The Space Between:The Gift in the Way


“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” ~Eckhart Tolle



Staff_McDermott, TomIt was great to see so many folks in eleven:eleven this past Sunday, especially given the morning rain.

It was a little crowded in the halls with people shedding rain coats or umbrellas, and a little hectic in Wesley Hall as some of us were picking up slack for folks absent at the last minute or on vacation.

As I scrambled for some coherence in the thoughts I shared Sunday about salt as a metaphor for our authentic God-given selves, one significant experience that had happened earlier that morning had somehow found its way to the back of my mind and didn’t get mentioned at all.

And the more I’ve thought about it, the more inspired I am by it.

With Brad at camp in NC this week, and many other band members out as well, Elizabeth Wills took over band leadership and did two amazing Specials for us. In fact, I heard from a number of folks who said the paired down sound was actually very inspiring.

Christa Russell was also supposed to do a Special, “New Shoes”, but had to bow out at the last minute due to a bad fall on her back Sunday morning. She’s doing better; but there we were with one more unexpected absence and me being the next “logical” choice to do the song (though I knew it mostly as the guitarist for the song).

I struggled through the first lines, missing the melody and tempo when Rachel McKuen spoke up.

“Tom, I know the song… it’s one of my favorites.”

Rachel has stood in with her mom, Gina, only on a couple of occasions because, for most of the year, she’s attending college in Austin.

I asked her, “Well, I guess you could give it a try, but have you ever sung solo before?”

“In public?” she qualified. “No.”

But this is eleven:eleven, so we gave it a try.

The first time through, we were so excited – she nailed the tune but was, understandably, a little mic shy. The band all chimed in with words of affirmation, instruction and encouragement. I gave my wisest two cents worth and added, “It’s all there, Rachel. Just step in to the mic and give us your gift.” (Well, maybe not those exact words – but something to that effect.)

If you were there Sunday, you saw and heard the amazing job Rachel did. It was so cool to see her up there with her mom and Lydia on harmonies (who have also surprised us with their versatile vocal skills). What you may not have known, of course, is that it was her first time to perform a song for an “audience” and that she’d done it on such incredibly short notice!

But what I am continually inspired by is the way in which our band, in fact our eleven:eleven community, provides a space for becoming our best selves, for understanding what we are capable of doing and remembering our connection to one another and God, empowering us to give our gifts (our “salt”) to the world.

This coming Sunday, Brad and most of the band are back, and I will wrap up my series on the spiritual gifts of travel. And I want to think about is the idea of what defines us, who we are and what we have to offer, in all our travels (whether around the house, down the street or half way around the world).

In our daily travels, what sometimes may appear as an obstacle, an unexpected challenge, an inconvenience or even a crisis is in reality, I believe, an invitation. Obstacles are always a way in — and not simply something in the way.

See you Sunday!


And check out these links to Rachel’s gift this past Sunday:


and the two amazing songs Elizabeth Wills gave us:


“Thank You”


And her brand new song, “Lighter,”  written especially for this service:





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