What’s Your Sign?

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

At our recent Baptism and Family Night at Splash Kingdom, i had the chance to visit with Jami Johnson for a few minutes as things were starting to wind down. Jami, as many of you know, is the Stonepoint Member and WPISD teacher whose world was ripped apart almost 4 years ago, with the tragic death of her son, Adam, in an automobile accident.

She was sitting by herself in the shade, while her middle son, Aaron and his friends had fun at the park. I know she must have thought about how much her fun loving little Adam would have enjoyed the night, as well. We chatted for a few minutes, and i asked her how she was doing. I guess she sensed that i wanted honesty instead of the usual answers that people give that question.

Her response was so insightful, that i asked if i could share it.

She said, ‘i’m probably doing as well as most people. The difference is you know my struggle and my pain,’ she nodded toward the 700-plus folks at the water park, ‘and we don’t know what most of those people are dealing with.’ 

 of4bm-car-stick-shift-storyShe went on to say that she’d recently seen a Facebook post where someone told of getting really frustrated, on the road behind a person driving erratically, jerking, braking quickly and having trouble going up inclines. On the path to road rage, he got closer, and noticed a sign on the back of the car saying “I’m learning to drive a stick shift.” His initial irritation with the other driver, suddenly turned to empathy as he recalled his own experiences grinding gears, stalling out going uphill, missing second, all of the struggles that most of us go through learning to drive a standard.

Because he knew the situation, he was able to have sympathy for the other driver, realize that the extra two minutes his trip was going to take was not really a big deal, and maybe even say a quick prayer for the obviously frustrated, embarrassed girl and her teacher.

It’s like when i see those cars with “Student Driver” emblazoned on them. I want to have some mercy, but based on the information, i also tend to stay the heck out of the way, just in case.

The problem is that most of us don’t have a sign.

We don’t walk around with something around our necks saying “Recently Divorced,” “Dealing With the Death of a Loved One,” “I Have an Unfaithful Spouse,” or the myriad other problems that can affect us, and affect the way we treat other people. Some of the time those hurts are invisible—internalized, or only shared with a few close friends. For other folks, they’re bubbling so close to the surface that they erupt at the slightest provocation, leaving the rest of us to wonder what’s wrong, or worse, grumble about a presumed lack of courtesy, irritability or sometimes, downright ugliness.

So what if we treated everyone like they had a sign? 

Would you get as frustrated in the grocery store if the older person in line in front of you that waited until all the groceries were scanned to pull out her checkbook had a sign on her back that said “I’m 80 and Have No One to Take Care of Me?” What if the driver going 50 in a 70 had a sign that said “I Lost My Job, and Can’t Afford to Get My Car Fixed, and Am on My Way to An Interview”—how would you feel about being stuck behind them then?

One time i saw a guy throw a large soft drink back through the drive thru window at a Wendy’s, because they’d gotten his drink order wrong. Maybe he was just a jerk, but looking back, i wonder what his sign would have read.

You’ve heard it said ‘hurting people hurt people.’ Everyone is dealing with a hurt, of some kind or another. Some of them we know, but most, we don’t.

Your pain may not have made the ten o’clock news like Jami’s did. In fact, it may be private and you may not feel that you have anyone to share it with. At Stonepoint, we try to set people up with as many opportunities for honesty as we can. 

One of those is our Journey Group ministry. Journey Groups are small, home-based Bible studies where people share what’s going on in their lives—the good and the bad. It’s a smaller setting than our Sunday morning gatherings, and one where vulnerability and transparency are encouraged. Journey Groups are places where healing, sharing and dealing with hurts are encouraged.

We also offer re:generation, a twelve step, faith-based recovery/discipleship ministry that has helped countless people deal with hurts and unhealthy habits in their lives. Re:gen gives people a chance to talk about things in their past that has affected their lives in ways they haven’t dealt with well, and gives them a means to a better life, free from that baggage. Re:gen meets at 7pm on Monday nights at our Wills Point Campus.

Some wounds never fully heal. Jami and many other people have had their worlds so altered by outside forces that hanging moment by moment on God’s promise to never leave or forsake is the only way they get through each day. (Deuteronomy 31:6) We can never fully know the extent of their pain and what goes through their minds, but God does, and reliance on Him is what we read on their signs.

Maybe you’re doing okay with your own struggles, whatever they are. Hopefully you’ve already given them to God, shared them with godly friends and dealing with them in a Biblical manner.

No matter what your story is—let’s try to treat everyone we come in contact with like they have a sign that we can’t see. We’re all dealing with something, and Stonepoint needs to be a church of people who treat everyone with that sort of empathy, whether they ever set foot inside our doors or not.

So if we’re in the car, at the grocery store, or in the halls at church asking ‘how are you?’— let’s look for the signs.

The Stonepoint Choir

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

When i lived in the Panhandle, Dan Fogelberg released an album called The Innocent Age (don’t judge—unless you are one of about 20 people on the planet, he played the guitar better than you do.)

It’s a double album, with 16 songs about time, life and lamenting the loss of childhood innocence—all the wisdom he had accrued in his thirty years on earth. (Yeah, at thirty he was already thinking about this stuff.)

One of the songs on the record is called The Sand and the Foam and contains the line ‘time stills the singing child a holds so dear.’

Immediately after listening to the song i went outside to either go to my job at the radio station, or just drive aimlessly up and down Main Street,’cause that’s all there was to do in the Panhandle, when i caught the sound of a little kid across the street from the house I was living in. He was sitting on the front porch, singing as loudly as he possibly could. I don’t know if he thought nobody was listening and probably didn’t care if they were, but he was just sitting there, singing.

Most kids love to sing and dance. If you don’t believe me, put the Trolls movie in the DVD player and grab yourself a three-year-old.

Mark Twain said “all of us contain music and truth, but most of us just don’t know how to get it out.” I think it’s true, and it’s especially evident in kids. Music just flows out of ‘em. I remember being a little kid on my red swing set in my grandparent’s backyard, swinging so high the poles were lifting off the ground, singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” at the top of my lungs like I would explode if it didn’t come out of me. 

A lot of you were probably the same way when you were little, but somewhere along the way we lose that joy. Maybe we still contain music and truth, but a lot of us just forget how to get the music out. Getting the truth out is a subject for a whole ‘nother blog post.

I’m not saying that i wish life was like a musical where we sang sentences to one another, or spontaneously broke into musical numbers like The Greatest Showman (and y’all would certainly lose me at the dancing parts if we did) but there definitely is a time to sing as a response to what God has done in our lives.

One of the reasons i like to do music for re:generation on Monday nights is because those people sing like crazy. They feel like they’ve been forgiven much and they respond to God with exhilaration. 

Some of them may not be the best singers in the world by musical standards but it’s a beautiful noise. 

You may not be a music person, you may not care at all about Dan Fogelberg or singing at all, for that matter, but music matters a great deal to God. The Bible is full of songs and Zephaniah 3:17 even speaks about God singing over us, his people. 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

If God Himself sings over his children. How can we not respond with singing back to him?

Every week, i have the privilege of standing in front of a room full (some services) of people at Stonepoint. The band has rehearsed and we’ve ironed the bugs out of the arrangements and hopefully sound alright by the time folks arrive.

I like to play the guitar and sing. I love leading the band and the interaction with the rest of the players and singers when something works out just like we’d rehearsed, or the way i’d heard it in my head a few days before. I’ve done it on and off since i was 14 years old, and it’s probably ingrained in my DNA strands, since most of my kids picked up instruments fairly easily. (Sorry, Shelby!!)

But my favorite part of a service is not singing.EC18-01309 2

Every week, i try to put a spot or two into the set where i can back off the mic and just let people carry things. Those are the spots that inspire me, make me smile on stage (ok…occasionally smile) and remind me of why i can’t imagine doing anything else on Sundays. The voice of the saints crying out to God is a beautiful thing, and i pray we don’t take it for granted.

So if your friends from other churches say something about Stonepoint not having a choir, i hope you’ll correct them and let them know that we have the best choir around. Nobody wears robes, they aren’t seated according to musical parts, and some can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but rest assured that it is a choir and that God is pleased with what he hears.

He loves singers, even bad ones!

Don’t let time, or life, still your singing, church. Let’s make a joyful noise to the Lord this Sunday!

Grandfathers (Leaving a Legacy)

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

One of my grandfathers raised cattle. He had a place outside of Athens down the kind of winding, red-dirt road that Texas country songwriters can only dream of. To get to their house, you had to cross over two little one lane wooden bridges that looked like they could barely support a bicycle, much less our ’68 Oldsmobile. I’d catch fish with my uncle, play with the old bird dogs and i remember driving the tractor around in a circle in a field when i was four or five. I didn’t run over anything important.  

Old Hands

My grandpa chewed plug tobacco, and there was a stinky brass spittoon in the living room between  ‘his chair’ and the fireplace and when i got stung by wasps, he pulled the wad out of this mouth and put it on the back of my neck where i got stung, I don’t know if it helped, but i remember it.

He’d give me silver dollars to buy the barbecue beef sandwiches at a place called “Fred’s,” because he knew i loved them, subconsciously doing his part to perpetuate the consumption of beef, but i never spent them. I saved them in a little silk bag that i’ve kept all these years.

His father had been a traveling preacher, wrote songs that got published in some hymnals, led ‘singings’ around Texas and had his three daughters sing around places where he preached, but he died a few years before i came along. Apparently my grandfather was the one in the family who didn’t have musical abilities, so he raised cows instead.

My other grandfather, the one on my mom’s side, grew up in a small town, but in town, not on a farm. He was the youngest of twelve children, and a great storyteller. He was a carpenter by trade, and a car mechanic, and a preacher for a while…and a whole bunch of other jobs. He was good at some of them, but had some health problems and never stayed at a job too long. He could play a few songs on the fiddle, and a couple by ear on the black keys of the piano, and was really fun to be around.

He played catch with me until he was way up in his 70s, throwing the ball underhand, because his shoulder hurt. When i got to school, and the other 7 year olds threw OVERHAND, it nearly broke my hand.

And i inherited none of their cattle-raising or carpentry skills.

We didn’t talk much about spiritual things, but i know they prayed for me.

I’m a grandfather now, too, and i wonder what my grandkids’ perception of me will be forty years down the road. “Dado and Honey had this nice house with a swimming pool in Dallas, and then they helped start a church and moved to a farm that they didn’t know how to take care of, and had some cows and chickens” will probably be the blog post synopsis, if either of them attempt to write it all down. They’ll remember the electric guitars hanging on the walls in my home office and hopefully they’ll remember going to church in a metal building with people singing about Jesus all around them.

It’s strange to think of how old my grandfathers seemed when i was little. Granted, they were a few years older than i am now, both in their sixties when i was born, but i wonder if Greyson and Georgia look at me as ancient like i did them back then.

At least i can still throw overhand.

One Saturday morning a few months back, i woke up early and started writing what turned out to be a sort of “Leave a Legacy” trilogy of blog posts. This is the first one started, the longest and the final one finished. 

I guess it’s because i really didn’t have the relationship with them that i want to talk about. They were ‘good men,’ don’t get me wrong, and the older i’ve gotten, the more i realize i could have done much worse. Times were different then, and i don’t think that generation looked at church as something you were…it was just some place you went. 

It’s the kind of mindset Stonepoint set out to destroy.

As people, we need to be reminded often of how short life is, and how the greatest thing we can do is to remind our kids and grandkids of that fact when they’re young.

Singer-songwriter, Warren Zevon, when faced with the realization that his cancer had progressed to the untreatable stage, summed it all up to David Letterman this way, “enjoy every sandwich.” 

While not scriptural, in a literal sense, i think the sentiment holds a lot of truth for us. We do take things for granted, every day. Living in America is a blessing so many people in the world dream about. Even the people across the globe who hate us want to come and live here. The opportunities we have, the wealth even our poor people possess is the envy of the rest of the world.

No, it’s far from perfect, but it’s still pretty awesome and we need to instill in our kids the fact that as great as it is, there is a far, far better world to come.

Philippians 3:17-20 says ‘Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.’

In other countries, ones where Christians are persecuted for their faith, it’s easier to remember that. I think the harder life is, the closer people draw to God. We saw it in the days after 9/11, churches overflowed with people who hadn’t been in years, on their knees praying fervently for God to intervene and save our country. It happens on a smaller scale in communities where tragedies strike, but as people, we tend to forget and when the chaos returns to normal, or we adjust to whatever the ‘new normal’ is, we give God a cursory wave and thanks as we pass by a church on the way to the lake on Sunday.

Am i asking for persecution? Heavens no—i’d be one of the first to die in a zombie apocalypse. But we need to look beyond ourselves, beyond the years we inhabit this earth to pour into those in our sphere of influence, oftentimes right under our roofs.

Moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles…God has you in a specific place here on this earth at this point in time for a reason. Are you living a life like Paul, where you can say to your kids and grandkids, “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” 

We are not guaranteed tomorrow. James 4:14 says ‘you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.’

Let’s use some time wisely today to pour into the next generation about the things that God has taught us in his word and showed us in our lives.

I loved them dearly, but don’t be like my grandfathers.


Mitch Keeler, Stonepoint Member

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32


We have a bit of a strained relationship with the truth in our country.  This can be attributed to the rising cult of opinion, but it goes deeper.  We’ve even named the times the post-truth age.  We evaluate information for its truthiness.  And we are on the lookout for alternative facts and fake news.

Certainly, this is not something new, rather it is something we are much more aware of.  We are drowning in a flood of information and hear of far more instances of it.  But that does not make it any less troubling.

To me this has caused us to split into two different groups regarding where the fundamental problem lies.  The first group sees that the problem revolves around the refusal of absolute truths.  To them, the greatest problem is relativism.  The answer is easy.  Things are black or white, with very little, if any, grey.  And the world would be better off if these absolutes were enforced.

The second group sees only grey.  Every situation must be evaluated for its particular context and for the particular feelings and consequences that will be implicated.  There is a greater concern for the people and things involved than in upholding any absolute.

Life, of course, is somewhere in the middle.  We must recognize that there are absolute truths in this universe.   Just as there are certain absolute facts that must be upheld in order for our universe to function, there are similar moral absolutes that must be maintained in order for our society to function.

It’s like the discussion of the purpose of the church from Sunday; the balance of truth and love.   Some churches like to focus only on the truth, just the truth, and only the truth.  No grace, no assistance in the struggle, just constant reminders of all the things that are a sin.  All the ways that people are going to hell.  We can think of the very extreme versions of this like Westboro, but it happens on a much more subtle way in churches all across the country in every city and town.  You can even see it in the way the Southern Baptist Convention is having to struggle with interpretations on the requirements of staying in marriages versus love and grace to those impacted in abusive relationships of various forms in the wake of the controversy surrounding Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and his comments.  It’s the desire to be right above all else.

A church that is all truth is like a smoothie that is all water, beets, celery, kale, ginger, etc.  It might be good for you, but its a little bitter and tough to swallow.  Like trying to take castor oil.

Other churches come down on all love.  Avoiding the parts of the Bible that might hurt someone or be offensive, avoiding any controversy at all.  Rather focusing only on “God is Love.”  And again, while we can jump to various Universalists, it happens to a larger degree than we would imagine.  Pastors afraid to confront anyone in their church for fear of running them off.   Continuing the example, like a smoothie made of cola, sugar, candy, and chocolate.  Too sicky sweet, no substance, no benefit beyond comfort.  The syrup without the medicine.

The ideal is truth in love.  A church that loves so much, they are not afraid to correct each other in love to make sure that they grow and sharpen each other.  A smoothie that has a little spinach, almond milk, bananas, and peanut butter.  A spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Because we know the reality is that the churches that focus only on truth are most often focusing only on a partial truth.  Cherry picking the truths that they wish to enforce.  Or more specifically, ignoring the truths that require them to love, to be generous, to be kind, to avoid judging, etc.  Focusing on specific, absolute truths can often blind them to smaller truths as well.

Let’s use another example.  The dress controversy from a couple of years ago.  An absolute truth would be that “the dress as bought in a store was black and blue”.  Many people used this fact to justify their view of what was visible in the picture of the dress.  Armed with this fact, there was no way that the dress could be any other combination of color.  This would blind them to the fact of another truth – “a picture of the dress where the color saturation is off, the lighting is dark, and the exposure is different can make the dress appear white and gold.”

So while it is true that we should ‘have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them,” it is also true that we should “first take the plank out of our own eye” and that we should “do everything in love.”

That said, the sound clip is very clearly saying “Laurel” and if you are hearing “Yanny“, you need to have your hearing or equipment checked.

For more “assorted thoughts, musings, rants, and raves on assorted and sundry topics” from Mitch, check out his blog at https://www.mitchellany.com

An American (Sort of) in Paris

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

Last night i had a dream that my wife and i were on a vacation in Paris.

We’d apparently met some people there and were about to have lunch at this outdoor café. We were seated at a long table and Angie, miraculously recalling her one year of High School French, was suddenly fluent in the language and deep in conversation with some ladies at the other end of the table. Paris-restaurant_2360820aShe was probably asking questions about this annoying French detective show she used to watch on Netflix while i was trying to sleep, or maybe if there was a Kohl’s on the Champs-Élysées.

I, who do not speak French, was sitting next to a surly man in a red sweater, feeling alone.

The people we were with spoke English really well, with only slight hints of the Inspector Clouseau accents that i expect Parisians to have. One lady saw me taking a picture with my phone and asked about my interest in photography. I responded with a way too long answer about myself, failing to engage her with questions about her camera, her phone, and her photos, the way good conversationalists do, so she lost interest mid-answer and i was left kind of alone, again.

The waiter came to take our orders, and i asked for steak and mashed potatoes. 

In Paris.

Steak and mashed potatoes. 

In Paris.

I woke up shortly after the food had arrived, when the waiter spilled grease on the khakis i was wearing. I laid there in bed, trying to piece together the dream and wondering if there was something i was supposed to learn from it, outside of ‘order freaking French food if you’re ever in France!’ (Perhaps i’ll make a T-Shirt.)

Maybe i was supposed to represent a guy visiting Stonepoint Church for the first time, not really speaking the ‘language,’ and not knowing anyone (except my wife, who had immediately fit in.) I didn’t feel welcomed, i didn’t have anyone suggesting whatever the heck French people eat—visisouise, escargot, or other things i’ve seen on cooking shows, but apparently can’t remember when it’s time to order. There was no ‘community’ to help me along, no ‘host team’ to make my first visit enjoyable. I was just there.

If i’d asked the man in the red sweater what to order at the restaurant, he would have probably told me. He just didn’t seem open to conversation. The photography lady might have told me what was good, but i didn’t stop telling my boring story long enough to ask. I could’ve texted Angie and she would have bailed me out of my predicament, but we were probably not using cell service overseas out of fear of the $8,000 phone bill. All those things were on me. 

But if the Paris people had gone out of their way to be nice, make me feel at ease, ask if i had any questions, my imaginary experience in their city could have been fantastic. 

If you’re a regular attender, and see someone you don’t know, introduce yourself. Yes, we have hosts for first time guests, but we should all think of ourselves as ‘hosts’ and Stonepoint as ‘our church.’ Take ownership, and if you see someone looking even slightly confused, get them checked in, ask ‘em questions, and get them a cup of coffee.

Or maybe in my dream, i was supposed to represent a new believer in Christ, wanting to embrace my new surroundings, but when the pressure was on, heading back to the thing i knew from my old way of life. Again, i didn’t have ‘community’ helping me, i didn’t consult the ‘menu,’ or wasn’t properly trained in how to read it. My old ‘steak and potatoes’ way of life was easier to navigate than the new waters i found myself in.

That happens a lot.

People come to faith in Christ, or rekindle a desire for a relationship with him that they’d lost somewhere along the way and start coming to church. God is drawing them to Himself. But they don’t get plugged in, don’t have friends, don’t find a place of service where they can meet new people, and slowly that old way of life starts to draw them back in.

It’s not always the sin that’s the lure…but the feeling of not being isolated, not being alone. 

Either way, i think we can learn something from my REM experience in the City of Lights. The way we treat people is so incredibly important. We get communication cards and guest surveys all the time saying how welcoming and friendly our church is. I love seeing those kinds of comments, but there’s always room for improvement. Always an extra step we can go if we’d try to see through the lens of a first time visitor, or new believer and try to answer their questions before they’re asked.

Don’t be the surly man in the red sweater, no matter what you’re wearing.

God, You’re So Good

Mitch Keeler, Stonepoint Member

God, You’re so good,

God, You’re so good,

God, You’re so good,

You’re so good to me

If you’ve been in church as long as I have, you probably recognize this tune. You might even be humming it to yourself as you read. It’s a little variation on the typical words “God is so good,” but still very recognizable.

The tune is traditionally an African hymn, translated by Paul Makai and then translated by Marilyn Foulkes again into English.  The simple tune carries throughout the song, with many variations on the lyrics, “He answers prayer”, “I love Him so”, “I praise His name,”etc.  And maxresdefaultoften, there may even be church specific variations. It makes a great introductory song for children because of the repetitive words and simple melody. I know our daughter Avalyn has picked it up quickly and sings along now as well*.

We’ve added the Passion version of this song to worship at Stonepoint, and have sang it the past two Sundays. This version adds new verses and a bridge to this simple chorus.  The bridge is endlessly singable, and powerful in lyrics. It reminds us of the blessings we have as children of God.

I am blessed, I am called,

I am healed, I am whole,

I am saved in Jesus’ name.

Highly favored, anointed

Filled with Your power

For the Glory of Jesus’ name.

Those first lines, while very empowering, can become a little to close to a “prosperity gospel” if they are the sole focus.  They can center us in what God does for us – the slot machine prayer style god. A trap in which we can easily fall into. The last line is what solidifies the whole bridge. It is the reminder of why all these things happen.  Why we are set apart – for the glory of His name alone.

We are created to glorify God and bring the glory to His name.  Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31.  We are called, healed, made whole and restored, saved, blessed, anointed, and filled with His power, so that His name may be lifted high and His purpose accomplished. We are instruments and vessels, used by the Master.

The last verse also serves as a great reminder that this purposes exists in the good times and the rough times in our lives. We are to glorify His name in all times and to use whatever our circumstances to bring Him glory.

And should this life bring suffering

Lord, I will remember

What Calvary has bought for me

Both now and forever.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) God can use the worst of our circumstances, us at our lowest, to bring glory to His name.  When we share stories of these struggles, we can encourage others, caution them, console them, empathize with them, and remind each other that we exist in this shared space together. When we reveal our weakness, we show His strength. And we can truly claim, God, You’re so good, You’re so good to me.

*My favorite story from Sunday: In our second service, my wife, Jamie was working with the 3-4 year olds and observed Avalyn. When Avalyn heard this song start, she said “It’s God You’re So Good” and started singing along. Another little girl in the class tried to talk to her in this time, and she said “Shhh, listen” and kept singing. We’ll have another little singer in the family.

2018 sixsteps Music, worshiptogether.com Songs, SHOUT! Music Publishing (Admin by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Words and music by Brett Younker/Kristian Stanfill/Brooke Ligertwood/Scott Ligertwood

For more “assorted thoughts, musings, rants, and raves on assorted and sundry topics” from Mitch, check out his blog at https://www.mitchellany.com

Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

When i was around 15, i went to camp with my church at Glorieta, NM. It was youth week, and churches all over the this part of the country had sent their kids on buses to spend a week singing, crying and listening to preaching. We were in the big main auditorium and it was a great experience.

One night, they had an altar call and i really Lawrence Welkfelt led to surrender my life to ‘special service.’ (That’s Baptist youth-speak for ‘doing what God wants you to do with your life, but really, really hoping it doesn’t mean ‘overseas missionary.’) I had played the piano since i was 7, and had played the guitar for a couple of years by then, and i didn’t have too many other abilities that just jumped off the page, so music seemed the natural fit.

I went down front and some people ushered me to a back room where they signed me up to receive literature on Church Music, and soon my mailbox at home was flooded with information from schools and little flyers on ‘how to lead a choir’ and things like that.

Now, let me go on record as saying i am not knocking choir or traditional church music! But it wasn’t for me.

I didn’t really like singing in the Youth Choir at church, didn’t like it at all when the Adult Choir sang their weekly ‘special’ before the sermon, and pretty much zoned out on a lot of the hymns we sang at church.

But i loved music. Just not most church music.

So i figured that somehow, i’d gotten my wires crossed with God that night at Glorieta and kept on playing the guitar in my room on Friday nights when the other kids were at football games.

The thing that was strange to me was that people at church really didn’t listen to church music the rest of the week, either. Variety shows were still sort of a big deal on TV back in the 70s, and nobody sang with a piano and organ on those. On Saturday night, even the stodgy Lawrence Welk Show had a big band and people dancing and played toe-tapping tunes that sounded like they were from the 1950s, before Bill Haley and Elvis shook things up.

I really didn’t like that either, but my parents watched it, which meant I watched it. (To this day, I will admit to tearing up like a teenage girl watching The Notebook when i remember Joe Feeney singing Danny Boy. It. Wipes. Me. Out.)

A few years later, people started getting cable and church people would watch Bill Gaither on Saturday nights with his group. They had drums and guitars—not like we had DRUMS and GUITARS in my garage band, mind you, but it was a baby step toward modernization.

Our pastor, bless his heart, let us do ‘youth night’ once every few months, and we’d bring our guitars and drums and do the music for Sunday night church. I’d bang the piano out of tune, and we’d do a couple of rocked up hymns and I Wish We’d All Been Ready, the 70s Christian Rock anthem. He had the foresight to know that we’d be playing somewhere, so it might as well be at church.

The thing i never could figure out, and could never get explained to me was this—why did the music that people listened to on Saturday Night have to sound different than what they listened to on Sunday Morning?

It wasn’t until 2001 that our church decided to dip their toes in the ‘contemporary waters’ and since the Music Director, who had studied church music in Seminary had no idea how to write chord charts or arrange songs for a band, and since i’d been doing it since i was 14, he asked me to help out. He left after a year or so, and his assistant took over in the newly minted Worship Leader position, and i went on staff, part time, to help her out as the Praise Band director.

So it took 25 years for God to reveal what my ‘call’ in Glorieta had been about.

After a few years, she left to be a missionary to Tanzania, and i spent a year leading worship as interim, before some people decided they really wanted a choir again, and hired someone to do that. Nice guy—we’re friends. But, my feelings were kinda hurt, so i left, and pretty much stopped playing music altogether, figuring that my ‘time’ was done and my call from God was complete.

Three years later, Brandon called and told me over lunch that he was planting a church in Wills Point, and after i figured out where it was, and that it was within driving distance from our home in Lake Highlands, i agreed to help for six months until we found a suitable replacement.

We didn’t, and i’m still here, loving what i get to do every Sunday.

God’s timing is a funny thing. Poor Joseph, in Genesis 37, had to wait years for God to reveal it, enduring hatred from his brothers, slavery, imprisonment—what we would call a horrible existence. But he stayed true to his call and his God and it all worked out according to the divine plan.

David was anointed to be King of Israel at a very young age (I Samuel, starting around Chapter 16) and faced nothing but trials, being chased by his enemies, and having spears chunked at him by the reigning King. But he, too, remained faithful to the calling God placed on him, and ended up the greatest King that Israel ever had, and despite his failings, revered as ‘a man after God’s own heart.’

I’m not saying i compare to those guys. I didn’t stay true to my call, and i spent 10 years trying, and failing to figure out what it was, and take pretty regular detours of my own choosing.

But God has a plan for you, too.

It may not have been revealed at the front of a big church service when you were a teenager, but there’s something He wants you to accomplish among your family, and the people you’re in community with.

Let’s not waste our Saturday nights or any of our other, limited days without finding what that is. And let’s certainly not waste our Sunday mornings not gathering together to celebrate it.

With Opened Hands

Christian Neal, Stonepoint Member

I think it would be really easy for me to write another blog post about all the cool things I’m doing with God and neglect the fact that I’m falling apart on the inside.

open-hands-1024x683I don’t mean to discourage anyone. And maybe I’m not the only one behind a closed door wondering if I even know Jesus and walk with Him when I battle impure thoughts daily and I become angry or anxious on a daily basis as well.

I probably shouldn’t be wrestling with these things on the day before Easter. “Easter is supposed to be a celebration,” you may say. And perhaps I’ve kinda lost focus. But when many people around me seem to make Easter into a list of things to do and not do… I’m almost left wondering what’s wrong with me.

I really don’t want to hide behind closed doors to hide the depression I feel, or the anger I stuff down inside. But, at the same time, I’d really like for you to like me—for everyone to like me. And if I let my real self out… well, what happens then?

Like Paul Abel said last week at church when he shared his testimony—trying to play the “Christian game” (no pun intended, haha) is miserable and draining. How do I be authentic, truly be real, and let God move in my life to actually know Him, rather than be a Pharisee and do all these things to be good enough for God—and good enough for others? I’m not really sure of the answer.

But I really need Your help, God. I don’t want to act in front of people anymore. (I have a long way to go, but at least I can start here.) I would like somehow to be able to love the people around me, but at the same time, I don’t want to put up a façade to where people think that I’ve got it all together.

I’m pretty much rambling. But, I think core value #1 in our Journey Group has really been on my mind lately: Abide Daily. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” 

I’m beginning to find myself in God’s presence with open hands. That’s what my spiritual mom encouraged me to do. She suggested I open up my hands and lay down my will, my plans and ambitions before God, and let Him put in my hands what He would have me to do. It makes sense God would lead me to do this, since I struggle with being in control of everything—every situation and everyone around me. (Which is why I try to impress people all the time, so that they can like me and I can control what they think about me. Yeah…that doesn’t work out very well, but in my mind supposedly it does.)

I was sitting in His presence one day with my hands opened up, and I was having a hard time letting go. I really do have a hard time with that often. But then God’s still, small voice spoke to me. He showed me that, when my hands are open and not holding on to anything else, now there is room for God’s hands to hold mine. When I try to hold on to things with all my might, there’s no room for God to hold my hands. Jesus, please help me to open my hands up to let you hold me.

Like sands through the hourglass…


As I sat in the doctor’s office, I heard these words, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.” I laugh to myself because I used to be addicted to that show in my twenties. Heck, I even named my daughter after one of the characters (Alexandra aka Lexie)! And now as I am watching the cast, I realize that half of those actors are still on that show some 20+ years later. What a waste of time! Countless hours spent daily watching people lie, cheat, deceive, manipulate, kill and destroy each other all for the sake entertainment? Isn’t that what we watch in our real lives every day?

I quit watching TV over 15 years ago. It began when I divorced my kid’s father. I had noticed that as a single mom, TV became a babysitter and I didn’t want that, so we shut off the TV and limited ourselves to a weekly movie night. I challenged them to read or use their imaginations. As they grew older and moved out of the house, I used that time to work on my crafts or refinish furniture. But in the last few years, I have finally found the significance in my free time once I rededicated myself to the Lord, and thus set out on a mission to learn as much about Him as I could. Having VERY limited screen time has allowed me to dive into His Word and can I tell ya it’s been a complete game changer??

Joshua 1:8 – Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to do everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 

According to Google, Americans spend 10+ hours PER DAY on screen time. And we wonder why we are so negative and cynical and full of gossip and hate? God doesn’t intend for our lives to be led full of confusion!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God (YOU) may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

Now I’m not “dissing” those who watch TV – there are some cute shows out there. (I once binge watched the entire Downton Abbey series in one week while recovering from lung surgery!) All I’m trying to convey is, that for me and my family, having very limited screen time has most importantly, brought me closer to God. It has strengthened my marriage beyond measure and made our family unit incredibly strong, because we are not consuming our time with the ways of the world. And I know that it is making us much better and healthier people for it.

“The secret to a happy life is giving God the first part of your day, the first priority to every decision, and the first place in your heart.”

I challenge YOU to see what God can do for your life and with your time!

Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of MY life…🙏

The Significance of the Number 55

Christian Neal, Stonepoint Member

It started when I was on my way to Journey Group. It was Thursday evening. My Journey Group leaders, Welcome and Debbie Edwards, pulled up toward my house like they did every Thursday evening after 5:30pm. Debbie always stepped out of the car with a smile, hugged me and sat herself in the back seat to give me more leg room. (I’m without a car right now, so it’s been super helpful that my JG leaders have given me a ride to and from our group meeting Thursday nights.) In the front seat, I’d always sit back and let Welcome badger me with insults. I’ve learned to take them by now, and I give them right back. (Well, maybe “insults” is a strong word here. Welcome and I have real conversation, too, I promise.) main-qimg-4a733d79a76e5023c37c098c49527e0b-c

Driving down FM 47 to the building, I glance over at the car’s digital dashboard. I only half-listened to whatever Welcome was saying at the time as my eyes read the numbers on the little screen above the gear shift. (Fancy cars these days. They tell you the time and the temperature outside and everything.) It was 5:55pm and 55 degrees outside. Interesting.

I didn’t think much about that. Until the next Journey Group on Thursday night, the night played out again. The Edwards pull up to my driveway, Debbie gets out—you get the idea. And driving down FM 47 once again to the church, the digital dashboard reads: 5:55pm and 55 degrees outside.

‘Maybe their car’s thermostat is broken,’ I wonder. But it wasn’t. The following days it would show anywhere from the thirties to the seventies. (That’s Texas weather for you.)

But, oddly enough, it didn’t stop there.

Days later, some friends and I attended a concert, and on our way home, we stopped at a fast-food restaurant to eat a meal. I’m not really sure why, but a friend of mine raised her arm, pointing to the menu over our heads and told me, “Oh look! They have a deal on three sliders for $5.55!”

Then I go to order a fried chicken sandwich and two scoops of ice cream, and my total rings out to be $5.50 exactly. Talk about weird.

This pattern continued. I heard someone share their testimony and they lived 55 years before God changed their lives. Someone gave me a business card, and the phone number on the card literally had five 5’s in the 8-digit cell number. And it just keeps happening like that. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

So, what’s the point in me telling you all this? What is the significance of the number 55? To be honest, I’m not completely sure. Maybe God will give me a huge revelation using this number—I just haven’t seen it yet. But, I did find something that maybe ties this all together. Maybe this is the reason I saw 55, maybe not. Maybe I’m waiting in vain for some grandiose thing to be revealed, when in reality, God just wanted to show me this seemingly small thing.

I work at a ministry, and I regularly receive updates about different regions where missionaries are working. Now, for security reasons I can’t say what region it’s from, but I found a report sitting in my mailbox just a few weeks ago. I get quite a few of them, and to be honest, I don’t read many of them. But this time I happened to open up the newsletter update.

I unfolded the page and quickly scanned through the stories. I wish my heart were more moved by these stories from the field, but somehow I find myself feeling somewhat detached.

But then, in a left column, you’ll never guess what number I saw. (If you guessed 82, you’re wrong.) The number 55. But this time, the number was more significant. It was the number of people who came to know Jesus in this one region in three months’ time. 

Honestly, I feel like this number hasn’t really sunk into my heart yet. 55 people who gave their hearts to Jesus in just a few months. And somehow, working at the U.S. office of this ministry in the middle-of-nowhere Texas, I took part in helping them follow Christ.

It’s funny. Now, when I see the number 55, sometimes I remember those people who are walking with Jesus now. But, more often than not, I’m starting to get annoyed at the number 55. (Just being honest.) I’m pretty tired of seeing the 55mph speed-limit sign on 2965 every time I drive home (in a borrowed car, no less. Still don’t have a vehicle yet). And it seems like so often I’ll look down at my phone to check the time, and it’ll be 11:55am, 2:55pm, 6:55pm, and so on.

But I wonder how those 55 believers are doing. It’s very likely some are still overcoming sinful patterns like alcoholism, lust, and pride. I hope God helps me make room in my heart to pray for new believers and unbelievers in some of the most difficult places in the world. And somehow, through my prayers, God is doing miracles across nations, bringing people to Himself.

I know in my own story, it’s a miracle I am walking with Jesus and beginning to become more like Him. It’s such a journey, and it seems the more I go down this road, the more I find out about myself, the more I realize how wretched I am and how much I desperately need Jesus to be my Savior.

Perhaps one day I’ll discover that the number 55 has an even deeper meaning than what I’ve found so far. Or perhaps there really is nothing special about the number 55. If anything, I guess writing all this out has helped me to process, to think deeply and to take time to abide with Jesus through it all.