Saturday, June 25, 2011

Parenting Tips


 I'm blown away tonight after looking at an array of photos that showed all of the teams serving in Chesapeake this week with World Changers. My kids have been part of a World Changers trip every year since we started coming to PCC.

I am convinced that their investment in these trips (and mine) has been one of the most formative experiences of their lives. They have learned things and experienced things that I never could have taught or shown them.

They are better people for it.

It's been tough. The first few years, especially, when I'd yet to experience that acquired parental ability to trust that they'd be safe (and alive) while they were out of my sight. See, as they have grown, so have I. Trust and patience and peace have grown in me as I let them slip out of my sight.

They have have transformative experiences on these trips, and it's made a huge difference in the young men and women they are becoming.

This year, only Syd and Daniel were able to go to the local trip; they served this week in Chesapeake, working 10-hour days to put on roofs and weed flowers and fix landscaping and whatever else needed doing. They served people who needed a hand. Next week Sydni will take another World Changers trip, accompanied this time by Shannon, going to Macedonia in Eastern Europe to serve the Roma people.

My kids are world changers, but they've been changed, too. And I firmly believe it's one of the best things I've done as a parent.

I looked at the pictures and was blown away; out of the 16 groups that served this week, you can find PCC faces in every group. We sent 90 people to Chesapeake this week, and they changed the world. But they're changed, too, and they're coming home.

I imagine they're bringing some change with them.
Daniel's World Changers Team

Syd's World Changers Team

Friday, June 24, 2011

Surprised By Grief

I need to remember this
So give me one last kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye

I carried a basket of clean clothes into my bedroom and started to methodically pair up the socks. A familiar melody began to stream from the speakers in the corner, and my throat tightened.

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world...

I sat on the edge of the bed, a thin crew sock clutched in my hand, and the tears came. It seemed like such an awkward, unbidden moment; the tendons tightened in my neck as I fought against a wave of raw, naked sorrow.

I was folding socks. I'd just eaten lunch, worked on some financial aid forms with my daughter, started the washing machine. Where did this come from?

It's a beautiful, glorious day - the sky is, indeed, a deep blue, and I am busy, for sure, and a little stressed, for sure. But why this gut-wrenching grief that causes me to lean on the dresser while tears fall, because I hardly think I can stand? Why now? Why this moment?

No reason, I suppose, except the familiar strains of a melody and a surge of memory; a cd, a box set, lent to me with care. Friends sharing favorite music. A flashback to a concert and a song sung; a partnership, a singer and his accompanist, a struggling girl and a warrior.

And a raw, gaping wound of loss. What it means to be without.

The end of the innocence.

Hurt is deepest when the love has been strongest. It is this season, I suppose, where my years have caught up with some of what I thought I already knew, and now I know things in my soul to which I have, up til now, only given intellectual assent.

I know that missing somebody is a pain indescribable.

I know that joy can live with sorrow, two sides of the same coin. Two chords in the same song.

I know that one day, I will grieve again. I cannot escape.

I know the love of a man strong and true, and I know that the future will bring a day when one of us will be left to mourn. And it will tear a ragged edge in the heart of that one, while the other soars to eternity. Part of the daily grace is bound in the knowledge that this is, indeed, until death do us part.

I know this loss, an acquaintance that I did not know prior to this great friendship. I am friends with this pain. My tears flow hot and humid, and I cannot swallow, and the clothes remain in a jumbled pile on the bed.

I know this loss, because I have also known this love, the friendship of a good man with a strong arms, good taste and the voice of a well-lived life. I would not trade that for any such happy-ever-after.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

After Midnight We Gonna Let It All Sweat Out

It's after midnight - oops, make that closer to 1AM and I'm still up. So much going on - and I'm working until exhaustion and then starting all over again.

But I feel good. I miss my kids, the majority of whom are out of town (except for one who is diligently working). Life is so quiet without them. But (and don't tell them), I sure am being productive.

I am giving the message this weekend. I am really excited about it - it's very creative, in a way that suits me perfectly. Our teaching team has worked hard to coach and encourage one another and I got some great constructive criticism from them this week. I'm excited about kicking off our new series; it feels like a team effort!

By the way: I hesitated to write that last paragraph, because there's always this fear that if people know in advance that Brian's not on the platform, they won't come. Please tell me you'll come anyway, even though I spilled the beans!

I'm doing the message, and as we brainstormed about the closing song, some creativity lit up in my brain and I wrote something, which I'll take to Lindsay tomorrow morning and we'll work together to finish it out. I'm excited about THAT, too. Creative people LOVE creativity!

The music store is about nine days away from opening. Schedules are changing, there's lots of final touches and organization. We're doing a summer lesson program at Kidzalat Child Care Center and that's keeping me hopping.

And it's hot, and I'm sweating. I'm not sure how that is important enough to get into this blog post, but it's 1AM, I'm sitting in the dining room and sweat is literally dripping down my back. Maybe if I sit here long enough, I'll lose ten pounds.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Momentum Conference Experience

Kent Singletary at MOMENTUM - great vision-caster!
I went to Nashville this week. Saw very little of the city - mostly sat in a conference room for three days. But there were some great benefits to this trip. In no particular order, here they are:
  1. Road trip with Brian Hughes. All you need to know is this: donuts, crazy driving, several moments of purely hysterical laughter and constant starvation. Seriously, the guy is FUN.
  2. Road trip with Susan Hughes. It's obvious that God is good, because he gave Susan to Brian. She is calm, cool, collected and incredibly wise. Also, tons of FUN - but without the donuts.
  3. Road trip with Tony Stoddard. Serious, careful, maintainer of vehicles and lover of Dairy Queen. Seriously, the opportunity to spend over 10 hours in the car each way with my husband was a major win. Haven't seen much of him lately, so this was a nice second honeymoon. With Brian and Susan along for the ride. 
  4. Sneaking into Jon Acuff's office after a tour of The Lampo Group. I didn't touch anything, just breathed in the fumes of funny.
  5. Being around a workplace that honors God and loves people as it does business. Brilliant and inspiring.
  6. Hearing a message of hope and freedom centered on money - still rocking my world. I am fascinated and am starting to see that God has been setting me up for this. Still processing.
  7. Jon Acuff, in his office. Sort of.
  8. Walking in the room to see Michael Easley. He is a minor celebrity in the Christian world - former president of Moody Bible Institute, now a teaching pastor at a big church in the Nashville area. But to me, he's the former pastor of Grand Prairie Bible Church, a preacher who sat with me in his office about 25 years ago and asked me one hard question, three times. I lamented my circumstances at the time - confusion, some failed relationships, a lack of focus and purpose - and he said, "Let me ask you something: Is Jesus the Lord of your life?" I mumbled something about church attendance and singing in the choir, and he asked the same question again. I responded with the proud assertation that I didn't even work on Sundays before 1PM - and then he asked again: "Is Jesus the Lord of your life?" My life shifted that night when I surrendered my way to God's way, unable to shake the persistence and truth of his question. I traveled to Nashville in my role as a pastor - a leader - at my church, and I ran smack dab into the guy who pushed me towards Jesus way back when. There's been a lot of water under and over the bridge since then - but that moment - and that question - were pivotal in my life. I wouldn't have been there this week if Mike Easley hadn't been there in Grand Prairie 25 years ago, willing to ask a hard question and offend me. He did both, and I will be eternally grateful.
More about the trip, what we learned and what we'll be sharing in the future - but let me assure you of this: God has put us on a path towards something that will completely transform not only our church but our community. This is the thing; it's what we've been waiting for. It was confirmed for me several times, in several ways.

I'm ready.
Dave Ramsey on air

The entrance to The Lampo Group Office

Friday, June 17, 2011

Money And Momentum

Flying down the highway through the hills of Tennesse; Brian is at the wheel, Susan is navigating, Tony is sleeping and I'm trying to adjust my attitude back towards the day-to-day routine of work and home. We'll be back to Powhatan this evening, full of inspiration and conviction, excitement and momentum.

We've been at a Dave Ramsey conference for three days. Brian and I sat through three days of teaching, all based on the principals of freedom. This was a "money" conference, but it wasn't about money, really. It was about bondage - which is a weird word - but it suits the idea.

Most of us feel like we're making it if we're making our payments. I feel that way. Financial success means you're getting the bills paid, right?

After this week, I'm wondering if I've settled far too easily, accepted that definition with little push back. Money is important; a good part of my life is focused on getting and using money. But I've not thought too much about how I control it.

Or if it controls me.

I'm not materialistic, really. It isn't difficult for me to be satisfied. I've been in debt, and I've gotten out.

But I confess, I don't have much of a plan. Don't really live with a budget. And though the bills get paid, I'm convinced that there's probably a better way. There are precepts and ideas about money and planning that I've ignored, brushed aside or assumed weren't really applicable to my life.

I was wrong.

I learned a lot over the past few days. Personally, I'm doing some hard thinking about my lack of attention to my financial life - even though there's no apparent problems. I know I can do better.

And as a church leader, the potential is huge. Because as I look around our community, I see so many people who are desperately trying to manage a huge amount of stress that is centered on money. Our spiritual lives are crippled when we are bound up with anxiety about money.

People can't live when they are in bondage to anything.

I am still processing all that I learned this week. However, I am fairly certain of this:
I will never be the same.
And I am fairly certain of this as well:
God is nudging us to bring these precepts to PCC in a big way.
And here's what I think: You are probably going to hear a lot more about this. And if you get on board, you will never be the same.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tonight Was Interesting

Well, tonight was interesting.

We met at 4PM this afternoon for our standard Saturday afternoon tech run. We prayed, ran through most of the service, got up to the point of the message - and then started paying attention to the rumbling thunder and the clatter on the roof.

Ivins came over and stood beside me.

"Is that rain?"

Brian ran up towards the stage from the tech booth and stopped halfway there. "Whoa!" And he looked up towards the ceiling.

Water was dripping steadily from the roof.

And then the lights began to flicker. Dustin dashed off to turn off the power before surges killed our equipment.

We walked into the atrium and saw a steady stream of cars turning into our parking lot; somebody informed us that a tree had gone done right in front of the church and the highway was blocked.

Shortly after that, strong winds and pressure sucked the atrium doors open briefly.

That was weird.

Without power, we started thinking outside the box. We pulled some chairs into the atrium, gathered around the folks already waiting out the storm on the couches and comfy chairs and started church. John and Walter played acoustic guitars, and Kevin and I helped with singing. We chose a few old praise and worship songs - those that knew them sang comfortably, and those who didn't were able to pick up the words fairly quickly.

It was an beautiful time. The acoustics in the atrium really ring, and we could hear one another singing. it was powerful.

Brian shared some words about the the true source of power; not so much preaching as simply talking to a room full of people.

We sang a little more.

And then we were done with "church".

The coolest part? We all jumped in and made it happen. No second guessing, no concerns.

And the best part? One of the couples who were headed towards Cartersville and ended up in our parking lot instead - due to a downed tree - they stayed. And stayed. And ended up staying for the entire time. They said that they were welcomed with open arms when they walked in the door, and they just thought they'd stay.

I love that. I love that we just hung out tonight, and that it was comfortable enough that a couple of strangers just wanted to hang out with us.

It was a good night. Very different, and not at all what we had planned - but it was a good night. One of our friends said it was absolutely the best "service" she'd ever been to at PCC.

Part of me argued (internally); it wasn't really a service! We didn't do what we had planned. We just sort of made it up as we went along.

We were just there. And we focused on spiritual things, and we prayed, and we spent about 45 minutes doing that.

And I made two new friends.

In terms of church, I guess that'll do.

It was a good night.

We're not exactly sure what to expect tomorrow morning. We do know that we'll adapt to whatever circumstances arise. Dustin is planning to spend the night at the church to ensure that the power company can do their work when they arrive. And we'll figure out what to do as we go along. Seems pretty obvious that God can deal with that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Unique Sunday

Sitting down to write this post, I feel a weird tension between several of the primary hats I wear.

As a mom, I want to tell you about a couple of my kids - and a couple of their best friends.

As a musician, I want to tell you how awesome it is to experience the raw energy of passionate, young players who simply let music flow out of them. And let us watch.

As a leader, I want to tell you that NOTHING makes me prouder than witnessing the results of letting go. That would be MY release - letting go and letting people do their thing.

As a friend, I want to tell you about a great message I heard yesterday, one that addresses the level ground we all occupy and the ridiculous notion that any of us are better than the other when it comes to the proving ground of the Creator.

Bottom line is this: I went to church yesterday. It was a day off for me, but I went and witnessed some awesome stuff. I worshiped, but I also felt the undeniable joy of being intertwined with so much of what was going on in and around the place. It was extremely rich.

Above all, I have to wave the Mom flag highest. My daughter Sarah helped lead worship with her best buddy Elijah. They premiered a song that Elijah wrote, one that I heard whispered around the dining room table last week. Elijah sang, Sarah fished for some harmonies, and I said, "Dude. That is a great song. You should do that song this week." And they did. It was brilliant.

Travis helped Elijah lead worship. He is in and out of my house constantly, as the companion of my daughter Shannon. I admire and respect both of these young men. They've influenced my family in countless ways, and the mixture of emotions I feel when I watch them living out their faith with guitars and singing is vibrant and powerful.

Nathan played guitar - and RAPPED - and nailed every tune. Tony's protege and student, Nathan lives and breathes music and his passion for life is contagious. He loves it and he's unbelievably talented.

My daughter Sydni engaged the crowd with her dead-on performance of the Penelope character from SNL. She wrote the script herself, worked through the editing process with grace and then used the character to set up the message perfectly. It was truly, absolutely funny - and fitting. I saw glimpses of an incredible talent in her performance yesterday, one that will propel her out and away over the next few years into what I imagine will be some amazing experiences.

All the while, my daughter Shannon was upstairs leading the kids' Power Jam ministry with the team of students going to Macedonia. Daniel prepared to lead worship at FOCUS last night, and David was just being David, which is enough.

All this stuff happens at my church. It's not a closed, members-only society. It's just a place where we get together on Sundays and celebrate. No matter my perspective, it's a place where I can be real and authentic. I can't help but think that the unique connection of my heart to the people I know who are living out their faith under the umbrella of what we call church is exactly what God calls us to do.

Love God. Love people.

Be the church.

Watch Sydni's skit here: it starts at about 23:15. Prior to that you can see Elijah's song and Nathan's rap and guitar solos. After the skit, you can hear Brian talk about what we have in common with Osama bin Laden.