Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 31st

We came home from the beach and hit the ground running. It's been a busy week.

School starts in two days.

We had an awesome worship experience in church today. I tore up my finger again, playing with a little too much gusto. It's worth it.

I've got company for the weekend from to attend the wedding of my ex-husband...

...which is rather odd...

...but okay in the long run...

Overall, it's an interesting weekend. A hurricane is coming, the Republicans are coming, leaves are falling, I'm deep in thought.

Appreciating some silence.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No Way, No How, No Win

Our last evening here; going home WAY too soon, it seems.

We watched the Democratic National Convention. I'm trying to educate these kids in the political process. See Mark Warner in the background?

We played Scrabble. I have always been the Scrabble Queen.

My eldest son - the one with his tongue hanging out - trashed me. Thirty-one points for 'Oz' on a triple word score. I was thinking, "No way! It's a proper noun!"

But what the heck. Everything changes. I guess I could let him win.

And he did. Thrashed us all.

So it goes.

Final Summer Fling

We've been coming to Emerald Isle for as many years as I can remember. At some point, we created a tradition that has endured: The Bridge Song.

Here's the deal. When you cross the bridge from the mainland to the island, you have to be singing. Loudly. Windows down, speakers cranked. And it can't just be any song - no, it has to be carefully selected as a tune that will mark the summer season.

Last year (or maybe two years ago?) I remember crossing the bridge rocking out to Big Girls You Are Beautiful by Mika. It was a hoot.

This year, about halfway down, somebody announced that they knew what our song would be for this trip. No question, no argument.

It was "Burnin' Up" by the Jonas Brothers.

So, when we hit the bridge, the singing commenced. Check out Daniel's ever-so-groovy Diet Pepsi microphone.

If you look closely at the pictures, you'll notice the grass and the trees outside the window. Obviously, we weren't on the bridge at this point.

But we were singing.

Once we got here, we ran to the beach. Right away. Instantly. Even though David had to go to the bathroom somewhat desperately. It's another tradition - beach first. Say hello to the ocean.

Sarah had her camera, of course, and began snapping shots in the early evening light. Here are a few:

Me and my baby girls...

I actually took this one...I love how the girls are looking one way and the boys headed another...

David is not a big fan of salt water. His preference has been to ride his bike..

Kicked off sandals...a great picture of the final days of summer...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life Itself

I'm at my favorite place in the world, seeking a little peace and quiet and doing a little self-care with my favorite people in the world (see below). Conditions are perfect for peace, quiet and self-care; not too many folks here right now. Lots of room to move, lots of blue skies and perfect weather.

Currently, I'm reading Gifted To Lead: The Art of Leading As A Woman In the Church by Nancy Beach. I picked this up in June and dug into it last week. I expected it to be good, but I'm finding it beyond simply good. It's stunning, inspiring and spiritually challenging.

By the way - women? Read this book.

Here's something I read today that has been twirling in my heart for the past few hours; she quotes Frederick Buechner from Now and Then:

"There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize, but all the more fascinatingly because of all that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly... Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."


Life itself is grace.

Just chew on that for a while.

Then I read Robyn's blog - "3 Girls Mom"; writing about her experience at a Beth Moore teaching conference, she had this to say:

"I also learned that EVERYTHING in my life (good or bad) has been allowed by God for the sole purpose of glorifying Him. And if I don't use those life experiences (good and bad) to glorify Him, then they were all in vain. Think about that the next time you want to throw yourself a pity party."

God is reminding me today of a few very important things. I find them mind-boggling, heart-wrenching, and spirit-renewing.

And that's a very good thing.

Oh, and my favorite people in the world? Here they are:

Friday, August 22, 2008

PCC Blogomania!

Over there on the right you'll see a little link love; I've gathered the collective PCC bloggers into one place and made a nice little box for you all to live in.

If you want a place on the roll, let me know. If you'd rather not be there, let me know. I'm thinking we're all starting to connect in ways that we couldn't have imagined even five years ago. Social networking has the potential to impact relationships and ministry in powerful ways.

So there you can catch a little glimpse into the lives of the people around you. You can pray for them, encourage them, get to know them a bit.

And occasionally, you gotta comment and let 'em know you were there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Indications Of A Wonderful Day Ahead

Here's how my day started: That's the latest issue of 'Willow' magazine. I really wanted to finish it. How did this happen? It was IN the toilet. And peed upon.

Just in case you have any false impressions of how 'awesome' our family is; this sort of insanity happens frequently.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Peeping Toms

I'm not too into blog numbers; I know of other bloggers who are way past their millionth hit. I really don't care too much about the numbers....

However, I'm fascinated by who is actually lurking around. I do look at Sitemeter once every week or so, out of curiosity.

Lately, there's an uptick in Richmond/Powhatan/Midlothian folks, probably because I'm writing more on the church blog and telling a few more people about this blog. Plus, lots of my friends in the area are blogging now, and our reading circles are broadening. I do recognize some towns and know EXACTLY who they represent - hello, Ringgold Georgia!!! Howdy, Newark, Ohio!!! I know who you are!!!

But I see other locations that are more mysterious - towns where I know some people, but I'm not exactly who might be lurking around my blog. Several hits from our old hometown come in on a daily basis, but I'm not really sure who it is. I'm dying to know who keeps checking in from Harrisonburg.

It's a little creepy. It's hard not to wonder.

Yesterday I talked to somebody who said, "I've been stalking you on your blog." She is actually a very nice individual - it doesn't bother me a bit that she's been reading - but it's a bit weird, to know that people are peeking in my windows on a regular basis.

But there you go. It's life in this era, I guess. And the choice I make each time I hit the "publish" button.

So, hello to those of you who are lurking about.


Hope you have a great day!

Image from

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sarah's First Gig

I hugged Sarah this afternoon, as we were finally ready to leave the house - after wardrobe decisions, last minute rehearsals to check harmonies and general whoot whoot excitement. I told her that I was proud of her, that I knew she was going to do a great job and have a good time.

She said, "Mom, I'm living your dream."

"No," I said. "I got my dream. This one is yours."

I did the bar/club/steakhouse circuit in college. We laugh now as we remember the gig at K-Bob's steakhouse, right behind the buffet line...the weekly Sunday brunch gig at the Lubbock Holiday Inn (where I learned to appreciate eggs benedict, since I got to eat for free). I've closed down enough bars, singing choruses of Cyndi Lauper tunes and other 80's gems. Been there, done that. Happy where I am now.

It's Sarah's turn, and she's doing it with a different twist. Most of her stuff is original. She churns out song after song, fueled by whatever is going on around her in the lives of her friends and her family. It's like therapy for her, and it's powerful for those of us who listen.

And it's good music.

She played at Common Groundz Coffee House in Richmond, in the middle of all of the freshmen moving into their dorms at VCU. Lots of traffic, lots of faces on the street. And there was my girl, a young woman singing her songs for about 30 of her friends and other assorted customers who came in to get coffee and dinner.

She did really, really well. And she had a great time.

And I only teared up once....

An assortment of her fans...rapt with attention, live blogging (that's Shannon), taking pictures (that's Syd...)


That's Travis - Shannon's boyfriend - who played two songs with Sarah, one of which was a great little tune that she wrote ABOUT Travis and Shannon's relationship. It was a comedic moment, especially when she mentioned his 'brown sugar skin' and Shannon's peculiar habit of snorting when she laughs...

Sister moment...Syd and Shannon joined her for one of the tunes she wrote, adding some exquisite harmony. Of course, they sing like sisters, which is to say that they have a natural blend that is phenomenal. They worked hard on the harmonies and I was really, really proud of them all. It sounded great. Jonas Brothers, here we come!!!

Number one fan - my mom! She said that she and dad did this so many times for my brother and I, as we traipsed around performing in various venues. She never thought she'd be going to see her granddaughter on the stage, too! She also never knew her granddaughter was so talented...

Friday, August 15, 2008

An Interesting Perspective On Our Family...

I'm really honored by my friend Kelley's most recent post - and amused, as well. It's fascinating to see yourself through somebody else's eyes.

She spent a few hours with us last night and her experience prompted an interesting retrospective. With pictures.

Take a look. Click here.

And, by the way, she also documents her God experiences with amazing clarity and joy. She's the same in person and in print. I really love this girl...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You

This DOES look interesting...

Props to Anne Jackson...

Sunday Setlist

Per Fred McKinnon's ginormous influence on the universe, I'm changing the 'Worship Confessional' tag to 'Sunday Setlist'.

Whatever we call it, here's the recap of yesterday's service, which was called 'You've Got to Get Some Rest'. Week 145 in the Big Stories of the Bible summer series.

Okay, not 145...but we're winding down.

Anyway, here you go:

Praise Your Name - Todd Fields Great, energetic opener. Cool guitar parts.
Enough - Chris Tomlin/Louie Giglio We pulled from the Barlow Girl version but pushed it really hard. In the past, we've programmed this song to be more contemplative, but yesterday we tried to rock it, make it more of a declaration.
Lord You Have My Heart - Martin Smith/Delirious Great song - haven't done it here before, so it was nice to pull it out. I love the syncopation of the verse melody contrasted with the "I will praise You, Lord/I will sing of love come down" in the chorus.
Nobody There But Me - Bruce Hornsby GREAT song for independence/accountability/responsibility. We used it to point towards the fact that every individual is responsible for their spiritual life - including the fact that you have to make room for rest. We didn't belabor the point - we just did the song, but I think it worked. Had a new sax player who did a great job with the tune; very bluesy, in three, worked great.
VIDEO - KEVIN'S DAY OFF - We produced this in house and I hope to have it here soon for you to see. It was one of the best pieces we've ever produced. We followed Kevin (yesterday's teaching pastor) to Richmond and got shots of him tooling around the city on a Segway. As the short clip ended and the lights came up, Kevin rolled up to the stage on the Segway. Then he preached. It was pretty cool.
Rest - Big Daddy Weave We closed with this tune, which was challenging first service, because I set the introduction in halftime and proceeded to lead the entire tune the same way. Our vocalist had every right to kill me, but he muddled through, improvised and we got through it. Second service was better. I love it when God keeps me humble.

As we dismissed folks, we drew a name from the welcome cards and gave away a half-day guided tour of the city - on Segways - courtesy of the fine folks at Segway of Richmond. Those things are way cool. They set up in the parking lot and gave free demo rides to any and all who wanted one in between services.

It was a cool day.

I'm playing 'Sunday Setlist' with other worship leaders - you can see who else is participating here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


This is what we did in church today.

I'm not kidding.

The teaching pastor rode in on one. We gave demo rides in between services. And we had a drawing for a free tour in the city.

Props to Segway of Richmond - and Diane and Henley, who were awesome and good-natured all morning.

I love my church.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another Blogger...

Another new blogger in town - my dear, amazing friend Kelley is joining the blogging party! Kelley is a high capacity girl so she'll probably be posting about 40 times a day...and every one of her posts will be entertaining. Definitely with pictures. Probably color coded.

This girl is amazing and one of my best friends ever. Go say hi, would you? Click here.

And if you look hard, you'll see a cool picture of us in our matching outfits....

Summit Recap

We had a great time at the Leadership Summit. Every year, our church invests some serious money and time in this event; we take a large group to St. Paul's Baptist Church to catch the satellite feed of the conference. Generally, they do a great job hosting us. We consider the two-day conference an invaluable way to cast vision, build unity and hear some incredible teaching from some amazing individuals. This year was no exception.

After the final session, we always gather together for a meal and some time to decompress. This year we spent some time at our tables discussing how we were most impacted by the Summit. I heard a wide variety of answers; some folks were feeling affirmed, some sensing that God was really pushing them to move, some wondering what might be opening up for them in the future. Others were convicted that they needed to 'shake it off and step it up'.

One by one, people stood to talk about their Summit experience. My friends, my colleagues, my brothers and sisters - my heart was warmed, surprised and touched by their words.

Then my daughter stood.

Sarah said that this conference - that she attended at the last minute - had been life-changing. She was transformed. It was time, she said, to walk away from the turmoil of the past and move into the future. Time to accept that God has not given her a spirit of timidity. Time to move into leadership in her church. She said she couldn't believe that after five years, we were about to move into our first building - that it was time.

Her words were powerful, full of all of the hope and vigor of youth. Her passion is extraordinary. I found myself marveling at this young woman - her words, her ability to convey her desire to honor God with her life, her vision for the community, her passion for more.

And it was as if she was a young woman, standing apart from the reputation and influence of her mother. Standing alone, but with a huge collection of hands around her to hold her up. I had a tremendous sense of our community showing love and support for my daughter. And I was proud, beyond words.

And grateful.

Brian shared some powerful words about the future. Then he read some excerpts from a few emails from folks who had been impacted by what God is doing through PCCC. The words evoked deep emotions; coupled with Kevin's voice singing in between Brian's words:
"What a faithful God you've been to me
You've provided far beyond everything I need
What else can I do but give thanks to you
What a faithful God you've been to me..."

I found myself overwhelmed with worship and emotion. Grateful that God called us together to show us, again, why we do what we do. Grateful that we seem to have 'it', as Craig Groeschel described today.

Still amazed that I am part of this work. And, at times, terrified. God is leading us to be risky again, to stir the waters, to aim higher, to stretch out for more. It is all directed by him - all for him - all focused on him. And I have no idea what's ahead of us.

But I can't wait. I'm in. For keeps.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Catherine Rohr shared powerfully about her calling to work with prisoners in Texas, preparing and coaching them to embrace the opportunity to live meaningful lives and reenter society to make a positive difference. The program is called The Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

At the end of her talk, they introduced former prisoners who are now productive members of society, thanks to her program; one of whom was released this morning.

Wow. Talk about shame and admitting your past - and letting God shine through your present situation. This is stunning.

To have the courage to say, "I did fourteen years for murdery." "I served four years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon."

These men are able to stand up and say who they were - but stand firmly on who they ARE now, glorifying the new things that God has done for them.

"Shake it off and step up."

Shake It Off And Step Up

I woke up late today and ran out of the house without my notebook, so I'll take all my notes (without doodling) here on the blog.

I've been waiting for this message from Craig Groeschel from Highlights from his talk:
  • When Groeschel heard Bill Hybels say, "The local church is the hope of the world", he heard it and believed it.
  • Of 13 Lifechurch campuses, only Groeschel's home church has declined in growth.
  • God makes 'it' happen. It is for His glory. We can't recreate it. It's rare for one person to bring it, but one person can kill it. It can be caught rather than taught. It's not a system.
  • Wherever you see it, you see transformed lives.
  • Wherever you see it, you will have critics.
  • "IT" happens.
  • If you have it, doesn't mean you're going to keep it. If you don't have it, doesn't mean you can't get it.
  • The early church had it; even when church was boring and a guy fell out of a window and died, they just brought him back to life. That's 'it'.
What qualities are necessary to have 'IT'?
  • Laser-like focus - not 287 different ministries. The key is to have better ministries, better. What can you be the very best at? - this is the defining
  • In order to reach people that no one is reaching, we have to do things that no one is doing. In order to do things that no one is doing, we can't do what everyone else is doing. Groeschel calls this 'planned abandonment'. Narrow the focus and attack it with passion.
  • Lifechurch has narrowed its focus to worship experiences, small groups, kids ministries, student ministries and missions in order to free up margin, staff and money - all to reach people that no one else is reaching.
  • "What are you doing that you need to stop doing?"
  • You have everything that you need to do everything that God wants you to do. If Peter had had the money, he would have given the guy what he asked for - not what he needed.
  • God often guides where he doesn't provide. Struggling with what we DON'T have - what is God trying to show us through our greatest limitations?
  • Be willing to fail. Failure is a necessity - failure is often the first step into seeing God.
  • God may have given you a vision to do something, but there could be three steps of failure before you get it right. Shake it off - shake off the failure - and step up.
  • "What has God called you to do that you're afraid to attempt? When are you going to do it?" If you can do it, it doesn't take faith.
  • Ministry can kill 'it'. For Groeschel, it became more about building the church than building the kingdom. When we have 'it' in us, we get 'it' out there - then we start focusing on out there. Groeschel preached a message that was focused on 'what will they think'? God showed him that he had become a full-time pastor and a part-time follower of Christ.
  • Becoming more about your ministry than His kingdom will lead to losing it.
  • Groeschel quit reading ministry books - read only the word. Began to fast. Went to hold a baby in another country who would not live through the week. For some of us, it's time to let God break our hearts. And that's it.
Greg Ferguson sang 'First Love' to close the message. This was an incredibly powerful talk.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leadership Summit 2008

Listening to the final speaker of the day at the Leadership Summit (we are at a satellite location in Richmond, with about 45 folks from our church) - Efrem Smith is full of wisdom and a passionate communicator. Smart move, putting him on at the end of a lengthy stream of people with a lot of words to say. Very redemptive.

It's been a long day, but the wisdom and experience we've witnessed has been extraordinary. It's almost too much to bear. I'm ready to get up and go do something.

Here's a bit of what I am gleaning from Smith:

"God's in the business of recruiting unqualified people."
"Tribalism is a deep, evil force that leaders must take on. We cannot escape disparities around the world that are based on race, class and place. And we sit inside the church and pretend that they aren't happening right inside our doors."
"This is no time, leaders, for empire building. We need humble, sacrificial force to go out to the places where hurting people are. We get that by abiding where hurting people are. Abiding means dwelling - staying - being there."
"We create dwelling places in the park. In the public schools. At a community center. Stop dreaming about church buildings and have a vision about transformation."
"One of the best things a leader can do is say, 'My bad'."
"The high pressure of what God wants to do in the world is bumping up against the low pressure of what we want to do to that's comfortable."
"There's no institution in the United States that can make the case for building a place for people who are comfortable with one another - except the church."
"What if we saw ourselves beyond black and white, red and yellow? What if we came to the conclusion that race labels aren't really who we are?"
"There are valid reasons to create ethnic-specific churches; but we cannot deny multi-racial, diverse communities exist."
"Crazy, deranged kids come in all shapes, colors and sizes."
"A leader must be a beloved leader, an abiding leader, a confessing leader and a perfecting leader."
"Build organic gatherings by building relationships with other leaders from diverse groups."
"Create program experiences to reach particular sub-cultures. Start economic development organizations. Create groups to talk about issues in the community. The more understanding, the more community, the more relationships I build."

Good stuff.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Not A Vacation

Someone commented to me that they thought our senior staff retreat was for fun, games and bonding - a vacation. We had a little of that later in the week when our families joined us, but for four days, it was work - intense, challenging work. One of my coworkers described it best - it was like a three-day staff meeting.

No kidding.

We had some intense discussions, including some conflict (which, though sometimes painful and difficult, always gets us to a good place). We looked at where we've been - including how we've done personally - and evaluated past decisions and efforts. We talked about what was most important to us. We looked at statistics and demographics. We analyzed pop culture and its impact on us in our own curious mix of rural/suburban life.

Our pre-retreat work included reading two books: Patrick Lencioni's Silos, Politics and Turf Wars and Tim Stevens' Pop Goes the Church. We had questions and assignments based on those books, and it was interesting to see everyone's responses. Both generated some great discussions and valuable feedback.

There were times when we got fed up with one another, moments in discussions where some had to be coaxed to share what they were really thinking. It's not necessarily easy, all the time, to live with people that you work with.

But I ended the week feeling a great deal of clarity about my job, my life, and my role in our church. There is a huge amount of work ahead, and we need to carefully consider the weight of responsibility God has placed upon us as He has built this church. At times, it feels very overwhelming.

But truthfully? I can't imagine doing anything else with my life right now. I think about the things we sacrifice when we invest our lives in vocational ministry; things like time, money and privacy. Buoyed by my experience with my friends and co-workers - and my personal time with God and my family, I'm feeling nothing but gratitude. I am blessed, granted such an amazing privilege, walking in such grace - and every single bit of it undeserved.

I love my job, love my coworkers and friends, love the extended family that is all of PCC. I am stunned, every day, that God coaxed me into this role with such tender love and grace. He saw something worthy and redeemable in my mess of a life, and He opened His arms to invite me into His work here.

I stand amazed.

I pray I might hold it loosely, because I do not deserve to be here.

Oh, yeah - maybe the best part was having a baby there all week. Two of my colleagues - both pastors - had their first child a few months ago. It was the icing on the cake, the recipient of much adoration and affection.