Wednesday, December 3, 2008

While driving to work this morning I was thinking through my day and the things I knew I needed to accomplish. As is my custom, the radio was on, playing a local Christian station, and I was ignoring most of what was being said or sung. (When you work with music for a living, things like the radio take on a whole new role in life!)
Nonetheless, as I watched the road and ignored the radio, my ears perked up when I heard the DJ mention an Advent Poetry Blog. Many of you know that I LOVE Advent, but accessible and relevant resources for Advent aren't always easy to find. I reached over and turned up the radio in time to hear them mention that one of the members of Jars of Clay, a contemporary Christian recording group, had created a blogsite for the celebration of Advent. I went there today and looked it over and found some nice writings that focus on the season. I've subscribed to the RSS feed and plan to follow the site throughout the season as a part of my private times of worship. If you'd like to do the same, it is available at
If you are unfamiliar with Advent, let me encourage you to give it some thought this year. Advent is the season of the church year that runs the 4 Sundays before Christmas. It is a time to reflect on the coming of Christ and a time to anticipate His coming again. For me it's one of the highlights of the year. You can find good information on the web about Advent... A quick Google search yielded 41,500,000 results! (Granted, not all of that is good information, but the first couple of hits were great sites!) Try these:
Wikipedia - Advent
The Voice
Advent Coloring Pages
Today I'm praying for you a special awareness of God's presence this Christmas season!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Over and Over

Does God ever speak to you repeatedly?

No, really. REPEATEDLY.

In several ways and through several people I've been reminded recently that there are priorities in life that need to take precedence over other things.

While on the surface the concept doesn't sound so difficult, I guess there's something I'm missing, because it seems every time I've turned around for the last several weeks I have seen or heard someone or something that reminded me to consider the priorities of my life.

Now, I consider myself a pretty "together" kind of guy, so maybe I didn't give my answer the attention it deserved, but I did look at my calendar and say, "Yes, God, I'm listening... The things I'm doing indicate a desire to be effective at home and in the ministry. I've think I've got it!"

However, within a week or two, I was reminded again about the need to consider things in my life that are truly important. What gets the most of my attention and resource? So I look at my checkbook and debit receipts: "See Lord, I'm listening. I know it's not perfect, but I genuinely want the way I handle resources to reflect my love for you and my commitment to serve in the roles You have given me. I think we're good here."

Then, as recently as yesterday, I'm sitting in our general staff meeting when a colleague shares as part of our weekly devotion the story of an object lesson in which a speaker fills a jar, first with big rocks, then with gravel, then with sand and then with water. Each element represents something that requires our time or attention. It's not a story about how much you can get done, but rather it's a picture about ordering the things of life in such a way that the most important things get done first. I'd heard the story before. "Nothing new," I thought. But then it hit me... maybe I haven't been asking the right questions. I learned long ago, whenever God wants me to learn something He'll keep teaching it until I get the point.

"Okay, Lord, I'm starting over... Maybe this time I'll get it right"

And so, here I am today... re-starting a journey that I thought I'd already taken. As I ask myself the following questions I would encourage you to consider the same things about your own life. Be brutally honest and see what you learn about yourself. I assure you that I will. And as I work my way through the list of answers, I look forward to learning whatever it is God wants to show me about His will for my life and ministry.

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect." --Romans 12:1-2, ESV

I suspect I'm going to find that there are many more questions I've never asked myself, but my starting points are listed below. Whatever my journey turns out to be, I know that the most important thing in my life is to move forward in becoming the man He created me to be. I pray as you walk through this process in your own life that He'll show Himself to you clearly.

Here's where I begin...

  • Who am I? Am I becoming the person God created me to be?
  • Are the priorities I profess reflected on my calendar and in my checkbook?
  • Where do I spend my time?
  • Where do I spend my money?
  • Where do I focus my attention?
  • What is important to me?
  • What would my wife say I hold as my greatest priority? What would my children say?
  • How do I exhibit spiritual discipline in my life?
  • Am I willing to take action to restructure my priorities according to the things God shows me through this process?

I'd be interested in your thoughts and the questions you are asking in your own journey with God. Feel free to share as the Lord leads.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Because of my commitment to post regularly to my various blogs across the web (though not well-evidenced on XANGA, Blogspot or MySpace!), I am always on the lookout for topics of interest or lessons that God might be teaching me so that I might use as post topics. This week I encountered several things that I thought were worthy of note, but as I started formulating this entry, I whittled it down to one: faith. In a devotional reading a few days back, the writer quoted a modern paraphrase of Oswald Chambers with this:

“When God gives a vision and darkness follows, waiting on God will bring you into accordance with the vision He has given if you await His timing. Otherwise, you try to do away with the supernatural in God's undertakings. Never try to help God fulfill His word.”
--My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today's Language,
ed. by James Reimann (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1992)
entry for January 19 (emphasis added)

I love that statement … We talk about waiting on God and trusting in Him. But what if it gets difficult? What do we do when we’ve been as faithful as we know to be, when we are willing to be completely obedient to whatever He asks of us, and yet He is silent? I’ve had that conversation with more than one ministry colleague just this past week, and, to be honest, I don’t have an easy answer.

It was helpful this morning, however, to read the following thought from popular financial columnist, Mary Hunt:

I'm learning a lot about myself these days, specifically that I'm one… who needs to know what's going to happen. I want to see everything that lies ahead… No matter who you are, what your circumstances, where you live and what you do, every morning each one of us must step out in faith, moving forward into the unknown to experience what life has for us.

Years ago, my husband and I were driving through California's Mojave Desert at night on our way across country. It was my turn to drive while he slept. What struck me in the black stillness of the night was that my headlights were not lighting the entire way. Those two beams of light lit up the area just in front of us, only about 50 feet. As I moved into that light, the light moved ahead just a little bit more, lighting the way to our destination, a little bit at a time… As we move through the days of our lives, we receive just the amount of insight we need for the next step. It's because of faith that we can step into the darkness of the future, knowing that the light will always go before us…

Whatever your circumstance, you have to move forward and into the darkness, knowing with certainty that God will give you just the amount of light you need for that next step. Then you take another step, and another, all the way into and through the darkness. That's called faith--stepping out into the darkness, knowing we will have just the amount of light we need for the step we're on.
--excerpts from The Everyday Cheapskate, October 1, 2008
(emphasis added)

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” –Hebrews 11:1

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Madness

I read the following excerpt on a college classmate's blog last week:

Just so you know...that feeling of tiredness, irritability and the excessive need for caffeine actually has a name during the Olympic Games. It's called Olympic fatigue! So there ya go! Happy fatigue as I watch the women's finals in gymnastics at 11:45pm!

I laughed at the note because, for the first time ever, my family and I are actually engrossed in the Olympic Games. Anyone who knows me at all is keenly aware that I am not much of a sports enthusiast. (Pastor Derrick argued with me last week that the Summer Olympics weren't really sports anyway, because nobody can get hurt.)

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy any sporting event, if I'm there... I even play racquetball on occasion, but I've never been much for the sports scene. Other kids played football... I played piano. That's what makes this whole Olympic infatuation seem like some sort of "out-of body" experience for the redhead and me.

Nonetheless, I've genuinely enjoyed working my way through the recordings on our DVR, seeking out the greatest moments of the last couple of weeks. In fact, I realized that maybe I'd watched one too many medal ceremonies when this past Saturday evening at Starlight Theater I was momentarily stunned to hear a different arrangement of the national anthem than the one I'd been hearing on television so many times in the last several days.
So what's the reason I share all of this?

1. It's Monday morning and I needed a blog topic. ;-)

2. I wonder who else is finding the games to be a source of interest... Share some comments on your own Olympic thoughts... I'd love to hear them.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Count your blessings
name them one by one;
Count your many blessings
see what God has done.
-Johnson Oatman, Jr. 1897

To be honest, though I've sung it literally hundreds of times, that old gospel song has never really been one of my favorites. So, why do we keep singing it? Because it helps us gain perspective. It's like the old saying, "You can't see the forest for all the trees..." Sometimes I find that God has been so actively at work that I must make a conscious effort to step back and see exactly what it is that He's been doing.

I love Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Such has been my own experience for the last couple of weeks. July 22 marked the one year anniversary of the day I met the congregation at Blue Valley Baptist Church, and yesterday gives me a full year on the platform as BVBC's Pastor of Worship. In that time I've seen God do so many things in my own life and ministry that it serves me well to stop and think about them.

At home:
All of my girls have found Kansas to be a wonderful place to live. God has blessed us not only with a wonderful house to rent, but with good neighbors, great schools, close friends and many new experiences... things like having four distinct seasons (not something we had in Texas!). I've said often over the last year that while Melinda and I have been blessed with many wonderful opportunities in life, neither of us had ever really considered living outside of the Lone Star State. Who knew a group of died-in-the-wool Texans could make such a happy home in Kansas?!

At church:
I have to admit, I've never worked so hard in my life as I have since coming to Blue Valley, but I must add to that statement the fact that I've never seen God do the things He's doing here. The explosive growth of our church has presented challenges beyond my past experience, but God has been faithful to guide and instruct us in navigating the course He's marked. Many church members have shared with me over the last year that they had concerns about what corporate worship would look like under the direction of a new leader. Most of those people went on to say how blessed they are to see the growth in our ministry and the diversity of our worship experiences. Testimonies like these affirm that God is up to something good.

The days ahead bring the promise of even greater things. This fall we'll be adding another staff member to the bvbcWORSHIP Ministry, and that person will begin leading new facets of our program with the first priority being church orchestra. As has been the case for many years, the goal of our ministry is always to empower individuals to be effective worshippers and effective worship leaders. Broadening the ministry creates new places for people to serve. Perhaps you need to be serving with us. I'd count it an honor to visit with you about the opportunities you have in the bvbcWORSHIP Ministry and hope you'll consider how God might be calling you to participate.

I've learned that when God does things, they don't always look like what I might have expected. That's part of what makes it so much fun. I thank Him for the opportunity to serve here and I thank you, my church family, for making my first year in Kansas so full of great experiences.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Story of My Life

No cynicism implied, but I've been REALLY busy the last couple of days, uh weeks, uh... So this Mark Schultz song has been on my mind. It's from the album Stories and Songs (a GREAT album by the way!) Don't take the song too seriously, but I believe we can all relate!

Running Just to Catch Myself
I am driving
I am late for work
Spilling coffee down my whitest shirt
While I'm flossing and I'm changing lanes
Oh Yeah

Now I'm driving
Through the parking lot
Doing eighty, hey what the heck why not
Watch it lady, Cuz you’re in my spot once again,

It's early to work
And here's a surprise, I got a
McMuffin for just 99 cents today
I think they ran a special

I can't stand still can I get a witness
Can you hear me, Anybody, Anybody
I think I am running just to catch myself

Maybe someday I could fly away
Go to Key Largo or Montego Bay
Sport my Speedo, maybe grab a tan

Now I'm running
Straight into my boss
And he's angry, Oh and he calls me Ross
Which is funny, ‘cause that ain’t my name
And that’s lame

I'm still running
Running very late, For a meeting
Wait, that was yesterday
Guess I'm early for the one next week, Oh how sweet

I get on the ladder, I corporately climb
I wave at my life as it passes me by everyday
My name's not Ross!

I can't stand still can I get a witness
Can you hear me, Anybody, Anybody
I think I am running just to catch myself

Life in my cubicle’s discreet, Life in my cubicle is neat
I've got some pictures of my friends
Some sharpened pencils...where's my pen

Ten O'clock I'm in a meeting
Paper cut I think I'm bleeding
Check my hair it's still receding,
Hey what a life

Break for lunch, there's nothing better
Run outside and don my sweater
Like Fred Rogers let's be neighbors
I've lost my mind

I'm over worked, and underpaid, and unappreciated
It's just a perk of being of being middle class and educated

One... spinning circles in my chair a game of solitaire
Three... And I ponder where my stapler's gone, till

Four O'clock and I stare at the door,
And I stare at my watch, then I stare at the door
I stand by my desk like I'm going to war
There's just one thing I'll be needing
Grab my paycheck as I'm leaving

Oh oh oh oh oh oh ohhhhhhh

Five O'clock it's time to go
There's crowds to fight and horns to blow
It's talking fast on my cell phone
Hey, watch out that’s reckless driving!

Five O'clock it's time to leave
Hit the couch and watch TV
Set the clock and go to sleep
It's 8 a.m. on Monday morning
Again and again
and again and again
and again

Driving around, nowhere to go
And so I hang with my lady,
Oh, and I chill with my bros
It's okay, in my Cabriolet

I can't stand still can I get a witness
Can you hear me, Anybody, Anybody
I think I am running just to catch myself

When I meet God, I will have a question
I just forgot the question
I think I am running just to catch myself

Oh oh oh
Oh oh oh

Monday, May 5, 2008


"The concept of the scandal of Christ is for most of us so unfamiliar that upon first hearing it we are conditioned to close our minds. Let me encourage you to go to the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, and see if this element doesn't exist on almost every page. Jesus must become for us not merely the provider of answers to our questions, but on an infinitely larger scale, when we are so broken that we don't even know what the question is...then He must become to us...THE ANSWER." - Michael Card

In 1985, Christian singer/songwriter Michael Card released an album entitled Scandalon. The quote above is taken from Card's website in reference to the album and the song by the same title.

The Gospel? Scandalous?


Read these lyrics, taken from the song:

Along the path of life there lies a stubborn Scandalon

And all who come this way must be offended

To some He is a barrier, To others He's the way

For all should know the scandal of believing

He will be the truth that will offend them one and all

A stone that makes men stumbleAnd a rock that makes them fall

Many will be broken so that He can make them whole

And many will be crushed and lose their own soul
© 1985, Michael Card

I've known and liked that song for more than 2 decades now, and yet, today it carries new meaning for me. Following the events of Saturday's Shipping Cart Concert (see Derrick's Blog for details), I am reminded of the fact that many will not receive the gospel willingly.

Despite the early conclusion of our event, there is much to celebrate about the events of the past weekend:

Our choir "engaged" in a way that I've not observed since coming to BVBC, but that I always believed was possible... Their investment in this project was truly a sacrifice. They didn't merely sing, but rather they COMMUNICATED.

Our church members came out in scores to share the love of Christ in the community.

Our church learned a valuable lesson in why we need to continue finding ways to spread the Gospel in our community.

So, all in all I call it a success. For over an hour and a half, the gospel was proclaimed and the name of JESUS lifted up. In itself that's a great thing, but perhaps there's even a greater good that things happened as they did. Had all gone as we planned we would have missed out on an experience that will undoubtedly steel us to greater service for God.

I've never really thought myself to be the rebellious type, but maybe there is something lurking deep inside me seeking opportunities to scandalize the world for Christ. Hmmm... I think I like it....

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Moment of Startling Clarity

When I was a kid we used to watch a television show called Diff'rent Strokes. It was about 2 poor brothers who, upon the death of their mother, were adopted by her employer, a wealthy widowed gentleman who lived with his daughter and housekeeper in a swanky New York apartment. Every once in a while, when taken by surprise, the younger brother, Arnold, would blast forth the phrase, "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?!" It always made me laugh. Even now, there are moments, when people around my age toss that phrase out in conversation. (Okay, so we're not cool, but it still makes me chuckle.) The point of this story is simply to illustrate that sometimes we can be speaking or listening to one thing when, in fact, the point is something entirely different. Such was the case for me last Tuesday evening.

I listened as one of my daughters told about a chance she'd had to "witness" earlier in the day. The conversation piqued my interest, but the longer I listened I realized the the bulk of her story wasn't as much about her sharing the gospel with a lost friend as it was about sharing the exciting things that are happening in our church. As her narrative continued, she eventually reached the point where she explained to her classmate about why she trusted Christ and that this friend should consider the doing same. SCORE! That's where the victory is; in sharing Christ. I was proud of my daughter for her willingness to claim her faith and share it with someone whom she knew was lost. I encouraged her to keep sharing with this friend and to pray for her until she trusts Christ.

Nonetheless, I started thinking about how often I take an opportunity God gives me to share the gospel and use it not to declare the good news, but rather to talk about the ministry, the church or even the work God is doing in our community. Why do I do that?! The real message of the gospel isn't that Blue Valley Baptist Church is an exciting place to be, even though it is. It isn't that our worship ministry is growing steadily and taking great shape... The message of the gospel is that God sent Jesus to live, die and rise again in order to reclaim us from our lostness and to allow us to be reconciled to Him.

As one who loves language, I pride myself in choosing carefully the words and phrases I use to convey my thoughts, both verbally and in writing. This week God is reminding me that I need to put as much thought into the message I will share as I do in choosing the words I'll use to convey it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Day of Visitation

Most people who know me "off the platform" know that I'm quick to acknowledge my own inabilities and weaknesses. I mean, I genuinely realize how much of my ministry is positively affected by the investments of others... Some of these investments have come through specific individuals; people like my high school choir teacher, who to this day is a close friend and is one of the most influential people in my life. There are many such people I could name, but once I start I don't know where I would stop. Sometimes however, the influences are less obvious. One such instance has come to light for me this week.

In a long turn of un-relatable events, I found myself speaking with the ministry office of Christian recording artist, Tim Sheppard, considering the possibility of bringing him to an event that I'm helping to coordinate in the winter of 2009. If you're not familiar with Tim's ministry, suffice it to say he is a prolific singer and songwriter and that my first introduction to his music was about 25 years ago. At the close of the conversation, his wife, Kelly, said she'd send me his new CD, Day of Visitation. I was excited about getting the disc, but didn't give it much thought until it arrived later in the week. I put the tracks on my iPod and started listening to them as soon as I got home that afternoon. It was so good to hear Tim's songs ringing through my SUV as I drove around town the next day and I very quickly found myself instinctively singing along with these songs I'd never heard before. After a day or so of listening, I was taking the girls to school, and after dropping the first two at their respective campuses, I was on my way to the last school of the morning. I told my daughter in the back seat, "Listen to this..." and I started playing my favorite song of the collection, I Hear the Lord Passing By. She asked who was singing and I found myself strangely moved as I started telling her who Tim was. I explained, "When I was about the age of your older sister, I first saw Tim in concert. He sat at the piano and played and sang... I remember wanting to be like him..." I paused, and during my silence, while I was grappling for words, she said, "So, he inspired you..."

That was it! EXACTLY! He inspired me... I hadn't thought about it like that, but it was a perfect summary of what I was feeling. Inspired. Then I looked at my life and at how I love to lead worship from the piano, and I was more than slightly affected seeing that God had not only used that concert experience from more than two decades ago to give shape to my ministry, but that He had used my 9 year-old daughter to help me connect the dots. I've thought about that conversation many times this week. One man whose influence helped chart my course in ministry never knew it... (Of course, for that matter, I didn't even realize it until my daughter helped me put the pieces together. It makes me wonder who I might be influencing...)

The key verse for the album comes from Job 10:12, "You have granted me life and favor, and Your visitation has preserved my spirit." (KJV)

The album, by the way, is wonderful. It includes 10 original worship songs that are as good as anything Tim has ever written, and the recordings demonstrate that his talents for singing and song writing have only improved over the last twenty years. On the album cover he tells the story of a pivotal day in his life and ministry... I don't want to ruin it for you, but rather, will encourage you to read his story at . From that site you can link over and hear song clips on his MySpace page,
My current favorite, as I mentioned above, is I Hear the Lord Passing By... It might just show up at Blue Valley in the not-too-distant future. Lyrics are below:

I hear the Lord passing by
This could be my day of visitation
Have mercy on me, Lord
Hear my cry of desperation
I hear the Lord passing by
My heart, my flesh
Yearn to be with You
Open my eyes to see Your glory
All the days of my life
I hear the Lord passing by
This could be my day of visitation
Have mercy on me, Lord
Hear my cry of desperation
Have mercy on me, Lord
From the depth of my affliction
I hear the Lord
I hear the Lord
I hear the Lord passing by
Words and Music by Tim Sheppard
© 2006 Tim Sheppard Music

Monday, April 14, 2008

Salt and Light... in BULK!

I was talking with a friend a couple of months ago, and enjoyed the chance to catch up on his life and ministry. To be honest, however, I had an ulterior motive. You see, he serves as Worship Pastor in a church significantly larger than ours and has been there from the time that church was less than half our current size. He grew with the church into the ministry that he leads today, and I hoped to glean from him some thoughts about going through the process of rapid church growth. There was no dishonesty on my part; he knew I wanted to "pick his brain." And while I did gather some great insight about how to cast vision and lead people in service to God, the best moment of the conversation wasn't about administration or leadership at all. It was about being the church. Catch that: BEING the church... His statement was this:

"If your church disappeared tomorrow from the face of the earth, would your community even know it was gone? You see, the barometer of effective ministry isn't how well you lead the people in your church; it's how well you relate to the people outside your church."

That statement has haunted me ever since. I've mentioned it in conversations with individuals and in rehearsals with groups... I've even included it as part of a presentation I'll be making this week at our Ministry Staff Retreat. The barometer of effective ministry has as much to do with being "salt and light" as it does about relating to the people in the pews.

That thought has been the driving force for a project that our Worship Ministry has undertaken:The Shopping Cart Concert Tour. With the goal of simply being Blue Valley Baptist Church in the community of Overland Park, our Adult and Student choirs have been working to coordinate an outreach event on Saturday, May 3, 2008. We've gained permission to spend the day, as a choir, at the Sam's Club located near 135th Street and Antioch Road. Our combined groups will be singing off and on between 10:30 a.m. & 2:00 p.m. and our congregation will be there to greet passersby with a smile, a handshake, and maybe even some cotton candy or popcorn! No confrontation... no aggressive evangelism tactics... we just want people to know that Blue Valley Baptist is here and that it is a place where they can find caring people who want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Johnson County, Kansas. Our goal isn't lofty... it's simply to get outside the walls of the church and be a part of the day-to-day workings of the community. If you're free, I'd invite you to come be a part of the fun. We're anticipating a great time.

I'll have to confess, this project has lit a fire in me. Although it's not the first time I've led such an effort, it is the first time I've approached it with such an imperative motivation. You can bank on the fact that as long as God allows me to serve Him here at Blue Valley, events which place our church in the community to share the Gospel are the events that will garner the most of our collective attention, effort and resources. In a way it's a very basic response to Jesus words:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Would you join me in prayer for God to do His work as we seek to share His love with the people in our community?

Monday, April 7, 2008

...A Veritable Plethora of Miscellany
(I conscripted that phrase from my friend, Carl.)

As I considered the things I'd write about in this week's blog, I couldn't settle on just one, so here are some snapshots (figuratively and literally) from the week.

Last week I had the opportunity to lead worship for three evenings at a revival in a neighboring Missouri town. It was a good experience with several moments of note:
For the first time ever, my family of 5 sang the special music in church. We offered Matt Redman's Blessed Be Your Name. Even the littlest one sang along and did a great job!

Another great opportunity that came from the revival was the chance to see old ministry friends and make new ones. In the center of the back row of the snapshot below snapshot is Steve, the Minister of Music at the church where I served last week. I had the opportunity to work with his choir on Sunday evening, and they were so excited that for at least one evening he was in the loft singing with them. This photo was taken at the choir members' request... Enjoy!
One other moment of note from the revival happened just before the last service. I'd been commuting each evening from home to the church and back... about an hour and 15 minutes each way. When I left the office on Tuesday I made a "charitable" run to Chick-Fil-A as it is the favored restaurant of all their church staff families. I carried dinner for 9 people with me and we all enjoyed a great visit before church started. About 15 minutes before worship, I went up to the sanctuary, donned my sportcoat and grabbed the binder I'd brought from the office. (As I was leading the singing from the piano each night, I'd prepare and bring my music with me daily.) You can imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I opened the folder to find not my music for that evening, but rather my notes and projects from that day's staff meeting! My MUSIC binder was on my desk back in OP... There was one fleeting thought of frustration, then a determination to address the issue at hand. I'd simply have to lead without it, which I did... God moved and we worshipped.

After being away from my family for so much of the week, we decided to make the most of the weekend. We spent Saturday morning together at the gym and then went to our local Robek's® to grab smoothies for lunch. While there, the little girls "auditioned" for part-time jobs behind the counter! Kirk let them push the mixer buttons on all our smoothies, which was a really big deal!

Finally, in case anyone is unaware, the KU Jayhawks have had quite a big weekend! Although I am unashamedly not a big sports enthusiast, I always enjoy rooting for hometown teams when they're doing something great. It appears I'm not alone in that. Indian Trail Junior High decided to get in on supporting the Jayhawks by encouraging their entire student body and staff to dress in KU colors on Friday. Even the redhead joined in the festivities... I don't think we're in Texas anymore!

Monday, March 31, 2008

This weekend, as is usual at our house, I asked my children to straighten their rooms. Now be aware, I'm not obsessive about tidiness, but I do have a certain appreciation for order. There's something very gratifying about having a clean desk in my office or knowing that all the laundry is neatly tucked in appropriate drawers, so I'm always on the lookout for an occasion to put things in order.

One of my children, however, seems to struggle more with this concept than her sisters. In fact, throughout this school year we have been working with her teacher to instill in our child some basic organizational skills... According to her teacher, my daughter suffers from "the Organizational Flu."

Knowing this, and knowing also that the pace of my life frequently causes my office areas, both home and work, to land in varying states of chaos, I decided it could be a great occasion to help my child learn some basic organizational skills like sorting and arranging. After all, each time my office gets away from me, I've devised a system to get it back in order within a day. So, after breakfast, she and I were headed upstairs to tackle a project that has been growing for months, her desk drawers.

Now I knew the drawers were in disarray, but the extent of the clutter was far beyond anything I had imagined. There were CDs with no case, cases with no CDs, half drawn picture pages, capless markers, Happy Meal(R) toys, etcetera ad infinitum. The only common denominator was that few, if any, of the things in her desk actually belonged there.

I took a cleansing breath and prepared for what lay ahead. I explained to my daughter what we were going to do: We would pour all three drawers in the middle of the floor and she would sort the pile into groups containing items of like kind. We made a pile for trash, a pile for coloring books and artwork, a pile for pencils and pens... You get the idea. The act of sorting was rather enlightening. I learned about stories she had in her mind but hadn't captured on the page, about pictures she wanted to create, about friends in Texas that she misses... In retrospect, I can see so many things I learned about my child through this experience. In the moment, however, I was more captured with the fact that we located 4 movies from our family DVD collection, more than 20 books from the church library and that we created 3 grocery sacks of garbage from the epic mess in her desk.

I'll admit that it wasn't much fun for either of us. (At one point I had to simply walk away and breathe.) But, now that her room is completely straight, with everything in its proper place, I can totally say it was worth it. I hope she feels the same. We've talked about why things grew so out of hand and how we might have avoided it, and I believe she understands that it would only take the slightest effort to keep things in their place. I don't expect this will be the turning point in her bout with clutter; goodness knows I'm still frequently setting aside parts of days so I can get things back in order, but I do believe she is grasping that small investments of time and effort pay off in other ways. You see, for the 3-4 hours we worked in her room, hthey both read books and watched a movie. She never once told me it wasn't fair, because she knows that in the same way privilege brings responsibility, responsibility breeds privilege. Profound, huh?

When I awoke on Saturday I had no intention of investing a half day in teaching my daughter to clean her room, but the investment of helping her figure out how to do it will undoubtedly reap rewards later. In the meantime, I need to find a way to reclaim the time I lost while working with her... I'd planned to use that day to clean my office!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Weekend

People are so interesting... The things I think I know about people, generally speaking, are so often just slightly shy of reality!

For example, this past Friday evening we held a Tenebrae service at the church. BVBC has never, to my knowledge, had a Good Friday worship service, much less a Tenebrae, so I was skeptical about how people would attend and/or respond. There were some 200 people here that night, and I've heard numerous comments on how the Spirit moved in hearts through the experience. I don't know why that surprises me, as Tenebrae is always one of my favorite services of the year.

Then, on Easter Sunday, we had the privilege to see more than 900 people gather for worship as we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus! We baptized, sang, heard the WORD proclaimed, and saw the unmistakable manifestation of God's presence. What a day! The surprise in all of this was the level of commitment I asked of the volunteers in our music ministry... my band and praise team were in the building at 7:00 AM on Sunday morning; our choir turned out in full force not once or twice, but FOUR times between Friday and Sunday; our congregation accepted the challenge to park in another location and shuttle to the church on school buses... and the list goes on.

Just when I think I have my finger on the pulse of people, they go out and do things more amazing than I'd expected!

This photo was taken Sunday morning at the end of our third service...
I'll admit it: I like to write... So, to that end, I maintain a few weblogs aside from the one here. One blog hits my theater friends in Dallas... one is for the church where I work now... another is where friends congregate from my former church... another is the place where I volunteer in an outside ministry. Sometimes I copy the same post to all the blogs for the simple purpose of having something new for people to read. Sometimes I write different posts for each.

Last week I received word that there had been a comment posted on one of my blogs. (I love it when people respond to my posts. I feel like a child getting mail in the mailbox!) At my first free moment I popped over to that blog page and read the note. The writer told me how she enjoyed seeing my family, how grown up my daughter looked in her costume, and how nice it was to be back in touch after many years. In all it was a really uplifting post, but with one problem; it was signed, Sophie.

I don't know anyone named Sophie.

My next thought was that many people use a pseudonym when blogging, so Sophie had to be someone I knew. I followed the links from her comment to her blog where I saw pictures of her children, "MotorBoat, Yellow Bird and Sasha." There were even photos of her and her husband, "Leopold." As I looked at the photos, I had to wonder, "Who IS this person?!" It was driving me nuts... As I read on through many of Sophie's posts, I called my redheaded sweetheart to come over and help me unravel the mystery. She looked at the picture and said, "I don't know who that is." The guessing game went on for almost an hour when I noticed a reply to one of her posts from someone that I knew. So I emailed "Polly" and asked her to help me solve the riddle.

It turns out that Sophie was a friend in college who happened to be from my hometown. We were a couple of years apart in school, so we never met until college, and, as she was a nursing student and I a music major, our paths only crossed outside the classroom. Nonetheless, knowing who she was meant that I could finally enjoy all the things I'd learned about her and her family while searching out her identity.

Once the puzzle was solved I started looking for something I could learn from the experience. Perhaps the first and most obvious lesson is that people change in 20 years! It was intriguing to think that I have likely changed so much that people who knew me 20 years ago probably wouldn't immediately recognize me. That's not the reason I shared the story, though. The reason I write is simple. God used this experience to remind me that there are many people go through life playing guessing games when it comes to Him. They see His work and don't immediately connect it to His hand. They experience His provision and don't realize that it's a result of His caring for them.

All of that being said, be encouraged. God isn't hiding from You. He is at work all around you and wants you to know that He is near. Look to Him and ask for His guidance. And when He answers, take a moment to worship Him.

"Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know." --Jeremiah 33:3, HCSB

Monday, March 10, 2008

Odd Man Out

Have you ever been the "odd man out"?
This weekend my daughter and I were involved in a setting where we were the among the 30 some-odd new people in a setting where most of the 200 people gathered knew each other. It was uncomfortable at times... Mind you, we didn't feel slighted, just somewhat detached.
As we drove home last night I asked her about it, and I must admit that I was surprised at her response. She didn't have much to say about the people who overlooked her or about feeling left out. Rather, her response was quickly centered on the 3 specific people who, over the course of the project, reached out to her and included her whenever they were around. As she spoke, I realized how much those three teenage girls meant to my child... how they validated her as a part of the "community"... how they made her transition into the group a little less awkward.
As a father, I was touched that there were kids who went out of their way to be nice to my child. Then, in much the same way that I was trying to help my daughter "connect the dots" about what they had done for her, God showed me something new: I started thinking about all the new people coming to BVBC... I thought about what it must feel like for the new people who visit our church to come in amongst hundreds who already know each other and have well-established relationships.... how hard it could be to find your niche. To be honest, my family seemed to miss that hurdle in coming to BVBC, but joining a new church as staff is not the same as coming as a member.
Here's the bottom line: This whole experience made me mindful once again of what it feels like to be a newcomer in in a large established group. It reminded me how we have the opportunity to include others into the body every time we gather. It reminded me how special a single person can be when they help someone else bridge the gap. I can name for you the three children who made my daughter feel special over the last 8 - 10 weeks. I want to be that kind of person for someone else. How about you?

Friday, March 7, 2008

A preview...

For any who aren't aware, #1 child and I are involved in CYT Kansas City's (South Chapter) production of Annie. I'm working backstage flying backdrops and setting scenes, but she's out front and center...

Bert Healy: Ah, ladies and gentlemen, the lovely Boylan Sisters:

And here's one of me any me new friend, Oliver Warbucks... He's a nice enough guy, but had to borrow cash from me for lunch... Something about a depression and assets not being liquid...

Cast Photos and program to come later.

Monday, March 3, 2008


As I was reading this morning I caught a glimpse of a study note that spoke to my heart. In John chapter 1, the writer refers to Jesus as the WORD. I've heard this many times through the years, but today I saw something new... The study guide said this:
The WORD (Gk LOGOS) is a title for Jesus as the communication from and revealer of God the Father." (Holman Christian Standard Bible; Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, TN)
Years ago a friend pointed out a verse that has become a personal favorite for me. Hebrews 1:3 says, "He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature..." From that verse I've come to learn that if I wanted to see what God was like, I need to look at what I know of Jesus. This new verse reminds me of that truth and encourages me to look even more deeply into what God is saying to me through the life of Christ.
On another note, I'm very excited about this coming Sunday's worship service because we'll be joined by my good friend, Cliff Hackler. Cliff was a minister of music for 17 years before launching out into concert ministry 8 years ago. He's as different from me as any person could possibly be, so our friendship is pretty interesting. Nonetheless, I'm excited about sharing him with my new church family and am looking forward how God will use him here to bless their hearts. For information on Cliff's ministry you can visit (Note: Cliff is currently in the process of a web redesign to create a more engaging site with great functionality and content. Watch for his upcoming video blogs and his music launch to iTunes later in the month.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Random thoughts...

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed this week following a week's absence from the office... To catch you up, since my last post I've:

...spent 4 days in Savannah, GA (eating seafood and dessert; not to mention fried chicken and collard greens at The Lady & Sons Restaurant!) with a set of friends whom I get to see only once a year! The redhead and I participate annually in a ministry conference for Worship Pastors and their wives... it's without a doubt one of the best things we do each year, and this year's meeting was no exception.

...spent a week in the office trying to whittle down piles of work that never seem to get smaller... but despite that fact, it's the most exciting work I've ever been a part of and the sense of calling to be a part of the work in this particular place at this point in time is undeniable...

...spent today at home with daughter #3,
who has missed 2 days of school this week with a bad cold... (I think she'll be out tomorrow, too!)

But, even in the midst of her illness, #3made me giggle tonight... After dinner, while the rest of the family was visiting around the kitchen table, I looked over and saw her sprawled out in the kitchen floor making "Dust Angels."

Maybe it was the Benadryl!?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fried Chicken Livers and Cottonwood Trees...

...It's been a whirlwind since my last post. My Granny Smith died last Wednesday night. I lived with her for four summers after my grandfather died in 1986. I won't spend any time today writing about her illness or her death, because, quite honestly, I've had too much fun this week remembering her life. You see, she knew the Lord in a wonderful way and served Him faithfully. It was so great at her funeral service to see people from her church whom I hadn't seen in decades. For over 40 years she was the quintessential nursery coordinator for her church, she was involved in missions study and Bible study, and in later years became a fixture in the senior adult ministry of the church. All the while she cared for her youngest daughter, who is a survivor of multiple strokes and even now struggles with multiple sclerosis. It wasn't until my late teen years, when I lived in her house, that I really got to know her as well as I do. As a young child I remember thinking that my other grandmother was the fun one... but in retrospect I see that it was merely a matter of exposure. (She lived only minutes away from our house and we were together frequently.) I came to understand that both of these ladies were amazing, each in her own right.

I have many memories of my Granny Smith. No surprise to many of you, most of those memories involve sitting at her kitchen table. I remember yellow cake with "fried" chocolate icing... afternoon coffee (or canned Hi-C punch). I remember the day she learned that I LOVE fried chicken livers and turnip greens. From that day on, any time I came to visit she always fixed them. I remember playing Yahtzee and Wa-hoo, shopping at KMart on Longpoint Rd and watching her take pills... lots of pills!

Perhaps one of my favorite stories, one that illustrates her great wit and sense of humor is this: She and my grandfather (and my aunt) all lived in the same house in northwest Houston for almost 50 years. When they bought it, the house was in the middle of nowhere, though now it is literally less than 200 yards removed from Interstate 290. To this day, when you pull in to the driveway of her house, there are 3 LARGE cottonwood trees on the left between their property and the neighbor. Because they were a family of modest means, they always cooled the house with an attic fan and open windows. As cottonwood trees are prone to do, these 3 shed a sort of white fuzz all the time. I can't count in my memories the number of times I've seen my granny take her broom outside and sweep the screens on that side of the house because of the white fuzz being drawn my the attic fan's pull. It was at least daily if not twice daily through the spring, summer and fall. Countless times she asked Papa to take those trees down, but he never would. When he died in the mid 1980's I was more than amused to see that she purchased for him a cottonwood casket... I remember her laughing as she told me she chose it because he loved those trees so much. Not a day went by for the past 22 years that she hasn't missed him and talked about him... And in recent days, she even began to dream about him. So, it was no surprise to me when my family and I arrived at the funeral home on Friday to see my Granny, dressed in red double-knit with a plastic beaded necklace and bracelet, laid out in a cottonwood casket.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Few have excellence thrust upon them. . . . They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly by doing what comes naturally and they don't stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose. --John W. Gardner

I love quotes... I use them frequently in writing. I thought this one was especially insightful. One of my professors in college used to say, "The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary!" Though a bit more homespun, I think it conveys a similar idea to the Gardner quote above... Greatness doesn't necessarily equate to excellence. Excellence is more elusive.

That said, I need to ask myself, "In what areas of my life am I being excellent?"


Saturday, January 26, 2008

My response to Pandapalooza's latest post put us back in touch. It was fun to hear from her. She asked about our move from Texas to Kansas, which, I think, could make for a great post... only I've already written about most of it on our family website... the opportunity... the decision to go... the new church... the new house... There are scores of photos and stories there. If you're interested in seeing it all, message me and I'll send you a link.

Honestly, as I approach 6 months in this new place, it feels like we arrived yesterday and yet somehow have been here forever. I've learned so many things, at many points in time feeling like the polar opposite of Oz's Dorothy, "Toto, I don't think we're in Texas anymore... " Two, yes 2, degrees farenheit yesterday morning was a stark reminder that we're living in a new world.

And yet, despite the moments in which I miss our old home and our family members who still live in the Lone Star State, I can honestly say that at this point in my life I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but here. God is working in an exciting way at BVBC, and for whatever reason, He is allowing me to be a part of it. I'm so grateful. Our new little church is literally exploding with growth, both numerically and spiritually. The people are expectant and joyous to serve in new and exciting ways. God has brought us an ENTIRE staff (all of whom came from larger churches to smaller!) within the last 7 months, and the excitement level is "off the charts" as people watch to see what He'll do next. One of my greatest personal blessings is the opportunity to build a worship and arts ministry from Square One. The photo above is my choir and me, taken in December... It takes on a greater significance when one considers that five months ago this church had NO FUNCTIONING CHOIR... It's like that in every facet of our ministry right now. Three weeks ago we kicked off Preschool, Children's and Student Music/Worship programming and have added roughly a hundred people to our music involvement roster with just those additions. So here we are and here we stay, waiting to see what He holds in store. I know that whatever it is it will be good.

PandaMom asked about a picture of my girls and me. This one was taken December 23... Don't they look pretty!


Friday, January 25, 2008

Here we go...

I had no real intention of starting a new weblog today. The reality is that I was reading a friend's post and noticed in their list of blogs a site maintained by a mutual friend. I'd been thinking of that friend alot lately and popped over to see what was new with them. From their site I wanted to leave a comment and say, "Hello." ...Couldn't do that without a blogger account... which led to the profile page... which brings me to here...

I have accounts with XANGA (where I read about my friends from Family Music Theater in Dallas), MySpace (where I "follow" the kids from the Student Ministry at my former church as well as keep tabs on the new video productions by another friend), and now, here I am at Blogger... Maybe I'll actually start doing this thing, but don't hold your breath.