Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Leader's Gracious Response

It's been a challenging week for the Nightingales and for the Access community, but God is good. He loves us all so much, and He has an amazing plan. We are finding grace and love even as we walk through the pain of yet another transition and everything it brings along with it.

Yesterday you read my words. Today I'll post my friend and ministry partner Ted's...


Dear Access Community,

Over the last seven months we have been deeply blessed by Matt Nightingale’s ministry and the presence of Luanne, Joshua, Jacob, Emily, and Zachary in our community. With Matt’s leadership we were able to launch and sustain our new worship gathering on Sunday mornings. We’ve been able to make new connections through Vox Culture. We’ve also had the benefit of Matt’s teaching and insight, especially in the areas of brokenness and healing. That is why it is with great sadness that we learn that it is time for their family to transition to a new setting.

In the Kingdom of God there are those who walk with us for a short season and there are those who travel with us for a longer distance. The length of our partnership is not always under our control, but we recognize that God is the one who determines our course and we take comfort that we are all part of his greater Kingdom.

We genuinely wish the Nightingale family well as they seek out their next steps and what assignment God may have for them. They leave our community on good terms, and our leadership will definitely miss Matt’s contributions. Please pray for Matt, Luanne, and their children during this difficult time of change in their lives. We are grateful for the risks that they have taken to join our community and to serve with us, and we hope to see them be a genuine blessing to whatever community they enter in the near future.

With Matt’s transition questions about future leadership and ministry are probably on your minds. I think the best thing for our entire community is to spend this season in prayer, asking God to continue leading us and providing for the needs of our mission.

Here are some thoughts on the next steps for our community.

What is the transition timeline for Matt’s ministry?
Matt’s last official day of employment will be May 31st. For the next two months we hope to develop and raise our leaders involved with Sunday morning ministries. Matt will also be searching for his next call to ministry.

What can we expect to happen with our Sunday gatherings?
Although we will miss Matt’s leadership, we hope to continue with things as usual. We also hope to take some next steps in developing and adding more creative elements into our Sunday mornings.

Will we be hiring new staff?
We will begin the search for a new staff member immediately. We also plan to add interns to our ministry beginning in the summer.

Will Matt’s transition change any of our ministry goals for 2009?
In our mission message in January we identified four areas that we would like to develop this year.

1) Vox Culture/Community Groups
We had planned for 6 Vox events in 2009. Our Vox team will have to evaluate this and see what is possible for the rest of the year. The possibility to diversify and innovate with our events remains. Our community groups will continue but we will need more help with supervision and care of leaders.

2) Sunday Gatherings
We still plan on doing a worship service launch in a new location in September. This is a great time of the year to introduce people to our ministry and we will press toward this goal.

3) Small Group Ministry
We have already launched this ministry in February, and we excited about the growth we’ve been experiencing with our groups. We are planning for more groups to start soon.

4) Discipleship and Leadership Training
In this area we hope to begin more work on an overall discipleship plan in the Fall. We also plan to put more emphasis on developing our leadership community over the next several months. We hope to build a healthy and nurturing environment for those who serve at Access.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding Matt’s transition or our next steps, do not hesitate to talk with the Lead Team.

Thank you for partnership in the mission!


Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Letter I Thought I'd Never Write

I thought I was done with this, at least for a while... Hard to believe, but the Houston Adventure is coming to an end.


Dear Access Family,

I never thought I would be saying this so soon, but the time has come for my family and I to leave Houston and seek God's next step for our family. We don't know all the details yet, but we'll let you know as soon as we do.

We arrived here in the heat of the summer on August 22, after a wild cross-country marathon. We moved into our house and got our kids in school. Three weeks later we were living through an enormous natural disaster, Hurricane Ike. I've never experienced anything like it... Devastation all around us. Strangers becoming friends in one short day, helping each other clean up, eating together, waiting for our electricity to return together. Worshipping in the dark with no A/C. Instant community.

And then it was on into October and the launch of Access's public worship gatherings at Ashford Oaks. It's been a privilege to pull together the band and lead music week after week and to see our congregation grow from 40-50 to 60-70 almost overnight. I am grateful for the faithful band members and everyone who has helped to make Sunday mornings what they are. December 6 brought my first Vox Culture event, VOX POP. What a thrill to connect with local artists and musicians and to begin to realize the dreams God has for this fledgling nonprofit. The Vox leadership is a wonderful team, and I am excited to hear about what happens with this organization in the future. I was able to lead our congregation through Advent, introducing Access to a more "liturgical" experience than many of you had previously experienced and culminating on Christmas Eve with a beautiful candlelight service. I was able to preach for the first time at Access, and I'm grateful you have walked with me through these formational experiences.

January, February, March... More newness and excitement as we launched Access's Small Group ministry. We sensed a real hunger from people to go deep with one another in fellowship and in study of the Word of God. So many have responded that we are launching our fourth small group meeting in April.

So I'm sure the question on most minds will be, "Why, after all these good things, are you leaving?"

We acknowledge that Access took a great risk and exhibited great faith in bringing us all the way from the West Coast to live and serve with you. It took great risk and faith on our part to say "Yes" and move our family here as well. But we feel that we were not ready as a family to make so many significant changes all at once. It has been a strain on us to leave everything we know behind, and we have struggled to "find our place" in Houston and in the Access community. We have also struggled significantly in our finances. Although Access has paid us fairly, we have been unable to raise the additional income necessary to meet the budget needs of our large family. And finally, as I have wrestled with this decision, it has become clear to me that my skills and vocational desires are probably not a good fit within a church planting environment.

We certainly didn't move our family to Houston with the intent to stay for such a short time, believe me. We believed that we were in this for the long haul, but God's plan for our family seems, in hindsight, to have been "temporary launch team members."

Luanne and I have great expectations as we seek God’s plans for our family’s next season of life and ministry, but we do not currently have a “next step” in place. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support as we seek the plans God has for us. We trust that we are safe in the hands of our loving God, and that when God leads, He provides. We also trust the Lord for what He has in store for Access and Vox Culture. We continue to believe strongly in the mission and vision of Access and Vox, and we know that God will provide and bring amazing things to you as you continue to follow him together as a community.

"The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21) We feel a deep sense of loss, as you might expect, and we pray that our final months with you will be sweet as we process this together and attempt to honor and bless one another in the midst of it. We pray that we will all move forward in grace and love through this transition and into the next steps for all of us. And finally, Luanne and I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with members of the Access community one on one. Please feel free to call, email or approach either of us anytime. We want to help people understand this as well as we can.

With Love and Prayers,

Matt Nightingale

Jesus Is the Tecnu

The Poison Ivy is the brokenness that we all have, deep down in our souls.

The scalding shower and the scratching are the ways we try to cover over our brokenness or numb the pain... maybe it's a codependent relationship, an addiction, escaping to video games or TV or comfort foods... Feels REALLY good, but does more harm than good...

The "trying not to scratch" is the way we try to help ourselves by "controlling" our lives and fixing our problems.

Jesus is the Tecnu; the Solution; the Way, the Truth and the Life; the One who satisfies our deepest longings; the One who heals us.

A Parable

A man once went into the backyard to play with his children. A few days later, his ankles, elbows and wrists were covered in blotchy, itchy, red spots. The man's wife went to the store and purchased Tecnu, a healing salve that promised to make him feel much better.

The next morning in the shower, instead of applying the Tecnu, the man let the hot, hot water pour over his irritated arms and legs. It felt wonderful and seemed to make things better for a little while. In fact, the feeling was amazing, blissful even. So blissful that he let that scalding water hit his tender skin for a long, long time.

Within a very short time, the Poison Ivy, having had its oil released from the man's pores, spread its blotchy, itchy redness all over the man's body and drove him nearly insane.

The man couldn't stop himself from scratching. He scratched and scratched, until his sores stung and bled. And still the itching continued and the blotchy redness spread.

Next, the man tried not to scratch. He did everything in his power to ignore the burning, itching and swelling... He might poke or slap or rub his skin, but he tried and tried not to scratch it. Eventually though, no matter how hard he tried, he always gave in and scratched. And still the itching continued and the blotchy redness spread.

Finally, in desperation, the man ran to the shower, stripped off his clothes, and slathered the Tecnu all over his ravaged body. Although he didn't feel much relief at first, he continued to apply it every day until slowly but surely the Poison Ivy oil was removed from his body and the blotchy, itchy redness was all gone.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

More Pics and Video from Vox Populi

I enjoyed my little experiment in live blogging yesterday. Vox Populi was a great success... We made over $1200 for our charity, Floresta, and saw over 120 adults come through the doors. For some more videos of the performers, check out my Youtube channel, and for more photos, check out Ted Law's Flickr set.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Live Blogging from Vox Populi

2:00 - Vox Populi is here. Last night was an amazing experience... a beautiful display of diversity in style, texture, background, colors, experiences... from avant-garde improvisation with flute and trumpet to smooth acoustic pop, from urban bboy poetry to African travelogue... It was really sweet. So glad to be here and part of the experience. Check out some video footage on the Vox website.

I'll be live blogging throughout today... Lots more cool stuff from Bobby Bang!, Leah Shearer and Remembering Carthage as well as more great visual arts, food and coffees and information on our cause, Floresta...

2:10 - Sound troubles, but we'll be fine, cuz Alex Chao is large and in charge. Bobby is on in 20. Hope there are kids here!

2:18 - Sound is fixed. Now bring on the kids.

3:19 - Bobby rocked. Enough kids to be cute and have fun. Picking up his book now and getting an autograph. (Yes, we're getting one for you, Andersons!) Next up... Leah Shearer.

3:51 - Ted just highlighted two of our artists, Allison Merriweather and Chandana Paravastu. Leah's up soon.

4:40 - Leah played a couple of nice originals and covered some great songs, displaying fabulous taste... Kasey Cambers, Patty Griffin, Neil Young... I'll post some video tonight. Super nice girl too... She plays at Potbelly four days a week. Check it out!

5:25 - Middle of the dinner break. Nice just hanging out with people and listening to my cool iPod mix... (I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I am the greatest creator of iPod playlists to ever exist.) The guys from Remembering Carthage just showed up. I'm taking Jake out for some dinner. Be back soon... Is anyone reading this?

6:32 - Jake had a sandwich and I had a salad. Now we're back at Vox. Ted is talking about the mission of Vox Culture and Christine & Michelle are about to talk about their trip to Tanzania and our cause for the weekend: Floresta. Remembering Carthage is up at 7.

6:56 - People grabbing a bite and some coffee, getting a breath of fresh air outside. It is a little funny to be in a dark room all day long. Ted was saying it's screwing with his sense of time...

7:28 - Remembering Carthage is playing. Very cool stuff. Kind of a cross between Dashboard Confessional and Jason Mraz. Acoustic guitar, hand percussion (djembe, cajon, cymbal) and electric guitar. Especially digging this song "Take It All To Heart." Wish I had recorded it.

8:08 - Show's over. Thanks, everyone... Meghan! Thanks for caring. :) Jake is so hyper. I'll get photos and video up later tonight.

Huge thank yous to Michelle, Greg, Christine, Alex, Ted, Mike Chen, the folks from It's a Grind, Jin, all the Access folks who pitched in, Jacob (yes, my Jacob), the bands and artists... I'll let you know when I have some $ totals.

11:30 - Sitting in bed processing pictures and videos for this blog, Youtube, Facebook, the Vox website... Can't sleep anyway. I'll insert some photos/vids above. My favorite picture of the night... Jake throwing ice in the air to make it snow in Houston. Again!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Em & Zach Off-Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway

On Tuesday night, Rummel Creek staged its first ever 1st Grade Musical. Emily and Zach had so much fun preparing for it... Emily is a white daisy in the first video. She sings a song with the group and then has two brief speaking parts. She worked HARD on that speaking part. She was a star. Listen to her enunciation!

Zach was a weed. In fact, he's the first one to step up to the mic and bust a rhyme. I love how serious he takes this. This little guy is acting like a real bad character! Look at how he strikes the pose and the end and just. holds. it. That is acting, my friends. Tony-Award-winning acting.

The whole time the twins were working on this musical, they were also learning square dances for Rummel Creek's annual "Go Texan Day." There is a huge rodeo here in Houston every spring, and to kick it off, the schools have the kids all dress up in western garb and have a good old-fashioned hoedown. Luanne blogged about it and put up some videos over at our Houston Adventure website. Check it out.

Reading The Bible

I've really enjoyed two books lately, and they've both been on the topic of reading... specifically, how do followers of Jesus read the Bible? The first is Scot McKnight's The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I received this book at the Covenant Midwinter Conference last month and started to read it on the plane trip home. Scot is a well-respected author ("The Jesus Creed") and blogger, and a Bible professor at North Park University. He refers to those hard passages of the Bible (genocide in the OT, extended OT laws, seemingly contradictory statements about women in ministry, etc.) as "Blue Parakeets" that must be allowed to sing along with all the other birds in the backyard, even if they don't look like they belong at first. The entire second half of the book is an extended biblical defense of the full acceptance of women in all areas of leadership and ministry.

Second, Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book: A Conversation on the Art of Spiritual Reading. I think I got this book at a Midwinter Conference too, a few years back maybe. And it just seemed like the right book to pick up after Scot's. I am really appreciating its poetic and pastoral approach to the Bible. Peterson is perhaps best known for his translation, The Message.

The idea that both books hold in common is to let the scriptures be the scriptures. Way too often we in the Evangelical world have tried to boil down the incredible Word of God into a set of answers or a systematic theology or a series of promises. And yes, one can find those things in the Bible, but it is so much bigger than that. We must let the Bible be the Bible. To read it as Story, to find ourselves caught up in that Story, to take it into ourselves ("eating" the book) and allow it to tranform us. If we are not being changed, acting upon what we read, we are missing the point.

Scot McKnight reminds us again and again that the point of the Bible is to know the God who wrote it.

For some reason right now I'm drawn to the prophets, so I read Nahum the other day, and now I'm tackling Isaiah. I can't remember the last time I read these books. So good to be in another part of the Story and hearing the same voice of my loving God and Father that I hear in John and Ephesians.

Covenanters affirm the "centrality of the Word of God." In fact, it is one of our six Central Affirmations. Last month's conference was all about that. It provided some great opportunities to do thematic worship music around the topic of the Word of God. You can see what we did at the Covenant Worship Blog here.

Speaking of reading, I tried to start The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Again and again, I hear that this is absolutely essential reading for Christian thinkers. All the cool, po-mo Christian dudes are reading it, right? :) It's a tough read. I'm about to give up. Should I keep trying? Help me out here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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