Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Setlist 3.29.08

The day is winding down. I hear the low-frequency "thump/thump/thump" of a movie that Sarah is watching in the living room; Syd is working in the dining room, singing along with "Viva La Vida" and talking about the implications of Coldplay's lyric and the Roman Empire.  Shannon's been working on some support letters for their upcoming mission trip.  The boys are both asleep, after a long and busy day.

I'm feeling very settled, very much home.  Can't really describe it, other than thinking that something's shifted in my environment somehow.  Maybe it's more internal than external, because things are still a cluttered mess here.  Perhaps it's the impending arrival of spring, the flowers blooming, the late evening light as the sun lingers in the sky.  I don't know.  I'm just feeling good, in spite of not feel so good physically.

Today was an immensely powerful day at church.  We did Cardboard Testimonies, which seems to always be powerful, no matter where or when.  We've done it once before, and it fit in beautifully with Brian's message today from John 8 when Jesus healed the blind man with a handful of mud.  When interrogated by the religious leaders about who Jesus was and what, exactly, had happened, the once-blind guy says, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know.  One thing I do know:  I was blind, but now I see."

End of story.

The guy knew what he knew, and that was all he needed to know.  He'd had an encounter with Jesus, and things changed.

It was a perfect lead-in for the testimonies.  By the time they were over, tears were freely flowing.

I held up pretty well until one of our vocalists walked out with his wife and their 4-month old baby, who we'd prayed intently for while he was still in the womb, diagnosed with definite health issues.  "Miracle baby."  He was a miracle baby - born healthy, still healthy.  Healed.

Onto a beautiful girl who is an amazing inspiration, a great single mom - whose sign said "Meth addict" on the front - healed, sober, living for Christ.  The bravery, the courage she demonstrated just slayed me.

And our little friend Eli, whose head injury led doctors to declare that he'd never walk again - Eli walked out with his mom and dad.  Healed, healthy, praising God.

It was the body of Christ redeemed, swimming in grace, giving glory to Him.  Amazing.

I felt so privileged to be in the same room with any of those people.  

Here's the run down of the day:
Ain't No Rock - always a fun opener.
You Are Holy (Prince of Peace)
Mighty To Save 

The First Steps kids - kindergarten and out - joined us on the stage to "lead" in Every Move I Make.  They were, as kids always are, a home run.  Exquisitely cute.  And they actually did a great job with their hand motions and "singing".

We showed a My2Cents video - homegrown - during the offering.  Then came the message, which was passionate and evocative and perfectly timed - and we started with the signs.  Underneath the movement we covered Thank You For Hearing Me, the Sinead O'Connor tune covered by David Crowder band covered by Greg Ferguson at Willow Creek.  That's where I first saw this cardboard thing, by the way - at the Leadership Summit a few years ago, with Ferguson covering Crowder covering O'Connor.  I know a lot of folks are using How He Loves with the cardboard, but I really love the implications of the lyric in Thank You For Hearing Me.  Ironically, some things really lined up with the personal stories...

It was a moving day, a reminder to me of why we do what we do, and why it matters.  There were folks on the stage today whose stories are just beginning in terms of the grace and forgiveness that they are experiencing, the freedom that they walk in as Christ-followers.  I am, again, absolutely stunned by the privilege of being part of this work, of the opportunity to witness such sacred movement.  

It was a very good day.

this post is part of Fred McKinnon's blogtastic carnival.  Check it out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Guitar Hero?

I read this today on Steven Furtick's blog and I was blown away. I'm re-posting it here, with all credit to him. He was targeting aspiring ministers, but there's a hard truth here for every person who is interested in spiritual growth.

The point is - think about this, willya? And think about where you're at in the grand scheme of things.

I know I sure am....

"If my generation isn’t careful, we may fall into a Guitar Hero mentality toward ministry:

Everybody wants to be a rock star, but no one wants to learn the chords.

It’s hard work to study God’s Word. To pray for breakthrough. To do spiritual battle on behalf of those we lead. To charge forward in faith for the cause of Christ. To run a church with the highest standard of excellence.

Be willing to pay the price. Or please go do something else with your life."

How willing are we?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday Setlist 3.22.09

I was glad to be back at PCC yesterday, though I was less than 100%.  Still struggling with some sort of cold/head/respiratory thing, and I couldn't sing at all.  But we had some awesome vocalists on the stage and a killer set of music, so I enjoyed playing.

We're in a series called MOVE, about the things that Jesus did on earth, taken from the book of John.  It's been powerful to plan and it was awesome to experience yesterday.  

First of all, we had some cool set elements - our team brought in stacks of old tires (to emphasize the "move" idea) and Andy and Jackie Heberle created a cool sign with random colored arrows pointing every which-way.  It was cool.

We opened at ten minutes before service time with an instrumental version of "More Love, More Power".  I love playing this tune because the chord stucture is so great for some improvisational soloing.  It was fun.

Our 10B4 video was actually six minutes, and it did it's job communicating upcoming events and ativities that used to get crammed into the pre-offering prayer.  We started turning this flywheel a few months ago and are finding more and more people coming in ten minutes early to see the video.  That's a good thing.

Lift Him Up - This Martha Munizzi tune will forever be one of my favorites.  We do only one key change at the end, but it's enough to get things rocking, along with a stand-up-and-shout a cappela chorus of "Jesus - we lift you up! Jesus!" that never fails to rock my world.

After a short welcome, we showed a home-grown video about money and stewardship.  We're leaning into teaching some mini-lessons about this topic outside of the main sermon time, with a series of filmed messages called "My Two Cents".  Each video is about 3 minutes long.  We'll evaluate in a few weeks, but so far, so good - and Chad Milburn is doing a great job on the creative end.  You can check out week one's vid here

You Are My King - seemed to be a Billy Foote kind of day....

The message was excellent, based on the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery.  I have heard a gazillion messages taught on this story, and often heard the implication that as Jesus doodled in the sand, he was listing the hidden acts of the men who gathered around, clutching rocks, muscles taut in anticipation of violent consequence for the sinner.  Brian stretched this out a bit further, noting the background of the Greek word originally used, and dug in deeply to this act of the Savior.

At one point, Brian sat down on the floor, like a story-teller, and talked about how it must have looked to have Jesus sit.  At one point, Brian swept his hand across the carpet on the stage to demonstrate the act of clearing the sand - erasing what was written - and talked aobut the implications of Christ's love and grace, not only for this individual woman, but for the Pharisees surrounding her in that moment, and for all of us in this moment.

Beautiful, Beautiful - Brian found this song to close this service (it is SO awesome to work with a creative senior pastor!) and we began to vamp on the beginning chord progression as he talked more about grace.  When he finished, Sandy sang the song up through the bridge, and then Brian walked back out.

We had set five lined baskets out around the room, and filled each one with sand.  As the band continue to play quietly, Brian invited everybody to experience grace like we saw in the story from John - to come and write your own sin or issue or failing or heartbreak or brokenness in the sand, and then to wipe it away with your own hand - knowing that the grace of Jesus does just that in our lives.

It was powerful.  People lined up and waited for their turn.  It was a holy moment.  We sang the song again, and the chorus reverberated in the room:

Like sunlight burning at midnight
Making my life something so beautiful, beautiful
Mercy reaching to save me
All that I need
You are so beautiful, beautiful

It was a very good day.

This post is part of Fred McKinnon's bloggy carnival.  Check it out here!

Also, "Beautiful, Beautiful" is by Francesca Batistelli.  Good stuff....

ALSO - Biz Tarr did the graphic work for this series.  She is AMAZING!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hallelujah To The God Who Saves

Sometimes I realize with profound clarity that the life of our church community is complex and far-reaching.  I know that there are dynamic and fascinating small groups meeting every night of the week all over the county; folks are meeting for discipleship classes, connected at the Y, meeting for coffee, stopping by the office for appointments, working at the church house in Cartersville, planning events, etc.  PCC folks are networking all over the place.  And obviously we get together for our large celebration and worship experience on Sundays at PHS.

Tonight, I was reminded about how powerful any of our gatherings can be.  There's this verse in the Bible that says, "Where two or more or gathered, I'm there" (referring to Jesus).  I experienced that tonight, as I do every time I visit FOCUS.

Teenagers meet on Sunday nights at Powhatan Elementary School.  The crowd varies, as do the activities.  Tonight, they finished up a series called Collide that featured several youth speakers, as well as youth pastor Angie Frame.  Marc Chewning did a fantastic job, reminding us of a couple things that caught my attention.

"God's called every one of us to SOMETHING.  Some of us are missing this."

I was led in worship, simply and gently, by a graceful, beautiful girl who sang songs of praise with her guitar and her angelic voice.  (Okay, it was my daughter - so I'm a little biased - but even if I didn't know the girl, I'd be blessed.)  In this hollow room, without fancy sound equipment or lights or anything but each other, a small group of people sang loudly and passionately about God.

"Hallelujah to the God who saves
I will never be the same
Hallelujah to the God who saves
I'll stand and my world will be changed"

I was so blown away, but by the smallest, most intimate thing:  A community of people, seeking God, simply being together.  It was awesome.

I love my church.  I love my God.  I am so grateful.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Confession

When our income tax refund comes in, I usually take a bit of it and buy something for the house. Curtains, a chair, cookware; there's always something that we could use that seems like a reasonable splurge.

This year, things have been so hectic and crazy that I decided rather than buying stuff to put in the house, I'd work in the opposite direction.

I paid someone to clean my house.

There, I confessed.  

She promised me that it would be an out-of-body experience.  It did feel - and smell - wonderful when I walked in the door.  My initial reaction was that it was worth every penny.  And it's certainly an incentive to keep things tidy - and to clean the rest of the house (I could only afford to have her clean the bottom floor).

My kids tell me that they've worked up an arrangment to trade some babysitting time for cleaning with a friend of the family.  I'm thinking that might be a good deal.

We'll need it asap.  David came home and promptly began to work on his grasslands ecosystem project, so there are giraffes, lions, pieces of felt and construction paper trimmings all over the dining room table....and the floor....

Life goes on...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Perry Noble At Unleash

Here's the link to the main teaching sessions from the Unleash Conference that we attended last week. Give yourself some time and watch it. It's as important as your Sunday morning attendance.

Be forewarned: Perry Noble doesn't pull any punches. But be advised: this man loves Jesus and has committed his life to serve him and lead others to the cross.

Enjoy - and let me know what you think.

You can see both sessions on Tony Morgan's blog.  Check it out!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kids, Don't Do Drugs

Funniest thing I have seen all week.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Power Of Music

Doing some reading this morning, I came across this interesting bit of research (via this blog):
"(Among young adolescents) high exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex in popular music was independently associated with higher levels of sexual behavior. In fact, exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex was one of the strongest associations with sexual activity..." - Science Daily
This study seems to underscore the "DUH" factor that would come with simple common sense.  If kids are listening to lots of verbage that talks frankly and graphically about sex, they're going to be interested in having sex.


Read that quote again:  the highest association with sexual activity in the study group (ninth grade kids, by the way) was "exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex."  It's not R movies, it's not TV, it's not what their friends are doing or not doing - it's what they're listening to.

Go read the article here.

And that adjective "degrading"?  Think that's off the spectrum?  Think again.  Directly from the blog I read today, here's a few choice lyrics from the artists who were the nominees for Nickelodeon's 2009 Kids' Choice Awards:

“Now take it off while I watch you perform.” (Suga Mama)
Chris Brown
“Let’s get and make love on Venus.” (Gimme Whatcha Got)
Alicia Keys
“So maybe we can go to first base because I feel you.” (Teenage Love Affair)
Jesse McCartney
“Spend the night with me and I’ll rock you.” (Rock You)
Katy Perry
“I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.” (I Kissed a Girl)
Pussycat Dolls
“I can get off when you ain’t around.” (I Don’t Need a Man)
“What you got up in them jeans? Put it on me, or get lonely.” (Lemme Get That)
Kid Rock
“That little p**** l***** finger f***** h* a** c***.” (F*** U Blind)
“She was s***** on me. And I was l***** on her.” (69)

I'm not advocating that we boycott Beyonce - I love some of her music.  I like Chris Brown.  I am not suggesting that anybody ought to ban kids from listening to this stuff.  But we'd better not stick our heads in the sand about the power of what's on their iPod.  

I'm writing as a parent here.  I have four teenagers, and one of my greatest hopes is that they make good, healthy choices as they mature - spiritual, emotional and physical.  They don't live in a cave - they're exposed to a good bit of popular culture.  They love music; it's a powerful influence on them and an outlet for expression.  And as a parent, I've got to be informed about what it is that's influencing them so powerfully.

I want to influence my kids against having sex - not because it's sinful and it will send them to the pit of hell, but because of the consequences - spiritual, emotional and physical.  I'm not sure I can identify one single benefit of early sexual activity, other than the instantaneous physical gratification.  It's all downhill from there.  I want the best for my kids, and having sex at this point in their lives is not it.  They have the power to choose; they can make the opportunity should they so desire - but I've got to do the best I can to guide and influence them to make healthy decisions. That's my responsibility.

Maybe you disagree with me as a parent; maybe you're happy for your kid to be getting some at the tender age of 15. Or 14.  Plenty of them are, you know.

Check out their playlist.  Start a conversation.  Have a frank discussion.  Talk about it.  It's worth the effort.  And, if you're a parent, it's your job.

The World Today

“We’re taking our eyes off of Jesus and putting them on the economy.” - Perry Noble

I read this tonight on Tony Morgan's blog.  Tony is one of the leaders at Newspring Church, where we're headed for a one-day conference later this week (thanks to a generous sponsor!)

Newspring is known for a no-holds-barred attitude when it comes to spreading the gospel and preaching the truth.  They love Jesus.  They love people.  

I'm looking forward to what we'll encounter....

"The two biggest problems in this country are consumer debt and obesity. It’s not because we don’t have enough. It’s because we don’t manage what we have well.” - Perry Noble

Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's Tough Being The Old Guy

Looks like he had a great time chaperoning the youth lock-in.

Thanks, Matt....

Thursday, March 5, 2009

This Week At PCC

Check out some interesting conversations caught in the hallway last week at PCC:

This week's service will be built upon the questions YOU have. It's sure to be an interesting service - who knows what will happen?

Do YOU have a question? Send it our way! Email

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Four Small Words

Still at my parents' house, snowed in.  The kids and I stayed up late enjoying the good ol' cable tv.

I slept hard and deep, the particular sleep of being a child once again.  My parents are almost 70 years old, but nothing about them is "elderly".  They are capable and active and being here always gives me a certain measure of relaxation and a chance to be something other than The Only Grown Up In The House.

So much seems to be happening in and around me lately.  Recently, I remarked that I was "struggling".  I guess that's a good word for it, though it feels a bit less active than a struggle.  Some days I feel paralyzed.  Others, I'm just tired.  It's hard to be creative.  Insecurity lurks underneath the edges of daily life.  I recognize some familiar signs - isolation, fear, feeling responsible for every negative thing, seeing all the things around me that I cannot or do not do.

I know there's some spiritual tie-in here.  The standard line is that if you're not being with God on a daily basis, if you are not living in Christ, then you'll struggle to maintain the daily challenges of life.  Compound that with the responsibilities of working for an institution whose primary concern is leading others towards spiritual health, and we have a recipe for some difficult days.  I will admit that I'm spending more time doing than being, although I'm trying to be.  I'm captivated by what I'm reading in the Bible these days, but the daily routine of study and reflection and prayer is haphazard at best.  It seems like there's always so much to do, and the doing gets in the way of the being.

Yesterday, I read these words about leadership:

"Hey leader, just give up. Throw in the towel, raise the white flag, just quit trying so hard... After all, is this really worth it? Aren't you simply tired of taking arrows in the back from your own team? Hasn't it been long enough to try to change their minds or ways? For all the hard work you've been doing to try to help your organization with no one recognizing your efforts, really... just relax, go with the flow... you'll have less headaches and your days can be so much easier." Mark Meyer

It terrifies me to admit how much I relate to those words. 

Not so much because I'm feeling beaten up by my team; just that those words of surrender sound so tempting.

Not too long ago I was living deeply in the realization that God had led me to leadership.  I was embracing it, relishing it, and accepting the reality of where I was, how I was serving, and my capabilities.  I even wrote about it here.

The joy of that realization feels a bit more like a burden these days.  And the fact that I can't enjoy it, live it up to it, embrace it, forge ahead - all these things bear down on me with the crushing weight of four small words that have chased me throughout most of my life.

You're not good enough.

This seems to be the boulder at the base of my gut, the foundational core of my being.  It is fed, lately, by every mistake I make - every forgotten detail, every neglected email, every error in judgement, every single thing I could have done better.  It fuels the illusion of perfection that has dogged me all of my life.

I thought I had beaten this thing; I thought that therapy and counseling and good decisions and a healthy work environment combined to heal the rawness of this belief that has pushed and pulled me in and out of so many of my life decisions. 

I guess not.

It's still there.

Funny, the leader in me recongizes that there's a great spiritual application here; that the basis of my need for Christ in line with my faith system says that this is exactly where I have to start.  "I'm not good enough; I need Jesus."  Unfortunately, this cycles back to another negative; "You know better.  You need to straighten up and fly right.  You know the answer to this problem.  You are capable of more.  Get yourself together!  Clean your house!  Get back to exercising!  Do the right thing!"

So perhaps the issue is not so much that I'm stuck in the personal negative, but that I'm not functioning clearly in the spiritual positive.  The truth; the notion that in spite of the reality of my "not-good-enough" status, there is something - Someone - greater.  The "propitiation for our sins".

I'm tired.  I'm feeling older.  I'm having trouble keeping a workout schedule.  I'm dragging around ten pounds that annoy me.  My house is a cluttered mess.  I'm mildly anxious about my financial future.  One of my friends is moving on and it makes me very sad.  My eldest daughter is graduating.  My kids are growing up.  I am falling short in so many ways.

I hesitate to post this, because my blog now feeds into Facebook.  This confession might be read, far and wide.  Part of me struggles with the thought that people who see the "Sunday Beth" might feel cheated, knowing that the cheerful, excited, energetic piano playing Christian is, deep down inside, fighting all sorts of unpleasant battles.  The leader in me is afraid that if you see me real, you might not like me so much.  Or your spiritual life might be damaged.  But I've been there before, and the cost of pretending is too high.  

And aren't you just like me, deep down inside?  Haven't you been here too?

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. - Romans 8.26-28, The Message

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day!

We got snow last night - a big load!  It's the biggest and best snowfall we've seen in Virigina since we arrived five years ago!  

We tried to dig up snow pants and coats - unfortunately, most of what we have has been outgrown.  Gloves and mittens were hard to find as well.

But we made the best of it and the kids have had a great time playing outside.

No power at our house, so we've relocated to my parents' place for a day.  Or two.  Rumor has it that today's Snow Vacation will be extended to a two-day break.  It might be tough, being gone for two days from home with nothing to do.

Except Mom and Dad have cable.