Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I'm Reading Right Now

Craig Groeschel leads Lifechurch.tv, a church that is dedicated to being a reproducing, multi-site organization ("one church, multiple locations").  Craig spoke at the 2008 Leadership Summit and gave a stirring, exhilirating and truth-filled talk that continues to resonate in my heart.

He spoke about the (almost) indefinable, elusive "it" that marks the unexplainable attraction to something or someone.  In this context, Groeschel talks about the life-changing power of a church that has "it".

It is fascinating, this concept of the God of the universe - almighty, all-powerful, omnipresent, creator of all things being reduced to a boring, unapproachable, politicized head of an institution found on street corners and interstates all over this country.  But, sadly, it is happening.  All too often, the Jesus that we love is boxed up and set aside as completely irrelevant and unnecessary.  Too much passion - for Jesus, for people outside the walls of the church, for the hurting and disenfranchised - is frowned upon, and not just by those outside the walls, but sometimes by those within. 

Jan is asking questions about this on her always-fascinating blog.  I am learning from the questions she posits, from the fact that I have no easy answers.  Others are praying and pushing and opening dialogue and moving their feet to declare the truth about incredible, exciting, transformative faith found in Jesus.  These are exciting times.

I love the church, and I love Jesus, and I am really digging this book.  Groeschel is an engaging, honest writer.  His stories will give you great insight and make you laugh, and the challenges that unfold just might change your world.

And just might change your church.

You can find "It" here.  You can read Craig Groeschel's blog posts here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday Setlist 9.28.08

I missed last week's Sunday setlist post - it was a terrific service, but since it's so late, I'll refrain from the blow-by-blow description. However, I will say that we used A Thousand Questions, a video from Willow Creek Arts that premiered at the 2008 Leadership Summit. It was an incredible piece that moved people to tears, and generated more response than any element we've utilized in the past several months. Check it out, particularly to highlight missions or the challenge of dealing with finding God in the midst of turmoil. Terrific service element!

Now, on to this week; we kicked off a new series called AWAKEN, which is our spiritual growth emphasis for 2008. Every fall we do a church-wide series that includes small groups, student groups and kids. This year we have chosen Live Wisely by Bill Hybels as the study guide - we are tackling the book of James in small groups and from the main stage. Yesterday was a great start to the series, with a powerful message centered on James 2-4. Here's how it went:

More Love, More Power- band jam. With some great players on stage yesterday, this piece was fun - though we had to abbreviate it because we were crunched for time. As an instrumental, this was a great tune to feature some solo work.
Video - Worship Objects - from Floodgate Productions via Sermonspice. Excellent piece to open worship. We killed the audio and played a live vamp in G underneath the video, to seque into -
Awesome is the Lord Most High - Chris Tomlin. Kevin sang the first verse slowly as a call to worship, and then the band popped in to kick things into high gear.
Let God Arise - more Chris Tomlin. It just worked. I LOVE this song.

We had thirty seconds of 'auctioneering' from a resident auctioneer, promoting next week's fundraising event for our building. Following that, a skit by and about one of our small groups to encourage folks to participate in a group for the series, all homegrown.

Following the rest of the welcoming comments and offering prayer, we did He Is Yahweh by Dean Salwyn.  Elijah and Robert are two amazing percussionists who came in to play after getting home at 1:00 a.m. from a band competition in Virginia Beach (where they won Grand Champion and swept first place in every division - just a few props to the PHS band and the PCC musicians who serve there!!!)

To set up the message, which talked about the focus necessary to persevere through trials, we shot two minutes of our pastor teaching, deliberately and uncomfortably out of focus.  He did the audio live, and we had our own bit of Brittany lip-synching on stage.  It worked!

We ended with Awaken by Natalie Grant, an amped up tune that challenged everyone to 'wake up'.

It was a great day!

Part of the Sunday Setlist blog carnival at Fred McKinnon.com!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This Explains A LOT

Somebody wrote a book all about me!

I am so flattered.

Perhaps honored is a more appropriate word.

Or embarrassed.

Enlightened, at the very least.

Send Me

Found this on Mandy Thompson's blog and was blown away.

If last week's service is still resonating with you PCCers, check this out.

'Send Me' - Live at MHC | Ballard from Re:Sound on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Daily Blogvotionals

Through much of my life as a Christ-follower, I have used daily devotional books as tools for spiritual growth.  There's some accountability, particularly in a book that also functions as a calendar.  Oswald Chambers, Henri Nouwen, The Women's Devotional Bible, Streams in the Desert, God Calling - all and more have been well-used and instrumental in the things I have learned about faith and obedience and grace and mercy.

Currently, I'm utilizing The Journal as a tool for Bible reading (although my consistency leaves something to be desired); the only text offered is the Bible itself, and it's up to God's spirit to prompt the learning.  I kind of like it that way, a little less structured...

However, lately I'm finding the most powerful and consistent devotional tool to be following a few blogs of people who are writing honestly about their lives, weaving spiritual lessons and applications throughout their writing.  It helps me that these people are real - or perhaps that the connectivity of the internet allows them to feel more real to me than Nouwen or Chambers.  There is interaction and reaction to current events, and real-time activity that brings a fullness to their observations of life that are helpful to me in this season of my own.  These folks are regular people, some who have chased after Jesus for much longer than I, some who are relatively new in their journey.  Some are older than I am, some younger.  Some are working in churches, some stay at home with kids, others lead lives in the workplace.  All inspire me, and - at times - drive me to my knees and break my heart with their honest insight into their lives and their relationship with God.

One of those people is Carlos Whittaker, who blogs at Ragamuffin Soul.  His post today tore me to pieces.  Reading the comments opened the floodgate of awareness as to the commonality we share as broken, selfish, self-absorbed humans - even on our best days.

And in reading stuff like this, I find myself surprisingly empowered.  It's stunning to find myself in complete posession of this truth, this thing that I claim to believe but somehow fail to embrace as a follower of Jesus: 

"My grace is enough; it's all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness."  Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. - 2 Corinthians 12.8-10  The Message

Go read this post.  And think about working on your list.  I'm working on mine.

Want to check out a few of the folks whose writing inspires and elevates me?  Try these - and let me know who you would recommend:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Raised Into a Light-Filled World

David and Austin are best friends.  They have a rare ability to get along with one another extremely well almost 100% of the time.

Sunday marked a unique day in each of their lives - and they shared it together.  They were two of twenty-four people who were baptized in the James River that afternoon - adults, students and children who stepped out to acknowledge publicly that they wanted to follow Christ.

It's hard to know exactly what nine-year-old boys are thinking, but I can't help but believe that each one of them knew that this was a very special day.

It was special for all of us in attendance.  This year, Powhatan Community Church has baptized sixty-one people - a one-year record for this church.  Here's how Kevin, our Community Care Pastor, interprets that number:

...not that the number in and of itself is important, but the fact that it is not simply a number - it is PEOPLE.  People whose lives are different today than they were before

Austin and David are two of those people.

Listening to final instructions.

Waiting patiently for his turn.

Another one of those people:  Kelley - one of MY best friends - being baptized with Austin, her son.  The look of sheer peace and beauty on her face is a transparent glimpse into her heart.  She is in the process of being transformed by Jesus in an incredible way.

Coming up out of the water with his dad; it is especially meaningful that Lonnie was here to participate.
Moving quickly; I think the water was a bit chilly!

"That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country."  Romans 6.3-5 The Message

Good Friends Who Love Deeply

We were so incredibly blessed this past weekend; some of our favorite people came to visit!  Dave and Diana were good friends during our time in Chagrin Falls; we were in church together, active in the youth ministry and involved in the lives' of our children in various ways.  Dave and Shannon were good buddies from a children's small group, and their daughter Lisa and I became very close as she navigated her way through young adulthood.  Lisa is now happily married and loving family life.  Their son Andy grew up and became a youth minister.

When Dave emailed to say they were contemplating a mini 'Civil War Tour' with a stop at our place, we were ecstatic.  As it turned out, they had less time than they had anticipated - but they elected to come see us anyway.

We had a great time together on Saturday; dinner and great conversation, including a recap of some crazy memories ("Remember the bonfire that was over three stories high?  Remember some of those Sunday night worship services?")  We not only cruised through the past, though; we caught up on all that's happened since, including Diana's commitment to the people of Mali and the trips she takes several times a year to share the gospel with the people there.  Dave shared about new work experiences and his dream of a church with a vision and passion for people who are far from God.

It was truly a terrific evening.  In many ways, it brought some part of our life full-circle, connecting the past - including times bad and good - and the present, with a great nod towards the future and the exciting challenges ahead of us all.

Sunday morning, they came to PCC.  After sitting through the 9:30 service, they decided to stay and worship again at 11:00.  Knowing that they were in the crowd and that we were worshiping together (in more than just spirit, but geographically!) was really, really cool.

The best part of all is that Dave and Diana are just terrific people, true and authentic and friends in the best sense of the word.  I can't imagine a greater blessing than the gift of their time.

Unless, of course, they decide to move here.

"Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it.  Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply..."  Romans 12.9  The Message

Friday, September 19, 2008

May I Introduce To You...

Madame President.  Currently presiding over the Freshman Class of 2012.

Woo hoo!

Major props to Katelyn James of Inspired Designs by Katelyn James, who is a stunning photographer and a terrific individual.  If you're in the Richmond area and need a photographer for a wedding, senior portraits, or any special event, contact her.  She does excellent work!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

PCC Choir

Songs for Sunday.  

Click to download from iTunes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Holy Is Your Name..."

I just sent this email to our music team:

Very rarely a song will appear that moves my heart to the degree that leaves me speechless. As I sit here in the Powhatan library, planning upcoming services for the ‘Awaken’ series, I have been moved to tears – almost to the point that I lower myself to the floor to worship right here and now.

"Exalted (Yahweh)" by Chris Tomlin. I’m not even sure why; the song is simple.  Maybe that’s why. 

Spend ninety-nine cents at Amazon or iTunes and worship God. And start soaking up the song while you’re at it; we’ll be using it in the very near future…

When the drums come in and the vocals simply begin to declare, "Yahweh/holy is your name...", I just fall apart.  There is something of heaven in this mixture of melody and harmony and lyric.

Today I am thanking God for the gift of music to carry our hearts to Him.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday Setlist 9.14.08

This post is part of the Sunday Setlist carnival hosted by Fred McKinnon.

Yesterday was a good day!  We continued our series called 'What's Going On' with a look at God's perspective on our stuff and our finances.  Brian did a good job with a message that still had me thinking this morning.

Here's how it went:

Everywhere That I Go - Israel Houghton.  We love this song, and Matt - our guitar player - killed the intro.  Awesome!
You're Worthy of My Praise - Passion.  I'm partial to the first version of this from the Passion Better Is One Day cd.  I actually attended that event in Fort Worth - I was blown away by the live band and Louie Giglio and the incredible privilege of worshiping next to my brother.  God stirred something in me through the music and the teaching that stuck with me for a long time.  One of our newer vocalists led this song - David G - and he did a terrific job!

Small Group Connect - this video was in house, just a few shots of our small groups doing their small group thing - loving and hugging and squeezing and laughing and all that.  Sammy - associate pastor for small groups - came out afterwards to invite folks to get involved.

The first service we were way short - came up six minutes early, in fact - so for the second service I added an impromptu solo piano version of It Is Well With My Soul

Our baptism is next Sunday; to promote it, I put together the video that is posted here.  We showed the video with a line of individuals across the front of the stage.  As their pertinent fact came up on the screen, they 'stepped out', waved or pointed or did some sort of gesture or movement that was comfortable for them, then stepped back.  Several guys stepped forward on the 'China' bit - they are, seriously, trying to go to China in December after feeling a prompting from God this past summer.  Anyway - at the end, on the 'Was baptized at Powhatan Community Church' line, they all stepped up and waved.  There was cheering and rejoicing.  It worked.  

To bump the message, we put together a 30 second montage of bad news from various networks - mostly financial soundbites.  

Towards the end of the message, we showed this M&M's Video from Granger Community Church.  It got a GREAT response from the congregation - highly recommended as a gentle way to remind folks about giving control of their resources to God and living out the truth of Matthew 6.26.  By the way, this was a last minute addition to our plan - a Saturday afternoon find that worked out perfectly, thanks to a flexible tech crew and good attitudes all around.

We ended with a tune that Brian had discovered called Don't You Worry by Jonathan Butler.  Killer song, great vibe - a great chance to send folks out happy, with a terrific opportunity for some killer background vocals.  We had a superb team on hand to work those out, with great execution by our bass player and the lead vocalist.

It was a very good day, all the way around.  

If you're a PCC reader, I'd love some feedback from YOU - what did YOU think?  What worked?  What didn't work so well?  What did you 'take home' from the service?  Your input helps guide us in our planning, so go ahead and let me know!

By the way - can somebody tell me how link to these songs on iTunes?  Can't figure it out...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What I Didn't Do...All Day...

What I didn't do today:

clean floors
wash dishes
pay bills
clean bathrooms
work out
get dressed
brush my teeth

Okay, eventually I brushed my teeth.  And I am dressed.  But the creative process ate up my entire day.  I woke up, rolled over, grabbed my laptop and went to work.

And it really felt good.  I need a day like this now and again.  The result of all that creativity isn't the most incredible thing in the world; it'll do, but that's not the point.  The point today was in the process.  I'm wired that way, and every now and then I just have to indulge.  It keeps me healthy.

Wondering what my other creative friends do to recharge their batteries...anybody want to chime in?

What I Did Today...All Day...

Baptism Facts - Powhatan Community Church from Beth Brawley on Vimeo.

Friday, September 12, 2008

On Biscuits and Leadership

I love fall.  Now that we're somewhat settled into the routine of school, I'm slipping back into a rhythm of life that feels very familiar.  For some reason, fall brings out the 'mom' in me just a bit stronger than usual.  Or perhaps it's more that I return to some habits that resonate with my maternal side.

I cooked this week.  A lot.  When the kids were younger and I considered myself a stay-at-home-mom, I was usually fairly focused on meal preparation.  I grew up in a house where we ate a 'real dinner' almost every night of the week - usually meat, a carb and a vegetable.  There were exceptions:  when Dad was traveling out of town, we got to have salmon patties, spaghetti, fishsticks or chicken and rice - all stuff my dad wouldn't eat.  And now, I realize, all stuff that was a heck of a lot easier to prepare for my mom!

I digress.  

It's interesting that I cooked this week, because now that I work full-time, there are too many nights when dinner is on the run, thrown together - anything but thought out.  There's pizza, usually once a week.  Sometimes we fend for ourselves and have sandwiches.  I don't always feel good about what's on the table - especially compared to my own childhood.

But fall is here, they're back in school, and I'm getting back in touch with the 'mom' deep inside.  And so, I have cooked.

We had steak.  We had grilled chicken.  We had brisket and pinto beans.  And we had stew and biscuits.  All home-cooked, no pre-cooked sauces or spice mixes or anything.  And I feel like a bona fide mom.  (Just don't ask me about the laundry...or the baseboards...or the windows...or the bathrooms...or anything else that requires cleaning...)

Sydni was born in July of 1994, and not long afterwards I started work as a consultant for Pampered Chef.  Lonnie stayed home with the kids one or two nights a week while I did shows.  I liked it; I loved the products, loved getting out with adults and really loved being able to contribute to the family by making the van payment while Lonnie was working and going through grad school.  I was good at what I did - I was passionate and excited, and it translated to good sales and a 'promotion' into leadership as I started to build a sales team.

I worked for a year or two and then got tired.  Leadership was hard.  I had another baby.  Life got a little more demanding.  I gave it up.

But I loved Pampered Chef and I loved the stuff I learned and the products that I still have, to this day.  And I learned a lot about leadership, never realizing that over a decade later, those lessons would impact my life so greatly.

The point of this story?  I'm not sure, except to say that I cooked homemade biscuits this week - from scratch - and I used Pampered Chef tools.  I think my baking powder needs to be replaced, because my biscuits ended up more like fat saltine crackers than biscuits.  But as I cooked, I felt nostalgic.  I thought back at where I'd been and where I was now, and what I have carried with me.

There are things that you get to keep, no matter what your losses might be along the way.  And some of those things - like leadership skills, loving what you do and cooking for your family - last for a lifetime.

In fact, they become a lifetime.  

Even if they don't turn out quite right every time, I still know how to make biscuits.  And I get to keep that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Learn Something New Every Day

Make some new bloggy friends this week and found some great inspiration for music, service planning and just good ol' spiritual growth.  Check 'em out:

Jim Drake - doing church in Snyder, Texas, a town I waved at every time I drove from D/FW to Lubbock during my college years.  His music choices inspire me and he posts some great - sometimes hilarious - stuff.  Check out 'How To Worship'.

Gary Durbin - who is so cool he can video himself while driving and be completely coherent.  He's a worship leader and an artist who is recording some really good stuff.  He blogs here; check out his music here.

Ed Schief - I really, really like Ed's take on church and life and music.  He speaks from experience, and experience speaks volumes.  He also has some really weird dreams, and he's good about documenting them.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday Setlist 9.7.08

This post is part of a blog carnival hosted by Fred McKinnon; check it out here.

Yesterday we kicked off a new series called 'What's Going On?' In light of the fact that the economy is unstable, issues of gender and race are livening up the current political climate and our sleepy little rural community has been rocked by three murders in as many months, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at what's happening around us - and what God has to say about it. Here's what we did:

Hope In A Hopeless World - Widespread Panic. My brother turned me on to this tune; it was a great opener and a really fun piece for us to play. The band consisted of some of my favorite, most reliable players, so it was nice just to jam a bit.

Welcome To Our Church - video from Floodgate Productions. This is one of the most excellent video pieces I have ever seen. It spurs spontaneous applause from folks. We have used it three times in the last 18 months; it really helps introduce our values and commitment to people. A great reminder to ALL of us, I like to program it on days like yesterday, when we expect first-time guests in the room. If you haven't seen it yet, click the link and check it out.

We did a quick pitch for Christmas production volunteers, then went to a home-grown small groups video that I will show you asap. I'm really pleased with the quality of video some of our folks are producing. Good stuff.

Open My Eyes Carmen D'Arcy. I stumbled upon this via CCLI, which was a surprising treat. Although somebody in the band said, "You know, this sounds a lot like a Hannah Montana song...", it worked.  It's a great, rockin' worship song for a female singer.  The audience was engaged right away, which is not always the case with a new song.  We didn't do the key change so we could make a smooth segue into...

Breathe Marie Barnett. Love, love, love this song.

We continued the tag of the song through the first part of the offering.

Lonely People Igniter Media. We set up the message with this video, but I'm not sure how effective it was. I love the Jars of Clay version of this song, though.

The message was titled 'When Life Doesn't Make Sense', and our pastor did a great job of lovingly tearing down some old cliches. It was a powerful message.

Healer Mike Gugliemucci. I wrestled with this choice, for two reasons; the backstory that most of you know (the initial 'launch' of the song along with a story of the author's diagnosis of cancer, later revealed to be false - the cancer story manufactured to cover an addiction to pornography and a 'shadow self') and the theological implications of the lyric (which I wrote about on our church blog - check it out here). I filed this tune as a potential worship song for us about three months ago, but wasn't really compelled to use it until this service - and until AFTER the story broke about Gugliemucci's REAL battle. I shared that story with the band and a few others, and the song helped create a powerful moment. There's just something about that tune and lyric that speaks deep into the heart of people; I think it's likely due to the deep, dark, desperate place from whence it came - out of the tortured soul of a man mired in sin. I am very, very glad we closed with 'Healer', and thankful that God loves us all too much to leave us as he found us.

It was a great day.  I love my job.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

First Day of School

School started this week.

Everybody was excited. They had their first day outfits all laid out - they'd been waiting for weeks. Our rule is this: you CANNOT wear anything new until school actually begins. I think somebody snuck out a pair of boxers and maybe a new pair of socks when I wasn't looking, but for the most part, they stuck to the family tradition. The new shoes, new jeans, cool new shirts from C28 (check THAT store out!) - everything was unveiled Tuesday morning.

We did breakfast together again; we'll see how long it lasts this year.

As a former teacher and mother of a lot of kids, there is a strange rhythm to back-to-school time for me. I always feel energized, ready for a fresh start, excited about new notebooks and the smell of pencil lead. I love the new beginning feel of fall. But lately - especially with the kids getting older - I'm welcoming the first week of September with a sigh of relief.

The house stays cleaner for at least 8 hours.

They are focused on schoolwork, projects, activities. Fortunately, my kids like school. They enjoy learning and they have had, for the most part, positively school experiences.

So September is good for everybody.

Daniel goes out the door first. Can you tell that he is excited?

Okay, okay. Maybe David doesn't like school all that much...

My high school girls. Gulp. You just wait...they grow up SO fast...

Friday, September 5, 2008

It Came In The Mail Today

My friend Kelley has the gift of encouragement. And gift-giving. And card-sending. Plus she's just an awesome girl and a great friend. A fun friend.

Tell me how jealous you are. Come on. You know you want one, too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sunday Setlist 8.31.08

Yesterday was a great day at church, though at one point we discussed changing the message title to You Think THIS Is Hot? and talking about hell. A power outage reset the automatic a/c cycle in the high school, and we arrived to a sweltering auditorium. Things finally cooled down about 11:30 , but sweated our way through set up, tech run and worship. Some of the guys in the band changed shirts three times. I rolled up my jeans and played barefoot.

We ended our 'Big Stories Of The Bible' series with a unique opportunity to share communion in service. Our contract with the school says 'no food or drink in the auditorium', and juice and bread qualify as 'food and drink', so we've never been able to share in this sacrament together. Last year we put together a service that sent folks out into the hallway to partake, but that was complicated. Somehow, we received a special dispensation for yesterday's service, so Brian told the big story of God's new covenant through Christ, and we shared communion together.

Friend of God - Israel Houghton. I am LOVING this song! We started with a synth pad 'whoosh', and our amazing keyboard player/filmmaker/musician extraordinaire Scott Gordon created this wash of sound with the Motif and some vocal layers. Christian Miller walked out and ad-libbed, "I am a friend of God..." a few times, slowly...and the lights came up and the drummer started the rhythm and off we went. Giving that tune time to grow really builds momentum.
Great Things - Matt Maher. An odd transition, from Israel to what felt like straight up country, but it worked. Fun song that people seem to enjoy - it's one of those that requires clapping...
Sweetly Broken - Jeremy Riddle. We had used this as a backdrop for communion during our midweek services, but yesterday it was our set up piece for the message. Kevin tore it up; it's a powerful song. Our guitarist, Matt, told me later that he can hardly keep himself together when he plays or listens to that tune. Good stuff...
Nothing But The Blood/Once Again - traditional/Matt Redman. I started this set from the piano as the band went down to take communion; they trickled back in to sneak into the song by the time we were at the second verse of 'Once Again'. It was a gift to me, the opportunity to just sit and play by myself for a minute. Yesterday was a bit of a challenge for me emotionally, so the chance to simply worship in a comfortable spot was healing.

We had instructed folks to walk to the table, partake of the elements, and return to their seats. When everyone was finished, Brian returned to the stage, and said these words, inspired by Lee Eclov's The Sinner's Feast:

Over the years, this celebration of Communion has become anything but a celebration. It’s become a somber, quiet, boring event where kids have to sit on their hands and nobody smiles. But Jesus said that he eagerly looked forward to it. It was supposed to be a real celebration. This is a time when we celebrate that we were broken, but were made whole; we were partial, but God made us complete; we were lost, rejected, bitter, mired in sin, labeled as a criminal, brandished as an addict, drowning in despair…but because God is alive we were rescued from all that. We gave up our former selves and took on the identity of the One we represent – the One who is alive and still living in and through His people.

So, instead of being solemn, what we ought to do is dance for joy. Maybe we should sing every amped up worship tune we know. Maybe we should tell our stories of how Jesus changed us and laugh like people who no longer fear death. Maybe we should ask if anyone wants seconds and hold our little cups high to toast lost sisters found and dead brothers alive. Because this is not a celebration of how God worked in the past through other people, it’s a declaration of how Jesus Christ is working through His people right now!

And then Matt ripped open the beginning of You Are Good - Israel Houghton again - and we celebrated. It was incredible, powerful, joyful, energized - to the degree that a handful of teenagers jumped up ON THE STAGE at the end of the song. I've never engaged in such a celebration in worship! A good part of it was my own mindset - I needed to celebrate the freedom and security and joy that is found in the truth of those words (Lord, you are good and your mercy endureth forever...you are good all the time/and all the time, you are good) but it felt transformative for our church as well.

Because we are a young fellowship (six years old this month), it's fascinating to watch the character and personality of our church develop. It is a joy to see us, as a collection of Christ-followers and seekers, continue to embrace the attributes of the church that Jesus called us to be. Because worship is my heart and passion, I am most fulfilled not by 'good music' or even a great sermon, but by the response of the people to God's spirit. I see individuals growing and embracing Christ and trusting one another and his spirit, and it is amazing.

Yesterday was a very good day...