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.


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...


...and reaching...


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


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

Just Curious...

What do you think of this?

Supernatural from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

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!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Ever wonder what the Twitter buzz is all about?

*props to BooMama for another great tip!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Heart-Shattered Lives

"For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn't know we needed and take us to places where we didn't want to go."

Apparently I needed to learn a bit more about grace.  Because I've gotten some serious helpings of it this week.  And I've gone some places I didn't really want to go.

I've tackled a huge project in the last two weeks.  In my passion and zeal for doing good, I ended up doing some damage.

I'm beating myself up a bit for not being more careful, more thoughtful.  For not planning ahead and paying attention to detail.  For neglecting the ongoing things that must be done in an effort to tackle a whole bunch of new stuff that needed to be done.  For ignoring the needs of people in my rush to formulate a plan. 

Grace showed me all this, with tenderness and kindness and understanding.  With patience.  It doesn't necessarily soften the reality of the things I did wrong, but it puts things in perspective.

So I'm left with a big bunch of grace.  It came to bring me things I didn't know I needed - a gentle, loving reprimand that broke my heart.  A firm reminder that 'words matter'.  A few healthy questions about ideas and plans uncommunicated that left others feeling ignored and left behind. A face-to-face meeting with someone who said, "You really hurt my feelings."  A friend, hurt.  A roomful of people, shell-shocked by ill-prepared, poorly chosen words.

Add that to a few things unsaid, awkward moments of conversation that made it obvious that something was amiss, and you have a ripe opportunity for an invitation to grace.

Today, all these things came home to show me what I needed.

"Have mercy on me, oh God, according to your steadfast love, according to your great  compassion blot out my many trangressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin."  Psalm 51,1-3 (NIV)

I know this by heart.  I lived in the middle of these words for a long season of my life.

Tonight, the same scripture, paraphrased different, spoke to my heart:

"Generous in love - God, give grace!  Huge in mercy - wipe out my bad record!"  Psalm 51.1 (The Message)

I feel foolish, and ashamed, and dumb.  I feel insensitive and unkind.  I'm embarrassed.

And yet I do not feel unloved.

I feel grace.

"Going through the motions doesn't please you; a flawless performance is nothing to you.  I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice."  Psalm 51.16-17 (The Message)

*quote above from Kathleen Norris, via A Song Not Scored For Breathing

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Church Business Meeting - No Punches Thrown!

We had a great gathering tonight, at our annual 'Membership Meeting'.  It's actually the only business meeting our church has all year.  It's perfunctory; we have an agenda meeting the week before, during which concerns and questions are discussed.  We met tonight for dinner, worship and a vote - which went basically like this:

Chauncey:  "Yada yada yada yada...yada yada....all in favor?"

All:  "Aye!"

Chauncey:  "Motion passed!  Item two, blah blah blah blah blah...all in favor?"

All:  "Aye!"

Chauncey:  "Motion passed!"


Not to belittle Chauncey, our moderator; he is awesome.  But our leadership does such a stellar job of dealing with conflict so that there is no cause for old-fashioned church business meeting conflict.  It's awesome!

After the 'business' part, we get down to the serious business of worship.  It's great for us, because we can unleash, relax and just play - often a bit more than the typical Sunday.  We had a great line up tonight, and with just basic prep, we had a great time playing.

Afterwards, Kevin said he thinks we'll get band shirts printed with a definitive slogan:  "It'll be fine!"  Apparently I say that a lot.

Several things weren't fine tonight. 
  • We forgot the keyboards.  Then, we when went back to get them, we forgot the stands.  I had to do soundcheck crouched on the floor like a frog in front of the keys.  It was ridiculous.  And humbling.  Just in case I get too big for my britches...
  • We forgot to announce that the band needed to go through the buffet line first.  So they ended up last.  By the time they sat down, it was time to start playing.  It wasn't pretty.
  • I got to share some info about a new communications strategy, but I pretty much bored even myself.  So that wasn't so great.  But it was good practice for the future.  
  • The awesome video piece that would make everybody cry as we reflected on the changed lives we've been privileged to witness this year?  No audio.
  • The pastor who worked for five hours to make that awesome video?  Frustrated.
But you can't keep a good team down, and you can't quench the spirit of God when it's moving. Dennis shared some incredible and inspirational words.  Brian challenged and inspired us with his truthful but in-your-face statements, at one point getting down on his knees to make a particular point.  Our musicians did an incredible job of being flexible and bringing excellent attitudes to an important night.  We all worked together to tear down and reposition all the furniture in the room for Bethel Baptist Church's service tomorrow morning (thanks, guys!)

Looking out over the room at a few hundred people committed to the core of our fellowship, I was moved deeply.  These are people that I know and love, who are making all sorts of sacrifices for the work God is doing through the church.  It was a beautiful sight.

It'll be fine.  It already is.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Qualified by grace."

Just thinking about that today.

*inspired, as often, by Anne Jackson

More Than Ever

We're trying to build a church building.  Bricks and mortar cost money.

The economy is in a horrible nosedive.

Seems like a terrible time to try to erect a church building.

These things cost money, you see.  And we're committed, we're in, it's happening.

And churches don't get government grants to raise up buildings.  Nobody else is paying for this.  We pay for this.  We sacrifice, and tithe our 10% - or more - or less - and we sweat and risk God's promises and give our dollars to the church, trusting that letting go of that which we think we need the most might give God the honor he is due.  To all my PCC friends, do you realize this?  Do you know that this building doesn't go up unless you give?  

It's exhilarating and terrifying, all at the same time.

Today, I read Jan's blog and these words caught hold of me:

More than ever, people need what only God can give through the church. And more than ever, we have a responsibility as followers of Jesus.

I'm convinced.  And convicted.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

You're Sitting In A Chair In The SKY...

This is stellar.  Props to Carlos.

Can you relate?
Sitting at Cafe Caturra, one of my favorite places in the universe.

I'm disconnecting from the world for a few hours.

Working on a communications strategy for PCC.

Piles of paper, free-floating ideas, a vision, a challenge and an undercurrent of excitement and electricity for what lies ahead.

And an unmistakable kick in the butt from the Most Creative One.

Time to get to work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Very CREATIVE Proposal

This made me cry.  But then again, some days it doesn't take much.

This is what happened when a Willow Creek Production staff member wanted to marry a Willow Creek Promiseland staff member.  The setting?  Their church.  The players?  Their team.

The result?  Made me cry.


Thanks to Nancy Beach for the link!


I'm beginning to wonder.  Are these some signs that I'm not getting enough sleep?

This morning in the shower, I squirted a dollop of face wash in my hand.  And promptly used it to wash my hair.  After I had already washed my hair.

Yesterday, I couldn't remember the word for this:
Of course, it was the first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning.

I need a day of rest.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Random Saturday Thoughts

A couple things I have discovered this morning:

  • Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza looks great, smells great, tastes great.  But it's an internal nightmare.
  • A nap at 5:30 PM doesn't indicate a normal bedtime later that evening.
  • If I don't have to get up (like to get the kids on the bus, be somewhere, do something), then, frankly, I'd rather not.
  • I have much to do.  The thought of structuring my Saturday around what I need to do, rather than the kids' obligations, is somewhat pleasing to me.
  • If I don't clean my bathroom soon, I might have to report myself to the Health Department.
  • Candy Salyer would be so disappointed in me if she was in my bathroom.  (Seriously, that's who I thought of this morning when I looked around and realized that I could not let this slide one more day.  It's not my mom I worry about anymore; it's Candy Salyer.  Go figure.)
  • Regardless of what time you atually get out of bed, coffee is a necessity.
  • The thought of singing a Jimmy Webb tune to close the church service tomorrow is EXTREMELY pleasing to me.  I need to practice.
*Candy Salyer is the wife of my good friend and co-worker Kevin; Candy is a kind and gentle woman who does a great job of keeping her family organized and CLEAN.  Mostly with a beautiful smile on her face.  I wonder if she ever reads my blog?  'Cause now she's like, famous and all....

Friday, November 14, 2008

God Is A God Of New

Our community is full of people who have tasted the freedom that comes with God's love and decided to follow Him; sometimes tentatively, sometimes with wild abandon.  Regardless of how your relationship with Christ is growing and forming, many of us still struggle with things we wish we'd done differently.

Wanting to be better.

Wanting to achieve some sort of status in the perceived hierarchy of "Good Christian Behavior".

We try to get better.  And we find ourselves frustrated by our inability to improve.

Some of us are making great strides in this area, working through difficult issues, asking ourselves hard questions, humbling ourselves enough to hear the answers, finding healing and forgiveness.  And then turning around to share it with others.

Some of us still wander in the darkness far too often.

Jon Acuff writes an often funny, often sarcastic blog.  Recently he posted about his struggle to try and fix himself.

It's powerful.

It'll make you think.

It might change the entire direction of your relationship with Jesus.

Go read here.  And let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crumbling Into The Sea

"God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea."

So says Psalm 46.

This week, it feels as though the earthquakes have come.  The flying dust of sorrow rises up from our own crumbling mountains.

In the midst of planning a new series launch for Sunday called "30 Days To Live" - posing the question, "What would you do if you only had 30 days to live?" - we find ourselves walking alongside two families who have suffered devastating losses.  For them, our rhetorical question has a deeper meaning.

Monday night a family of five lost their home to a house fire.  Sparked by a heat lamp set up for a puppy in the garage, they are faced with the loss of their home and almost all of their earthly belongings.

This morning, one of our friends and church family members lost her life in a fire in her home.  Her three daughters are suffering, along with her grandchildren and countless others who knew and loved her.

Overwhelming loss.  And yet God declares that He is our refuge.  He is there to help.

The challenge, sometimes, is in crawling over the rubble of rocks to find a place in His arms.

Later, in that same Psalm, He says, "Be still and know that I am God."

Sometimes I fear the sadness that will well up in me when I get to that place of stillness.  It seems easier somehow to stay busy.  My first, reflexive reaction to grief is to run, to get away, to avoid it, to bury it - even in the midst of sharing information, comforting others and praying.  This scripture tonight reminds me that God ties together the tragedy of life with a call to stillness.

Something in me fears that.  And yet, I know that there is no other direction, no other refuge.

I would appreciate your prayers for our community.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Setlist 11.9.08

Here's my contribution to the blog carnival at Fred McKinnon's place....

Today was a great day at church.  We wrapped up 'Awaken' with a service on prayer.

Friend of God - Israel Houghton.  Jump up and down!
Lift Him Up - Martha Munizzi.  Jump up and down and slap your hip!

I did an extremely out of breath welcome.

When I Remember - Kim Hill.  Love this old tune; first time we did it in the big room today.  We introduced it a few weeks ago at the Women's Retreat.  Not sure how it worked today - folks didn't seem as engaged I expected them to be.  My eldest says it works better acoustically.

'Coffee With Jesus' - GREAT film about prayer from  Check it out - very, very funny - a little close to home - and well made.  These guys make great products.

The message was excellent; Brian dissected James 5.13-16 and did a fantastic job.

We closed with a reading of the Lord's Prayer from the NIV and The Message - sort of line-by-line statements, read by two junior high guys.  I underscored their words on the grand, Brian came up with some closing words and a prayer.

As It Is In Heaven - Matt Maher.  We introduced this last week and used it again today, which is a rarity - but it's a great tune and a great setting of the Lord's Prayer.

It was a great day.  What did you think?

*By the way, the songs link to iTunes, where you can purchase them and worship through the week...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

...And I Want You For All Time...

'Cause I've got this Jimmy Webb thing going on...

'Cause I've always had a soft spot for James Taylor...

'Cause the instrumental break in this tune is unbelievably delicious...

'Cause what's not to like about music on a big ol' front porch?

Thanks, Milton.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Praying For Kids

Angie Smith has a wonderful blog where she shares stories about her family and her faith.  I came across this excellent post today, and knew that it would be valuable to other parents who are striving to do the best they can with their kids.  For those who do not have children, perhaps this guide who help you pray specifically for kids that you love and care about in your immediate family or your church community.  

Since most of our PCC family has studied what James says about prayer this week, and since Brian will be teaching on prayer this upcoming Sunday, I though this might be a great resource.  

Let me know if this has meaning for you.  Will this help you focus your prayers for children?

It struck me that I need reminders during the day to be praying over my girls, and I decided to choose 7 events in a day that would remind me to do so. Then, I chose verses that had to do with that time of the day (for example: as my kids are getting dressed in the morning) and then I put them on notecards.

Here are the events and verses I chose:

1. When they wake up: "Let the morning bring (child's name) word of your unfailing love, for she has put her trust in You. Show (her/him) the way (she/he) should go, for to you (he/she) lifts up her soul." (Adapted from Psalm 143:8)

2. When they are getting dressed: "Therefore, as God's chosen child, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Lord, help (him/her) bear with others and forgive whatever grievances (he/she) has against others. Help (him/her) forgive as the Lord forgave (him/her). And over all these virtues, help (him/her) put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Adapted from Colossians 3:12-14)

3. While they are eating: "Teach (child's name) the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Teach (him/her) that (he/she) can do everything through him who gives (him/her) strength." (Adapted from Philippians 4:12-13)

4. When they go out of the house: "(Name of child), do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Adapted from Romans 12:2)

5. While they are taking a bath: Lord, give (name of child) clean hands and a pure heart, and let (him/her) not lift (his/her) soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Let (him/her) receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God (his/her) Savior. Let (him/her) be part of the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. (Adapted from Psalm 24:4-6)

6. When they are going to bed: "The Lord Your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, be will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

7. While they are sleeping: "I pray that (name of child) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which he/she shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life-in order that he/she may boast on the day of Christ that he/she did not run or labor for nothing." (Adapted from Philippians 2:14-16)

You can read Angie's blog here; check it out! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sunday Setlist 11.2.08

Sunday was an unusual day; we pulled the plug on the planned service on 'Prayer' to wind up our 'Awaken' series in the book of James.  Instead, we responded to a nudging from the Spirit and talked about relationships and the foundation for healthy communication, particularly in marriages.  As Brian stated, in the past few weeks we have seen so many relationships in crisis that we have had to sit up and take notice.  

We pray, because we believe it's an issue of spirtual warfare.  

And we teach God's truth about relationships, because it matters.

It was a powerful message and a good day.  Here's the lineup:

Awaken - Natalie Grant.  We revisited this tune from the beginning of the series.  Good, high energy tune.

Welcome and Comments - our associate pastor came running through the crowd with a (fake) Olympic torch while a snippet from the Olympic Fanfare played.  It was funny, and it worked to promote this week's Small Group Olympics, which will close our Spiritual Growth Emphasis.

As It Is In Heaven - Matt Maher.  What a great song; I've never seen our crowd catch on to something quiet so quickly.  They were instantly engaged and singing along.
Sweetly Broken - Jeremy Riddle.  It's nearly impossible to play and sing this song without experiencing that which we declare; "i am lost for words so/lost in love i'm/sweetly broken/wholly surrendered".  Power.
Standing In the Need of Prayer - We had some fun with this, old-time swing bluegrass-y.  Started out with an almost a capella turn from Andy, one of our ace guitar players who doesn't sing much - so, when he does, it's a nice surprise.  We layered three parts on top of his melody line slowly, and the crowd basically went nuts.  It's a rural community; what can I say?
Bound To Come Some Trouble - Rich Mullins.  We closed the first part of the message with this song, solo with the piano.  Amazing and poignant tune from a master songwriter.
Majesty - Delirious.  We moved easily from the Mullins tune to this one to bring the audience to a time of response.

Great service that seemed to help some people and allow for an authentic, transformative experience.

Brian has been consistently following his messages with blog posts that have additional information or resources (  In our rural community, where only about 60% of the population has access to high-speed internet, we are turning the fly-wheel on utilizing the internet for communication and connection.  These follow-up posts seem to be an effective resource - at least for part of the population...

This post is part of Fred McKinnon's blog carnival; check it out!

Monday, November 3, 2008

On The Eve Of The Election

Carlos Whittaker posted today about the election and what we can do, other than vote, that will make a difference.  You can read his post here, and perhaps you'd be interested in participating in the live video stream prayer gathering he will host tonight.

If not, at the very least, I challenge you to do the following.  Put feet to your faith.  Quit arguing and worrying about who is right and who is wrong.  Stop condemning and complaining.  Stop with the anxiety.

If you are a person of faith, then pray.  As my friend Bartley might say, "Shut up and pray."

Here's what Carlos suggests; I think his ideas have merit.  How about you?

1. Pray that our leaders would grown in faith and in their relationships with Jesus Christ.
2. Pray for their marriages.
3. Pray for their children.
4. Pray for those around them.
5. Pray for their emotional and physical health.
6. Those on the left pray blessing on McCain, those on the right pray for Obama.
6. Those on the left pray blessing on McCain, those on the right pray for Obama.
6. Those on the left pray blessing on McCain, those on the right pray for Obama.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pony Pasture

My friend Kelley inspires me to do more with my kids than collapse in exhaustion after running them around.  So today I took them to Richmond to check out Pony Pasture, part of the park system on the James River.  It was a blast.  Having an extra hour of sleep made it possible to do without the standing appointment with the couch for my Sunday afternoon nap.

Fun times.  We took along our buddy Joshua.  Upon hearing our initial plans to go see "nature", he said - with all the politeness he could muster - "Uh, that sounds boring."

But when I told him it was Pony Pasture, he was intrigued.  At one point they were all convinced that we would see ponies there - and if you caught one, you could ride it.  When I began to elaborate on a story of man-eating ponies, I think they stopped believing me.

Regardless, it was a beautiful fall day.  The colors were gorgeous.  Sarah took her camera and captured much of the fun.

Yes, that's a shot of me - your friendly blogger.

I love this girl, and I love how this shot captures her attitude of confidence and self-posession.  She is an amazing, intelligent, creative and beautiful young woman.

And she's still got a lot of kid in her.

As does Syd, who jumped as well.

All of Pony Pasture is littered with rocks.  Reminded me of my own childhood in western PA (yeah, I know - I'm one of those "rednecks" mentioned in the recent political conversation) on French Creek.
Not much better than sisters with true affection for one another.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween 08

I haven't decided if this is a good thing or a bad thing, or just a thing.  A passage of time thing.

First year in many that I didn't walk around the neighborhood.  The first wave went out from our house - the 16-year old Spice Girl with her un-costumed boyfriend and un-costumed best friend.  They went to one house and came home.  I think she was making one last stab at her childhood, wearing six-inch stillettos.  The 17-year old made no effort; she was taking a nap.

The second wave was 12-year-old boy as Tom Morello with nine-year old-brother as a cross between a pirate and an ex-con (thanks, Bill and Pat!), along with 16-year old family friend Robert as a punk kid, 14-year-old Sydni as a punk kid, 16-year-old Dylan as a "Hippo Lover" (don't ask; I never did figure it out...)

That was it.

When they hit double digits, it's just not the same.

I stayed home, handed out candy, and thought about my future grandkids.

Quite Simply, "Yes"

Marc Chewning, Robert Moroney, Elijah Schiarelli, Joseph Freeman, Andrew Basic

Last summer a team of students and adult sponsors went to Cherokee, North Carolina for a week of work projects and mission work.  Like most trips of this nature, those who went came back with much more than sore muscles and finished projects.  God dealt with people and, in one particular case, infected a group of five young men in an unbelieveable way.

Marc Chewning returned from Cherokee knowing that he wanted to do more to help others know and understand the love of God.  Shortly after arriving back home in Powhatan, he was mowing the grass.  A bird skeleton was lying in the yard; he noticed it and thought to himself, "That's gross."  He passed the skeleton again and was suddenly impacted by a powerful thought.

"How many times do we do that same thing with people?  Notice, think "that's gross", and turn and walk away..."

Marc couldn't shake the thought of hurt and broken people who were ignored and left in need, often by those who claim to follow Jesus and his command to "love your neighbor as yourself."

After a flurry of communication with some of his partners from the Cherokee mission trip, Marc felt certain that God was speaking, and clearly calling them to go.  They weren't sure where they were to go, but the compulsion to act was undeniable.

With the strength of their conviction and the boldness that comes from an encounter with God, these five guys starting moving.  In spite of the fact that they weren't sure exactly what was ahead, they unashamedly began to declare that God had called them, and they starting looking for the next step.

Their journey led them to the front steps of the International Mission Board in Richmond (in spite of several wrong turns and a brief period of being lost), where they simply walked through the door and made themselves available.  They were warmly received and graciously encouraged, and it was there that they received clarification as to the path before them.

Marc Chewning, Elijah Schiarelli, Joseph Freeman and Andrew Basic are going to spend their Christmas break in China.  They will work within the specific guidelines of a Mission Board project, but what they will do is not as important as the fact that God spoke, and they said, quite simply, "Yes."

In response to the need for an adult chaperone, David Samuel also said "Yes", and he will join them.  Robert Moroney will be unable to travel to China, but he said, "Yes" to the call to support those on the journey from home.

This trip is not inexpensive.  Part of saying, "Yes" includes a committment to raise funds for travel.  There are other basic expenses for the journey.

This is where we can help.  Quite simply, say "Yes" to the opportunity to support this team financially and with prayer.  There are a few specific upcoming opportunities:

  • China Mission Carwash at Brusters on Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 - 1:00.  This is a great time to actually meet these young men - and let them wash your cars!
  • China Mission Day at Allen's Chinese Restaurant.  Tell the cashier that you are dining out to support the China Mission Trip, and they will donate part of your check total to help support the trip.
  • China Mission Ice Cream.  Bring your church program or bulletin (PCC or any other church!) to Brusters on Sunday, November 2 and Sunday, November 9.  Buy ice cream and give the cashier your church program.  In return, Brusters will donate $1 to the China Mission Fund!
These minor opportunities add up and can make a tremendous impact on the efforts of these young men to make this journey.  If you are unable to participate in this way, feel free to simply write a check and mail it to China Mission Trip, Powhatan Community Church, P.O. Box 834, Powhatan, VA 23139.  Every contribution makes a difference.

We are excited about the privilege of partnering with these young men who heard a huge challenge from God and said, quite simply, "Yes."

Will you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just Curious...For A Reason...

What would you do...

...if you had only thirty days to do it?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

La Sarah

There's a new blogger on the block.

Check her out here.

Sunday Setlist 10.26.08

I haven't played Sunday Set List for a few weeks now; things caught up with me, and the past few Sunday afternoons required a nap instead of a recap.

But I'm back!  Briefly, we are still in our 'Awaken' series, going through the book of James.  Today we looked at a challenge in the fifth chapter:

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter."  James 5.1-5

All To You - Lincoln Brewster.  Just can't get enough of Lincoln.
Thank You, Lord - Paul Baloche.  Yee haw!
Video - scenes and sound bites from our ImpACT project last week, where he blitzed about 12 homes in a focused effort to help a neighborhood in our community.
Lifesong - Casting Crowns.  We sequed out of the video to this - the song said all that needed to be said.
When You Gonna Wake Up - Old Bob Dylan tune that really gets in your face about social justice and our sleepy ignorance.  I got to sing this one, which was a treat, and we had HORNS!  YES!  Three pieces of brass that made all the difference in the world.

Within Brian's message, I wheeled out a cart full of fair trade items that I found in the Richmond area - coffee, sugar, tea, chocolate, etc., and I shared a bit about what I felt like I could do - as a mom and a consumer - to honor the spirit of James' challenge in this scripture (which is, basically, to purchase fair trade items when I can find them).  We found some great stuff at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's, and I also had a few items from Ten Thousand Villages.  It was practical and tangible, although it felt like a very different sort of service for us.  We learned a lot about Fair Trade practices, and we informed a lot of folks about something that they'd never thought of before - especially in light of the biblical mandate to do so.

We closed with Give Me Your Eyes and watched Patrick continue to grow spiritually and musically in amazing ways, as he sang and played this song with just the right amount of passion and precision.  

It was a cool day.  Very interesting, especially in this time of political labeling.  I have to confess that I always tossed 'social justice causes' in the box marked 'liberal theology'.  You know, the Unitarians and the Methodists could handle that end of the gospel; we evangelical folks will focus on getting them saved.  I am so thankful that God has kicked my ignorant butt and shown me something important through this scripture.  There is much being done; there is much to do.  And we are ALL called to do it.

If you buy fair trade stuff, what do you buy?  And where do you get it?

*songs are linked to iTunes
*This is part of Fred McKinnon's carnival.  Fred is so cool....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Latching On To Who You'd Like To Be

My brother is an artist, in the truest sense of the word.  The best and worst of him flows out of the rawness of his continual search for truth, the pursuit of a high melodic calling that clings to his soul and refuses to let go.  His faith informs everything about him with an authenticity that is as questioning and doubtful as often as it is passionate and reverent.  I am prouder of him than anyone else I know.  I love him fiercely, in the manner of love that an older sister carries for her little brother for a lifetime. 

He wrote some stunning prose on his blog this week that moved me, inspired me, and challenged me to think about music and art and worship and composition and even race in a new and unique way.  Here's a snippet:

The acoustic guitars thump and sing, fat and gray in the company of angelic harmonies and archetypal melodies. We all know this music. It is written in the celtic, anglo-saxon souls of Caucasians. We have strayed and betrayed ourselves, attempting to leverage ourselves into the gladiatorial arenas of hip-hop and "modern" music, but we need to face it.

We are mountain people. Even the most mixed breed of us is stuck with the pipes and the drums from the highlands, pounding wild and distant in our hearts. The grouse and heather cling to our thighs as we run, as we flail to flee our past.

Emmylou, and artists like her bring those pasts back to confront our empty, unanchored eyes. We have drifted, for we have forgotten who we are, and when you can’t remember who you are, it’s even more difficult to latch on to who you’d like to be. It recedes in the distance, fleeing your reaching, outstretched hand.

You can read the rest of this post here.  When you do, say 'hi' for me.  And tell him I'm proud of him.

Friday, October 24, 2008


If you read nothing else today, please read this post.

Danielle is one of my all-time favorite writers.  Her blog offers a unique glimpse into the life of doctors and hospital personnel.  

Reading her blog changed my life.

Reading this post broke my heart.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Perfect Music For An October Morning

Many years ago, Amy Grant recorded "If These Walls Could Speak" on Lead Me On.  I was captivated by the tune, and later discovered - to my pleasure - that the composer was the same guy who wrote "All I Know", which I had discovered in the 70's when I heard Art Garfunkel.

Then I discovered - to my surprise - that the same composer wrote "Galveston", that anthemic tribute to the Texas gulf made wildly popular by Glen Campbell.  

Speaking of Glen Campbell, the same composer wrote "Wichita Lineman".

Then I discovered - to my shock - that the same composer wrote "Macarthur Park".  Yes, the 'someone-left-a-cake-out-in-the-rain', seven minute flurry of string climaxes and key changes.  Richard Harris.  Then Donna Summer.  Bad memories, anyone?

That was Jimmy Webb.

Let me say this:  put aside your preconceived notions of any of the afore-mentioned songs, and give this collection a try.  Jimmy Webb is one of the most profoundly perfect singer-songwriter's I've ever heard, and this cd showcases the strength of the lyrics and melodies under the gentle hands of their creator.

Good stuff.

*Interesting note, for those of you old enough to have heard 'Macarthur Park'; that song was originally written as part of a cantata.  Hmmm... It has been covered over fifty times, by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Frank Sinatra, The Three Degrees and the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corp.  When Richard Harris recorded it, he kept singing 'Macarthur's Park' - an incorrect possessive form.  Webb tried to correct him through several re-takes and finally just gave up.

(ain't wikipedia grand?)