Sorting Out The Day

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

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

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

Thank You for good friends for the eldest son.

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

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

Thank You for strawberry shortcake.

Thank You for fresh coffee.

Thank You for generous friends.

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

Thank You for cool Virginia evenings.

Thank You for my house.

Thank You.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow…

More From Nancy Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Community

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Nancy Beach On Leadership Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really has been wonderful.

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

Arts Conference – New Community Worship

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

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

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

Again and again.

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

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

And again.

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

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

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

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

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

And I’ll never know….

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

And I’ll never know…

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

“It’s okay. You’re mine. Forgiven.”

I’ll never know….

“It’s okay.”

I see my sin…

“It’s okay.”

I’ll never know….

“I know. And it’s okay.”

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

My God. My Savior.

It’s been a good few days.

Willow Arts Conference Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willow Creek Arts Conference Day 1

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

….I have no words…

On my notes page, I have scrawled, “I can’t believe I am here – with this team – in this place…”

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

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

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

God loves the church more than we do. He wants His bride to be

Giles Ste. Croix, the creative genius behind Cirque de Soleil, spoke about art and the creative process. When Nancy Beach asked him to sum things up, he spoke (and I paraphrase):

As humans, we need beauty. We need a way to express our
emotion. We need to share. When you experience art, you are changed. Art feeds you, changes you and you will never see things the same again.

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


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

Psalm 40

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

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

Worship Confessional 6.8.08

Still in the midst of ‘Goodbye Ordinary’ and we tried to create a service yesterday that would continue in that vein.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a good day.

How was yours?