Friday, December 30, 2005

My favorite things about 2005--

1. Hearing the words, "It's a boy!!" and meeting Sam, my son!

2. Watching Maddie and Ella grow...and seeing Ella start pre-school

3. Enjoying life and love with Sheryl

4. Skiing Steamboat Springs and sitting in a hot tub watching snow fall like rain all around us.

5. Finding out that Otter Creek has bought a new building

6. Having my mom here and watching the kids around her.

7. Nanny and Abba-ba's Nashville visit.

8. The fall ZOE conference--maybe my all time favorite ZOE conference.

9. Otter's hiring of Doug Sanders and all he's helped bring to our staff.

10. My trip to Abilene to judge Film Fest--which turned into a weekend of fun with Stephen and Craig.

11. Life Group

12. Kirkpatrick Elementary, Mr. Adam's 4th grade class, and Kenneth and DeQuan

13. 4th of July fireworks in Smyrna (reminiscent of old Abilene days)

14. Cathy Rigby in "Peter Pan" at TPAC. Watching the wonder in our girls' faces as they watched.

15. Hearing Stephen say, "We're pregnant!"

16. Jason and Alisha's wedding and Amanda and Geof's wedding

So many wonderful memories made in 2005. It seems like such a full year! It was about 100% better than 2004. I'm thankful for family and friends. I'm thankful for the gift of music and worship. I'm thankful for the beautiful smiles I see every day on my kids' faces. I'm thankful for faith and the Spirit of God who reminds me every single day that He's alive and well. It seems even on days I don't want to believe, He intersects my path in ways that I could never deny. I'm thankful for another year at Otter Creek and for God allowing me to do what I feel passionate about.

Happy New Year, Blog Family!! May God make His face to shine upon you.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Feeling tottie and all.

Car trips with 3 kids under the age of 5 should not be attempted by anyone. Thank the Lord for VCRs and creative Sheryl. By the time we got home I was ready to separate the girls for a minimum of 3 years. Today we took the divide-and-conquer method. Maddie and I took the mall and Sheryl, Ella, and Sam went their own way. We're preparing for Ella's party Saturday morning. We're doing a small Jo-Jo birthday party for her and a few friends her age.

Katey came over tonight bearing gifts from Abilene. PECANS! Mom, eat your heart out. It was nice to see her.

On the whole C.S. Lewis of my favorite things about him was his group of friends at the pub. Hardly any of them agreed fully with each other. They loved to debate and still maintained a wonderful friendship. It's great to know that we don't have to see things exactly the same to remain friends. It's not always easy. But, it's worth it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I've been reading C.S. Lewis while we've been here. Mere Christianity is such a great book. I read it in college, but that's been a while. It's especially fitting as I've been listening to friends lately talk about Dualism and their enlightened views on the world. Lewis makes some really great points. Have you read it lately?

I am officially sick with head cold deluxe. Can someone please send relief?? Hot totty anyone?

Monday, December 26, 2005

We're in Jonesboro, Arkansas with "Fajita" and Gail and their kids. (Fajita--Chris--is married to Sheryl's sister.) The kids are running around like wild Indians. It's so fun to watch them.

I am reminded about Christmases past with the Morses. Josh, Jeremy, and Mary were more like siblings to me than cousins. I loved being with them. I remember one Christmas Josh and I watched Star Wars 27 times. CRAZY! We played hide and go seek and it was always the most fun when my dad was "it". The anticipation was sheer terror. They always had the latest gadget or video or game.

I'm also reminded of Christmases at my Aunt Dot's in the Woodlands, TX. We'd all gather around her old red player piano and sing "Rubber Ducky" and all the standards. Then we'd eat and eat and eat and eat. So many wonderful memories.

I remember Christmases with my Granny--before she died in 1976 (my mom's mom). I always loved being there. They spoiled me. As an older kid, my Aunt Vickie (married to my mom's brother, Rob) introduced the most holy hashbrowned potato casserole. We still make it every year--her recipe.

Christmas is about family. Even the awkward moments are to be treasured. We're living our story--sometimes we forget to take a look around. We're making our family history now! It's such a blast.

Thank God for family! Yesterday Jaz and Jamie came to be family with us. It was fun. Maddie was hilarious with them. She was Chatty Cathy about every part of Christmas morning and then when Jaz decided it was time for a nap--she wouldn't hear of it. She stood over him yelling, "WAKE UP!!!!" We were honored to have them join us.

Otter was a blessing yesterday. There were no childrens' classes or nurseries. It was one BIG family gathering. I loved having the kids with us. We should do that more.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Joy to the world--the Lord has come! We wish you the peace of Christ this Christmas holiday.

Here are some pictures from the Thomas family from the last week.

The girls were so excited about the Rockettes' Christmas show. Maddie was dressed from shoe to bow at least 3 hours early. Here they are with Lauren and Kyle before the show while we rehearse.

Thursday night we performed at the Opry House right before the Radio City Music Hall's Christmas show. It was a lot of fun. Watching the girls' faces was my favorite part.

Friday night we got to tour around in a limo with the Colvert family and friends. It was so fun to be with Keith and Martha Rogers. We miss seeing them.

we had a blast in the limo on Friday night. Here's a picture of Maddie and Darcy. They all had such a blast!

We traditionally open gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve (but we save the really special ones for the next morning). Here's a picture of the kids and me on Christmas Eve.

Santa didn't forget us!! (The stockings were handmade by Sheryl this year. We LOVE them!!

Maddie got a huge Wizard of Oz picture book and a Mulan doll from Santa.

Ella--looking cool in her sunglasses from Santa!

Sam loves his new bouncy toy from Nonnie! It makes car sounds and everything!

Merry Christmas, everyone! We thank God for Emanuel!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Last night was such a BLAST! We sang on stage at the Opry House prior to the Radio City Rockette's Christmas show. It was fun being in that place and on that stage. It was fun hearing Sheryl sing "So Are You To Me". It was fun seeing all the Otter Creekers back there cheering us on. What a blast. (pictures to come)

The actual Radio City show was incredible. The best part was watching the girl's faces. I am so glad we ended up doing it. We all had fun.

Tonight we are being treated by Bob Covert to a limo ride around Nashville for a couple of hours to look at Christmas lights with the girls. (Maddie says we're riding in a "lizamine".) The Colverts, Martha and Keith Rogers, Steve and Karen Speake, my mom and we are all riding together. We've been making cookies today to eat while we ride. It will be really fun. I am very excited to see Keith and Martha. I've missed them.

The girls are so full of excitement and anticipation about the weekend. I have to admit...I am too. It's such a fun time of year!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Here are some photos from last weekend

Mark and Michael Lusk rehearse during sound check Sunday night. These guys are so incredibly talented it makes me sick. I LOVE hearing them play. I'm so thankful they're at Otter Creek and gave up time from their other music stuff to help us out.

Jason Patrick is our band leader. Jason and I go way back. He's a gifted singer too! I really love working with him.

Glen, Tim, and Chris work during sound check. Chris Brush (on drums) actually grew up at the church I went to and still love in Dallas (Lake Highlands). Chris is a professional drummer in town and was willing to come play with us. I'm grateful for him.

The cast gathered each night in the fellowship hall to warm up (Jeanette Lipford style! You should here Ella singing..."What shall I siiiing todaaaaay"). We gathered Sunday night for a photo. Not everyone was in the photo, but this is most of and all.

We're all getting excited about the Radio City show tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to seeing our girl's reaction to the show. Maddie and Ella already love dancing around the house--I can't wait to see how this impacts them.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The show was really so much better Sunday night. It was truly enjoyable. I'm glad it's over though.

I took a vacation day today. It was needed. This morning we closed on refinancing our home to a new interest rate. YEA! This afternoon I went to TWO movies.

King Kong--2 words...long and scary. Seriously, it really scared me. Creepy crawly things and gorillas and women on very tall things---I AM VERY AFRAID OF HIEGHTS. It was good--all 3 hours of it.

The Family Stone--simply awesome. I loved this movie. I could tell where it was going in the beginning and already started tearing up. It hit a little too close to home for me. I seriously laughed out loud a lot and then ended up using 2 napkins to dry my face from crying. It's worth the price of the ticket, in my opinion. I have always been a huge Luke Wilson fan. It's one of my favorites of his.

Tonight was Christmas with Katey who's driving to Abilene tomorrow. She's a part of the fam and we love her. Safe travels, Katey! She bought the girls recorders (remember elementary school music class?). We're going to tell them they can only play them at her house. :)

Back to work tomorrow. I'm squeezing a full work week into one day. It's a busy one. Then rehearsal tomorrow night for the Radio City thing on Thursday. We're all excited. Maddie keeps telling people we're going to see the "Rockets" (Rockettes). They'll love the show.

Blessings to all--

Sunday, December 18, 2005

We had a wonderful show last night. The band was sounding great and the vocalists were all fantastic too. We had some sound and power issues. Welcome to our 55 year old building that was NEVER designed to do what we're doing. Phil and Scott handled it beautifully.

Tonight will be the big night. It's our last show and most all of Otter Creek waits til Sunday night to come. We also have 15 or so women from a half way house (hate that term) and some men from Room in the Inn coming. It'll be a great night.

This morning I'm making the choir be here, groggy and all, at 7:30 and serve as one huge praise team. We'll all sit on stage and lead together. Bless them. They're tired and some are sick. They're troopers. We're talking about incarnation again this morning and it's impact on our World and in our lives.


My mom gave the girls and Sam a great children's book sometime ago (it's a benefit of having a Children's Lit Specialist for a mom--we have an AWESOME library!) called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Last night Ella was making up songs to herself as she's prone to do. Here's what she was singing to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It"...

If you give a mouse a cookie then you won't...
If you give a mouse a cookie then you won't...
If you give a mouse a cookie...
If you give a mouse a cookie then you won't!

She's a funny one. Those of you who know her can imagine her squeaky little voice chiming that out to herself.

Have a great morning, blog world!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Last night it happened. There was a moment when everything just fell into place...sound, voices, and heart. There were tears in the chorus as the Spirit of God flowed over us. It was only rehearsal, but we were giving it our all-- not for any person---but for the Filler... the Giver of good things. He met us. It was an amazing moment. (It also just so happened that one of the fathers of the kids in the show is a sound expert and he helped us iron some things out--GOD PROVIDES!) Once the sound was fixed, a wave of relief and confidence poured over us. But that's not what I'm referring to. There was a distinct moment when the Spirit poured over us like a wave. It was beautiful!

Tonight we will lift the roof. I have no doubt. But this morning is Christmas with Kiki! The girls can't wait!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Last night was nuts. It always is. The first night we put all those elements together--sound, lights, kids, band, singers, monitors, etc...crazy. It wasn't nearly as nuts as two years ago when we hired out sound and the sound technician almost checked into the looney bin because of the show. Bless. At least we don't have camels. (and I don't mean cigarettes)

I looked up on stage and realized that there's so much more going on than just this show (always a great thing for a director/producer to remember when he's suffering from tunnel vision.) One friend is dealing with her mom who just had a liver transplant, another is dealing with pain from a recent back surgery. There are a couple of extremely pregnant women, people dealing with family or kids issues, and more. Here we are--a collection of broken people all holding on to one hope--Jesus. That may sound cheesy, but it's so true. We are bound together in a common belief that compels us out of our own junk and into presenting this message of Life and Hope.

We have folks coming from Kirkpatrick Elementary, Room in the Inn, and others this weekend. My neighbor, Jason, and his family from Tanzania are coming tomorrow night and hopefully bringing some of the folks they're working with in his mission. (He's a church planter working with people from all nations currently living in east Nashville--many from Africa.) I'm excited that they're all coming.

It again takes me back to the theme of our year in 2005 with this ministry... communicating the message. We underestimate the power of worship. We RARELY do that with pulpit stuff. But, it's at least as important, and maybe more. In worship we are communicating to the Lord--all of us. Those who are involved in worship leadership (praise team, worship leaders, etc) are leading people...LEADING people in their communication. Leadership is always contagious one way or another. Either we're furthering the boredom of people, or we're leading in such a way as to infuse them with the very Spirit of God. What will our testimony in song be this weekend? Will those who are coming look at us and know that we believe what we're singing about? Will what we're doing make any difference in their lives? Hopefully the answer is yes. I pray that we present this message this weekend in a very real, authentic, encouraging and even exciting way. And I pray that those who are hurting will find some hope.

Please come if you can! Tomorrow and Sunday nights at 7pm.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rehearsal went well last night. We only stayed an hour. I sent everyone home to rest their voices and get well. There's lots of sickness going around right now. We had several out last night with it. Here's a shot from last night.

Jay Chaudoin prepares to sing out his tenor part on the top level of the stage.

This morning we got to go to Maddie and Ella's school Christmas program. It's always one of my very favorite parts of the holiday season. The kids were adorable!! Here's a picture of Maddie with her classmates getting ready to sing.

Ella is sitting on the front row--ready to go!! She was absolutely hilarious to watch! Tall Maddie is on the very back row--all you can see is her bow sticking up.

My favorite part of their show was when they pulled out the jingle bells!

Here's a picture of Ella with Ms. Betsy, her teacher. She loves Ms. Betsy! Ella was eating a candy cane, as you can see.

After the program, Santa came around to all the classroom parties. Ella had a great time visiting with him.

Here's Maddie with Santa in her class room after the party. Santa has an unusually large hand.

Maddie poses here with her good friend, Sarah Catherine. It was a fun day for all! More rehearsals tonight. It;s our first night with every element--band, lights, sound, singers, and kids! Whew! I know it will be fun!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Rehearsal went well last night. We're just all trying to stay well and keep our voices at this point. Below are some shots from the week.

Reco and Trayce practice "Everything to Me" with the praise team in the portable. They all sound incredible on it.

We've been busy preparing the sanctuary. Karen Speake painted these awesome banners that were hung last week.

Last night after rehearsal Kyle climbed up on the ladder that I refuse to even touch to help get the drapes hung. It was such a blessing to have the help!

with the back lighting, the drapes end up looking really cool--here's a shot from 2 years ago.

Here's a picture of the full group from 2 years ago.

I was so thrilled that Sheryl and the kids joined me at Kirkpatrick Elementary today. We had made and frosted over 50 cookies on Monday for the kids in Mr. Adam's 4th grade class. The girls were excited to give them to the kids. When we got there all the kids greeted me with Christmas cards they had made and written in. It was SO AWESOME! I'll have to try and scan some after Christmas. (One 4th grade girl went over to Sheryl and remarked about our kids, "They look like they daddy!" I would agree.) We had a blast. I read The Polar Express to them complete with the jingle bell, thanks to Mom. We also sang a bunch of Christmas songs. When is the last time you sang "The 12 Days of Christmas"?? I got lost around #9 and it came to a screeching halt. After Kirkpatrick, Maddie and Sam went home with Mommy and Ella and I had a "Daddy date" and went to lunch. It was fun. My sweet Ella Bella. She is such a joy!

Have a great afternoon, blog family.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

OTTER CREEK IS MOVING!!!!!!! YEA!!!!! I've been DYING to share this with the blog community since August. We've not known for sure until last week that everything would work out, but this is a huge answer to prayer! This gives us so much more bang for our dollar. PLUS--no "REACH" campaign for the next 20 years. HALLELUJAH! Here's a shot of the front of our new building that was originally built for Brentwood Baptist and then recently owned by the Living Word church. (Julie Woodroof took all these great photos!)

Here's the sign and view from the road.

This is a cool picnic area on the property. It will be so nice for Spring and Summer gatherings and life group functions!

This picture is of the sanctuary and was taken from the balcony looking down.

this is looking at the front of the sanctuary.

Here's a view from the stage area.

This picture is of the gym and family life center. It's incredible! A full kitchen, room for dinner theater, a great place for the youth, etc. YEA!!

We are all really excited! Our first Sunday will be February 26th, 2006! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!! Praise God for providing this alternative for us!

we have a lot to do in the next 10 weeks. There's a lot of processing of emotions too. After 75 years on Otter Creek Rd, this is a huge transition for our family. Sheryl and I have only been here 10 years and yet we got engaged in the Otter Creek Sanctuary one January night in 1998. WE got married there, our kids were all born while we went there and we've experienced a lot of life in just 10 years. Imagine those who've been around for 75 years! We plan to have a season of remembrance and celebrating the past. And then we'll have a season of new beginnings once we get into our new space. It's going to be incredible.

Meanwhile, rehearsals and plans shift into HIGH GEAR for this weekend. I hope those of you close enough to Nashville will plan to come. Saturday and Sunday nights...7pm.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I pulled into my driveway last week and looked over and this is what I saw...WOW! It made me think about the lyric that says, "Who paints the skies into glorious day? Only the splendor of Jesus!" Beautiful, isn't it? I sent it to one of the local weather men. We'll see if he uses it or not.

Friday night was a blast. The Lyric Street gang is very nice. It's been several years since we've been able to sing at their party. Randy's house was so beautiful and "Christmasy". I'm glad we did it.

Yesterday morning was "Breakfast with Santa". It's something that Otter has been doing for years. The fellowship hall was transformed into a winter wonderland and the Santa was great! Here Janet (one of our children's ministers) welcomes everyone and talks about the true gift of Jesus.

The kids loved getting to talk to Santa. Looks like he has his hands full here, doesn't he? Tell me about it!

Maddie's buddy, Sydney, was also very excited. Sydney is the daughter of our long time friends, Ryan and Sarah Williamson. She's sitting in her Bammi's lap (Beth Williamson). Byron and Beth have been family to me for many years. It's so fun having them at Otter Creek now!

Sam was just so cute! Sometimes I have to rub my eyes and look again just to make sure that he's real...and to make sure it's not Baby Maddie. He and Maddie favor so much as babies.

Cookeville went great. It was a long trip and Phil Wilson, who was bringing the sound stuff in his van, had some car trouble. Primarily because he hadn't added oil since 1998. Our big 18 passenger van was cruising down the interstate and then we realized Phil wasn't back there any more. However--we all made it fine. It was a good trip and, as usual, lots of hilarity with the group.

This morning is a very special day at Otter Creek. We're making a pretty big announcement. I'm so excited about the future! After church, we're rehearsing for the show this weekend and then Life Group at our house. We're having our Christmas party tonight. It will be lots of fun too.

Have a great Sunday!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Last night we rehearsed for the Lyric Street Records party we're singing for tonight. It's going to feel really weird singing "Sleigh Ride" with the Rascal Flatt's guys. We are no Rascal Flatts...but we sure are rascals. (that's a dad joke that requires hitting your knee and laughing like a doofus.) It was fun singing some of those songs. It reminded me of so many other similar rehearsals. When I lived in the Metroplex I did this thing every year called Holiday Cheer. It's a group of singers from the Dallas Opera, Casa Manana, and other places who go out and sing at malls, the holiday nights at the zoo, Ruth's Chris, Mortons, and other restaurants and parties. It was a lot of fun and some great holiday money. The only down side was the Victorian garb we had to wear. Well, maybe not the only downside...but probably the biggest one.

Then there were the "Reflections" Christmas shows while at ACU. We sang cheesy holiday classics like the Carpenter's "Merry Christmas Darling". The one thing I do remember about most of those shows is that I'd inevitably lay my keys down somewhere and end up having to hunt for them...unless Stephen was also singing. He usually watched for my keys laying about randomly.

I loved my mom's blog yesterday about the troops singing "Silent Night". Christmas seems to put things into perspective for some--while it can cause others to lose all perspective. Retailers love Christmas because sales are through the roof. Some of them make their entire livelihood on the sales from the day after Thanksgiving. Trouble is, most of that stuff is being accumulated by people who'll have to build bigger barns to make it fit. I am really trying to break that pattern in my own life.

Those of you with kids...what are some ways you're teaching your children about giving? It's so easy for this season to become the ultimate "I want" season. Sometimes, I think it's really the adults who instill that in kids. While our kids are young and not wise enough to know how all this accumulation works, if pressed they'll tell really only say one thing they want for Christmas. It's so tempting (coming from someone whose love language included giving gifts) to want to lavish them with every cool toy and princess doll ever made. There's a side of me that really wants that. But--the Spirit reminds me that I am also their teacher. I want to be teaching them the joy of giving. I am convinced that giving them everything they'd ever want is NOT healthy. So, why do so many families do that?

This year we're really turning it down a few notches. I just want some ideas about how to involve them in the act of giving. I'm taking them with me to Kirkpatrick next Wednesday when I'll read "The Polar Express" to the kids. Any ideas on how to include the girls? Any ideas from any of you out there about practicing the act of giving? How are you teaching your kids about that? What's working?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Incredible rehearsal last night. Annie Grace Netterville was rockin' on "Away In A Manger" and the kids were so CUTE! We went through the Avalon song, "Everything to Me" and Reco and Trayce jammed. It was fun. The band sounds perfect and things seem to be coming together.

I'm at the point now, though, where I try to stay asleep at night. The trouble isn't really GOING to sleep, it's staying asleep. This morning at 5am I was wide awake with lists in my head and a pending anxiety attack. Lighting and sound, drapes and tech work, rehearsals and holiday schedules, drum shields, kids, ZOE and Cookeville, babysitting, year end reviews, spot light operators, Lyric Street, Rockettes...I need an Advil.


Steph--thanks so much for going there. :) I think more men have dealt with that issue than anyone would readily admit. I've got my own stories. I think that stuff robs people in ways we might never fully understand. There've been very brave Godly men who've come forward and confessed their struggle with it. They are the few who represent the many--especially if statistics hold true. It's dumb to even pretend it's not a problem in our churches. God is good to break chains of all kinds of addictions--and p*orn is definitely included in that. Hallelujah!

If any of you struggle with that, there are some great sites like and some tools on the triple x church site (spelled with three x's--xx* offer accountability. All our ministers here have that on our computers. Every questionable site is reported and sent to an accountability partner. It's incredible! I highly recommend it! Some of our praise team folks use it too.

Hope that's helpful! Have a great morning, everyone!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I played flag football today with 10 4th grade boys at Kirkpatrick. It's been a long time since I've played flag football--much less with 10 scampering rabbits. I will not be able to move tomorrow. (Stephen, Craig and Chris--SHUT IT!)


So, apparently, the "yittle yam" is evolving. Today is was...

"Yittle yam who had a farm
had a farm, had a farm..."

You get the idea.


Sorry for the "p*boy" comment yesterday. Not sure who left it. Like any one of us needs another opportunity to tune into online p*rn. For the love. Take your p*rn and be gone!!! Been there, done that. Don't need it or want it.


Rehearsal tonight with kids! Annie Grace Netterville is singing the solo. I know she'll put some soul into it! I can't wait!

Have a great night!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ella and Maddie are preparing for their school program next week. I wonder if Ella's class is singing Mary Had a Little Lamb. Here's what she's been singing around the house recently,

"yittle yam had yittle yam
yittle yam, yittle yam
yittle yam had yittle yam
yittle, yittle yam."

It's hilarious with her little raspy voice.


Rehearsals abound. Tomorrow night we add kids to our already chaotic rehearsals for Christmas. The kids will join us at 6pm, then the adults will join the band at 7:30. The band is truly awesome. I'm so excited!

Friday night is the Lyric Street party. A small group of us are singing at the party for their record label. (Lyric Street has artists like Rascal Flatts, Aarron Tippen, She Daisey, etc. and the President goes to Otter Creek!) That should be fun.

Saturday afternoon ZOE heads to Cookville to sing and back that night. Then Sunday begins the daily rehearsals for the Otter Christmas show that next weekend.

Then, the following week is the Radio City deal!

I'd appreciate your prayers for peace and health over the next few weeks. There's a lot to get done and so far I'm not feeling stressed, just excited. I love this time of year. Kids make it even better. I love the sense of anticipation and excitement! AND--opportunities abound to teach them that this season is more about giving than receiving...although that's such a challenge!


Last night I was on the way to pick up a couple of guys downtown to take them to an appointment and I was stopped at the light on Charlotte Pike. I saw a homeless man begging on the corner and remembered the food sacks that were in my back seat. Doug Sanders had all Otter Creek members take some sacks of food to keep in their car for occasions like this. I was so thankful to have it! It's not that complicated and it really meets a need. Thanks to Doug for the great idea!


There are lots of hurting people during the holidays. Those who experience loneliness and grief, those who are financially wrecked or hungry, those who are estranged from family members, etc---this season can sometimes only exacerbate what they're already feeling. It would be cool to consciously make a decision to seek them out and encourage them over the next couple of weeks. Any ideas on what's working out there?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Yesterday morning The elders, staff, and praise team at Otter Creek surprised me for my 10 year anniversary as a minister there. I was definitely surprised! Jim Butler and David England came up front and seeing David I knew something was up. Karin Hensley also joined them. The praise team gave me a WAY COOL ipod with streaming video. I can't wait to use it! The church gave Sheryl and me a nice gift that couldn't have come at a better time for us.

As I stood up there thinking about the last ten years I was struck with a sense of how long it's really been. I came there in my mid twenties, single, naive, and uncertain of what God was doing. (Not to mention wondering why in the world He would be leading me back to a CofC!) God has been so good to me over these 10 years. OC has seen my best and worst. I've fallen on my face and they've given me grace. I've experienced some real victories in the Lord and they've stood by me cheering me on.

In that time I dated and married Sheryl. Our wedding was in that very sanctuary. In fact, we got engaged in the sanctuary--another story for another time. Maddie, Ella, and Sam all experienced their first worship times at Otter Creek. They've been blessed by those elders and teachers. My mom is now a member at Otter Creek--and teaching a Sunday morning adult Bible Class on Spiritual Development. What an amazing 10 years! I've made some very close friendships. I've grieved the loss of mentors like Bud Arnold and John Crothers. I've said goodbye to friends too young to die like Shanon Dickerson. (I'll never forget Bud Arnold and Shanon Dickerson's funerals--within months of each other.) I've seen friends come to Christ. I've grieved as friends have said goodbye to their marriages. I've celebrated and with others who've committed their lives to each other in marriage. I've even performed several weddings there. I never would have believed that.

The birth of ZOE happened during those ten years. It has grown into something none of us could imagine and the elders and staff have been so supportive of that ministry. There've been Christmas musicals with the Temple choir, "A Sander's Family Christmas", 7 years of Phil Keaggy and Jeff Berry concerts, Summer Life, VBS, Easter musicals, Randal Wilcher classes, Donald Miller, life groups, hilarious Matt and Emily Little moments, answered prayers...and prayers that seemed to go unanswered.

There've been so many special memories. I praise God for the life, the community, the family and the joy that Otter Creek has brought into my life. Thank you, Lord for 10 special years! Here's to the next 10!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What I should have also said in my post on Friday is that I left the two day retreat with Otter Creek staff feeling so PUMPED! I think it was the most beneficial and spiritually challenging time together we've had in ages. We talked about vision. We talked about holistic spirituality--or more plainly stated, discipleship and living missional lives. There are many exciting days ahead!

This morning we have elder ordination. We're talking about incarnation a bit and service. We also have Vocal Union with us. They'll be singing a couple of songs in preparation for their journey to Carnegie Hall in a couple of weeks. They're singing O Come, O Come Emanuel and O Holy Night.

Have a wonderful morning of worship!

Friday, December 02, 2005

If a church were to re-word or re-structure their mission statement to reflect something like...

"Our mission is to grow people into an authentic relationship with Jesus until all men, women, boys and girls are ready to give away their lives for the sake of Christ."

Something to that degree--can you imagine the ramifications that would have? Where would you start? How would the church respond to holistic spirituality? Can you imagine the impact of taking something like that seriously?

Authenticity is attractive. Kids today, and adults too, are looking for something more real than the churchy game that most of us play. In fact, I'd be tempted to put a banner up where other praise banners are that simply states, "No more B.S." And I don't mean "Brandon Scott", although the two are sometimes synonymous.

What if the church really got busy being about the business of Jesus? What if we cared less about maintaining status quo and looking like the world around us and began to be radically DIFFERENT than the world? Did you know that based on just about every statistic out there--there's not much difference? Marriages don't stay together, people don't seem to have more victory over addictions, etc. And so, the burning question is...just what difference does Jesus make? It's HUGELY convicting to me.

For me, the call of Christ is becoming less and less appealing by worldly standards. I think that's as it should be. While my flesh rejects the notion of dying to myself, my spirit turns backflips at the thought of true authenticity in Christ...and becoming what we're all meant to be through His power. Furthermore, based on real example in my life, this change is not possible without surrender to the Spirit of God. I'm still learning, Lord!! I need Your molding touch!

"Not by might, not by power, but by MY SPIRIT says the Lord!!"