Monday, October 30, 2006

Yesterday was just an amazing day all the way around. The message from Romans 3 made me want to jump up and down. It impacted me deeply. What a wonderful morning! There were several amazing God events that morning.

And the end of service, I pulled a Brandon. We had mass exodus of parents leaving to get kids during the Elder's blessing. We've talked about that in staff meeting for weeks and no one seemed to ever remember to say something. So, I felt compelled to go on and make the announcement myself pleading for parents to wait until worship service and children's worship were actually over before leaving in droves (literally like over 100 people got up at the same time to leave and it was really distracting). Of course...what I didn't know...up behind me larger than life was a giant sign saying, "Parent's please go get your kids now." (A sign we save for when the service goes long--which it wasn't.) Thanks Turff! I'm going to forward all my calls to YOU! :) But that, as we say in our house, is pulling a Brandon. What a dork. Chastising people for being distracting while there's a huge movie screen basically announcing the fact that we already know...BST's a doofus! HA! Well, maybe at least folks will remember it next week.

Then...Trunk of Treat!! All the children of Otter Creek and the Wayne Reed Center came and went around to over 100 cars decorated with all kinds of fun. Of course, Sheryl has been whipping up costumes in her Mary Poppins way. I'm DOES she do it? We were Fairy tale characters...Little Bo Peep and her sheep, Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf and the Granny! It was a BLAST!!! Here are some pics for ya...

Here is Little Bo Peep and Little Red Riding Hood ready to leave

Maddie isn't sure she feels ok about the Big Bad Wolf least before things got started had found her sheep.

Keith and Jamie Thompson always come as something super cool. They went from Captain Hook, and Peter Pan last year to Super Man and Bat Man this year.

Maddie, Ella and Mary Carsen Stanley enjoy the "fruits" of their labor.

Here we are in our best Sheryl-made fairy tale wear. Little Bo Peep, her sheep, Little Red Riding Hood, the Bad Wolf and the Granny.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sheryl's out with some girl friends tonight celebrating Sarah Williamson's birthday. I am feeling about a thousand times better. Thank the Lord! I wanted to capture what I've come to realize, as we're on our third child, is a very fleeting time of life.

Sam is at this amazing age where he is still a baby, but he's no longer "blob-ish" (a term I've coined for those weird months in the beginning that most mom's say they just love...). I tend to enjoy the post-blob phase more. I like when they begin to interact and try to talk. I love their tiny little Frankenstein walks. I love how dumb little things can make them laugh. I love how personalities begin to awaken and develop. It's a real miracle to me.

Tonight the girls were so great going to bed. They went upstairs and did their thing (pajamas, brushing teeth, pottying, etc) all by themselves while I attempted to force feed Sam one last time. I left him eating those little turkey stick wieners (absolutely disgusting if you ask me...but he loves them) and went upstairs to tuck in the girls. They were so precious and gave me sweet kisses.

I came back down to find Sam completely covered in turkey wiener (again...this elicits serious vomiting tendencies from me. BLAGH!!!!!!!!). He just grinned and said something unintelligible. I cleaned him up and we did the routine. The routine for Sam, and this is what I wanted to capture, includes warming the bottle, taking him upstairs, changing the diaper, grabbing the pacifier and blanket from his bed and throwing the blanket over my right shoulder. Sam's head automatically goes down on the shoulder with the blanket. We turn out the light and sit in the big overstuffed chair in his room where he rests in the crook of my right arm. Then he quietly drinks his bottle while mindlessly playing with my fingers with his other hand. So precious.

After the bottle's gone, I whisper in his ear, "I love you SO much!" and I put him in his bed. Usually, 9 times out of 10, we never hear another peep from him.

Our friends sometimes give us a hard time saying things like, "Bedtime at your house begins around 4:30!" Hilarious! Our kids have always been great sleepers. They're like their mommy and daddy--we love sleep! But, nighttime is just one of those extra special times in our house. Books, scratching backs, hugs, kisses, soft just doesn't get much better than that.

As I watch how tall Maddie has gotten and see Ella following close behind, I know these days are fleeting. I will never forget them. They're some of God's most precious gifts to me.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Last night was our annual Parade of Bible characters. (Loved the ideas, Alan). Maddie and Ella had decided long ago what they wanted to be. I normally get to serve as MC for the night and give the clues to the church. Unfortunately, last night I was ill and decided not to breathe on every single Otter Creek child. (I feel like death today)

Here are some pics of our kids from last night...

Maddie as Pharoh's daughter, Sam as Moses and Ella as his mother

Maddie, Ella and Sam give their clues.

Have a great night, blog world!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The last couple of days have been eventful. Sydney Williamson had her birthday party at Sweet and Sassy. Maddie was so excited to get to go and dress up and do girly things. They were all so cute!

Last night we went to open house at Otter Creek pre-school. Maddie and Ella loved getting to show us their classrooms and art work.

Here are some pics from both events...

Princess Maddie

Open house at school...Maddie and her teacher, Miss Laura. We have known Laura and her family for a long time (she has a Madeline too!). We were so excited that Maddie was placed in her class.

Ella and her teacher, Miss Anna. Ella loves Miss Anna and we do too!

Maddie and one of her best buddies, Ryan. (I absolutely love this picture)

More pics tomorrow of our annual Parade of Bible Characters at Otter Creek tonight.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Have you seen the new ads for this upcoming television series called "Day Break"? It stars Taye Diggs and the general premise is that he keeps waking up in the same day and has to re-live it over and over and over. The catch is, it's also the "worst day of his life". (I think his wife/girlfriend dies or something.)

I remember the Bill Murray movie, "Groundhog Day". It was cute and sometimes funny, but the idea annoyed me. For me it's one of those unlikely circumstances that after about 15 minutes of watching completely unnerved me.

"Day Break" hasn't debuted yet. At least I don't think it has. However, I don't think I'll be one of those watching. Maybe it's just me, but that has to be one of the worst thoughts your worst day over and over and over. Praise God...PRAISE GOD that we don't live in that reality. While there are those who wake up every morning to find themselves facing the same hurts, the same disappointments, the same struggles...we also know that each new day brings new mercies from the Lord and each new experience teaches us something about the character or our Father. I am so very thankful for that.

Lamentations 3:22-26
"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail! They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Yesterday we did something we've been meaning to do for several years. We went down to Franklin and visited the amazing Gentry Farm. Lots of corn mazes, pumpkin patches, hay rides, and other fun fall things. We had such a blast and we are all dusty and tired. Here are some pictures from the day...

The kids at Gentry Farm.

The kids sit in the pumpkin tent after selecting their big future jack-o-lantern.

The girls in front of one of the barns.

Ella on the tractor

The Thomas family at Gentry Farm

Have a wonderful day of worship, everyone!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

We had a blast with Fish. It was so awesome to see him and see him interact with our kids who haven't seen him in a while. They were so thrilled to get their new Mr. Fisher t-shirts! For me personally, it was a wonderful encouragement to be with Craig. I'm so grateful for those guys and the long, long friendship we share. Friday we met Corey Patterson for lunch and had fun there too. I'll post a pic later when Fish sends me one.

Friday also marked a big day for Ella who got her first "big girl" hair cut. She looks so adorable!

The girls had Sydney Williamson (Ryan and Sarah's daughter) over after school. They had a great time and were very beautiful ballerinas!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Here's a little treat for of my good buddies, Rob Thomas, has a company called Igniter Video. If you haven't seen any of his stuff, you are missing out. There are lots of very wonderful and worshipful pieces to use in your churches. This particular one is a comedic sketch. I remember directing Rob and Jason McArthur as Sing Song Hosts at ACU 11 years ago and always being hoarse from laughing. They are still two of my favorite people to laugh with. Enjoy...

Everyone at our house is excited...FISH comes in today!! Craig Fisher and I have been friends for a long long time. He was one of the very first people I met at registration the summer before my Freshman year at ACU. We ended up living in the same house for part of college (with Stephen Bailey and Chris Doggett). Along with Stephen and Chris, Craig has remained a best friend and brother to me ever since. He arrives today and the girls are so excited to see him. They wear their "Mr. Craig" t-shirts a lot. They have Craig's big mug on them and are for his book club. We're gonna have a blast!

Yesterday was one of those days. Ugh. More...MORE car stuff. Between car and medical stuff lately, I have been going nuts.

What put a big smile on my face last night, however, was talking with the girls after their light went out. Sometimes those are the best's the giggles when you know you're supposed to be quiet. It's the soft "I love you, Daddy" whispers. It's Ella asking me to eat her arm "like corn". (She means playing the corn on the cob game where I spread pretend butter on her arm, salt and pepper it and then dramatically take a big bite!) It's watching Maddie be a little mini-me wanting me to scratch her back, her arm, her leg, etc...just like I did with my dad. Oh, how I treasure these days! I am a wealthy man in those terms!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The last couple of days have proved to be interesting as people have debated political and spiritual ideas in the blog world. Hopefully, there's grace and understanding for those who don't see eye to eye on every issue. I mean...seriously, can you think of anyone anywhere who sees things exactly the same way you do? Isn't that the beauty of community and fellowship with each other?

Having said that, I'm going to call on that grace as I have to vent for a moment here. Tennessee politics has been such an interesting animal to me. Corruption seems to run amok. It seems like every week someone new is being prosecuted for doing something illegal in office.

As far as I know, neither of these candidates for US Senate are guilty of anything more than making me want to scream. Harold Ford, Jr (dem) and Bob Corker (rep) are duking it out here in Tennessee. Every day brings one more new commercial where one attacks the other. Enough! At this point, I might vote for a Doodlebop over either of them...and you know that's saying a lot for me.

Just when you thought you'd left Junior High and all its back biting and juvenile name calling, the political process brings it back in living color. Boy howdy...just can't wait til the next Presidential election.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Last night was a night we've been excited about for a while now. We were a part of a night of Christian music called "Light the City" at Nashville's new symphony center, the Schermerhorn. It had sold out a couple of weeks ago and there was an incredible energy in the room.

Here's an inside picture of the front of the Schermerhorn. The acoustics are simply amazing. Supposedly, if you're sitting on the very top tier on the back row you can hear the conductor whisper to the symphony.

It was a long day before the actual performance. There was a lot of staging and entrances and exits that had to be figured out. We were there beginning at 1:30 and the performance didn't start until 7pm. We had fun hanging out and laughing though. Here's a picture of Jason and me hanging out back stage.

It was so much fun to a part of such an incredible night. Mandisa (from American Idol), Ashley Cleveland, Buddy Green, Marty Goetz, the symphony...we sat in front with all the artists. Because of the way we stand, JV's seat was next to Mandisa...I kept giving him the evil eye! :) I was jealous!! She was UNBELIEVABLE!! She sang "Shackles" and we got to rock out singing with her. ZOE sang "As the Deer" with the Nashville Choir backing us up and then "How Great is Our God" by ourselves.

Here's a picture of ZOE during intermission backstage. We all had such a blast being together and singing in that amazing place! There was definitely some serious praise going up from downtown Nashville last night. At the end we sang the song that's popular in many African American churches called "Total Praise"...all voices together...Mandisa, Ashley Cleveland, Odessa Settles and her back-up singers, Buddy Green, ZOE, the Nashville Choir, the greater Nashville Gospel Choir and the symphony players. It was a moment of pure joy!

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's been 15 years today since I lost my father. 15 years. So many memories from that day are still very fresh. I remember believing that God would heal my dad and being convinced of it until the very last moment. I remember the disappointment and my first encounter with "a road marked with suffering". I remember how it felt to be standing over him rubbing his feet as he took his last breath. I remember the silence of that room afterwards. I remember this profound realization as a 21 year old that what was left of him was truly a vessel...and yet, it was so very difficult to let go of the physical vessel. The arms that carried me for so many years. The fingers that scratched my back more than a million times. Those big goofy ears. That smile that lit up a room. The laugh that was so contagious. The feet that I desperately tried to put into Cole Haan shoes but usually ended up in velcro sneakers of some sort. The hands that looked just like mine do now. That unmistakable voice and the way he called me "Bran". That incredible sense of humor...

Today kind of snuck up on me. I was caught off guard this morning by my reaction. I knew it was coming this week, but the memories seem fresh today.

One thing that will help...I am about to head out to a video shoot. Operation Andrew, this organization in Middle Tennessee that promotes racial and denominational reconciliation, is doing a special story on my friendship with Victor Wynn at the Temple Church. Vic and I have done lots of stuff together---the Gaylord Arena Nashville worship service, the Ryman Auditorium Thanksgiving thing, we've been in each others' churches and his group has joined us a couple of times for special Christmas concerts here. We're good friends. Thing always makes me feel kind of weird that we have sometimes been the poster children for racial harmony. (This isn't the first time) I mean, we talk usually weekly and when I call him I'm not really thinking...hmmmm, I should call my African American friend from a different denomination. You know? Vic and I are like brothers. It's not hard to be in his world and life. I have more in common with him than I would half of the white guys leading worship in Nashville. It just seems funny and a little sad sometimes that it's such a surprise to people that we're such good friends and that we love combining our ministries. Whatever the case...we're shooting this video today which will be used in marketing, etc and will be shown at the big annual OA banquet. There are well over 100 churches in the area that are a part of Operation Andrew. I hope, in some weird way, that our friendship can bless people.

It would be cool if my dad was here and I could take him over there with me. This seems a great way to celebrate him today.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sometimes it's the small things in life that bring the most this case I mean it literally. Though Sam is a small little guy he is growing! He's getting farther and farther away from being little, and at the same time, the joy he brings continues to grow. What a blessing!

All of our kids have been slow walkers. They really loved crawling, so they took their own sweet time with walking. Sam took the longest. He's been holding our fingers and walking for quite a while now. But, thankfully, with the third child we're not quite so hyper-sensitive. We figured he'd walk when he was good and ready. And, yesterday, he was ready. You should see him truck.

Time with Jeff Berry has been good. Life-long friends are such a special blessing. We've seen each other through a lot and always been there to support, champion, or defend each other. We're so thankful for his ministry and his beautiful family.

Speaking of long-time friends...ZOE was back together tonight. We worked on music for the big Schermerhorn event this weekend. We laughed at the same old jokes, we prayed together, sang and left feeling thankful for the history we share together and that God is giving us this really neat opportunity this weekend.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

check out the goofy guy sitting atop the of my life long best buds, Jeff Berry. Now that Jeff is such a rock star, he barely has time for the little people like me. It's a far cry from the good ol' days when we lived in Abilene and dreamed of music while we folded clothes at Jeffory's Village Peddlar! Ha!

Jeff is in town between dates visiting with some folks. He's staying with us tonight. I am really excited about seeing him. It's been a while since we've gotten to actually catch up live instead of over the phone.

This afternoon Ella announced, "Jeff is coming to stay with us tonight!" Maddie replied very knowingly, "It's not just's JEFF BERRY!!!" He will love that.

I'm back in car Hades. My good ol' Blazer...1998...paid for...another $860 today for breaks, rotor, muffler, etc. Enough is enough.

We're getting very excited about the weekend and our performance at the Schermerhorn. As of last week, it's sold out. I can't wait. It's going to be a really awesome night.

One last thing...still floating from the weekend. It's been nice to have a day or two off here to catch my breath. But it's also been good to reflect on conversations, interactions, convictions and other ions from the weekend. It really was one of my favorite years. There was something very real about the whole weekend. I was honestly sad to see it end. Hope all of you who came had safe travels home and are feeling refreshed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What an amazing weekend we had at the ZOE conference! It was so good to be with such good friends and to experience worship with all those people. It was a very good weekend for me. The Lord really blessed me. More are some pictures from the weekend.

ZOE leading worship

Leading with my bro, Peter.

Jack and Jill Maxwell's 2006 ZOE conference drawing...Jacob's struggle with God

Replica of Jack and Jill Maxwell's new sculpture at ACU entitled, "Jacob's Ladder".

ZOE leading worship

Josh Ross, BST, and Luke Norsworthy at our house Thursday night.

Jonathan Ross, BST, and Josh--our house Th night

Stephen and the kids in our dining room this afternoon

Peter, Lindsey, Sheryl and me in our living room this afternoon. We love Peter and Lindsey. I am performing their wedding ceremony next summer in California.

Stephen and I are hanging out tonight after the conference...laughing and having fun. He wants people to know he's not actually a witch. Not at all.

It's hard to say what was most enjoyable...worshiping with my ZOE family, hearing Sheryl sing "The Power of the Cross", time with my Ross brothers, seeing old friends, worship that lifted me to heaven, time to process and unwind with my best buddy, many blessings!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What day is it? Where am I? Is the conference really here?? These pressing questions and more are taking over my brain.

Actually, had some great time with Dave Durham this morning. God is good in the way He crosses paths. Dave, Gary Pigg and I are all singing in this deal at the Schermerhorn next week. It's been fun to talk about our mutual and dear friend, Kirk Nofsinger. Is Kirk like the Kevin Bacon of the ACU world?

Some very nice person left a card and a sweet gift for Sheryl and me at the office in memory of Sheryl's brother, David. The card was signed, "A Friend". Thank you, "friend", whoever you are!

Even as I write, many are flying or driving in. It's been fun to talk to people as they are boarding planes or driving from Florida, or wherever. I am excited to see lots of old friends. We're praying that God will bring everyone here safely!

Today I was really ministered to by the Word. There are some days (sometimes far between) when the Spirit just hits me hard. Today was one of those. I've been living in Colossians 3 and Romans. Today the passages in Colossians 3, Romans 1:16, and Philippians 2:12b-13 converged into this power smack that knocked me out. I love how God works. I feel really thankful for the way He sustained me today.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Scrambling a bit 3 without Sheryl and with 3 kids who are ready to see her. We've been trying to put the house back together this morning...we got flowers and Maddie is busy making a card. It will be great to have her home.

I am working on the sessions for this weekend. I am leading Friday night, Sat morning and Sat night at the main conference. I am also leading a late night service Friday night in the main hall that will be a lot like our Vespers service on Wednesday nights at Otter Creek. Bobby Colvert is playing guitar, Billy Contreras will be playing fiddle, Philip Henry will sing and play accordian, Amanda Vickers will sing and it should be a cool night. Please pray it all comes together. Scott Owings is helping me pull the stations together. Sat morning I will be teaching the first session of the advanced worship leader track (advanced...weird word, but you get the concept. It's for those who've been doing this a while). David Durham of Crucible International is teaming with me. He'll teach the second two sessions that afternoon. I've admired David for a long, long time. He was very critical to the success of YWAM for years before going on staff at Belmont Church here in Nashville. His ministry is to those in the arts. It's really cool. He will be a blessing to all of us.

I am really excited about having a lot of the ZOE guests with us Sunday too. We meet at 10am for those of you coming from out of town. Sunday school is at 8:45. My mom is teaching a great class on Ecclesiastes with Sandra Collins at OC on Sundays. It's open to any and everyone. Another good choice would be Lee Camp's class. (He wrote Mere Discipleship).

Please pray for me this week. I have a lot left to do and have actually been sick to my stomach and throwing up this morning ('s something I HATE). As always we look forward to seeing you!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Today was a long but good day. This morning was emotional on a lot of different fronts. I had forgotten I had planned "Be Unto Your Name" so it really hit home. Sheryl also left early this morning. We decided that to take the kids would be too much of a stress on her so the best way I could help was to stay and keep them. (Lauren has been a great help today! Thanks Lauren!) I hate the thought of Sheryl driving alone, but last time we talked she was really loving the quiet time.

This afternoon we had more rehearsal for the Schermerhorn event. It went well. This is really going to be one of those memory making moments.

Tonight I sat the girls down to try and explain about their uncle David. They've processed more about death than some kids because of having to figure out where "Poppy" is (my dad). We wanted to wait until Sheryl was gone so that they wouldn't have extra separation anxiety knowing why she was leaving. I think it was the right choice. I talked to them about David's illness and that his body was just hurting and tired. Then I told them that it just quit working and he died. We talked about how it made them feel and the questions they had. Then Maddie said, "We should say a prayer for Mommy and Memaw and Pa-Paw." (So precious to my soul) She stopped and led us in a very sweet prayer. Then after saying amen she reminded us all that fish die before dogs and dogs die before people. Then Ella wanted to clear up who actually flushed Jack the fish down the toilet--"was it you or Mommy???"

There will be more questions I'm sure. Before bed Maddie asked, "Will Mommy be sad when she gets home?" I told her she might be a little sad but really happy to see us. Then we spent the next few minutes thinking up fun treats to have for Mommy when she gets home.

I wanted to talk to them about this because I knew they would hear about it from friends or adults saying they were sorry about Sheryl's brother or something. I didn't want them to wonder. I also didn't go into detail. I figure they'll deal with life and death in bits and we all do.