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.