Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Willow Arts Conference Reflection 09

I didn't have a laptop with me for the Willow Arts Conference this year - so I just did updates on twitter. But just for the record, it was a great week of renewal as usual. Doesn't everyone need those times to sit back and be reminded of why they do what they do?

Here's the deal. I have my dream job - which doesn't quite seem fair (since it's the only full-time job I've had). I get to work to plan the weekly worship of a local church. AND I get to work alongside of people with incredible artistic gifts. To top it all off, this is in a community that has nurtured me & empowered me for pretty much my entire life. Wow.

And yet, far too often, I can get discouraged and tired. When your job is planning and preparing for Sundays - you start to realize that the deadline comes every week with amazing regularity. And - I'm what I like to call a "high-achieving slacker" - which means that I work best under pressure (though I usually cry somewhere in the process). And it can be way too easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Nancy Beach mentioned a few of these "enemies of wonder" in the first conference session: hurry, stress, too much technology, noise, lack of solitude, absence of celebration, boredom of routine..." I have definitely been influenced by a few of those.

The theme verse for the conference was from Isaiah 29 -
13 "And so the Lord says,
'These people say they are mine.
They honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
And their worship of me
is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.
14 Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites
with amazing wonders.
The wisdom of the wise will pass away,
and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.'"

I never want to be guilty of verse 13 - and yet, right after that, God's response in verse 14 is amazing! I am so grateful for the reminder to look to God in amazed wonder - and to offer genuine worship to Him.

As they ended the first session at the Arts Conference, they did an amazing drama/dance/video piece called, "Behold the Dreamer." It told the story of an artist in the church - and quite honestly, I don't think I could do it justice trying to describe it with words.

As the piece ended, this prayer came on the screen - and today it is my prayer for my ministry & for my team.

God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Finale Week

This past week I went to 2 finale parties for TV shows - Tuesday night was The Biggest Loser (which I didn't watch this season; I went because I've enjoyed the show before and it's always fun to go to a finale party) and then Wednesday was LOST (which we got to watch with our LOST-loving friends; we even had Dharma snacks!). We have yet to watch the finale for "The Office" - hope to catch up on that soon.

This coming week holds yet another major finale - American Idol. You guys? I have a confession. I used to LOVE this show - but I'm kind of not loving it lately. I used to love seeing how people would pick songs on the various genre weeks and I loved giving my (usually very strong) opinion on each performance. I went 10/10 by myself in an AI round of a trivia challenge a few years ago. I enjoy spirited discussions about the show with co-workers and on message boards and blogs.

However, this year I haven't found any contestant that I've had any type of strong reaction to - positive or negative. I also really don't like having 4 judges.

I just...don't care very much. Which makes me a little sad and nostalgic for earlier AI seasons.

(Remember the AI finale when they had the Clay Aiken lookalike sing - and then brought the real Clay out behind him and he FREAKED OUT? Remember how much I hate Blake Lewis? Remember Fantasia singing after she won?)

My dad sent me this link - A guy ranked his top 95 all-time Idol contestants. Lots of obscure people near the bottom of the list. And he over-ranked the current season's contestants. (Scott Savol at #50? No way.) My dad and my favorite guy (more for personality than singing), George Huff comes in at #38.

Who is your all-time favorite idol contestant? Any other thoughts on AI?

(I will probably try to watch the finale this week - if only to see Adam Lambert sing some super-cheese generic "believe in your dreams/this is my moment" song they wrote for the finale. Or maybe the producers will do another 90's worship song for the group medley like they did last year...)

Sunday, May 10, 2009


We're using a prayer in our services today (in part to celebrate Mother's Day) - and because we're using it, I've been pondering it quite a bit. It's a prayer that sits on my bulletin board at work, so I see it regularly.

I don't always reflect it - but I do believe in living life with purpose and intentionality. My life has been immeasurably blessed by women (both my mom & grandmothers - but also countless women at church, teachers, mentors, and friends) who have chosen to love unselfishly (which is actually redundant). They are examples to me of voices that speak against lies and rebel against the status quo. I am grateful for them - and want to make my life count - to the glory of God.

Dear God,
please make us dangerous women.
May we be women who acknowledge our power
to change, and grow, and be radically alive for God.
May we be healers of wounds and righters of wrongs.
May we weep with those who weep and
speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
May we cherish children, embrace the elderly,
and empower the poor.
May we pray deeply and teach wisely.
May we be strong ang dentle leaders.
May we sing songs of joy and talk down fear.
May we never hesitate to let passion push us,
conviction compel us, and righteous anger energize us.
May we strike fear into all that is unjust and evil in the world.
May we dismantle abusive systems and
silence lies with truth.
May we shine like stars in a darkened generation.
May we overflowe with goodness in the name of God
and by the power of Jesus.
And in that name and by that power,
may we change the world.
Dear God, please make us dangerous women.

-Lynne Hybels, "Nice Girls Don't Change the World

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Love this

Saturday, March 07, 2009

This is totally new information.

This was a good week. A week full of new and (mostly) amazing discoveries.
  • Turns out - I like eggplant parmesean. I'd heard people talk about it, but had never tried it. Thanks to my small group - I now know that egglant is not so scary (at least when it's covered in bread crumbs, fried, and covered in pasta sauce and cheese).
  • Did you know that St. John's Hospital has parking spaces reserved for clergy? This is totally new information! I realize it's a little lazy to want to find a convenient parking spot - but since I was going on hospital calls, I totally used it! (And since I took the last one, I tried not to think about the elderly priest who was going to have to park at the top of the parking garage because of me.)
  • I have discovered that I can work out (and by work out - I mean spend 25 - 40 minutes of torture - JILLIAN.) almost every day and not die. I may have walked around like an old lady for the better part of a week, but I definitely feel stronger/healthier already.
  • Did you also know that Sonic has a $1 mini sundae with candy? I recommend the Oreo topping.
  • Even though I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school, I remembered NONE of it when I saw a high school production this weekend. It was thought-provoking for sure. Did you know that Bradbury said the book is not as much about censorship as it is about the effect of television/mass media on people's desire to read? The threat is less people burning books - and more that people just don't read. (Makes me want to stretch myself in that area...)
  • Speaking of heat, we are in the middle of a HEAT WAVE (70's!) - but no one wants to turn on the A/C because we all know it's only March and it's central Illinois. But this means that Target, the grocery store, and pretty much any building are miserably hot. Also, it means that my feet stink.
Did you discover anything this week?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And so it is for us...

This is a reading from a Lent/Easter devotional I've had for a few years.
I write in my books as a general habit. This one my only note is next to the title: "Wow."

Ash Wednesday 2009

Living Lent
Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

We didn’t even know what moderation was. What it felt like. We didn’t just work: we inhaled our jobs, sucked them in, became them. Stayed late, brought work home – it was never enough, though, no matter how much time we put in.

We ordered things we didn’t need from the shiny catalogues that came to our houses: we ordered three times as much as we could use, and then we ordered three times as much as our children could use.

We didn’t just eat: we stuffed ourselves. We had gained only three pounds since the previous year, we told ourselves. Three pounds is not a lot. We had gained about that much in each of the twenty-five years since high school. We did not do the math.

We redid living rooms in which the furniture was not worn out. We threw away clothing that was merely out of style.

We felt that it was important to be good to ourselves, and that this meant that it was dangerous to tell ourselves no. About anything, ever. Repression of one’s desires was an unhealthy thing. I work hard, we told ourselves. I deserve a little treat. We treated ourselves every day.

There were times, coming into the house from work or waking early when all was quiet, when we felt uneasy about the sense of entitlement that characterized all our days. When we wondered if fevered overwork and excess of appetite were not two sides of the same coin – or rather, two poles between which we madly slalomed. Probably yes, we decided at these times. Suddenly we saw it all clearly: I am driven by my creatures – my schedule, my work, my possessions, my hungers. I do not drive them; they drive me. Probably yes. Certainly yes. This is how it is. We arose and did twenty sit-ups. The next day the moment had passed; we did none.

After moments like that, we were awash in self-contempt. You are weak. Self-indulgent. You are spineless about work and about everything else. You set no limits. You will become ineffective. We bridled at that last bit, drew ourselves up to our full heights, insisted defensively on our competence, on the respect we were due because of all our hard work. We looked for others whose lives were similarly overstuffed; we found them. “This is just the way it is,” we said to one another on the train, in the restaurant. “This is modern life. Maybe some people have time to measure things out by teaspoonfuls.” Our voices dripped contempt for those people who had such time. We felt oddly defensive, though no one had accused us of anything. But not me. Not anyone who has a life. I have a life. I work hard. I play hard.

When did the collision between our appetites and the needs of our souls happen? Was there a heart attack? Did we get laid off from work, one of the thousand certified as extraneous? Did a beloved child become a bored stranger, a marriage fall silent and cold? Or, by some exquisite working of God’s grace, did we just find the courage to look the truth in the eye and, for once, not blink? How did we come to know that we were dying a slow and unacknowledged death? And that the only way back to life was to set all our packages down and begin again, carrying with us only what we really needed?

We travail. We are heavy laden. Refresh us, O homeless, jobless, possession-less Savior. You came naked, and naked you go. And so it is for us. So it is for all of us.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

Not been feeling the blogging for a while. Life has felt a little hectic. But here are some truly random thoughts... Many of these bullet points could have been their own posts - but I am feeling - how you say - lazy.
  • Had a chance to worship last week at seminary chapel (at LCS). It sure is fun to go to Lincoln when I'm not in school. You know what else is fun? Starting a song only to be blown back by the volume of voices singing along with you. Man, those people can sing. We did a song that I've only used as a choir piece before - "Instruments of Your Peace." It's based on the prayer of St. Francis - and worked really well corporately. (I also found a version by Kendall Payne on a worship album of hers. Who knew she had a worship album?)
  • Found a new blog - Sojourn - a church community in Louisville, Kentucky. They are one of those old-meets-new places that makes me very intrigued. Their worship albums (including their Advent one) are good. Also interesting - the Open Sourcebook - an online collection of new liturgical writings/service elements.
  • Josh and I had an awesome weekend in Geneva, Illinois a few weekends back. The bed & breakfast where we stayed inspired my visual artist side to venture out of hiding. You can see some photos on facebook. (Photography is the only safe visual arts medium for me. Until Rebekah teaches me how to throw pottery, anyways...)
  • Have had some great, challenging conversations with Melissa lately about taking risks versus playing it safe. Goes along with the current theme to our worship services - do we want safe, comfortable lives - or do we want lives that are used by God to do something bigger than we could do on our own?
  • Last Sunday we used a series of G.K. Chesterton quotes in worship, from his book, Orthodoxy. I was reminded as I was skimming over the book that Rich Mullins clearly read Chesterton. In the opening pages of Orthodoxy, he says, setting up the book as his own snapshots and attempts to describe his view of God, "I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me." (Which reminds me of the lyrics to RM's "Creed." Good stuff.)

Hopefully more, less-random thoughts to come. (I hope to blog a little bit during Lent.)

In the meantime, I am praying and waiting not so patiently for the arrival of Baby Sandel!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Randoms

Just a few, un-related bullet points for today:

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2008 Retrospective

It has been quite a year - and I doubt I'd be able to do it all justice in one post. But here are a few highlights from 2008 in my world (non-work):

  • Singing the Durufle Requiem with the Illinois Symphony Chorus
  • The Wizard of Oz pit orchestra
  • House hunting & the purchase of our first home in April

  • The coolest bridal shower ever - with lots of cake centerpieces

  • My sister, Rebekah, lives the dream (spends a summer in NYC)
  • My sister, Mary's high school graduation

  • Granny and Gramps' 60th anniversary

  • Lots of friends getting married (which meant doing the Cha Cha Slide A LOT) and lots of friends having babies (which mostly made me feel old)
  • Our wedding (July 12th)

  • Crazy/great trip/honeymoon in Mexico
  • Finding out about Baby Sandel
  • My brother Josh & Jenna's wedding (July 26th)

  • Millions of peaches

  • Olympic Opening Ceremonies party - where I fell asleep in the basement
  • New co-worker in my department - yay Gabe!
  • Going to 2 Cubs games

  • A new small group
  • Fun fall things - IN Covered Bridge Festival, haunted house in Terre Haute & the Great Pumpkin Patch
  • Election Day Birthday Party

  • The arrival of the PIANO to our house
  • The world's craziest Christmas season

Wow. Well - 2008, thanks for being an incredible year. We will definitely remember you!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 15th

Been reminiscing lately about a pretty incredible day one year ago....
Those of you who have heard the story in person know that it can be a long - but great - story. Here's the Cliff Notes version:

Josh told me he had plans for Saturday AM (our dating anniversary)
He said he wanted to surprise me - and I said I'd let him
Sat AM he picked me up at 4:45am and it's snowing
He drives me to the airport (!)
Says - Merry Christmas, we're going to Chicago for the day
Me - Wooooow. YAY! I can't believe we're flying there!
We fly to Chicago (despite nasty snowy weather)
We land and he says - we have to RUN
Run where?
Run to our next gate (!)
While running, I find out we're going to NYC (!)
I start freaking out - because I HAVE to be at church on Sunday AM
We make the flight, and he starts explaining.
He worked it out (for me to miss church - which is a big deal), we have a place to stay (mission house where I'd been before in Brooklyn), and we have show tickets (Mamma Mia).
Merry Christmas!
I was - VERY surprised.

We got dressed up (he had my best friend pack me a bag)
We ate an amazing Italian dinner
We walked around midtown Manhattan (which was AWESOME)
We saw Mamma Mia
And we went to Rockefeller Center, where he proposed in front of the BIG tree
(I figured that might happen once I found out about NYC - but it was great.)
It was really amazing and surreal.
We ate dessert, called our families, and rode the Subway back to Brooklyn.

It's been really fun this year seeing the BIG TREE on TV and remembering being there. Even though it was a whirlwind of a day, I have so many really vivid memories -
  • the way my heart sped up when I realized we were going to the airport
  • the travel bag (w/ magazines and notes of reassurance from work)

  • having to wait for 2 flights from O'Hare to get our bags in NYC

  • how fun it was to not know the plan - but to keep being surprised

  • seeing the skyline from the cab (holy cow we're in New York today!)

  • getting dressed up at the mission house

  • the energy of the city - and both of our excitement (and Josh's nerves)

  • leaving the theater and the beginnings of light snow (Josh: "perfect")

  • the MASS OF HUMANITY in midtown Manhattan

  • the jewelry box with a light in it

  • the excitement of our families (over the phone) and the congratulations from strangers in the restaurant

  • the subway ride back to Brooklyn where we got to talk and make plans for BIG stuff

  • being exhausted - but totally unable to sleep

  • the church team from Mayberry, NC who were staying at the mission house - they were SO excited for us that over breakfast they each gave us a piece of marriage advice and prayed for us.

  • loving every minute of being together

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Internet Ramblings

Just a few things I've run across lately that I thought were worth sharing/processing:

This article on CNN about a highly successful music producer made me sad. Pop music is a guilty pleasure of mine - and it's not a surprise that it's more of a science of figuring out what sells vs. making music. It maybe just surprises me to have someone be that transparent/self-aware about their intentions ($) and desire for control (rather than collaboration).

I'm almost done with my Christmas mix. If you want one, let me know. Fortunately for everyone, I found a new instrumental album this year (that I didn't have when I did my Christmas Music of 08 review) - Jingle All the Way - Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. If you combine banjo, bass, reeds, and throat-singing (!!!) together with Christmas music - you get the most unique holiday album ever. I've only had it a few days - but I like how creative it is. You can listen to clips on the website. If you do....you're welcome!

For other worship planners that might read this blog, I've found a couple more blogs/places to see what other churches do in their services. I always enjoy getting away to worship other places - just to see another church family, to be able to be a part of the congregation (vs. being up front), and to get ideas. Thanks to the internet, I can do some of that in my office. So here are some of my new worship feeds:
Just as it's fun to see what other people are doing - I also want to be excited about what is happening in my church family. Every community is unique - and that's a good thing.
A few videos that we've made for services - including all of the In Plain English series are now on the WSCCMedia YouTube channel. My personal favorite is Esther In Plain English. I'm also excited about Feed500. If you're a WS-er, don't forget to bring food this week!

And thus ends my random internet ramblings...for today.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feels Like Home

I didn't blog much about the dating, engagement, wedding, excitement, etc. I didn't want to overshare on personal stuff - especially on a place like the internet. But on the other side of it all, I am starting to realize how incredibly blessed I am to be here.

I have a home. And I don't just mean a house. I have a place where I'm safe - where I'm known - and where I can (hopefully) bless others. I don't ever want to take it for granted.

It's been a crazy few months. We had lots of stuff to sort through (since both of us have had our own places for several years), lots of new stuff to find a home for (because people were very generous with us), and have been trying to settle into a routine.

We had 2 peach trees in our backyard that resulted in a LOT of work for Josh. They also resulted in homemade peach pie...so, not all bad.

We've established which sides of the couch we sit on in the evenings (with our laptops) and have learned more about each others' TV preferences.

More recently, we brought the biggest upright piano I've ever seen into our dining room. There was a minor incident with the wood floors in the entryway, but now we have a piano for Josh to play (which he LOVES).

And now we're decorating for our first Christmas together. It's a sentimental time for us - our dating milestones and then engagement all happened in December.

But more than anything, I think it's unbelievably amazing that at the end of any given day - I get to go home to my best friend.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm not a movie person...

But one of my favorite bloggers tagged me this past summer - and I wanted to follow-through on the challenge. Plus I've been a blog-slacker.

So the challenge:
1. List your top ten favorite films in no particular order.
2. If you’re tagged, post your list and tag 3-5 other people.
3. Link back to the person who tagged you.
4. Give a hat tip (HT) to Dan.

I appreciate good movies - but I don't get into them as much as some people. I always feel pressure when someone asks me what my favorite movie is. I wonder if they'll judge me for some of my more shallow choices (I'm talking to you, Jim Halpert). I do like good, thought-provoking art - but I also like light entertainment. I suspect my list will reflect that.

  • The Princess Bride - This is my standard answer to the favorite movie question. It's one that my family (especially my dad) has always loved. The humor - and the grandfather/grandson commentary on the love story - are classic.
  • Ratatouille - This is a more recent favorite, and I think I blogged about why it moved me so deeply. I don't know that it works all that well as a kids movie strangely enough - I think it's a movie about being an artist. The animation itself is gorgeous. But the parts where Remy is enjoying combining flavors (and how they illustrate that), where the critic character is reminded of his "first love" of food, and his reflections on criticism are really great. So many people who love art are prone to the critical spirit - but this movie reminded me about all of the great things about art.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - This is another favorite of my parents - so it's one that I have good childhood memories of watching and laughing together. Which is appropriate since this is the movie with the father/son dynamic. "He chose....poorly."
  • Tommy Boy - This movie cracks me up. I have a hard time passing it by when it's on TV. There are other movies in the stupid humor category that I could include on this list - but this ranks as one of my very favorites. The duo of Farley/Spade is great - and my favorite scene is when they're listening to the radio in the car. The cheesy song comes on the radio, but no one wants to change it. Cut to them both singing it at the top of their lungs, bawling. LOVE IT.
  • In Good Company - I rented this with my roommate expecting it to be a predictable romantic comedy (guy falls in love with his older employee's daughter/awkwardness ensues). Instead, it's this movie that really honestly portrays the weird dynamic that happens in the workplace between generations. The relationship between Dennis Quaid's character and Topher Grace's character is just so real - and the transformation over the course of the story is great.
  • Luther - This is undoubtedly a nerdy pick. I understand it's not a totally historically accurate movie, but it did give me a deeper appreciation for a really important person in church history who was a real person who really loved God, Scripture, and the church.
  • Singin in the Rain - It's a classic. It's totally more about the dancing/showmanship than the story - but the title scene alone is enough to put this one my list. Good stuff. And I'm surprised at how often I have to defend this choice as a favorite movie - it frequently appears on critics' top lists as well.
  • The Wedding Singer - I like standard "chick flicks" - and there are lots that could go here (While You Were Sleeping, Miss Congeniality, Legally Blonde). This is my favorite Adam Sandler. It's awesomely 80's - and in the end is a sweet love story.
  • The Sound of Music - This movie is my childhood favorite. I watched it every time I was sick. I wanted to grow up to be Julie Andrews (and Amy Grant, but that's neither here nor there). It is also part of where my strong desire to visit Europe comes from.
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - I almost put Elf here instead, but this one is a favorite of Josh's - and has become as close to a Christmas classic as I can think of. It's better on TV - or I also enjoy hearing my husband quote the entire thing word-for word.

Okay, that was actually difficult to come up with 10! I should watch more movies...

I will tag Brandy, Chris, and Kara.

Christmas is coming - the goose is getting fat

I know many people frown upon premature Christmasy activities - but here's the thing. I love Christmas music. It's too good to put limitations on. Also - I am vocationally required to plan services far enough in advance that I can't follow the "wait til after Thanksgiving" rule. (Not that I mind breaking it...)

I've been checking out new Christmas music releases and listening to old mixes and albums. I had considered an official review of the ones I've listened to so far - but I generally agree with ChristianityToday's 2008 Christmas album reviews.
Here's my short version:
  • Sixpence None the Richer - The Dawn of Grace is my favorite whole album. Great song choices, good arrangements, and cohesive feel. Favorite songs: "Riu, Riu, Chiu" and "The Last Christmas" (which makes me think of Baby Sandel)
  • DO NOT LIKE Casting Crowns' Peace on Earth. They're not my favorite anyways - but I bought it b/c they tend to have a few gems on each album that connect well with people (and are usable in services). But I can't find any on this album. Meh.
  • I also found Shane & Shane's Glory in the Highest rather disappointing. It's too mellow and unthoughtful - and I don't mean good mellow.
  • There are 2 albums that I'd say are pretty good - but I really wanted them to be amazing: Sara Groves' O Holy Night and Fernando Ortega's Christmas Songs. Both albums have some GREAT songs on them (which will definitely be making my 2008 Xmas mix) - but I had maybe unrealistic expectations on them as whole albums. Sara Groves does too many new, unmemorable tunes to familiar carol texts. But I LOVE "It's True" - which I first heard her do live at an Andrew Peterson concert last year. And the Fernando one is a little too straightforward and really too short for my liking. I'd like to hear some lesser known carols from him since he's such a good arranger.
I am working on my 2008 Christmas mix - should finish it soon (and I'll definitely post a track list).

And finally - I just saw that my friend Chris designed some gift certificates for projects through CMF in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. This was a BIG part of our church's Christmas celebration last year; it's amazing what an impact small amounts of money can have in other parts of the world.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spooky Fall Mix

We are officially in one of my favorite parts of my favorite season. (It's Halloween week - which is right before Birthday week. I know that makes me a bit of a kid. Whatever.)

I was in iTunes last week listening to my "spooky" mix - a bunch of classical music with dark/Halloween-like themes. I'd been a delinquint in my summer mix CD circle - so I decided to make a holiday mix. Not the "coolest" mix ever, but I've been enjoying it quite a bit as a driving mix. Goes well with the scenery.

Here it is - with commentary:
  • Thriller - Marching Illini
    Marching band=fall. I'm not the biggest marching nerd ever (I was only in the MI one year in college) - but it is fun. And this is a really fun song. We did a Halloween show the year I marched; this song involved a "monster step."
  • Prologue - Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (John Williams)
    I'm bummed about the Harry Potter movie getting bumped til 2009. The books are awesome - but I do enjoy the movies (they were my first introduction to Harry).
  • Double Trouble - Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban (John Williams)
    Josh's junior high choir is singing this right now... It also reminds me of my senior year of high school when we made a movie of this scene from MacBeth (it involved me trying to say the lines, "Double double toil and trouble" while trying to shoot pool). Good times.
  • Great Pumpkin Waltz - Charlie Brown (Vince Guarldi Trio)
    I don't know this Charlie Brown holiday flick as well as the Christmas one - but good music.
  • Dies Irae - Mozart Requiem
    Two years ago this November I got to sing the Mozart Requiem with a local symphony chorus and professional orchestra. The music - and the context (Mozart's last work before he died, a requiem) - is definitely spooky.
  • Lacrymosa - Mozart Requiem
  • Turn! Turn! Turn! - The Byrds
  • I Put a Spell on You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins
    This one is just bizarre. But it works on the mix.
  • Autumn Leaves - Eva Cassidy
    Eva Cassidy's voice has a really calming effect on me. She takes her time on every song - I love it.
  • Shadowfeet - Brooke Fraser
    This one maybe isn't necessarily fall-ish and definitely isn't spooky. But it's one of my top songs of the year - and I still love love love it.
  • Autumn in New York - Harry Connick Jr.
    I should go to New York in the fall sometime.
  • Time Warp - Marching Illini
    A cover from the Rocky Horror Picture Shop (which I've only ever seen clips from) - more marching band.
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King - Grieg
    This one has lots of sentimental value. I have memories of listening to this in my kindergarten music class. I tried to pass it on to future generations a while back, with humorous results. ("I saw Mike Myers - and he was CHASIN' me!")
  • Defying Gravity - Wicked
    I love Wicked. And this is my favorite song. I may look weird singing at the top of my lungs in my car - but I don't care one bit.
  • Imperial March - Marching Illini
  • What is Hip? - Marching Illini
    This maybe takes me into gratuitous marching band territory. It's not spooky - it's just one of my favorites.
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Dukas - Philadelphia Orchestra
    This is the longest piece on the mix - it's probably familiar to most as the music from the Disney movie, "Fantasia." We played it in college - and it was so so so much fun.

It may be one of those mixes that has more personal attachments to me than to other people.

(Josh and I have been re-listening to the previous years' Christmas mixes - and I've already started on this year's. Very exciting, the mix CDs.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

You both comfort me and disturb my complacency

Great prayer from today's Midday Office:

O God, you both comfort me and disturb my complacency through your Spirit. May I recognize the blind, the lame and the prisoner in the circumstances of my life, and understand my call to proclaim the good news to the poor. I ask this through Jesus who is my way, my truth and my life. Amen.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Willow Wrap-Up

This morning we attended the concluding 2 sessions of the Arts Conference. It was an awesome morning. Our whole team was a little sleepy throughout the day, but the 2 speakers today were some of the best of the conference (I think).

  • Kendall Payne did a short conference. I haven't heard much from her recently, but really enjoyed her songs. She did bust out "Supermodels" - which was fun. I think my favorite song was one called, "Prayer." I need to look up the lyrics/look for it on iTunes.

  • Dr. Richard Allen Farmer spoke and gave a tour inside the artist's brain. He quoted Harold Best's book "Unceasing Worship" twice - which is one of my favorite books on worship. He challenged artists to be craftsmen/women with words. As he concluded, he challenged us to let serious theological thought inform our art. Really great.

  • The final session had another worship set led by the Willow team. Then Francis Chan spoke. It was my personal highlight of the conference.

(Edit: I'm posting this even though I never really finished my thoughts.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Willow Day #2

Another good day at Willow - this one started and finished strong (with some extreme randomness in the middle). It was breakout day - which is always a little scary. I try to go into it with low expectations - only because my experience at most conferences (including Willow) is that breakout sessions are hit and miss. That...was the case today.

Some notes from the "hits" -

Breakout #1: "A Biblical Model for Worship and the Arts" - Ross Parsley

Even though Daniel teased me about attending this class (something about already having a degree in that area) - I am glad I went to this one. I'd heard Ross Parsley at a conference last summer, and I really appreciated his approach to ministry. I think I'd also written something on previous arts conference evaluations about needing something like this; they made it a main breakout, so I felt like it would be a good one to support. I was not disappointed.

While it is not easy to cover such a big topic in one workshop, I thought his big ideas were really solid and challenging. His first big idea is that God is the initiator - and we respond. That overarching idea will shape the way we approach worship. It won't be something that we feel like we control - but rather, as worship leaders, we'll strive to be usable by God in the action that He is ultimately responsible for. (Sidenote to myself: I think that also affects the content of what we plan for corporate worship - if we present God's Word, God's action - people have something to respond to.)

He issued a challenge to evaluate how we spend our time preparing to lead worship with our teams. Rehearsal/developing skill is important, but without a biblical foundation of why we're doing what we're doing - it's not balanced.

He described a worship ministry pyramid - one that many ministries have upside down.

This was his suggested structure -




Musical Style

Organizational Structure

Ministry Philosophy

Biblical Principles

While I don't know about all the order of the middle of the pyramid, it's hard to argue with the foundation. His recommendation was to look at the team prep time for a worship service - and to spend half the time in rehearsal and half in training about biblical principles. "If we're not careful, we can communicate that skills, songs, etc. are the important thing."

He issued a challenge to teach people stories/Biblical examples of sacrificial praise.,,and to challenge ourselves and them to a sacrificial view of worship.

There was lots more here, but those were my highlights. Good stuff.

I'm going to skip the middle breakouts, and jump to...

Breakout #4: Creativity in Action - Willow Creek Community Church

This session involved viewing a handful of recent creative pieces from Willow. They had 2 programming people talk about their process. I really appreciated the combination of excellent creativity paired with spiritual content. It was refreshing.

They talked about how they have intentionally moved away from fictionalized drama to incorporate more real-life stories/testimonies. I believe their phrase was "the democratization of services." I have seen this to be really effective in our services. I appreciated someone in the class who asked them how they find stories in the congregation to tell. Their answer sounded a lot like what we've had to do: ask the people who naturally connect with people and are likely to have heard peoples' stories.

Another concept in their brainstorming process is "the third choice" (which came from improv comedy). Often the first idea that comes to your mind is the most obvious; the second will be slightly better; however, if you push yourself to pause and think a little bit more, often the next idea will be even better - and more unexpected.

One final tidbit - one of their writers shared how the more detail you put into a story, the more people resonate with it. She phrased it: "universality in specificity."

Tonight we stayed for the Film Festival - which showcased a variety of videos made by churches around the country. Hard to describe it all - but some really cool ideas. I was not surprised to see the humor videos from CCC win big. The grand prize was "Serving Back" - their spoof of a Justin Timberlake song about random acts of kindness. If you've never seen it, here's your chance.

Maybe later I'll have some time to articulate some of the other thoughts that have been brewing today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Willow Arts Conference

I'm a person who gets excited by traditions. It helps me to have things to look foward to and gives a sense of rhythm to life.

Right now I'm in the middle of my mid-June tradition: attending the Willow Creek Arts Conference (it's #6 in a row for me - crazy). I look forward to being able to worship not up front, see new creative ideas, to be challenged, and to spend extra time with the people I serve alongside.

We just completed day 1 of the conference. It was my goal to blog while here; I think I'm going to do bullet points today (I am sick. again. and medicated.).

  • The first session opened with a drumline - loved their high energy.
  • The opening worship & teaching session was nourishing to my soul. The worship leaders led us really well - very authentic and just a great chance to focus on Who God is and what he's done for us. I loved how expressively Scripture was incorporated. Nancy Beach walked us through Psalm 40 devotionally. Most challenging quote: "If we're not careful, we will do ministry more from memory than from imagination." She also briefly addressed the changes Willow's making to their worship services (re-vamping Wednesday nights and then making Sunday morning seeker-friendly, but a worship service for all stages of believers/seekers). It made me want to hear more about that - because that? Is a pretty big deal.
  • I had my standard Willow conference snack break of Diet Pepsi and Cheez-its. Stellar.
  • Session 2 wins the random award. Opened with a 14-year-old violinist who was incredible. Then Eric Bramlett from CCC and another guy hosted a Rock Band competition. It was entertaining, though - random. Then Nancy Beach interviewed one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil. One of our team members mentioned that they would have liked to hear more from him; it was a rather short interview. The last question asked of him was, "why are the arts important?" He responded along the lines that humans are unique from other animals in their desire to create and imagine. I couldn't help but connect that to the idea that we're made in God's image - and God is the ultimate Creator.
  • The afternoon session featured the Robbie Seay Band leading worship. It was cool to hear them live - I have both albums of theirs. I enjoyed them, though I will confess, I closed my eyes and rested for part of it.
  • As soon as I heard Brian McLaren was speaking, I was anticipating that I would be challenged/stretched/etc. I expected some challenging of traditional theological concepts and models of church. He spoke mostly from his most recent book, "Everything Must Change" - about how the church needs to address the biggest needs in the world. It ended up being less controversial than I anticipated, but rather a good reminder of the concept of holistic spirituality. There were several cool stories/creative ideas woven into that session that I appreciated. This session probably had the most information to chew on/things that challenged me. They had a few people who are involved in fair trade speak - it's pretty challenging to think about the impact of our spending choices on people around the world.
  • Our team shared a lovely evening of PF Changs, a big mall (with a Cubs store that made Josh very excited), and causing a rucus playing the telephone story game at La Quinta.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Family Near & Far

It is unmistakeably summer - it's warm, muggy, and the summer events are officially underway! 2008 holds an exceptionally high number of significant events and cool opportunities for people in my family (immediate & extended).

My sister, Rebekah, is doing an internship in Manhattan with a church plant (aka "living the dream"). She's been there a couple weeks now, and she is blogging at www.whereyoulead-rebekah.blogspot.com. She's an awesome woman with a big heart for God and what He's doing around the world, she's a talented artist, and I'm super proud of her.

Also, my cousin Tim and his wife, Alicia, are spending 2 months working with the urban poor in Nairobi, Kenya (with the organization that our church has been working with over the last year and a half). They're also blogging - www.thestewartsinafrica.blogspot.com.

I'm amazed at how the internet allows us to keep up with what's happening all over the world!

Up next: my grandparent's 60th anniversary party next weekend. Sneak preview: some slideshows that the Sandels put together with pictures from their life together. It is humbling to see their example of faithfulness and love.