Friday, June 26, 2009

My 30th Year

Year #30 ended today as I was born 31 years ago, today, at 3:45 AM. Ironically, I was awake this morning at 3:45 (since I drank several glasses of pink lemonade while celebrating my birthday with GCT friends at Austin's), so I acknowledged my birthday on the exact minute.

My 30th year was one of, if not the, best year of my life. To demonstrate how great year #30 was, it must be compared to year 29. During my 29th year, I was diagnosed with infertility, had a potential adopted son stillborn and had another potential birth mom stand us up. At Christmas that year, I had a meltdown watching Facing the Giants. On top of everything else, I spent my 29th year mourning the loss of my 20's. Erin said I basically turned 30 a year early, since I spent that entire year calling myself a 30 year old man.

My 30th year didn't start that well, though. 30 isn't really too old, not to me anyway, but it felt really old to still not have kids. My biological clock was ticking as loudly as Edger Allen Poe's Telltale Heart. But things started to change that September, when I got a call from a friend in the theatre telling us her niece was pregnant and wanted to place the baby in an adoptive family. To review the entire story, click on the adoption labels.

My 30th year was the year in which I received the greatest gift I could ever be given, the gift of a child. Dawson's the best birthday present I could ever ask for and he makes me feel younger. It's not that my knees don't still ache after I run or my hair isn't getting progressively thinner, it's just that I'm a dad now and that makes me feel quite youthful. Dawson did also give me a special birthday present - two full diapers. He's such a thoughtful kid.

I can understand why the Hebrew people in the Old Testament believed eternal life came through having children (they didn't have much of an idea of heaven, not like what we see in the New Testament). But I digress...

I spent the 2 months of my 30th year anticipating fatherhood and the last 4 months of my 30th year as Dawson's daddy. Of course, we had some other great things happen this past year, too but combined they still aren't as great.

Bring on year # 31.

Monday, June 22, 2009

God's Math

To put it mildly, I'm not at my best when thinking out loud in front of a group of people. So when I walked back up front to offer the blessing and was given $100 to give away to "anyone who needed it," I was scrambling for the best way to have someone get the money without everyone seeing. I ended up putting it in the prayer request basket on the stage and someone was able to take it after worship without anyone else noticing. But my verbal stumbling aside, being able to pass along a gift of $100 right on the spot was one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced during worship.

And I'd communicated pretty effectively up to that point. When I'm ending my message and can tell that a lot of people are wiping tears from their eyes, I know I've made a connection. I was having trouble keeping from crying myself. You can hear the message here. The story I shared (that just so happens to be one of the most significant stories of my life) starts at 28:37. Just the other day, the person to whom we gave that gift said it's one of the most amazing things to ever happen in their entire life.

We live by God's math when we give to God and others first. When we live according to God's math, everyone is taken care of.

In Sunday's survey, we asked for stories of "God's Math." Here are a few of them.

"Just on a regular basis I am always worried about how I will make ends meet – but when I tithe or give first out of each paycheck, God has always provided for me – or given me more than I need."

"Many times I have been asked to “sell my field” give up jobs, living arrangements car, people in my life – God always provides, He has been faithful to a promise from Psalms, “Lord, do not let me be disgraced.” My past two years have been surrender and sacrifice and learning to trust God, having nothing, God is my everything. And he is faithful! My life is simple but God’s love is extravagant."

"We helped out a homeless family not too long ago. It didn’t go very well but we know we did everything God asked us to do. We would do it again in a heartbeat. We had everything we needed."

"When we gave to 98.9 charity a month or so later I got a phone call from my brother, who makes quite a bit more money than we do and over Christmas we had been telling our family about our Dave Ramsey plan and my brother called me a month or so late and said they had been “called” to give money to help us out and they wanted to pay off our credit card! They more than doubles the amount we gave away! God is good!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First Father's Day

I'd been waiting for this day for several years and it's been a pretty good day. It started with me feeding Dawson at 4:30 this morning, barely awake and took off from there. The past few days have been nonstop and today was more of the same. Ryder stayed the night last night, so we were giving baths, getting them dressed, cleaning up breakfast, giving bottles and everything while getting ready for set-up (me) and morning band practice (Erin). I get to watch both boys while Erin is singing.

After the craziness of church (which was AWESOME today - more on that later) and VBS set-up, I had to get over to rehearsal. I got home at 5:00 to find that Erin and Franci had taken the boys to Target and somehow gotten the last (display) model of a grill into Franci's jeep. Erin and I got it out and while she wasn't paying attention, I hauled the whole thing up the deck steps by myself (finally, something practical for all those hours in the gym). And I just finished the polish sausages I grilled on the $300 grill we got for half price. Man, it's been a long time since I've grilled.

Here are the thoughts I shared on Father's day during this morning's worship. In his own 4 month old way, Dawson knows that the two big people - the ones who always come into him room when he's crying, feed him when he's hungry, sing to him, play with him, rock him and everything else we do - care for him. I'm not sure how much he comprehends, but he knows there's something special about us.
But even though he has vague realizations that we care for him, he has NO IDEA the depth of our love for him. He couldn't even come close to grasping how much we love him. I still, sometimes, put him in his crib and then cry thankful tears as I pray over him.

And if our love for Dawson is so much greater than he can comprehend, imagine the power of our Heavenly Father's love. We could never grasp even a fraction of God's love for us. But if we could somehow come to live in the reality of that love, it would completely and eternally transform our lives.

Happy Father's Day

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's not how you start but how you finish

To see some beautiful Melrose Magic just skip ahead to 2:19.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Greg Boyd does it again

At this point in my spiritual journey, no one influences me like pastor/author/professor Greg Boyd. Boyd's teaching on the Kingdom of God has revolutionized my understanding of the church, what it means to be a pastor and simply what it means to be Christian. His book Myth of a Christian Nation is one of the best books I've ever read, and I've read thousands of books. It's a must read for any follower of Jesus, particularly those who, like myself, grew up in a church in which just before presidential elections we were given a brochure from the Christian Coalition, telling us what exactly was the "Christian vote." To hear me going off on the idea of a "Christian vote" listen to this sermon. I believe Boyd is bringing much-needed change to Evangelical Christianity; challenging us to reject the world's power structures and get back to the example and teachings of Jesus.

When Zach Pogemiller told me he'd just bought Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution I figured I didn't need to read it since I'd already heard it all in Greg Boyd's podcasts. Thankfully however, I read the book anyway. While it's true there were no ideas in the book that were new, the book still convicted me and reminded me of ways in which I still need to grow as Kingdom person. The chapter on Judgment hit closest to home and I've heard the Holy Spirit call me out on judgmental thoughts the past few days.

Maybe the best way to summarize the book is to list the chapters, which will give you a general overview of the book's content. While almost every one of the 218 pages contains challenging ideas, I'm going to share a few of them below.

Giant Jesus
[My eyes were slowly] opened to the radical contradiction between the lifestly Jesus calls his followers to embrace, on the one hand, and the typical American lifestyle, on the other. Yet it struck me that the Church in America largely shares - even celebrates - the typical American lifestyle.

What I never understood was why followers of Jesus would try to gain political power over people when Jesus himself never attempted such a thing. Nor could I understand how Christians could act as if their sins were less serious than the sins of those they were crusading against.

I would explain the biblical reasons why our church never has, and never will, participate in political activity (as well as why we don't have a flag on our premises, sing patriotic hymns, celebrate the Fourth of July, or do other things like that. So I delivered a four-part sermon series entitled "The Cross and the Sword" that spelled out the difference between the Kingdom of God, which followers of Jesus are called to promote, and the kingdoms of the world, which politics concerns itself with. The messages exposed a division in my congregation that ran through the entire evangelical community. On the one hand, I'd never received such positive responses to anything I'd ever preached. Some people literally wept for joy, feeling that the Gospel had been hijacked by American politics. On the other hand, roughly a thousand people walked out. I faced similar extremes of positive and negative feedback when I preached the message on politics that is linked above.

But the Kingdom revolution is unlike any other the world has known. It is not a revolution for power over others, choosing instead to excercise power under others. It's a revolution of humble, self-sacrificial, loving sservice. It always looks like Jesus, dying on Calvary for the very people who crucified him.

Christ and Caesar
The power of this distinctive, self-sacrificial beauty is lost, however, whenver the Kingdom of God gets blended with the power-over attitudes and practices of the kingdoms of the world. The Kingdom stops looking like a giant Jesus and starts looking like a giant Caesar - which means the Kingdom for all practical purposes simply ceases to exist.

Some claim the church is supposed to be the "conscience of the government," but there's absolutely no basis for this claim in the New Testament. Rather, we're to position ourselves as society's humble servants, for this is what Jesus did.

The Revolt against Idolatry
In Jesus, our hearts finally find what they've been hungry for, so we are empowered to break our miserable addiction to idols.

The Revolt against Judgment
People on both sides whose source of Life is wrapped up with their patriotism just know that they happened to be born on the side of the good, while their enemy happened to be born on the side of evil. In America, for example, most people (including, it seems, most Christians) just know that God is on the side of political freedom and that it is worth killing for - despite Jesus' command that his followers are to love and do good to all enemies, and despite the fact that neither Jesus nor anyone else in the Bible ever said a word about political freedom.

The Revolt against Religion
While the holiness of Jesus ascribed unsurpassable worth to people, the "holiness" of the Pharisees detracted worth from people as they ascribed worth to themselves. The holiness Jesus manifested fed people, while the judgmental "holiness" of the Pharisees fed off of people.

What kind of holiness does the Western Church manifest today? To answer this, we need only ask: Are the prostitutes and tax collectors of our day attracted to us or repelled by us?
Jesus was known for the scandalous way he loved.
So, instead of being know as outrageous lovers, Christians are largely viewed as self-righteous judgers.

The Revolt against Individualism
When you combine our relationship-eroding consumerism with our stress on individual freedoms and rights, you can understand why most westerners have many acquaintances but few (if any) deeply committed relationships that echo the beautiful love of the triune God.
In his marvelous book The Great Divorce, CS Lewis envisioned hell as a realm in which people are forever moving farther away from one another. Hell is the ultimate, cosmic, suburban sprawl. It's a vision of hell that is becoming a reality in Western culture, and it's something Kingdom people in the West are called to passionately revolt against.

House gatherings were the primary social unit of the Jesus revolution for the first three centuries.

Welcome to McChurch, where you get served up a Gospel tailor-made to suit your personal tastes and needs and that never confronts you or causes you any discomfort. McChurch not only fails to confront the idols and pagan values of Western culture, it often "Christianizes" them.

The Revolt against Nationalism
For the first three hundred years or so of the Kingdom revolution, Christians on the whole remained beautifully free of nationalistic idolatry. The early Christians didn't see themselves as belonging to the empire they lived in, and they would not pledge allegiance to or fight for any ruler or country. They routinely chose to die rather than pledge allegiance to a symbolic statue of the emperor. They were consequently criticized and persecuted for being unpatriotic, subversive, and cowardly.
By their refusal to conform and willingness to suffer, these early followers of Jesus bore witness to a radically different, beautiful Christlike way of doing life. In sharp contrast to Islam, which experienced explosive growth in its earliest years by the ferocity of its warriors, the early Church experienced explosive growth in its earliest years by the beautiful way followers of Jesus chose to die rather than fight.
Constantine's alleged vision, telling him to go to war under the banner of Christ changed all this. Christianity was reduced to a pagan, nationalistic god of war.
Leaders as well as the masses too often embraced their nation's values and goals as though they were God's own.

We've been seduced by the Powers. It's time for Kingdom people in America to be done with this. Our ultimate allegiance cannot be to America or any other country. It cannot be to a flag, democracy, the right to defend ourselves, the right to do what we want, the right to vote, or the right to pursue happiness however we see fit. We are Kingdom people only to the extent that God alone is King of our lives, and thus only to the extent that we revolt against the temptation to make any cultural values or ideas supreme.

The Revolt against Violence
Although it might appear that Jesus is telling his followers [In Matthew 5 - "turn the other cheek"] to be passive, masochistic doormats in the face of evil, that is not what he's suggesting. The word translated "resist" antistenai doesn't necessarily suggest passivity. Rather, it connotes responding to a violent action with a similar violent action. We aren't to passively let evil have its way, but neither are we to sink to the level of the evil being perpetrated against us by responding in kind. Our response is rather to be consistent with loving the offender.
We aren't to be passive and we aren't to be doormats. But because we aren't to be defined by the evil we confront, neither are we to become violent. Quid pro quo has been entirely abolished in the Kingdom Jesus brings.

Our willingness to go against our fallen nature and love and serve enemies rather than resort to violence against them is the telltale sign we are participating in the Kingdom of God.
Notice this: there are no exception clauses found anywhere in the New Testament's teaching about loving and doing good to enemies.

For while the way of violence may appear to curb evil in the short run, it always - always - produces more violence in the long run. It's self-perpetuating.

Suggested Websites: Christian Peacemaking Teams Witness for Peace
Peace Brigades Nonviolent Peace Force

The Revolt against Social Oppression
The truth is that Jesus' teachings and examples are primarily about brining God's will "on earth as it is in heaven" in the lives of his followers here and now. We're now living in the year of jubilee, so all class distinctions are to be abolished in the community of God's people now.

The majority of American churches are as segregated along socioeconomic lines as much as they are along racial lines.

The Revolt against Racism
This means [Ephesians 2:14-16] that revolting against racism is not a nice addendum to the Gospel, as many contemporary white Christians seem to think. It's one of the reasons Jesus came and died on the cross. It's as central to the Gospel as anything could possibly be. We can no more refrain from proclaiming and demonstrating the reunification of humanity in Christ than we can refrain from preaching forgiveness of sin in Christ!

The truth is, racism in America is far more subtle and sinister than this. America was conquered by white Europeans, was structured by and for white Europeans, and it continues to privilege white Europeans. Racism has been woven into the very fabric of our culture from the start.
One of the ways the social system of America continues to privilege whites over others is that it insulates us from the ongoing effects of America's racist past.
For more reading on this topic, check out Lies My Teacher Told Me

The Revolt against Poverty and Greed
When Jesus offers warnings to "the rich," therefore, he's talking about most of us. And his warning is that riches have a way of entrapping us.

It's sobering to compare America's spending on the military with its aid to the poor. In 2005, America spent twenty-seven times more on its military than it did on alleviating global poverty. Some estimate that the amount spent on the Iraq war alone in 2006 could have fed and housed all the poor on the planet six times over. It's also sobering to consider that Americans spend enough money on entertainment each year to feed all the hungry people on the planet for a year.

The Revolt against the Abuse of Creation
"The time has come for judging the dead... and for destroying those who destory the earth." Revelation 11:18

I'd like to suggest that, from a Kingdom perspective, it shouldn't make a bit of difference why the earth is warming up. Nor should it make a bit of difference if it suddenly starts cooling down. For we as Kingdom people are called to care for the earth and the animal kingdom simply because this is part of what it means to be faithful to the reign of God. Following the example of Jesus and the general teaching of Scripture, we're called to manifest God's loving care for the earth and the animal kingdom while revolting against everything that abuses creation.

The Revolt against the Abuse of Sex
Something is precious when it is not common. It costs a great deal to purchase a diamond but costs nothing to acquire an ordinary stone, because diamonds are rare while ordinary stones are not. Sex is intended by God to be a precious and beautiful diamond precisely because it's not intended for common use. Sexual intercourse is the only place where God creates the "one flesh" reality that reflects his beautiful and costly relationship with humans in Christ. It is to be shared only by those who have paid the ultimate price of pledging their whole loves to one another.
What God knows - and what we desperately need to understand - is that our own well being and the well being of society depends on our treating this diamond like the rare and precious stone that it is. When we treat this diamond like a common stone - as our contemporary recreational view of sex encourages us to do - we are desecrating the "one flesh" reality it creates, disdaining its role as a sign of God's relationship with the Church, and violating its role as a sign and sealing of the marriage covenant. We are making a mockery of a beautiful, foundational aspect of God's plan for humans on earth. And we are, consequently, bringing destruction upon ourselves and society.

The Revolt against Secularism
I've been trying to practice this discipline after being inspired last year by Greg Boyd and John Burke's preaching.
A central task for a Kingdom disciple, therefore, is to cultivate a life of unbroken communion with God through Christ. Far from living in a "secular" world where we rarely surrender ourselves consciously to God, our goal must be to abolish the seperation between the "secular" and the "holy" in order to make everything - and every moment - holy. This is our revolt against secularism.

Practicing the presence of God is something we strive for moment-by-moment, even if it's something we will never perfectly attain in this life.
Like me, you will undoubtedly forget to remain aware of God's presence in a few moments. But if you're open to it, before long the Holy Spirit will break through your secularized consciousness and whisper to you, "Remember me?" And when he does, our job is to yield to him and surrender to God's loving presence in that moment - and then seek to do so in the next moment, and then in the next.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

10 Stupid Things that Keep a Church from Growing

What do you think?

Here's the book - link.

#1 is me all the way. I'm a terrible delegator and not so good at the "big-ask."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Football in Iowa

ESPN is doing a national tour of football in each state. Yesterday's stop was the Hawkeye State. Here are the videos:

Rod Gilmore's take on football in Iowa.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Failed Tightrope Walkers

While prepping for Sunday's message on Serving Others, I picked up Henri Nouwen's short book In the Name of Jesus and read it for the 10th time or so. Every time I read this book, from when it was assigned reading in preparing to be a freshman seminar leader during my second year of college to my fourth summer as a pastor, I'm struck by something new. Nouwen wrote this book for Christian leaders and the longer I'm in ministry, the more I appreciate Nouwen's depth.

In leaving his high profile position as a professor at Harvard and giving the rest of his life serving at the L'Arche community for the mentally handicapped in Toronto, Nouwen was able to reflect upon the temptations and challenges of Christian leadership. Nouwen proposes 3 movements for Christian leaders; 1) from relevance to prayer, 2) from popularity to ministry and 3) from leading to being lead. I want to share some quotes that nailed me upside the head this morning.

"I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life."

"The leader of the future will be the one who dares to claim his irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows him or her to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there."

"When you look at today's Church, it is easy to see the prevalence of individualism among ministers and priests. Not too many of us have a vast repertoire of skills to be proud of, but most of us still feel that, if we have anything at all to show, it is something we have to do solo. You could say that many of us feel like failed tightrope walkers who discovered that we did not have the power to draw thousands of people, that we could not make many conversions, that we did not have the talents to create beautiful liturgies, that we were not as popular with the youth, the young adults, or the elderly as we had hoped, and that we were not as able to respond to the needs of our people as we had expected. But most of us still feel that, ideally, we should have been able to do it all and do it successfully. Stardom and individual heroism, which are such obvious aspects of our competitive society, are not at all alien to the Church. There too the dominant image is that of the self-made man or woman who can do it all alone."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Fullness of Christ's Supremacy

I was reading Ephesians 1 this morning and was struck by how Paul wrapped up his writing about the supremacy of Christ.

"19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms.21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church."

We see the power and authority of Christ here, which didn't strike me as anything new. What did catch me off guard however, is how the person of Christ is manifested in his body, the church.
"23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself." I like how the New NIV reads, "for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

This whole chapter leads to the church. The church is the fullness of Christ. Stop and think about that for a minute, the group of people who call themselves Trinity Family and are attempting to live how Jesus taught us to live are the fullness of Christ. What an insanely huge responsibility. We represent the one who sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and under whom all power and authority rest. We are His body.

This was my SOAP reading this morning and here's the prayer with which I finished.
Help me as I lead. Help TFC to be an authentic representation of your Son. May people encounter you as they encounter our church; as a gathered community in worship, as a united church in serving and as scattered individuals interacting with their world.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Twist of Fate

We had our monthly GCT board meeting last night at Austin's and part of the meeting was spent discussing our process for choosing our summer shows. It was casually mentioned that GCT was denied approval for last summer's first choice, Annie so they went with their second choice, The Music Man.

I've told the story hundreds of times by now, how Erin and I started praying last spring that God would provide the opportunity for us to get more involved in our community and that God answered our prayers just one week later when I found a flyer for The Music Man tryouts crumpled up in the bottom of a Wal-Mart shopping cart. I went to the auditions thinking I'd find a way to be in the chorus and ended up being cast as the lead. That whole story is documented throughout this blog and if you want to read more, just click on the "Gardner musical" labels.

But when the reality of the simple statement from last night, "Music Man was our second choice" hit me last night, I had trouble getting to sleep. What if GCT had gotten permission to do Annie as their summer show? I know I wouldn't have bothered to audition because not only is The Music Man one of my favorite shows but I really don't care much for Annie. And had I not gotten involved in GCT, the following wonderful blessings would've never came into our lives.

1) The experience of playing Harold Hill My co-lead from last year, Caitlin is my "wife" in one scene in this show and as we stood toward the back of the stage yesterday watching the two leads for this year's show, Joe and Celia, working on their lines, a smile crossed my face as I thought of how much fun they're going to have. Even though it was a thrilling experience at the time, I think one year later I have a deeper apprecation for what a privilege it was to play the lead in such a great show. Whenever I watched musicals in the past, I'd see the leads come out at the end of the curtain call and think, "how would that feel." Well, last summer I got to experience it. I have a feeling that as the years go on, I'll cherish this memory even more. Of course, I'll always know the words to 76 Trombones and Trouble.

2) Community I like to joke that GCT focuses upon "putting the community back into Community Theatre. Erin and I have been able to build some great friendships within GCT. Yes, people know I'm a pastor and I have opportunities for spiritual conversations (see below) but there's not the same pressure (very likely self-imposed) that I feel in pastoring TFC. Though I'm a pretty down-to-earth guy among my congregation and though most people don't have me on any type of pedestal, I still never take off the "pastor-hat" among TFC friends. In GCT, I'm just "Donnie" and not "Pastor Donnie" and I'm thinking only pastors can really understand what I mean by that.
Hours and hours together in rehearsals really bring a group of people close together. And you realize how close you've gotten to people when you're reunited after several months. From the baby shower GCT threw for us in February to skiing with the Sasses, we've made some wonderful friendships through GCT and it's hard to imagine our lives without these friends.

3) Some amazing conversations The spiritual conversations started about halfway through rehearsals for last summer's show and I was still having them last Sunday. Even though it's different than being among my congregation, GCT friends still know I'm a pastor and occasionally look to me for spiritual, relational and life guidance. I spend hours and hours hanging out with people, they come to view me as a "normal guy" and when they need some direction, I'm the one they call - or email or text or Facebook.

4) A Godson Erin and I have become close friends with last summer's director, Franci. Several months ago, Franci asked us to be her son's godparents "so when he grows up and has questions about following Christ, you'll be there to teach him." No one has ever given us an honor like that before and we take it very seriously; we've prayed for Ryder (and his mom) every night for the past 7 months and he sometimes spends the night here on Saturday nights. Ryder is a very special boy and we hope that as he grows up we really will be able to teach him what it means to live for Jesus, just as his mom wants us to do.
4.5) Young Love I've added this in response to Valerie's comments below. I've got a habit of trying to create love connections between unmarried friends. Sometime during last summer's rehearsals I realized, "Valerie's a great person (I got to know Val through the show), Zach's a great person (I've known Zach almost my entire life), I wonder if they'd be game for a blind date?" They were game and they eventually hit if off (Zach's a bit shy) and now Erin and I smile at the two young lovebirds. I joke that I like to "spread the misery" but seriously, I enjoy seeing great people create a great relationship. I know that Zach and Valerie and Valerie's mom are very glad I auditioned for The Music Man.

5) Dawson As great as the above blessings are, they don't compare to the privilege of being Dawson's mommy and daddy. You can read the entire adoption story here but the short version is this: Our IVF attempt failed about a week before last summer's show, Karen called in September to tell us her pregnant niece was looking for an adoptive family, at Ryder's birthday party in October Franci convinced us we should meet with Brianna (though we didn't think we were ready for adoption), Alex's role as Horton in Spring Hill HS's Suessical the Musical was how God told us to adopt this little boy and Dale and Judy got us an adoption grant that covered a large part of the adoption expenses. We met all of those people through The Music Man.

Erin and I went through several painful years trying to become parents and when I realized that our prayers were answered through such a small thing as GCT's request for Annie getting denied, I had trouble keeping the tears out of my eyes.

We pray and pray and pray and cry and pray some more, then we're just amazed at the coincidences that work in bringing God's answer to the cry of our hearts.