Monday, December 24, 2007

Are You Slowing Down Yet?

Our friends at CCC come up with some phenomenal videos - usually their VERY funny and incredibly creative. I thought I would post this latest one that is simple but the message is quite powerful. As we finish up this Christmas season, many of us will struggle to find a quiet place to reflect on the true meaning. From busyness to overcommitment, many will forget to spend a moment and thank God for sending Jesus humbly into this world. Glory in the Highest was sent down as a baby born in a manger on that silent night - one that would change the course of history forever.

I pray this video will remind all of us of the power of that quiet moment - a simple conversation with a loving God. Merry Christmas.

The Mystery of St. Nick

I don't often reprint articles, and this is a long one, but I think it's relevant to the season. Too often "political correctness" creeps into many aspects of our life. From Barbara Walters griping about a Christmas card from the White House that included scripture, to stores like Wal Mart and Target who can't decide if it's Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday, I hope this story sheds some light on the mystery behind "Ole' St. Nick."

It’s complicated. Like Keith Richards, the Santa legend is ancient, murky, and fairly disturbing. The cuddly version — grandfatherly St. Nick employing elfin labor to make toys for the children of the world — is only the latest in a long line of iterations. Santa has evolved.

The original Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop in 4th-century Myra, geographically located in modern-day Turkey. As an adult, Nicholas gained a reputation as a generous man and the protector of innocents. These saintly traits largely arose from two horrific legends, both of which eventually led to his canonization.

The first is said to have occurred during a terrible famine. A local butcher, in need of something to sell, lured three unsuspecting boys into his shop. He killed the boys, chopped them into pieces, then stuffed their remains in a brine tub, hoping to cure them enough that he could sell the parts as ham. Nicholas was visiting the afflicted region at the time of the crime. Somehow Nicholas became aware of the butcher’s wicked deed. He visited the shop, uncovered the crime, and hastily reassembled the three boys. They came back to life, a bit salty but otherwise in good health. Despite the happy ending, it’s not exactly the kind of story that gets told at the Christmas Eve candlelight service.

In the second legend, a poor citizen of Myra had three daughters, but not enough money to afford a dowry for them. No dowry meant no marriage, and unmarried women in those days generally had one career choice: prostitution. The father was less than thrilled by this possibility, but too proud to ask for help. Nicholas discovered the family’s predicament the night before the first daughter came of age. Not wanting to embarrass anyone, he approached the family’s house late one night and tossed a bag of gold through an opened window. He did the same thing the night before the second daughter came of age. Both gifts were enough to cover the dowry, and both girls were spared the consequence of their poverty.

Before long, the third daughter was ready to marry, and the appreciative father wanted to find out who was behind the lavish gifts. When the time came, the father hid next to the window, hoping to catch their anonymous benefactor in the act. Nicholas learned of the father’s plan and improvised: Instead of lobbing it through the window, he dropped the third bag of gold down the chimney.

It wasn’t long before people began to suspect that the kindly bishop Nicholas, who had inherited money from his affluent parents, was behind these mysterious actions and a great many other secretive gifts to the poor. After he died of old age on December 6, 343 AD the people of Myra continued providing for those in need. In fact, they made a practice of giving gifts anonymously, always attributing them to the late Bishop Nicholas.

Before long, the bishop — who had worn liturgical robes of red and white — was canonized as a saint. Saint Nicholas became venerated as the protector of innocents, the patron saint of children, and a secret giver of gifts.

Of course, the traditional American idea of Santa Claus — along with his British/Canadian counterpart, Father Christmas — originates in the stories surrounding Nicholas of Myra. As far as saints go, St. Nick was especially venerated in the Netherlands, where he became known by the Dutch variant Sinterklaas. When the Dutch came to the New World and settled in New Amsterdam (today’s New York City), they brought with them the story of the now-anglicized “Santa Claus.”

And as is our custom, we Americans made the story bigger and gaudier, tacking on details from several unrelated sources. The karmic idea of rewarding good kids and punishing naughty children is rooted in old Norse folktales. The stuff about the reindeer and Santa’s sleigh got added once Clement Moore’s poem, “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” swept the nation in the early 1800s. Decades later, the magazine Harper’s Weekly commissioned several Thomas Nast engravings which depicted Santa in his workshop, reading letters and checking lists. The legend grew.

And here we are today. Kids leave cookies near the fireplace, parents are careful to preserve bootprints in the ashes, and Santa has transitioned into the 21st century. No longer does he oversee the building of simple wooden toys in his elf-staffed workshop. Nope. These days, little boys and girls — whether they’re good or bad, or rich or poor — probably expect Santa to drop a new iPod Nano in their stocking. Or, at the very least, the High School Musical 2 DVD. A wooden toy train? Unthinkable.

You have to feel for St. Nick. The legendary protector of children and distributor of anonymous gifts to the poor has turned into a victim of the worst kind of western entitlement and consumerism. Kids are more demanding. Chimneys are smaller. Families are leaving skim milk and low-fat cookies instead of the real stuff. It’s hard out there for a right jolly old elf. Somewhere deep within the folds of Santa’s suit, we’ve lost the story of St. Nick.

I’m always an advocate for stripping away the Santa Claus stuff at Christmastime and focusing on Jesus. But there’s a wide chasm between baby Jesus and Santa Claus, and maybe it’s a lot to ask a Christianity-averse culture to make that long journey from one side to the other.

Perhaps a better idea is to move them toward the middle by resurrecting Saint Nicholas of Myra. Annoyed with all the Jesus talk? Don’t want to celebrate Christ at Christmas? Fine. Then let’s celebrate someone else. Let’s talk about the 4th-century dude who kept little boys from grisly deaths and kept little girls out of the sex trade. Let’s talk about the revered religious figure who freed those in bondage, who restored life to the lifeless, and who refused to overlook the suffering of the innocent. Let’s talk about the man of God who gave out of his prosperity, who dispensed grace with no strings attached, who lived to bless those trapped in poverty.

Let’s talk about Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, Sinterklaas 1.0.
Because when we peel away the red robes and silly hat and centuries of tradition, we might just see something, in the Santa legend, that we Christians recognize: It’s the Gospel. It’s the Good News. It’s the face of Jesus. It’s hope for the hopeless, liberty for the captives, abundance for the poor.

Maybe the distance between the North Pole and Bethlehem isn’t so great after all.

This story has been adapted from an article that originally ran in issue 30 of RELEVANT.








Author: Jason Boyett

Jason Boyett is the author of Pocket Guide to the Bible and several other books.

Putting the Ivity in Creativity


This quote via these guys strikes me as an interesting one. How many of you would agree with its premise?

Next question - how does this apply to the church? Is creativity measurable in a worship experience? Then there's the question of impact. What if one person's life is changed forever because God chose to work through a creative moment? Does that make it irrelevant for everyone else? Is it less important for others in that moment?

I'd love to hear your feedback on how creativity impacts you. Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Creating Memories (In 30 Days or Less)

Christmas is a natural time of the year when families create life-long memories together. But this post by this guy reminds us of the importance of the holiday season.

We're also launching an new series (and a new campus!) on the first weekend in January entitled, "30 Days to Live." This could possibly be one of the most important series in the history of Meadow Heights Church. It will not only launch a new year and a new campus, but it could launch a whole new chapter in your life as well. DON'T MISS IT!!

Here's a sneak peak!

What if you learned you had just 30 days to live? How would your life be different? Is it possible to make the most of every day, right now?

As we begin a brand new year, join us for “30 Days to Live.” Once you hear the stories of some real people facing challenging circumstances, and experience God’s truth, you’ll never look at life the same.

video

Monday, December 17, 2007

Amazing Movie? Maybe...maybe not.

I finally had the opportunity to watch the film "Amazing Grace" over the weekend. The film itself was not all that spectacular, but the message that lept from its frames was quite powerful.

William Wilberforce was a man of passion - he fought for something that he believed in from the depths of his soul. He stopped for no one and his endless pursuit of his dreams finally became a reality near the end of his life. His pursuit was not simply for justice in the world, but a fulfillment of an obligation and duty toward God. As Wilberforce puts it, he did not find God...God found him.

Two of the best quotes from the movie come from John Newton, the former slave ship owner now reformed. He was the original author of the words we now know as Amazing Grace.

God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly. I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.

It was amazing to watch William Wilberforce pursue life with an unending passion. I think we all start out with this in our hearts, but somewhere along the way someone has told us to stop dreaming. We tend to settle for the status quo and our dreams die along with a small part of us. It's not always how we live life on the outside, but what is going on in the depths of our soul that really matter. Anyone can live life...dreamers that activate their passions change the world.

What part of your dream have you allowed to die?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Owning the Moment

I attended an event last weekend that reminded me of two important leadership lessons:

(1) Never apologize for a project, event or group in advance. All you're doing is making yourself feel better and your project/event/group feel worse. Most of the time your audience can't tell the difference anyway, but now you've brought attention to it and they'll be focusing on the wrong things.

(2) Never try to build up your project/event/group right after you've apologized for them (see #1). Why did you just spend five minutes telling us it wouldn't be as good as you hoped and now your trying to sell us on the brilliance of your project/event/group? We didn't buy it before and we sure aren't going to buy it now.

Confidence breeds confidence. As the leader, proceed with the confidence and surety that this will be the best possible execution of the project/event/group that can happen at this particular moment in time. Own the moment. Afterwards you can spend time celebrating and evaluating. Don't spoil it for everyone else - work to create a defining moment, even if it's a small one. Your audience will remember that little defining moment much longer than they will your entire performance.

Finally, evaluate why you felt compelled to use #1 and #2. And remember, people end up where you lead them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gift Cards Are For Chumps

Gift cards are for chumps. I love that line. Seth Godin hits a home run with his thoughts on the holiday season. If you're like me, you still have some much needed shopping to do. You'll have great intentions but time will run short and you'll do the inevitable - purchase a gift card for someone.

I mean after all, then they can get whatever they want with it right? Wrong. Listen to these stats:
Last year, more than $8,000,000,000 was wasted on these cards. Not in the value spent, but in fees and breakage. When you give a card, if it doesn't get used, someone ends up keeping your money, and it's not the recipient. People spent more than eight billion dollars for nothing... buying a product that isn't as good as cash.

I know what you're thinking. You're just being thoughtful. It's a GIFT card. You can't give them the cash right? That would be "Christmas Taboo" - like there are rules somewhere. Who decided that cash wasn't a great gift? We get a gift card so it looks like we looked for a gift and we don't end up the chump. But guess what? Gift cards are for chumps!

So forget about it this year. It's a scam. It's a business driven model that has proven to be effective only for the companies, not the consumer. It's time for cash to be king. Hello Mr. Ben Franklin!

One Million Witnesses

At Meadow Heights Church we talk a lot about practical ways to share your story. People can argue about religion all they want, but no one can argue with your story. Especially when you are a living example of how Jesus has radically changed you at the core.

ChurchRelevance points us to "One Million Witnesses." It's an incredibly creative way to share your story and help those in need as well. Here are the details:
For a minimum donation of $10, you can create a block featuring your testimony. The first 100,000 blocks go to helping Living Water International build about 100 wells. Non-profits to benefit from the remaining 900,000 blocks have not yet been determined.

Stop by the site and check it out - it's a great way to help!

Jesus: Political Revolutionary?

I was talking with an old friend the other afternoon as we were both waiting on a concert to begin. Several minutes into our discussion he asked me a question I wasn't quite ready for - Did I consider Jesus to be a "political revolutionary?"

My first response? Of course! I focused on the word revolutionary and immediately associated that with Jesus. Most everyone you ask would tend to agree. By His very own nature, Jesus was a revolutionary. There is no doubt that He revolutionized what it meant to be a worshiper of God, to seek the truth and know that grace is abundant. He absolutely changed the course of history! So to agree that Jesus was a revolutionary was not a very big leap.

But how about political? Was Jesus political? While Jesus never engaged in an active role in politics such as government or the state , was it fair to say the He had an impact nonetheless? Obery Hendricks Jr., in his book "The Politics of Jesus," claims that Jesus employed seven political strategies during his time on earth:

"To say that Jesus was a political revolutionary is to say that the message he proclaimed not only called for change in individual hearts but also demanded sweeping and comprehensive change in the political, social, and economic structures in his setting in life: colonized Israel," Hendricks writes.

It is true that Jesus changed the course of society by promoting care for the sick, healing those in need, feeding of the hungry and many more. Those are all hotly debated items in the political arena. Does this mean Jesus was a political revolutionary simply by association? Most political revolutionaries have used deadly force to accomplish their agenda. This is not true of Jesus. At His core He was a man of great love and compassion to say the least.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. I'm not sure there is an easy answer but I do know this - the conversation will be an interesting one! My friend and I closed our brief talk and I could see that gleam in his eye. He had been thinking about this one quite awhile and was no closer to a complete answer than he had been on first thought. But for that moment it didn't matter - he had started another on the same journey.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dreaming a God-sized Dream

I had a great conversation with a young man last week. He is trying to figure out what God is asking him to do with his one and only life. We had some great discussion and I was able to challenge him on his future. I've noticed that a lot of teenagers and twenty-somethings are wonderful dreamers, but if they aren't challenged at some point they tend to fall into an idealistic trap. Here are three pieces of advice I gave him:

(1) Dream. Don't stop dreaming. Some of the greatest ideas come from those who dream. There's something incredible about creativity that is directed by God.

(2) Decide. Once you've explored your dreams, it's time to decide. After careful prayer, thought and wise counsel, decide on a course that will honor God and achieve your goals. After all, you can't keep dreaming forever.

(3) Do. You can dream and you can decide, but if you don't develop a plan of action, nothing will be accomplished. Dreamers by themselves never changed the world - it's the one who implemented a plan that made the dream a reality.

I closed our conversation by letting him know that there will be many people along the way who will tell him he "can't do it." Don't give in! After all, with God all things are possible!

What advice do you have for today's young adults?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mega Map

The NY Times recently published a map of "mega-churches" across the United States.

Anyone up for South Dakota or Wyoming?

Keepin' It Shut

Here's some great advice from Steven Furtick: keep your mouth shut. Sometimes I don't handle this as well as I should, but Steven shared a great story and then had some incredible words of advice:

Ever since I gave my life to Christ as a 16 year old, I tried to remain devoutly committed to the sacred practice of keeping my mouth shut when presented with the opportunity to say something negative about someone God is using.
Even when the criticism is valid (because even the most anointed people stumble and fall), I see no value in spreading the criticism like gangrene.
Now, if I have a relationship of influence with the person, I do my best to talk with the person about the issue in a spirit of love and encouragement.
I’m not talking about sweeping stuff under the rug.

AND HERE'S THE KICKER...

But if I can’t talk to the person, I’d rather pray for them than talk about them.

Have you talked "behind the scenes" lately?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Merry Thanksgiving!!

I'm not sure why I've been calling it this...but a change of pace I suppose.

Today is Thanksgiving and we are at home watching the parade. My youngest, Emilee, has been captivated by this parade for the first time and she is actually watching most of it. Growing up, my mother and I always watched this parade every year - a great family tradition we are carrying on!

My wife, Melissa, and I took Emilee to the movie last night and afterwards we talked about Thanksgiving. I asked her what she was thankful for and her reply really blessed my heart. She first said she was thankful for her family and then for Santa (we've been asking her what she wants Santa to bring her) and then she paused, looked up at us and said, "And I'm also thankful for God." What a moment!

I hope this day finds you and your family well and as the title says, have a "Merry Thanksgiving!!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday Tech News

The two most talked about items in the tech world the past few days:

(1) The Kindle - a book "reader" where you can download books on the fly - all through a wireless network that doesn't require an internet connection! Check out this review and this interview.

(2) The "is" - for anyone who has ever used Facebook for more than a day, you know exactly what I'm talking about. According to this article, the "is" may soon disappear (reports have said that it did indeed actually disappear for a few hours today, but I just checked and "it" is still there!) which would delight every Facebook user on the planet!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let the CELEBRATION Begin!

After more than two weeks I find myself writing a blog post once again. I have much to say and as our motto around the church has been the past few weeks:

"We've got a long way to go...and a short time to get there!"

We had an absolutely phenomenal Imagine Campaign, and for those of you who have been following along, you can read some thoughts about the culminating Celebration event here, here, and some photos here.

Here's to many future posts!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Boo!

A little late in posting, but here are some pics from our Family Fun Night and of course, Halloween. Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Knowledge Is King?

John sent me this article last week talking about the "outsourced brain." We live in the information world - anything and everything is accessible within seconds. What used to take weeks, months or even years to research and investigate to the fullest potential can now be located with a click of the mouse. Isn't technology amazing?

But stop and think about it. My grandparents and even my parents didn't have the internet. They actually had to learn about something and that information was usually retained forever. During my lifetime we began to know about all kinds of things. But that is totally different from understanding.

While information is more prevalent than at any time in history, people are actually less knowledgeable than ever before. We are actually training our kids to gather as much information as possible, use it in the moment and then cast it into the "recycle bin." Why learn about something when you can just look it up again anytime you feel like it?

Let's not be confused about the difference between knowing and understanding. This is especially true regarding the church today. Many people are searching for God and are turning to the local church. This is an incredibly important responsibility. We have two options: we can feed them a bunch of "information" in the moment (which will be forgotten within a few days) and teach at them, OR we can help them understand and experience an awesome and loving God. Too many churches are still preaching at people instead of leading them into a life-changing experience that will last forever.

The local church is in danger if we choose to facilitate knowledge instead of understanding. We can certainly leverage technology to help in understanding, but when it becomes our only device we'll end up losing focus and inevitably cheapen the Gospel.

The old adage that "knowledge is king" is only partially true - without understanding we'll end up forgoing information before we even have a chance to lose it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who's On Your List?

A great visit today with my good friend John. It's always a pleasure to sit back and enjoy a cup o' coffee and some great conversation with him. John always makes me feel at ease and I always come away from one of our conversations feeling better about life than I did before. Thanks John, for another conversation, for taking time to refill my tank, and for always being someone I can count on. You can finish my thoughts better than I can!

If you don't have someone you can sit down with and just be yourself, DON'T WAIT A SECOND LONGER!! It's incredibly imperative to have at least one or two people that you can count on, have conversations with, let them in on the challenges in your life, and for them to speak truth into your life. Nothing can take the place of this!

A few things to keep in mind:
  • Start a list on paper of people you think you might have a connection with - always make sure they are of the same sex as you!
  • Schedule a breakfast or lunch with them - don't engage in anything other than "normal" conversation.
  • Make notes on your list of those people you felt a "connection" with - only mark those who you feel could be a potential match.
  • Narrow the list to no more than five people - two to three is preferable.
  • Begin to invest more time in the relationship - don't be afraid to ask them to hold you accountable for certain things, to give honest feedback and to engage in deeper conversations
Strong relationships cannot be built overnight. They take time, commitment and patience. Nobody is perfect (not even you!) so don't expect them to be! Most people have hundreds of acquaintances but very few close friends.

If you can develop a few of these relationships I promise that it will be worth the time and effort. It could potentially save your life, your marriage, your job and much more.

Who will you put on your list?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Content to Be Content

We talked about contentment in our Life Group this week. We also discovered an important distinction. Contentment is not accepting what you already have. Accepting what you have can sometimes lead to complacency and lack of effort. Contentment is also not "settling" due to current circumstances.

Instead, God asks us to give Him our best. To go "all out." If everything we have belongs to God in the first place, then contentment should come by realizing that God is simply loaning us our resources, our talents, our families, etc, for this particular moment in time. God deserves all that we have. He deserves one hundred percent of our effort. If we give Him that, we can be assured of a peaceful heart regardless of the outcome.

As Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV):

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

We can be happy whether we have the most or the least. The goal is to give God our best and then let Him decide the outcome. When our desire to please God outweighs our desire to please ourselves, that's when we'll find true contentment.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Growing Bigger By Growing Smaller

We had a wonderful Life Group tonight. We met in the Underground due to the fact our group is getting VERY large - 17 adults and usually about 13 kids. That's too many to fit in any one house! While we enjoy our time together, I laid out the challenge tonight that our group needs to find a way to divide into smaller units.

Having a large group limits the number of opportunities for someone to share their heart. It also limits the possibility of adding new people to the group. When we are too big to add any others to our group, we are, in actuality, denying someone else from having the same experience we currently enjoy. That's really a selfishness issue which can lead to a bigger issue - pride.

To our group's credit, everyone recognized the need to give others the opportunity to experience a Life Group. I also challenged everyone to consider whether or not they should step up and lead a group as well. We have plenty of host homes, but not enough people stepping up to lead. Most people won't lead unless you give them permission. They either feel unqualified or unchallenged. Both can be solved with a little encouragement.

It's amazing to me that when you remove a leader from a group, another leader steps up to take their place. It was the same way when I taught band - when a strong player graduated, there was always someone else that would step up to the challenge. They were simply waiting for the opportunity and the invitation.

As leaders, we often fail the organization because we won't step out of the way and give others the opportunity to lead. Just like the small group I mentioned above, it becomes an issue of pride. Once we step out of the way and extend the invitation, it's amazing to see who shows up and the incredible talent they bring to the table.

Are you the bottleneck to the organization? Have you given someone the opportunity and the invitation?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stormy Thursday




Quite the storms today!! At 2:30 this morning the storms hit full force on our side of town and within seconds our 110 year old maple tree was lying across our front yard. It was as if God Himself took great care to position the tree gently and cautiously across our lawn. Another few feet to the right and the tree would have crashed into our daughter Emilee's bedroom. A few more feet to the left and the power lines would have snapped. A few feet to the other side and our neighbor's house and car would have been demolished. In short, it was nothing less than a miracle that the tree landed exactly where it would cause no damage!

At 8am I was already trying to figure out how to dispose of this gigantic yard ornament. By 10am the entire tree was gone! Another miracle perhaps? The city workers were out cleaning up debris from the road and after a short conversation they agreed to go take a look out our tree. By 9:30am they had trimmed all the branches and put them in the shredder. By 10am they had returned to cut the large trunk into pieces and then by chain loaded them into a truck to be taken away. While I have many issues with our city, I must say that these guys were AWESOME!! A HUGE thanks go out to those fellas for taking care of a massive challenge!

This afternoon? Another round of storms. This time two tornadoes were spotted, one of which came across our neighborhood and did some pretty good damage. Several trees were down in our neighborhood, a fence and a car smashed from a broken limb. Across town the damage continued with the storm path taking out many more trees and part of a house. The power is still out tonight in that part of town, but fortunately I haven't heard of any injuries.

I've always been fascinated by storms, especially tornadoes. I don't understand why they happen, but I wonder if God is simply clearing away what is not needed any longer. What I do know is that He was certainly watching out for our family this morning and this afternoon, and I thank Him for covering us with His protection. Another reminder that we serve an incredible God!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Parents Just Don't Understand

NewSpring Church is getting ready to start a new parenting series called "Parents Are Clueless." While we have taught many times on parenting at Meadow Heights Church, I love how Perry and his team are thinking outside the box.

Check out this incredible website with comments that will make those of us who are parents think twice about our family.

Right Smack Dab In the Middle...

Take time to check out this post by this guy. My favorite lines:

It’s not Jesus, then my family, then my job…
It’s Jesus: in my family, in my job…

Monday, October 15, 2007

An AMAZING Weekend!

The title says it all! After a week of installation we finally debuted our new technology system at Meadow Heights Church this past weekend. A HUGE shout out to all those folks who pitched in to make everything happen! Our Creative Arts team is phenomenal and we had so many people who gave their time and energy the entire week.

Thanks to Dustin, Joseph and the entire crew from Ford Audio Video - they worked countless hours all week long to get us ready for the weekend. Thanks to Jeremy, who leads our LiVE! Team and who spent all day Saturday helping install and troubleshoot and for getting our music team ready. Thanks to Matt - BIG TIME! - for coming in early (and all day!) Saturday with his MacBook (ours didn't come in!) and getting our entire video system up and running (including the resolution!) for the gatherings.


Thanks to Craig, who leads our Finale Team, who came in all day Saturday to get our new digital board ready. He had to reset the entire stage, every channel on the board and then tweak out every vocalist and instrumentalist before 3pm!


I'd also like to thank Krys - who ran the new light board all weekend, Scott - for helping Craig and learning a great deal of the sound board himself, Kayla - who rescued all of us by picking up a much needed cable in St. Louis to get our presentation software running, and finally to Melissa and her team for not only getting the visual arts ready, but for taking care of all the Creative Arts team by feeding us food and of course keeping us awake with Red Bull!

There were so many people who made this happen that I'm sure I missed someone. A huge thanks to Bryan, our lead pastor, for believing in the dream called Meadow Heights and for believing in me just a few short years ago. The vision is becoming a reality right before our very eyes!

We'll be posting additional details this week as well as streaming our Imagine Video complete with animation of our Arcadia Valley site plan. We'll also be spending the week "tweaking what's weak" and developing new systems that will hopefully allow us to acclimate and train our volunteers very quickly.

Until then, here' s to catching up on some sleep!

[pictures sent via Blackberry]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Imagine...


I haven't had much time to talk about the new series coming up at Meadow Heights Church. We're calling it "Imagine." All I can say is don't miss this weekend! I promise everyone that you will not be disappointed if you show up this weekend - you will be blown away by what God has been doing!

We've been busy with technology, print materials, videos and so much more. Many of those things will be unveiled this weekend. Bryan will be talking about God and the many miracles we have already seen and are yet to come.

The Imagine Campaign will change Meadow Heights Church forever, and we are hoping that it radically changes thousands of lives for eternity. Continue to be in prayer and then come join us as we celebrate the kickoff of IMAGINE! In the meantime, enjoy this sneak preview!


video

Techno Thursday

For you tech heads out there, here are some articles that you might be interested in:

  • Kindersay - a new website that promotes easy online learning for young children
  • TwitterLife - what do you get when you cross Twitter with Second Life? Check it out.
  • Grooveshark - a new P2P sharing system that is quite unique...and legal!
[all articles via this site]

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Strange Envelope

A strange envelope arrived today from "Christopher" in Richmond, VA and was addressed to my wife and I. Inside? A pair of work gloves and a note from someone we have never met before that stated that he had been working with Habitat for Humanity and these were his work gloves. Now he wanted to pass them along and asked us to look for an opportunity to help someone in need.

A "Pay It Forward" moment? If you haven't seen that movie, as soon as I saw the note in the envelope I was reminded of that concept - receive a favor from someone and then pay it forward by doing a favor for someone else.

Has anyone else ever received anything like this? Another God opportunity perhaps?

Monday, October 08, 2007

What A Weekend!!

What a phenomenal weekend!

My wife, Melissa, and I took off for a long weekend in the city. After a quick visit to Priceline, we secured a low cost hotel room near Chesterfield. The location was great and they gave us a nice room on the upper floor overlooking the lake. A very quiet and peaceful room! [pics via my Blackberry - we forgot the camera!]


We arrived late on Friday and after a bit of work from the hotel on Saturday morning, we headed out for the "Best of Missouri Market" at the Missouri Botanical Garden. WOW! What an event! For $10, we had the opportunity to sample food and drinks from four VERY large tents as well as visit all of the gardens. I would HIGHLY recommend this event to anyone! It was a beautiful day to visit the gardens as well, which you can tour at any time of the year.


After snacking around the tents we headed back to the hotel for a quick swim and hot tub visit and then we headed over to PF Chang's for our dinner reservations. Melissa had never eaten there before (only once for me!) . Our food and service were decent, but not over the top. Prices at PF's are good and you do get quite a bit food for the price. Check it out sometime.

Sunday morning found us with our friends at Windsor Crossing for their 11am service. They had some really AWESOME stage designs complete with a HUGE up lit cross and what seemed like 1000 candles (check out the pic). While there were some very creative moments, Windsor seems to cut them short with awkward transitions and nary a lingering moment. Just when everyone seemed to get into the creative element they would abruptly end it. They did this multiple times in the service we attended. Great ideas, but the impact fell short. It really makes you appreciate Meadow Heights and how we really strive for "defining moments" and opportunities for God to impact people in those moments.


After the service we drove about fifteen minutes and had a quick bite at the Cheesecake Factory. This is one of Melissa's and my favorite spots. Since it was our weekend away, we didn't want to miss out on any food opportunities!! We did manage to split an appetizer, pizza, and of course some dessert! We hit the Apple store for a few moments as well as a few other stores, but didn't do a whole lot of damage to the pocketbook!

The afternoon? Well, we decided to take in a movie at the mall. Nothing much playing in this small theater, but we managed to settle on a movie called "The Seeker." I had never heard of this movie, but it was very enjoyable and something the whole family could watch. It was a bit dark and some parts a bit scary for the younger folk, but overall a solid movie with decent acting. The highlight however was coming out of the movie theater and near the exit was a young man with a silver tray full of mints!! I have never been to a theater that handed out mints before! An interesting twist on customer service!

After another short rest at the hotel, we headed over to The Melting Pot for dinner. Neither Melissa or I had ever been to this restaurant before, but we had been wanting to check it out for quite some time. We decided to splurge and have the four course meal, which is a bit different at this place. We started with some cheese fondue with bread and granny smith apples for dipping. Next was a salad (for Melissa NOT for me! YUCK!) followed by the main course of MANY types of meats which we skewered and cooked in our broth. The platter was filled with two different types of steak, white shrimp, lobster, marinated pork, chicken and some pasta. We also had a platter of veggies for dipping complete with five or six different types of sauces. This was by far the best part of the meal! Very fun, creative and enjoyable. We topped off our night with a chocolate and peanut butter fondue complete with a tray FULL of different types of fruits, marshmallows, brownies and cheesecakes for dipping. AWESOME STUFF!! This experience took approximately two hours and overall it was very unique and enjoyable. Not sure I would go back again, but maybe for a special occasion.

Bloated and busting at the seams from a day full of food, we crashed at the hotel. Monday found us searching for fabric and design pieces for the launch of our new series at Meadow Heights Church this weekend.

Overall a GREAT weekend and a chance to catch our breaths before the long haul of projects in the next few months. Lots of stuff to do, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend some quality time with my wife - she is one PHENOMENAL lady and I am incredibly lucky to have her!!


Thanks for a great weekend Mel!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Buckle On Your Armor

"Buckle on your armor and advance into battle! Harness the horses, and prepare to mount them. Put on your helmets, sharpen your spears, and prepare your armor.”

Jeremiah 46:3-4 (NLT)

The word ‘prepare’ is used eight times throughout Jeremiah – a signal from God to get everything ready for the times ahead. For Jeremiah, this command was mostly for his troops. But it was also a signal to prepare their hearts and minds for battle.

As we get ready for the Imagine Campaign, God is asking us to prepare as well. I love what Paul says in Romans 6:13 (LB), “Give yourselves completely to God…so you can be tools in the hands of God, to be used for his good purposes.” The first step in our preparation is to cleanse ourselves of sin and become an open vessel to be used by God for His purpose. We do this through confession; an honest conversation with God. And in return His promise is forgiveness and grace.

I challenge all of us to begin the cleansing process this week. Open up a conversation with God and confess your sin. If we do this, God will use us in ways we can only imagine. God can do anything you know! Let’s buckle on our armor, put on our helmets and prepare for an incredible experience with God!

[via Life Force Newsletter]

3 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Stephen Emlund

Stephen Emlund called me last night to talk about some of the print projects we have been working on. Steve has been designing all of our print materials for the upcoming Imagine Campaign. I have to tell you that I am very impressed with this guy. He is creative, works hard and of course puts up with the 500 revisions we do to every single document. You can check out more of his work here and his Facebook page here.

We only talked on the phone for about 10 minutes, but by the end of the conversation, I learned three things about Steve that I did not know. I thought I would share these with you today:

  • Steve lived in Lansing, Illinois until the third grade.
  • The first place Steve lived in Missouri was a trailer in Park Hills.
  • Steve's mom had a horse named "Buck." (Sadly, he died)

Thanks to Steve for all of his work, and look for samples coming soon!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

He's BAAAAACCCCCKKKK!!!

Okay. So, it's been like 8 days since I've posted. I think that's a new record! It took about five days to fully recover from strep throat and then of course the big "yard sale" last weekend and before you know it - BAM! It's Wednesday!

But...I'm back and ready to write, so jump right in, feel free to comment and let's get some discussions going - it's been too quiet around here!

PS By the way - my favorite pic from the yard sale: we had several movies for sale - so many in fact, that this guy brought a chair out from the back of his truck, plopped it down and sat for nearly an hour reading the back of every video! Now that's dedication!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Amazon Gets It...Finally!

Tech Crunch points us to Amazon's new music service - amazonmp3. Songs are delivered in mp3 format (which means they'll play on just about any type of player!) and are DRM free. Tracks start at 89 cents apiece, which is far cheaper than rival Apple's iTunes.

Amazon is well known for their great prices, ease of use and stocking pretty much any book or other necessity. It's no surprise that they have jumped into the music download business as well. It's taken them awhile, but they seem to have gotten it right, waiting until the DRM dust has settled and signing most major record labels to contracts.

Will this cut into other popular download sites such as iTunes? Only time (and tunes) will tell!

UPDATE: By the way - you can purchase this newly released album for only $8.99!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Gift of Gratitude

Here's another great post from our friends at Zen Habits. Be sure to check out the simple prayer at the end of Leo's post.

WHY LIVING A LIFE OF GRATITUDE CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY

1. Because it reminds you of the positive things in your life.
2. Because it turns bad things into good things.
3. Because it reminds you of what’s important.
4. Because it reminds you to thank others.

Being thankful for what God has already given you can totally change your perspective on life. Try this exercise: think of 5 people who have been influential in your life and thank God for them and their impact. Take time to email, call or write them to thank them for this gift. You may never know how this might return the blessing you have already received.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Smacked Around...

I have been out of pocket the last few days, and despite what you are getting ready say, it was not because of busyness!! I have actually been SICK! And I mean the smacked around kind of sick.

Every once in awhile I'll catch a cold or something like that, but I haven't been "sick" in I can't remember how long. I haven't even been to the doctor (knock on wood!) in over five years!

But Friday I started to feel very crazy in the throat and by Saturday morning I couldn't swallow or take any liquids - the result? Strep throat. Or at least that's what they think. I had to go the emergency room and they said they don't test adults anymore for strep (kind of strange I thought, but not complaining - I hate that swab thingy!). So...they loaded me full of drugs (a big honkin' antibiotic, steroids and Tylenol 3) and home I went.

Today? Feeling a bit better, although it still feels like someone scrubbed my throat with some sandpaper. A bit tired but no worse for the wear. I should be good as new in the next few days or so. I'll be glad to get back to "normal" - but maybe a bit slower paced?

Several exciting announcements coming up...stay tuned!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

S-I-M-P-L-I-F-Y

This post hit home this morning. My wife and I had some great conversation yesterday, and I know she'll shout a big AMEN to the post I just mentioned. I was having the same conversation with someone else just the other day - about how we don't live life on the front porch any longer. Technology, with all its positives, has turned our communities into "shellters" [pun intended!] instead of porches.

As Melissa and I continue working on the "clutter" and simplifying our life, here's a sample from the blog post that might help you as well:

S - Slow down
I - Imagine doing less
M - Make time for loved ones
P - Practice patience
L - Learn to gently say no
I - Increase your quiet time
F - Follow your heart
Y - Yield to life, yield to peace, yield to joy

Where do you need to "simplify" your life?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Are We Asking The Right Questions?

We read an article in staff meeting this week that identified vision as one of the key factors for an incredible volunteer base. One question we need to ask our core of volunteers is why they do what they do. How would they respond? Out of guilt? Or obligation? Or would they respond by saying they do what they do because they are on mission with the church - to reach people who don't have a relationship with Jesus?

Here's another interesting application. Read this from Brand Autopsy:

The Wall Street Journal reports
the Big Four accounting firms are using "Employee Generated Media" to help gain an edge in the ever-competitive campus recruiting scene. Josee Rose writes:
"To lure candidates steeped in Facebook and YouTube, the Big Four are turning to the Web. Deloitte & Touche asked employees to make short videos about their experiences at the company. The videos were a way 'of taking the aspects of social networking and experimenting on how you can use the new tools of today to move forward into a workplace of the future,' said Cathy Benko, chief talent officer. About 400 videos were made, and the 14 best will be posted on YouTube and used on campuses.[source]
What would it look like if we asked our volunteers to make a video of why they do what they do? What would they say? Or how about a more extreme example - what if every first time guest that walked through our doors made a video about their experience and posted it on YouTube? Would that change how we "do" church? Are we afraid of what they would say?

What other questions should we be asking ourselves?

MySpace For Rent?

More proof that MySpace is dying? Check out this comparison chart via the Swerve Blog:

Tickled Pink!

Here's an uplifting story of high school kids who "get it." I love their spirit of standing up for what is right regardless of what's standing in the way (literally!). A simple brainstorming action and a bit of technology and BAM! these kids solved an age old problem. Kudos to those who refuse to be satisfied with the status quo!

[link via this guy]

I Need To Get Regular

As usual, it's been a busy past week. Thanks to the guys at Creative Animation for sending a phenomenal video crew to Meadow Heights this past weekend. They were working on a special project for us, and we're looking forward to the end results!

Also a special thanks to the many guest bloggers that have been filling in during my absence. Those guys (and gals) were stinkin' awesome!

I'm looking forward to getting back to some regular blogging and some regular family time and of course, SLEEP!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Guest Blogger: Jeremy Leach

Let me just say that it is truly an honor to be a guest blogger on Bucketology this week considering I've never blogged anywhere ever. My name is Jeremy Leach and I'm a pharmacist in my hometown of Fredericktown, but also serve on staff part-time at Meadow Heights Church (Fredericktown). There I take on several responsibilities in the arts department; I'm currently heading up our LiVE Team (essentially our music team comprised of about 40 volunteers), and I also take care of music selection, scripting, auditions, and some video editing as well. I also am a member of the music team where I sing and play piano. Music is something I enjoy very much and if I'm not playing it I'm probably listening to it.

I want to give you guys some info on artists that, in my opinion, have been an oversight in the music industry; each of these albums has had a significant impact on me either musically or spiritually in the last few years, but you may not have heard much of their material on your local stations...at least not any of our local stations...here in Fredericktown.

Kara Williamson
I'm not sure where this girl came from, or where she went, but I managed to come across her cd a few years ago. Someone told me she originated in the Passion albums, then released her own cd thereafter, but I've searched the web for her and even looked to possibly book her for an event last year and got nowhere. Her CD 'Undisguised' has been in my cd player heavily over the past 2 years. Her voice is great and her songs have been used to encourage me on many occasions. There are many vertical worship tunes that would work great in a music set, "O Wounded King" and "More Than Enough". My favorite song on the album is "Dear Performer". For anyone who's ever been driven by fear into 'performing' through your life everyday instead of being real with yourself and with God, listen to this song!!


Starfield
There's a good chance you did hear this group on the radio, but not enough!! Get their cds! There are 2 of them which I purchased not even 2 months ago and I'm hooked. I even added one song of theirs I did hear on the radio, "Filled With Your Glory", to our music set this past weekend and it was very well received! The songwriting on their discs is incredible and the lead vocalist is great. Be sure and listen to a few of my favorites: "Son of God", "Love Break Me" and "Over My Head".

Charity Von
I love unique voices. This chick has one! She is a rocker all the way, but she rocks it kind of old-school. I think of Melissa Etheridge when I play her songs. Her CD was released in 2004, and I still love listening to it! I don't think she's put anything fresh out, but if anyone hears differently let me know. You can tell just in her voice on the recording that she is into the music 110%!! There are also some amazing guitar solos on this album, if you're into that...I usually skip them. The slow, worshipful "In Your Presence" is my favorite, but give a listen to the more energetic "The Narrow" and "Message" and get ready to rock your face off!!

Jimmy Needham
Kind of a one-hit-wonder this past year, his single "Lost at Sea" did make it to radio, but I haven't heard much from this artist since. He's due for a new disc, but the first one has become one of my favorites! He has a great bluesy, acoustic style. If you like the stripped-down, simple, raw sound of an artist, this guy brings it! I would love to see him in concert! My favorite tune on the cd is "For Freedom". I find myself singing this all the time! Also listen to "You Make Me Sing" and "Dearly Loved". A college kid who sings, plays and writes all his material at this quality deserves a listen!!

Anthony Evans
I've never heard a single song of his on the radio. I didn't rank these based on the 'most over-looked', but if I did-this guy takes the cake!! His 2nd album release "Letting Go" has been the most influential album I've ever owned. I can't tell you what timing God had in my very purchase of the album a year and a half ago. There are songs on this album that brought me through the most trying point in my spiritual life, and it was a surprise because I think his first album sucked. Now, I'm a sucker for pop. Lot's of complicated vocal runs I could only dream of mastering and a male vocalist with a range out of this world are showcased on each tune. If any of you share common interests get this album. You will love it!

Well, that's all for now. Thanks to Michael for inviting me to do something I've never done before, it was fun. Also, please respond to this post. I want to hear all about YOUR favorite unknowns too!!

Thanks again!

jeremy

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Guest Blogger: Jason McMurry (the Mac Daddy)

Top 5 Most Inspiring Sports Movies

I love movies with heart, purpose, and that share a story of making a difference - you add a sport to it and what a powerful package! To nail it to a “Top 5,” that’s tough, because I have 36 movies on my blog (www.coach-mac.blogspot.com) that have inspired me. But the “Top 5” in my opinion are the following:

5. Glory Road

I love how the coach in this movie thought outside the box, looked past the color of a man’s skin and looked at the heart and raw talent of an athlete as he recruited a history breaking basketball team in the NCAA. This movie is about the importance of “Team” and breaking racial divides.

4. Remember the Titans

A great movie about breaking racial divides brings two races together against their will, through a lot of adversity from within the team and from the community; the team eventually becomes a tight family unit (a Team) that experiences some success with the game of football. This team was able to re-educate and model for their town how different races can come together and appreciate each others difference and become a Team. Not just in the game of football but in the game of life.

3. Miracle

This movie reminds me of the movie “Hoosiers,” but instead it is about hockey not basketball. I love the methods and ideas this coach uses to break down his team, and how he was able to build them back up into an Olympic Gold Team for the USA. This coach stuck with his beliefs even when no one else believed in him, but in the end everyone loved him.

4. Hoosiers

Redemption for a coach who had some regrets from the past and gets an opportunity for a fresh start. I admire his methods and ideas in developing “Team Unity” in the game of basketball. In the beginning he was hated - in the end he was well loved by his team and community.

5. Rocky

This movie is my all time favorite about overcoming all the odds that may be against you. This movie displays a lot of heart, determination, and the will to win. I love the focus and raw authenticity of Rocky. This movie inspires us all to not give up on our God-given dreams, but to pursue it with a vengeance. My favorite Rocky quote from the new movie, "It ain't about how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." And you can’t leave out the analogy of “The Eye of the Tiger,” which is that focused, determined look in your eye to win that comes from the depths of your heart.

All these movies have a great message of teamwork, overcoming adversity and the odds to make a difference, sticking to what is right even if you are all alone, that it is never to late to put action to a dream that is in your heart, strong character, and a heart of determination (The Eye of the Tiger). That is why these movies made my “Top Five.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Significantly Challenged

ChurchRelevance points us to this article by the Barna Research Group. The Barna group asked parents to identify the most significant or challenging issues facing teens today. Here are some of the statistics from their research:

For Teenagers

  • 42% listed peer pressure
  • 16% performance in school
  • 16% substance abuse
  • 15% behavioral issues
  • 6% values development
  • 5% college choices and acceptance
  • 5% attitude
  • 5% media use
  • 3% listed challenges related to their teen’s faith

For Young Children

  • 26% listed school performance
  • 24% listed peer pressure
  • 10% behavioral issues
  • 6% attitudes
  • 6% media use
  • 5% family-related struggles
  • 5% health-related struggles
  • 5% issues related to maturation
  • 3% listed challenges related to their child’s faith

Whether you agree with the validity of these statistics or not, it's important for us to recognize that our kids face some incredible challenges today. What's funny is that I would highly doubt this list (with the exception of the media portion) is much different than 50 years ago.

I wonder what it would look like if we listed the top challenges we face as adults? How would that change the way we relate to one another? What challenges are you facing?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Do You "Verve?"

Professional and amateur musicians alike will enjoy this new creative project from Kyle Yugawa. It's simply titled "Verve,"[link courtesy of this guy] but it's so much more than that. Users are able to select from various instruments such as the acoustic guitar, piano, percussion and more. That's where the fun begins.

As part of the creative expression, you can create, record and edit a composition based on sound, shape and motion. A very unique site, beware...you could spend many hours enjoying your creation!

NOTE: Verve is currently in alpha; some features are not yet enabled

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Have Difficulty (Part 4 of 4)

I have difficulty with perfectionism. It creeps up in some crazy ways sometimes and often without warning. I used to struggle with this continuously, but God has really helped me in this area.

Here are some ways I battled perfectionism:
  • Making everything a contest - my project, idea or way had to be the best; I was always competing with something or someone
  • Not trusting others to do work I should have handed off to them in the first place
  • Always thinking that I can do it better and faster then anyone else
  • Wanting everything to be 100% - even if I sacrificed God, my wife, my family or myself to get it done
Ultimately it comes down to a pride issue. Will I continue to do it my way or God's way? How have you struggled with perfectionism?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Designing Your Life

Here's a great little exercise courtesy of Zen Habits. You can read the entire post here.


Designing Your Life

What would you be doing tomorrow if you retired today?

Let’s say you had a blank day staring at you. You didn’t have to work. You could do anything at all (although money is still a limiting factor). What would your perfect day be like?

These questions are more than just hypothetical questions to ask for fun or idleness. It’s an exercise meant to get you thinking about designing your life.

Here’s the process:

1. What’s important? Ask yourself what is most important to you. Regular Zen Habits readers know that I ask this question in many articles, but that’s because any process should start with this, whether it’s a process of simplifying, of productivity, of frugality, or of becoming happier. What do you love doing? Who do you love spending time with? Make a short list of 4-5 things.

2. What is your passion? What do you love doing the most? Can it be a way you make your living? If you can make a career out of doing something you love, you will love your day. Dare to imagine that this could come true.

3. Design your day. Start with a blank slate, and design your perfect day. Incorporate the short list of 4-5 most important things above, to ensure that you are spending your day doing what’s most important to you. Also include time spent working at your passion (from item #2). Include an ideal routine, including a morning and evening routine, and everything in between. What time would you wake up and go to bed?

4. Figure out how to get there. What changes would you need to make in your life to make that perfect day a reality? Be willing to consider drastic changes if necessary. Come up with a plan to get there. It might be a plan that will take 6 months, a year, two years or 5, but you can get there eventually, if you want it enough. Dare to make it a reality.

5. Start making some changes immediately. Some of the changes can be done right away, especially if the changes are under your direct control. The time you wake up and go to bed, for example, are probably under your control. Your morning and evening routines are another example of things you can probably change immediately. Spending time doing the 4-5 important things on your list might also be an immediate possibility. Notice the things you normally do that aren’t on the list of 4-5 important things — consider eliminating or minimizing the time you spend on the non-important things to make room for the important things.

6. Start making long-term changes now. Longer-term changes might include things like doing your passion for a living, or where you live, or getting out of big commitments that don’t contribute to your happiness or are not on your short list of 4-5 things. But while these kinds of changes might take longer, they can still be done. Start on them today, set them in motion, and dare to believe that you can change these things. Make a plan, and set it in motion.

7. Keep the end in mind. Print out your perfect day, and keep that in mind as you begin to make changes. This is the life you designed, rather than the one you’ve fallen into. You are in control of your life, and you can have that life, if you want it enough.