It was the end of a long conference weekend focused on Christ, Church, and Culture (C3), for which I had been asked to teach “How to Have Courageous Conversations.” My dissertation research had focused on the way people communicate when they disagree and my sessions focused on practical advice for tough conversations. A woman approached as I headed out of the auditorium and handed me her business card. “I think your material could help people. Here’s my card.” I took it and thanked her.
As I walked to my car, I glanced down at the card. She was the Senior Editor for a large publishing company. On her card she had scrawled these words: “Talk about a book project?”Continue Reading..
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I love New Year’s Resolutions. Writing down my wide-eyed dreams for the next 365 days gives me great hope. But then, I hate New Year’s Resolutions. Because around the middle of April I realize just how pie-in-the-sky they really were.
So, it’s that time of year again to flip our New Year’s Resolutions upside-down. Turn them into things we can actually accomplish, for crying out loud. I’ve added another one this year to make it 12. But don’t worry, I have a feeling you won’t have any trouble accomplishing every one of them. Continue Reading..
On Christmas Eve, during the worship services at The Ascent Church, I read a piece from The Christmas Song, a musical I wrote for Brentwood-Benson in 2010. I’ve posted the video below (thanks for my 8-year old son for being my videographer and my husband for playing such a perfectly beautiful music bed on the piano).
I remember recording this narration in a studio in Nashville and getting so choked up that I had to step away from the microphone for a few moments to collect myself. To me, the Christmas story is more than just a story. It’s love come to life.
As you listen, put yourself in the scene. Close your eyes. Hear the sounds. Feel the textures. Smell the smells. See the colors, the light, the faces. Let the love of God wash over you again and fill you with deep joy for His gift of our Savior.
Nearly every day we are confronted with another national situation that fuels polarity. Most recently, it’s the sexual misconduct allegations against Roy Moore, the conservative Republican judge in Alabama who is running in a tight race for US Senate. Even tragedies, like the massacre in Las Vegas, which would typically unite even the most antagonistic, have incited hateful words like verbal bombs tossed across the political fence in the middle of what is already a bloody battle. Opposing views are shouted down and drowned out today on college campuses, where the freedom of speech has historically been vehemently defended.
However, in pockets across the country, there are groups of people who are kicking against the goads of mainstream media and deciding to do it differently. My liberal, Seattlite friend, Kellie Newton, and I started our Heart Perception Project nearly one year ago, and continue to encourage and train others to have civil conversations like the one we taped yesterday morning regarding the Roy Moore dilemma. I’ve posted it below.Continue Reading..
As we bring another Breast Cancer Awareness month to a close, I’m remembering…
Seven years ago, just a few days before my scheduled preventative bilateral mastectomy, a woman I hardly knew named Cindy Kreidel threw me a “Pink Party.” Complete with encouraging gifts, delicious snacks, heartfelt prayers, and an unforgettable, side-splitting skit involving pairs of various fruit, the gathering was exactly what I needed to face my surgery with courage.Continue Reading..
There was one Petak who didn’t want to move to Colorado. He loved his home, his friends, his familiar hangouts, watching bluebirds every spring check out the houses for rent in the backyard. So, when the night came to load up the last of the riff-raff and pile in the car, he whined, even caterwauled. Heels dug in. Why can’t we stay?
It had been an emotional day of friends stopping by to give sweet gifts, reminiscing years of memories made in the playground behind our house, crawdad hunting in the creek, and cream sodas at the Nolensville Feed Mill. But now the goodbyes had been said, the house was officially empty and blessed for the new family by a final prayer, the moving truck was already on it’s way out west. The last of the nerf-shrapnel on the front porch was a reminder that there were too many memories here to ever leave.Continue Reading..
It feels a lot like skydiving, a bucket-list item my husband Brian and I checked off a few weeks ago, jumping out of a perfectly good plane at 14,000 feet into the unknown. Blue sky above, sea level far below. Wind slams violently against your skin, eyes can’t help but stream tears, hard to catch your breath while falling 120mph. Ridiculously crazy. And crazy exciting all at the same time.
In January, Brian received a text from one of his best friends, Rusty Hayes, who had recently moved his family from Chicago to pastor a growing church on the north side of Colorado Springs- The Ascent Church in Monument, CO. Brian and Rusty had been on staff together at Grace Church in Racine, Wisconsin over 20 years ago, and had remained close friends through the years.
Rusty asked, would Brian be interested in the position of Executive Pastor, leading the staff and elders headquartered in Monument, as well as be the campus pastor for the second church campus in north Colorado Springs? When I caught wind of the question, my two-word answer was “Absolutely Not.” I loved our lush, green little hometown outside of Nashville, and what about my vision of my boys graduating from high school with the same kids they went to kindergarten with? Besides, I had a relational and professional life I had built for 15 years and I didn’t want to start over. But the kicker was this- after a bad ski weekend of altitude misery in college, Colorado was the one place in the world I had always said I would NEVER live.
Ah, but God has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?
Over the next two months, I prayed, and God began to open my heart to at least be willing to consider the opportunity. I knew The Ascent Church needed a seasoned leader like Brian, but my one question was- did anyone in Colorado need me? (According to the Enneagram, I’m a Helper. Go figure.) We flew out and interviewed in March. The drive south on I-25 from Denver to Colorado Springs was the brownest, most barren stretch of land west of the Sahara. Little piles of snow edged the frozen tundra, evidence of the multiple inches that fall all the way into May. Yeah, there were some mountains in the distance, and Brian assured me there were breathtaking waterfalls and National Parks just over the mountains, but coming from lush Middle Tennessee where my weeping cherry was already blooming in the front yard, the brown was a bit of an aesthetic shock. I prayed, “God, you are going to have to give me a fresh vision for beauty, because I don’t see any here.”
We stopped first at a Thai restaurant. Instrumental music was playing in the background. And not just any instrumental music. As we sat down, I recognized the tune. It was “Be Thou My Vision.” Come on, really?
We had dinner that evening with Rusty and his feisty wife, Judi, quite the atypical pastor’s wife. Full of authenticity and life, they drew me in. I asked Rusty pointed questions about the value of women’s voices in his church. He passed the test with flying colors, assuring me that strong women would be an essential part of his senior leadership team.
We visited the church on Sunday morning. The people were warm and welcoming, the worship services sweet and joyful, full of truth and grace. And out of all of the songs they could choose for us to sing, the one that made me chuckle at divine providence was, “Be Thou My Vision.” Seriously?
After church, we enjoyed lunch with a delightful couple- leaders of a nonprofit ministry in Colorado Springs and former missionaries to southern Africa. He asked about my work as a communication trainer and wondered if my communication model could help his leaders? And perhaps his network of leaders of the other 200 nonprofits who are headquartered in the Springs? She told me of women in the area who had been burned in leadership and needed encouragement. And they both said the church worship services were ready for some creative, even dramatic, touches.
Yes, but did anyone really NEED me?
On our final morning, we toured Denver Seminary, where Brian had already planned 4 years ago to tackle his DMin. The program directors asked about my work and when I told them I teach Organizational Communication in the graduate leadership program at Williamson College, they handed me a course description for a new doctoral class. “We just added an Organizational Communication course, but we don’t have a professor yet. Is this something you could teach?”
Okay, okay. I get it.
And so, a few weeks ago, we said yes. Yes to God and where He is clearly leading. Yes to releasing my grip on my little lush hometown, my work, my precious friends, and my dreams for my boys. Yes to new eyes, fresh beauty, and yes, to skydiving- to letting God be my tandem partner to give me the courage to jump out of a perfectly good plane.
We will be packing the house and heading west in mid-July. It will be a wild skydive, for sure. But I won’t be jumping all the way to sea level. Just to 6,000 feet where I’ll be living indefinitely.
(To see my skydiving experience, click the link below. Unfortunately, the video of me actually falling didn’t record, so you’ll see Brian diving. But you’ll see me just before I jump out of the plane, and then when I land in the background.)
P.S. Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN, where my husband Brian has been on staff for 19 years, will be sending us off during the worship services of June 3-4, with receptions after each service in the Barn. If you live in the area, you are welcome to come by!
“HATE HAS NO PLACE HERE,” their buttons blared from their jacket lapels as they stood at Kellie’s back door. I recoiled. Clearly, the liberal couple wore the buttons to make a statement against me, the conservative guest who voted for Trump, right? I resisted my gut instincts that told me to bolt and opened the door wider.Continue Reading..