Archive for September, 2007

On Inspiration

Sometimes ideas just hit me.  The light goes on.  A song sparks an idea for a video.  A movie clip gives way to a message.  A picture leads to another picture, which leads to another picture, which takes me to an idea for a blog entry.

It’s weird.  Concrete example: Last year at the Youth Specialties conference in Austin, I saw a backdrop that was 99.9% white, with just 3 words written on it.  That backdrop led to the idea for a DNow theme: “Clean” with simple, white decorations.  And as I watching Grey’s Anatomy a month after the birth of that idea, I heard a song by Kate Havnevik and immediately pictured the video that would begin our weekend.  Similar instances happened at the camp; rarely did I ever make something because I had to.  Usually I was desperate to get the idea out; sometimes it felt like it would consume me if I didn’t do something with it.

There are other moments when I reach for inspiration.  I was just passing Greenwood Cemetery in Dallas, and I was struck by how old and overgrown the cemetery looks.  It was empty, and I got the impression that no one visits these graves anymore.  All of the stories and accomplishments are being forgotten every day.  The life really has left that place it seemed.  I thought about making a video, but nothing was coming.  I thought of getting a camera and taking pictures, but what would they be for?  The illustration is neat, but how do I connect that to a larger spiritual truth?  I was right on the edge of an idea, but then it was gone.

I don’t know how to harness my creative energy and put it to work.  Rather, I usually feel like I’m at the mercy of any ounce of creative juice that bubbles to the surface.  If anyone who reads this has any ideas on staying inspired, I’d love to hear it.  How do you jump the gap from “almost idea” to “full-fledged possibility?”  How do you stay inspired? 


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Open Letter

Dear Keeper of the Michiagan Scoreboard,

Congratulations, you beat an incredibly inept Notre Dame. I was actually hoping you would lose the game, because I figured if you were 0-3, you would listen to the advice I’m about to give you. But you won, and so you will probably let this nugget of wisdom in one ear and out the other.

I’ve heard a rumor that on certain important moments in the game, your scoreboard and cheerleaders display signs that say “Key Play.” At this point, all 100,000 fans that are crammed into the Big House are supposed to hold up their keys and shake them. Imagine the cacophony of noise that 100,000 jingling pieces of metal can create! In fact, I would guess that the only thing louder than the jingling of keys, could be the screaming of your fans. But you apparently don’t want your spry, young 20-somethings to yell their hearts out, and I don’t know why. Maybe the 98 year old alumni would rather keep the noise down, or maybe it’s just a joke that has spiraled out of control. But whatever the reason, you rob your fans of the chance to really let loose and cheer with every fiber of their being at the exact moment that cheering is needed.

I’m all too familiar with this problem. You see, I not only work at a church, but I have gone to church all of my life. Inevitably, each Sunday, there is some amount of singing that happens at churches across the country. And when the words for whatever Chris Tomlin song we are singing along with that morning hit the screen, we might as well have cheerleaders holding up “Key Play” at the front of the stage. Don’t get me wrong, singing is great. Music can influence our attitudes and receptivity for God’s truth. But just as you have convinced your fans that the only way they can make noise during “Key Plays” is to hold up their keys, so to, we have subtly planted in people’s minds that the only way they can worship is to sing. Instead of remembering that singing is just 1 way to praise our Creator, we have made singing synonymous with worship.

That may not seem dangerous to you, oh Michigan scoreboard keeper, but let me tell you why it is hurting us. There is no way that every Sunday morning song is going to be amazing. Even the best song leaders still write bad songs (i.e. Tomlin’s “America”) If worship=singing and singing=worship, when the singing is not exciting and great, we can mistakenly say “Worship was bad.” What’s funny about that statement is that there is no way worship can be bad. There is no bad worship. There is no good worship. Someone is either worshiping or not worshiping. Worship, in and of itself, is ascribing worth to something, and that’s not something you can do poorly. When you are extolling the amazing-ness of an iPhone to someone else, you are worshiping the iPhone. You could do that with a song, or a poem, or a story, or by simply sitting contently with the iPhone. And if there are that many ways to give value and worth to a phone, how many more ways must there be to attribute worth to the creator of both phones and the creatures that use them. And each one of those ways is good; there is no bad way to worship. There is just worship.

Let’s make a deal. Why don’t you phase out the “Key Play” shtick? Just ask them to cheer. However they do that is up to them. Here’s my end of the bargain: I’ll do my best to remind Jesus followers that worship can mean singing and worship can mean prayer and worship can mean enjoying the rain on a warm, summer day. How does that sound? Good luck next week.


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Website Woes

I am trying to engineer a convenient solution for our student ministry website. We own the domain and have published a website in various forms. At the moment I am trying to configure Apple’s new iWeb ’08 program to build a site that will be easily updated and published. So far, there has been a bunch of work and reading and calling with few results.

I’m starting to come to the realization that there is probably not an easy solution to a complex problem like trying to have a good website. My options seem to be: A) Spend Money (too much in my opinion) or B) Build my own site. Which leads to my ultimate dilemma: I don’t know enough to build my own site with any technical program…but I almost do. That could be the title of a movie about my life: He Almost Knew Enough.

I’ve never been a good athlete, but I’m not bad. I’m average at almost any sport, and I was almost good enough to be really good at a number of sports. In school, I’ve always been pretty good, but I never could seem to turn the corner and be really exceptional at anything (that could’ve been from a lack of effort…hmmm..) . And with this website stuff, I’m right on the edge. I have a basic understanding of HTML, and a decent familiarity with computers. But if I got all giddy and ordered Dreamweaver, I’d be like a toddler lost in the deep end of the pool.

Anyone else feel like that sometimes? Competent at a bunch of stuff, but an expert at nothing? It’s frustrating some days, to say the least. I often think I’d rather be horrible at most things so long as I could be great at something.

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Music Post

Here’s a sampling of what’s been burning up my iPod lately (and by iPod, I mean video iPod, not the uber-cool iPod touch or new Nano)…

  •  Caedmon’s Call – Overdressed: I don’t know if I’m in love with it, but it’s good to hear one of my favorite bands return to form.  It’s a quality record, and if you are a CC fan, then you should pick it up immediately.
  • Tim Hughes – When Silence Falls: I know I should’ve gotten this CD in ’04 when it came out, but I love it.  “Consuming Fire” and “Giver of Life” are in the top 10 Worship Songs for me.
  • Robbie Seay Band – Give Yourself Away: Relevant Magazine was giving the CD away for free, so it gets extra points.  I’ve listened to it a few times, and favorite song so far has to be “Go Outside.”  I didn’t think I liked the song that much, but I’ve caught myself humming it on multiple occasions.
  • Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger: Life is always better with new Ryan Adams, and since he puts out 26 records a year, life always has a good chance of getting better quickly.  More Gold than Rock and Roll, Ryan continues to be amazing.
  • Mute Math – Mute Math: I’ve been all about them since their first CD came out, but this full length disc is awesome.  I will listen to another CD for a bit, then Mute Math, then another CD, then Mute Math.  Mute Math is like fiber…it’s always necessary, but even more so when you haven’t had it for a while.

That list doesn’t include Leeland, or John Mayer, or Hillsong, or Justin Timberlake, or Coldplay which are all regular members of my auditory diet.  But try some of them on for size, and see how they fit.

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The Jena Six

In a small Louisiana town, Jesus has to be completely confused and heartbroken.  It all started with a tree.

The tree was at the high school, and it had the unwritten distinction of being a whites-only tree.  When black students were granted permission to sit underneath it, 3 nooses were hung from it by white students.  From there tensions escalated to the point of multiple fights and an assault with a loaded shotgun.  The District Attorney was called in to address the black students and remarked that he could “end their life with the stroke of a pen.”  White students were beaten up.  Black students were beaten up.  And eventually six black students were charged with assaulting a white student.  Each of the Jena Six, as they had come to be known, was being tried to the fullest extent of the law.  One of them had been attacked by a white student with a beer bottle prior to his alleged crime; his attacker was given a misdemeanor charge and probation.  How did they get there?  It all started with a tree.

And long ago, humanity found itself at a crossroads.  A decision had to be made: Follow their creator, or disregard his command and eat the fruit.  The problems that are in Jena, Louisiana all have their root in the Garden.  In a piece of fruit.  It all started with a tree.

And it will all end with trees.  Revelation 22 reminds us of the river of life that is sandwiched between two trees whose fruit will bring healing to the nations.  At one time, fruit created a rift in creation that still reverberates today, but eventually our nations will be healed.  Jena will be healed.  I long for that day.

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Let’s Start Again…

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a conversation, and I’ve had to utter those unflattering words.  “Let’s start again.”  I seem to have an annoying habit of saying things without thinking.  Sometimes, it makes for a remarkably funny and sarcastic comment.  For Example…Erin and I invited some friends over to watch a Justin Timberlake concert this evening.  While we were making dinner plans, I said, “Oh, and for desert we’ll have a Justin Timber-cake.”  Hilarious.

The unfortunate thing is too often my plans go awry and I end up saying something mean and biting that I really didn’t mean.  As I dig a deeper hole trying to explain statement A, I’ll end saying something in statement B that compounds the problem.  And so, “Let’s start again” is me trying to reboot a conversation.

But it’s hard to begin again.  I never understand why lawyers in movies make a big deal about striking something from the record.  Everyone on the jury just heard it…you can’t forget something instantly.  Let’s face it, there aren’t really too many times that you can just start over.

Unless I’m talking about Emma.  It is amazing to me how quickly she can forget some catastrophic event.  Erin and I will be so frustrated, and she will practically be begging for a spanking, and life seems like it is all about to spiral out of control.  But then, a moment later, she will walk over and give me a giant hug.  Or start acting like a bear.  Or crawl on top of me and jump on my stomach.  Or just walk over and say, “I really love you.”  She doesn’t want anything (most of the time).  She’s not trying to set me up, or trying to earn forgiveness for not picking up her puzzle.  Emma just understands how to start over better than I ever will.

And she is the reminder of what I want my life with Jesus to look like.  There have got to be so many times that I am completely out of control, and frustrating Jesus to no end.  And these moments bring with them guilt and remorse and anger that I can’t ever get things worked out.  And I don’t know how to start over.  I can’t bring myself to just say, “I really love you.”  For no gain.  Just to start over.

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