Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Too busy to twitter?!? - Barometers

I have a few barometers in my life that I track to see if I am in a danger zone with how I'm handling my life. These are indicators that help me know if I've gotten too busy, too focus or too distracted away from my priorities, God, Gary, my family.

My friend, Jan , mentioned one yesterday in her own life that help me realize these in my own... She twittered that she had been so busy yesterday that she couldn't twitter! I walked through most of yesterday side by side with Jan and I can tell you that she's absolutely right. I, too, only had time yesterday to shoot a quick twitter to Jackie to let her know I was praying for her exams.

This time of year is the busiest time of year by far for me. So I have to watch my barometers very closely. Some of my barometers may seem silly to you but they scream at me "WARNING!! - some things are out of whack! You're getting dangerously close to mishandling life and the people around you that you love."

Here are some of my barometers: If my devotions file does not come up in my most recently accessed file list, if my children are playacting phone conversations as their primary play time, if I've gone too long between posting to one of my blogs, if I haven't had more than an "information download" conversation with Gary and a couple of close friends in my life, if I find myself saying encouraging phrases like "ho, ho, ho... bah-humbug!" more than once a week.

This week is crunch week - and I'm feeling it. So far my barometers are rising but not in the danger zone.

How about you? What are your barometers and what are they saying this week?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Making Christmas special

For those of us who lead in churches and create services and special moments for others at Christmas, the holidays are often not the time of year we look forward to the most.  Instead, the holidays can become extra rushed, stressful and draining.  

But, it is crucial that we still have times that are renewing and significant for ourselves and our families. 

I'm just a couple of years into learning this lesson.  I don't get it right every year, but I am establishing a few traditions that are extremely important to me and hopefully to my family as well.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'd like to invite you to our Christmas production!

This Christmas we are presenting:

Restoring the Wonder of Christmas

It is a beautiful display of how God is with us in our circumstances wherever we are, here in Clearwater, halfway around the world in Nakuru, Kenya, anywhere.  

I'm really excited about our opportunity to work with Dundu Dole a group here in Clearwater well know for their involvement in the excellent, annual holiday presentation, "The Chocolate Nutcracker."  

To reserve free tickets to "Wonder" go to:

I hope you will join me at one of our four performances.  If you do, track me down... I'll be the girl wandering around the back of the room in a headset.

Monday, December 01, 2008

NICU, ER and grace through community - the stuff our Thanksgiving was made of

Thank you so much to all who have expressed concern and offered prayers, encouragement and support over the last week for our family.  Many have done so without even knowing what was going on, just knowing that we looked exhausted and that I kept posting cryptic but unsettling updates on Facebook and Twitter. 

This past week has been extremely difficult for us as a family.  We welcomed our newest Kistner, my nephew, Bradley Allen, on Tuesday.  By Thursday morning he had already had two surgeries in his short little life.  Cameron and I spent most of Wednesday night and again Thursday night in ER for complications from a high fever spike and continuing high fever.  Saturday night we got the call from Scott and Tiffany that Bradley would most likely not make it through the night.  And to add just a little more, Connor developed a stomach bug Saturday morning around 3.  

So, by the time many of you saw me Sunday morning I was running on 90 minutes of sleep for Saturday night and an average of 4 hours of sleep a night for the previous 4 nights.  (Note to those of you reading this who also direct services, I would not recommend directing on 90 minutes of sleep.  It tends to throw your observation filter off. )

So, what we would be fine not doing the rest of 2008 - nervously waiting in hospitals watching people, especially babies, we love suffering.  

What we hope to not stop doing - being a part of true loving community.

I can't possibly include here all of the incredible outpourings of love that have been expressed to us in the last week but here are a few that I'd like to mention and thank.

Bob and Dana Richardson made it to my house in under 3 minutes Wednesday night to watch Connor and get Cameron and I to the hospital.  Bob even broke traffic laws with my blessing to see that Cameron got there as quickly as possible. 

Our family, Sharon, Tona, and Carol, who after a long day of waiting in the NICU waiting room in Tampa rushed to the Clearwater ER in the middle of the night to be with Gary, Cameron and me.

Sharon for going with me to ER on Thanksgiving night and Jacquelyn for being an awesome big sis and entertaining Connor for hours while we were in ER. 

My Mom, from out of town, checking in frequently around the clock on Bradley and Cameron and offering to head here at a moment's notice if we needed them to.

Jerry and Jamie spent Saturday night at the hospital with Gary and Scott and Tiffany praying like crazy Bradley would pull through and graciously sent me texts with info as I paced nervously at home with two sick boys. 

Gerry and Kay helped by "thinking for me" Sunday when my brain or emotions wouldn't allow me to think clearly on my own - covering things for me with team members at church and lining up childcare so Gary and I could be at the hospital.

Gerry and Bob came over to watch my two sick boys yesterday to allow Gary and I to be at the hospital with Scott and Tiff when things were looking really bad for Baby Bradley.  (Trust me, watching a puke-y 2 year old is real grace in action!)  

The ladies of our group headed to the hospital to support Scott and Tiffany. 

Donna who just saw me Sunday between services and held me while I cried and has through all of this been on back up to call for whatever we needed. 

And the literally hundreds of people who have been praying for Bradley, Scott, Tiffany and our family.  

Bradley is not out of the woods, but seems to have turned a significant corner last night.  And I'm off to a follow up appointment with our pediatrician. 

I remember years ago a season when our pastor kept asking the questions:  If your car broke down in the middle of the Bayside bridge, who would you call for help?  If you lost your job, who would you call for support and encouragement?  If your child got sick in the middle of the night, who would you call?  Back then I didn't know and that grieved me deeply. 

Now, I know exactly who I would call, and who I did call.  And I am so thankful to God for showing His grace and love to our family through the people He has put in our lives. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"and.... Oh yeah! ..... Jesus."

Last weekend at a community event we were promoting our upcoming Christmas production, Restoring the Wonder of Jesus.  I learned a lot of things about how our productions are perceived through what I heard people saying as they promoted the services. First,  they considered our services "not traditional" (true),  another that they are considered "really good" (also true - I always hope).  But the last thing I learned was not about our particular production.  It was about me, about the process surrounding large productions, and about what comes out in a moment of chaos. 

I had just arrived at the festival with two kids, about 5 miscellaneous bags and a McDonald's hamburger (my dinner) in tow.  I was running late and feeling terribly irresponsible.  It was one of those moments I now consider par for the coarse in the fall of each year.  The minute I walked up to the table I was hit with the question "Deana, how would you describe this year's Christmas production?"  

In the chaos of the moment my mind was far from centered on the meaning of what we'll be presenting this year and even further from how I would sum it all up in a neatly packaged, marketing savy sentence. 

My mind started racing with the following thoughts:

Well, we're bringing in an awesome African drum and dance group
We'll be showing footage from Nakuru, Kenya where we're building an orphanage
The band is going to ROCK!
We'll have a teaching
Uh-oh... did I just see Connor hit his little brother out of the corner of my eye?
There are beautiful snow globes involved in the marketing 
And we'll use our snow machine

Somehow I tried my best to grab all of those words and tie them up neatly in something like:

"We're going to show how in spite of the fact that for so many around the world wonder seems to be lost in their lives, Christmas really can be a time of wonder and hope for all of us."

The lady I was answering looked at me with a puzzled look.  Looked at the banner behind me "Cypress Meadows Community Church."  And said, "And Jesus.  Isn't it all about Him?!"

I had an instantaneous gut check and then muttered something brilliant like "and... Oh yeah!... Jesus."

But that moment has stuck in my mind ever since and I pray it never leaves.  

Of course, the reality is that Jesus is very much the center of what we are trying to communicate through our Christmas production this year.  But, in the chaos of the moment it is not what came out of my mouth.  

So, if clearly communicating the story of Jesus and His love for us is where we start and it is where we end, how do we keep it the center of our thoughts throughout the process?  

Whether I'm talking about a production, my ministry budget, the things I want to be teaching my children, the way I want to treat my husband or the basis on which I truly want to build my relationships and my life I don't ever want it to be "and... Oh yeah!... Jesus."  

I want Christ's love to not only be what I say but how I am living.  And shouldn't that be the case in the peaceful and in the chaotic moments?

I wish I could go back and get a do-over in talking with the lady at the festival.  If I could I would tell her:

You know, we all long to see true wonder and magic in our world -especially when our world is far from full of wonder.  These feelings seem to stir even deeper in us around the holidays. Christ came into our world on the first Christmas to allow us to believe in that wonder we long for.  He is the hope we are all looking for.  This Christmas we want to remember that this is what we are celebrating.  

It is all about Jesus. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Light Off"

The time change has seriously messed with my schedule this year. Apparently, whoever created this plan 1. does not have small children and 2. does not have an enormous need for routine and structure like I do. Since the time change my boys have been waking up sometimes as early as 5:45 taking away my early morning "get stuff really done" block of time. I'm really missing the days when they slept 11 hours.

Yesterday Connor woke up again super, super early...before the sun. I heard him stirring and came to check on him. As he opened his bedroom door he started crying and said "Light off, Mommy." As I grabbed him to hold him I realized he was shaking he was so scared. I asked if he was scared and he replied "yes" and buried his head into my shoulder. I reassured him that the lights are off at night time, it's completely normal and I held him as we collected a couple of treasured toys to join him back in bed until the sun came up.

But it made me think. It made me think of several friends I know who are going through really tough, really scary times. They are no longer two and somehow between then and now it has become unacceptable to just say "light off... I'm scared". They have in their own ways said or done things to show that they are scared, but you have to listen really close or you'll miss it. Of course, my friends are the ones I do know about. What about the tons of people in my life and ministry that I don't know about because they aren't saying "I'm scared?" It means that they walk through the tough, scary times alone.

So, how do we reach out to people who are longing for what Connor needed so badly that morning: comfort, reassurance and someone just there to hold them and hear them admit they are scared? How do we make sure to really know the people around us that we serve with and do life with? How do we create environments that are safe enough to say "light off" and then provide helpful support to them?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Connecting worlds

Halfway on the other side of the world from me is a little boy. His name is Caleb. He's about a month and a half older than my son Cameron. Which means a lot of very fun things. He's likely very mobile. Crawling, cruising and even walking possibly. He's probably still very attached to his mother. He's probably just learning what it means to be told "no" when he's about to do something that he shouldn't or that could cause him harm. His days are filled with looking to the adults in his life to fulfill his physical and emotional needs. All of that is not all that different than a day in Cameron's life.

But, Caleb is growing up in Nakuru, Kenya while Cameron is growing up in Clearwater, FL. Worlds away from each other in every sense of the word. Caleb's world is already very directly affected by HIV/AIDS. In his short life he has also been affected by the cruelty of tribal clashes. He has already been separated from his biological father. To him none of these things is unusual. It is the only life he knows.

Cameron has not experienced any of these things that Caleb sees each day. His is the only life that he knows, but I hope that Cameron will one day appreciate the blessings that he has already been surrounded by.

Caleb and Cameron both will grow up with hopes and dreams for their future. They both are loved fiercely by their mothers and other family members. But most thankfully, they both have a Heavenly Father Who is irrationally in love with them. A Father who created them to be exactly who they are and to fulfill plans that He has for them.

I have not yet met Caleb. But, I fell in love with him the second I saw his big brown eyes and pudgy baby hands. This week, my friend and worship leader, Chris Cox, will get to meet Caleb. What an awesome opportunity! Chris is in Nakuru to try to tell the stories of children just like Caleb. He will be meeting tons of children and adults who have seen realities we in the USA can not even begin to wrap our minds around.

We'll be telling these stories as part of our Christmas production this year, Restoring the Wonder of Christmas.

So, would you please take a moment as you read this to pray? Please pray for Chris and Douglas as they travel and are meeting so many wonderful people in Kenya. Please pray for Molly, Joe and Elijah, the family from Cypress who has moved to Nakuru to start an orphanage. Please pray for our Christmas production that it will reach many people in Clearwater with the hope of a Father in Heaven Who truly can restore wonder to our lives - and that somehow we can make a difference on two sides of the world this Christmas.

Thank you for your prayers.

If you would like to follow Chris and Douglas as they are in Kenya you can keep up with them at:

Cypress Meadows Blog

Friday, November 07, 2008

Feeling deeply

I believe that through the gift - and the curse - of feeling emotions deeply, the artist has the unique ability to articulate what others' hearts long to explain.

I've lived for far too long with the emphasis of this leaning on the side of curse. I have for decades now been teased and handled with "kid gloves" because I feel things deeply. Tears are a common occurrence for me to the point of being accused of easily "leaking."

But, art is in many ways leadership and you cannot lead where you have not been. Great art explores and exposes the deepest emotions and challenges the viewer to process those feelings.

To craft services, write songs, and produce paintings, photos or videos that take a compelling look at reality we must be able to relate and relate well.

So artists, go ahead, feel deeply knowing that it is not in vain if you can use that to guide someone else along the path.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Making announcements fun

Three weeks ago when we launched our latest series, "Letters to the Next President" based on Northpoint's series of the same name we added a very fun element to the service.  For those of you looking for a cool wrinkle for your announcements check this out.

Huge kudos to our "Sarah" and student director, Jan Cox and Warren Wetherbee. They really did an outstanding job scripting and performing this piece!

I'm not sure, though, how many of the announcements were actually remembered that day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Something to say

Some days I feel like I have so much to say that I'm going to explode.  Believe me, my husband has experienced this phenomenon.  It is behind the fact that I author 4 blogs, have currently 3 different journals going and as my mom always said I can "summarize a 2 hour movie in 4 hours."  For me so much of life is in the detail, the nuance.  

I was reminded of all of this again today as I started reading the life story of Nancy, a girl in Nikuru, Kenya.  She tells her story in beautiful detail.  A lot of her story is the same as everyone else's.  She was welcomed into a loving family at birth, shared traditional celebrations and experienced the fun of having older brothers.  But, her story is different.  It is her story.  Her reality.  No one knows it as she does or can tell it as clearly, beautifully or passionately as she can. 

It reminded me that every time I hear the voice in my head that challenges that no one will want to hear my story that that is not my responsibility.  My responsibility is to tell my story as beautifully, clearly, and artistically as possible.  

Think about it, I have been given the gift of knowing the story of a girl a world away that I may never meet but who has now touched me and taught me things she will never realize.  So, what do you have to say?  And what keeps you from saying it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We MUST know who we are

Recently, at Leadership Summit, in the midst of what I call "intellectual gluttony" I was impacted with this question and challenge.  Who is it God has called my church to be?  Go and be authentic to that.

I get so frustrated when I see churches following trends simply because it worked well for another church.  (I'm three times as frustrated when I catch myself doing it.)  Who God has called that church to be is not necessarily who He has called my church to be.  So I must figure out His calling on me and follow that with as much integrity and authenticity possible. 

Ok, so that's a ton easier to talk about than to do.  More often than not we miss it. 

How do you make sure that you're staying authentic to the call and culture God has you in?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Love/Hate Relationship

I love my job.  I hate my job.  I'm not being duplicitous.  Just honest.  There are so many things to love like the people I get to share life with and share ministry with.  Like the services where "it" just works.  Like the chance to make my living doing what I'm absolutely addicted to doing anyway and used to do as a volunteer. There are so many things to love.  

And then there are the situations that always come up in ministry that just stink! (ok.... that's gone through my "baptist-girl" filter.)  Great ideas come a day late and a dollar short (or several $s).  People go bump.  Poor choices are made that negatively impact exponential numbers of people.  You see people you love suffering.  

It's so often the ministry leader's job be the one to address these situations head on when I'd really rather it be someone else's responsibility.  

The truth is, the great parts and the incredibly hard parts of ministry always leave me feeling incredibly unqualified, unprepared, incompetent and extremely humbled.  

And while I can't tell you what my reaction to the next "this was not in the art's directors handbook" situation will be (ok other than tears... those are a given).  

I can say that for today I am still praying "Bring it on, God" but with a very sober appreciation for that challenge. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Maybe it comes with age. Somewhere along the line, I stopped having all the answers and now I feel like I have all the questions.
I think it's part maturing, part how I'm wired up and... part August.

I'm beginning to hold resentment toward August. School starts back up and schedules get back into gear, the fall ministry season is off and running and Christmas is ready to launch. Really, I shouldn't resent August. It is the month, after all, when the NFL finally graces my TV screen again!

But it is very much a month of questions. Sometimes it feels like I'm facing new questions as well as ones I had already settled months before. And then, there are questions that come out of nowhere. For me, my mind doesn't shut off neatly when the appropriate time is up. In fact, the questions don't shut off at all until they are answered. I "chew" on them while I fix dinner, do laundry, take a "relaxing" walk (right!) and even while I sleep. My mind is constantly trying to find the solution to the problem.

To be completely honest, it's exhausting. I've found a few things recently that will divert my focus for short periods of time, but nothing that will truly give me the mental rest I need until an answer is found. Maybe the answer is September. Surely by September the questions have to be answered. Right?

So, how do you deal with wrestling with unanswered questions?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Who do you sound like?

There's a phenomenon that I find fascinating. I'm sure in psychological circles it has a name. I don't really need to know that to maintain the wonder of it. The phenomenon is that we all begin to sound like the people we spend the most time with.

Over the past five years at Cypress I've discovered that I've added so many phrases to my daily "speak" that are not uniquely mine. They probably aren't even unique to the person I learned them from. But they have become mine. It's not unusual to hear me - or several other staff members - ask someone to "tease that out for me." Or to refer to a person or situation as being "golden!" And some oldies but goodies still show up from time to time, such as "And we're back." A couple of our staff members actually will play a game where they have entire conversations using "staff-speak" which is mostly credited to our boss.

This phenomenon is fun and interesting to me. There is a similar phenomenon, however, that I find truly sad and frustrating. It was illustrated in bold strokes for me recently at a wedding I attended. I found myself sitting beside a complete stranger. This complete stranger had no idea that I was a Christian, that I attended church much less was actually on staff at a church. He proceeded to tell me how his brother was a "sinner and was caught up in the ways of the world and that he had confronted him and told him that he had to change his ways or he would be headed for Hell." That's the short, slightly edited, beautified version, but you get the point.

I was aghast! (what a great opportunity to use such a cool word!) Inside a large part of me wanted to look this man dead in the face and insist on knowing "so, how did that work for you?!" I couldn't imagine anyone being compelled to want to get to know Christ based on an introduction like that. Of course, the only slightly recovered Baptist-girl in me won out and I just asked "really?"

But since then I've given lots of thought to that conversation. I wonder, do we as Christians, sometimes get so caught up in our bubble that we only let ourselves hear each other, develop our own language and eventually fail to realize what we sound like? Did this man really not care for his brother as he said? Was all that mattered to him about his brother really whether or not he ended up in heaven? What about love for him here and now as well?

Now, don't get me wrong. I definitely understand longing for our family members to be in heaven. I guess I will just always believe that there is a loving way to say things. This didn't sound like love was involved at all.

Isn't that how people are supposed to know we're Christians anyway, by our love? Or is that just some song?

Blogging about blogging (again)

This evening I have come to some realizations about why I so enjoy blogging. For me it's a combination of scrapbook, journal and platform that is directed at everyone and no one in particular all at the same time. Of course, in my case, the latter is the one who most often frequents my blogs.

Blogging is a great place for me to sort things out "out loud."

It seems lately that there is a lot running around in my head that needs some sorting. I recently attended Leadership Summit and I have thoughts, phrases, challenges from the likes of Craig Groeschel, Wendy Kopp, Catherine Rohr, and Bill Hybels bouncing around and not seeming to land anywhere just yet.

Add to that a flood of thoughts from beginning my study of the book Walking on Water by Madeline L'Engle. And the typical daily input from my devotions and the onslaught of info from news feeds, blogs I track, conversations with friends and what I've ended up with is a jumbled mental mess.

Coming out of the clutter though is the overarching theme that nothing... absolutely nothing matters more than my connection to and relationship with Christ. Nothing else can matter that much. And while there is still a lot of sorting to be done, this is The Foundation on which to start sorting. Being a math major and all, I appreciate being reminded of the "givens" in life. While the variables all scream quite loudly for my attention it is the givens that give me pause to breathe easier. And this given, is a beautiful place from which to find the direction to sort everything else out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

This morning's breakfast prayer

Normally I don't post personal stories to this blog... however this one is about prayer...

Each morning I pray with the boys before we eat breakfast. Today we ate in shifts so I was praying later with Cameron as Connor was already done and running around. This is the prayer in scripted form:

Mommy: Dear Lord, thank You for this food and for giving us a new day. Please help Cameron learn more today about what it means to be your kid...

(Connor is standing behind highchair about to release the upright lever which will send Cameron flying backward)

Mommy: NO! NO! NO!

(pregnant pause)

Connor: Amem!

That just cracks me up every time I recall it!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Van Gogh's Brush

Jonah 3:5 The Ninevites believed God.

Somehow in all the times I read the story of Jonah this this little phrase didn't stand out to me until today.

Jonah's the one whose been called to travel. Jonah's the one who was on a sinking ship. Jonah's the one who was swallowed by a fish and half digested. He's the one who braved it (eventually) enough to face some really scary folks in Nineveh and it was his proclamation that convinced them to repent. Right?

So why doesn't the Bible say that the Ninevites believed Jonah? That would be the proper nod to send Jonah's way after all he's been through? Right ?

But, it's not about Jonah anymore than Van Gogh's "Starry Night" was about the paint brush.

How ludicrous it would be to get all worked up over Van Gogh's paintbrush. If that paintbrush had not placed in Van Gogh's hand it would be nothing but a brush.

It works the same with Jonah and with me and with all of us. We so easily lose sight of how we are tools that God chooses to use to accomplish His purposes. As worship leaders, we've been gifted in such a way that our job is to creatively tell the story. But we forget that we're the story tellers not the author sometimes.

I so often find myself wanting the attention, the accolades, the respect and the credit when really all I've done is to tell the story, pass on the message.

We must be certain that as we tell our story that we are believable, but often that communicates best by just letting other see clearly how deeply we believe.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It started here.... Thanks Randy!

Well, The Organized Artist was my first attempt at blogging.

Randy Elrod and Cheryl Glenn are to blame really. I know Randy has been the impetus for many blogs.

The Organized Artist is a great place for me to share what I'm learning about leadership and arts in the church. What has happened lately that I've not been blogging?

Well, it's definitely not that I've stopped learning about leadership and the arts! But life has gotten busy and I've found other exciting uses for blogging and I've just been neglecting this one.

I have started a blog for our team. It's used primarily to send weekly devotionals out to the team. They are called "Preparing our Hearts". I feel strongly that if we as a team of artists have been charged with the job of leading our congregation in worship and in learning about that week's subject, then we better know something of it ourselves. You can't lead where you haven't been.

I get occasional feedback from the team but would welcome your feedback to the site as well.

Check it out at: