Thursday, March 31, 2011

God Loves His Kids--Ben Jeffrey

I'm excited to introduce you all to my friend Ben. Ben is a very talented guy who loves God with all his heart. I'm so proud of him and that he is using the gifts God gave him to bless others. Thank you, Ben, for contributing to this series!
I’m Ben Jeffrey. I’m an actor. And I’m very, very blessed, because I actually make my living acting (believe it or not, only about 10% of professional actors make a living just doing acting). Since June of 2010 I’ve been playing Pumbaa in Disney’s “The Lion King” on Broadway. And just so nobody thinks I’m particularly interesting or full of myself, I will say this: there are a lot of far more talented actors than me who don’t have work. There are probably 50 plus guys in New York alone that could play my role as well if not better than me. Don’t tell the Disney producers that, though.

I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a kid. I didn’t really figure this out until late in high school, but for me, acting is about the highest form of worship I can perform. There’s a scene in the movie “Chariots of Fire” in which Eric Liddle, the famous Olympic runner, is speaking to his sister, who is insistent that he go and be a missionary in China. He says, “I believe God made me for a purpose; for China. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

I get that, which is why I suppose I’ve always felt closer to God in a theater than in a church. Perhaps I’m a heretic. I can live with that.

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” I guess I feel a special connection to Jesus, because what I do is “making the word flesh.” Pretty cool, right?

I went to college at ACU and then graduate school at Rutgers in New Jersey, to better hone my craft. I did very well at both schools. I was well liked, well cast, and I worked very hard. It seemed like the world was my oyster.

The summer between my 2nd and 3rd years of Grad School, I was doing an Indy film in my hometown of Kansas City, and I met the most beautiful woman in the world. To this day, I cannot tell you how I tricked her into marrying me. You want proof of the miraculous? Look no further.

I finished grad school, got married, and moved to New York. Now, if you want the formula on how to put a lot of external stressors on your new marriage, I have it: Finish school, accumulate GARGANTUAN debt, get married to a woman you had been long distance with for three fourths of your relationship, move across the country with no money, no job, no friends in your part of town, and make sure and find the seediest apartment in Brooklyn. Then be broke for a long time.

It was, quite simply, the hardest time ever in my life. I took a job at Starbucks to get health insurance after 4 weeks of job searching. I had a Master’s degree from one of the top five graduate schools for theater in the country, and I was making people their lattes. And if you’ve ever worked a Starbucks in Manhattan, you know it’s one of the more soul killing jobs you can find.

So, as I’m sitting in my horrible bug infested apartment one night, regretting that I have a wife who’s ready to kill me for getting her into this, a job that’s a step away from hell, and seven years of education that seem to be fruitless, my Dad calls.

And I’m like, “Dad, my life sucks. I have a Master’s degree, and I’m making people lattes, and I fear that that’s all I’ll ever be.” And he told me something really important. He said, “Even if you do make lattes for the rest of your life, that is never what you will be.” He’s sharpish, right? That stuck with me.

See, I had a big “aha” moment here. I had to actually give up the idea that I could ever make myself be worth anything. I had to stop building my identity on whether or not I was a successful actor, a good husband, or what have you.

The truth is that my worth, my identity, comes from the fact that I’m God’s kid.

And he’s CRAZY about me. He thinks I’m great. He thinks I’m funny, he thinks I’m smart, he thinks that I’m so amazing, and he will always think that. What I do or don’t do has nothing to do with how crazy in love with me God is.

And I realized that I’ve been a Christian my whole life, and I didn’t really believe that. And as soon as I started to, as soon as I decided to try to let Jesus love me the way only Jesus can, and stop depending on my circumstances to bring me joy, I got my first TV gig. It was a small part on the TV show “Louie”, on FX. Two days later, I got a walk on part in “The Good Wife” on CBS. And two weeks after that, I got cast in the Lion King.

It was almost like God was saying, “I have all this great stuff I’m waiting to give you. But you have to realize how much I love you and how I will always take care of you before you get it, because if you don’t, you will be miserable regardless of what you do.”

I call that a miracle. And getting a job in acting is plenty miracle enough, but the fact that I’m actually starting to live in the reality of being God’s kid? That’s the best thing I can imagine.

But on top of that, I get to do this show that’s all about recognizing your true self, and redemption, and hope, and courage, and the truth that who you really are is much bigger than circumstance.


Professional artists live much of their lives in uncertainty. I’m on Broadway until the summer of 2012, and I don’t know what’s next after that. All I can do is work as hard as I can not to squander the good gifts God has given me. I train my body and voice to be good instruments. I try to stay sharp as an actor. I try to maintain good relationships with the people I interact with, and I try to let Jesus do whatever he’s trying to do with my life. And I fail at that a lot. But at the end of the day, I don’t know what God’s plan is. I could make one of my own, but that would probably make him giggle. In two years I may be acting, I may be teaching, I may be working at Starbucks again, or I may be living in a gutter on the street drinking three dollar scotch (hopefully not that last one). Whatever it is, I will still be God’s kid.

And he really loves his kids.

Ben and his wife Christina FINALLY got out of Brooklyn and are living happily in Astoria, Queens, New York. For tickets to see Ben in the Lion King on Broadway, check out this site: The Lion King (it also has a cool video clip from the show. If you haven't seen the Broadway version of The Lion is a MUST SEE!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Drive Through History-- Dave Stotts

I’m very excited to participate as one of Brandon’s guest bloggers. Brandon has been my friend since our time at Abilene Christian University and I’ve enjoyed keeping tabs on him and his family over Facebook (and every now and then, even some actual face-time). Though unfortunately, Nashville and Dallas are pretty far apart and that’s not likely to change any time soon (no matter how they try).

I host a television program about history called Drive Thru History. But anyone who’s seen the show COPS knows it’s not that difficult to get on TV. In that case, you just have to break the law. Nor do you need a Herculean intellect or world-class skill (for proof see Snooki). I’m not a history expert and I’ve not studied history beyond what was required in college and seminary. So when someone asks me “where did you study history?” I cringe a little and simply tell the truth: Wikipedia. But the fact is, a person can know a lot of data about history and never really fall in love with it. Just like a person can know a lot of information about God and fail to love him like they should. So over the course of the last 7 years since we took our first round-the-world trip, I have become an enthusiastic history lover and have been amazed to see what I believe to be the very fingerprints of God on the events of world history.

From the beginning we wanted DTH to be different than any other history program. So right off the bat, we knew it all had to take place on-location. Then we mixed in some humor, fast-paced editing, a “driving” theme, lots of colorful visuals, plenty of modern-day connections to the past and a host (that’s me) who doesn’t take himself too seriously and voila – a history show that had definitely never been done before. Somehow this odd mix of history and humor worked and it’s been exciting to partner with the TBN network, which broadcasts DTH around the world and to 90 million homes in America. We have also enjoyed seeing the DVDs make a big impact with kids and even their parents - especially in the home-school context. Students find that the humor of the show keeps them engaged. They come for the history, and stay for the cheap gags. When most hosts or explorers put on the cheesy Indy Jones hat and blow dust out of an ancient inscription, I blow dust out of it and it flies up and hits me in the eye. Or I’m getting bit by a camel (that’s happened twice now), or I’m getting completely lost in Rome. I’m definitely not the fearless explorer type. Seriously, I carry chapstick and hand sanitizer at all times.

History is so full of epic stories, interesting people and fascinating confluences of events that we have to work hard to make it boring. But sadly, we often succeed in doing just that. So when we teach history in a boring way, the message that gets communicated to students is – we should ignore it. But we do so at our peril, especially as Christians. When believers have their Christianity in one category and their History in another, we can fail to remember that the Christian faith is an historical faith about events that really did take place in time space history. So when my Christian walk is difficult, or doubts arise, I look back and marvel at how the world really was changed by a man who came back from the dead and made all things new. Of course, that renewal of all things extends way into the FUTURE – which is definitely not my area of expertise. So I’ll leave that to God. Unless he sends me a tricked out DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor in which case I’ll happily explore the future…where we won’t need roads (or hopefully hand sanitizer).

Dave Stotts has always made me laugh...almost on command. He is incredibly funny and intelligent...but he has an awesome heart too. One of my favorite crazy memories was when Dave, Rob Thomas, Jason McArthur (you've already heard from Rob and Jason last week) and I went to 2nd Ave in Nashville and put out a hat and took requests. We sang old TV jingles, popular cartoon theme songs and a killer Michael Jackson medley. We ended up with enough money to...well, to buy an ice cream cone. We also made a memory (among many others over the years) that we will never forget. I'm proud of Dave and his work. His show is incredible. Sheryl and I love watching it. It airs in Nashville on Saturday nights. Check it out!

Here are a couple of from the American History Series and one from the Ancient History Series. I laughed out loud watching both of them. Dave is a master story teller. I'm thankful that he is using his gift for great things!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life In The Christian Music Industry--Jason McArthur

Brandon and I go way back. We first met in 1995 at Abilene Christian University, and from the start it was obvious both of us had performing arts in our blood. We did some singing together, did some shows together, went to church together, and eventually recorded many Zoe Group albums together. Through the years, our friendship has grown stronger (he even married me and my wife Alisha in 2005). And for more than a decade we have shared the absolute joys and honor of leading people to worship our great God via the music and ministry of Zoe.

Little did I know back when I first met Brandon that I’d eventually be earning my living in Christian music. As Vice President of A&R for Sony Music Entertainment’s Christian label division, Provident Label Group (“A&R” stands for “artists and repertoire”, a music business term), my job is to discover, sign, develop, guide, counsel, provide direction for, minister to, and help launch the careers of Christian music artists... on a grand scale!

In my nearly 13 years with Provident, I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing artists and songwriters, such as Casting Crowns, Michael W. Smith, RED, Leeland, Rebecca St. James, Kerrie Roberts, and Fireflight, to name a few (be sure to check out my newest signing Royal Tailor… their debut album comes out in June… you’ll love them!).

As exciting as it may sound to work for a record label -- even a Christian record label -- the truth is the music industry is fraught with perils. People aren’t buying music like they used to (how many full albums did you purchase last year?), they are paying less and less for music, they are downloading music for free, they are stealing music online and from friends, they aren’t going to concerts as frequently, and on and on. Simply put, the overall music business model is in major transition.

And if all this weren’t enough, working in the Christian music business comes with a whole added layer of conflict. Christian artists are often judged by much higher standards than the rest of us… standards, by the way, that virtually none of us could live up to. Just imagine the tensions that exist between “Christ-likeness” and “celebrity,” between “ministry” and “artistic integrity,” and yes, between “self sacrifice” and “sound business.”

This is where I live. Every day. In working with these artists and their art, I am constantly wrestling with the awkward tensions between putting out quality music, earning a good return on investment for the company that employs me, and devoting my life and work to God as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1).

I dare say, one need not work in the Christian music industry to wrestle with such things… but at times the tensions seem amplified. It can be frustrating and confusing. Sometimes I wonder to myself as I stand on the set of a music video shoot, or in the studio with a recording artist, or on the red carpet at an awards show like the Grammys, or at the moment a new artist is about to sign on the dotted line, “What am I doing here? Is this really what God wants? Is this what Christ died for? Is this making any difference in the world?”

So why do I do it?

Simply put, I do it because God constantly and continually – and powerfully – touches my heart and opens my eyes to the healing, moving power of music. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything else with such power to turn a heart or shake a spirit as dramatically as a song. I know this to be true because I read the emails and letters sent in by listeners of the artists I work with. Hundreds of them. With stories so amazing, so incredible, so inspiring, you’d think it nearly impossible.

Consider this letter recently received from a fan who had just seen a concert by our artist RED. Now RED is a heavy rock band, and not what many would consider the traditional “Christian artist.” Yet, their music inspired this person to write: “I can’t thank your band enough for the work you are doing for Jesus. My son was depressed and on the verge of being suicidal. The other bands he listens to left him so depressed and in a bad mood. After listening to RED he feels the love of God. Thanks for signing his CD and being who you are. I haven’t seen my son act this positive about himself in a long time.”

Or this email written to our new artist Kerrie Roberts about her song “No Matter What”: “Kerrie, I know you don’t know me yet but God does and I just wanted to share why your song is so special to me. About a year and a half ago my daughter got cancer. Her name is Tricia. When the doctors told me, I lost it and she said, ‘Mommy why are you crying instead of praying?’ Wow… I play your song over and over and over and over. I was crying today but my joy is coming in the morning. God Bless You! Tricia is 8 years old and loves Jesus No Matter What.” (name changed to protect identity)

These are real stories. Real lives. Real pain. And real transformation.

More and more I appreciate the gift God gave us in music. What else could possibly inspire or persuade people so effectively or comfort them so dramatically than the healing power of a song? I’m certainly not suggesting there isn’t plenty to criticize about the Christian music industry. And many have criticized it. Christian artists make mistakes like all of us do. And it’s often easy to get caught up in the unimportant things and the self-centeredness of celebrity, and to lose sight of the big picture. Yet, it’s obvious to me that music of all kinds is having dramatic influence in every corner of the world – both good and bad.

Just think about the values and ideas being promoted by artists like Lady GaGa and Katy Perry and Kanye West and countless others (and I actually love their music… which is precisely why they are so powerful and influential). They have no problem at all using their art to promote all kinds of destructive values and self-centeredness. Why shouldn’t Christian artists whom God has specially gifted and appointed, create and sell music that points people to Him?

I am thankful that a Christian music industry exists, for this very reason. I’m thankful I get to work at a company that distributes and promotes such music. And I’m thankful people like the ones who wrote those letters got a chance to hear it.

As a final thought, consider how important musicians were to King David as he and the whole of Israel celebrated “with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals” (2 Sam. 6:5). In fact, so important was music to him, so critical to focusing the minds of the people on God, that one of the first things David did after setting up a place for the ark of the covenant was to appoint musicians and singers, those specially gifted, to sing songs of praise to God (1 Chronicles 15:14-29).

The power of music to touch the soul and reinvigorate the spirit is virtually unmatched. So remember this the next time you happen to see a Christian artist’s album sitting in the rack of your local Walmart or Target (or Christian bookstore). Maybe even buy one, so these artists can continue to make music that points people toward the great God we serve. Music is one of God’s most powerful tools for ministry. Use it wisely… and use it often!

For more information on Provident Label Group’s artists, go to

Jason is one of my very best friends. I love what he does and who he is. He walks the walk. It has been such a blessing over the years to laugh, sing, minister, travel, laugh some more, and grow into adulthood with him. I'm so grateful for his friendship and ministry. I also am really thankful that he turned us on to Kerrie Roberts . (click on her name to go to her website) My girls LOVE her music and she's an awesome alternative to other artists out there whose messages are considerably less positive. Jason and his beautiful wife Alisha are expecting their first child...Maddox in about a week! We're all excited to welcome baby Maddox into our lives!

ZOE Group celebrating the impending arrival of Maddox.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Just Stop" by Nika Maples

Brandon can attest to the fact that when we became friends years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I DID know what I DIDN'T want to do: become a teacher. Ever. I kept piping up to tell God no again. Oh, how He gently guides us to our true voices. Today I am a 6th grade language arts teacher who feels the daily joy of teaching young people how to communicate clearly, thereby finding their own true voices. Part of God's process of deeply changing me involved a massive stroke that left me quadriplegic when I was 20 years old. Some people are sheep He can make to "lie down in green pastures." Some are storms to whom He must say, "Peace. Be still." I was a storm. But when I was still, I finally learned--finally, finally--to listen. To this day, my most exhausting exercise is closing my mouth.

Nika is one of the most gifted people I know. Sheryl and I have had a life covered in wonderful moments with friends and lots of laughter. But, I can speak for both of us in saying that moments with Nika rank in our top 5 most hilarious memories. Nika was a bridesmaid in our wedding, has been a cheerleader on our journey, and remains a treasured friend. This piece she sent me means so much more just knowing what Nika has had to overcome in her life. She truly is (as I have named her link in my favorite websites) an "extraordinary" person. I know it will bless you!


Just Stop

I was reading a picture book to my nieces, five and three, in an overstuffed platform rocker, which decided to stop working that day, at age 65, like most humans do. Antiques are lovely, but high-performance vehicles, they are not. Especially under the weight of sleep-avoidant wigglers.

“Please be still. This chair is not sturdy, girls,” I pleaded. They shifted and twisted as if it were a gymnastics competition and not naptime. “Please!” I grunted, with an elbow in my liver. “I can’t even see over your bobbing heads to read the book. Just stop and listen.” Their movement continued. Then the movement continued without them. We were falling slowly backward, the lot of us. I talked the whole way down.

“Do you see what is happening here? We are tumping over. I knew it. I told you this chair could not hold us unless we were still ...” We hit the hardwood floor at that point, and because the chair was so delightfully overstuffed, the fall was more of a poof than a boom. Our legs stood in the air like six buildings in an awkward city skyline. I kept talking, “... and quiet. Still and quiet! There was no need for all the fidgeting that was going on just then. No need. All you had to do was stop and listen,” I looked at the ceiling, sighing loudly.

The second hand ticked on the kitchen clock. It was a long moment before my eldest niece said matter-of-factly, “We’re upside down.”

How had this absurdity slipped by me? I turned to her, still tucked in the crook of my left arm, and marveled, “We are, indeed.” We laughed then, heartily and for what seemed like weeks packed tightly into minutes. The girls were amused by the lunacy of landing topsy-turvy, I’m sure. I was tickled by the idea of the lunatic herself, who cannot see, cannot fix a problem for talking about it instead. “Just stop and listen,” I chuckled to my fidgety self.

Listening is something even a child can do, when he tries. I think of that ancient Bible story, and suddenly boy Samuel has my attention. This precocious kid lives in the temple, studying full time with a priest. One night he can’t sleep, and from the moment he lifts his distracted head from the pillow, he is on the move, looking for answers. Three times he asks his spiritual mentor, Eli, who is dozing in the next room, if it was he who had been calling out. Three times Eli tells Samuel, no, go back to sleep. But it’s not that easy. Insomnia. Oh, the universal misery. In fact, insomnia might have been a good idea for a plague, if God hadn’t gotten the point across so well with the frogs and flies and hail and all that. Kudos to our boy Sam, though. He figures it out.

He finally stops fidgeting and says, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” And, lo and behold, the Lord does speak. Good story. Look it up: I Samuel 3.

“That’s all you have to do,” God seems to say to every last sleep-deprived one of us, “Just stop and listen. There isn’t a need for all that fidgeting.” But look at us in the night, trying to get back to sleep by reading, pacing, snacking, or -- the worst -- surfing the Web (last time I checked, shining a light directly into one’s pupils tends to keep one awake). The last thing we do is just stop and listen. But what if it was God who nudged us out of slumber? What if He had been calling to us all day and never got through? What if He could not be heard above the bustle of our busy lives so He spoke into the stillness of the night?

I challenge you to stop fidgeting. The next time you struggle with insomnia, just stop and listen. There’s a verse that promises God sings over us, you know. Shh. Listen. You wouldn’t want to miss your lullaby.

**Nika Maples was named Texas secondary teacher of the year in 2007. Her life and words have inspired thousands of people. Her book, Twelve Clean Pages, is due to be released this summer. (I just finished the manuscript and it is AWESOME!) Visit her website at

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Beautiful Burdens--Rob Thomas

I am very excited to kick off a series of guest blog articles by friends of mine. I've asked several people I know to write about some specific topics. Many of them are singers, artists, film makers, or pastors out there making a difference in this world. Their stories are inspiring to me. I know we will all be blessed by them.

To kick off the's an entry by Rob Thomas (many people think we're blood brothers...we're not, but I always claim Rob and wish we were! Love him!) Thanks, Rob! Be sure to click the links and check out Rob's company endorsed by just about everyone you can think of!

Brandon has been a good friend for a long time and I am honored to hold the reins to his blog... at least for one post.

In 2001, I was newly married and told Haley (my brand new wife) that I wanted to start my own company. I now know that she was a little nervous, but supported me anyway. I started a company called BedHead Productions and basically did videos for anyone who needed one. I enjoyed it very much, especially the business side... buying equipment, sending invoices, doing videos, burning DVDs, etc.

I really liked it all, but the whole time, I actually had a bigger goal. I wanted to make videos that pastors and teachers could use. I thought perhaps I could create sermon illustration videos (2-5 minute videos) and impact people in a way that oratory speaking maybe couldn’t.... not to replace it, but to enhance and compliment it.

Because I was staying busy with BedHead projects, I found it hard to find time to make these videos. I found that my dreams of doing them slowly started to become a burden for me. I always thought about these videos and I just couldn’t find the time to do them. In 2002, I finally completed my first one called Are You Amazed?. After it was shown at a large Bible Study Fellowship gathering, I knew I had to complete Igniter Videos, Volume 1. I wanted five videos on this DVD and only had to do three things:
1. Complete the 5 videos
2. Create a website to buy the DVD
3. Create a database to store the customers

It took me almost two years to do this. In my journal, I often referred to this project as a burden... a God burden. A beautiful burden. It was the burden of doing it that forced me to turn my dream into a vision, a vision into goals, and my goals into a to-do list. In September of 2003, I finally finished it... and I’ve been creating these videos ever since.

My question to you is this: Do you have a beautiful burden? If you do, is it time to push through and do it? I am so thankful that I did... God has taken me on a journey I never would have expected and I have loved it tremendously.

Rob Thomas is the president of Igniter Media and also helps run a media conference called the Echo Conference. You can find him at or

Here are a couple of my favorite examples of Rob's work...(the last is a taste of some of the comedy work by a couple of characters he's named "Johnny and Chachi". Love it!)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NYC Auditions

Monday and Tuesday we had auditions for Gary Musick Productions casting in NYC. The New York auditions usually yield some great performers. We had a record turn out this time. Over the course of those two days we heard over 330 singers. Kudos to Dave, Mindy, Jennifer, and Steve for trucking through and making it all happen!

Gary addresses a few of the performers before call-backs

Steve Kumer on the piano is a real pro and always takes everything in stride.

Part of the call-backs involve a dance call with David and his crew.

One of the best parts of going to NYC is always getting to see old friends. Adam Bastien  worked for us on several different ships and also did an industrial show for me. He's a great friend. He stopped by to hang for a little while. Adam is singing with an orchestra in NYC that does large events. He's auditioning soon for Rock of Ages...which he would be perfect for! Go ADAM!

Adam, Vanessa Yeaton and me. Adam and Vanessa sang together on the NCL Spirit. I directed their cast. That was a fun group. Vanessa is back in NYC singing and performing. Adam sent her a text and she popped by too. Great seeing them both!

After the auditions, Gary and I had a dinner meeting with a client at The Palm. Our hotel was 2 blocks off Times Square so we walked around and took some pictures afterwards.

In the middle of Times Square they were shooting a commercial. The set was all New Year's Eve and people were dressed the part along with big New Year's Eve hats that said "2012".
As the director yelled "ACTION!" the crowd screamed "Happy New Year!!" And confetti dropped.

Later that night I met up with two ACU alums living and working in the city...Sunday Ibok and Andrew Young. It was great to catch up with them.
Now back in Nashville, the cast of the NCL Gem did their final run-throughs for us this yesterday and today before they leave for the ship this weekend. Great job, guys! Have a great contract out there and break a leg!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's a B-e-a-UTIFUL Day In The Neighborhood!

Ahhhhhh, Spring....I feel you draw near! Please don't delay!

Auditions in NYC were crazy. Incredible turn out. Over the course of 2 days over 330 singers came out to sing. Some great talent! More on that and pictures later.

Over the course of the next few weeks leading up to Easter I will be inviting some guest writers to share their thoughts on faith and life with Jesus. I am really, REALLY excited about that. I have never done that before. I can't wait to share them all with you.

Raise your hand if you're ready for a little sunshine!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Blog Links

Hi friends! I wanted to draw your attention to several new-ish links on my blog. I have listed these over on the right hand side under my favorite links.

I know many of you have enjoyed connecting to Jeff Schulte's blog. Jeff was the founding pastor of Fellowship Bible Church here in Nashville and now lives in Alaska working with Chip Dodd. (I'm a big Chip Dodd fan!) Jeff has been a great friend to me this year. I love that guy's spirit. Jeff Schulte--"Where Am I?"

David Lewis is another friend whose blog will be a big source of encouragement. I wrote about him a week or so ago. Dear friend, second father. Love him. David Lewis--Manna Man

This week I have added 3 new links...

Nika Maples--Nika and I have been friends since college days. The only word for Nika is extraordinary. She is a through health crises that doctors said would kill her. She is hilarious. She is one of Sheryl's and my all time favorite people. She was named teacher of the year in the huge state of Texas...teacher of the year. That tells you something. Read her blog and you'll see what I mean. Nika Maples-- "Twelve Clean Pages"

Kurt Willems-- Kurt describes himself as a Mennonite Brethren church planting pastor, Seminarian, Blogger-Writer, Amateur Activist, Green Shopper, Dog Lover, and Husband. He is a new friend and dedicated follower of Jesus. Love his style. We're also encouraging each other through some Lent experiences. Kurt Willems-The Pangea Blog

Rachel Held Evans-- Rachel is an author, speaker and blogger. She is awesome! You'll love her stuff. Check her out... Rachel Held Evans

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Flowers and Centerpeices

As many of you know, my lovely wife is quite talented in many areas. Some of you may not know that beyond being an incredibly gifted singer, Sheryl is also an amazing floral designer. She does flowers for weddings and events and even just for people who want nice flowers in their home for an occasion.

She's ramping back up for Spring. Check out some of her work on her site... click HERE

Sunday, March 06, 2011

ZOE and Mike Cope at Woodmont Hills

This morning the ZOEs and I led worship at Woodmont Hills in Nashville. Our long time ministry partner, Mike Cope, preached. He and Landon (Saunders) were in town doing a retreat for Woodmont. It was great to see Landon too. I still remember as a little kid going up to him after church on Sundays and saying "Landon-Brandon-Landon-Brandon". He is a great, great man of God. So it seems fitting that Mike would be working with him now in the Heartbeat Ministry. Mike is part brother, part father, part confidant, part mentor...he means a lot to Sheryl and me. He married us. He has been a shepherd to us. We love him! I can't imagine two greater combos than to sing with ZOE (IN TOWN!!) and get to also be with Mike. What a fun morning!

So many sweet things happened today--they'd be way too hard to describe in detail but one thing I'll never forget was during communion (they did family communion where they had stations around the room and families and friends went together to the stations to serve each other). Sheryl sang "Redeemer" and then we started into "Worthy is the Lamb" and up walked Eric Noah Wilson (who was for many years ZOE's Executive Director). Eric walked up on stage with communion trays and began to serve us. We all lost it. I mean like ugly-cry-lost-it. What a gift! Thank you, Eric!

I love my ZOE family. I can't imagine what my life would have been like without these best of friends. We've been together for 15 years. Hopefully....we'll have at least 15 more!

Melissa, Sheryl, Amy and Karin--the ZOE Girls!

(L-R) ZOE: Philip Organ, Kevin Penna, Amy Westerman, Karin Hensley, BST, Sheryl Thomas, Mike Cope, Melissa Kirby, David England, and Jason McArthur. If we could have had Peter and Lindsey Wilson, Randy Gill and Zach Wilson with us it would have been perfect!

I was the scenic producer for the Brentwood Star Gala yesterday (as I blogged about a few days ago). Sheryl went with me and we had a great night! The theme was "An Evening at the Acropolis". I worked hard all day with the Gary Musick scenic crew to set up and make it all look just right. The guys did a great job!

Here are some pictures from the event--

Sheryl and I pose with our buddies, John and Melissa Lowry

I used our torchieres--fake flames. They looked so cool!

One of our artists painted the Gala logo onto the header "An Evening at the Acropolis"

Sheryl looks amazing!

It was a great night and it all looked really pretty. Thanks to all the Gary Musick Productions scenic crew and others for your hard work!

Friday, March 04, 2011

ZOE on the Radio

ZOE fans...tomorrow on 95.9 fm "The Light" they will air "All Because Of Jesus" & "No Sweeter Name" by The Zoe Group. If you'd like to tune in via the web so to 

A CAPPELLA JUKEBOX is on every Saturday at 12:00 pm (eastern standard time)

Special thanks to Brian for highlighting ZOE!

Brentwood Star Gala

Tomorrow I will be producing the set for the Brentwood Star Gala. Sheryl and I will be there tomorrow night. Should be a fun night! Here's a link to a story about the Gala... Star Gala

The theme is "Evening at the Acropolis"!