American Idol: I love American Idol. I just do. My favorite contestant this season is Blake Lewis.
Old friends: Last night my friend Trish, her husband Billy, and her son Caleb came over for dinner. Trish and I were roommates the first half of our sophomore year, until she left Taylor for Texas. We've sent each other maybe a handful of emails over the last ten years, and we figured out last spring that we were both moving to the same area. (Actually, she lived in Chicago, too, just not at the same time I did). We finally got together last night. I'm not really good at staying in touch, but its really, really good to connect with an old friend.
Planting Churches: My friend Kate sent me this great talk (its not really a sermon) on planting churches by Tim Keller, and its really fascinating - tons of great information there, and there was a lot of stuff that really struck me.

First, Keller does admit that new churches can exact a cost on established churches, especially in the form of leaders that move to the new church. But he also said that statistically, 60-80% of growth for new churches comes from new believers, where 60-80% of growth for established churches comes from people that just change churches. The issue is whether we're "kingdom-minded" (more excited about the new people that come to Christ) or "tribal-minded" (more worried about the people we're losing from our church). I realized that though I want established churches in our area to be kingdom-minded, that I also need to be kingdom-minded myself, and, in particular, care most that friends find a godly, Bible-based church to attend, even if that's not my church. I'm excited about what we're doing, and about what God is doing, and want to share that, but I need to make sure I prioritize things correctly. Also, along these lines and interesting to me, the people who have committed to being a part of the Bridge Church are, for the most part, not coming from an established church in this area (with one exception). Instead, they've either moved here (like Nick, Heather, and I), they've been burned out on church in general, or they just hadn't found one.

Another thing Keller mentioned is that older churches tend to spend the majority of their time and money on the needs of existing members of their congregation, rather than trying to meet the needs of those outside of the church. He says this is only natural, and I suppose it is and that it isn't all bad, but I wonder - how do you make sure this doesn't become true? Up until now, almost everyone in our church has been super-committed and focused on reaching new people, but as we get further along in our Sunday services, I'm sure we'll have members and regular attenders who are more focused on having their needs met. I don't see us losing that focus anytime soon, mostly because I think Nick does an excellent job at promoting a vision and church culture that is outward-focused. Its hard to think that many years down the line, though.

Children's Ministry: Here's the struggle with children's ministry in a new church - it just takes so many volunteers to make it work. We had set up a schedule through March 11, with four workers each week (two in Bridge Kids, two in nursery), and we're basically using everyone who doesn't have a dedicated job during the service itself. But, based on attendance at our first service last week (8 kids who were 3 and under), we really need an additional person in the nursery each week. There's a part of me that just wants to do it myself, because I'm hesitant to ask more of the people who are already committed. And, honestly, part of the struggle is that I know that not all of these people necessarily feel called to children's ministry, and I don't like asking it of it more than I have to. Plus, we've just got a lot of people with alternative schedules, who already have to miss 3 out of every 9 weeks, and I want them to be able to experience the service. I think I'm probably making a bigger deal out of it than necessary. I love these first few services and the excitement they bring, but for the children's ministry, I'm looking forward to a bit further down the line, when we can have more volunteers to pull from.
House Guests: I love my family, but my house sure was a lot cleaner before they got here. There was less junk food in the house, too. Its my own fault, though - if I'm going to ask Dad to take care of a few things around the house (like sawing off the bottom of the guest room/office door so it no longer scrapes my beautiful wood floors and installing brackets under the not-so-stable floating shelves in the dining room), then its only fair that I clean up.

Work out: Heather and I tried working out together on elliptical machines for the first time tonight (lately, we've walked together for the first mile, then I would hit the bike while she ran for a while). Whew! That, on top of the leg weight machines - my legs are killing me.
Grammies: I just finished watching Gnarls Barkley sing "Crazy" on the Grammies. Don't get me wrong, I like the song (especially when Jacob sings it and changes the lyrics just a bit: "I think Aunt Bear's crazy..."), but as I'm watching it, it occurs to me that I've seen a few similar performances during the American Idol auditions. Seriously, if someone walked in to one of those auditions and sang like that, there is no way they would be taken seriously. Yet, it's a huge song.

And can someone please explain why the Dixie Chicks keep winning awards? Country music awards? Do country radio stations even play their songs anymore?
Heat: What is it about the houses I own having problems with heat? The last few mornings (today being the exception) I woke up to a temperature between 58-61 degrees. Even in the evenings, the temperature never passed 66, though the auxiliary heat was supposed to be running constantly. I called the company that installed it, and earlier this week, a technician came out and added more freon, then said everything seemed to be running normally.

Nope. Friday afternoon, someone else came out and found out the auxiliary heat hadn't been hooked up correctly, fixed it, and left, assuming he had found the problem. Saturday morning, its only 61 in the house (and my mom, who is never cold, actually wore her coat and gloves to bed). He comes back out and rewires everything for the auxiliary heat, hears and feels the heat come on, and leaves again, thinking the problem had been fixed.

We come home from running errands, and its still cold. Finally, Dad suggests checking the breaker, and after a while, we figure out that now that the heat is finally hooked up correctly, it keeps tripping the old breaker. So, Dad goes out to buy a new breaker, and finally I have heat. Four separate problems.

Launch Service: The count I heard was 102 people, which I think includes the 12 kids. Just amazing, amazing, amazing. We need more people in the nursery.

Family: My parents, my brother Jon, and Jon's friend Chris came to visit for our launch service. This is my favorite photo from the weekend (can you tell how much Chris and Jon just love Nick?):

Harvey: I was finally able to get Harvey to hold still long enough to take a picture of her. Its not that she's always moving, its just that whenever I try to get her attention for a picture, she gets way too close for a good shot.

Bridge Church: I know I've said, but I am just so stinking excited about our service tomorrow, especially after the Launch Team meeting we had Thursday night. It was amazing, and I just have this picture in my head of needing to sit on the floor because we've run out of seats. Can you imagine what that would be like? I think God is going to just completely blow our minds.
Harvey: So, Harvey is here now. She and Dakota fought a bit, but just playfully, so I think its working out for Dakota to have a companion. She doesn't like being crated while I'm gone, but until I know I can trust her, I think its the best thing. She's pretty much house trained, but she does pee when she gets excited. This is when I'm glad I have hardwood floors.

Both dogs slept with me last night, though it threw Dakota off having something else in the bed. Harvey slept right up next to me, so Dakota couldn't do what she normally does (cuddle for a few minutes, then head under the covers). I ended up moving to the center of the bed so I could have a dog on either side.

Super Bowl: About the only thing I have to say about the Super Bowl is that I'm really disappointed for Brandon that the Bears didn't win.

Painting: I finally finished painting my bathroom. For such a small surface area, it was a huge pain. Medicine cabinet, cabinet, two light fixtures, fan, exhaust, window, door, shower curtain rod, shower head - all of those things had to be taped and painted around individually. I stood on the tub, the toilet, a chair, and kneeled on the sink, and did some pretty incredible balancing acts. Four coats (two of primer and two of paint) later, I thought I was pretty much done, but I started to pull of the tape. I only painted the walls in color, which means I need to go back and paint the ceiling at some point (it just has primer now), and the tape on the ceiling (on top the primer) was literally the only thing that came off well.

Tonight I'll finish moving everything back in there, hopefully caulk the top of the tile all the way around the room, and make a list of the things I need to get to finish it all off.
Harvey: Audrie and Jeremy came by with Harvey tonight, and she and Dakota seemed to get along well. I thought Dakota would be more dominant, but Harvey is just a bit bigger, which is, I guess, enough of a difference for Dakota. For now I'll be keeping her (starting tomorrow) about a month or two, and then we'll re-evaluate. Audrie and Jeremy really don't want to give her up, which I understand, but they understand how I feel, too.

Super Bowl: I've never really cared too much for football - what I like about it is the camaraderie that happens when you watch games with friends, which, for me, usually means talking to the girls in another room while their husbands watch the game. The Super Bowl is a bit different, because the commercials are great, but this year will be really fun because my friend Brandon is a huge Bears fan. So, I'll be rooting for them, for him. Nick and Heather are hosting their second annual Super Bowl party, and Heather thinks there will be about 50 people there. I'm just wondering where all of those people are going to fit.
Postcards: Last night our church put stamps and labels on around 9500 postcards that announce our launch service to 18 to 45-year-olds in parts of Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk. That's a lot of postcards, but luckily there was also a lot of people.

Launch: Our launch service is coming up quickly - just over a week now. I'm so excited, I can hardly wait. The preview services were great and necessary, but there's a part of me that just wants to get going already. My parents and brother are also coming that weekend for a visit, so I'm excited to see them.

Harvey: I met Audrie and Jeremy about a month ago at a baby shower our church hosted for them (just in time, too - the baby was born less than a week later). Audrie and Jeremy need someone to take their dog, Harvey, for up to a year, so they're bringing her over to meet Dakota tomorrow night. If they get along (that being a big if), then I'll keep her, though we'll need to talk more about how long. One month or two isn't a huge deal, but I don't think I can take a dog for a year and not be too attached to keep her.