Sunday, April 30, 2006

Last Spring we finally got around to clearing out some of the weeds in our garden. There are these wild rose bushes that were completely out of control. I finally got tired of looking at them--and there were never blooms. So, I cut it back--way back. I trimmed it to the core. I didn't have the energy to dig them completely up, but thought I had done the trick--at least they weren't overtaking the garden.

A few weeks ago, to our surprise, the rose bushes exploded. There are hundreds of blooms--more than we could pick. There's something true across the board about pruning. Sometimes in order to come back with a bang, you must prune. The results can be surprising!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I went hiking yesterday with my buddy, Kyle. Kyle is a phys ed. teacher in Franklin and in our life group. He took the afternoon off so we could hang. We went to Radnor Lake and hiked. It was a blast...well, mostly. Those of you who know me at all know that I have 2 serious phobias. One is high places and the other is SNAKES. Yes, we met a snake on the trail yesterday. I had a panic attack. Kyle wasn't all that thrilled either--no matter what he tells you. He got the snake to slither off the path. I couldn't concentrate on anything else the rest of the time--the beauty of Radnor is incredible--but I was watching the path with eyes wide OPEN.

Tomorrow we are going to visit Fellowship of the places on our list to experience during this time off. I'll let you know how it is. Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thanks to Amy Westerman for this addition to the mix from yesterday!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In reference to my post this morning(below)--and thanks to Rick, I am posting a few of my personal favorite album covers. Don't send me hate mail. You know you love them too.

Bless. How does one respond to that question?

The subtitle of this record is "Can I Borrow Some Glasses?"

OK...scare me. Butch...put the axe DOWN!

Can you imagine the conversation around the marketing table when they were working on this album cover?

Don't miss this toe-tapping, hand-clapping, upbeat record.

My personal favorite.

Day 2...things I've learned.

1. Sleep. Sleep gooood. (1a) Sheryl. Sheryl's so amazing and understanding!

2. There's nothing like having both of our girls curled up in my lap.

3. Sam is changing and growing fast...too fast!

4. Starbucks charges for wireless internet, but Border's Bookstore across the street doesn't. Go figure.

5. One of the most hilarious e-mail forwards I've ever received has kept me laughing. It's called "Worst Album Covers Ever". I only wish I could figure out how to transfer a few of the pics out of Adobe to share with you. Just when I think I'm getting tech savvy, I realize I'm still an "idot".

6. Kelly Pickler. What mean...umm..she's just so...

7. Re-reading Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies for the 3rd time thanks to Stephen's inspiration. Has anyone read her latest book, Blue Shoe?

8. Hand writing journal thoughts is quite a bit different than typing. It seems more personal somehow. I also feel that way about hand-written notes. I hope they never die.

9. My decision to take this week and not be scheduled at all, was a good one. The only things scheduled are journal time and my spin class. (I have now lost 34 pounds. I'm stopping there and trying to rebuild with muscle instead of what I got from eating Sonic cheese sticks and blended floats. Yummm--where's Sonic...?)

10. I love getting to see my family during the day. What a blessing!

PS: Blogging is theraputic. I'm not feeling any pressure. Some days I will and some days I won't. Thanks for reading and praying, friends! Oh...and congratulations are in order to ZOE's Peter Wilson and Lindsey Morgan on their engagement last week! Pete, you are one lucky dude!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Today is really the first official day of my leave. I'm hearing the voice of Elvis in my head singing "There'll Be Peace in the Valley..." Thank you, thank you very much.

I've got some books ready, my Bible, a pen and a journal book. I'm armed. Oh--and I've thrown schedule completely out the window at least for this week. I'm thankful--SO THANKFUL--for this time.

Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Absolutely gorgeous weekend here. We worked in the yard all day yesterday and then went to the Otter Creek Picnic here at the pavilion on the church grounds. It was so nice!

Great discussion over the past two days. Thanks for the comments and the support. Julie Woodroof, you took the words right out of my mouth. To be honest, I've allowed for anonymous comments on here after a long time of not. There are those without profiles who can comment that way. Of course, the risk you run is when those with little courage and an axe to grind decide to use it for their benefit. But, that comes with the territory. How many times have all of us in ministry gotten the infamous "anonymous" letter in the mail? Usually, they get tossed without even a read-through from me. But all of that is beside the point.

The point is my last Sunday to lead worship until June. I am prayerfully looking forward to this time. I'll be checking in along the way, I promise. Chris Seidman called yesterday and had a word for me from Zachariah. He prayed that the Lord would be a wall of fire around me...protecting me, but also burning up all that is in me that is not of Him. I like that.

It's a beautiful day here! I pray you all have a worship experience today that is filled with the Holy Spirit and breeds Life in you! Pray that for us too. It's a great day to praise the Lord!

Friday, April 21, 2006

There was a man who was a runner. When he ran he felt like the wind was at his back. He joined a running group. These folks also loved to run. He liked the community of runners because it helped him reach his goals. Sometimes it was a little bit of a hassle when someone was a little slower or when he felt like he couldn't keep up the pace.

One day, he noticed his running shoes that had served him well for a long time were really wearing. The soles were peeling off and the tread was worn low on the outer sides because he tended to supinate (look it up) when he ran. The shoes didn't look that bad at first glance and, to the common eye, there might not have been anything that seemed alarming. In fact, he was reminded, there are others who don't even HAVE shoes! But, when you're a runner, you know the importance of having a good shoe. After so many miles of running, a runner knows that he must change his shoes for the health of his sport.

The runner didn't really have time to buy new shoes, and there really wasn't enough in his personal budget to cover such an expense. Running shoes can be costly! He put off shoe shopping. He figured that the shoes would be good for at least one more race. And so, he raced. He ran and he ran. His feet began to hurt. His shins cramped. His finish times were inconsistent. His pace was erratic. His running group noticed. The runner began to notice that his work-outs were affecting his daily life. He began to have severe muscle aches. His knees often hurt and he couldn't sleep. It affected his mood with his family. It became a weight.

Soon, the runner was in need of more than just a new pair of shoes. He was in need of bodily repair. His physical therapist told him that he must stop running for a time--just long enough to allow the muscles to repair and heal. And, of course, he needed new shoes.

Some of his neighbors heard of his plight and shook their heads. "Well, I guess you've heard about 'runner'. Everyone knows." "All this for running?" "Is running really even a sport?" "What's the big deal...there must be other things going on besides just running. Maybe it's in his head?" "He complains a lot."

The runner knew he had to take a breather. But, he felt bad for his running group. They would have to pick up the slack. They would have to continue the pace, maybe wishing they could take a break too. He knew though, now was the time. His love for running could be energized. His knees could heal, his shins could take a breather, his feet could stop aching for a few weeks, and he could buy some shoes that would help him run more efficiently.

He knew he'd be tempted to run again before it was time so he committed to resting for 6 weeks. Then, hopefully, renewed and refreshed, he could get back to what he loved doing.

This is a story about a runner. It's a work in progress.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Lipscomb student called me this afternoon to interview me for a class he's taking on Spiritual Formation. He asked some questions like, "How do you stay filled up? What are some spiritual practices you have implemented that breed Spiritual formation in you? How do you pray? What are the spiritual disciplines that work well for you?" Things like that. Whew!

So, I began to tell him some things that I've found helpful and some ways that I can keep a gauge on where I am. Then I spoke to him of the danger (he wants to be a minister) in ministry to busy ourselves out of spiritual disciplines. They can all be good things too---calling people on your care needs list, planning worship, listening through new worship CDs for ideas, planning conferences, working on praise recordings, having "creative team" meetings, staff meetings, pre and post service meetings, returning ministry related email, arranging worship songs, etc. You see where I'm going. Does this sound like someone you know? Hmmmm? Sounds a bit familiar to me. Many of those things are important and have to get done, but there are other things that are of equal importance that we must allow to guide our scheduling.

Don Finto has often said to me, "When you feel burn-out coming, it may mean that you're doing things in your own strength instead of the Lord's." So true. While I intellectually know that, I think it's also easy to get caught up in the busyness of ministry life and miss the heart of it.

Bill Hybel's book, Courageous Leadership is a must-have for everyone in ministry. There's a chapter called "The Art Of Self-Leadership" that is fantastic. While it sounds a bit narcissistic, it's critical to the long-term fueling of any minister. The premise is basically that in order to effectively follow your calling and live a life of public ministry, you must make sure that your inward compass is on target. Who's going to do that for you? No one. You are the one in charge of that. Just as Jesus took time away...he had a pattern, ministry and teaching and then retreat. We MUST take time to feed the soul.

One thing that I find difficult...wonder if any of you have felt this the guilt principle. I am a real sucker for guilt. Why? Because I want people to think I'm doing my best. I have a desire to be liked. I struggle with people-pleasing. So, guilt works well on me. I've gotten a lot better as I've aged, but still find it's an issue. For instance, many people outside of ministry will look at those inside ministry and say things like, "What does he do all day? Just read the Bible? What a job! I'd love to do that!" Or... "Why does he need a sabbatical? He doesn't really do anything!" So, in retrospect I find that often times I have willingly charged ahead into busyness trying to prove something. I mean what did I think...Oh, if I could only die of exhaustion then that would show them! Retarded. I know many ministers who struggle with this same issue. But, what Hybels would say is...those people are not going to come to you and say, "Brandon you should take some time--time to really listen for the Lord." No--we must do that for ourselves. We must honor the Spirit of God enough inside of us to make the difficult call to stop and listen.

I'm standing up saying, "Hi, my name is Brandon. I'm a stress-a-holic." The Lord is patiently teaching me to wait. To listen. To be still. To shut my mouth. To get on my face. To lay down all ministry accolades. To seek Him first. He's so patient! Hallelujah!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Here are some pictures of our great weekend together. There are some family shots and then the big celebration night Sunday. It was a great weekend. I pray you all are feeling the effects of the joy of the resurrection this week.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Easter weekend was somewhat of a blur. Thursday night after our 4 hour run-through with the band I got some sort of virus--stomach. It was no fun. Sheryl ended up getting it too. We muddled through Friday and barely made an appearance at the Easter egg hunt at church on Saturday. However, a good day's rest on Saturday and an early bed time helped us both feel better by Sunday.

Sunday was a really great day. The service went well, we had an amazing lunch at our house with relatives and then napped it off that afternoon. Last night we had the big worship night with the praise choir and band. It was a fantastic experience. It's really great to be in this new space and have room to spread out. The band just sounded incredible--those guys amaze me. It's a definite benefit to living in Nashville. The choir sang their hearts out and I think everyone who came left feeling encouraged. Sheryl and I both crashed last night.

It's a very beautiful day here. I think we will spend some time in the sun this afternoon. I pray your weekend and holiday were joy-filled and inspiring as you celebrated the resurrection!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happy Birthday to the lovely Sheryl Thomas today! What a great day!

Maddie and Ella both had their school Easter parties today so we had to split up. Ella's party was at the Ezell's house. Absolutely beautiful!Here are a couple of pics for you.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We had a family birthday party for Sheryl last night. Tomorrow's her big day! We had Thai food...yum!

American Idol...what can I say? Mandisa is out, but Bucky and Ace are still in? It's craziness. Did anyone else notice a week or so ago when Madisa sang the Mary Mary song (Christian song) that Simon said, "I just didn't get that at all."

Tonight we have rehearsal from 6-8. Tomorrow night we rehearse from 6:30 til who knows when. I'm looking forward to that time with friends and the folks in the worship ministry...but I am already hearing my bed calling and it's only 2pm. That's not good.

With three kids, it seems someone's always sick. Kids or no kids...what's your best cold remedy?

Monday, April 10, 2006

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! It was in the upper 70's here today...perfect for outdoor play, a walk around the neighborhood, and plenty of sunshine.

We've got a busy week ahead--busy week ahead--busy week ahead---busy week ahead...sorry, had to stop the broken record. But, hey, it's Easter week! School parties, egg hunts, and rehearsals abound. We are going to be remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus this week in special ways. Friday night we're showing "The Passion of the Christ" at Otter Creek at 7pm. Saturday we have the children's ministry Easter egg hunt. Sunday morning there's a sunrise service at 7:30 am, regular service at 10am and a celebration service that night at 6pm. We'll have the praise choir and band helping to lead in worship. There will also be time for quiet reflection. It will be a great weekend. Praise God for the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son!

What are some of your Easter traditions? (Spiritually speaking) What is your favorite Easter candy? (Can't Easter candy be spiritual?)

Friday, April 07, 2006

When I was in High School, we had a youth minister named Dennis. Dennis taught me more about Jesus in a short amount of time than just about anyone outside of my parents. In many ways I owe my faith today to the seeds he planted years ago. And, he became a Christian in Syracuse, NY through the encouragement and teaching of a man named Bill.

My youth group went to Syracuse a couple of summers to do VBS. I got to know Bill and could see why he had had such an impact on Dennis. He's a great guy. Those VBS trips were a hoot. Hainey Price and I led worship for the kids. That was an even bigger hoot.

Years later, after moving to OC, I saw Bill and his wife walk in one day. My jaw hit the ground. It had been many, many years. Now they live in Nashville and are an important part of our family here at Otter Creek. Bill has shown me Jesus on many occasions. He did again this week. I appreciate him a lot.

All that to say, the quote of the week for me comes from Bill who shared a quip that his football coach used to tell him...

"Keep adjusting, but keep moving!"

Thanks, Bill!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I wrote some reflections on Psalm 23 this morning. I hope this can encourage you today.

The Lord is my shepherd...whether it's clear some days or not, I have everything I need.

He gently but authoritatively reminds me that rest is important. "Take time for the green pastures." Disciplining myself to be still and rest is important to Him. He helps me do that. "Lay out flat in the lush green field and sense the beauty, the serenity, the wonder of my creation!"

"Get up and take a stroll beside the stream. Listen to the babble of the brook and remember that I taught the water how to flow."

"As I have made all you see in creation, so I have also made you. I knit you together in your mother's womb. Your soul is known and protected by me. Allow me to restore it."

"You are mine. You bear my name. Follow me. I'll lead you down the right path. It's a path that's filled with things that are best for you and it will bear fruit in you. People will see this fruit and know that you wear my name."

"This path is also crooked and narrow in places. You'll experience the darkness of this world and the sting of death will be near. People will disappoint you. You'll be tempted to give in to the darkness that seems to invade...but wait! Remember, I'm right here. Remember, I am in control. Feel my hand? I'm guiding you...leading you. Don't be afraid. Take comfort in my presence."

"When you feel most alone, when the world seems to be against you, remember that I am here. I'm stopping in the middle of all the chaos to throw a banquet in your honor...not because you have done anything to deserve it, just because you're mine. Let all those who are against you watch how I tenderly care for my own. I will anoint your head with oil. I will fill your heart up with good things--until it overflows. I want you to know and remember whose you are."

"Having seen the way I care for you do you think for a moment that I would give up on you? You are MINE! I am the one who saw you before you were born. I am the one who welcomed you with open arms as you gave your life back over to me. I am all goodness, all mercy, all love. I even created love. Trust me. I'll be with you as you walk the paths of life. Not even death can separate us. You'll live with me forever. Come, live in my house. Come, feast at my table. Come, let me fill you up. Come to me, my child.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Be thankful in all things!

Today I am thankful--
for grace and mercy
for the Way of Christ
for my wife
for my kids
for my mom and extended family
for Stephen, Craig and Chris and the years of friendship we have shared
for my upbringing and for those who've parented me along the way
for sunshine
for balsamic vinegar
for my life group and their friendship
for tomatoes
for Maddie's sweet kisses at night
for Ella's deep laughter that always makes me laugh too
for Sam's sweet toothless smile
for Sheryl's amazing voice and partnership
for being able to walk
for music
for the Word
for Houston's Steak Maui

What are some things you're thankful for today?

Absolutely, positively, 100% creamed corn. This corn might never have been so creamed. Creamed corn= junk going on that cannot be discussed. Thanks for your prayers!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Busy weekend. I can't believe we're into another week. It is beautiful here though. For that I am so grateful!

I had a daddy date with Maddie yesterday. Ella and Sam had their "well" appts at the doctor. Maddie and I went to the mall...her favorite place. She was so cute. She informed the woman at the dress store where we were returning something that she was on a date with her daddy.

The SEC came through. Florida looked great last night. I thought UCLA did a fairly decent job of trying to keep up (better than George Mason in my opinion) but they still couldn't catch them. Sometimes I think I'm still really young...then I realize those kids are 20 years old and Billy Donovan is probably more my age. It's a scary revelation.

We're having a creative team meeting today at lunch. I'll let you know how that goes. We're looking ahead to the next sermon series. I've long wanted to gather a group like this who could, collectively, offer their suggestions on their areas of expertise--art, film, drama, music, kids, poetry, etc. I'm excited about this group.

Have a great Tuesday, friends.