The worst question I ever get is "what do you do for a living?" It's not that I can't describe the variety of things that I do with my hands and mind at my job. It's just that none of them, alone, fully describes what it is that I do. And the answer that does sum it up isn't something that people get. In short, I help other people tell their stories. Sometimes, that's a simple task of building a website. Sometimes, it involves doing a lot of writing. Sometimes, it involves doing a lot of research work. Lately, it's been involving a lot of web programming and mapping as I let the latest US Census tell a collective story of cities, communities, and neighborhoods tell their stories.
This past week, Ecclesia Church lost a very dear sister and the church was tasked with putting on a memorial service in very short order for Saturday afternoon. For a little-known person who might only have close friends and family, that might not be a problem. But Sarah was different. While she was well-known throughout Ecclesia, she had also decided to share her journey through cancer on a blog, which added another audience and community to her journey. So it was decided that, in order to prevent a standing-room-only situation at Ecclesia just before a Saturday night service, we would give people the option of sharing in the memorial service via webcast. In other words, there was someone else's story to share. And with that, I took on the all-important task of manning a camera to make it go from wide-angle to zoomed in. That's it - two points for the camera to be at, two buttons on a remote control. I wasn't even going to touch the camera itself unless I really had to. Like I said before ... sometimes the description of the manual work doesn't offer the best summary of what I do.
The memorial service itself was a thing of beauty. One of my earliest introductions to Ecclesia was watching Pastor Chris Seay put together a flash-wedding for Sarah via twitter and facebook. In the time that she was with us, I never had the good fortune to meet Sarah. But the service was a wonderful introduction to her. We should all hope that we live lives good enough to remembered half as well as Sarah was. Her's was an amazing story to assist in letting others tell it to as wide an audience as we could muster.
As a slight digression, I'll note a few things about my recent volunteer gig with Ecclesia with the hope of connecting it to the bigger point to be made here. Without getting too techie on anyone, working the video/media side of the A/V booth at Ecclesia has been a very rewarding challenge and even though I knew it was a task that I would love and enjoy taking on, there's been a bit of a learning curve. Among the differences are that I'm now responsible for seamlessly displaying a variety of media for a pastor who has a pretty high bar for excellence in how to use media. I've missed a few queues and the learning process each week has been extremely rewarding. I work with professionals - one on church staff and one who volunteers despite having done media work at a very high level of professionalism. They, as well as the entire tech team I work with, are a joy to serve with.
But listening to Chris' message an hour or so after a moving memorial service, I realized that what it was that really made me appreciate what I get to do was that I help other people tell His story. I've come to appreciate a lot more fully how it is that the A/V team "leads" worship even as we have true worship leaders leading the congregation in song and celebration. I've seen how integral what we do is to the bands we work with and a pastor who, himself, tries to get out of the way and let God's word do the talking. All that while I consider what I do to be a form of worship. In short, I really like what I get to do. It's an amazing journey.
And where all of these points connect is this: I like it so much that I'm hitting the big pause button on this blog.
Part of that is giving in to the obvious - I haven't been blogging very frequently the past few months. But the bigger reason is that my journey is now less about thinking out loud the various concepts and teachings and songs that I rummage through each week. It's increasingly about the one foot I place in front of the other as I try a little harder to walk the walk of Jesus. It's a different part of the journey now.
There's a part of me that would love to try and play out a bit more blog action with this site and read my current state of professional busy-ness to a temporary thing that I surely won't maintain (believe me - precedent supports this theory). But the reality is that the blog was begun as a means of thinking out loud as I began a renewed faith walk back in 2005. I'd seen the value of blogging in other areas and had unexpectedly found a church home at the time, so what better means of working through that process than by blogging about it. The bigger reality for now is that "working through that process" now takes on other meanings.
Since switching gears and moving over to Ecclesia Church, I've had the good fortune to find myself once again in the "ministry of pushing buttons" - volunteering in the A/V booth for a church. When I began that task at Lakewood, it was for a relatively small ministry where the media needs weren't all that critical. I like to think that I added to it in my service there and I know that others helped make it a better, more worshipful place by the time I left. I'd love to take personal pride in that, but really all I tried to do was let God be reflected in a room where others came to commune. In short, I just tried to help Someone Else tell His story. And that's what I'll continue doing.
I appreciate the interest in this blog from those whom I have met and those who I may never meet. It's been a humbling experience to see how widely God's word has impacted people. Learning about that has been the most educational aspect for me in spending what time that I have with this blog. My eternal thanks to all involved for that.
A minor recap of sorts from another wonderful night at Ecclesia with Gideon Tseng. Gideon was the first preacher I'd heard at Ecclesia back in July, so I knew we were all in for a treat. This time, of course, I'd be managing the video presentation. I'm not sure if I realized how daunting that was for whoever did this back in July. Two video clips, a pretty intricate series of slides to be queued up and none of the familiarity that I've gained from Chris Seay's presentation style. Somehow, everything went off without a hitch.
The strand of thought from Gideon's message that still resonates with me is how we often put ourselves on a mission for information at the expense of community. Safe to say, I saw myself in that part of the message. The whole thing made me appreciate the sense of community that does exist in our cloistered AV booth, though. As was the situation at Lakewood, community sometimes finds you in unexpected places. And the team I'm blessed to work with at Ecclesia is a thrill to be a part of.
Still, the original point was driven home with this little video clip. As a news junkie, I found it to be the most mortifying piece of video ever shown in an American church. As soon as I come to my senses, I'm going to delete a few old RSS feeds from my Google Reader account (or at least seriously think about doing so).
Apologies for the latest unplanned hiatus. Been a heck of a month as Houston took it's time deciding whether or not we were going to have our usual two weeks of winter before concluding this week that we indeed were. The end result is that I've spent more time at less-than-100% than I care to. That's impacted a number of the habits I've been hoping to get back on track with. I hope you're all doing better than I am on that score.
One item that did alert me to the fact that it might be a worthwhile excuse to update with is the video below (and the news story here). I've been on the fence about carrying on the usual "faith & politics" updates. On the one hand, it's not particularly a battle I had wanted to spend a lot of time on when I left Lakewood. But the other hand is that it is a topic that I do happen to share another view of than many who reside somewhere in the evangelical/evangelical-ish camp. I doubt that an appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast, calling his Christian faith "a sustaining force" will quiet the usual conspiracy theorists in that camp, it's at least a point that deserves to be held up for any honest folk who genuinely look for the reality of the situation. With that ...
One other contributing factor to not particularly caring to get back into the faith & politics wars is that the move to Ecclesia has been every bit as rewarding as hoped. And a large part of that was the outcome of the fact that my decision to make the switch in churches was due to the fact that I knew I didn't care to take up the aforementioned battle within Lakewood. It just wasn't the expense of my time that I cared to make on behalf of spiritual growth. Serving and learning at Ecclesia, on the other hand, have been precisely the antidote that I'd hoped it would be. Growing in that direction is a much more rewarding option, in my mind.
That said, 2012 is right around the corner. I'm sure that another season of crazy isn't going to take a complete detour.
Northland Church links to a good podcast from CBS News on the church's use of technology to connect their services to home churches. It's amazing not just to see how committed Northland is to distributing their church community, but how the services grow in small groups like the one profiled in the podcast.
It used to be that my weekend pattern was the same, week-in and week-out. Saturday was for church and Sunday was to spend time at the office doing a mix of personal/work items (which is a very big overlap in my case). Part of that Sunday time would involve catching a Northland service in addition to Lakewood services. In most cases, this meant splashing the video feed on my big monitor and forgetting the worries of deadlines and other commitments for an hour or so in order to enjoy the worship for a moment and remember that there's always one bigger commitment to attend to.
The current schedule is in a bit more of a state of flux. I still enjoy the idea of Saturday being a day for rest and church, but Ecclesia is a very different environment from Lakewood. Instead of avoiding the cattle-herds of Sunday at Lakewood, each day at Ecclesia is about the same, population-wise. And since I'm now involved in occasionally running video for the main service instead of merely for a smaller ministry within the church, my "pew" is in the cozy, workaholic confines of the AV booth anyway. And when I'm not volunteering during service, I'm enough of an early bird to get a preferred seat (which is, coincidentally enough, a real pew along the back row) in the much smaller sanctuary.
There are some habits beyond church that I'd like to regain, however. First and foremost is making time for my podcast habit. That's been something that I've been working on this past week.More work is needed, but steps are being taken. Second is keeping a journal again. That tends to follow from the podcast habit, but it should also be assisted by the fact that Ecclesia tends to go through books of the Bible at a time, rather than pick out thematic messages for each week (1 Corinthians is on tap starting this weekend). To me, that lends itself more toward a note-taking type of study. Both of those habits have been about as much a part of my own spiritual growth over the last few years as church has. So a return to at least that much of what passes for normal would be a good thing. It's not quite the same as the home churches that Northland is inspiring, but it's the church I enjoy being at when I'm home.
» Matt Outlaw: let's love everyone? how controversial!
The leader of our fearless AV booth apparently had the same holiday cheer I did with Derek Webb's interview on Huffington Post. Unlike me, Matt read the followup commentary from others. And it should surprise nobody that when Derek Webb speaks of turning Jesus' words into real life, that irritates a lot of people. Unfortunately, it's our fellow Christians ...
The interview was called a "dangerously anti-Christian, anti-Gospel, let's-love-everybody worldview" by @mississippimama on twitter. When it's actually closer to the gospel than most would think. When someone, even an artist, puts love/relationships/understanding above religious ideology, what does that mean? Most of Derek's critics obviously believe that this makes your faith weak, that you've compromised God's standard for the sake of being accepted by the world. I say, your faith is stronger, because you know that God's "got this," and you can concentrate on loving, building relationships, and understanding those around you, knowing their heart. How are you honoring Jesus by grasping your bible and saying, "God's word says homosexuality is wrong," when you have not loved your neighbor AS YOURSELF. This is why Derek would say, "Christians can stop pretending that they're so different." This may get you worked up, but you know it in your heart to be true. But if this is how we respond, we need to stop pointing that self-righteous finger and look within. Does a faith in God prevent you from loving some people, and finding common ground with them? Trust me, I have way more in common with a struggling individual, than a supposed righteous one.
Related to none of this, but to simply highlight another moment of holiday cheer, I offer a clip from the day-after Christmas service at Ecclesia. I was a bit under the weather, so I had to skip the live version. Imagine my amusement when I realized that the AV club is much the topic of conversation at this service.
In a strange way, the two items probably do connect. Imperfection is all around us and it's up to us to reconcile those imperfections in a community environment. That starts with our own imperfections.