Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sorting Out The Day

Thank You that my two eldest daughters will return home tomorrow.

Thank You for a motorcycle ride tonight, a good dinner and some fascinating and revealing conversation.

Thank You for the plethora of gifts and talents showered upon the middle child.

Thank You for good friends for the eldest son.

Thank You for wise stewardship and a fun purchase made and enjoyed by the youngest son.

Thank You for dinner and wonderful conversation with parents who provide a solid foundation for our family.

Thank You for strawberry shortcake.

Thank You for fresh coffee.

Thank You for generous friends.

Thank You for summer hours and the privilege of sleeping past 6:00 a.m.

Thank You for cool Virginia evenings.

Thank You for my house.

Thank You.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Daily Havoc

Syd has started blogging.

You really don't want to miss this.

Check it out here, and leave her some blog love if you will.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder about the future of the world.

And you'll say, "Hm. She's kind of like her mother."

Monday, June 16, 2008

More From Nancy Beach

Here are the remainder of the notes I took during the point leaders' session with Nancy Beach on Wednesday at the Willow Arts Conference:

Service Planning and Execution
The Willow service planning format is broken into the following categories:
DESIGN (4-8 weeks out)
DEVELOPMENT (follow-up - email, hallway conversations, rehearsals, phone calls)
GAME DAY (the actual service)

The process on Game Day is immensely important. This is often the first combination of tech and programming – so be very mindful of the technical artists' needs. If the Game Day process doesn’t work, change it- particularly for tech. DO NOT FRUSTRATE YOUR TECHNICAL ARTISTS! THEY WANT TO DO A GOOD JOB. THEY NEED TIME.

Game Day should be:
• Sane
• Joyful
• Prayerful
• Relaxed
• A pleasure for volunteers

(At one point at Willow, volunteers asked to come earlier so that they could enjoy the process more!)

Evaluation and production team issues –
• Get better at reading the room in the moment for evaluation. Ask production team members to bring back opinions and impressions from guests – perhaps with a specific question?
• Arts Ministry leader should be strongly connected to the teaching pastor. Weaving teaching with the arts enables everyone to win. “Be a student of your pastor. Do not let the evil one win. That relationship must be functional and healthy.”

Building Community

Build in community to natural times that volunteers are together; possibly in between services, rehearsals, etc. Connect them, with intentionality.

Some good intentional questions include:
• “What was the high point and/or low point of your week?”
• “What’s the most important thing we can pray about for you?”
Short term conversations (managed carefully so one person doesn't hijack the time) can be extremely effective.

Long term community building – two-day retreats (borrow a house/cottage/meeting place for point leaders, team members). Give awards, learn, study, etc. Nancy Beach led a Willow team to create ‘funerals’ for one another, choosing songs, a eulogy and designing a mansion to honor one another while still alive (‘all the nice things people say about one another at their funeral – say it NOW for team building).

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I have more to post regarding what I learned at the arts conference, but here's the recap of the journey home:

  • Arrive at airport early Friday afternoon; find out plane has been delayed 30 minutes. Half an hour turns into a full hour. Failed attempt to nap briefly on chair at gate leads to extreme muscle aches. Know that I'll have to see Mr. Chiropractor Friend and give him money early in the week.
  • Hungry for chocolate, in need of coffee. Stand in line at Starbucks and experience the worst service I've ever encountered. Guy at the register keeps calling his two co-workers 'stupid'. He doesn't appear to be kidding. When I hand him my money, he looks at me, shrugs and says, "I'm hungry. I ain't got no break and I ain't eat yet." Okay. Turns out they don't have any coffee ready. I wait.
  • Walk the length of terminal C looked for something to munch. Settle on a large Snickers and a bag of raw almonds. Eat half the Snickers and throw the rest away. Almonds make my teeth hurt.
  • Read part of new TIME magazine about obesity in children. Feel glad that my kids aren't struggling with weight issues.
  • Realize that I really want to go home.
  • Get on airplane. Take off successful. Read. Type up notes for posterity and future blog post.
  • Landing successful. Hello, DC! We're home!
  • No, wait. We're not. We have two hours to drive.
  • Thank God for the guys in our group who paid attention to where we parked the cars.
  • Start the long drive home. Talk incessantly to stay awake. Stop at WaWa in Fredericksburg for fuel ($3.95 - talk about WAWA! Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!) and coffee. And a gargantuan blueberry muffin.
  • Drop off friends at their cars. Drive home. Drag in luggage. Fall on bed, fully clothed. Set alarm. Note time - 3:45 a.m. Fall asleep, fully clothed.
  • Alarm goes off. Note time - 5:30 a.m. Ugh. Drive older girls to meeting place for mission trip departure. Am not very social with fellow parents and youth leaders, all of whom appear to have gotten more than two hours sleep.
  • Go home, longing for more sleep. Realize that daughter number 3 needs to be at babysitting job in 45 minutes. No sleep. Wait for her to get ready, and drive her to job.
  • Go to friends' house. Crash.
  • Wake up. Note time - 4:30 p.m. Yay.

The rest of the evening has been a blur. Syd and I had a nice date together at Chili's, where we talked a lot. I've run kids here and there, ending up with only one at home, who has a soccer tourney tomorrow. The others are with their dad. I'm discombobulated.

I'm looking forward to worship tomorrow and getting reacquainted with the rhythm of life here. I am determined to make some changes, and plan to make some room in the next few days.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Nancy Beach On Leadership Challenges

We are at our hotel, waiting to leave for the airport in half an hour (and getting messages that flights are being delayed...I WANT TO GO HOME! PLEASE!) I'm scrolling through my notes from Nancy Beach's point leader session. Called 'Behind Closed Doors: Leaders Examine Their Greatest Leadership Challenges', it was full of fascinating nuggets of information and encouragement. I also enjoyed the change to see Nancy communicating in a more intimate environment.

And doesn't every woman in ministry secretly want to be Nancy Beach? I know I do.

Anyway, here's some of what I heard that resonated most deeply with me:

Arts leaders' job descriptions will morph continually. This is a good sign, but difficult to process internally. It requires mature leadership.

Generally, arts leaders start out in the center of planning, concept and design from every angel and detail - right up next to volunteers. Eventually, this era ends and you become a leader of leaders, which will remove you from the blessing of being up close to volunteers.

Whoever is leading the arts ministry should have a seat at the senior management table.

In order to create a sustainable job description, determine your unique contribution to your team; what would be most missed if you left? What would be the hardest thing to replace? As a small group of those who know you best to help you discover your unique contribution. Design something that is 1) sustainable, 2) joyful, 3) gives you creative room and 4) contributes to a rhythm of life that has breathing room.

Create a schedule that deals with energy management rather than meeting blocks. Consider this: Where are you most productive? When are you most productive? Adjust accordingly and protect that time! (Nancy often spends her mornings at Panera to write and plan.)

After you determine your unique contribution and establish a working rhythm, you have to divest yourself of relationships, your identity as a leader (and learn to celebrate the wins of those who take on your responbilities) and your pride (how will you function if you are not at the center of everything?).

As you develop the next set of leaders, look for people who have good instincts; this is integral and not easy to teach. Good instincts appreciate and understand aesthetics and what is appropriate for our church and community.

Create a culture that understands the fluidity of job descriptions for everyone. Evaluate every six months.

Protect against burn-out of volunteers by building community and giving them evidence of life-change.

This was good stuff - things I am still processing as I seek to determine
the four or five issues that I will carry with me as Big Ideas from this

It really has been wonderful.

As we wait to head for
the airport, we're saddened to hear that Tim Russert has passed. Praying for his
family today.

Arts Conference - New Community Worship

I had a powerful experience last night in New Community Worship. The band was killer and the music was powerful. We haven't added 'Friend of God' to our rotation, but after hearing it last night, I'm won over. I'm there.

They pulled out 'Here I Am To Worship' at the end, and it was good. Duh. However, something fresh caught my ear and then captured my heart. The bridge was gentle, beautiful; but they kept going back. Again and again.

And I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

Again and again.

And I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

And then again; not just the two-'cause-we're-running-late bridge. Not even the four-because-that-let's-us-build bridge. Again.

And again.

And I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

I was free to worship, practially dragged into freedom through this repetition. I could hear thousands of voices around me, above me, behind me.

I lifted my face towards heaven, raised my hands, and mouthed the words soundlessly.

And I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

I felt the weight of my sin, the great gift of grace that reached past the ugly evil of my wrongdoing. I could see Jesus, see the cross, witness the heaviness that he carried...

And I'll never know....

With those words comes an implicit, "Father, forgive me. I'm sorry." With those words come tears and sorrow, an awareness of sin that usually lives in some darkened corner of my highly-functioning daily life.

And I'll never know...

And He spoke to me, which He seems to be doing more of these days (or perhaps I am simply hearing more of...) His eyes said it all.

"It's okay. You're mine. Forgiven."

I'll never know....

"It's okay."

I see my sin...

"It's okay."

I'll never know....

"I know. And it's okay."

He keeps meeting me, setting Himself in between me and my shame, blocking my attempts to cling to sorrow and self-pity. He reminds me, again and again, of the love that I do not deserve but that He lavishly gives.

My God. My Savior.

It's been a good few days.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Willow Arts Conference Day 2

It was a long day, and I'll process more (and write more) later. Here's a brief overview:

First of all, we're all safe and we all seem to still like one another. Today, everybody split up and attended different break out sessions according to what interested them or where they were currently serving. We came back together and have debriefed a bit, but I'm sure our dinner conversation will be rich.

Best parts for me were connecting with a couple other women who are in leadership at churches in Michigan and New Jersey. Obvious God-connections, and they led to conversations that truly fed my soul, personally, spiritually and 'ministerally' (is that a word?)

Also connected with a guy from home - serving a church not too far from us. Hopefully we can continue to network and support one another; he was a great blessing, and I found out later that Seth (who is traveling with us) knew him well. I passed on telephone numbers and they were able to reconnect.

Last night we processed a bit, and I asked my team what had surprised them the most about the first day. One reply was interesting; she said that she hadn't expected it to be such a personal experience. Emotionally and spiritually, she was quite moved.

Another person said simply that she looked around and realized that God was "big". The church was "big". This is a "big" thing....looks silly in print, but I understand exactly what she was saying. They have such a huge vision at Willow, and they work hard to execute it with such excellence - and it is big. And when you experience it, you get it.

We're off for some Chicago-land pizza and hopefully an early night. My brain is fried and I need some sleep.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Willow Creek Arts Conference Day 1

Back in Chicago again and blown away; not so much by the 'show', which used to leave me slack-jawed and wide-eyed, but by the experience. Being here with a team of friends and co-laborers is...something...

....I have no words...

On my notes page, I have scrawled, "I can't believe I am here - with this team - in this place..."

Watching them experience worship and teaching at this level, most of them for the first time, is somewhat akin to watching children discover something great and wonderful and astonishing.

From an amazing opening worship set that ended with Martha Munizzi's "Glorious" and centered on the phrase, "I was created to make His praise glorious" to a powerful skit that visually and verbally allowed us to experience the pain and anguish of Romans 7.15 ("I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.") through the eyes of a struggling businesswoman, a porn addict and a bulimic girl, God showed Himself.

Nancy Beach talked about Psalm 40, about God taking us from "the mud and muck of apathy to intentionality" about our faith, our purpose, the reminder to be faithful to His call rather than to producing results. She dug further into the psalm and preached that God calls us to solitude and surrender; then to community; and THEN to ministry. And from that spot, we are called to tell the WHOLE story, to 'hold nothing back - holiness AND grace, sin AND salvation, mercy AND justice. One of her most powerful quotes was this:
God loves the church more than we do. He wants His bride to be

Giles Ste. Croix, the creative genius behind Cirque de Soleil, spoke about art and the creative process. When Nancy Beach asked him to sum things up, he spoke (and I paraphrase):
As humans, we need beauty. We need a way to express our
emotion. We need to share. When you experience art, you are changed. Art feeds you, changes you and you will never see things the same again.

Brian McLaren spoke, referring primarily to his book Everything Must Change. His words require a post unto itself; suffice it to say that he believes the church must respond to global issues in a global way. Things like poverty and injustice and AIDS and malaria and hunger must be addressed by the church. He stated that there are, unfortunately, theological reasons for some of the injustice and oppression in the world, due to the church functioning outside the framework of God's intent and Jesus' example. He spoke to us specifically as artists, thanking us for making the church better. Now, he says, we must take hold of the challenge to have the end result of our work be not just a better church but a better world.


Here is the centering text for the opening session of this year's conference. It's a powerful scripture, but reading it in The Message gives it a new resonance. Read this piece; what does it say to you?

Psalm 40

I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God....

...I've preached you to the whole congregation, I've kept back nothing, God - you know that. I didn't keep the news of your ways a secret, didn't keep it to myself. I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough. I didn't hold back pieces of love and truth for myself alone. I told it all, let the congregation know the whole story.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Worship Confessional 6.8.08

Still in the midst of 'Goodbye Ordinary' and we tried to create a service yesterday that would continue in that vein.
Opening worship was great, even with a post-rehearsal song addition per our pastor's request. A note on that; we have a mutually respectful arrangement in which either of us can push back as hard as we want about song choices or other creative elements. Fortunately, my pastor is wired just a bit like an artist, and he gets it. When we butt heads about creative stuff, it usually results in something good. He called on Thursday (after rehearsal) and asked if we could change the closing song. I was already stressed about how some of the other music would go, but he pushed hard. I always ultimately defer to his judgement, because we've established a level of trust that undergirds our decision-making process - plus I have a great deal of respect for the fact that God has called him to lead the church as a whole. I know he respects the area that I lead. So, it works.

Anyway, the topic this week was 'Do What Matters'; we were addressing the idea of serving God through the local church. Here's the run-down:

Happy Day - Tim Hughes. I stumbled upon this song through somebody else's blog and it is KILLER. For a church like ours, it is a shining example of something that invites the seeker and thrills the believer; it's a high-energy tune, easy to sing, a great example of joy for someone looking in from the outside to witness. For the believer, it's a great opportunity to declare O happy day, happy day/you washed my sin away/O happy day, happy day/I'll never be the same/Forever I am changed. Great opener.

Great Things - Matt Maher. Again, a blogging discovery, and what a great one! I really like Maher's music and this song was an instant hit with our crowd. Even though it was brand new, they were all singing along by the time we hit the second chorus. Excellent worship tune; it goes in the rotation for sure.

That's Why We Praise Him - Tommy Walker. Can't go wrong with this guy...great transition for a baptism day (from a happy day to lots of great things, all of which come together to be the reason we praise Him. Get it?)

During the welcome and comments, we presented gold-plated serving spatulas to four of our high-capacity volunteers (two in each service). We went over the top, making it look like an Oscars presentation (including the beautiful glamour girl trophy presenter, which happened to be one of my daughters...) It was a bit risky, I felt, because it was silly - but the crowd was so with us that they gave the honorees a standing ovation, completely unprovoked, which made it work. Brian said a few nice things about the investment each individual makes to the life of the church (we're talking about 20-30 hours per week volunteers - amazing people).

We commissioned a team of 20 senior high teens who are going on a World Changers mission trip next week, and they helped collect the offering.

Baptism - Randy Travis. This was our nod to the baptism we planned for the afternoon. Our country crew pulled it off beautifully - we have a guy who plays dobro and a killer mandolin player. Along with my buddy Don, they did a great job giving the tune just the right flavor.

During the message, we played a video interview with a fellow who heads up our ushers team. Tom and his wife credit the church and Jesus with saving their marriage after they started attending a few years ago. He was baptized last year, which was unforgettable; Tom is in a wheelchair, and several men of the church carried him into the river to baptize him with his wife. We showed a clip of that with the interview, where he shared about the impact the church had on his life, along with his relationship with Christ, baptism and call to serve. It was cool.

Majesty - Delirious. Wow. Just wow, again. Powerful worship.

Something remarkable is happening in our worship experiences lately. It feels different, as if the spirit of God is moving in a way that is fresh and new for our body. I am remarkably grateful...

We met at the James River later that afternoon and baptized almost 40 people. What can you say about such a thing? It was incredibly powerful. Baptism remains my favorite part of the journey - and to be outside, in the river, surrounded by family, friends (and people just hanging out fishing and drinking beer and lazing in their boats!), hearing the cheers with each individual's rise out of the water into 'new life' - there's nothing better.

It was a good day.

How was yours?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Highly recommended. I took five second-graders and several of the other kids.
Every one of us enjoyed it immensely. One of my favorites.
You just gotta love Jack Black. And Dustin Hoffman? Golden.
Go on. Do something fun. Take the kids. You'll love it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Struggling In General

natalie dee

This is so me right now. I'm not sure if spiritual warfare manifests itself in such things, but I'm just saying....

Yesterday I refused to take a bag from the check-out girl because I felt guilty. I carried my stuff out in my arms.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Worship Confessional 6.1.08

We launched our new series yesterday - "Goodbye Ordinary", with a nod towards Mercy Me and their new cd, All That Is Within Me. Which is good - really good. I'm not a huge fan, though I have a ton of respect for what they do and enjoy their music - but I've only ever listened in terms of what would work in a service. I find that I really enjoy this record personally.

Anyway - we've built a series to address stewardship, serving, evangelism and missions over the next four weeks, culminating in a community/church-wide service project that will - we hope - have a powerful positive impact on the community. We're having one service only on June 22, which will be a huge thing in itself, to have all 1000+ of us together at one time. After a quick lunch, we're headed out to blanket a neighborhood with service projects, home repair, yard work, etc. Anything that's needed. I can't wait - I'm excited and apprehensive! We've never undertaken anything that feels quite this risky! I think it will be a great opportunity for us to truly make a difference in the community.

Yesterday, we launched the whole thing. It was one of the most laughter-filled services we've had in a while - the message had several memorable, funny illustrations, and the service was just plain FUN. Here's how it went:

Goodbye Ordinary -Mercy Me. As mentioned, good stuff. Heavy guitar tune; it plays like a great rock and roll song. Great chorus: Live like there's no tomorrow/love extravagantly/lead a life to be followed/goodbye ordinary, goodbye ordinary
All To You - Lincoln Brewster. We do this tune a lot, but we like it a lot.
Hosanna -Paul Baloche. Hadn't done this one in a while and I was glad I pulled it out. Great worship song, and I received a really cool email this morning that turned into a true God Story. It's posted on our church blog; if you have a minute, go read it and find out how God can sometimes get His fingers in our worship planning in ways we can't even imagine.
He Is Yahweh - Dean Salyn/Vineyard. Amazing tune. Anytime we have a few extra percussionists, we pull this one out. It works every time, even though it's one of the longest tunes we play. Our church has really come to love this song.

It was a longer-than-usual worship set, but it worked.

Next came the fun stuff - I stepped out front to introduce the series. I had a copy of the Mercy Me cd and offered to give it away to the first person to text me the correct answer to the question of the day. Since we're living in 'extra-ordinary' times with the price of gas and food, the question we posed was this: What was the price of a gallon of unleaded gas this morning at Sheetz (the one big local gas station/hangout in our little county)?

Smart me, I upgraded my texting plan Saturday night. Cleared out all of the old messages. Was prepared.

But no. Try it sometime - try having about 80 text message hit your phone all at the same time. Every time I tried to open the text to read the response, another one would come in and take me back to the main menu. I couldn't pick the winner because I couldn't read the texts.

And there I stood, fumbling a one point, I think I whined, "Stop texting me!" Everybody laughed and it was, honestly, pretty comfortable and funny - but I just about died. At one point I glanced over at my pastor, who was simply smirking at me and (I think) enjoying watching me squirm.

I finally found the correct answer, saw the number long enough to identify it and we managed to give away the cd. Our media team had stopped by Sheetz in the morning and taken a photo of the sign out front, which they happily posted. We changed locations for the second service and picked another local, well-known gas station/restaurant (yes, seriously. Frisby's is where you get gas AND the best breakfast in the county, if you can bear the smoky haze in the 'dining area'.) New picture, same phone issue - but it worked eventually and we had fun.

I felt like a game show host.

After that, our offering tune was Surrender; I posted about that experience below. It was beautiful - love that song, and love it when the band really listens to one another and makes some seriously beautiful music. We have this mandolin player who is, I am not kidding, a genius.

The message started; it was called "Ways To Be Miserable" (catchy title for a teaching on stewardship and money). As Brian started talking about one of his most miserable times in his life (due to physical illness while on vacation), a few of our band guys interrupted with a quick a capella piece. They sang:

Gloom, despair and agony on me (OH!)

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery (OH!)

If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all (OH!)

Gloom, despair and agony on me

It was hysterically funny, for those who remembered "Hee Haw" (props to Buck Owens and Roy Clark, God rest their souls.) (Anybody with me on that? Bill? Jayne? Mindy, probably not....Kim, probably not...) (Anyway...)

Message was great, and we ended with Dear Money by Josh Wilson. On the guitar solo, Kevin opened his wallet and threw his credit cards and money all over the stage. Funny.

It was a good day and I think people enjoyed the morning, and swallowed that pill of Jesus-talked-about-money-more-than-anything-else-in-the-Bible pretty well. We'll see. My 13-year old daughter said that she thought it was enough funny, she wanted more serious. Oh, well.

Sunday's right around the corner.

How was YOUR day?

And by the way, how did it get to be June? Where did May go?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Laying Down My Rights

We had a great day today - more details later, including the part about the text messaging contest we had in the middle of the service. But right now, I wanted to get this out of my head and heart and onto the blog.

One of the tunes we chose was Surrender, an awesome Vineyard tune. This song is very meaningful to me, and I've sung it for several years. Lately, one of our powerhouse singers (also named Beth) has led it, and her smoky voice has just the right raspy vulnerability to make the tune very powerful. She was on the schedule this week, but I slated myself to lead it because I just really wanting to sing. I haven't led anything for a while...and I love that song...and I just wanted to sing. Part of the challenge of calling the shots, especially on a team where there's a ton of talent, is knowing when to step out and lead, and why.

For today, I just felt like singing. That's the best I can explain it.

However, after the text messaging thing and what amounted to about 5 minutes of me up front talking, when I moved to the keyboard during the prayer, I stood there thinking, "This feels like the Beth Brawley Show. I should have let somebody else sing this song." And while Kevin was praying, I start a conversation with myself.

"Get the other Beth's attention. Tell her to sing it. You've been talking too much."

And I'm having this conversation with myself as he finishes the prayer and I begin the intro. And I say BACK to myself, "It's okay. You wanted to sing this, you have a right to sing every now and then. You're an artist, too. You need to express yourself. It's okay, you're a good singer, good communicator, it's gonna sound great. It's all good."

And I think, "I could just whisper to Beth right now. She's standing right here beside me. She's sung this before. She'd do great. In fact, she's probably wondering why I didn't ask her to sing it this time. I should just give this to her."

Meanwhile, I'm still playing the intro.

And I think, "Nah, you're all good. It'll be good. You deserve a chance to sing now and then..."

And the intro is over. So it's settled. And I sing.

I’m giving you my heart and all that is within...
(gulp – am I really giving it, or just singing this song?)
I lay it all down for the sake of you, my king
(lay it down? give it up?)
I’m giving you my dreams, I’m laying down my rights
(my RIGHT to sing? I deserve a chance to sing occasionally?)
I'm giving up my pride for the promise of new life
(oh man...oh man...)

I was so convicted.

God’s doing SOMETHING in me, and more and more it feels like he’s saying, ‘GET OFF THE STAGE, GIRL. GET OFF AND MAKE SOME ROOM FOR ME TO DO A NEW THING.’

I find this rather terrifying.

But I love it when God is working in me.

Going to the Willow Creek Arts Conference next week and fully expecting Him to speak to me, big time. Can’t wait.

This Is Why...

I've posted about this before, but I don't remember where or when. So I'll say it again.

(By the way, I am having more and more episodes of, "I did this, but I don't remember where or when." Like where I put the cable bill. Whether or not I paid the insurance last month. Where I left my Bible. Whether or not I returned a phone call. Am I getting old or what?)


I keep a folder in my office titled "This Is Why". Inside, I keep cards, letters and emails of affirmation - testimonies to lives that have been changed or impacted for good because of the way God is working through our church. It reminds me, when I struggle, of the value of an investment in a vocation that is more about passion and conviction than money or a career. It convinces me that a crazy schedule and the challenges of working in the midst of a lot of messy lives (including my own) are worth every single minute, because every bit of the investment is in a person who matters to God.

Tonight, I was on the receiving end of one of the most powerful, 'This Is Why' experiences I have ever had. A friend who is new in her walk with Jesus and her involvement in church came in beaming, grinning from ear to ear, so full of joy that I thought she might burst. After some conversation and discussion, we were talking about the process of being a Christ-follower; how we'll stumble and trip, but that continuing to try to walk with God, to say, "Yes, this is what I want - I want to follow You" leads to further steps of faith and obedience and blessings beyond what we might be able to imagine.

She said something like this:

"It's so true. I've always loved my kids, I love them so much. I never thought it would be possible for me to love them more. But now that I'm following Christ, I have even more love for my kids! It's just so powerful and so different! And I love it!"

Wow. I wish I could translate the joy in her face to this page. Suffice it to say that my eyes filled with tears and I got goosebumps. What an amazing privilege, to be part of the local church where God can move and bless and change lives!

She's being baptized next week, and she can hardly wait. Neither can I.

This is why. Indeed.

"We can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!" Romans 5.5 (The Message)