Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Crazy times abound at the Creek. Boxes line the halls, pictures are down, bulletin boards are empty, and there's a bustling that suggests that time is short. We move the offices Thursday. We have our final service here Sunday morning. It's going to be an emotional day. Here's what we have planned...

I'm sort of setting the stage with the song "If These Walls Could Speak" (you rock, Alice Griffith!). Then we're going to travel back in time without the praise team and sing songs that our Otter Creek ancestors would have sung through the years...slowly moving forward in time with the aide of scripture readers. (The first pairing is John Rucker age 92-whose father was one of the first elders here- and his son, Ed, who is a current elder.) Each reading time will be a pairing of generational groups making our way down to Gunner Martin, age 7, who will read to Sydney (4), Jack (2) and unborn baby Williamson. It will be a special time.

The DVD's that Randy Brewer has produced for us over the last few weeks have been nothing short of award-winning. They've been emotional, funny, and have captured the true spirit of Otter Creek. We'll have one final DVD this Sunday.

Here's our order of worship:

Welcome and intro
Family Prayer—Phil Wilson
--Let Your Glory Fall in This Room (Chorus only)
--When We All Get to Heaven (vs1)
Meet and Greet
--Praise the Lord

“If These Walls Could Speak” (powerpoint slide show of pictures through the years)

Recognition of different OC groups (praise team sits)


Reading—John Rucker and Ed Rucker (Deut. 6:4-6 and 7-9)
--Rock of Ages (vs1)
--Have You Been to Jesus (vs 1 and chorus)
Reading—Clark Buchi and Jim Butler (Psalm 103:8, 11-14 and Psalm 103:15-19)
--There’s Power In The Blood (vs1)
--No Tears In Heaven (vs1)
--When Peace Like a River (all)
Reading—Brian Leeper and Jamon Martin (Ps.145:3-4, 5-7, 8-9, 10)
--O Lord Our Lord
--He Leadeth Me (vs1)
--Blest Be the Tie (vs1-2)

Supper—Tim Woodroof (The importance of table fellowship)
--O Sacred Head
--I Come to the Garden Alone (vs 1-2)

Reading—Brandon Young and Matt Hudson “Shapiro”(Ps.89:1-2, and 5-7)
Praise team comes up
--A New Anointing
Reading—Eric and Logan Innis and Craig and Meredith Harwell (Ps 96:1-2, 3-5 and 6-7, 8-9)
--These Are the Days of Elijah
Reading—Gunner Martin to Jack, Sydney, and unborn baby Williamson (Psalm 22: 27-28, 30-31)
--Great Is Thy Faithfulness (vs1)
--He’s Always Been Faithful
--Had It Not Been the Lord (chorus)

Birthday Sunday—Bob Enkema

--We’re Marching to Zion (vs1)
Closing Prayer—Fletcher Srygley
--The Lord Bless You And Keep You

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Forgive me--for this might be a long one.

I wanted to post the text from a brochure I did for Otter Creek. We're handing it out today. We're beginning our final week in this home. Today we have services, classes and a huge pot luck afterwards (where we'll put everyone, I have no clue). Next week we are basically moved out but will meet in the sanctuary one last time--adults, kids, babies and all. Thank you for your prayers this week as we move. It's going to be crazy, but fun!!

Recently, Carolyn Maddux handed me a flier entitled “Otter Creek News” dated January 1975. In it were lovely pictures of the youth directors, Steve and Jeanine Adams (Steve now serves as an elder here and Jeanine leads our women’s ministry), Clarence and Jane Shaub, John and Ruth Rucker, Buddy Arnold (the worship leader) and all the elders serving at that time. There were headlines throughout the brochure with titles like “Otter Creek Youth: On The Go For Christ”, “Do the Huge Crowds Make You Wonder?”, and “Your Invitation (to become a part of the OC family).”

One article states, “At Otter Creek you will find friendship, worship, study, challenge, excitement, and opportunity.” I was struck at the similarities between 1975 and 2006. Otter Creek is still that kind of place today.

John Rucker wrote a nice article about the history of Otter Creek that was also included in this newsletter. I want to borrow from pieces of his writing in order to capture this moment in time. It’s important for all of us to know our heritage—whether you’ve been at OC for 60 years or only 3 months.

The first worship service of the Otter Creek Congregation was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Campbell on Otter Creek Road in 1929. There were 28 present, mostly children. Snow was on the ground and many of the children had to walk all or most of the way to the service. Leonard Johnson preached his first sermon for that first Sunday service. Most of the children had never been to Church or Sunday school before, for there was no other Church in the community.

During the summer months of 1930, Hall L. Calhoun held a meeting under a tent located about a stone’s throw from the present building (erected in 1949). There were 42 people added to the church during this meeting. After the meeting, services were held in the Campbell’s front yard and continued at their home for the next 14 months.

In 1930 David Lipscomb College, having built two new dormitories decided to remove the original home of David Lipscomb which had been changed into a dormitory and dining hall. The building was torn down and the material was given to the “cause” at Otter Creek.

In the spring of 1930 work was started on a building that would sit on some property donated by Fletcher Williams directly across the road from the Campbell’s home. All the work was done by those directly interested in the cause and by friends who wanted to assist in the work. All the work was done free of charge. The only cash expenditure on the building was for hardware, roofing, and many small items necessary for the construction of the building.

The building was completed in the Fall of 1930. The first service was held with H. Leo Boles preaching the first sermon. There were about 60 people in attendance.

The first elders of the Otter Creek congregation were George W. Lewis, Fletcher L. Williams, and Andrew Mayche. Geo. W. Kieffer and John E. Rucker (the father of our own John Rucker!) were appointed elders in 1936.

Early preachers were S. C. Boyce, Chester Hunnicutt, L. L. Yeagly, Roseau Cullum, J, R. Stroop, and others from the College, Hillsboro, and Belmont congregations. The first regular minister was L. Haven Miller who started to work with the congregation in 1944 and continued until July 1946. J. W. Brents began preaching in 1946 and worked with Otter Creek for the next six years or so.

After World War II the Otter Creek congregation began to deal with considerable growth and felt compelled to make plans for a new building. The one built in 1930 was completely filled and overflowing. The church decided to purchase the Granny White/ Otter Creek Road site in 1949 and build a building that would be considered adequate for years of growth. The new building was completed on January 1, 1950. The two doors that were in the front of the auditorium were in the original home of David Lipscomb built in about 1872.

Later more Bible class rooms were added. Additional land and the “cottage” were purchased in 1960. Also, that same year, the Otter Creek Kindergarten got its start under the direction of Ruth Rucker. They began with 10 students. Today, the Otter Creek Kindergarten and Pre-School are well known for excellence and are filled to overflowing. As the Otter Creek congregation grew, the new Bible School addition was completed in 1968.

The facility did provide Otter Creek with many years of adequate room. However, as was seen in years past, space soon became an issue. Many people remember sitting on the window sills on Wednesday nights just to participate with Buddy Arnold in heart-stirring worship. The place was packed. By 1983 it became evident that something must be done.

In the mid 80’s Otter Creek launched into a remodeling process. While the auditorium was undergoing construction, the church crammed into the fellowship hall. Soon, the sanctuary was complete. That first day, Buddy Arnold led “We’re Marching to Zion” as the members walked into the sanctuary for the first time. It was a day no one would forget.

Since that day there have been a few improvements here and there but no major remodeling or space added except for the addition of the portables 5 or 6 years ago. As we have experienced over the decades, space became an issue again. When attempts to build on at our current site failed because of land restrictions, the leadership began to search for land. There were talks of land open on Old Hickory Blvd. across from Maryland Farms, there was the land next door to the Korean Presbyterian Church on Franklin Road and then, most recently, the land at Concord Road and Franklin Rd.

In the fall of 2005, a new opportunity came into view. The Living Word church building (formerly Brentwood Baptist) at 409 Franklin Road became a possibility. After prayerfully considering the location, space, and parking capacity, the Otter Creek church once again decided to move this family so that we can have adequate space for the next generation and beyond.

We stand on the shoulders of brave men and women who have made sacrifices and faithfully moved forward in order to reach more people. These men and women have taught us over the generations to trust God in these times. We are here today because of their investment and God’s faithfulness.

Over the years there have been many who have served this congregation faithfully as elders including, George W. Lewis, Fletcher L. Williams, Andrew Mayche, Geo. W. Kieffer, John E. Rucker, Charles Armstrong, Clarence Shaub, Kennedy Green, Howard Hackney, Frank Maddux, John W. Rucker, Buddy Arnold, Thas W. Rogers, Howard Justiss, Fred Hall, Frank Gower, Ira Travis, Everett Beasley, Doyle Gaw, Charlie Brandon, Larry Wilson, Clark Buchi, …

There have been women in our family who have shown us the Father—women like Mrs. Campbell who began her experience with Otter Creek in 1929 and continued to serve this church for decades after. Ruth Rucker taught us to be fearless and to take risks as she opened the Otter Creek Kindergarten and Pre-School program in 1960. Virginia Karnes has been a quiet source of strength for years. She was instrumental in getting the Kindergarten started. She is still one of the most joy-filled worshippers at Otter Creek. Sandra Collins has brought the Word to life for many in this church and followed her dream by helping start the Wayne Reed Daycare Center in the late 1990’s. Janet Crothers and Melani Brown have brought their joy and expertise to our children’s ministry. And the list goes on!

We celebrate the men who have faithfully preached the Word at Otter Creek in times of trouble or peace. These men include L. Haven Miller, J. Ridley Stroop, JW Brents, Ed Cullom, Willie Cato, T. Coy Porter, John McRae, Carroll Ellis, Tommy Donald, Perry Cothom, Russ Corley, Bobby Harrington and Tim Woodroof.

We celebrate others who have taken the Word to the streets and the hearts of those who need Christ…men like Howard Justiss who had a dream to begin Agape which now serves thousands of families, women like Deby Samuels who helped to start the Room in the Inn program for Nashville and Matt and Emily Little who’ve kept that dream alive most recently. We’re thankful for Corky French who served as Chaplain for the Williamson County Sherriff’s department, and all those who’ve helped to make the Wayne Reed Christian Childcare Center a growing and vibrant point of light in inner-city Nashville.

We move into a new era now. The parking lots are full, the building is crowded, the nurseries are overflowing and it seems a lot like times past. As we move we carry with us the hopes and dreams of men and women from those early meetings in 1929. We want to see the world come to Jesus. We want to lift Him up and we want to be faithful to Him as we forge ahead. One day, this history will be added to again. What a joy to consider those who will join us along the way! May God bless us as we continue to walk with Jesus.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I remember my 10th grade year---my friend and I sat in Algebra 2 and talked the entire time. How I ever--EVER passed that class I will never know. I think I even made a B. Now that is nothing short of miraculous.

You remember High School. Every day has its own drama. Many of the conversations were either about relationships, who likes whom, who's done what, what that season's team is up to, etc. I remember realizing that I secretly enjoyed knowing what was happening with other people and talking about it. I remember realizing that there were certain people who ALWAYS seemed to know the "scoop". And I liked them A LOT. I liked hearing and knowing the details about people.

That was High School. I remember being the recipient of people's "interest" a little later in life. I remember how it felt. I remember hearing from others how details and impressions were passed around about something that was extremely painful to me.

Then I married Sheryl. One of Sheryl's pet peeves is gossip. I remember thinking that her reaction to it was, at times, a bit extreme. I remember thinking--what's the big deal? I mean it's one thing to have a conviction and quite another to enforce it on someone else. (I can't even believe I felt that way about this stuff, but secretly, I did.)

Sheryl has impacted me for the good in more ways than I can count. But--one of the most obvious ways is by watching her deep, heart-felt, sincere love for people. There's nothing fake there. When she loves you, she LOVES you! I've watched her grieve over the hurts of others and walk through difficulty with friends--all without breathing a word about it to anyone else. She has helped to instill this deep conviction in me that not only should I not SAY anything about someone that would hurt them--but neither should I listen to someone say it to me. Now, in ministry this gets dicey. We've all heard the phrase--"Here's something we need to be 'praying' about". Uh-huh. Well, sometimes we just have to listen and carefully counsel and ask questions and love through the messes. We've all got 'em. Messes.

However, there are other times when we just need to call a spade a spade and stop people in their tracks. I've watched Sheryl finesse this. It doesn't have to be rude. But it's quite easy to say something like "You know, we probably shouldn't be talking about this" and re-direct the conversation.

There are situations in our churches that just all out suck. We can admit that, can't we? There are people who fall, people who leave, people who get divorced and people who think differently than we. But, I am convinced that these situations are NOT helped by gossip...even in the name of prayer. If you feel a concern for someone, tell them. If you have a worry, go to them. If a brother or sister offends you, go to them. Go to them. Go to THEM. Then, if there's something that can't be worked out there are wise people who can help.

The point in all this is this--we're all a mess. We've all got stuff. Sometimes it's easier to concentrate on someone else's than our own. That's not to say there shouldn't be accountability--because in my book, friendship is NOT telling your friend everything they want to hear. It's being able to say the hard things. But it's also saying the hard things to THAT person and not a group of other people. In doing so, we harm the cause of Christ and we can irreparably damage someone who might be feeling pretty vulnerable and lost.

Just needed to vent about that today--and to remind myself to practice what I preach!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sorry it's taken me a while to post. Things are crazy here as you can imagine. We move out of our offices ONE week from today. There are boxes everywhere, people scurrying about, and last minute plans and details which seem to change by the minute.

It was a great weekend in Fresno--in spite of the stomach thing that I got. The ZOE team, being the family that they are, all made me nice cartoon images on the airplane barf bags and sent them back to my seat on the return flight. They are hilarious! I wish I could share them with you.

Thanks to Lindsey I have some pictures from Fresno--since my camera is still flying high above the ground banging around inside some Southwest Airlines plane. This picture is of Peter, Lindsey and me. You can tell in this picture that I am not feeling my tops...maybe even more like death warmed over!

Jack and Jill Maxwell did their thing while we sang and Mike spoke on Saturday night. As always it was amazing!! This is a picture of Jesus holding a tiny mustard seed.

Here's a picture of the group plus Eric at lunch last Sunday before we boarded the plane. It was rather chilly out there. Too bad we couldn't have gotten a dose of California sunshine. Although--the warmth of the family at the college church was such a blessing. Thank you to Sandra and Lex, Lisa and Steve, Lee Smith and his crew and everyone who made our visit out there so wonderful!

It's been a nutty week and then yesterday in the middle of it all I went to do my thing with the inner-city 4th grade class I'm working with. I wish...I REALLY wish I could blog about it. Maybe later. So many thoughts and feelings. Coming from a household of educators I see those emotions rise up many times.

This Sunday at Otter Creek we are having our good-bye potluck--a throw back to the old days of potlucks. It should be a lot of fun. Please continue to pray for our transition period. We don't want to lose sight of the most important things.

God bless you all!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

It was a great weekend conference in Fresno. We finish up tomorrow and back home tomorrow night. The food as been every bit as good as it always is. However, today we had the infamous California In & Out Burgers for lunch. I've always enjoyed a good IN & Out burger. UNTIL TODAY. Let's just say that I found out why it's called "In & OUT". IN fact, it might be more aptly named, "In & Out and out and out and out....ooops yep, one more OUT." Disgusting. I think I was green most of the session tonight.

Talked to Sheryl and the kids have had a good weekend. I wish I were going to be home sooner. I know Sheryl is ready.

Lots of prayers going up today for Russell Heil and family as they endured Kari's funeral this morning. To continue to post words of encouragement and prayer, please visit here Faith @ Full Capacity. I know it will really mean a lot to him once he's able to see through the fog.

Blessings to all of you tonight. And...take my advice...stay away from In & Out Burgers.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The conference got kicked off with a bang. It's always great to see so many old friends!

Speaking of old friends--please remain in prayer for Russell Heil and his two small children. His wife, Kari Leigh Heil, lost her battle with the disease of depression on Tuesday of this week. Kari was a bright light and had done some choreography for me when I directed the Hosts and Hostesses for ACU's Sing Song in the mid 90's. Russell is a pulpit minister in Mansfield, TX. I don't know when I have felt so compelled to pray night and day. I can barely keep my eyes open today because of not sleeping this week thinking about that family. I cannot fathom his pain. Will you join me in praying specifically for his peace and for the spiritual protection of those two precious children (5 and 6mo.) and Russ? Kari's funeral is tomorrow in Mansfield. Let's send our prayers and thoughts their way.

Russell's blog site is Faith @ Full Capacity. You can leave a comment of encouragement or prayer there.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Thanks to GT for the kind comment yesterday. I miss you, Greg!! I am so pumped that you'll be here in Fresno.

I'm writing from Fresno where it's chilly! However, I have just come from eating SUCH great Mexican food. YUM! It's so great to be here. I love this particular conference. It's hard to explain. It has a personality and character all its own. The people---it's the PEOPLE! I am so glad to be here.

Please pray by name for Russell Hiel and his family. I alluded to his situation yesterday. No need to give details. Just lift him up.

Also--thanks for your prayers regarding the conference this weekend. We're all excited and ready!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

on the note of celebrating life... Wooooooo-hooooo!!!!!!!
Emily Rose Bailey was born a few minutes ago weighing 8.6 lbs and 20.5 inches. Praise God!!!

Congratulations! This is such an answer to prayer!

Do you have those days where life and death seem to all run together? I felt overwhelmed this morning by the things some friends are dealing with. There's great joy--Stephanie Bailey is having her baby today! There's great sorrow--a friend is dealing with the loss of his wife. There are friends whose marriages are in trouble. There are friends who are in the middle of a difficult divorce. My friend Shannon is healing from her surgery. (Thanks for the update Amy!) Another friend is battling her own demons. Jaz and Jamie struggle to even get up and live each new day. I miscommunicate with my wife. I feel excitement over the move and anxiety over all that is left to be done. It's one of those days when the good and the bad all seem to culminate in this weird tapestry that people call "life".

Life--a weird series of events and decisions. One decision can forever change it. It is this multifaceted experience of all the personalities of God. It's a hands-on lesson in trust and love. Life--full of moments that pass quickly and beg to be noticed. Life--this weird thing we hold onto that we're not even guaranteed from one minute to the next. Life--a gift to be treasured. Life--full of joy...even in the smallest of moments. Life--finding love, discovering yourself, discovering God...even in unexpected places.

Don't read this today and try to analyze where I am or what could be going on with me. I'm really ok. I'm just reminded of the precious, sometimes difficult, road that we all walk and how important it is to support each other along the way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

This morning we all overslept. It started the day in a chaotic way...but almost funny with everyone running around the house like mad men. Being a part of a family is fun.

It's raining cats and dogs here. I just wish it was snow. If it's going to be cold, in my opinion, it might as well snow so we can have something to look at. I am definitely a summer guy.

We're preparing for the West Coast ZOE conference this weekend. I always love--LOVE--going to Fresno. The people there are absolutely golden. They put the Love in tender loving care. I was telling a couple of the team members last night at rehearsal what a treat they're in for. I also like it because it's a somewhat smaller conference than the Nashville one. It's easier to visit with people and not quite so crazy.

Still waiting on Stephanie Bailey. Where's that BABY?????

Thank you for your continued prayers for Shannon Zachary. I'll keep you posted. Shannon and her husband, Mark, are believers and trust in God's power to get them through this. Isn't it neat as adults to talk about matters of faith with people you grew up with but never really went to church with or talked about Jesus with? There are a handful of friends from High School (Wylie Abilene) I even still keep up with. I mean--I am about to face my 20 year reunion in 2 summers. UGH! But it always makes me feel so good to know how God has directed and guided the lives of friends from so long ago. Shannon and I started together around 1st grade and have been friends ever since. That's about 30 years. It's really an honor to get to pray for Shannon and her family. Thank you for joining me. Her surgery is this morning.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, January 16, 2006

There was a buzz in the air last night. About every 15 minutes a new group of wide eyed Otter Creekers walked into the sanctuary and we stopped to dream together about what might happen in that space. Here's some of what I said...

Welcome to our new SANCTUARY! The best way to begin talking about this space is to piggy back on Bernie Arnold from this morning's DVD. She talked about how we'd been surrounded over the last 55 years at the Granny White property by such a great cloud of witnesses but that this move allows us a unique chance to teach (insert kids' names in the room at the time) to be the great cloud of witnesses for a generation yet unborn. The Psalms speak of this saying-- generations yet unborn will speak your praise, O Lord. What an AMAZING opportunity!

The vision for this space includes DYNAMIC teaching/preaching, DYNAMIC worship, and DYNAMIC family life experiences. Because this is Nashville you can see a good performance about any day of the week. You can go, be moved, and leave saying--WOW that was awesome! The difference in that and what I'm talking about is YOU. The way we will move and impact this community and our world is not so much what will be happening on "stage", although we will continue to strive for excellence and even more creativity there. The way we will most affect change is by what's happening out in the pews. If we are a worshipping church, if we allow ourselves to be engaged in every part of our corporate experience together--then guests will come in and say, "Surely the spirit of God is in this place!" Face it, when guests come in, they expect that what's happening up here (on stage) will be professional--or at least a good effort. And it will be. What will really impact them though is what they feel from the living organism that is the Church at Otter Creek. If we are worshipping and praying and studying with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, it will impact people. We want this to be a safe and spiritually challenging place for guests.

Do you know there is no such thing as "armchair" or "spectator" worship? We are called to dive in! Some of us come on Sundays and sit back and watch the "show". Now is the time to make a change. There will be an expectation of all of us to be a full part of what we're doing in here corporately. This will not be a production--it must be an interactive worship experience!!

This move affords us a unique opportunity in our history to shake the dust off, to re-evaluate, to re-prioritize, and to renew our minds when it comes to our corporate worship experience. Please be in prayer about this and take it personally.


working on Fresno and preparing to leave on Thursday. Rehearsal tonight with ZOE. Have a great day and PRAY that Stephen and Stephanie Bailey have that BABY today!!!!!

Also, I'd appreciate your prayers for a dear friend who went all the way through school with me--Shannon Crowe Zachary. Over Christmas they discovered she had cancer. She's having surgery tomorrow. Pray for her husband, Mark, and her sweet children (2 of them). She believes in prayer and I know many of you will lift her up.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

This morning Tim is preaching from Joshua 3&4 as we officially begin this closing season at Otter Creek. He's using the story of Joshua leading the people through the Jordan and into their new home. It's a GREAT metaphor for where we currently are. The series will be called "Crossing the Creek". We have a short 3 more Sundays together here at this building and then the real party starts!

Yesterday we went and celebrated again with Geof and Amanda at their Nashville wedding reception. It was a lot of fun--catered by Blue Coast Burrito (a.k.a. Baja Burrito franchised). I was in need of some good Mexican food!

Last night I took Maddie and Ella over to my mom's. She needed help getting the Christmas tree down and the girls LOVE going over there. Sam was ready for bed so Sheryl stayed home with him. The girls played "tea party" with Aunt Maude's old tea set (my grandmother's sister who would probably cringe at the thought. Her furniture even had plastic covers). They jumped on the bed (only at Nonnie's house) and they had fruities. I'm so glad they love going.

This afternoon we begin a two week period of tours through the new building. I'm stationed in the sanctuary today charged with casting a vision for what things might look like and feel like in there. It will be a neat day.

Blessings to all--

Friday, January 13, 2006

One funny story from Disney--

We had come back to Magic Kingdom from Epcot and everyone was in need of a pick-me-up. Sam was hungry, the girls were cranky, and I was ready to put a for sale sign on the stroller (including its contents).

Sheryl decided she'd head to the baby station to nurse and Maddie and Ella and I decided to hit the ice cream shop on Main Street. It's already awkward enough taking a stroller in there but I had to. Everyone, including me, decided we wanted an ice cream float. (Yum--I want one just thinking about it!) I waited in line and when the treats were ready I noticed how very full to overflowing they were. I took the liberty of sipping some out of Maddie's and handed it to her. She can usually manage without spilling. Ella, on the other hand, is a mini-me when it comes to being klutzy. I decided I'd hold on to hers and mine in both hands and guide the stroller through the shop, out the door, and onto the sidewalk using my elbows. A nice gentleman held the door for me. I looked across the street and spied some tables and thought to myself...if I can just get across the street we can sit there and enjoy!

In my haste, I forgot about the curb and the stroller went plummeting forward and Maddie and Ella began to spill out. Instinctively, I grabbed for the stroller and them but lost one of the floats. It fell forward in slow-mo emptying its contents on Maddie's head. Plop. A big glob of vanilla ice cream sat perched atop her head while rivers of Coke and melted ice cream flowed down her face and neck. It was one of those moments when you either laugh or cry. Fortunately, it was so hilarious I couldn't help myself. I fell apart laughing. Maddie began to laugh and Ella was screaming laughing.

Families all around us watched and felt sorry for us and we began to be showered with wet wipes. I'm convinced that there are more wet wipes at Disney than anywhere else on earth. I patted Maddie's head dry while we continued to giggle. I went back in and they were nice enough to give me a new one. And we were off for our table carrying with us our Coke floats and a new fun memory of our time at Disney.

Happy birthday today to my father, Sam Thomas. That story was for you, Dad! You'd have been on the street laughing!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Aren't Christmas letters interesting? They come in all kinds. There are those that lean toward the hilarious, there are those that list off things the kids and parents are thankful for (maybe my favorite to read), there are the informational, and the event based.

A great friend shared with me that our 2004 Christmas letter caused him to want to write a screen play. He was having one of those days--you know...THOSE days. He read the letter and secretly dreamed of the freedom of being able to send out a Christmas letter that was full of honest truth about the year...even humorously honest. It struck me. Mainly it struck me because we've literally had friends call us and ask us if our kids were really as perfect as my blog made them out to be. Of course we had to put the phone down to keep from choking from painful laughter.

Perception is a funny thing, isn't it? I find that I like to think and dwell on the positive. I think that's a good thing--but sometimes it bites me in the butt and causes me to come off in a way that is completely irritating. I guess I sometimes assume that people know enough about the hard stuff in our lives and don't really want to read about it in a Christmas letter. But--then again, there's something to be said for honesty. The hugest irony in it all is--if you go back and read my 2004 entries, you'll see that it was a year of utter HELL. Maybe the worst year of my adult life--aside from the year my dad died. I think my friend should write a great show about that--it would be hilarious. And, I want Will Ferrell to play me.

I wanted to blog about this today because it's important to note that life is full of real struggle whether you're a minister, a dad, a lawyer, a performer, or a student. I want to try and be more honest about where I am. I guess that's one reason I haven't blogged much lately. I am not sure I know. I've been doing A LOT of processing. It's really been good. Good and hard. I had a great afternoon with Don Finto yesterday--a Nashville father figure for me. I needed that.


I went over to our new building today. We're looking at doing a bunch of things to the stage and it's all SO exciting! I could literally do back flips. I can't believe this is happening in a month. We also had a significant meeting today as a staff with someone helping us think through how to do business differently--thinking about reaching lost people and how that should impact our services and our attitudes. It was so energizing for me.

I pray that your day is great! Thanks for bearing with me as I'll be pouring out random assortments of thoughts and feelings over the coming weeks. There's much to be done for Fresno. Thanks for your prayers regarding that trip next week!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Insert music from "Flight of the Bumble Bee".

Our church move was bumped up a month. Our final day at Otter Creek is February 5th. This all happened while I was gone.

(more "Flight of the Bumble Bee")

The West Coast ZOE Conference happens in the middle of all of that the weekend of January 20th.

(music swells)

What Phil referred to...the lost item...I lost the digital camera with all--ALL of Ella's birthday pictures and ALL of our Disney World pictures. It's somewhere clanking around on a Southwest airplane. Please, please, please pray we get it back. I literally burst into tears at the airport when we returned--partly from exhaustion, but mostly from sheer frustration over losing those precious recorded memories. Thankfully, our friends traveling with us took some pictures and we still have our Disney Photo pass.

I am deep into planning for the "Closing Season" at this building. Any of you done that before? Any ideas? We've got a lot of creative people working on it but I always love hearing what you guys think.

More blogging later.

Monday, January 09, 2006

We're back after a week in Orlando. I had a conference there and then we went to Disney--thanks to a very good friend. We spent some wonderful quality time with Jakie and Lindy Cabe and their two adorable daughters, Caroline and Riley. It was fun watching our kids together. Lindy was my vocal director at Six Flags Over Texas in 1993, helped me get the ship job and then we got to perform together at Casa Manana. We've been friends for a long time. I love Jakie and the 4 of us just had so much fun. We hit Magic Kingdom, MGM, Animal Kingdom and Epcot--where the girls had breakfast with the princesses in Norway! We made so many wonderful memories and we're glad to be home.

I learned a lot last week. I have so much to blog I don't even know where to begin. I am not really ready to blog yet. It's been a nice vacation. I will try and post some things tomorrow. Blessings to all!