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put one foot in front of the other

The GLS is over…at least in North America. It is one of my favorite events to work, for many reasons. One of those reasons is that I get a chance to have a front row seat to hear some pretty amazing messages.

In the season I’m in right now, which involves much future uncertainty, Louie Giglio’s message was very timely for me. He had some great content like:

Matterhorn“Life is short. God is big.” and
“To climb the Matterhorn, you’ve got to take one step at a time.”

The second one really resonates with me. I don’t have to know every detail of how to get to the top of the mountain, I just need to take one step.

It reminds me of the classic Rankin/Bass production “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the song “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”  OK, maybe it isn’t exactly the same thing, but what a catchy tune!

For those of us in an uncertain season or in a time where what needs to get done feels too giant to tackle, let’s just take the next step; let’s point ourselves in the right direction and just make the move right in front of us.

So I’m going to dig in and start moving in the direction I sense God leading. Regardless of the size of the mountain, I’m going to get up and take the next step.

To quote the eminent philosopher, Kris Kringle: “If your time of life is at hand, a good place to start is to stand.”

 

 

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ordinary people

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Something that I shared with the Willow production team at our Christmas party…

 

This year, I decided to participate in an advent experience. It is nothing more than reading everyday from John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy (BTW, its free). While reading through this, it struck me that it is probably the first time I’ve done something advent-y since I was a kid and we lit a candle on a horizontal wreath each Sunday during December.

So far, it has been a good thing to help me wrap my mind around what Christmas is actually is about.

On the 4th of month, the reading talked about how God orchestrated the prophecy of Christ being born in Bethlehem, using Caesar Augustus to have this idea of a census to get Mary and Joseph away from Nazareth. I love this picture of God moving the chess-like pieces around to create the perfect situation for His son to enter the world.

The funny part, is that once they get to Bethlehem, God has forgotten to provide them a place to sleep? After all the work of moving governments around, God the Father simply forgets to make a reservation?

It turns out that what I would have done, or what might make the most sense to our human minds, was exactly what God decided not to do..be born into Caesar Augustus’ family and then just take over. To change the world through strength. He could have, but didn’t.

Instead God chose to use Mary and Joseph, her sister Elizabeth, a bunch of shepherds…basically normal people. Ordinary. Flaws and all. He chose an unlikely place for Jesus to be born…one that people could say “Only God” about.

God wanted to make it very obvious that

1. He could orchestrate things however He wanted.

2. He was intimately involved.

3. He wanted to use the ordinary to redeem the world.

As I look around the technical arts community, I see God’s plan continuing today. No offense, but we are a pretty ordinary bunch. If we were to dive into all of our stories, we would find a similar theme to Mary and Joseph’s situation: God’s orchestrating hand; that He is intimately involved with each aspect of our story and that he has been using us to help redeem the world.

If I were to orchestrate the perfect plan to help save the world, I still think I would imagine it totally different from how God has designed it. He has decided to use us…OK, I guess.

However, if God’s plan is to use ordinary people, I can’t imagine a better group of ordinary people that I’d rather be associated with. He has used our uniqueness and our specific make up to reach out to the world. He has used us as technical artists to help get His message out. I love that there is a place for each of us to contribute to His plan.

We’ve all been a part of many unique experiences this year, all of which God has used and is using to help God’s people in all our churches become more Christ-like.

Thanks for your willingness to let God use your ordinariness to redeem the world.

 

 

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Tiziano Caviglia

your identity

I had the privilege to help lead the Technical Director’s Retreat at the WFX conference in Dallas this year.  If you have never heard of this or have never been, this part of the conference is worth checking out.  It is a chance to hang with other TDs, staff and volunteers, from churches big and small from all over the place.  I love it because it is a place that I can be reminded that what I do matters, and that I’m not the only crazy one.

Anyway, at this past year’s event, I talked about the story of the sisters, Mary and Martha, and their encounter, or lack thereof, with Jesus.  Here’s a refresher from Luke 10:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I don’t know about you, but this story baffles me…at first.  Then it starts hitting a little too close to home.

While Martha was doing what she was made to do (I’m sure she had a hospitality gift), somewhere along the way, she had turned the party into the most important thing, instead of Jesus.

And since the party wasn’t going super great, she was losing it on her sister and on Jesus.  My guess is that her identity was wrapped up too much in what she did and not in Jesus.

I love that I have had the privilege over the years to work at a job that I love and feels like what I was made to do.  Unfortunately at times, this becomes more than what I do but I derive my worth from how well I’m doing at my job.

I do need to do a good job.  I want to do a great job.  How God sees me has nothing to do with this.  Whether I succeed or fail.  Whether there is feedback or a missed graphic, God still feels the same about me.

Am I so wrapped up in my role as a technical artist in the local church, that I lose sight of my true identity?

 

 

 

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by jimforest

does God speak…to me?

When was the last time you heard from God?  When was the last time you were listening for God’s voice?  As a tech person, I tend to find myself back in the booth just trying to facilitate what other people have heard from God.  Hearing from God is something that happens to other people.

I have been reading my way through the gospels and right now, John the Baptist has just seen Jesus for the first time and says “This is the Son of God.”  Throughout this encounter with Jesus, John is saying things that we would consider not normal:  doves descending, voices telling someone what to do, God’s son showing up.  Again, these are all things that happen to other people, whether that’s in biblical times or just other people I hear about.

I got to thinking, that I don’t expect anything remotely like this to ever happen to me.  I live my life, I make choices, I pray, I journal, I go to church…but I don’t typically expect to have God speak directly to me.

The sad part, is that I would say that I have had at least 5 encounters with God that I can’t explain, and yet I still assume that God speaks to other people and I just facilitate that.  My life would be very different if I hadn’t responded to those promptings.

What would my life look like if I really expected God to speak?  Or what if I slowed my life down enough to actually have space to listen for His voice?

Now I’m thinking, it is one thing to hear God’s voice, but John the Baptist actually did something about it.  He got down to business baptizing people, wearing burlap and eating locust.

Taking this a step further, what about the promptings I get that I don’t act on?  What would happen if I followed these promptings and trusted God for the outcome?

I feel like this applies beyond big life decisions to every day life.  I had a season in my life a few years ago where I felt very unsettled and wanted God to give me the answer to what to do with my life.  Instead, every time I asked the question:  ”God, what do you want me to do with my life?”, I would put my pen down and wait for an answer, and it was always something like, apologize to this person for what you said yesterday.  I would get so frustrated.  I’m not doing that!  Where’s the big answer?

Eventually I realized that if I am unwilling to follow a prompting to apologize to someone or to give a gift anonymously to a person or write a blog post about hearing from God; why would I think that God would entrust me with some bigger life altering word.

 

 

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you are more than perfection

My friend Dennis Choy is not only a pretty awesome person, but he has a saying that I have been hearing in my head lately.  Dennis points out that the baseline for what we do as technical artists in the local church is perfection; that we are expected to not make any mistakes while executing a service.

Whiteout Writing it out, it sound ridiculous and impossible, but unfortunately I think it is true.  The reality is that it isn’t attainable.  Humans are involved, and we aren’t perfect.  Things outside of our control can cause bad things to happen.

The challenge to me is that to have no mistakes as a good goal, and yet we can never achieve it perfectly.  The other challenge is to think about tenaciously going after a no flaws service while letting go when the mistakes do happen.

I love the fact that I get to do something I love, but when who I am designed to be gets wrapped up in my work performance, or lack of work performance, there’s a problem.

I recently had one of the worst work days of my life.  Big time mistakes on my part.  And since then, I’ve been pretty good about beating myself up about it.  On one hand, I need to figure out where I went wrong and fix it.  I can’t just give up on becoming better through my mistakes.

On the other hand, I have not been myself either.  My wife said to me this morning, “You aren’t defined by your job.”  When she said it, I agreed with her and said “of course” and “you’re so smart” and “blah, blah, blah”.  But since she said it, I realized that perhaps I am acting like how well I do at my job is what defines me.

When creating life changing moments through the fusion of the technical and creative arts is something I live and breath every day, and when one of the foundational values I hold to is making a distraction free environment, it can become very easy to define my self-worth by how well I succeed in these areas.

Here’s the reality, God loved me before I existed, even though he knew I would fall short every day.  This means that he loves me regardless of how severely I fail each day.  I am loved whether a distraction free environment is perfectly distraction free or just the best I could do on a particular day.  As a leader, on some days I am really awesome at leading my team.  On other days, I’m pretty awful at it.  God loves me on both kinds of days, and the truth about me doesn’t change.

God proved that he loved me in spite of all I fall short in, by sending His son to die for me.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. – 1 John 4:9

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! – 1 John 3:1

The truth of this applies every day and in every situation.  It is apart of my successes and failures.

Where do you derive your worth from?  Do you rely on a flawless service to make you feel valuable?

happy (belated) birthday, mozart

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I’m not sure what this even has to do with production in the local church, but I was so moved this morning listening to one of my favorite musically pieces by Mozart, the 3rd movement of his “Gran Partita” Serenade, that I felt like there was something to write about.

4257344949_4b17593e90_oI am a fairly even-keeled person.  I don’t get very emotional one way or another.  That said, listening to Mozart can fill me like nothing else can.  I don’t cry at movies, but watching the movie “Amadeus” gets me…at the same spot every time.  I have the movie memorized, so I know it is coming, and it still hits me like I’ve never seen it before.  When I visited Mozart’s birthplace I was overwhelmed by the reality that the violin I was looking at, helped to create some of the music I love the most.

This all leads me to 2 very different thoughts.

What inspires you?

If it isn’t obvious yet, I am inspired by Mozart’s music.  It feeds my soul like very few other things can.  I am listening to it right now, in fact.  I love having it on in the background most of the time, and the way that every so often I get caught up in a perfect melody, just for a few seconds.  It is enough to help re-energize me for another stretch of work.  Without this in my life, I am not sure how I would keep going each day. mozart

What inspires you?  What do you have in your life that helps to lift you out of the every day and help you to see beauty?  It doesn’t have to be music, it could be going for a run, or joining a sports team, or serving at the local food pantry.

This looks different for all of us, but it is equally essential for all of us.

We facilitate inspiration

As technical artists in the local church, much of our job is to help facilitate art that is happening on our stages; to help it inspire people.  Our congregation isn’t inspired by the great mic’ing you’ve done on the kick drum, or the artistic camera shot during the instrumental breaks, or the lighting effect during the bridge of that one song.  All of this is important and eventually adds up to helping to create environments where people can be inspired.  Where their hearts can be deeply moved. (I stole much of this language from Troy Bartholomew, the soon to be TD of our weekend services.)

When I am being moved by Mozart’s music, I am not caught up in the technology of it, all that is transparent.  Everything is out of the way, allowing me to get straight to the beauty of the music.

In the same way, the technology that we use should be transparent enough that our congregations can get immediately to whatever will potentially move them.

Isaiah 57:14 is a verse our production team has talked about many times.  It says:

“Build up, build up, prepare the way,

remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”

Let’s remove the obstacles so that people in our churches can be moved and inspired.

 

 

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being in 2 places at once

I struggle with this…being everywhere at the same time.  Running from meeting to meeting.  I am usually on time to the first one, but then late to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.  I feel like everyone is waiting for answers from me and can’t do their jobs well.  I am a bottleneck.

Everywhere

Am I crazy?  Or is this just something that comes with being a leader?  Am I a control freak?  Do I have a difficult time letting go?  Do I have too many opinions?  Am I involved in too much?  I’m not even sure what the point of this post is, except that I am struggling.  By trying to be everywhere at once, I feel like I am nowhere all the time.

Those of you who read this, and know me, this is probably not news to you.  Often waiting for answers to emails that have by now been buried in my inbox.  Or waiting in my office for me to show up to a meeting that I scheduled with you.  Or even just walking by my office and never seeing me in there.

Is the answer shorter meetings?  Is the answer less meetings?  Being involved with less?  Saying “no” more?  More disciplined meetings?  Less personal interaction?

For those of you who have figured out how to be everywhere at the same time, what is your secret?

 

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mrs TeePot

rest or just something completely different

I love what I do.  I could be at it 24/7.  As a result, I probably spend more time at it than I should.  If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that my wife is always saying “come home early”, which helps quite a bit in the pursuit of avoiding continual work.

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Talking to many technical artists in the local church, I notice that I am not alone in my love for what I do.  Most of us love a challenge.  Many of us will not stop until something is complete.  We are passionate about using the technical arts to advance the Kingdom of God through the local church.  However, many times this is to the detriment of our health and our non-work life.

After a few days of not thinking about work, I have realized how refreshed I feel and how I am starting to come back to life.  My last blog entry was about being empty.  I have noticed my tank refilling.

This idea of loving what I do so much that I don’t take very good breaks, reminded me of a couple Winston Churchill quotes (shocking!) from a small book he wrote in 1922 called “Painting as a Pastime”.

“It may well be that those whose work is their pleasure are those who most need the means of banishing it at intervals from their mind.”

and

“A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using and tiring it, just in the same way he can wear out the elbows of his coat.”

This break from work, for whatever reason, has been good for me to remember the importance of these two quotes in my own life.  Here are a couple things that I have done over the past couple of weeks to combat the weariness that comes from going full steam ahead at a job I love:

Develop other interests.  This has been key for me.  Running.  Watercolor painting.  Cemetery photography (weird, I know).  My 5th grade son’s basketball games.  Trips into the city.  When I am at home, these have all helped get my mind off of work.  And when I am at work, they give me reason to leave work behind and engage my brain in new ways.  They also have nothing to do with what I do every day, so I am not wearing myself down even further by having interests that are just like my work.  Instead, they renew me, and as a result, I am ready for another day of the things I love to do.

Create space.  This requires discipline, which I am pretty bad at.  There is always something pressing that requires immediate attention and seems more important than space.  Plan that vacation, otherwise it won’t happen.  Create a routine to get you out running on a regular basis.  Look for cemeteries you haven’t been to and figure out ways to get there with your camera (yes, I know… weird.  Check out the new photo blog I created).  Discipline yourself to make space.

This past week, I was given time off.  Our whole staff takes the week between Christmas and New Years off, so it was space created for me.  I have really enjoyed it, and wonder why I don’t use all my vacation days and do this more often.

These are 2 things I am committed to this next year.  I have other interests already, but I am going to create the space for them to happen.

What are some interests that you could develop this coming year that would rejuvenate you?

Take advantage of the impulse to create New Years resolutions.  Look at your weeks, months and the year ahead and create some space for you to recover from the work you love.

 

 

Creative Commons License photo credit: Art Inspector

if i only had ______, then everything would be perfect

In my last post, I mentioned that we are getting ready to replace the sound system in one of our venues at Willow.  We have been looking forward to this for so long and we have been placing so many of our hopes and dreams on getting something new and shining that will solve all our problems.  It is time, and the old one is horrible, but I predict that the new system will lose its luster, it won’t be perfect and we’ll move onto the next thing that is wrong, and put our expectations on the next thing that is just around the corner.

THE NEXT BIG THING

As technical artists, our forward looking selves are generally wanting our equipment and personnel issues to be solved or to pull off the next amazing production. We look forward to the day “if I only had HD cameras”, or “once the newest version of ProPresenter comes out” or “this Christmas is going to be amazing”.   Not that any of these things are bad, it is just that they don’t really solve all the problems, they don’t make life perfect, they will let us down.

Waiting for everything to be perfect is a fantasy.  Putting our hope in “things” cannot fully satisfy, and it is at odds with the very message of the gospel.  The new equipment that you are longing for will let you down.  Solving one problem will inevitably raise other, newer problems to the surface.  The next big idea will provide you with a great adrenaline rush, but then comes the crash.

In Psalm 42, the writer talks about how our souls long for God, yet he asks the question: “Why, my soul, are you so downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?”  The only solution to this feeling of being let down is to ”Put your hope in God.”

Our jobs as technical artists in the local church is to push and strive for technical excellence; to look for new equipment, to recommend new ways of doing things, to push our current normal onto something special and extraordinary.  It is how we fulfill our role in the body of Christ.  We must also not put our hope in any of this.  Reach.  Strive.  Work your butt off.  But don’t place your identity in something new and shiny or flashing and amazing.  Put your hope in God.  Allow him to be your motivation.  Let him fill you up because the adrenaline will wear off.

 

 

Creative Commons License photo credit: marc falardeau

driving with the top up

Thankfully, Dave drives with the top down!

On a rare beautiful day in Chicagoland, I noticed a person driving a sweet convertible with the top up.  I was offended.  Seriously.  You have the audacity to own a convertible and when the weather actually permits, you choose to leave the top up?  Too much work?  Didn’t feel like it?  Please.

If you have a car with the ability to have the top down, put it down.  Let me see you enjoying your investment.  Let me long for your life.  Help me live vicariously through you.

Since then, I have been keeping track of the top up/top down ratio.  How many people have a convertible, but drive with the top up verses down?  It also woke me up at 3am.  While I was staring at the ceiling wondering if I would be able to get back to sleep, I had a thought:

When people look at my life, what is the “convertible with the top up” equivalent?

How am I squandering whatever I have been blessed with?  I think about my family and my job and wonder if I make choices based on “too much work” or “I might mess up my hair”, that I am missing out on the experience that is right in front of me.

When I think about my life and the choices I make, I often am reminded of the parable of the talents, and I am not interested in being the one dude that buries my talent in the ground because I am afraid of losing what I do have.  I want to make the most of what I have.

I want to live life to the fullest, with the convertible top down.  When people look at my life, I want to be living a life worth emulating.  I want the wind whipping through my hair.

In what ways are you living a stingy life?  How can you take advantage of all that you have for something larger than your own comfort?