Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Theological Dilemmas

Can I share with you one of my theological dilemmas? It's one of those things that keeps me awake and night and stirs my soul in the morning. I think about this all the time and can't quite determine what I think. It ranks right up there with Calvinism and Arminianism. With pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, no-trib. With atonement theories. Here it is...

Will there be BBQ in heaven? :)

It's against Jewish dietary law. But I'm a new covenant Gentile Christ follower. Will there be BBQ? And if so, will it be Memphis BBQ?

For whatever it's worth, there's BBQ in South Carolina. We are here for Multi-Site Exposed Conference, and in the past 18 hours, I've eaten both Sticky Fingers and Shane's Rib Shack. So good. So good. Let's hope it shows up at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Elephants in the Church

Last year, we launched a sermon series called "The Elephant in the Church" where we confronted obvious truths that we tend to ignore. We talked about alcohol, homosexuality, spiritual consumerism, hypocrisy, etc. The series was so successful and powerful that we are going to do it again this fall.

I've got to decide what Elephant to confront. I've got two ideas that are at the top of my list right now:
  • The Suffering Elephant- what happens when God's actions in your life don't seem to match his character and promises? How do we respond when bad things happen to good people?
  • The Holy Elephant- we have a tendency in the church today to parade our sin around in the name of "being authentic" when we are really just being sinful. What is the balance between transparency/authenticity and the holiness Jesus has called us to? What is the difference between legalism and holiness?
There are a few other ideas floating around my head, as well- integrity, complacency vs. contentment, materialism. And some doctrinal elephants- like the inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture, the dual nature (divinity/humanity) nature of Jesus.

If you've got a vote, let me know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I had a great time hanging out with the Georgetown Women's Bible Study this morning. This group has been meeting for 16 years, and I had the privilege of teaching there today. On Eve. Geez. Why can't I get the low hanging fruit like Esther or Ruth? Who wants to teach on Eve?!

Totally misunderstood. Blamed for millennia. Responsible for everything bad that happens on this fallen earth. She's not exactly at the top of anyone's "Must Meet" list in heaven. Or at least she wasn't on the top of my list...until recently.

After studying her a little bit more, I'm intrigued. How did that fateful day in the garden affect the way she made choices through the remainder of her life? How did it feel to be a parent when she herself had not been parented? How did she navigate daughters through puberty when she never experienced it herself?

I always thought Eve's story was tragic and sad, but that's not how God allows our stories to end. We don't really know her ending, but we do know the new beginning God gave her after the fall. First, God announces his divine plan-- the Jesus plan-- right after the fall in Genesis 3:15. That's awesome. But the most intriguing thing to me is that Adam did not name his wife "Eve" until after the fall. "Eve" means "life" or "living" or "mother of all living." What a powerful moment of redemption!

So yeah, now I think I want to meet Eve. And I want her story to challenge me to make choices that are right and good and in line with becoming the person God created me to be. Her story also challenges me that no mistake, no matter how big, bad, or fateful, can thwart the ultimate good purposes and plans of God for my life if I run back to him. We need to let God reveal our true names, our true selves.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heading Out With the Hungry Mothers

I'm heading out in t-minus about 2 minutes to hang out with the Hungry Mothers. Okay, none of us are mothers (or anywhere close to being that, as far as I know), but we are pretty much hungry all the time.

These three women have been my friends, my co-leaders, my road trip buddies, my cheerleaders, and my butt-kickers for a long time. In 2000, we started an (almost) annual tradition called "Hungry Mother" because we met up for a weekend retreat at Hungry Mother State Park. In addition to the retreat that is still called Hungry Mother, we also try to catch up about once a month or so to encourage, challenge, and just do life together. For some reason, we just started calling every hang-out time a "Hungry Mother" event.

Today, we are heading out to Kitty Hawk, NC for a little rest, fun, and whatever trouble we can find to participate in. I've been needing a break for a while, so I'm super excited to hit escape velocity from the Beltway and spend some time in orbit around the beach. Looking forward to reading, running along the beach, tossing the pigskin, praying, journaling, laughing, and, well, eating.

The Henson Exhibit

If you live around the DC area, make sure to check out the Henson Exhibit at the Smithsonian. It's awesome. I've been twice now, and I'd be willing to go again. It closes on October 5, so hurry up and get there!

We took our Proteges there on Tuesday. I gave them seven words/phrases to think about as they explored the exhibit:
  • Creativity
  • Failure
  • Collaboration
  • Origination of Ideas
  • Marketing
  • Journaling
  • Cross-Pollination
Just a few of my favorite parts:

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending." (Kermit, from The Muppet Movie)

Jim Henson had tons of failed projects. He never stopped learning, never stopped growing, never stopped trying new things. And he never let failure slow him down. It seemed that failure was a step to success.

There was an attitude of play in everything they did. There was also an attitude of excellence in everything they did.

Jim Henson said, "Every time we use mechanics we try to keep them very unmechanical. As soon as the audience starts thinking about the cleverness of it all, then they're not thinking about the performances." That got me thinking about creativity and innovation as it relates to how we do church and share the Gospel. How do we creatively, innovatively, and relevantly share the Gospel in such a way that people's hearts and minds are captivated by the message and not simply impressed by the methods?

"It's not easy being green." (Kermit). Know who you are; know who you're not.

Henson approached projects with a team mind-set. He loved to collaborate and cross-pollinate.

After producing one commercial that used muppets to sell toys to children, Henson decided, "never again." He refused to exploit children again. What a bold decision. Great integrity.

Visual thinking was important to Henson. And it reminded me of the importance of journaling. When we journal, we see more, we dream more, and we have the capacity to thank God for more.

Small Group Prayer

Each Thursday, we write a short article on small group leadership at the zonegathering. We want to provide opt-in, on-going training for our small group leaders. We've covered topics like hospitality, vision, communication, service, and evangelism. This semester, I really want to focus us on prayer. One reason is that my own personal prayer life is in desperate need of a tune-up. But I also believe that our ability to disciple people and create community is rooted in our prayers. The more we pray for people, the more we love them. The more we pray for people, the more discernment God gives us into their spiritual life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sin Boldly Tonight

If you are in the DC area, come out to our Sin Boldly event at Ebenezers Coffeehouse tonight. Here are the details:

Cathleen Falsani, Sin Boldly
Reading and Book Signing
Ebenezers Coffeehouse
7:30 pm

Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don't deserve.

Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace is a collection of stories about the author's experiences with grace—in ridiculous moments and in those that seem trivial but are anything but; in wacky adventures and quiet walks; with family and with strangers; in bars, nightclubs, the occasional house of worship, and in her own home; and through conversations with people—some famous and some not—who have introduced her to grace in new ways that in turn have shaped her faith and the way she tries to live it.

Cathleen Falsani, author of Sin Boldly and The God Factor, is an award-winning religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Wheaton College and holds master’s degrees in journalism and theology. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and fellow journalist, Maurice Possley.

Monday, September 15, 2008


"White. A blank page or a canvas...so many possibilities."
- Sunday in the Park With George

That's exactly how I feel today. I thought I might wake up with some sadness about the end of Steel Magnolias, but it was just the opposite. I feel like I've got my life back and the possibilities are endless!

When you embark on the journey of creating theatre, your life is devoured by the giant sucking sound of the empty stage. Rehearsals dominate your calendar. Character development consumes your mental and emotional capacity. Tech week pushes you to the edge of your physical ability. And your character even consumes and overtakes your own personality at times.

Today, it's back to Heather, back to life, and I get to once again dwell in possibility. Looking forward to God's next adventure!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Steel Magnolias on Showbiz Radio

Showbiz Radio interviewed Kacey McGowan today about our production of Steel Magnolias. Thanks to Mike Clark.

Check it out here.

Steel Mags Reviews

Last night, a few Steel Magnolias reviews came rolling through the Twitter pipeline from some of my favorite critics. Here's what they had to say:

"What an amazing performance of Steel Magnolias at Ebenezers! Awesome and Bravo!"
- Chris Jarrell

amazed at the awesome performance of Steel Magnolias...there are a few more shows at Ebz if you haven't seen it yet. Highly worth it!"
- Lora Jarrell

Steel Magnolias rocked! Fine performances by the whole cast and especially great to see my office peeps commanding the stage!"
- David Russell

Amazing performances at Steel Magnolias tonight! I have to admit..I got a little emotional."
- Missy Russell

Thanks, guys! :)

If you haven't seen the show yet, you've got three more shots.

Friday, September 12 at 8:00pm
Saturday, September 13 at 8:30pm
Sunday, September 14 at 1:00pm

Buy your tickets at Ebenezers Coffeehouse or at the door.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Proteges Coming!

It's Protege Welcome Day, and I'm so excited! Inspired by Mosaic's Protege Program, we decided last spring to launch our own one year version of it this fall. And today, we've got seven brand new faces on the NCC Team, working in areas of media, church planting, kids ministry, discipleship, coffeehouse, missions, and worship.

We'll get them introduced to the team, take them on a tour of the city and our locations, and start downloading the NCC DNA into their systems. It's going to be fun!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Decisions That Make a Leader

We had to cancel Convoy of Hope today thanks to Hurricane Hanna. It was a tough decision for Joel to make this morning at 5am when there was no rain and birds were chirping, but it was the right decision. That's the tough part of leadership. Making tough decisions that don't make sense at the time and potentially unpopular. Anyone can make 90-10 decisions. Most people can make 70-30 decisions. It's the 51-49 decisions that make a leader. I'm so thankful for the amazing team of leaders I get to do life and ministry with.

And I'm so thankful for a church where these are our challenges. We've got to keep expecting the unexpected and chasing the Wild Goose! :)

Friday, September 05, 2008

To Do List

I'm making my to do list. Hopefully some of you can keep me accountable, but it's more to say THANKS publicly to God for all the amazing things I get to be a part of!
I'm so thankful that God has allowed me to be a part of such amazing stuff!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why We Cuss

As Steel Magnolias opens this weekend, I wanted to deal with something proactively and preemptively on the blog. There's some language in Steel Magnolias, and we've decided to keep it.

And while on this subject, let me go out on a limb and say this. Most of the stuff parading around the church under the banner of "art" just sucks...plain and simple. The problem with most church-produced art is that, in a noble attempt to be family friendly and model holiness, we strip our stories of anything sinful. We keep a careful account of bad words, violence, sex, etc. Surprisingly, God didn't seem to be as concerned when writing his story; have you read the Bible recently? The result is that we create flat, lifeless, 2-dimensional characters facing depravity deprived situations that bear little resemblance to real life. Then, we attempt to tell a story of redemption that is shallow because there is nothing to redeem our characters from. In short, we whitewash humanity and undercut the power of the cross. We fail to capture the true story of God and his amazing power to save humanity from the depths of sin.

As Dorothy Sayers would say, we "de-claw he Lion of Judah." And John Henry Cardinal Newman said, "It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless literature of sinful man."

Which is more holy? To tell a story devoid of sin? Or to tell a story that shows the power of the cross over sin? And I'm not advocating here for art as a vehicle for a simplistic Gospel presentation; I'm advocating for honesty.

And while we are being honest, I'm not sure exactly where our convictions should lead us on this. I'm not even sure where I land on this personally. I believe we've got to respect the power of art; while art strives to imitate life, life also imitates art. So we must be good stewards of that God-given creative power. But I'd rather err on the side of protecting and showing off the holiness of God rather than fabricating a false holiness of man.