Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To The End Of 2008

This morning's devotional was spot-on for the final day of 2008.  Who knows what next year will bring?  

I can't even imagine.

But here's where I hope to focus, from Thomas Merton's Thoughts In Solitude (and what a concept that is, for a girl like me.....):

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. - Thomas Merton

"Trust you always."  I hope this for you; I hope this for me.  For my family, for my individual children.  My friends.  My PCC community.  And I choose to cling to this notion that "working out our salvation with fear and trembling" will really show us that it is God who works in us "to will and act according to his good purpose" (Philipians 2.12-13)

If I didn't believe I had that kind of almighty, power-filled help, I don't know that I could make it.

Whatever your fears, whatever your circumstances, I hope you catch a glimpse of the great leading mercy of God - today, as we end one year, and tomorrow, as we begin another.

And every day beyond.

Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.  Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Philipians 2.12-13, The Message

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lord, You Are Good And Your Mercy Endureth Forever

Today was my big day.

I spoke in church this morning.  I "gave a talk".  I "shared".  I "preached".  

I finished playing during the music part of the service and then walked to the center of the stage with a stand and my Bible.  I started to talk, and I could see the people in the seats thinking, "What is she doing???  Where's Brian????  What's going on here???"

Because we like things to stay the same (myself included) and this was different.

I had this strange sense that everybody was just watching me, just waiting, wondering, checking things out, not sure if I was going to do or say something ridiculous...and then, at one point, everybody just relaxed and breathed.  And we were all there together, and we stuck together throughout the rest of the message.

It was a very interesting phenomenon.  New to me.

I shared the platform with my brother, which is why I played music AND spoke.  I couldn't pass up the chance.

It was a cool day.  A new milestone for me.  And it felt really great.  

I am grateful for the opportunity and the privilege to stand in that place.

God is good.  And His mercies are new EVERY morning.  Who would have ever thought?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

merry CHRISTmas, y'all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

God, Let Me Fear Only You

Doing a bit of blog surfing; I keep up with a few folks that are friends, some others who do church work, some bird people, some family members.  I usually find a nugget or two of truth and inspiration every day.

I read one called History in the Making; it's a churchy/leadership/young dad sort of place.  I like it.

I read this today and had to stop and think for a while.

You?

Every morning, I pray the same prayer: "God, let me fear only you today." It's not that I actually fear other people. It's that I wage secret campaigns against them, rather than speak openly and honestly.

What are the signs of fearing man?

*The fake laugh
*Being a "yes man"
*Blending in with the crowd
*Not being true to my passions
*Not speaking truth at my own risk
*Putting on a fake persona

From Ben Arment's blog; check it out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Sarah

Today is my eldest daughter's 18th birthday.  It would be most appropriate to share cute baby pictures, but, alas, I have none digitized.  So her latest family escapade will have to suffice.

Sarah is one of the most dynamic, passionate, loyal and charismatic people I know.  I see in her a fiery blend of her God-given kindness and patience mixed with the result of her circumstances - the authoritative leadership of a first born, the ability to express herself through a variety of musical venues, incredible communication skills.  Sarah is a beautiful young woman, with delicate features and a gentleness to her appearance that sometimes masks her fierce tenacity and passion.

She is a joy, often a surprise.  Life with Sarah means you are on your toes and never subjected to boredom.  She seizes life with intensity.  To witness the processing of her relationships, her challenges, the things she loves, the things that make her crazy, is to witness a creativity and humanity that is really unique.

It's hard to talk about one's child objectively.  Once, Sarah told me that I too often erred on the side of encouraging her and being proud of her for the things she does - particularly when they occur in our world of church and music - rather than who she is.  It's tough to separate sometimes the idea of her being a fellow musician, co-laborer, and woman with the fact that she is my child and I am her mother.

What a treat it has been.  My first-born, she made me a mother.  She has been a joy.

I feel great excitement and anticipation as she takes this next step towards embracing adulthood.

With her birthday being only one week before Christmas, celebrations get a bit muddy.  This year, we decided that the 18th birthday was reason enough to give Sarah the honor of placing the star upon the tree.  Another family tradition.
She proudly embraced the idea and grabbed the star.


Sarah's not the tallest of people, so - keeping with tradition - I said I'd pick her up so she could reach the top of the tree.


It was harder than I thought.


With visions of the entire family ending up sprawled atop a collapsed tree, we tried to move forward...



Reaching....reaching...


...and reaching...




Uh......

Eventually we righted the top branches and all was well.

Happy birthday Sarah.  You, like that star, are well-placed, shining brightly and nothing short of perfect.

I love you and I am honored to be your mom.

Penguins And Memories


I'm nursing some Caturra coffee in my favorite cup - one that once belonged to my grandmother - and actually enjoying the opportunity to be still.  To my right is our Christmas tree, lit with white, covered in ornaments that tell an interesting and often comical history of our family.  There's the card stock gingerbread man with Sydni's named misspelled by a kind but misinformed Sunday school teacher years ago; the wooden angels with individual names across the bottom, a joint labor of love between my mom and I; tiny pictures of the kids as babies; gifts from former students and friends...

It occurs to me that we have few ornaments that reflect a more recent history.  A set of five penguins with each of the kids' names, a memory of our first Christmas here in Virginia, without Lonnie, without a tree of our own - that one means a lot to me.  It took no small measure of courage to pick it out at the kiosk in the mall, bring it home and write those names.  I remember being so desperate to claim some sense of family.  A six dollar ornament was a tentative but important first step.

Perhaps it's time to gather a few more ornaments.  Much of our lives have moved forward, in a very positive way.  Sitting here in a cluttered but quiet house, I feel home.  It is a very good place to be.  So perhaps I shall, indeed, go shopping. 

For ornaments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's The Most WONDERFUL TIME DANG IT!!!!

I'm just too busy right now.

We got the tree up.  The house is kinda/sorta decorated.  Lights on the tree.  No ornaments yet, but we've got a day or two.  No presents under the tree, but that's okay, too.

I made a list today of all that I needed to do.  Nineteen items.  Then I went back and highlighted the ones that I HAD to do today.

Driving to the office, I kept remembering more things.  I was trying to add to my list while I was driving.  Which could have led to "pick up the car from the body shop", item #36.  Because I could easily wreck the car, while thinking and writing and driving simultaneously.

I made it.  I accomplished most of the highlighted stuff.

On to the rest tomorrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fully Human, Loves Jazz

A bit of curious timing landed a devotional thought in my email this morning that was quite profound, considering the season of life I find myself in.  You know, all this busy-ness that seemingly makes it impossible for me to function.  All this stuff that needs to be done...

Before pasting the words of Thomas Merton for all to see, let me share this as well; I've read bits and pieces of Merton, and know him to be one of those authors you ought to be familiar with, because he's well-respected in spiritual circles.  I knew he was some sort of priest or a monk.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I read profound inspirational writings by someone identified as a monk, I make some easy assumptions. Perfect, rarely sinful, austere, holy, incredible character, humble, pious, etc...

Prompted by the power of Merton's words, I did a little research on the man.

Lord, have mercy; as He does.  Merton was an intellectual, jazz-loving, drinking, smoking, woman-loving man.  He grew into this priest business in the process of growing up.  He had some sort of deeply spiritual experience while viewing statues of the Buddha in Asia.  He had a crazy family life.

All my preconceived notions of holiness went out the window with this detailed awareness.  Merton was a man, just like any other man.  As he worked out his salvation with fear and trembling and more than one mistake along the way, he ended up in a place where his skills enabled him to write deeply moving, profound truths about God, about self, about life.  He's left us this incredible legacy of what it means to be human.

My brother told me yesterday that he believes Christianity is about being fully human; he said, "The more we follow Christ, the more authentically human we are."  I'm thinking Merton had that figured out.

Here's what I read this morning, from Merton's book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.


The Demands of Living Seriously
By Thomas Merton

A great deal of virtue and piety is simply the easy price we pay in order to justify a life that is essentially trifling. Nothing is so cheap as the evasion purchased by just enough good conduct to make one pass as a ’serious person.’

And when you come to look more deeply into our present condition you find that many forms of ’seriousness’ and ‘achievement’ come to this in the end. In our society, a society of business rooted in puritanism, based on a pseudo-ethic of industriousness and thrift, to be rewarded by comfort, pleasure, and a good bank account, the myth of work is thought to justify an existence that is essentially meaningless and futile.

There is, then, a great deal of busy-ness as people invent things to do when in fact there is very little to be done. Yet we are overwhelmed with jobs, duties, tasks, assignments, “missions” of every kind. At every moment we are sent north, south, east and west by the angels of business and art, poetry and politics, science and war, to the four corners of the universe to decide something, to sign something, to buy and sell. We fly in all directions to sell ourselves, thus justifying the absolute nothingness of our lives.

Some make it their business to cover their own emptiness by pointing out the fraudulency of others, but always the emphasis is on the fact that others have nevertheless done something, even though it was a matter of perpetrating a fraud. They have perpetrated something. And so the myth prospers. No matter how empty our lives become, we are always at least convinced that something is happening because, indeed, as we so often complain, too much is happening. There is so much to be done that we do not have time to live.

But it is precisely this idea that a serious life demands ‘time to live’ that is the root of our trifling. In reality, what we want is time in which to trifle and vegetate without feeling guilty about it. But because we do not dare try it, we precipitate ourselves into another kind of trifling: that which is not idle, but dissimulated as action.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

...happy to report that the clothes are ALL folded....and put away...and the females are diligently cleaning their room...and the boys' room is clean (more or less)...and the last load of laundry awaits...and all the piles of paper have been sorted...and filed...

it's not perfect, but:  there is order to the chaos.

my head feels better.

my tummy, however, hurts.  what's up with THAT?  

i ain't feeling so good.....

No More Church Talk

I haven't had any down time in a while.  I'm not complaining; it's a schedule I choose, for work that I love.  But I have gone nonstop for about 2 1/2 weeks now, without a full day off in the lot. I make time for the kids here, a half day shopping with my mom there, etc., but I have not gone 24 hours without working at some level in quite some time.  Again, this is on me - no fault assigned to anybody else.  I choose to stay connected and involved in work every day, without setting aside time for non-church related stuff.

But I've reached a point where it's necessary. Yesterday, while presenting some ideas at staff, I got so frustrated that at one point I clutched my head in my hands (headache. very bad.) and said a bad word.  Admittedly, it was one of the milder bad words; but it was a bad word.  

Now, in many cases, this is not a major issue, unless you weigh in that we are a church staff, and ideally should be a little less colorful with our language.

But I digress...

So much has been happening. I am basically doing two full-time jobs at the moment, in the middle of the Christmas season. I'm energized and excited - wrapping my arms and my brain around a communication strategy that we are designing and implementing, and I love it. I'm executing some decisions at a leadership level that feels very new for me - but one that feels right. I'm talking to a lot more people, working towards inviting them to step up in various areas of responsibility and leadership on our production team.  I'm working harder, differently, more focused.  And I'm still playing the piano and doing music.

It feels good.  In some ways, it's terrifying - but it seems like a good place to be.

However, there is loss.  The loss is the immense chaos at home. Christmas is two weeks away, and we're not even close to being able to do any decorating, because the state of the house is such that I can't imagine piling up more stuff on top of the stuff that's already littering every room. I've not focused much energy on marshalling the troops at home to tidy their rooms, put away their clothes, clean up the bathrooms, etc. We're getting by, but it seems to be just barely.  They're good kids, but they are kids, and they need leadership and encouragement and reminding.  Lately, I've been giving away all my leadership energy at work.  There's just not enough left when I get home.

This is not how I want to live.  This is not the right way to live.  This is not fair to my children.

Chaos at home only bothers me when there's too much other stuff going on. I have to have order somewhere. Often, it's in my head, through my job. Rarely at home. But when I feel completely overwhelmed, I need order. And yet I feel completely paralyzed to work to achieve this needed structure.

It's a catch-22.

So, after a day yesterday that stretched from a three hour staff meeting in the morning, cussing at my much-loved coworkers, emailing an apology for said cussing, lunch inhaled while straining over the computer, managing music charts for rehearsals, supervising a graphic design for a January mailer, assimilating information for a big Sunday discipleship promotion, conferencing about a major change in leadership for our video team, leading the music team through prayer and some vision casting, running a two-hour rehearsal for Sunday's music, followed by another two-hour rehearsal for Christmas Eve music, arriving home at 11:30 PM....and I'm so exhausted I can't remember where this sentence even began, much less imagine how to end it...

Anyway, I cancelled meetings scheduled for today and declared that I was taking A Day Off. No church stuff.

Tony came by and picked me up for breakfast; as we sat in the booth and I told him all about my day yesterday and everything I'm doing, I stopped abruptly and said, "I'm done. No more church talk. Let's talk about you."

So we did. Now I'm back home, with a great opportunity to make a dent in the chaos. Except there's so much to do that I don't know where to start.

A nap is much more appealing.

Pray for me, willya? I've gotta get some stuff done around here....

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Other Bald Guy

My friend/coworker/fellow musician has created a cool new web site.

He's bald, see.  And two other guys on our staff are also pretty much bald.  But since my friend/coworker/fellow musician buddy lives in the background most of the time, he's known as "the other bald guy".

You gotta work with what you've got.  Go check it out.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When Jesus Wraps This All Up

I have a friend who struggles with depression.  I have learned much in the process of walking beside her as she deals with the challenges of a medical condition that impacts her from every angle: relationships, attitudes, productivity, self-worth, faith, sleep, energy.  

Today I received an email from her, in which she shared part of an outpouring of gratitude to God for the lessons learned through this struggle.  She's in a good place in this season, where she's recovering energy and feeling productive and focused.

I have been humbled to realize how much more there is to consider as I interact with people.  There were many times of interaction with my friend when I had no idea of the internal struggle she faced.  It disturbs me to know that I'm often so caught up in my own junk that I don't stop to consider - really consider, with more than just a cursory "how ya doin'?" - how somebody else is feeling.

The more open and honest we are with one another, the more God is able to refine us, to help us arm ourselves with the same attitude as Christ.  My friend wrote: 
"Thank you, Lord. The pain of what I’ve been through has been indescribable. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I wouldn’t want to go through it again. And it’s not completely over yet. But I’m enough on this side of it to begin to understand how You are using it…how You are shaping me through it."
And as I read through 1 Peter this morning, I was struck by one of my favorite passages, in which Peter writes about the awesome inheritance, new birth and hope we have because of Jesus' resurrection - "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you".  I continued reading, and then turned to The Message to gain another perspective.  I was struck by the power of these words, as I considered what my friend has been through, how she is fighting to grasp the reality of how God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Here's what Peterson gave us:
"I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory."
I pray today for eyes that see, for ears that hear truth as I interact with others day to day.  And I pray that I will continually keep in mind that "aggravation of every kind" - in my life and others' - is the catalyst for a process that ultimately results in a display of God's victory.

*Want some encouragement in your own struggles?  Check out 1 Peter 1.3-9.  Read it in the NIV, and then check it out in The Message.  If you don't have a copy, try Bible Gateway.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sleighbells Ring...Are You Listening?

Here's my workspace today.  I'm finally feeling the Christmas spirit, and ironically I find that I'm at exactly the same spot geographically as I was last year.  Except it was snowing then.  Today, it's just sunny - a rather optimistic day, I think.

In this picture you'll see the Gingerbread House Kit that David and I will tackle this afternoon.  You see my trusty Dell, open to Twitter, where I find fascinating things like this free Christmas song by Sara Groves, thanks to my blog buddy Kim.  If you could hear this picture, you'd hear that cute little song of Christmas angst...

Make note of the PCC coffee cup, the external speakers, the Imagine Christmas production sheet, my bottle of chewable vitamin C (hoping to ward off the 'yuck' that seems to be lurking right behind my left eye).  And see the sunshine streaming in the windows?

Happy first of December, all!

Just to show how hard we're working, here's a few shots of last night's edit project.   Pardon the quality - it's my phone camera...
See how enthusiastic Sandy looks?  I think she was mad because I was 30 minutes late.  Can you blame her?  And how about Christine, looking all executive-like at Chauncey's desk?  She was messing with her Crackberry all night.  Taught herself how to text!  Go, Christine!
Here's Regina, who knows how to do things that most of us can only imagine.  She is the video edit QUEEN.

Imagine Christmas?  I am!