Sunday, November 23, 2008

Give Thanks

This morning in worship at Access, we encouraged folks to come forward and write words of thanksgiving on stones. The stones were collected in a glass jar and offered up to the Lord… kind of like building an altar to Him. Here are some of the words written on the stones:

Thank you, God, for my loving parents and family.

The Lord is my shepherd - nothing I lack. He guides me and protects me. I am His and He is mine.

Grateful for a refreshed understanding of God’s abundance and trustworthiness vs. my fears and doubts.

For joy, hope and truth.

Wisdom in being parents, faith, growth, provision…

Education and the ability to truly pursue my dreams.

Thank you, God, for the love and health of my family.

Thank you for a job in a time of recession.

Access for the love and support during a hard time.

Deep relationships that teach you about life.

God’s indescribable grace and love He gives freely. The wonderful people in my life that have helped me both in the best and worst times.

Jobs, husband, family.

I am thankful for simply being alive and the opportunity to start a new life.

During this Thanksgiving week, let’s continue this outpouring of gratitude here on the blog. Use the comments to say what you’re thankful for.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Together Again

Welcome to Houston, Nate Bartoshuk!

Here Am I

This video was used in the final session of the 2008 Willow Creek Leadership Summit. It was also used to close Bill Hybels's "Influence" series.

Sharon Irving, the gifted young woman who appears in this video, is a recent North Park grad who will be leading worship with me at Midwinter in February. I really respect her work and am grateful for the chance to work with her!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cov Love

Eugene Cho wrote about The Covenant on his blog today. I really like what he has to say about the denomination I've come to love so much. Read it here.

Vox Culture Houston presents VOX POP - December 6 & 7

Buy something original for the Holidays... Bring good to others...

Gallery, Live Art, Live Music, Artist Appearances, Social Space & an Opportunity to DO GOOD to others...

Local Art - Local Cause

Proceeds benefit homeless men, women and children through SEARCH

Saturday, December 6, noon-6pm
Sunday, December 7, 2-6pm

Featuring the following artists:

TK Ahn
Matt Crnkovich
Jennifer DeDonato
Ben DeSoto
Ayad Fadel
Saida Fagala
Morris Molina
Dune-Micheli Patten

Music by Ira Perez.

Presentations by Joseph Benson (SEARCH Homeless Services) & Ben DeSoto.

Desserts & coffee will be available…

Vox Culture combines the "voices" of artists, musicians and businesses to speak for those who don't have a voice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Martha, Martha, Martha

It was great hanging out with Martha Prewette today at the Houston Int'l Airport... She had a layover on her way to visit her son's family in Jackson. Luanne and I had just enough time to join her for lunch. It's great to see good friends and to be reminded of our California home!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cigarettes? Chocolate Milk?

Addiction is painful... and very real for more people than want to admit it. Maybe you're not addicted to drugs or alcohol. But what about relationships? Pornography? Are you compulsively overeating? Do you spend hours on Facebook or other websites? What about video games or TV? Shopping? Gambling?

Whatever "it" is for you and me, chances are that we are dealing with some kind of addictive behavior... We are enslaved to something. Why do we keep saying we'll "stop tomorrow" or it isn't really "that bad," when we know "it" is slowly but surely eroding our souls?

Listen to this song by Rufus Wainwright and see if you can relate... Download it here.

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

Cigarettes and chocolate milk
These are just a couple of my cravings
Everything it seems I like's a little bit stronger
A little bit thicker
A little bit harmful for me

If I should buy jellybeans
Have to eat them all in just one sitting
Everything it seems I like's a little bit sweeter
A little bit fatter
A little bit harmful for me

And then there's those other things
Which for several reasons we won't mention
Everything about them is a little bit stranger
A little bit harder
A little bit deadly

It isn't very smart
Tends to make one part so broken-hearted

Sitting here remembering me
Always been a shoe made for the city
Go ahead, accuse me of just singing about places
With scrappy boys' faces
Have general run of the town
Playing with prodigal sons
Takes a lot of sentimental valiums
Can't expect the world to be your Raggedy Andy
While running on empty
You little old doll with a frown

You got to keep in the game
Maintaining mystique while facing forward
I suggest a reading of 'A Lesson in Tightropes'
Or 'Surfing Your High Hopes' or 'Adios, Kansas'

It isn't very smart
Tends to make one part so broken-hearted

Still there's not a show on my back
Holes or a friendly intervention
I'm just a little bit heiress, a little bit Irish
A little bit Tower of Pisa whenever I see you
So please be kind if I'm a mess

Cigarettes and chocolate milk
Cigarettes and chocolate milk

Saturday, November 15, 2008

LeadNow & The Fusion Experience

Thanks to Tony and PCC, Ted and I are here in Dallas enjoying a fantastic conference... two conferences, really, put on by the same organization: The RightNow Campaign. All day yesterday and most of today was the LeadNow '08 Conference, a national conference for ministry leaders who are unleashing 20- and 30-somethings to action. We heard from Todd Wagner, Todd Phillips, Francis Chan and Erwin McManus, along with surprise guest Marcus Buckingham, and were led in music/worship by Patrick Ryan Clark. Then tonight at 7:oo, The Fusion Experience started. This is "an event for all 20- and 30-somethings who love Jesus and want their lives to reflect their faith." We've only had one session, but it was a marathon. Apparently Donald Miller ("Blue Like Jazz") was added to the schedule at the last minute, so we heard sermons from both him AND Erwin McManus tonight, in addition to being led in music/worship by the amazing Brick House Choir, spoken word artist Amena Brown, and Houston's own Robbie Seay Band.

Last night we were invited to a special screening of the new film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I ws excited to see it. Ebert gave it a 3-1/2-star review. And it was a great film, yes. It was also the most depressing movie I've seen in the last 5 years. When it was over, we all just sat there in this stunned silence. It's powerful, but it's harrowing. Not exactly the feel-good movie of the year.

You can read Tony's blog posts about the conference so far here and here. I'm still just soaking it in. I've definitely been challenged and encouraged. I really enjoyed talking to Donald Miller and thanking him for encouraging me in my journey as I began to look at politics in a new way this fall. He is a humble man who loves Jesus and helps me think in new ways. I was challenged by Francis Chan to get back to basics... to pray, to be in the Word and to follow the lead of the Spirit. I have been challenged and encouraged by Erwin McManus and Donald Miller to dream big and tell the great story of God with my life.

Here are some more pics...

Ted's feet in the elevator of our Aloft hotel... This is a brand-new, super-cool hotel from the W company... Fun, funky vibe; great "loft" room; great design; great magazines in the room (New Yorker, Wired, etc.) We got a heck of a deal.

Worship leader Patrick Ryan Clark.

Cool random art out in the Connection Cafe.

My worlds collide: my buds Ted and Tony.

It's been awesome to spend time with Tony. It's hard to believe I've been gone from PCC for over seven months. We just pick up where we left off... He's my true brother in Christ.

Robbie Seay Band rocking Dallas... I love this guy's music.

It's almost 2am
, and I gotta get some sleep because I'm driving home tomorrow and it's an almost five hour drive. Peace out.

[EDIT: Here's Tony's blog post about the third day of the conference.]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Michael Roe at Access

I could, and will someday, write a lot about Michael Roe, one of my favorite artists. He writes songs that speak to my soul in a way that few songs ever do. His guitar skills are unparalleled, and his voice is one of my top five male voices. Ever. And that's saying an awful lot, because I am a picky, picky man.

He was also the producer of my 2005 record, Still Standing. He, Mark Harmon and Bruce Spencer, who comprise the amazing band The 77s, played guitar, bass and drums, respectively, for my record. It was a really fun time, traveling back and forth from Redwood City to Sacramento for 2- and 3-day stints in Mike's apartment and Ralph Stover's house to record the tracks and put it all together.

Anyway, Mike and I have stayed in touch. I had one of his bands, The Lost Dogs, play at Peninsula Covenant Church back in 2006, and just this last Monday night, I had Mike play a solo show at Access. It was really a wonderful evening... Here's just a taste, a song called MT from The 77s' Sticks and Stones record... Enjoy!

And here are a few shots courtesy of my friend Ted: Mike solo & Luanne and I joining him for my song "Satisfied Forever."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Unexpected Gifts

I love it when God gives us gifts that are totally unexpected. The Over the Rhine concert last Wednesday night was like that. I knew I was flying to North Park for meetings all day on Thursday, but it was a real surprise to find out that I had tickets to a concert that night... and that the concert was by my favorite band, Over the Rhine!

Here are some shots from the show...

And another fun surprise was seeing Jenny and Holly from PCC!

My camera was acting up, but I managed to capture a tiny clip of Karin singing "Ohio"...

Then this last weekend was another cool "God surprise." Josh was IMing a friend from his old class in RWC named Chandler. Turns out, Chandler's family was coming to visit their relatives here in Houston! So Saturday Josh got to spend the night with Chandler's family and go to the Body Worlds exhibit and the Texas Renaissance Festival.

And we have more to look forward to! Josh and Jake's friend Nate is coming to visit later in November; Martha Prewette is flying through Houston a week from today, so Luanne and I get to have lunch with her at the Houston airport; we have the Michael Roe concert tonight; I'll see Tony and a bunch of young adults from PCC as Ted and I attend the Lead Now Conference in Dallas later this week (watch for Tony in the promo video... right after Donald Miller!); and VOX POP is coming! Not to mention a week in Seattle right after Christmas to lead worship again at Newport Covenant!

Life is rich, and God is good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning After

Here it is, folks, the obligatory "morning after" post. I was up till all hours of the night last night watching the election results pour in, and I have to admit I enjoyed myself immensely. I think what made it so fun for me, besides seeing my candidate win, was how connected I felt to so many people all over the world. I've never experienced anything quite like it. I'm talking about Facebook.

Now, say what you will about social networking sites... and I'll be the first to admit that I waste way too much time there... but watching CNN with my MacBook Pro open to Facebook made the experience so interesting, so interactive... It brought together people from all over the country, from all walks of life and political persuasion, from all faith expressions and from all "eras" of my life... I was chatting live with a friend from elementary school about Obama and faith... I was reading as friends from Chicago texted in status updates live from Grant Park... I was arguing with an acquaintance from my high school years... I was encouraging (and being encouraged by) a high schooler from PCC about standing up for what we believe in... I was watching as faithful, Christ-following friends of mine were a) freaking out and proclaiming the end of civilization as we know it or b) celebrating Obama like he's the Messiah or c) trying to find a middle ground... (At one point I typed "Matt gently reminds his fellow Jesus-followers: Jesus is LORD. Calm down.") I was reading the status updates and notes of some of my African-American friends as they wept and celebrated... I can't imagine what this must be like for many of them.

And we did all this together. It was very, very cool. It's a small world after all.

I appreciated Obama's sober tone as he gave his victory speech last night. He has a very tough road ahead of him. Zach Boehm, a Facebook friend, wrote something about how lonely it must be to assume the office of the Presidency. I encourage you to join me in signing "A Prayer and a Pledge" over at Sojourners. No matter who you voted for, it is now our job to support and pray for our next President.

I also congratulate Senator McCain on a hard-fought race, and I respect Governor Palin and him very much. McCain's speech was gracious last night, although the crowd in the room with him was anything but. (Did you notice how Obama's crowd in Grant Park cheered for McCain and McCain's crowd booed Obama? That was interesting to me.)

And I watched this morning as our current President, George W. Bush, gave a genuinely warm and generous congratulations speech. Let's not forget to pray for and support this man... again, whether you support him and his policies or not.

I'll say one more thing about politics. It was with trepidation that I stepped out and began to be more public about my thoughts and plans for this particular election. I know I have hurt some people and made others doubt my faith or my intentions. But looking back, I am so glad I did it. If nothing else, some of us started an important discussion on faith and politics. On what really matters. My goal... and I hope and pray I am achieving it... is to help people see that there are many different, fully legitimate choices and viewpoints. This goes for doctrinal issues as well as political issues! There are humble, Christ-following, bible-believing people who are coming to differing convictions on many issues. And that's OK. Jesus's Church is big enough for that. I admit that I am a sinner with many, many poor choices to my record... I could be wrong about some of the things I believe... But it's important to talk about these things freely and respectfully. I hope I've been a catalyst for a little more respectful dialogue.

The other day I received this message from a friend on Facebook: "i just wanted to say thank you for posting so many links about obama/mccain, the election, etc. it has really opened my eyes (and i'm sure many others)...i've never thought/prayed so hard about who i was voting for...and i think it's awesome that although some of it was hard as some christians couldn't believe there were other Christians voting for obama...there's been a lot of healthy thank you for promoting that and not being afraid to express your opinion! :)"

Thank you. You made it all worth it.

I fly to Chicago in just a few hours to help plan worship for the Covenant Midwinter Conference 2009... I'm very excited and honored to be helping to lead this year. And the icing on the cake? We're taking in an Over the Rhine show at North Park tonight. I didn't even know they were playing there until after my ticket was purchased for me. Here in the South, that's called Lagniappe... "An extra or unexpected gift or benefit."

I'll leave you with scripture... Jesus speaking in John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Jesus is LORD.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


It's a new day. History has been made. And our hope is still in Jesus. Yesterday, today and forever.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Night Before

We had a great time with Access on Sunday, serving an organization called SEARCH. I blogged about it for Access's website here.

Luanne and I just sent out our latest e-newsletter. If you're interested in being on our prayer and/or financial support team and receiving monthly updates, please email me here.

We had a great time trick-or-treating on Friday night! Pictures here.

Tomorrow's a big day in American politics. A few really interesting reads for those of you still on the fence: from Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, and from Derek Webb, prophetic singer/songwriter. And remember, friends... No matter who you vote for, and no matter who wins this election, Jesus Christ is Lord. Yesterday, today and forever. We don't place our hope in any man, any politician, any political party or even any country. Only in Christ is our hope found. Let's vote our consciences; trust in Jesus; and pray for and support tomorrow's winner.
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