Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's A Wonderful Life

It's hard to believe that the Holidays of 2008 are upon us and we are about to embark on a brand new year! I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and of course, best wishes for 2009.

Bucketology will be back better than ever for 2009 with a new look, new flavor and a new outlook on life. I hope you will join me on this new journey!

Until then, kick back, relax and spend time with those who matter most in your life. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unique Ink Launch Party!

I know it's been awhile since my last post, and I could give out the normal excuses of "I've been busy" or "'tis the holiday season" all of which are true. But more than that, I've been giving a lot of thought to the next direction of this blog. I have some ideas and I'll probably be asking for feedback from the few stragglers who still stop by this broken down place.

In the meantime, I would like to announce the launch of a brand new website from some good friends of mine: Not only are Tim and Kerry incredible people, they are some of the most talented folks that I know. If you need a t-shirt design or vinyl lettering or stickers or whatever, check out Unique Ink. You won't be sorry. was designed by a new company that my good friend (with his massive design skillz) Stephen Emlund and I started a few months ago. You can check out our mantra at Our new site is scheduled to launch in the next few weeks and you can learn more about us at that time. We're scheduling new projects right now, and if you'd like us to take a look at designing a website that's just right for you, shoot me an email: michael (at) creativeimprov (dot) com. We'd love to talk with you.

New Bucketology design coming soon...stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two to Tango

Two great posts you should read...both are challenges. Both worthy of the undertaking. Stop what you are doing on my page and go read these NOW! Then come back and share your thoughts.

Tim Stevens on "Are You Tired of the Noise?"

Steven Furtick on "Gratitude Project"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The American Dream

My five year old asked me to watch a movie with her this morning. I decided to sit with her while sipping my coffee. Little did I know I was in for more than I bargained.

The movie? Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. This seemingly auspicious movie packed a whole lot more than a "good viewing" experience. Set in the Great Depression, Kit details the human struggle while following a normal family faced with the trials of a broken economy. Sound familiar? This movie could have easily been set in 2008.

I won't spoil the movie for you (I'd highly recommend you take time out to watch it on your own), but I wonder if we are callous to the human suffering that goes on around us today? This was new territory for those in the 20's, but those "without" seem to be more prevalent today. Hobos may have turned into homeless by today's definition, but the struggle to survive is no different than it was nearly 100 years ago.

We have "more" resources than ever before in our great country but seem to have "less" of a desire to help those in need. Didn't we learn anything the first time around?

They say that history repeats itself. I for one, hope that this time they're wrong.

Friday, November 21, 2008

An American Creed

Continuing my thoughts from yesterday, here is a great commentary with much wisdom...


It is my right to be uncommon—if I can.

I seek opportunity—not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.

I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.

I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, “This I have done.”

By Dean Alfange [courtesy of Dave Ramsey]

Out With the Old...In With the New

I had the opportunity to visit "Theology at the Bottleworks" in St. Louis last night. This event is hosted by The Journey Church and is held at the Bottleworks portion of Schlafly. According to Journey's website, "In older, simpler times, a pub or 'public house' was often the focal point of the community, playing a similar role to the local church, where people gathered to openly discuss significant issues of the day."

First of all, it was a VERY interesting night. Second, the topic was one close to my heart:

"What is the role of art in today's culture?"

At it's surface, this topic may appear to be quite mundane, but I can assure you that the dialogue was quite animated. I won't go into great detail and to be honest, it's a bit hard to describe the process. I encourage you to check it out for yourself.

Here are a few things that I took away from the evening:
  • There is a definite generational gap in our society - those that have been there and done that, and those who are still trying to get there
  • Those who have experience are typically more cynical than those without
  • The older generation is still trying to convince the younger one that the past is much better then the future
  • Despite the circumstances, younger people are still trying to make a difference in the world
  • The older generation think first and feel later...the younger feel first and think later
  • Typically the older generation tend to be more conservative; the younger more liberal
These are just a few observations from one particular event at one particular moment in time. That doesn't necessarily make them accurate. What I found interesting is that the younger generation is still trying to dream big. They invite change, not discourage it. They feel emotions at a deeper level and are trying to express themselves in as many ways as they can.

At my age, I find myself in the middle of both camps. My experiences have given me wisdom (at times!) but I still feel that passion burning inside of me that I MUST make a difference. I still want to dream and create and scream and fight and to let everyone know that we can embrace change. It won't be perfect (and neither are we) and sometimes it will get messy. But that doesn't mean it won't be worth it. That doesn't invalidate the idea.

Sometimes opening up a discussion about a topic as simple (and complex) as art can stimulate a whole new world of thinking. And that is not a bad place to be.

What has stimulated your thinking lately?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today's Poll: What Jobs Are Absolutely Necessary?

It's here. And you're feeling it. It's what some have called an "economic recession" and others have flat out called a depression. Whatever it is, many people I know have felt the pain. From losing a job to the panic of uncertainty about your job, in some way we have all felt the sting of this crisis. There's a lot of talk but very few answers.

All of the discussion has started my brain thinking (a dangerous proposition at best!) and I wanted to ask your thoughts on a specific question:

What jobs, if any, would survive if our economy totally tanked?

A fair question I think. What industry or job or the like would still be absolutely necessary if the economy ceased to exist as we know it?

I'd love to hear your response! Make a comment and we'll put it all together to find out what America (or at least our little corner of it!) thinks about this subject.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

50,000 Shoes...Be the NEXT Pair

This is hitting the web hard and I'm way behind the game (thanks to a crazy head cold!), but I can't say enough good things about Anne Jackson. Go here and check out the details on how you can get involved with

While you're at her site, be sure to check out the rest of her incredible thoughts. Oh can also pre-order her new book here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Fight to Vote

I voted today. And so did you. At least most of us.

It didn't take long to vote. As a matter of fact, it took much longer to visit during the "before and after" then it did to actually cast my vote. Today was the day I realized that voting has become more of a social activity than a right we should be compelled to exercise.

I also realized something else. You may say you care about the issues, but the truth is that you really don't. Most Americans will wake up tomorrow and go on with their lives as normal. The election will be over and within a week it won't matter to you who you voted for or what issues passed or failed. Most of us care more about the fight than we do the cause.

I posed a simple question the other day...Obama or McCain: who should I vote for? The response was incredible...but not necessarily in a positive way. To be sure there were opinions flying everywhere...the fight was on. But I began to wonder...are people more interested in the fight or the cause?

Think about everyone you have engaged with over the past month. I'm betting that politics were discussed at some point. And I'm also betting that there were some passionate discussions that ensued. People love to voice their opinions and engage in a fight to defend them. But when the election is over and the fight is through, where will all those defenders go?

What if we spent more time worrying about the cause than the fight? What if we spent more time feeding those who are hungry and finding clean drinking water when only dirty water can be found? What if you woke up tomorrow and the fight you were so passionate about for a few days suddenly became a cause that you were committed to for a lifetime?

I challenge you to re-evaluate your priorities. Pursue a new passion. Take your fight and put action behind your words. Make indifference your enemy. Struggle. Dream. Live.

We will make a difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Are You Guilty of a Prayer Violation?

Over the past three months I have had countless people tell me that they would be praying for me and my family. I'm sure it's always meant with good intentions, but it's become a "pet peeve" of mine. Are you guilty of a "prayer violation?"

Here's a scenario:

A friend of yours resigns from their job. Well, not really resigns, more like let go, but that's another story. Anyway, you hear about it and stop by to see how they are doing. After listening, small talk and such, you get ready to leave. What do you say next?

A. "It was good to see you. Let me know if there is anything else I can do."

B. "Sorry for what's happened. God always has a plan."

C. "I'm sure there is a reason for this. I'll be praying for you."

You probably fall into one of the categories above. It's kind of like a visitation; you feel compelled to see the family, but you're not sure what to say. But what really gets me is when someone chooses response C. BAM! They've just committed a "prayer violation." Why a violation? Let me explain.

So many of us throw out numerous religious terms, including the "I'll be praying for you" line. What they really mean is that they need to sound like they are connected to God (aka "I'm religious"), and besides, isn't that what Jesus would say? In reality, they probably won't give it another thought unless they happen to see you at WalMart. Even then, there is a 50/50 chance they won't know what to say next and they will turn and avoid you by going down the sugar and baking goods aisle.

My point in all this? Instead of talking the talk, change your tune and "walk the walk." Instead of saying that you'll be praying for them, DO IT! Stop what you are doing, put your arm around them and PRAY! That one moment in time will make a bigger impact than you "thinking" about doing it a million times. Turn your M.I.A. into F.I.A - Faith In Action. I guarantee you that no one will be upset when you take time to pray.

While it's important to keep others in your prayer thoughts, it's more important that they experience it first hand. Besides, God already knows they need the prayer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

National Wave Day

Disclaimer: A few days ago, I posted a quick comment on Twitter which automatically updates my Facebook status. Within minutes, several folks posted a comment and the discussion was on. This post is a humorous attempt to discuss a serious topic.

National Wave Day. Yes, this fictional day took the "heartland" by storm. This past Wednesday, several volunteers took to the streets to find out exactly who or better yet, who "would not" wave. While I will encourage others to post their thoughts as well, you'll find below my discoveries on this historic day.

The morning started at 6:45am as I took my son to early morning band rehearsal. Even though it was dark outside, I stood firm by my decision to wave at anyone I met while I was driving. As the few early morning travelers approached, my hand immediately shot into the air for a friendly "wave." Not surprisingly, there was no response. Obviously it was too dark to see.

My next test would be the drive through town. This time it was light outside, and the cloud cover made for a perfect hand-waving day. I made my way to the elementary school to drop of my youngest daughter. First car. WAVE! No response. Second car. WAVE! No response. Dang! What's going on people!?! There's a bus! WAVE! It's a friend, Kelly Korokis. She spies me in the car and with a smile...WAVE! YES! Score one wave! Two no-waves to one wave. At least it's close.

On my return home I pass at least ten more cars, all of which I incessantly wave at. The response? Zero. I had been brushed off. Surely my next trip out would be more enlightening?

About an hour later, I make my way out of the house, this time driving through town and then out towards the highway. WAVE! WAVE! WAVE! Each time I wave, but this time I try some different techniques. First I try the "one finger wave" (not that finger!). Not much luck. Then two fingers. Still no response. Then I hold the steering wheel with my palm/thumb and shove all four fingers in the air...AHA! Success. The first car sees me and responds politely with a wave back! Maybe the key is in the technique?

As I pass several more cars, I give it the four finger salute...WAVE! Very little response even with my new found technique. In desperation I throw my entire hand in the air, nearly running off the road as I do so. Out of the next five cars, only one waves back.

After a day spent teaching, I head back home trying to figure out this apparent tragedy. I pass many cars on the way back through town...dissed...again. I finally arrive home, head hung low, reeling from a lack of self-confidence. I smell my armpits. They smell delicious. It wasn't body odor then. What could it be? Would National Wave Day be destined to failure? I'd have to examine the results.

Here are my official results from National Wave Day:

As you can see, National Wave Day was a dismal failure. 6 out of 52 cars? Are you kidding me? What would cause people to be so rude and uncaring? Who do these people think they are not waving at me!?!

When it comes down to it, most of us lead a very busy life. When you're in the car, a lot of us tune out the world, our minds become focused on our current problems or situation, and our "auto-pilot" takes over (either that or an alternate form of ourselves takes over, kind of like that new TV show, "My Own Worst Enemy"). What happens to you when you enter the car?

Now, I must admit, most of the time I don't wave to people while I'm driving. I just don't. But then again, neither does the person in the other car. But...have I been guilty of a "no-wave infraction?" Not that I recall. I don't ever remember actually seeing someone wave at me, only to glare and turn my head and continue driving without so much as lifting a finger. I would much prefer someone give me "the finger" then totally do nothing...on purpose. Has society digressed so much that we can't offer our fellow citizens a courtesy wave?

So for now, National Wave Day is complete and in the books. A dismal failure? Perhaps. Or just maybe this day has opened the "hands" of would-be-offenders as they take their next drive around the neighborhood. May your hand (and the others you see) be with you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hickory Dickory...Canyon!

I'm not sure where the weekend has gone. Blink once. Blink twice. Boom. It's now after midnight and we're already into Monday. Does the world actually move faster the older you get?

Melissa, Emilee and I spent the afternoon at Hickory Canyon park near Farmington, MO on Saturday. A nice place, although it's really just a wide spot in the road and one might miss it if not careful. The "canyons" are on both sides - one trail of 1/2 mile and the other of 1 mile. Both trails are incredibly beautiful with horizontal bluffs and craggy creeks made for walking.

The Fall season typically finds dry creek beds, but you can imagine the rush of water during a thawing Spring day. There seemed to be multiple spots where waterfalls once roamed and one in particular on a gorgeous drop of nearly 30 feet. We can't wait to visit again next Spring. A word of caution however...bring shoes you don't mind getting wet. While the creek beds were mostly dry, there were definitely spots of oozing mud and small pools of water.

A beautiful park spent with some beautiful people on a beautiful Fall day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Ben" There

Uh...thanks Ben. You've said it well.

Warren Sapp, The Bears and A Marathon

I was listening to the radio this morning on the way back from taking Emilee to school. I flipped over to a sports station (I'm a HUGE sports fan) and the hosts were talking with Warren Sapp. I didn't realize Warren was such a funny guy! But the thing that struck me most was a simple truth that most of us have heard quite often..."It's a marathon."

Warren was referring to the Bears, who suffered a humiliating last second defeat on Sunday. He was asked what the Bears should do to recover. He simply told them, "It's a marathon." It's not one game, or even two's a season; a marathon.

How true that is for all of us. It's a marathon. We may face challenges or setbacks today or even through periods in our life, but it's a marathon. The race will continue. Paul tells us to finish the race strong; not giving up. That's not always easy to do in light of circumstances. But we must continue to push forward, dreaming the dreams and putting our faith into action. Eventually we'll cross the finish line and look back at all that was accomplished.

Run the won't regret it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Discovering the End

Today is a day like any other day. Except today God taught me another lesson. And today I listened.

I'm continuing my reading of the bible - this time in the Message Paraphrase. I had just finished up Job and turned the page to discover the next chapter...that of Psalms. Now I have to admit that my first reaction wasn't one of joy and excitement. Unlike most people I talk with, Psalms is not one of my favorite books of the bible. I don't quite know what it is, but for some reason I found reading Psalms the first time to be excruciatingly painful. "How can the bible be like that?" I often thought to myself. I'm sure it didn't help that I was reading the NKJV version and trying as a new Christian to decipher the "code."

So this morning, as I turned to the first page of Psalms, I read the opening discussion by Eugene Peterson and here's part of the lesson God taught me: read Psalms not as a description of what happened, but from a place of emotional discussion between a human soul and it's maker. Psalms doesn't simply's a vibrant, open, honest and sometimes gut-wrenching conversation with God. And when you put yourself in the shoes of the writer, the words suddenly take on an entirely new meaning.

So I started where every good reader starts...Psalm One. This first Psalm opens with an unexpected entry:

"How well God must like you—"

Not what someone would expect to find in an opening sentence! Psalm One goes on to explain that we could be less than nothing - totally lost in darkness and unfit company for others. But yet, God has chosen us anyway. We are loved.

The last few verses set the stage for everything to come:
"You're not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.

God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row."

There is a thought that I have long held as a possible scenario for our lives...we are all on a path in life; from beginning to end. God prescribes the best path for us, but for some reason we like to take little detours along the way. In our detours, our "path" becomes more like a winding road. But God, in his goodness and faithful, redirects the course towards His destination.

I love how Psalm One confirms this: God charts the road you take. We may THINK we chart our own course, but God has already chosen the path. And while we may question the direction we are headed, He knew in advance the path we would take. Robert Frost may have taken the road less traveled, but it was God who uncovered the path.

The last few months have definitely been a detour on my path, but God is slowly directing a new course. Sometimes we find a new beginning by discovering the end. I love how Nancy Ortberg describes this in her book "Looking for God:"

"Endings teach us how to begin, what we should center our lives upon, and what is really important...Endings have a purifying effect. When the dust settles after a crisis hits, we can find what is real - what is core - by what is left behind and who rose to to the occasion."

My soul has been bottled up for the past few months and part of me is ready to explode. There is much to share and much more to learn. While the "bucket" has been full and then emptied, Bucketology is back and ready to trod forward on the next path that only God himself knows.

Even though one chapter in my book of life has ended, it has also signaled the beginning of the next. That chapter has many blank pages to fill. And fill them I will. It's a challenge I am ready and willing to face. And besides, how well must God like me?

I'm still here. The journey will continue. And more importantly, the path still awaits...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Great Sadness

I'm finding great comfort in this book right now. I don't know much about the author or his beliefs, but I am gaining a lot of insight to life and the circumstances within. There is much talk of "The Great Sadness" in this book, and unfortunately, I can relate in a not-so-horrific but definitely connected kind of way.

I have so much to share, but for now my soul must continue to heal.

To those of you who have provided comfort, prayers, phone calls, emails, cards and so much more...I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

All Tied Up and Everywhere To Go

Well, I've been on vacation all week now...

First few days full of mowing and other outside activities.

By the third day I couldn't quite grasp "not doing anything" and my body was trying to tell me to do something. I couldn't sleep and wasn't quite sure what else to do.

By day four and five I started to relax a bit. I've been reading multiple books. Really enjoying "The Tipping Point" by Gladwell. Very intriguing stuff. Next up - this book. I have heard it is amazing.

It's Saturday. Softball makeup games - all six of them. Tomorrow? Off to St. Louis with friends. Going to try to check out services here. Rumor has it that this guy will be there over the weekend as well.

Still lots to do and think about. One week to go.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

MH Worship Concert 2008

We completed another year of the Meadow Heights Worship Concert. This weekend seems to get better and better every year!! Of course, it would not be possible without an awesome team (I think more than 40 music team members participated this year!) and some great people leading those teams (props to Jeremy and Craig for a job well done!).

It's amazing to me how God has grown our Creative Arts teams over the past year. The funny thing is we still get comments from people that don't think they could possibly be a part of the team - and boy are they wrong! We are continually looking for more artists and I'm pleased to say that we'll be adding a few more this month. We'll be adding a new musician and a new vocalist to the team as well as adding some new folks to our tech teams.

I thought it would be interesting to post this year's top ten. You can go here and check out last year's top ten as well. The number one song held steady for the second year in a row. It was nice to see some new stuff cracking the top ten as well. Thanks to all of you who voted. We'll do it all over again next year!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Don't Stick A Fork In Him Yet...

Matt West, a.k.a. The Tech Master, is now blogging. Check it out here.

You can also follow him via Twitter here.

Oh...and in case you're interested, you can follow me via Twitter here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Frustrated. Amiable. Contemplative. Elusive. Satisfied.

Five emotions I experienced today. How about you?

Friday, June 20, 2008


Lanny Donoho is one of the funniest people I have ever met (okay, I haven't technically met him, but I did see him from 30 rows back at the Catalyst Conference). His humor, creativity and passion for life are nothing short of contagious. Now you can experience all this and more in his latest blog, "What If?" (although this may be changing...)

Lanny is looking for your unique words and titles. Are you creative? Do you use words in conversation that cause others to tremble in fear at your intellectual prowess? Click here for more details.

And why you're there, don't miss the incredible story of Jack...check it out here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Just watched the Innovate08 trailer from the Granger crew. Looks like it's going to be a great conference. You can find out more info and register here.

Adobe's After Effects is becoming the mainstream choice for many videos, especially trailer, intros and the like. I've used AE for about 5 years now, but I haven't taken time to learn the "new ropes." Does anyone have any suggestions or thoughts? Anyone currently using AE?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Best Message Promo Ever?

This video promo is probably THE best I have ever seen. Kudos to the gang @ for putting this piece together. Enjoy!

Not For The Squeamish!

I had an unfortunate run-in with some glass yesterday. My wife had set up some candles for communion over the weekend and I was helping her remove them from some glass containers. One candle in particular was stuck in a long 10" glass cylinder, and when I pushed on the cylinder it completely exploded - directly into my right hand.

As a musician, my hands are an important part of my livelihood. Not that everyone's hands aren't important as well, but this is a major part of who I am so I was a bit concerned. After 17 stitches I hope things will heal properly and I'll be back to normal in no time. I'd appreciate you prayers that everything goes as planned.

In the meantime, I can't play my instrument (although I have a gig on Friday...we'll see...), I'm out of softball for a few weeks, my typing is very sucky, and most importantly, I haven't figured out how I'm going to wipe myself when I have to use the ole' potty!

For your viewing pleasure, I've included a few pics below.

Friday, May 30, 2008

TTJ Video Opener

I never got around to posting our "opener" video for the "Take This Job" series. We were within a few days of launching the series and some quick creative content was rapidly in the works!

Thanks to Steve for the initial artwork design and some ideas for the video. And of course, thanks to the "star" of the opener, the infamous Wilbur Leach!

We shot about 10 minutes of footage including some quick "stop time" stuff. It took a total of about an hour to edit, render and export. A quick idea that didn't turn out too badly. ENJOY!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Take This Job and Love It!

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. TITUS 3:1-2 (NIV)

Our new teaching series, “Take This Job and Love It” has generated a lot of great discussion about God and the workplace. I’ve heard many of you talking about how this series has stretched you out of your comfort zone – especially dealing with many of your co-workers. While it’s been a great personal challenge for each of us, I’d like to shift the focus to a different topic.

What does it look like to honor God up, across and down? Sometimes we live in our own world, but the Bible is very clear about submitting to one another, including those in leadership above us. Listen to this passage in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” God has commanded us to submit to authority.

What about leading across? Have you honored God by loving and respecting your co-workers? This is one of the challenges Jeremiah issued this past weekend. How is that going this week? Are you making progress?

Finally, God has asked us to lead down as well. This means those that you have authority over. Go back and re-read Hebrews 13:17. Are those under you leading up? If not, you may not have set a very good example. Instead of blaming them, take a look inside yourself and identify ways you can improve.

The workplace can be a fulfilling environment. If you’re facing challenges at work, let me encourage you to keep God’s word close to your heart. How are you doing leading up, across and down? Are you honoring God and others? I pray for an incredible closure to your work week as you continue to “take this job and love it!”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Creative Process Videos

For you creative gurus out there, head over to this blog and check out the creative process at Fellowship Church in Texas. Fellowship has been a leader in creative design for the church for a long time, and their C3 Conference is phenomenal!

Pace is doing a great job - make sure and leave him a comment!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Beauty In Action

My wife and daughter accompanied me to a video shoot last night and we decided to take the "back way home." What is normally a very beautiful drive turned into a fantastic display of God's beauty in action. Check out this pics below - this spot is only 12 miles from our house! Unbelievable! (sorry for the quality...shot from my Blackberry!)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Say Hello to Mr. Toilet

I've made the statement before that two of the best places for creative thinking are the shower and the toilet. Don't ask me why, but I have a sneaking suspicion that those of us with kids know the answer!

Tonight's question:

Where's your best spot for creative thinking?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What A Day For A Daydream

Love this quote from Butch Whitmire's blog:

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music…I get most joy in life out of music.

- Albert Einstein

Music has always been something near and dear to my heart, or perhaps I should say my soul. No one in my immediate family had much musical expertise, but somehow God found a way to take a small town boy and give him a lifetime of experiences.

Most of what I learned at an early age came from John Howser. John and I are kindred spirits, soul mates, or whatever other "trendy" title you want to put on it. Most of who I am should also be credited to John as well. I appreciate him more than he'll ever know - both musical and life lessons have captured my heart for eternity.

I've been fortunate enough to play saxophone at many different venues, from an audience of one to an audience of over 15,000. I've played in countless states, been in the studio, recorded jingles for everything from car dealerships to the St. Louis Cardinals. I've played for big bands, small bands and every other band from jazz, funk, swing, hip-hop, rock and other styles I can't pronounce.

But more important than all the adventures God has blessed me with are the countless stories of changed lives from my previous students. Even though I find great joy in music, I find even greater joy in watching others experience music. Some of the most enjoyable conversations are from those who write, email or simply stop by to tell you how much they appreciated the time invested in their lives. Those are moments to be cherished forever.

I pray that we will all be lifelong students - learners until the end. Everyone is a student of something; weaving a story to be told through the ages.

I just prefer to find that story through music.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hearing From God

There's no doubt that it's important to hear from God. But it's more important to listen to God. There is a difference. I sometimes think that God is humored by people - they want to hear from Him so badly, but they don't slow down enough to listen.

You know how to tell if you're hearing from God or listening to God? By what follows next. Are you being obedient? Are you following up your conversation by doing something? Far too often, I'm afraid, we're scared to death that we'll "hear" from God (which ultimately means we have to "do" something) that we just pretend that God hasn't spoken yet. Have you been guilty of this?

I pray that we will not only listen to God as individuals, but as a church body as well. And because of what we do that our communities will begin to understand more about the incredible relationship that God wants to have with each and every one of us. I pray that we will be consumed by finding God and our world will be changed forever because of those small moments when we stopped to breathe life in and listened to God.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Creative Barriers Part 2 - Tyranny of the Urgent

Many times I have found a creative barrier simply due to lack of time. It's tough to think "outside the box" when you're crammed smack dab in the middle of it. That's what I've fondly labeled the "tyranny of the urgent." Tyranny of the urgent means that what gets done is what's pressing at the time - no time for creativity; only time for action.

Seth Godin nails it in this post. I encourage you to take 60 seconds to read it. Here's my favorite quote:

Add up enough urgencies and you don't get a fire, you get a career. A career putting out fires never leads to the goal you had in mind all along.

I guess the trick is to make the long term items even more urgent than today's emergencies.

Sometimes creativity turns into an emergency. But even the worst of emergencies still needs a doctor and time to heal.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Creative Barriers

My wife sent me this link yesterday.

While I consider myself an eternal optimist, there are days when I feel like my creativity is non-existent. That's not a good thing if your job depends on it!

I love the viewpoint brought out in the article - sometimes we need to be drained creatively. There are many times that God wants us at the bottom to remind us how good we have it at the top (not to mention all the time in between). It's in those times that our creativity is renewed. The amazing thing is that we surpass the barriers that restricted us in the first place - barriers that would never have been broken otherwise.

I'll be blogging about creative strategies and what has worked for me in the past and present.

As for the future, what inspires you? What raises your creativity level?

Let's get the discussion rolling...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Open Up and Say "Ahhhh...."

Music to my ears:

"IBM Thursday disclosed that 100 of its researchers are giving Apple Macintosh computers a go to find out whether they are a strong option for use in the workplace."
Full article here.

Somebody give me a shout out if you're a Mac user...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Catalyst Is LIVE!

The Catalyst Website is now live! Stop whatever you're doing and go check out this site. If there is one conference I would recommend (and there are lots of GREAT ones) - this would be it.

Go. Now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Does God Speak Through Music? interesting thing happened this afternoon.

Our youngest daughter, Emilee, was scheduled for Kindergarten screening today. A most important day in the life of any five year old. She was pumped, and I have to admit, I was excited for her as she is ready to enter another chapter in her book of life.

Everything sounds normal, right?

They changed the venue this year for the screenings, moving them to a local church (I won't mention any names, except to say it wasn't Meadow Heights). Everything was going smoothly - Emilee was with someone going over her motor skills, verbal skills and the like (which, I might add as a proud father, she scored extremely well on!) while her mother and I were sitting by ourselves at a round table filling out an endless supply of paperwork.

Here's where things get interesting...

In the "multi-purpose" room in this church were several school employees, a few parents with their kids and my wife and I. I didn't really notice at first, but they had some music playing through the overhead speakers in the ceiling (you know, those really crappy, minuscule speakers that some local chop shop must have recommended). For some reason the style of choice today was country (go figure).

Now I don't listen to any country music, but I did happen to recognize the song that started blaring over those inadequate speakers. I don't know if it was a sign from God or Satan having some fun, but Hank Williams Jr's hit song from the eighties, "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound" soon filled the air and I had to smile (strike that, I chuckled out loud) at the irony of that particular song, in that particular place at that very particular time.

I appreciate a good laugh...

And today...

Today, I wasn't disappointed.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Faith Matters

“Whenever we let our failures, both short-term and long-term, become the determiner of God’s character or the condition of our spiritual walk, we’ll inevitably come to some wrong conclusions. Then we’ll just as certainly make some wrong decisions – the most common of which will be running from the valley, even when it’s right where God wants us to be.”

Larry Osborne, author of A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God

Faith and obedience matter. I don’t think anyone would argue with that statement. But yet we do all the time; at least within ourselves. We get caught in the trap of self-worth rather than our “God-worth.” How do you know if this is an issue in your heart?

Think about this past week. Were there any challenges in your life? How about some uncomfortable situations? Were there more successes or failures? Many of us see our worth as a direct result of our circumstances. We say things like, “If I’m in tune with God, I will be successful,” or most of the time the opposite, “Things aren’t going so well, so I must have done something to make God mad.” In short, we begin to question God’s faithfulness.

Sometimes when we’re in a valley it’s exactly where God wants us to be. Our role is not to doubt God but to persist in our faith in spite of our doubts. Instead of wasting time with a pity-party, start by doing the next right thing.

Faith and obedience matter. They always matter.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Maybes Are For Wussies

I was looking back through the first two years of posts here at Bucketology and was surprised at how different my writing was "back in the day." I realize it's natural to develop and mature over the years but in my case, I'm not sure that has happened.

I have read many authors talk about staying fresh through different mediums, but what do you do to stay creative? Los has been having weekly creative trade sessions over at his blog - a GREAT idea. Others suggest reading or walking in nature or perhaps drinking strange liquids while standing on your head. Maybe the Neti Pot qualifies as the latter?

Whatever the case may be, writing has always been an effective outlet for my brain and inner soul. That is, until recently. Part of me has felt cheated, while the other part thankful for not being consumed by blogging. In reality, neither one has been satisfied.

What's the balance? I don't have the answer. Maybe there isn't a true balance. Maybe I haven't found it yet. Maybe I haven't tried hard enough. Enough maybes. Maybes are for wussies.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quotable Quotes

“My primary assessment would be because American Christians tend to be incredibly self-indulgent so they see the church as a place there for them to meet their needs and to express faith in a way that is meaningful for them...there is almost no genuine compassion or urgency about serving and reaching people who don’t know Christ."

“I think the bottom line really is our own spiritual narcissism. There are methods and you can talk about style, structure and music, but in the end it really comes down to your heart and what you care about.”

~ Erwin McManus on the decline of churches in America

link via these guys

Thursday, March 06, 2008

If I Could Save Time In A Bottle

There's a great post over at the Swerve Blog on time management. I've really been working hard on time management for the past year or so. Has it improved? Yes and no. Yes I have made substantial improvements in many areas but no, I still don't have it all together.

Time is an ever-changing constant. Confusing? Think of it this way - we all have the same amount of time; it's how we choose to use it that matters. Time is constant (unless you subscribe to chaos theory!) but how we use it consistently changes.

Here are some strategies, thoughts, books, etc. that have impacted me:

* Getting Things Done - great book, great ideas, difficult to implement
* Getting up early - when I get up early I'm much more productive
* 3 MIT's - what are the three most important things to get done today - write them down!
* Email - I try to keep my inbox completely empty (spam is making it difficult!) and have been using my Blackberry to keep it organized
* Home Wall Calendar - we've implemented a family wall calendar and it has really kept us on track
* Google Reader - an aggregate reader has saved me HOURS of time
* Avoid the "tyranny of the urgent" - I'm not very good at this one, but it can mess up your time management in a hurry

These are just a few time management (and organizational) strategies I have used. I'm no where near where I need to be. How about you? What time management strategies can you recommend?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Our youngest daughter Emilee (she just turned five) stopped suddenly the other evening and said, "We need to pray right now." She then proceeded to start her prayer like this, "God, I love you. I love you a lot." She then finished her prayer quickly and went on about her business.

It's amazing to see Emilee's authenticity when it comes to God. So many of us get caught up in the "technical" aspects of prayer (what to say, when to say it, etc.) instead of just opening up a conversation with God. Prayer should truly be like the faith of a child instead of the convoluted systematic process that we are so prone to fall into.

When is the last time you simply had a conversation with God? Has prayer become a ritual or routine? Maybe it's time to take a moment, stop what you're doing and thank God for being a loving and accessible God.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vision (and coffee) Leaks

If I lived anywhere near civilization, THIS would be a problem. Thankfully I'm enjoying my fresh cup of French Roast coffee on my own this morning.

Will Starbucks really be better after their training today? Absolutely! There's nothing like getting everyone on the same page from the top down. Customers want a consistent product no matter what location they visit. Leaders know that vision "leaks" and re-communicating that vision and detailing the expectations is huge for any organization.

Where do you need to recast the vision?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Do You "Twitter?"

It seems I have been lax in the posts again, but I have found a new interest in "Twitter." If you're not sure what Twitter is, check it out here. It's very addicting. Simple, fun and effective. It's basically a micro-blog (an online diary if you will) of what you are doing at any particular moment. You can follow others and they can follow you.

It's rumored that this guy and this guy are enjoying Twittering much more than blogging!

By the way, you can follow my Twitter here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

From the "WOW!!!" Files

I'm thinking about attending this church for their "30 Days" series!!

Here are some details:

The Relevant Church in Tampa's Ybor City has issued a 30-Day sex challenge. Single men and women can't have sex for 30 days, and married couples are urged to have it every day.

"If you look at the studies, studies say in 30 days you can develop a habit," said Pastor Paul Wirth. It definitely caught the church wives by surprise. "Our married people are far more fearful than our single people," said Wirth.

You can check out the entire article here and the church website here.

Microsoft's New Initiative?

Robert Scoble is making a big deal out of the forthcoming announcement by Microsoft on February 27th. Here's what he has to say:

It’s not often that I see software that really changes my world. It’s even rarer that I see software that I know will change the world my sons live in. I can count those times pretty easily...While watching the demo I realized the way I look at the world was about to change.

Those are some pretty big words! Many have speculated that this is an open-source software that picks up where the 1993 World Telescope Project left off.

Anyone else have any insights?

Look Who's Blogging Now

This guy has announced that this guy is now blogging.

Granger Community Church has led the way in creative and practical seminars for various ministries. It will be interesting to read some more personal thoughts and commentary from their senior pastor.

Oh's also the previous home of this guy as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Needing A Valentine? Think Again.

It's that time of year again - Valentine's Day. Some would argue that big business (such as Hallmark, floral companies and the like) has created an all-consuming culture around this day. What's your stance? My wife, Melissa, and I try to find creative ways to celebrate this holiday. From notes to emails to conversation, we enjoy finding creative ways to share our love for one another. But it doesn't stop there. We like to celebrate Valentine's Day every day. Why wait for one day out of the year to remind your loved one how special they are?

I thought I would share a bit of history behind Valentine's Day. Relevant Magazine has another wonderful insight in their latest newsletter. Check this out:

Some believe that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men so that his crop of potential soldiers would multiply; all current engagements were also nullified. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied the emperor and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Swooning yet?

When Valentine's actions were discovered, he was arrested and imprisoned by the emperor. While in prison, it is said that Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter, whose vision he restored by a saintly miracle. The emperor found out about the healing and ordered that Valentine be beheaded. On the eve of his execution, he wrote a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter, dripping with love and words of affection, signing it “from your Valentine.”

Nowadays, the commercialization of the holiday may have distorted our understanding of the passion of this event by incorporating cards with SpongeBob SquarePants on them signed, “from your Valentine.” However, the original story is as achingly romantic as they come. It is further believed that the “from your Valentine” tradition carried on after the saint’s execution through an annual Roman festival where young men gave handwritten letters of affection to the young women they wished to court. The festival was held on February 14, and determined the romantic fate for young people in the coming year. Fortunately, present-day Valentine cards that kids pass out during class do not determine their romantic destinies, so the switch to candy was probably a smart move in this case—unless arranged marriage is what you have in mind for your children one day.

Check out the entire article here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mobile Posting?

Okay, I'll admit that I'm a bit behind my technology brothers in "mobile posting.". This is my first official blog entry via my BlackBerry. We'll see how this goes!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pressed Coffee In 10 Easy Steps!

Kay asked about how to make pressed coffee, so I thought I would share my "recipe" with you. This certainly isn't the only way to do it, but it seems to be working for me.


STEP 1: Purchase a coffee press. I enjoy my Starbucks press that also serves as a stainless steel carafe. That way when I'm finished pressing it stays nice and hot!

STEP 2: Select your coffee. I mentioned in my last post that right now I am very fond of Starbuck's Sumatra. There are many great companies and websites that have phenomenal coffee. I'll talk about those sites and different types of coffee in a future post. MOST IMPORTANTLY - Always use fresh beans - never pre-ground!

STEP 3: Grind beans. I am currently using a regular blade grinder, but I'm hoping to get a nice burr grinder some day. Burr grinders make a coarser ground which makes for better pressed coffee (smaller grounds may get pushed through the press screen). Here's one example of a burr grinder.

STEP 4: Pour ground coffee into bottom of press. I use slightly more coffee than your average bear. I stopped "measuring" many moons ago, but you'll want to end up with two heaping tablespoons when finished grinding (for 8 cups of water).

STEP 5: Boil water. I use a typical tea kettle on the stove. You could also microwave your water, but this can lead to inconsistent temperatures. Boiling in a kettle is my preferred method. Remove the water just before it reaches a complete boil - this is a great temperature!

STEP 6: Pour water over grounds. Once filled, stir the water/grounds mixture to ensure complete coverage. You'll start to smell that wonderful coffee aroma!!

STEP 7: Cover your press (but don't press yet!!) and let the grounds steep for 4-5 minutes. NOTE: this is the step that can vary depending on your taste. If you like a lighter coffee - steep for 3-4 minutes. If you like a stronger, bold taste, then stick closer to the five minute mark.

STEP 8: PRESS! Start pressing your coffee by pushing the plunger/screen downward in a VERY SLOW and VERY STEADY motion. Make sure your plunger stays perpendicular to your counter top.

STEP 9: Pour your coffee and ENJOY!! You'll notice a bit of "chaff" (not grounds) in the bottom of your cup. This is normal and by the way, it doesn't have a bad taste at all!

STEP 10: Repeat every day!! You'll have to settle for brewed coffee at some point, but when you can get it, pressed coffee will forever be your favorite!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Own "Sagging Hulk"

I apologize once again for the lack of posts - only three in 2008!! After averaging nearly 5 posts a week in 2007, I'm going to have to get back on the writing trail to catch up! I'm also nearing the 500 post mark which I'm looking forward to as well.

Why the lack of posts? Besides the dreaded "B" word (busyness!) my trusty laptop is finding old age to be quite the problem. My battery has been going out for some time, and this week my fan started making noises reminiscent of the men's restroom at Wal Mart. On the very same day my power cord decided to bite the dust which led to my hard drive acting up and nearly complete failure. After three and a half years, my beloved Sony (and yes, I LOVE SONY machines!) and Windows XP Pro are slowly winding the path towards retirement.

By the way, I am rapidly becoming a MAC fan. After swearing most of my adult life that I would NEVER touch, let alone own a Mac, I am hooked. We are using two MacBook Pros in the Creative Arts department and they ROCK! So...if God allows, I hope to replace my "sagging hulk" of a laptop with a shiny new MacBook Pro! (NOTE: The MacBook Air looks awesome, but early reports put it well behind the MacBook in performance!)

So here's to a plethora of posts in the future - may they be well written and well read!

Monday, January 21, 2008

My New Best Friend

My wife gave me a coffee press for Christmas and is the bomb!! Anyone that knows me realizes that I am a coffee freak, but pressed coffee is by far the best type of coffee I have ever consumed. I've had pressed coffee at a restaurant before, but to make it in my own house is incredibly awesome. If you like coffee and haven't tasted pressed coffee before, give me a shout and we'll brew some together!!

Special props to my buddy "Pipstah" for turning me on to the "home press!"

By the way, my favorite type of coffee to press? Starbucks Sumatra. Anyone else recommend some coffee?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Manifesting Your 2008

As we start the new year, many of us are thinking about goals for 2008. I'm working on a list of "Bucket Goals" (inspired by this blog and the movie "The Bucket List") as well as updating my 2008 Life Plan. The new year is a natural time to celebrate your accomplishments in 2007 and then to take a look forward and develop and establish goals for 2008.

Before you finalize those plans however, I want to challenge you to read this manifesto from Mark Batterson. This manifesto was developed for his book "In a Pit With a Lion On A Snowy Day" (which I highly recommend) and is great food for thought. Here's to an incredible 2008!

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Success Comes In "Cans"

One of the favorite quotes from my good friend John is this, "Success comes in cans, not can'ts!" How true this is! A positive mindset can truly make a difference.

There were many people who said we couldn't do it. Some who called us crazy. Some who even doubted God. But in the end, God worked through some ordinary people to build His dream called Meadow Heights Arcadia Valley. As of this past Sunday, we are now one church in two locations!

You can check out several photos here.

Thank you to so many of you who dedicated countless hours towards the completion of this project. A special thanks to Greg and Ragen Amelung for leading this project and giving their all to fulfill God's mission.

And finally a special thanks to Bryan for leading all of us as we enjoy this dream turned reality. We have taken the first step to impacting our world and I know it is only the beginning. I know that God has designed the plan, but He also needed a great leader to empower the rest of us. He made the right choice.

Meadow Heights stands upon a new day. We will never be the same and yet, we haven't changed. We will always continue to love God, love people and do our best to impact the world. We'll do our part and we'll let God take care of the rest. After all, He can do far more than we could ever imagine or guess or request in our wildest dreams!