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.