Eight Fears

The prompt from my groovy pals at Eat, Write, Post, Bathe – Eight Fears.


1. I seem to be afraid that the world is going to run out of ice cream, since I am compelled to eat ice cream more frequently than is prudent.

2. It may not qualify as a fear, but I really, really, REALLY don’t like going over high bridges like the New River Gorge. or the entrance ramps from Interstate 20 to I-35 in Fort Worth. I watched those ramps being built and was completely freaked out by driving on them.

3. I’m afraid if my daughters DON’T STOP SCREAMING SO DRAMATICALLY ABOUT YOU TOOK MY ONLY JEANS WITHOUT HOLES IN THEM TO CHICAGO WITH YOU FOR TWO WEEKS that I might walk into the kitchen where they are studying for tests (Syd) and washing dishes (Sarah) and scream.

4. At some point, Frito Lay might decide to stop making Lime Tostitos. I fear this day.

5. When my kids are driving somewhere, I always fear The Other Guy.

6. I’m afraid I’ll never lose this 20 pounds. See those posts about the ice cream and the Tostitos? There you go.

7. I fear cancer. I hate that I do, but I do.

8. I often have to make difficult decisions that involve people. I fear that sometimes, they don’t get over it. But I am learning to let this go.

See You At The Pole: Remembering Shawn Brown

A post from my blog archives commemorating this time last year. Tomorrow morning is “See You At The Pole”. Sydni, Daniel and David will participate at their respective schools. I never completely relax on the Wednesday in September that is claimed for this event. And I will never forget.

Here is my post from 2010.

Today I dropped my kids off at the high school early. Some students and a few parents, including a local school board representative, were already gathering around the tall flagpole that stands in the center of the circular drive.

And I remembered.

September 15, 1999. The “See You At The Pole” movement had begun in Burleson, Texas, a few years earlier. As the school year began, the call went out for Christian students to meet at the flagpole on a certain Wednesday morning, taking a stand, praying for their school, their friends and teachers. “Standing up for Jesus”. It had become a strong, well-attended event for Christian kids, especially in and around Fort Worth, where we lived. In the shadow of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where my kids’ dad was working on his Master’s Degree, events like this one received strong support from the community, the parents and the kids.

As SYATP gained momentum, pre- and post-pole gatherings became popular. In 1999, local churches planned to gather on that Wednesday evening to celebrate at Wedgwood Baptist Church with a rally, a cool Christian band and some typical Texas youth ministry fun.

Sarah was eight years old that year. Her kindergarten teacher from a previous year, Kathy Brown, was active at Wedgwood Baptist and excited to come by early to pick up Sarah and Shannon so that they could participate in SYATP at our neighborhood elementary school. This was a bit unusual, as this was an older youth event, but Kathy’s husband Shawn was a Southwestern student, a youth ministry leader at Wedgwood and crazy about his wife and her students. They babysat Sarah and Shannon for us on a few occasions (David was born in June of that year, and we had a full house, with five kids aged eight and under. We needed help!)

Shawn and Kathy took the girls to pray at the flagpole that morning. I was so proud of my kids, and they were excited to be part of something that the “big kids” did.

That night, we went to church as usual. For some reason, Lonnie had elected not to participate in the regional rally at Wedgwood. He led youth ministry at Southcliff Baptist church, and he decided to keep our students there rather than take them – and his wife and kids – to Wedgwood. I dropped off the older kids and ran a quick errand, since I had no Wednesday evening responsibilities at that time.

I heard the sirens, saw the fire trucks. Saw the mass confusion on the streets all around the neighborhood. I returned to our church and quickly began to hear news reports of a shooting.

In a church.

At Wedgwood.

Shawn Brown died that night, along with six other people. Our neighbors.  Larry Gene Ashbrook went to Wedgwood with a hatred for Baptist churches and a desire to do harm, and he did so. He walked into the church and began shooting. Shawn was the first one he hit.

I remember staying up late, watching the chaos of the news reports, repeatedly calling Shawn and Kathy, trying to figure out if they were safe. Realizing, with numbing horror, that they were not.

To this day, Sarah keeps a snapshot of Shawn beside her bed. That event marked her in ways that she couldn’t understand then. I’m not sure any of us understand today. It was my first brush with the pain wrought by evil and the shocking realization that church was not necessarily safe.

I was naive.

My “See You At The Pole” commemoration is not in front of a school. Today, I remember Shawn and six others who stood at their flagpoles eleven years ago, and then died at the hands of someone who hated everything they stood for.

O Say Can You Sing

This past weekend before we sang in church, I talked about singing in church.

It’s an odd thing, this notion of people singing together. If we believed in life Glee-style, every act would birth a musical moment. There would be singing and dancing and harmony and a hidden orchestra around every corner.

But unless you’re creative and have a jukebox in your head (like my friend Lindsay Harris), there’s probably not a lot of opportunities to sing out loud with other people. At ball games, we mumble along with the National Anthem. In a restaurant or around a cake with candles, we sing “Happy Birthday”.

And then we come to church. The traditional approach to a religious gathering is that everybody sings: hymns, choruses, responses.

In church, we sing together.

But that’s not necessarily true for everyone. I’m talking to people and asking questions and finding out that a whole bunch of people do not, in fact, sing in church. At all.

It’s important. It’s worth considering.

Here’s a great quote from Chris Vacher regarding this very topic:

“Private, non-corporate elements of worship reinforce individualism and make the neighbor invisible to us. 
But corporate singing, in which you can actually hear the voices of other human beings…there’s power in that.” 
– Greg Thompson, from here

Makes me think about what it is people expect when they walk into church. When the music starts, are you anxious to sing? Is it as meaningful to simply watch? Do you feel the power of which Thompson speaks?

Do you sing in church?

Nine Loves

Here’s the latest prompt from my Eat, Write, Post, Bathe group.

Let me just say I love these people in this group. But that’s not one of my responses to the prompt.

Here we go:

1. Mitchells Ice Cream. Honestly, I love ice cream. And I particularly love ice cream because my husband loves ice cream, even more than I do. And so we share this thing, which makes it even better. Mitchells is the best ice cream I have ever eaten. We have some intense debates about whether or not Blue Bell could take Mitchell’s in a taste test, but because we can only get our hands on “the best ice cream in the country” by dining at Carrabbas (which sort of irritates me), I vote Mitchells. It makes me swoon. It is delicious. And I’ve had a few very special moments over a carton of Mitchells. And there was that time that Tony brought down about ten cartons of Mitchells on dry ice, because you can only get the stuff in Cleveland. How can you not love that?

2. The beach. Particularly Emerald Isle, North Carolina. It is steady, constant, consistent and the place where I have walked and walked and walked and asked questions – and received answers.

3. Jesus. It’s not a religious thing, but an overwhelming appreciation for who he was, what he did, what he stood for and how he loved people. I do believe he was who he said he was, so there’s all this savior/son of God aspect in that as well. But simply put, aside from religion and church and (for me) my job, I love Jesus.

(please note that these are not ranked in order of importance or preference. i do not love ice cream more than Jesus. this is a list, not in any particular order.)

4. My children, together. I love them individually; they are unique and wonderful people. I am often awestruck that I am their mother. But together, they create an incredible force. Like a comedy troupe with great timing, they react and play off of one another. There is a solid love and understanding amongst them that I hope will last throughout their lifetimes.

5. The Cleveland Plain Dealer; The Dallas Morning News; The Fort Worth Star Telegram; The Pittsburgh Press; The Richmond Times-Dispatch. One of my best memories is Sunday afternoons, post-church, when we’d come home to Mom cooking something for dinner, a Steelers game on tv and The Paper. I’d read and nap on the floor. To this day, I treasure getting the paper and finding an uninterrupted hour to read it. It doesn’t always happen on Sunday, but the same principles apply on Monday. Or Tuesday.

6. Running. I do love it. I just don’t do it much. I’m back on track and hoping to get back into a rhythm. And hoping my body will hold up.

7. Sleep. This seems sort of ridiculous, but there is a deep beauty in true rest. Sleep is underrated. I love waking up from a good sleep and realizing that I can stay a little longer. I love to sleep.

8. Beethoven. And Chopin. And Bach. Forgive me for lumping them together, but there is something so solid in returning to familiar notes and phrases that have endured the passing years and changing styles of music. I am challenged and comforted by the music of these composers. I go here, when I have time, and I play for me. I love that I can do this. (Thank you, Mom, for the lessons…)

9. My husband. Again, again and again. I love my husband.

(I also love The Jefferson Hotel, my brother Eric, my Uncle Dave and my car. I love my mother-in-law’s piano and the comfy chair we bought from Ty & Co. I love Chic Fil A and Starbucks skinny vanilla lattes. I love pedicures. I love massages. I love cherry Jolly Ranchers. I love Tuesdays at my job.)

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. But it’s a start.

What are yours?

STORY In Chicago

We went to Chicago. It was a conference called STORY but really, it was an experience. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced in the Christian conference realm. Rather than a brain dump of good information from great communicators, STORY was two days worth of moments. Some funny, some intense, some comfortable, some stretching. Some tasty – can you say Twinkies served on a silver tray? Moon pies and Cokes in glass bottles – served on silver trays. Awesome swag, from hand-sewn shoulder bags to Brennan Manning books. Amazing stories. Authentic lives.
Good information from great communicators, but so much more than that, really. I can say this, off the top of my head, before I have time to go through all my notes:
1. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Esther Havens, Ed Dobson, Ann Voskamp or Ian Cron speak – DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. GO.
2. I met Chris Vacher, aka @chrisfromcanada, another friend I’d never met. He was as nice and generous with his time in person as he is in the blog world.
3. All Sons and Daughters. Worship music. Brilliant.
4. Kyle Cooper. Scared the crap out of me. Brilliant, talented, amazingly creative.
I really, really liked my two days in Chicago. I went with great people and had memorable experience. It changed me. That’s a good thing.
The set; tree branches. Awesome lighting. Brilliant graphics.
This would be a good time to tell you that all photos are courtesy of Sarah Brawley’s amazing eye and camera.
Good sammiches at Snarfs. We ran into a friend of Katie’s who just happened to be working at THAT restaurant. Weird.
Great Chicago-style pizza at Gino’s. And a VERY intense conversation…
Friends. Incredibly talented people. Love them both.
In the van. Oh, the van ride. 14 hours of glorious fun and bonding.
Me. For a moment, I felt like a movie star.
Us. These are some of the people who make the services happen at PCC. We are creative, and we are not ashamed.

Again, thanks to the talented and generous Sarah Brawley, whose photography skills are brilliant.


If you follow me on twitter or are a friend on Facebook, you noticed our #roadtripquotes today. I am in Chicago tonight, after a grueling drive from Virgina through the Midwest to this grand city. Most of my creative team is here, along with our children’s pastor (who is sleeping with the senior pastor) (which is appropriate) (because they are married). Several months ago we signed up to attend the Story conference, designed for creative types. We are hoping that the next two days will be inspiring, powerful and meaningful. So far we have had a good time. You get to know people while traveling in some unique ways. Brian, Susan, Lindsay, Sarah, Katie and I made the drive. We picked up Jackie at the airport; she flew in from Richmond this evening. Elijah took the train up from St Louis, and John will arrive by air in the morning. We are making a personal investment of time and money because we believe it will make a difference in the work we are called to do at PCC. we will be back for the weekend services; hopefully Brian will not have starved to death. And we won’t get lost. Again.

Legal Aliens

This is Natasha and Christine. They met last week at a programming meeting. Natasha has been around PCC for several years; Christine for a few months.

They connected and stepped up to work on the stage design installation for the 9/11 service. If you saw the large flag we used for the background in last week’s service, you can thank Natasha and Christine, along with Jackie Heberle, Natasha’s husband Terrance and Bonte Fugatt.

Essentially, somebody said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a huge flag?”

And then, we did.

After wrestling with chicken wire and hundreds of pieces of colored tissue paper, we had a flag. Thanks to a couple of women who connected through their church and have become friends.

The coolest thing? Last week’s project was a bit of a challenge for these two women; they needed a diagram and a chart to make sure they got it right. See, Natasha is  South African. Christine is English. Both ended up in a rural county in Virginia. Both made their way to PCC. The American flag is not their flag, but a symbol of their current home country.

There’s a great verse in the Bible, in the New Testament book of Galations, that says, “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.” 

We like having these two girls around, with their weird accents and interesting vocabulary. That common relationship we share makes us friends, equals, heirs. It’s very cool.

And we’re glad to have them around.

If you are interested in helping out with our set installations or any other part of our creative work, let me know. We have fun. We’d love your help!