Thursday, January 21, 2010

Checking In. And out.

Hey, friends. Hope you all are doing well. I have not heard any news about our little Joseph Wilbens. I am assuming because he lived pretty far north of Port Au Prince that he is OK. As soon as I hear for sure, I will let you know. I know we all are praying for Haiti generally, and for many people specifically. And I thank you for praying for Joseph, too. Lord, have mercy on these hurting people.

All is well in the Cottrell household. Kids are all good and Angela is too. I am heading to Houston this weekend to be a part of Beth's Scripture Siesta celebration, and to sing at church on Sunday. I will be dreaming about Papasito's tonight...counting the hours until lunch tomorrow. Yesssssss.

This will be my last post for the next 3 weeks. I am checking out for a little bit. When I come back, I will have some fun things to share. Thank you for being such a great community of friends to walk this journey with.

Isaiah 33:6

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Praying for Joseph Wilbens

One of our little Compassion children is from Haiti. This is Joseph Wilbens.

I know you're praying for the people of Haiti, just like we are. Oh Lord, please have mercy.

For I am the LORD, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
Isaiah 41:13

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Word For This Wednesday

This morning after I walked my kids to the bus stop, I stopped and chatted for a second with one of the moms in our neighborhood, who was parked on the hill, waiting for her boy to hop on the bus. While we were talking, her car cut off. Hmm. Immediately I peaked into her car and looked at the gas gauge. It was past empty. Oops. Now, she gets no judgement from me. More often than not, my gas tank is closer to empty than it is to full. Why do we do that? I had a teacher in college once tell me, "You know, Travis, it takes just as much effort and money to keep your gas tank staying close to empty as it does keeping it close to full." Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

She said that they just got a new battery and just had a tune up, and everything should be fine. Then she said, "But my car tells me that I have 15 miles left before it's empty!" I told her that sometimes our cars lie to us. We thought that maybe if she let the car roll down to the bottom of the hill, getting the car off of the slanted road, it might start. And then she could make it to the gas station just a stone's throw away from our neighborhood.

And that's what she did. And it worked.

And I thought about me. And you. So here's what I think God would say to us today: Make sure we are standing on solid ground. Level. Sure. True.

And let's make sure our tanks are filled before we go anywhere. Even the short destinations in life require it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

You've Been Quite Fine, 2009

Hey, friends. I hope everyone has had a good Christmas. It went by so quickly, didn't it? And the thing that always gets me is how once it's over, it's OVER. I'm talking, the very next day after Christmas, it feels to me like Christmas is a hundred miles away. So weird. We had one of our Christmas celebration times on the 27th this year, and I gotta say it was tough to keep it feeling like Christmas. What is it about that day on the calendar passing?

Anyway, ALL of Christmas break is good. We have enjoyed lots of family time and down time.

I have to confess that I have had pretty much a "woe-is-me" attitude about 2009. I have celebrated in my head and with my words that fact that we are going to rip that 2009 calendar off the wall and, with joy, replace it with a new beginning. I have cursed it with my words, wishing it away as fast as I could. And I have counted my battle scars and licked my wounds for the better part of this year. It really was a tough year for me personally. Working on the Jesus Saves Live project at the beginning of the year ushered in a host of warfare and personal trials that really shook me...and shook me more than I have ever been shaken before. I won't go into details for now. But talk about soul-searching. I wore myself out on a daily basis for months, looking for God in the midst of carrying around a heart full of sadness. But praise be to that same God, who encouraged me, loved me, taught me and more than anything wouldn't let me get away with thinking that life is only good when it's easy. He brought me through every minute of that dark time. And now I stand on the other side of it with a deeper love for Him. And with a greater resolve to live as a strong, disciplined, and merciful child, husband, dad, and servant.

So let me say right now that I am THANKFUL for 2009. For every high moment and every low place. For every laugh and every tear. For every victory and every tough lesson. God is good. And if we will look for Him in EVERYTHING, even in the sadness, we will find His goodness is shining everywhere. He gives our souls light, even in the shadow.

I just went through my 2009 photos, and marveled at the joy I've experienced this calendar year. My own Eeyore syndrome was trying to blind me from what really was some of the most fun times ever. So I thought I would make a list. How's that for a unique, inventive and original idea?

Ten Of My Favorite Days of 2009 (Mind you, this list is NOT in order. Nor is it exhaustive. Nor is it very spiritual. Nor have the photos been approved by their occupants. So if you come back and find that a photo originally posted is missing, you will know EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.).

1. It Was a Good Friday Indeed - I sang at Crystal Cathedral on Easter Sunday (7 services, thankyouverymuch). And the fine folks there offered to fly my whole family so we could be together for Easter. We went a few days early and had a fun week with some great west coast friends. We spent Good Friday with those friends at Disneyland. We had A BLAST. Adults and kids alike (I'm not sure which category I fall in, but I had a blast, too).

I will forever cherish this picture of us on the Tower of Terror that day. That is such a perfect snapshot of my sweet girl's fearless spirit. I pray she will always fling those arms up in the air and enjoy the adventure.

2. National Day of Prayer - Beth was the National Spokesperson for National Day of Prayer this year. And she asked Angela and I to accompany her and Keith for the festivities. I didn't really know what to expect. But I surely didn't expect what I received. We were blessed from the time our feet hit the turf in Washington, DC. The Dobsons were amazing and gracious hosts. There was a sense of reverence over the whole event...and sense of soberness (is that a word?) in their efforts to plead for God to continue to shed His grace on us as a nation. I don't think I've ever been a part of anything where I felt that kind of urgency in prayer. It was moving. And perspective-changing.

We also got to do a lot of fun things while we were there. This is at Mt. Vernon with the Moores and Beth's assistant, Michelle.

3. Date Night - Angela and I and our friends Seth and Nirva had an awesome date night together back in the fall. After a delicious meal at Stony River, we went to see Wicked. It was a great night with my beautiful bride and great friends. Great food. Great entertainment. Great conversation. Nirva and I will never forget listening to Seth and Angela break down all of the spiritual parallels and world view yada yada in Wicked, talking a thousand miles a minute. They were gettin' it. Meanwhile, I was like, "Yeah, but did you hear her hit that high 'F'?" It was a top ten date night.

4. November 17, 2009 - Levi came bounding down the stairs after dinner, exclaiming "Mom! Dad! I'm a Christian!" He had this happiness and urgency in his voice. After he came down, he gave us more details. Turns out that his big brother led him to the Lord up in his bedroom, and then promptly knelt down on his knees with him and prayed with him. Sweetest story I've ever heard. We walked him through it again...letting Jack lead the way...and saw the gospel unfold in real life in our third born. We had been praying for his salvation all year. To see it unfold like it did was more than our hearts could handle. A forever moment.

5. Living Proof Live 2009 - In case you are wondering if serving as worship leader for these women's conferences ever gets routine, let me just say as quickly as I can type it - HECK NO. Every time I walk into an arena or worship center for a Living Proof sound check, I pinch myself. I can't believe God, by His mercy, has allowed me the great privilege of serving at Living Proof Live for 11 years...with the greatest bible teacher I have ever known. Watching God transform thousands of women (and a few brave men) into new places of freedom through His Word is the great joy of my life in ministry. I count every single minute of it an honor. Beth is the real stinkin' deal. Living EVERYTHING she teaches. I'm thankful to be on this great ride with the Moores, LifeWay, and everyone who serves with Living Proof Live.

This picture is from El Paso, our first event in 2009. Counting the days until our first one in 2010 - Living Proof Toronto.

6. Whiffle Ball World Series - June 26, 2009 - We were in Stockton, CA for Living Proof in June. Our sound check went extremely fast, so we had most of the day free on Friday. When we got to the hotel, we realized that there was an awesome courtyard, and the hotel offered their guests things to do outside - horse shoe, croquet, whiffle ball. WAIT. WHiffle ball? BRING IT ON. And we did. For hours. And had a blast. Can't remember last time I saw middle aged people run so fast and laugh so hard. And to top it off, after the Friday night session, we came back and played some more. Praise team vs. the crew. And the praise team won. Oh yes we did. How embarrassing must it be for the crew to have lost to a bunch of musicians??? Fightin' words right there. Top ten day.

7. Any Given Saturday - I am not home very often on Saturdays. It's not easy to be away from my family on the weekends. Granted, I am home for lots of other things during the weekdays that most dads have to miss. So all is not bad. But I do miss being home a couple of Saturdays a month. So when I am home, it feels like such a treat. I relish every moment I get to see this...

...or this...

...or this...

So know that on any given Saturday, my heart might is probably leaping for joy.

8. Jesus Saves Live Tour - 4 weekends. 12 great churches. 1 ministry family. And a lifetime of heart-thrilling God stories. We had a great year of ministry together. Looking forward to more. Sheesh. I love these people so much.

And of course, we are always highly serious and spiritual.

9. Going To The Chapel - There is a family in Knoxville, TN that we adopted as our own when we met them on a trip to Israel back in 1996. We fell in love with them, and decided that they had no choice but to make us part of their family. So they did. They became very much our parenting mentors, as well as an amazing source of much intercession and encouragement. We were always looking out for their kids (they have 6). And their oldest daughter became quick buddies with Angela from the beginning.

Fast forward to now...I had been telling my drummer (and one of my closest buddies) Kevin about this beautiful and godly girl that Angela and I thought he needed to meet. her he did. On Palm Sunday. Propose to her he did. In June at LPL Pittsburgh. Marry her he did. On Labor Day weekend! It was a fun day of friends, family, and God showing off His goodness.

This is the praise team crew with the bride and groom:

And there was a bridesmaid and a flower girl that sent me over the moon.

10. Haiti - My life was forever changed this year when I had the honor of traveling to Haiti with Compassion International. In addition to learning more about their ministry and seeing firsthand how God is using them to change kids' lives, I got to meet one of our Compassion kids. Meet Joseph Wilbens. He's the kid who stole my heart in Haiti and didn't give it back.

Side note: The trip was made more special by the fact that one of my best buddies, Denver, was on the trip too. We had a great time being together for this adventure. This is a picture of us in a potato sack race. He is BARELY in the frame on the right. I am only using this picture so I could gloat that I beat him in this race. I will hear about this later.

11. Disneyworld - We had a Deeper Still event in Orlando in September. So we took the opportunity to go a day early and have some fun at Disneyworld. Praise team, spouses, and Beth. It was such a killer day. We had a blast.

We hit 4 parks in one day. We even hit one of them twice. It was not a day for the faint of heart.

12. At the Beach with Family and Friends - Our trip to the beach this summer I think might have been one of the best weeks of my life. Our kids were at such fun ages. We had friends join us for part of the trip. We had family with us for part of the week, too. We stared at this a lot...

...and watched these jumping around in the water...

...and watched these jumping around in the water...

...and had a great time. Our last day, my little princess pulled 51 jellyfish out of the water in an hour's time. Seriously.

(I couldn't get any more beach pictures to be approved by ANYONE on the trip. :-) )

So...that was ten, right? Let's just say that was ten.

It was a great year. And as I look back, it was all of the people that filled my days that brought me so much joy, laughter, challenge, encouragement and love. Not just the places, and not just the events. The people. The peeps. The folks. The loved ones. The family.

Here's to loving the Lord Jesus more in 2010. And here's to loving each other more, too. My heart is beating faster right now just thinking about's going to be a great year.

The Lord bless you as you put yourself in a posture to surrender to His goodness now more than ever before.