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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Balcony Friends

Okay, I'm confessing that my quiet time has been irregular for several weeks....mostly due to a crazy schedule. However, I've learned the hard way over the years the importance of spending daily time with God. I am frustrated that I have let the number one very best part of my day slack off.

But you gotta love God. Even though I am not spending near enough time in his Word, he's still speaking to me. He uses my daily life in very strange and mysterious ways. For example, this week my students read, "The Kite". It's a Frog and Toad story. Brief summary for those who do not know the story.

Frog and Toad - best friends....going to fly a kite. Frog is string holder, Toad is kite flyer. No luck getting kite to fly. Robins in a nearby bush laugh and tell Toad to give up....throw the kite's a piece of junk....don't bother.....Toad believes them and repeats their reasoning to Frog. Frog says....lets try one more time and do it this way instead. Finally the kite is soaring through the air. Why? Because Frog was a friend that refused to let Toad believe the negative lies the Robins were telling him.

I was reading this with my third reading group of the day when God said, "Pay attention. Check this out."

Friends fall into two categories...those that push you onward. They encourage you. They refuse to allow you to wallow in self-pity and self-doubt. Then there are the friends that seem to feed off misery and let you live an ordinary life.....they question your dreams and desires and hopes.

I have a friend who talks about "balcony friends." The term originated in a Bible Study, but we have used the label for our here and now friends as well. It originates from Hebrews 11 and 12. Hebrews 11 is a listing of great, famous people from the Bible who lived an incredible life of faith. But Hebrews 12:1-2 are the verses that blow me away, "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Did you catch that? All the famous people from chapter 11 are witnessing our lives and are cheering us on to the finish line....think spectators at a sporting event. Or like fans cheering from a balcony. Thus the term, "balcony friends."

I love Balcony Friends. Balcony Friends are the ones that know your weaknesses and your struggles and still love you and cheer for you. They help you find a way to focus on the finish and ignore the negative voices that would keep you from being what God has created you to be.

I am so blessed with lots of Balcony friends. I have so many amazing friends that cheer me on. Thank you so very much. For a woman who struggles hard with the negative voices in my head, having friends who believe in me is an incredible encouragement. Love you all.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tinkerbell's Birthday

My third child, Katie, turned 9 today. It's a rough milestone for a mom. 9 is halfway done. Halfway to adulthood.

Katie was a bit of a surprise. We had planned to have two children close together, and then perhaps add a third a few years later after we got back on our feet financially. Instead God blessed us with a third child when our oldest was only 3 and the middle child was 18 months old. For a short amount of time, I had three children in diapers.

It was not an easy pregnancy in the beginning. I threw up around the clock for the first 14 weeks. I even woke up during the night throwing up. But after those first few weeks, I felt much better. The delivery went well. She took a little longer to arrive than James and Grace. It was about a 5 hour labor. Katie weighed in at 9 lbs and 5 oz like her big brother. With her black hair, she was a stunning beauty, from the very start.

Things were a bit rough for the first few months. For unknown reasons, Katie was not able to suck hard enough to breastfeed or to even get milk from a bottle. We finger fed her with syringes for awhile until she was strong enough to take a bottle, and by four months she was able to breastfeed. Katie was an easy, sunshiny baby. She was happy and smiled early and often. Katie blessed our family with so much joy.

Over the years, Katie has grown and matured. She is still beautiful...inside and out. Every time I look at her I am reminded that God gave me a wonderful present when he gave me this little girl. Katie lives in a world filled with rainbows and tulips. She skips and cartwheels everywhere she goes. Somehow negativity rarely touches her...she continues through life with her positive attitude.

I love my daughter. I am so thankful that God planned my family for me better than I ever could have. Happy Birthday, Katie!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Monday Morning Update 4.6.09

Somedays you wish you could just freeze frame every moment in your mind. Remember every detail of the day. It was one of those days today. Today at my house like every other Sunday morning, when it suddenly occurred to me that I could listen to my Ipod via my wireless speakers in the bathroom while I was drying my hair and getting ready for church. I confess that I brushed my teeth with one hand on my toothbrush and the other one in the raised in the air in worship. I tend to sing off key anyway, but it was really bad with a mouthful of toothpaste. But, I had in a good 30 minutes of praying and worship before I ever left the house. That totally jazzed me and made me ready for services this morning.

Shawn preached an incredible, yet simple message about sin and the cross and how Jesus paid the price. You can check it out later this week at under the "what's happening" tab.

The music today was unbelievable. We worshipped and it was beautiful. I just can't imagine topping today. And yet, I know that God will!!!!!

Opener: Oh Praise Him (David Crowder)
Middle set: God of This City (Chris Tomlin)
Reign in Us (Starfield)
He Reigns (Newsboys)
Closer: East to West Passion video - but sound muted and our band did live. Incredibly powerful. Very moving.

Oh, and did I mention that we had 21 visitors today? That's a lot. (understatement) Oh, and some decisions to follow Christ.

Then this afternoon we did our big Easter Egg Drop. The weather was cool, and the wind was whipping around like crazy. We had prayed for the wind to die down so we could launch a balloon to drop the Easter Eggs on the park. But God said, "no". The wind continued to pick up, so we hid 10,000 eggs by hand. It worked out perfectly. We were able to evenly divide them into 3 different areas for the different age groups.

When we arrived we had no electricity, but within minutes, generators were located and we were up and running. The band had to soundcheck on the fly....but for once all the sound was running smoothly. And sounded amazing.

There were several hundred people at this event. Our largest event ever. I am awed by how God is using us in Anna to help create community. I am so thankful for all that God has done in the past year. Here's just a very brief list of things I was thanking God about tonight.

1. God allowed us to jump off into this church planting you know how close we came to ignoring this calling? It was scary and uncertain and we didn't know how to do it. And it's turned out to be the most incredible thing we have ever done in our ministry.

2. God sent us an unbelievable team. We work alongside people of integrity. People who have been set free from big stuff, and who desperately want to share their freedom and relationship with Christ with the rest of the world. God has added to our numbers others of like-mind. The people that God is drawing into the Crossroads are hard-working, filled with a heart for God, for our community, and for the nations. It is a great and humbling experience to serve them as the pastor's wife. I feel so unworthy to lead these people.

3. God blessed us with an amazing staff. I am thankful every single day that God put Worship Dude, Robby Thompson, in our path. I still am amazed at that whole thing. Shawn's coach Sam told us to not be afraid to make the big ask on staff members....but we didn't even know where to start. We searched for months....and told everybody we were looking for somebody with a Tomlin heart for worship and an alternative, sort-of Crowder sound. I haven't thought about that in months, until today when Worship Dude was talking about being a little surprised by how well he and the band were able to handle a Crowder song. I did a little would seem that maybe God took that request pretty literally.

4. Sam also told us to pray for God to grant us favor in making connections with well connected people so that we could more quickly reach Anna. God has certainly blessed us in that regard with friends on city council, in the chamber of commerce, on the fire and police departments, in the schools..... and we are seeing God use those people of influence to encourage people in the community to seek God.

On the news tonight I saw Carrie Underwood accept entertainer of the year and a brief recap of her speech. I guess I don't have a shot at that award, but I do as pastor's wife want to take a second to do a thank-you speech for getting to be a part of the most amazing ministry I 've ever been in.

Let's see, how do these things usually go?

First of all, I'd like to say thanks to God....he is the creator and savior of my life. He is my heart, my soul, my desire, and my life. He is the beginning and the end of all that I am. I am thankful that He is using me for kingdom purposes. Next, I'd like to thank my family for putting up with all the long, late hours that I work in order to do ministry in addition to school (which is technically also ministry). My children were beautiful tonight. Grace was so pumped she started scribbling lyrics to a new worship song on a napkin at the restaurant and James was telling me all these outreach ideas he's been thinking about....pretty awesome, huh? And finally, thanks to all of you friends who love make this journey amazing. You lift us up when times are tough. You surround our family with your love and encouragement. You work longer and harder than you ever did in traditional church. But You also join us in laughing longer and harder than we ever did before. You remind me of what church was meant to be....friends to discover Christ together and share Him with others.

Okay, I'm done. I'm bawling too hard to write any more. Love you all. It's an honor and a privilege.