Thursday, May 31, 2007

2007 Willow Creek Arts Conference

It's hard to know how to follow a post on a half-ton wild pig, so I had to wait a it's been very busy around here lately.

In a couple of weeks Nancy and I will be attending the 2007 Willow Creek Worship Arts Conference in Chicago. It is a big three-day gathering of various types of artists, musicians, and technical folk that usually draws several thousand people from all over the world. Willow Creek Church holds as one of its core purposes the equipping, encouraging, training and building up of other churches. And they do an excellent job of it. I appreciate the investment that my church is making in us by sending us.

I've been a couple of times before and have always gotten a lot out of it. This time I didn't know that I was going until just a few days ago, so I registered very late. Nearly all of the "breakouts" (Willow-speak for "seminar" or "workshop") that I would have probably chosen first were full to capacity so I kind of had to shop through the leftovers to find something interesting. Honestly, though, that doesn't bother me at all because often in my life God has used what seemed to be serendipitous or ambivalent encounters to inspire me or teach me something new and important. So it is with hopeful anticipation that I look forward to classes in the following areas:

  • Vocal Artistry For Worship
  • Got Blog?
  • Line Array Workshop
  • Extreme Vocal Makeover
Here's the deal with the singing. I sing because I lead worship...I don't lead worship because I am a singer. I am, at best, a functional singer. It is because I am skilled in other areas that I am an acceptable vocalist, able to sing parts, read music, interpret vocal styles, etc. I like to sing, but it's never been my main thing and I've never worked at it like I have my other instruments. So the vocal classes will be good for me and I'm certain I'll learn some things. My wife is an excellent singer and so is my son.

The unfortunately named Got Blog? seminar is no doubt going to be about blogging, presumably from a Christian bent somehow. Fine...I'm looking forward to picking up some tips and ideas, maybe making some new friends. My Mac laptop is kind of sick...I hope I can get it fixed before I go. Doubtful.

The Line Array Workshop is a technical thing about loudspeaker design and installation. It will really more benefit me professionally since that is one of the many things that I sell. It should be interesting, too, because Willow Creek uses a lot, and I mean A LOT, of Meyer Sound loudspeakers. Meyer is what the Lord uses in Heaven. They are the best speakers available, so it will be fun. I'm sure I'll learn something.

The David Crowder Band will be leading worship at some point, plus Willow Creek has a very strong music department, too. Keynote speakers include Donald Miller, who I really like alot because of his great book, Blue Like Jazz. Also, Erwin McManus, who I kind of like but I'm not sure I completely get, Dan Kimball, whose blog I have occassionally read, but about whom I know very little and who is therefore suspect, and Brian McLaren. Also, Willow Creek's own Nancy Beach, who I like a lot, and Dewitt Jones, who is a reknowned National Geographic photographer and award-winning filmmaker, and will probably have amazing photos displayed on Willow Creeks amazing projection system. That will be cool.

Honestly, some of those new-wavey, emergent church-types make my theology itch just a bit. But I will give them my undivided and open-minded attention while they try to brainwash me into believing their crazy new ideas about Jesus and God and church and such. Some of those guys aren't even Republicans. Can you believe it?!?!

It will be a fun time.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lowe's Home Improvement - HOORAY!

I've mentioned previously that I enjoy cooking very much. At some point, I may write about the Zen-like bliss that comes over me when I cook with my Brinkman Electric Smoker. It is one of my favorite appliances, given to me as a gift several years ago and it is a much beloved member of our household, much like a pet.

My smoked ribs are better than any ribs that I've eaten almost anywhere*. I've done all manner of chicken, turkey, pork roasts, lamb(!), seafood, corn, name it. My smoker never fails to render some of the best flavors I hope to experience this side of Heaven.

But that's not what this post is about. I'm writing today to extoll a case of excellent customer service at my local Lowe's Home Improvement Store. I have been looking all over town the last two weeks for some replacement grilles for my smoker. To no avail and to my growing consternation, nobody has 15.75" grilles in stock. So today, upon seeing my distressed expression, the two young red-besmocked women working in what I learned is called the "seasonal" section of the Richmond Lowe's asked if they could help.

I told them my plight and they both set to looking to see if they could find something suitable in what was truly a generously stocked section of the store featuring all manner of barbecue hardware and gadgetry. Nothing. Then one of them cast me a conspiratorial sidelong glance and said, "Is your smoker like one of the ones we have here at Lowe's?". I affirmed that it was identical to the display model at the end of the aisle, albeit several years older.

We walked down to the display model. She removed the perfect, bright red lid and withdrew the two grilles from the smoker and handed them to me. She smiled and asked if I minded taking them. Fair sputtering with joy, I thanked her effusively, and assured her that I was pleased to take them. She then pulled out a slip of paper, wrote some numbers on it, made up a very reasonable price and handed it to me saying, "This should get you out the door."

I left happy and fulfilled. This type of "smokin'" customer service is very hard to find any more and I am grateful. The new Menard's that is being built 1/2 mile down the road is going to be very, very hard put to win my business.

* There is this one place in Oak Cliff, the infamous south Dallas suburb. It is called Burrell's and it is on South Ledbetter Street, I think. Their ribs may be better than mine, but nobody else's. Get there, if you ever can.

Blessings #4

One of my favorite things is, when I'm working in my office or otherwise solitarily engaged, to hear the laughter of my wife and son in some other part of the house. It matters not at all what it is they find humorous, something they are talking about or enjoying together on TV. It's the sound of their voices laughing that I like, so familiar, a balm to my soul.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hey...what's that?!?!

Stop ignoring me like that. There's a contest going on...scroll down a couple of posts or click here. Our contest judge will pick a winner this Sunday evening. There is a prize to be won.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On Jennwith2ns today, I read of the passing last week of Lloyd Alexander, the author of some truly wonderful literature for children. Jenn has a beautiful homage to him, not merely as a writer, but as someone she knew personally.

I don't remember exactly when it was that I was introduced to his Prydain Chronicles, but I remember well the impact those books had on my young imagination. I am blessed in that my mother was at that time (and really still is) a children's librarian, and I distinctly recall her bringing home one of them, probably "The Book of Three," for me to read. This would be the very late 60's or early 70's. I wonder if, at her house, she still has these books on her shelf. I will look next time I'm there.

Long before I was to read The Chronicles of Narnia, The Legends of King Arthur, or The Hobbit, these books translated me into the amazing time and world of Taran, the young peasant pig-keeper who wanted so desperately to be a hero and to have great adventures. I read and reread that whole series and I, too, wanted to be a hero like that and go on a great quest. The writing is beautiful, compelling, descriptive, and rich in fantasy, but it also resonates deeply with what it means to be a young person trying to figure what kind of life may lie ahead.

I read today that Mr. Alexander wrote many other children's books but, honestly, I don't remember them. These are the titles that I loved:
  • The Book of Three (1964)
  • The Black Cauldron (1965) -1966 Newbery Honor Winner
  • The Castle of Llyr (1966)
  • Taran Wanderer (1967)
  • The High King (1968) - 1969 Newbery Medal Winner

I may have to read these all again. I suspect they will hold up very well, even after all these years. RIP, Mr. Alexander.

Then Never Comes

I like this post - Steven Furtick has identified an important truth, I think.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heroes on NBC: Public Service Announcement

Here is where you need to go to watch all of the episodes of Heroes, the great new sci-fi show on NBC that has just finished its first season. My schedule is such that it was impossible for me to watch this at its broadcast time on Monday evenings, so I have watched the whole season on my PC. I don't watch much television and it is rare that I find much commendable to say about prime time programming, but I have really enjoyed this show.

There's no telling how long this will stay available online, and you won't want to miss the important early episodes, so go check it out.

Insert Clever Title Ridiculing Al Gore Here

It disturbs me that Satan and his minions (shown here) evidently use the same office organization and file management techniques as I do. I'm digging that rascal's crazy 3-screen computer monitor set-up, though.

It looks like Eminem on the flatscreen TV behind him. Yeah, he's down with that.

And what's he doing there exactly? Is that Pike Speak he's checking out...or is he just uploading more spam onto the internet?

Hey! How about a Caption Contest for this picture? Insert yours into the comments. (No sailor-talk, though, unless you provide definitive proof that you are, in fact, an active-duty able-bodied seaman. In which case I may still delete your comments if they get too ugly.)
UPDATE: Wait a sec...what's a contest without a prize? I'll look around here and see if I can find something to give the winner...a used paperback, some guitar picks, a map of the Middle East, an old John Coltrane LP, or maybe a T-shirt (clean and folded, at least, or maybe even actually new).

Monday, May 14, 2007


A few things that caught my interest this morning, worthy of sharing.

1) Grand Theft Auto story…you reap what you sow. h/t to Jeff at AIM.

2) Randy Adams, a friend of mine, just returned from Belarus. He has been there many times, having helped build and equip what is probably one of the best recording studios in that country. Anyway, we were talking this morning about the sociopolitical climate there, which is oppressively totalitarian and growing more so. It piqued my interest in the history of that region so I had to surf around for some pictures and info. I don't think most Americans know much about Eastern Europe.

3) Another from Jeff, the Ever-Vigilant, who pointed me to this interesting post at The Evangelical Outpost. I agree with most of it and I found it all very thought-provoking: Ten Deadly Trappings of Evangelism

4) And I stumbled across this painting that I like, entitled The Narrow Way, by David Hayward.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Evangelism: Standing next to a burning man

Recently, one of my virtual friends, who happens to not be a Christian, made an astute observation about how the quality of his relationships with people who are professing Christians bears a direct relationship to the degree of evangelistic fervor with which they comport themselves when he is around them. He generally gets along fine with Christians who don’t try to “save” him, as it were, and proportionately less so with Christians who are, in his words, of the “vehement gung-ho evangelical variety.” I like that description and I’ve certainly known people who bear it.

I think my friend is describing a very common type of relationship among Christians and non-Christians and it is worth examining as it reveals some interesting ideas about the competing worldviews that both parties hold.

(Parenthetic aside: For the record, I have an abiding dislike of the term “worldview”. Partly because it is just so…1990’s, and I’m no longer sure it means all that it used to mean. Regardless, it bugs me and I intend to use it sparingly.)

There are a number of good reasons why a non-believer might find it difficult to get along with a Christian, and vice versa, but one of the easiest to appreciate is that nobody likes being around someone who is obsessed with changing them into someone else against their will.

No one, Christian or non-Christian, wants to be a part of a relationship which seems, at its basis, to rest on a premise that one person is “better” than the other in some way because of some special knowledge or a specific set of beliefs (or…worldview). In point of fact, this premise is an utter fallacy.

As a Christ-follower, I am compelled to assert that believers in Christ who are completely non-evangelical by intent and design are people who lack an understanding of some of the most elemental teachings of Christ himself. I say that not judgmentally, but as a point of fact. It is not a question of intellect or intelligence, but of spiritual maturity, as described in the New Testament, particularly in the writings of Paul. Christians who don’t tell other people about Christ either don’t care, or they don’t really know what is at stake. They are either fundamentally ignorant of their Bible, or they simply don’t believe what it says. I think a lot of nominal Christians fail in one or both of those two areas.

Conversely, considering my friend’s comments about the difficulty of maintaining a cordial friendship with someone who is always trying to evangelize them, motivation is again the key and spiritual maturity a factor, as well. People who are earnest and insistent evangelizers seem to fall into one of two extreme camps. There are the legalistic, spiritually opportunistic, televangelist-types who are trying to add you to their list of donors while, in their mind, adding notches to their own spiritual scorecard. At some level, many of these people may well be genuinely concerned about the spiritual welfare and the ultimate fate of the people to whom they make their appeal, but the mass-marketing approach undermines the message in most cases.

Much more commonly, people who are insistent about their witness to friends and family do so out of genuine love and concern. They despair at the thought that people they value might wind up in the literal hell that Jesus speaks of so directly in Luke 16:19-31. These people want and hope the best for people that they know and care about. They want every unbeliever that they know to be able to experience the benefits of a relationship with Christ now, as well as to ensure their eternal future in Heaven. This motivation is admirable and ultimately selfless, although it’s methods often make life difficult and relationships strained for all involved. This type of Christ-witness, though, sees relational dissonance as a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain that is of incalculable value.

The part that spiritual maturity plays in evangelizing is interesting and worthy of a separate, more detailed post. The Gospel is, in many ways, very, very simple and easy to understand. It is also infinitely deep. New believers are often more effective at presenting the core truths in a persuasive, effective way than someone who has been an active Christian for many decades. One aspect of the genius of God is that the power of His message in no way depends on the qualifications of the human messenger. It requires no arcane knowledge, years of study, oaths of allegiance, multilingual skills, or advanced degrees in theology to communicate God’s love and plan for His creation. Spiritual maturity in a Christian reflects a deep understanding that it is not the effort or eloquence of the messenger that saves anyone, but rather a complete dependence on the Spirit of God within the believer that makes the difference. This understanding, this connection to the Holy Spirit that resides within each believer, is what imparts wisdom to the Christian so that he might know not only what to say and do, but also when, where, how and to whom.

The essence of the disconnect between Christian and non-Christian lies in that the unbeliever, because of either his ignorance or his denial of the benefits of eternal salvation and the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to effect it, finds it difficult to see the worth in or the desirability of maintaining a relationship with the Christian when it is irritating or unpleasant.

But spiritual upheaval and emotional discomfort is absolutely what the Gospel is all about. Through the Bible, God reveals to us our intrinsic predisposition to failure, the inevitability of death, and the abject futility of life without Him. Amazingly, though, He also tells us exactly what it is that He has done for us to save us, to rescue us from ourselves.

Color My World: Mauve

In the course of my job today, I found myself researching multi-colored microphone windscreens for a client. In reviewing the possibilities, I realized I really wasn't sure what the color Mauve looked like.

So, naturally, I did a websearch to see what came up and I was astonished at the amount of mauvelogical information that abounds.

Mauve has played a surprisingly influential role in science, history, culture, architechture, literature, fashion, film & TV, meterology, folklore, the occult, and, of course, art. Wikipedia has a very detailed article and all kinds of interesting referential links.

Mauve was discovered in 1856, by an 18-year old English chemist named William Henry Perkins, whose recent biography is entitled "Mauve". Fascinating. Who knew?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Kansas Tornado has a startling set of aerial photographs from Greensburg, KS, showing the devastation wreaked by the tornado.
Pray for these people.

Blessings #3

This is the best lawnmower I've ever owned.
It is a Craftsman LT2000. Currently on sale at Sears, where America shops.
And my wife mowed the yard this weekend.
Life is sweet.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Be Kind

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
-Philo of Alexandria

For the last few days, I find myself returning again and again to this simple post over at microlesia. I really like the Chagall painting and, synchronistically, I happened across this article from the WSJ online about Chagall and his fascination with Jesus Christ and the iconography of Christianity.

Lately, I've been thinking about worldviews, in particular some aspects of how Christians and non-Christians view the world around them and, especially, some of the specific ways that each views the other. I am interested in some of the misperceptions that each hold about the nature of the other. I know that some people think that Christians are judgmental, hypercritical, and hypocritical all at once. And that can undoubtedly be true, not a misperception at all, really. Some of us aren't very good at being Christian. Some of us have good days and bad days. None of us are anywhere near perfect, and most of us fail much more often than we succeed in living the representative Christian life. But then, our standard is Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself, the only perfect man. Nobody can do that.

And that is ultimately a point that both Christians and non-Christians should understand about each other and about themselves. All of us are demonstrably unable, on our own, to live in a manner that consistently reflects virtue and goodness. This observable truth should, in fact, give some comfort to non-believers. Christians are truly no better than anyone else, especially those who think and attempt to act like they are. And, for the Christian, that truth should provide ample humility and compassion sufficient to last a lifetime.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:8-10