Friday, March 27, 2009

2 Trips

I have two trips coming up this summer. I'm greatly looking forward to one and the I could take it or leave it.

The first trip, but not necessarily the better of the two, is with my family to Georgia.

In July.

When it's hot.

We are going to the "family homestead" to see my mom's last living relatives. I don't mind seeing these relatives. I think they are fascinating people: both retired teachers, kind, God-centered and normal. Yes, normal. Well, other than the fact that they had a dog house with an air conditioner in it. Did I mention it gets hot there?

This trip will probably be the last time that any of us see these relatives alive. I guess my problem with the trip is two-fold. First, I don't like to travel with the pretense that it is going to be sad or depressing. I like travel to be a positive experience. Second, just that...traveling with my family, especially my parents, is not usually too positive.

I don't know what it is. Is it the long van rides in the middle of the summer with your legs sticking to the faux leather to the farthest southern point in Georgia? Is it the long van rides to Colorado with long, window-fogging detours in the middle of Kansas?

Maybe it's the budget travel to San Francisco. Can we say public transportation?! Maybe it's coming back from two weeks in Europe just to go straight to the hospital to see my grandma die.

Maybe it's rushing through airports while they are shutting the door to the plane. Or it's having to wait in a terminal in Arizona for an indefinite number of hours waiting for a plane to be fixed.

Perhaps I should stay away from vans and rental cars and airplanes, but then that leaves the train or the bus and I don't like those options either. This raises a big question: could I go through life without having the opportunity to travel? Of course, the answer is an emphatic NO!!

With that in mind, I signed up to go on the second trip, which will be a fun, long van ride to Atlanta the next week in July.

When it's even hotter...

and even sweatier.

How is this possible? Do I set myself up for travel failure?

I'm excited for the youth work trip to Atlanta. I'm looking forward to spending time with the youth and getting to know them better. I already have planned in my head which suitcase I'm going to take and what clothes I will presumably need to pack. And trust me, planning ahead is not my forte!

We are venturing to D.O.O.R. I have no idea what those letters stand for, but I always think of the "Rats from N.Y.M.H." when I see the letters. I don't know what N.Y.M.H. stands for either, but, then again, I didn't really like the movie in fourth grade. It may have been a little to scary for Little James.

Maybe that's why I've been thinking about these trips a lot recently: fear. Fear of going to a nursing home with relatives dying. Fear of being stuck in a hotel room with my parents. Fear of doing something new with people I don't really know. Fear of being stuck in a van with teenagers in an urban area!

I'm not afraid of flying. Nor am I afraid of traveling or experiencing new things. I think I have different travel fears, and just like a fear of flying, they can be debilitating. I'm sure by the summer, when I'm wishing for a break from work and some much needed renewal time, my fears will subside.

That doesn't mean I like having my legs stick to hot, faux leather, though.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day Off

I had my usual day off yesterday. I feel more tired today than I did yesterday. I didn't really sleep in. Then again, I didn't really do anything yesterday. I watched a great documentary about Catherine the Great based on her memoirs and correspondence. I knew my wife would NEVER want to watch something history based, so I thought it best if I watched it on my own. I took a 1-hour nap. I had every intention of reading, but that didn't happen. I got through the table of contents of the book.
This book is the first book by Dan Kimball: The Emerging Church. I think I had mentioned that I have read Emerging Worship by D. Kimball. I'll be interested to see if this is just as good. This book was written earlier. I should have checked the date, but I'm not sure. It may be 10 years old by now. I'm not sure how that will change how I read the book, but I'm sure it will.
Actually, I do know how it will change my reading. I was on Dan Kimball's website on Monday, reading a blog post. He mentioned that he doesn't think that emerging worship is in the same place it was. He doesn't think that emerging worship is performed in the same way. That almost makes me think this book might not be credible. It may be old fashioned. We've already moved past what this book was written for and moved on to something even more different.
I'm still going to read the book. Hopefully, it will give me insight on how to "jump off the cliff." I've said since I started at WH that they think they are very progressive and forward thinking, but in reality, we are stuck in 1991. We are looking at the edge of the cliff, but haven't quite gotten to the edge. I think with our 10:45 service we got to the edge, but people have complained so much about it we are back just staring at the edge. I think emerging worship is just running as fast as you can and jumping off the edge without a parachute. Of course, the sincere hope is that you land on your feet. And maybe we will, maybe we won't.
We had worship planning team on Monday. For June 7 the scripture is Isaiah 6:1-8. Hot coals are placed on the lips to purify. I don't really "get" that, but hey, I don't live in Bible times so I don't necessarily need to. I mentioned, half jokingly, that we should have hot sauce packets from Taco Bell for everyone to take and at the prescribed time in the sermon, everyone put that on their lips. This would inevitably lead to some burning lips, therefore knowing a little of the pain that one might have felt with hot coals.

This idea was shot down.

We got to June 21 - Father's Day - and we are going to be talking about Jesus calming the storm. Another person brought up that we should show the beginning song of "Gilligan's Island." Now, to me, this sounds like a stupid idea...but was it shot down? No!! Needless to say I was frustrated. After a little discussion though, everyone else saw the stupidity, but I brought up the storm scene in "The Truman Show." I think we are going to use that one.
So, did I get what I wanted in the end...sort of. I'm still sticking to the hot sauce packets though. It involves "doing, tasting, and touching" which if we are going to engage people are three necessary items.
Also at worhsip planning we talked about emerging worship. This was also frustrating. We had a "professional" come in to talk to us, but I didn't hear anything that I didn't already know. I had taken some copious notes while reading "Emerging Worship" and studied those notes before the meeting. I felt like I could have given the same information, but since I'm not a "professional" I was not asked.

I think perhaps this week started off badly. Sunday wasn't great, then Monday was also a disappointment. I feel a little underappreciated as well as underused. I plan to start the "research" part of starting an emerging worship service. I need to call all the high schools and colleges in my area and then all the churches within 10-miles to get numbers. Then I need to compare those numbers to see how many high school and college students are actually going to church. Then all that gets compared to how many 18-35 year olds there are in the county. Maybe with raw data I will be listened to.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Thanks. This IS actually helpful. Not that I want to pull out the guilt. I just get so frustrated that I have to raise my blood pressure every week to "direct" or "produce" worship. And, shockingly enough, this isn't what I went to school for.

Hairspray and perfection

Last night my wife and I went to see Hairspray at the Civic Center. Honestly, this was maybe only the third or fourth "Broadway" show I've ever seen. I'm more of an opera person, but that probably isn't a surprise.
I've done musicals. I've played for musicals. I've been in musicals, but going to them is expensive and sometimes not that great. But, last night was very good. Our seats were in a great position. We were actually close enough to the stage that we could see faces!
On the way home, in the car, I couldn't help but say that I really appreciated the production value of this show. Reading through the bios of the performers - some of them old, some new - some of them had been doing this show for a while. They had probably performed the whole production over 100 times or more! Probably WAAAAY more!!!
Light cues and orchestra cues were right on time. Sound effects were quite impressively timed. There was a moment in a song when glasses "clinked" and, yes, there was a perfectly in place sound effect for that.
As I said, many of these people have done this show many many many times. You can't help but be pretty much perfect after doing something so many times. It's engrained in your muscles by that time. I also know that the people working on these touring productions are paid professionals. This is what they do. They work on tech or sound or lights. They may or may not enjoy doing it, but that's their job.
Yesterday was also a church day. I came away with a huge headache, after being reduced to near tears, and frustrated like none other. Needless to say, yesterday was difficult. I got to church in a good mood, but it spiraled down quickly.
The bell ringers were playing for the services. That's fine. I like to include the bells whenever I can - or more accurately, whenever they feel like playing. The congregation seems to like the bells. They should...they just spent $15,000 on refurbishing the bells two years ago. That money didn't come out of thin air! I had already asked the bells if they would be finished so that our flute player could practice her piece. I was told that the bells had been there for a half hour and hadn't played through their whole piece.
Now I feel that I have to back up and tell you that traditionally, the bells arrive at 7:00 a.m. before the 8:30 service and run their piece so many times that it makes your ears bleed. So the fact that they hadn't run it yet and it was 8:05 stunned me. I also knew this was bad news for the flute player.
Our flute player is also our service pianist. She is good at flute, but still needs the practice time for checking volume and getting her mic right, etc. 8:15 rolled around and the bells were playing through their piece "one more time" since they hadn't done it too many times.
I feel I should also interject that I start my rehearsals at 7:00 p.m. sharp on Thursday evenings, and although I know that choir is a time for fellowship and comradery (sp?) it's also our only time to work together that week. Needless to say, I run a tight ship. That's probably on the same side of the brain that likes opera.
Back to the bells: it's 8:15, they are still running their piece, the flute hasn't practiced, people are starting to come in, AND the "pre service" CD is supposed to be running at 8:15 to "greet" people as they enter. None of this was happening and I felt like I had no control over the situation.
Again returning to the side of the brain that likes opera and running on schedule...I also like to be in control or in charge of things. ESPECIALLY if I'm supposed to be in charge of these things. This is my job on Sunday. I am the man in the big top hat in the center ring of the circus.
Finally, at 8:22, the bells were done and we could run the flute piece. Mind you, the flute piece was also the prelude, so the people in the sanctuary were hearing this piece at 8:25, even though they were going to hear it again at 8:30.
On top of all this - and this is where it ties into the Hairspray and perfection stuff...look out! - I had a sound person that was also not doing as I asked. I know that I'm not the pro at sound engineering. I know that I'm not even someone who has opened up the owner's manual to read all about it. That bores me, so I stay away. BUT, I DO know what sounds good. And more importantly, I know what looks good. I don't need a mic on the 6-foot baby grand piano with it's lid all the way open that I'm playing (and let me tell you....I don't need a mic!!) I don't need the mics that the worship team are singing into to be squealing all during a song in the middle of worship. I don't need to be told that things don't sound together because they aren't "equalizing in the middle of the space, therefore getting to your ears in a more succint fashion." I really really don't.
All I know is that I'm sitting at the front of the sanctuary on a piano bench and I don't have control over what is happening in the sound booth. I think of the Hairspray technical people. They are paid professionals. The person that was running sound yesterday is one of my most educated people...a doctor! Doing sound is his hobby. He's passionate about it. He's done sound at other churches. Does this make him a professional even though he might not be paid? Can I not expect the same level of perfection from him that I do from the sound people on a traveling Broadway show? Probably not, but that doesn't mean that I can't expect excellence.
I was glad yesterday was over. My wife was even more glad yesterday was over. Church wasn't wonderful. Not even approaching excellent or perfect. Hairspray was good. We are planning on seeing Wicked when it rolls through town in September.