what is it about january 1st?

What is it about the date January 1st? In some ways it feels like such an arbitrary moment in time, yet it is gets everybody looking back on the year that just happened and looking forward to the year ahead.

I’ve been sitting here reflecting on some of the years that have gone by…with relief that they are in the past. There were some tough years in there. Yet for other years, I wouldn’t mind repeating them because they were so good.

In reality, I bet that my good years weren’t really all that great and the bad years weren’t probably as bad as I remember. Either way, the things that happen each year and how I responded to them have made me into who I am becoming.

When I look back on 2014, I’ve had quite a few changes, the least of which is stepping away from what seemed like a perfectly amazing job. For someone who is a leader in the technical arts community, working at one of the premiere churches for production excellence, it only makes sense to hang onto that job as long as possible.

That was a wrestling match I had with God early in 2014. It took months of struggle to get myself to a place where I was hearing God say, “Are you willing to follow me, or not?”

In this area and a few other personal issues this year, my faith has gotten to a “where the rubber meets the road” kind of place. If I say I’m a Christ follower, am I actually willing to follow? Regardless of the circumstances or of the ridiculousness of the request, how does me being a Christ follower actually inform my decisions?

I think I will look back on 2014 and see it as a year of my Christian faith leaving the realms of theory and moving into practice. Instead of going through the motions each day, actually asking the question “What does God have for me today?” and then trying to do that.

One of the hardest years? Probably.

One of the most fulfilling years of seeing God show up in real ways in my life? Most definitely.

At my going away party at Willow (which was at the Texan, the place where production staff have their last meal), there was a giant table that seemed far too big for how many people I thought would be there. Instead they kept moving more tables and chairs over.

As I sat there, I was struck by the impact God has had through me on the lives of the people around that table.

At my going away party at Kensington all those years ago, the table was smaller, with less people…some of my favorite people, but less of them.

If I had not been willing to follow God 11 years ago to leave where I was and follow him, his ability to use me would have been lessened.

At both parties, I told those gathered that if you feel like God is calling you to something, you should do it. Figuring out if God is the one calling you isn’t easy, but if He is, are you willing to follow?

Looking ahead to 2015, I have lots of dreams and some pretty big plans. All of them are untested and with the outcome in some doubt. But if I try not to get too wrapped up in what my blog post will say one year from now, I believe that what happened in 2014 has set me up for an amazing 2015.

Some of my big plans for this next year involve our community of church technical artists and I can’t wait to start talking more about it. But for now, I’m trying to soak up all the amazing things God did in 2014.



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the ghost of productions past

I had the privilege to work with the stage team at Willow Creek this past week. As the weekend unfolded, it occurred to me that I’ve been serving with many of the same people for over 10 years. I never like to admit that I’m getting older, but there was also someone on the team that I’ve been working with for 20 years almost exactly. Yikes!

Taco Bell Drive Thru SignNow for those of you who are still young, you don’t know what its like to start saying a sentence like “Remember that time in 1994 when we…” It is difficult to come to grips with the passage of time.

On the other hand, to able to get to work with great people for long stretches of time is pretty incredible. As I think about the production teams I been able to serve with, it is truly amazing how long we’ve been able to work together.

You can imagine that much of the conversation from this weekend was about reliving some memory of a crazy event from the past. That one Christmas with the creepy puppet. Or that time we drove the 48” trailer through the Taco Bell Drive-Thu. Or when we fly a drone around the auditorium.

As we were laughing or cringing at something we’d done together, I realized that most of what we talked about was made more amazing because we had done them together. Thinking back on some of my most favorite moments as a church production person, it has been about who I was doing it with, not necessarily the thing itself.

Whether it was a great memory, or a not so pleasant one, they were all made more sweet because of the people I’ve been able to share them with.

There is no question to me that calling people to something bigger than themselves is super important in what we do. If we didn’t, there would be no reason for us to be together; we wouldn’t need all of us to accomplish something simple and easy. But once you get past this fact, it becomes about how we treat each other, and the investments we make in each other, and how we honor volunteers in the process of creating something huge together.

Building into relationships matters. Creating an environment where people can serve long term is, I think what God had in mind.

A place where people can invest in others and feel invested in; all while doing some amazing production together. Amazing production is cool, but doing it with people you love to be with makes the amazing productions worth doing for the long haul.

For those of you reading this who’ve shared some of these memories with me, I’m so grateful for the way God has been able to us our gifts and talents together in community for the sake of the local church. I’m looking forward to even more opportunities in the future.

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throw out the bad grapes

I’m a sucker for documentaries. I could watch one after another. It doesn’t even matter what the subject matter is. I love to learn about everything. As a result, I know a little bit about a ton of different things.

Sour grapes 1The other day, I watched film entitled A Year in Burgundy. It is the story of the wine made in the Burgundy region of France where the filmmakers look into all the different philosophies of wine and the best ways to create it. For some of the vineyard owners it was all about the science and very quantitative; to others it was an art form and something elusive. There was one thing that pretty much every vintner agreed on, and that was to eliminate the bad grapes.

There were scenes of people picking out bad grapes on a conveyor belt. There were speeches to the grape pickers about eliminating bad grapes before they go into the buckets.

The whole time I was watching these scenes, I kept thinking about all the work that went into those bad grapes. Even though they were bad, they still put as much work into growing them as they had the good grapes. All the bad grapes were bad for different reasons…rot, hail damage, bruised…but they were all bad.

The reason these grapes were thrown out was that they would affect the end product. For some of the vineyard owners…the scientists, would simply say bad grapes make bad wine. The artists among them would say you could taste the hail damage in the wine.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything.

Well, by the end of this movie, I was really impressed with the discipline it took to get rid of the less than perfect grapes for the sake of the final product. If I were in their shoes and really knew how much work was involved, would I be able to do what was best for the end result? How many times have I sacrificed the best for the end result for the sake of a bad grape? A less than perfect stage set up or a slightly lazy lighting cue? To spend countless hours on a a video, then knowing it isn’t quite there, played it in the service anyway? To keep an chronically late volunteer on the team because, after all, they’re volunteering.

Regardless of the work I’ve put in or the team has put in, it might still be a bad grape.

There was a big service at Willow Creek that we had spent a ton of energy to make the set a certain way to achieve a certain result. It was a lot of work. However, in the end, it wasn’t right for the service, so we ended up scraping it. For some people on the team, this really bothered them. To others it was the exact right call.

I realize that many of my examples and many of the situations we find ourselves in are way more complicated than good grape/bad grape, but the question still remains: Is the thing I’ve spent so much time on going to make the end product better or worse?

Are we willing to sacrifice all of our efforts if necessary, for the sake of the end result?

Will we have enough discipline to set aside the less than best for the benefit of what we are really trying to do?

Which is hopefully to create life changing moments through the fusion for the technical and creative arts.

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