Friday, July 31, 2009

Is This Weird?

Some random bits and pieces:

~~Our staff went through a one-day retreat and discusses our strengths according to this book. I found it fascinating on a personal level - I learned a lot about myself and have been a bit more self-aware as I interact with others (I'm an ACTIVATOR and a MOTIVATOR, among other things...) It was extremely valuable for our staff, and I think it's given us some great tools to understand and respect one another's working styles and natural gifts. This was a win for us, and I recommend it to anyone working with teams. Good stuff.

~~Syd's birthday party: WIN. Great friends, easy to entertain, NO trouble whatsoever, and lots of love in the room. Had some great conversations with some very special people.

~~I finished this book earlier this week. It tore me to shreds; not because it was sad or depressing - it wasn't, although it was intense and full of sorrow - but because it was so well-written, so incredibly deep, so real... That's John Irving for you. I could hardly bear to close the cover. Seems like the older I get, the more dangerous it becomes for me to read a well-written book or watch a well-done movie. I get so sucked into the story that it alters my reality somewhat. Is that weird? Art like that - with a deep story - goes so deeply into my soul that it impacts my 'real life'. Again, I ask: Is that weird? I don't know. Weird or not, it was a brilliant story.

~~Looking forward to the next three weeks. They will contain some intense activity, a two-day test of my capacity for extroversion and lots of people, all day long - and after that, some time to breathe.

Glad to be hear, in this moment, right now. It's a brilliant story.

Here's a great photo for you, of an amazing young man who continues to grow and mature in a way that brings a smile to my face and peace to my heart. I love my kids. Oh, and props to Maida Vale Music for the awesome and artistic clothing...

Best Thing I've Read This Week

Need something to provoke you this weekend?

Looking for something besides "Dateline: NBC" and a rerun of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" tonight?

What story do you believe?

Monday, July 27, 2009


Praise Him.

Untitled from Carlos Whittaker on Vimeo.

Children Coming Home

Shannon with one of her new best friends from Macedonia.

Four of my five kids are home, after a long two weeks with only one or two here at a time.

I have yet to process this comletely, but when we were riding home from the airport, together again, I realized how completely incapacitated I have felt this week. I was physically sick, yes; but that wasn't necessarily kid related ("Or WAS it???" asks a maniacal voice, sounding somewhat like my subliminal self....)

My four oldest children were gone, and I became incomplete.

Before my mom calls me up to tell me I'd better get used to it - that they're going to all leave eventually - let me say that I'm prepared for that. In fact, although I miss Sarah, there's something very natural about her absence. She's 18. She just graduated. It's time for her to fly.

But because motherhood and its responsibilities have dictated my every choice, every action, especially in the few years, this felt like a huge, gaping, sudden and unexpected wound. Even though it wasn't.

Makes me wonder how ready you can ever be to watch someone walk away. Even if you're sure they're coming back.

Makes me wonder what lies underneath all that's labeled "MOM" in me. Even though I've always been pretty sure I knew.

I'm a lot less certain of that than I expected I'd ever be.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The World Didn't End!

Fighting some kind of physical ailment since Tuesday; I had to give in yesterday when the fever arrived. Seems like some sort of flu-type thing, with congestion, coughing, aches, headache and the afore-mentioned fever and chills.

Thankfully, the worst of it seems to have come and gone - I hope. I slept for about 24 hours straight, with a break to pick up David from Art Camp. I think that helped.

My friend Jim Hamacher left a comment on my Facebook status that said, "Maybe your body is trying to tell you something."

I've thought about that today - a lot. Without the energy to check email/work on projects/worry about work, I just let everything go. And I slept.

And I'm amazed by two things:
  • The world didn't end.
  • I'm really, really relaxed. In spite of being physically sick, I feel like I've regained some emotional energy.
Go figure. This is worth thinking about. I need to quit complaining about feeling so overwhelmed and do something proactive. It doesn't seem like a good strategy to get sick every 12 weeks or so.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Temporarily Changed Dynamics

This week I've had time to wonder how my life might have been different.

If I'd had only one child.

If David had no siblings.

If I'd had my last child first.

If I didn't work with Brian Hughes.

If I had to drive across the river for work every day.

If I didn't seem to eat as an emotional outlet.

If I wasn't relatively healthy.

With just David at home, it's been fascinating to see the different dynamic. He's calm and gentle and quiet. He doesn't mind being alone. He's a wonderful, warm kid. I think he spends his 'normal' life getting lost in the shuffle. I've enjoyed this time, and it prompts a huge desire in me to do better by him.

Brian is on vacation this week, and without the dynamic of our work relationship I can see a difference of sorts - in meetings, in energy level, in adrenaline, in intensity. I'm not sure what life and work would really be like for me without that partnership; I don't think I'd be doing what I'm doing.

Taking David to Art Camp at Hope Church this week and loving the rhythm of getting up and getting on 288 every morning. I'm sure it gets tiring after a while, but it's a new routine and I like it.

I'm not very hungry this week. I think I'm usually not really hungry, but that I eat out of stress nad nervous-ness and just all-the-stuff-going-on. I feel better. Healthier.

Frustrated, waiting on some results of medical tests that will give me some answers about some funky physical issues I've been having. The doctor seems to be in no hurry to get back to me, but I was told before I left last week that something was wrong. I'm not enjoying the wait. Tell me now. Please.

Reading this book this week; John Irving was always one of my favorite authors. The World According to Garp came out when I was in high school and it was a defining moment for me, meeting those characters. I even bought a Garp t-shirt and wore it - frequently - to school. Can't quite get into this book - after Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules, it's been tougher to stay focused on his novels. But I'm giving it a good try.

Thinking a lot about the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians this week, too. Good stuff.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. Colossians 3.1-3

Trying to look up. I think it matters.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Looking Back - July 2006

Here's another blast from the past; dated July, 2006, here's a look back at what my kids were doing - and how I felt about it - three years ago. Some things don't change a whole lot...

My children have surpassed me in experience; they have done this thing you see in the photo above (though those are some other mother's kids in this photo - my kid took the picture). All four of the older kids rapelled down either a 40 foot or 70 foot drop while at camp this week. I'm stunned. I'm glad I wasn't there to watch; I'd have chewed my fingernails off and peed myself, probably simultaneously.

I picked them up this morning and was initially a bit unnerved by the laid-back, old-fashioned environment at the closing assembly. Southern Baptist sponsored, it was simple and fundamental - somewhat cheesey. Lots of happy smiles and a declaration of the number of rededications and salvations read by the camp leader (Baptists love numbers, as I recall...) They sang several old worship songs, played energetically by the leaders but sung reluctantly by the campers.

However, as the morning went on, the energy level quickly rose. The power point show elicited cheers and screams as the kids had a quick tour down memory lane, and the parents and friends caught a glimpse of what they'd been doing all week, and how they'd looked doing it.

On the way home, and even after we sat down for dinner, I heard them relate every silly camp song ever sung, tales of rain storms and mountain climbing, emotional conversations, bonds with younger children, songs inspired by the week and the mountains and some unbelieveable interaction between my kids.

They have shared something together as siblings that will serve them well as they grow into adulthood. Another step towards independence, I guess; memories made and experiences shared that built strength and a committment towards one another. It's very weird that I wasn't there at all, only to drop them off and pick them up.

They had a great time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Night

Continuing to think about what matters most to me. I get so terribly overwhelmed and posessed by the day-to-day details of life and my job that I lose sight of the horizon. Derek Webb poses a great question, regardless of the subject at hand. Sister, what matters most to you?

I'm still cogitating on that one.

My house is quiet and clutter-free. One child in Tennessee with his step-mom, three in Macedonia having an experience completely foreign to me (no pun intended; just an awareness that the broadness of my childrens' lives is leaving me far behind). My youngest and I, discovering a new rhythm of life. We're talking Legos and a shared fondness for ice cream.

Great time tonight with dear friends. I'm grateful that Kevin and Candy are present in my life.

Spent some good time with my mom today. We went shopping, which is not a typical bonding activity for us. It was good to be together for a few hours. I love my parents.

I had no responsibilities today at church. It wasn't so bad. I'm learning to release my tight-fisted control and let others lean into leadership. It's good.

I laughed last night, hard. My best friend does a great job reminding me of how to be human. I'm so blessed.

I am really hoping to gain some insight into how to organize my days and nights in a more sustainable pace. I'm running in circles.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Successful Church

Putting on my leadership hat to share this recent post from Craig Groeschel of (Check out his blog here.)

This really, REALLY made me think today.

I'm glad when God kicks me out of my comfort zone.

But it ain't comfortable....

I will never be satisfied with a church filled only with people who know Christ. God longs for the “lost to be found.” But for years I found the greatest joy in more people coming to church.

Today, I’m redefining success to not just more people, but different people.

A few years ago, our church was experiencing record crowds of people. But we also had many people who’d been with us for years falling into major sins.

We seemed to be effective at getting people into Church, but were we truly getting people into Christ?

I’ve been set free from being totally driven by attendance. Instead I’m asking God to take those we have into a deeper place of intimacy and knowledge of Christ. I’d rather have fewer and totally committed believers than a large number of lazy, apathetic, carnally minded and unproductive cultural Christians. - Craig Groeschel
What do you think? What makes a church "successful"?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Setlist 7.5.09

I've been a bit erratic with my worship recaps lately, but today was so awesome that I wanted to share the love just a bit.

We wrapped up our series called Where's My Bailout? with a dynamic set of music, a great group of players and a powerful message.

During this series, we addressed three areas of life: spiritual bailout (uh...that would be JESUS...), financial bailout (basically, let go...unclench your fist) and time bailout. Today's sub-title was "When To Say No".

And by the way - no nods to the July 4th holiday. When we're honoring people - Veterans Day, Memorial Day, etc. - we'll sometimes lean into the observation of the holiday. But we choose to separate this particular celebration from our weekend experience.

The band was stellar - leaning heavily towards musicians under the age of 20. Jenn Hall (Jenn blogs here - you should check it out), Matt Turner, Travis Wagner, Elijah Schiarelli, Paul Myers - rounded out by Patrick Parkins, Dan McCown, Beth Humphreys and me. I enjoyed myself immensely today as a musician; I had complete confidence in the band and they never failed to be exactly where they needed to be. I'm in awe of the natural talent God places in people, and grateful to play alongside these extremely talented folks.

We opened with our 10B4 announcements and then did Washed By the Water as a musical opener. Great, great tune with a wonderful vibe - perfect for a summer day.

Our worship set consisted of Today is the Day and At the Name (which I like more and more each time we do it. Last summer Matt Christenot led worship for a World Changers event and the students brought this tune home with them. It's becoming a staple for us - check it out!)

At the end of At the Name, we plowed right into Jesus Messiah; we put it in Eb for an easy transition and let Beth Humphrey lead it. I was surprised at how easy it was to have a female vocal lead this tune - that's not always the case with Tomlin songs. We pushed it a bit faster but I loved the energy. Brilliant song.

We showed a promo clip from the upcoming Leadership Summit, which is something we usually don't promote from the stage - but I feel strongly that this event can and will be defining for our church this year. I'm hoping to have 100 folks from PCC go this year! We're serving as an assisting church with Saint Paul's Baptist in Richmond and can't wait to join them in preparing for this conference. It's often life-changing.

After the offering prayer, we kicked off Fly Like An Eagle, with a terrific groove from Jenn The Drummer and Patrick, the King Of Grooves. We spun our own vibe on the song - Elijah did a great job with the Motif patches and I had fun playing through a Mac for the first time, since we needed an extra organ patch. I felt my age when somebody asked me, "Hey, didn't Seal write that song?"

uh...Steve Miller, anyone? Remember him? From the 70's?


Anyway, here's the part that was really cool - after we finished the body of the tune - verse, chorus, verse, chorus - the band backed way off, our incredible tech team adjusted the mood of the room down, and we showed this video, made by The Veracity Project. We played the groove underneath the entire thing, and as the In Time ended, we brought the band back up to do the "time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking/into the future" bit and back out.

It worked. Sometimes our weird mash-ups fall short, but this one worked.

Brian brought an incredible message - powerful, convicting. God was speaking to me. When he said that allowing your schedule to be dictated by the needs and demands of others was the easy way out of accepting responsibility for how you invested your time, I listened. Hard.

Brian led us to the end by allowing everyone to simply sit still and be with God. Bob Pino came to the piano and sang, simply but powerful, Be Still and Know It was perfect, a gift of melodic grace.

It was, by far, one of the most meaningful overall worship experiences I've had at PCC.

This post is part of Fred McKinnon's worship leader blog carnival. Check it out!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

This Week's Recap

What a week. Somehow, June morphed into July and here we are, in the seventh month of 2009. Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Steve McNair are dead (along with quite a few non-celebrities, but as I keep telling Shannon, people die every day...)

Here's a quick look back:
  • I had a great meeting after church with a crowd of our PCC production team and musicians. We formally announced a new ministry plan that we hope to launch in a month that involves some major restructuring, auditions (gasp!), and the next step in this ministry adventure. Great meeting, although the implementation is slowed by the lack of progress in our building...
  • ...but we did see incremental progress this week, as the plans were finally released to us late on Thursday. We should have a building permit in place this week and hopefully the way will be cleared for work to resume soon!
  • Sydni decided - spur of the moment - to join Mom and Dad on a quick run to Emerald Isle. She took a friend. I'm envious. They'll be back Tuesday.
  • I worked out twice, which is better than not at all. Both were good, hard, sweaty work-outs.
  • I had a little bit of personal time and a good staff meeting experience with this guy. Doug Murren is a consultant/pastor/Very Wise Man who never ceases to impact me with his ability to read a situation and offer pertinent ideas and suggestions.
  • Shannon got her hard copy driver's license on Wednesday. The judge gave a 25-minute sermon before he handed each student their license. It was actually very powerful.
  • Had a planning meeting about this event. We're partnering with Saint Paul's Baptist Church to help host the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. It's going to be AWESOME. If you're in the Richmond area, you really should consider attending.
  • Offered an invitation to an incredibly bright and talented college student to spend the remainder of his summer break interning for us in Worship Arts and Communication. I'm thrilled about the mutual benefits of this partnership.
  • Feeling like I'm in a new season of adjustment; eldest daughter gone for the summer (and doing great!), kids keeping busy...I'm craving domesticity and settling. Thinking a lot about the future.
  • Read this book and cried my eyes out. I had no idea it would affect me so greatly. I sobbed.
  • Enjoyed the fourth of July quietly. Not feeling up to a party or a crowd; staying home, alone, and that's absolutely fine.

It was a good week. I am grateful.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Looking Back: June 06

I blogged my way to health through another medium for a few years. My current blog - this one - is reflective of my current state (of mind and being). The first blog was full of a lot of painful processing. I "met" some amazing people through that work, and many have remained friends - some I have even met personally.

Recently, I thought it would be helpful and informative to remind myself of where I've been.

And I thought maybe, occasionally, I'd offer a look back via this blog.

So here's a clip from June, 2006; I was alone at the Willow Creek Arts Conference in Chicago. It was a powerful but challenging experience. I wrote, a lot.

In re-posting here, I've highlighted a few things that occur to me to be pertinent, in retrospect.

June 2006: To Bring Your Best, You Must Bring Your Worst

...Two very interesting speakers took the stage today: Dan Allender, who started his time with a bang when he declared a lack of confidence by our culture in today's "truth spinners" (pastors). He stated that, for the 21st century, the core isse will be BEAUTY, and that artists are now the evangelists of the next century. "The sermon is now an adjunct." I found that a rather bold statement, one that was no doubt disturbing to several of the pastors in attendance - especially those not from Seattle or San Francisco or in the heartland and the south doesn't necessarily reflect those same cultural shifts, I think.

Allender stated, "To bring your best, you must bring your worst." He encouraged us all to be willing to be honest about your mental and spiritual state, your exhaustion and your brokenness.
"God intends - through the creation of art - to expose. When artists create, we are stripping before God. He will wrestle with us (as He did Jacob) and expose us. God will always take you to a draw - no winning, no losing, just brokenness and then a touch to the hip."

It was a fascinating perspective, peppered with much encouragement to accept - even trumpet - inadequacies and shy away from striving for perfection.

This is all so drastically different from the culture even 10 years ago that I'm not too sure the pendulum hasn't swung to the extreme. I appreciated and agreed with much of what Allender said on a personal basis; but it does seem a bit touchy-feely.

It's amazing to me - in hindsight - how this set the tone for the environment in which I am presently working. The level of authenticity that was impressed upon me has carried through into the culture of PCC.