Tag Archives: church

Church Christmas Decorating

I just noticed in my dashboard site stats that I’m getting hits on some church christmas decorating I have done in the past.  I think I will dig through my digital photos and see what I can find.  I got to decorate at Northern Hills for 3 years, I believe and it was so much fun!

Here is one shot of the Celebration Center in 2009.

northern hills church christmas decor

The 3 wreaths hanging in the center over the stage look deceptively small in the pictures.  You can’t just buy these at the store.  I made them from recycling Christmas trees other people want to get rid of.  I basically did a Craigslist ad asking for old artificial trees for a non-profit organization and people would call and I picked them up.  These three wreaths used the branches of 7 trees.  We built a wooden frame and stapled them on.  The one in the middle is almost 7 feet tall and the 2 flanking it are about 5 1/2 feet tall.  I used 2 102″ red table cloths sewn together in the middle to drape through the wreaths.

At the time, the church had 3  really beautiful 9′ trees and I used one in the cafe and the other 2 on the stage, but the room is large, so I wanted to make them seem more grand and did so by placing them on 5 foot round tables draped in fabric.

The illuminated angels were the beautiful styrofoam silhouettes my amazingly artistic friend Pearl had created for the Garage venue a year or two earlier.  It broke up the black background and we uplighted them.

church christmas decorations decor

We lined the front of the stage with a giant “garland” also re-fashioned from recycled/upcycled old Christmas trees.  You really can’t just buy garland because a room that big will just swallow it up.  It is really quite large.  The “ribbon” was that florist-mesh wrap which can be twisted and tucked and glows prettily in the lights.

We used thousands of lights on everything because you have to overdo in a big space.  I think I had gotten all those gold-potted poinsettias for like 98-cents in an after-Christmas clearance the year before.  They are handy for lining edges and covering cords.

see more pics from 2009 here :)

Very simple, clean look.  The musicians and pastors need their space!  It was fun.  I miss doing it (plus I wasn’t out of ideas)!!!  Pastor Scott??

The Amen Corner

It is by grace we are saved…but oh the ways we try to make make grace even better! {{insert *wry-and-weary-half-smile}}

I grew up in church where “talking back” to the pastor as he preached was not only welcomed, if there weren’t enough people doing it, the pastor might chide:

“Can I get an ‘amen’?”  or

“It’s getting awfully quiet in here.  Somebody say ‘Amen or Oh, me.'”

“Amen” is supposed to be sort of a wonderful, “Yes!  So be it, Lord!”  Oh, if only that were the only way we church-peeps used it.  *sigh…

Even as a really young girl, I noticed that an awful lot of the people saying “Amen!” were sort of the least joyful, meanie-face-type of Christians.

AMEN the amen corner

Doesn’t this awesome photo just remind you of the fire and brimstone preacher in “Cold Comfort Farm” screaming out “There’ll be no butter in hell, I tell ya!!”???  If it doesn’t, you must watch the movie.  Then it will.

If the preaching was against gossiping or people not going to church, there’d be this “amen section” of people you didn’t want to cross.  The preacher would wind up, powerfully make his proclamation and then the sourest faces in the front three rows of pews would raise their determined noses into the air and shout “Amen!  Amen!!!” with pretty much the same fervor as two guys chest-bumping in victory and grunting loudly at a football game where their team just scored a touchdown.

Even at 5 or 6 years old, I could tell, that with at least some of those people, they felt they were past reproach and in an exclusive club, telling-it-like-it-is, above whatever the sin of the day was.  {{Did I mention I began my judgementalism early?}}  Anyway – some people seemed less about ‘amening’ the truth of the Word of God or even being an encouragement to the pastor that he was right-on than in making sure other people in here better hear this ‘cuz they need it!!!  The problem with this method of “helpful discipleship” is that no one in the sanctuary is quite sure who the recipient/or group of recipients was to be, so the enemy-of-our-souls sorta uses it to crush everybody there with accusation.  Poo.

amen outdoor church

When I got old enough to want to amen something, I knew down deep that I jumped pretty harshly on sermon points that, in reality, exposed my own weaknesses – but not at myself {because there was this view-blocking log in my eye} – more at other people who had them too {people with those little specs Jesus talked about}.  Maybe amening loudly would make everyone else think I was way above it.  If I nodded my head and looked all pious – everyone else would know I had conquered and was above them spiritually speaking.  {{Right.}}

Amen prepare to meet god

These days, most churches don’t have a real old fashioned out-loud-amen section.  But a quick scan of Facebook the past few weeks and I have seen actual posts, not limited to, but including these:

News Flash: The earth revolves around the sun.  This might upset people who think the world still revolves around them.

I’m not judging you, God is.

I’m currently correcting some crap problems in my life.  If you don’t hear from me, you’re probably one of them.

It’s a Facebook status, not a diary.  Learn the difference.

Oh, it’s snowing outside.  I better update my Facebook status for all my friends who don’t have windows.

If you don’t like the life I am leading then quit reading my posts.

If you are a Republican {or Democrat, or Christian, or not a Christian, or any number of possible labels} we aren’t friends.  I will be unfriending you.

The mean-spirited Amen-section is alive and well.  On internet profiles everywhere (and I am sure, sometimes even on this blog, true confessions).  And oh, don’t you just KNOW each of those comments is directed at somebody specific?  But since we don’t know who, 127 people will run for cover.

We have seen the enemy – it is us {church-peeps}.

Thank-You, Lord, that we are growing in grace and learning to say Amen!  So be it! to You, to Your Word, to Your ways.  Thank-you for churches that let us participate with shouts of hallelujah and applause becuase we are so grateful we cannot contain it.  May we keep learning and keep growing in grace.  AMEN!  And the Amen-corner said “~~~~”

Can I get a witness?

NOTE TO READERS:  I actually grew up in the 60s and 70s and not in sepia-tone.  We actually had colored photos and didn’t dress like pilgrims or Civil War-era people.  Just FYI.

My cute little Kelley kids

Stephanie took pictures recently because the little red-headed Kelley kids (the three, sweet grandbebes bestowed upon me by Stephanie and Tristan…and thank-you for them, btw), all got new Converse All-Stars for Christmas and were sporting them simultaneously one afternoon.



Last Sunday morning 2-year-old Gemma accompanied me to the Cafe at church for coffee.  The second we got out of The Garage (the edgy, loud worship venue), she darted across the cafe navigating her way in between hundreds of people, sharing her friendly, “hello”s with strangers and friends alike.  She nearly ran right in to Pastor Rob, who avoided the near collision and greeted her like the treasured church member she is.  He started to walk on past and then realized perhaps some one who is only 2 ft 9in would not be there alone.

So he looked around and saw me racing to catch up to her.  “Are you in charge of this?” he asked, pointing the the little curly-headed girl-of-my-heart.

“I’m trying,” I told him.

“Well, then,” Rob had the guts to tell me, “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but you’re not very good at it.”

Oh, you just wait, Rob Kelly.  You just wait!


But the piece de resistance?  Once Gemma had strayed so far as to lose sight of me, she turned, scanning the crowd, looking for her Nonna.  When we made eye contact, she did that thing she does.  She did that adorable thing that melts my heart and makes me beam and makes me look good to the crowds.

She yells at the top of her lungs: N O N N A !!!!  And she comes running to me and jumps into my arms and we spin around and hug and kiss.

Yep.  She makes me look good…like I didn’t just lose her at church on a Sunday morning.

Gavin & Guinivere

Gavin started piano lessons this week.  And Guini is in front of me this second with a microphone singing along to Pomplamooses’ version of “Single Ladies.”  If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it; If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…

The Kelley kids, whom I love with all my heart, were watching Ratatouille.  The food critic in the movie said something like, “Not everyone can cook.”  To which Gavin responded openly, “That isn’t true.  Anyone can cook if they learn.’

Guini mustered up her strength and outdoor voice to add a very decided addendum (sort of Lucy-from-the-Peanuts-comics style?) which caused all of us to jump: BUT DON’T TOUCH THE PAN!

They make my heart swell…Jeanie (aka “Nonna”)

NOTE TO SELF:  Become a better grandbebe-wrangler.

The Critter in the O-2

The O-2 is where we have had Heaven Fest offices the past couple of years.  It is down the hall and around the corner past the elevator from the main church offices.  It is painted charcoal on dark gray to be very cool.  But I affectionately call our cubicles (not low enough to be seen over, but too high to know when some one is about to pop over and scare the heck out of you) “The Bat Cave.”

Fast Forward.

I am knocking frantically on Sebastian’s office door Friday night.  I can tell by his understated, “Yeeeees?”  that I am interrupting his dinner.  But it is like 10 o’clock and he should really be eating earlier than that!  For his health.

Anyway, I say:

“Sebastian?!?  I walked into the O-2 and there was this animal.  I don’t think it was a mouse, but it kind of looked like a mouse, but way cuter.  Because you know-mice are tiny and dart around and are gray or brown, right – like field mice and very nervous and annoying.  But when I opened the door, it was there and maybe it is a gerbil or hamster or something because it was very big – like maybe like 2 or 3 pounds, not mouse-tiny.  I mean it was just sitting there looking at me and it was white with a really cute face and very delicate whiskers.  It had brown coloring on it.  Well, maybe more like honey-gold colored spots, actually.  And it was very fat with short-looking legs, but I think it was about to have  babies and couldn’t seem to move very fast.  And I think it had a long tail, but basically I was looking at it and it was looking back and I told it to run, but it could only sort of waddle into the back cubicle.  Do you think it was a mouse?  It was soooo big, but I don’t think it was a rat because rats aren’t cute and this clearly had a cute face.”

There may or may not have actually been punctuation or periods of any sort in that entire monologue.  It could have been one, long run-on sentence.


I took a breath.  Sebastian got a word in edge-wise.

“So you’re saying you got a good look at it, then?”

Me, ignoring his apparent mockery:

“What?  Oh, yes.  It was cute, but do you have any D-Con?”

And then I did it.  I opened the box of D-Con and said, “Here, little pregnant animal, come and get it.”  Because I really wasn’t sure what it was and since there was a Cub Scout meeting going on in the building it clearly could have been smuggled in by some little boy, but regardless, there is just not room in the Bat Cave for anyone else.  We need the space.

What do you think?  Am I cruel?

mouse 176607503_0d36485c3d

I searched Google for images.  It looked a lot like these.  Very cute like the one on the left, but the spots were lighter, and the face was very white like the one on the right. And fat.  Mice.  Just a mouse.  It turns out.  And maybe less than 2 or 3 pounds?


Here is Sebastian-the-Poison-Provider with his gorgeous and amazingly wonderful wife, Denise, with their two cutie-patootie boys! 

People help…we are in awe!

The Northern Hills Church building is a-buzz with full-swing prep for Heaven Fest 2009.  Our friends and ministry partners are working their heads off, relentlessly committed to Jesus and this festival.  We remind each other over and over that it is to make His Name glorious.

The pace is so hectic I forget to take pictures, but I want to remember, when it is all passed, with gratefulness.  Here are a few things I will remember from 4 days before:

Stef-with-an-“f” and her crew lining up a thousand volunteers; Rocky on-the-go 

4-days-before-hf-035 4-days-before-hf-043

Lots and lots of materials being delivered  (including 10,000 mis-printed programs – yikes!)and Pam-the-intern making it all happen!

 4-days-before-hf-044 4-days-before-hf-041

25 or so of us gathered on the veranda for 40 Nights of Worship and Intercession, praying, singing, reading the Word

4-days-before-hf-047 4-days-before-hf-049

4-days-before-hf-051 4-days-before-hf-057 

O God, bless these people!  Show up again and show Your glory and may these who have sweat and cried and toiled be blessed with the fruit of their labors.  May they get to see that all of it has been worth it and that Your Name has indeed been made glorious!

Re-purposed artificial trees, some cereal boxes and fence posts, and a few thousand twinkling lights


Two years ago I was sitting in the “Garage” at church (the “edgier” venue at Northern Hills) and suddenly envisioned a very cool silhouette, “crystally” bright Bethlehem scene with a giant star hanging from the middle of the 30-some-feet-high ceiling.  Didn’t have the time nor $$ to do anything with it, but filed it away into my thinking.  Couldn’t work it out last year, either, but this year, Scott, the Worship Arts pastor asked me to decorate both venues, The Garage and The Celebration Center.


Last week we decorated the Celebration Center.  We put out a call for old, artificial trees in the church bulletin to be recycled.  I got some there and picked up a few via Craigslist.  With 8 old trees in hand, we cut the branches off and created, on wooden fence-post 1 x 6s, 3 large wreath forms and wired on the tree branches.  The middle wreath is actually over 7 feet in diameter.  The two flanking wreaths are 5 1/2 feet.  There are about 4000 lights on the three wreaths combined.

Three red damask tablecloths sewn together for a combined size of 5 feet x 25 1/2 feet were draped over the wreaths.

The rest of the tree beanches were wired to create 50 feet of “garland” across the front of the stage.  We wrapped it with over-sized 24″ wide sparkly red floral wrap and lit it up.  Next, we placed foil-wrapped and beribboned cereal and pop-tart boxes into the garland as “gift ornaments.”

The 9-foot pre-lit tree was lit some more (seriously, people: lights are key!) and a giant bow placed at the top, swirling down the branches in a carefree manner, tucked in here and there amongst giant glittery ornaments.

One of my “helpers” loaned me a beautiful 2-ft Nativity set to display at the baptistry opening, which is stone-lined and just looked “Bethlehem” to me and voila!  Done.  Simple.  To the point.  Well-there will be a couple of new touches this next Sunday….

Think large bank or mall-sized stuff.  Simple lines, giant ornaments, basic Christmas shapes, twinkling lights-everything way over-sized, but not looking over-sized because they are in such a large room.  They just fit.

And it turned out nice.  It turned out festive and maybe even a bit elegant, but if nothing else: green!  Everything was recycled! 

Now all the women’s teas and homeschool kids programs and packed-out Christmas Eve services will have a beautiful backdrop.

On to The Garage!  Just wait!!…Jeanie

MY DEEPEST THANKS TO: my long-suffering, and very talented husband, Dave; Stormie, Rocky & Jovan, Tredessa, Laura Frye, Pearl and Bryan-the amazings!; my nephew Zach; the patient and helpful maintenance staff (Mike, Sebastian and Charles) and all the people who donated their old trees for the celebration!

pictured-Dave got a few shots Sunday…I’ll be adding more!  Click on thumbnails for bigger image.  Obviously, btw, the sermon series changes this week!  Ha!

nakedpastor’s No-Policy Policy

Edited for space from nakedpastor’s blog on October 23rd:

“I refuse to concoct plans for people’s lives. I refuse to concoct a plan for the life of my church. I realize I’m going against the flow, like a salmon swimming up an impossible gush of watery onslaughts. But I just won’t do it. So fire me!

I used to do it. I used to pray and wait and then articulate the vision and set out a one, three and five year plan with great gusto and with leadership and congregational support and fanfare. But I have stopped because I believe it destroys, in a violently sinister way, the lives of people and the life of a community. It’s presumptuous and cruel and inhumane. I have been on the receiving end of this visionary kind of program and I will no longer have any part of it. I realize how tantalizing, how dizzyingly intoxicating visionary thinking and purpose-driven living can be. It tastes good, but it’s poison…

…One…woman visited me earlier today and says that she can smell someone’s plan for her life way down the road and avoids it like the plague because she sees it as soul-destroying. I think that is radically rebellious but radically healthy.  Another salmon.”

I used to be paid to be the person telling everyone in the local church what God’s plan was for their lives.  When you can talk the spiritual lingo, it doesn’t take much to heap burdensome loads on people’s backs.  Being a Pharisee is the easiest thing in the world.  If some one wasn’t participating, at least I could get them feeling really guilty about it.  Yep.  That was my “job.”

I am on the other end now, church-wise.  And I am pondering nakedpastor’s comment, “…it destroys, in a violently sinister way, the lives of people and the life of a community…” and thinking about what we lose when we try to fit a big bunch of talented, gifted, hurting and whole people into a one-year plan – let alone a 5-year program.  Don’t we miss out on something by not allowing the whole kit-and-caboodle to grow and interact, to become and add on to in an organic, natural way?  What if something extraordinary is about to happen, but we are so closely following the “plan” we miss it?

Structure and order are my life.  But I am wondering, in even my own ministry: how much is too much?  When is my soul destroyed by living in a plan God actually never had for me?

I hate being trendy in church, but I also fall prey to every Willow Creek-Saddleback-Catalyst-John Maxwell-Hillsong-Church marketing sucks-Relevant-We’re not like other churches (but we really are)-Church Planting 101-Purpose Driven-Mars Hill-Rob Bell-Try to be hip like Blue like Jazz river-of-thought.  And so do lots of churches and ministries.  

A friend of mine was recently invited to an exciting “all-new and improved” church plant.  She accidentally went to the wrong school where another church was meeting.  But the following week, when she got to the right school (right down the street) of the church she had actually been invited to, the signage was the same, the claims were the same, they sang the same songs and even the pastors and their wives (carefully selected as planter-types) looked kinda the same.  Why?  Because even church planting has been stripped down to a science, a checklist of what to do and when and how.

Are we destroying the people in our care?  Are we more of an organization than a living, breathing organism?  Are we missing the incredible potential of the church to be the multi-faceted, brilliantly dazzling glory of God on earth by all doing the same things, one church to the next, putting people into the same molds?

What if?…Jeanie (I love the Bride, love the church, but I am recovering from churchaholism)

My Church is Orange, too

Northern Hills, to reflect some mighty big changes over the past year or so, rolled out a new “branding package” this week.  It is very different than it was.  And these are very much “my kind of colors” (oranges, pumkins, spices, shimmery copper), but the new site will take some getting used to, even though we have gone much simpler.

The jackets the staff and elders were all wearing (with the church name on the back at the waistline, just above the bum (to, I assume, garner some attention – which it almost certainly will) are very nice looking.

So, October is orange.  And, it turns out, so is my church.  www.northernhills.cc  This works out nicely because of the cute orange-church-magnet they passed out for my fridge.  Just in time for October!

Brother Joe

Hey – check out a feature from today’s newspaper in Aberdeen, SD.   It’s all about my little brother, Joe who pastors there.   There is even an online clip of the building his congregation is renovating right now.  

They did a front page spread on him a few years ago with a big picture of the praying policeman.   Either Joe is just  super exciting or not much is going on in Aberdeen!   Ha!

I can’t fathom that gray hair when my hair  is still so naturally   “coffee” with dark red and honey streaks?


See the article here:


Joe-it is time to get your own blog!

Love, your big sister…Jeanie

NOTE TO SELF:   My favorite song from when I was 4?   “I’ve got the Joey, Joey, Joey, Joey down in my heart…”   Still do.