It made me wonder where some of those kids will be in 15 years. We should never underestimate the impact of dreams.

Here are some photos from the weekend...

One of the best things about traveling to Abilene is EATING. We made a list on the way down which included Harold's BBQ. It's a hole in the wall--literally. Harold has been in business for decades. He's famous for stepping out from behind the counter and standing on a bench and singing Amazing Grace (or something similar). Unfortunately, he was hoarse on Saturday. But--it was truly heaven to eat his brisket again!

Another must-eat place is Lytle Land and Cattle. We had great steaks and ate in some authentic West Texas surroundings. Yummm--I want another one of those steaks!! L-R Craig, BST and Stephen.

Here we are at the Paramount Theater preparing for the Film Fest. What a cool place!!

It was really fun to hang with some old Abilene buddies. It's amazing to me how many Abilene-raised kids have gone on to great things. To my left are Cary Roberts and Les Hunter. Cary is a screen writer. Les lives in Los Angeles and was involved in animation before moving on to other aspects of the Film Industry. Stephen is standing on my right. His work at Reel FX included producing commercials and helping run the company as it grew from TV commercials to motion picture features like Spy Kids 2. It was fun to be surrounded by such creative minds!

Here's a picture of the judges and staff of Film Fest after the Event on stage at the Paramount. It was fun seeing Grant Boone too. (to my right) What a wacko! I love him.

We left Abilene Saturday and drove back to the Metroplex where we met the rest of the Bailey and Fisher families for dinner. Here's a picture of Owen (Craig and Beth Ann's youngest son. What a cutie!)

We got to eat some excellent Mexican food at On The Border. I always have to get my fix when I'm home since Nashville doesn't understand real Tex-Mex.

One of my favorite things about going back is always getting to terrorize my roomies' kids. I love those kids. It's always so shocking to see how they've grown. Here I am with Rainey Bailey and Riley Fisher. Maddie and Ella would have loved getting to see them again.

After we ate we took time for a picture outside of On The Border. Pictured here are L-R: Stephen, Rainey, Stephanie Bailey, BST, Owen, Beth Ann, Craig and Riley Fisher, and our friend Hainey Price who also was in school with us at ACU and who I grew up with in Abilene. It was so fun to be with all of them!

Sunday morning I got to go to Lake Highlands Church which was my home church in Dallas. In many ways, my heart has never left that place. It was HEAVEN to be back. The worship was incredible, the place bursts with exuberance. It's an ethnic and cultural melting pot--even more so since I was there 10 years ago. So many of my most influential spiritual family members go there. It felt so surreal to all be together. I convinced the Nofsingers and Paula to come join me for a reunion that Sunday. They are at different churches now. This picture is of Paula Agnew D'Spain. She is one of my life-long Abilene friends who ended up in Dallas when I lived there, then lived in California for years and now recently back in Dallas. If it weren't for Paula, I'm not sure my faith would have survived the valleys of the early 1990's. She will always be a sister to me. Here she is with her adorable son, Patrick.

Dennis and Julie Coleman are also long time friends. Their daughter is so beautiful! It was great seeing them and getting to hear Julie sing. I've always loved her voice.

After worship a group of us went to lunch at Mi Cocina. L-R: Tonya Perkins, Vickie Nofsinger, Paula D'Spain, Donjalea Reynolds Chrane, Kirk Nofsinger, BST and Michael Perkins (with his daughter).

We had to split up at different tables. I got to visit with Vickie, Paula and Donjalea. There is really no way to accurately describe the impact each of those people has had on my spiritual walk. Donjalea was such a prayer warrior with me in the early days of college seeking after the Lord. I've already mentioned the huge impact Paula has had on me and Kirk and Vickie Nofsinger, while not blood related, ARE family to me. I basically lived at their house while I lived in Dallas. It was like being in Heaven having time with those people on Sunday. God is SO good to me.

Meanwhile, while I was gone, Sheryl was the MAJOR TROOPER. She had some help, but basically managed the family single-handedly. (Remember, she IS Mrs. Incredible!) Sam ended up spending 6 hours in the ER at Vanderbilt on Saturday because of a bacterial infection. Of course, I could think of nothing else--being so far away and unable to help. Thankfully, Sarah Williamson went up and stayed the entire time with Sheryl at the ER. What a gift! Talk about family. Kiki had the girls at home. We are just so blessed.

I always love that moment of coming through the door after being gone. The hugs and kisses are better than anything else. I really missed them and was so glad to be home.

Last night the girls, inspired by Rainey Bailey, decided to dress up Bear. Bear has been our very sweet dog for 7 years. She has loved our family and been such a sweet puppy. She would even let the girls hold on to her fur as they learned to walk. And, as you can see, last night she took another one for the team. The girls squealed with delight as they dressed her up. I have to admit, she was looking pretty hilarious.

I know this is already really long. I'll stop. Last night, however, we had a great night of singing for the Gaylord execs who are producing the Radio City Christmas show here. I think we're going to sing one night before the show. Hilarious, I know. More on that later.

Have a great Tuesday!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

We had an incredible rehearsal last night. I am SO blessed to have talented people in this ministry, but even more blessed by their hearts.

I'm about to head to Abilene. I'm one of the judges for the Film Festival this weekend and a part of a symposium on Christians in the arts and media. I am looking forward to going. Stephen and Craig are riding out with me tomorrow morning from Dallas. They were two of my college roommates and still closest friends. We are going to have a BLAST!!!

I'm also leading worship at ACU Chapel tomorrow so if you're around the Abilene area--come join us!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's already been a really interesting day and it's only about half over. I had lunch at Rocket Town today. Michael W. Smith founded this place back in the early 90's but it's since moved downtown and is one of the coolest places around. People from all over the world come to take notes on how to engage the youth culture in their cities.

Honestly, I was too in awe to take many photos so I had to take a couple on my way out. I was late and in a hurry. This is the entrance.

Even as kids walk in they get the sense that this is not a typical hang out. It's edgy, cool, urban, and all the things that appeal to that group.

There is a concert venue inside that holds about 1400 people (standing) with some of the coolest lighting and sound stuff I've seen in Nashville. There are smaller venues downstairs where local bands can play and kids can hang out. There's a computer lab that looks more like a Starbucks. There's a coffee bar and an amazing hang-out area with tables, couches and chairs and lots of TVs and media type things. Downstairs there's also a dance room where kids take ballet and hip hop classes after school.

But the most amazing thing of all is the skate board park. It's inside and is complete with a bowl and ramps all over the place. It's truly incredible.

The kids they are looking to impact and have already hugely impacted are the "disenfranchised" kids. They look different, they talk different, they dress different, they may be pierced or tattooed. They don't fit in to most of our churches. And, based on a dream of Smitty's from years ago, Rocket Town in making a difference in their lives. It was fantastic.

About 20 of us sat at lunch while Smitty and others talked about Rocket Town and their dreams for the future. It made me so excited. I wish we had bethought to ask someone from Rocket Town to come and speak at the ZOE Conference. It would have been perfect!

Afterwards, I left hurriedly to drive over to Kirkpatrick Elementary. I'm the "classroom dad" for this inner-city 4th grade class. They are hilarious. Mercedes informed me that she used to be a TV star. But could never get through it without cracking up. Antonio wanted to arm wrestle. But it was time for Social Studies and writing down facts about the North American Indians. So, we spent some time working on that and Math. Great kids. I know they will bless me WAY more than I will them.

Tonight we resume rehearsals for our Christmas show. I know it will come together, but every single time we do something like this there's about a 2 week period where I seriously contemplate jumping ship. "It's the most wonderful time of the year"...someone once sang. True dat. Just gotta remember not to make it the most stressful time of the year. I am working on my New Year's resolution...something like "Be more about the business of REducing stress not INducing it." Oy. From my lips to your ears, O God!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I just came from an Operation Andrew meeting. ZOE and the group from Temple Church are going to be leading a city wide pre-Thanksgiving worship service at the Ryman downtown (the old home of The Grand Ol' Opry) on November 20th. If you're near Nashville, come join us! It will be really fun to sing in the Ryman!

Trunk or Treat was a blast! Oh my goodness. I couldn't believe the amount of people and the amount of effort! It was fun having all the Lindsley Avenue Daycare kids there. They were adorable. Maddie and Ella were so excited and Sam was just along for the ride as usual.

Sheryl was the most apropos character of all... Mrs. Incredible. And, she whipped up the costume in about 20 minutes on Saturday night. She truly is Mrs. Incredible. I really wanted to go as Mr. Incredible, but Maddie would not hear of it. And...there's the whole red tights issue.

We ended up having more pictures of Maddie because Ella was still not quite awake from her nap and refused to be in any pictures. I was partners with Maddie and wore my tux (back from the cruise ship days) and carried a satin pillow with a little "glass slipper" on it.

My mom bought a great orange hat and decorated the trunk of her car with pumpkins. She was a hit with the kids.

Maddie found Audra and was so impressed by her Dorothy dress. They enjoyed playing and eating together.

Here's a picture of the entire family. Maddie and Ella had a hard time posing at this point--too much to see and do! Sam was somewhere being strolled by Aunt Kiki.

There were so many cars, we couldn't make it to all of them. People really went all out and decorated! The Lindsley Ave. Daycare kids seemed to really get into it too. Here are our girls with Cindy Waddell and Laurie Netterville.

Logan Innis was a beautiful Fall Fairy. Maddie loved her wings! The youth group really dressed up and the kids all loved it!

Keith looked GREAT! His son, Jamie is Ella's buddy. Maddie would have nothing to do with Capt. Hook.

This little boy is Jamie Thompson. He's Ella's best buddy. They are really something together. He went as Peter Pan (His father is Capt. Hook!)

Here are the kids at the end of trunk-or treat. They were cold and ready to go home but happily exhausted! Sam went as a little cowboy!

By the time Halloween night actually got here, the girls were done with the hair and tiger make-up fluff. They just wanted candy. (I had already recycled 95% of their candy from trunk or treat. It was disgusting. Enough sugar to rot out the teeth of middle Tennessee...wait, most don't have their teeth anyway so scratch that.)

Here's Sam during trick-or-treating. He has his pirate ship suit on. Maddie called him Captain Hook!

That's all for today. Happy Tuesday, blogland. Continued prayers go up for the families affected by the horrific tragedy in Waco at First Baptist Church.