Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things for Which I'm Thankful

  • It is not against the law to stay home the day after Thanksgiving and completely ignore the feeding frenzy known as Black Friday.
  • Three lovely and loving daughters; one witty and wonderful son
  • Skyline chili (http://www.skylinechili.com/)
  • Both my family and my in-laws live too far away for us to be able to (have to) drive to each of their houses for major holidays. (Okay...true truth: I kind of miss having a hundred and twelve people gathered around card tables for Thanksgiving.)
  • Classic 70's albums on CDs
  • Facebook
  • Squirrels playing in our back yard
  • Being able to watch squirrels playing in our back yard without having to actually be outside in the cold
  • It doesn't cost a penny to post a blog and thereby pretend that people give a hoot about what you're writing.
  • Looney Tunes
  • My Beloved
  • Digital cameras
  • Action fleece jackets
  • Free movies On Demand
  • Popcorn
  • Having started the tradition of buying a new Christmas tree ornament every year of our marriage...one that has something to say about the year. That has turned our tree into a memory aid.
  • I no longer work during the night and sleep during the day.
  • Silly Putty
  • Automatic dishwashers
  • I finally discovered that sweet potato casserole is actually a dessert.
  • Free podcasts of Full Circle, a radio show looking back at early Jesus Music like Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Love Song, Honeytree...(http://www.fullcirclejesusmusic.com/)
  • Toothpicks
  • DVD special features
  • Fried egg sandwiches
  • Giggles
  • It's a Wonderful Life, the movie
  • It's a wonderful life, the reality.

...not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Maybe it's just me...

I know I'm...ummmm...unique...but I'm wondering if anyone else thinks any of the following things I've noticed are odd, interesting, and/or funny:


The headline of an ad for AmbienCR: "Bring this FREE 7-Night Trial Offer certificate to your prescriber today." Prescriber? Is that what our highly-trained health professionals have been reduced to now? It's bad enough that the drug company ads have all been commanding us to talk to our doctors and ask if [insert drug brand name here] is right for us...like the doctors need our advice on how to treat our ailments. Now they aren't even recognized as physicians. They're just drug dispensers: prescribers of chemicals developed by corporations and shilled by Madison Avenue.

Recently, the traffic report on a local radio station...being listened to by thousands of people sitting in rush-hour traffic...was sponsored by Preparation H.

East coast urbanites, like the cartoon editor for New Yorker magazine, try to appear oh-so-sophisticated and superior, and yet pronounce the word humor like a 1930's gangster: yuma.

Speaking of enunciation...I've heard Chris Tomlin singing on the radio: "How gray izzar Gah."

Those signs in the rest rooms at McDonald's always give me pause: "Employees must wash hands." How long am I expected to wait for an employee to show up before it's okay to just go ahead and wash my own hands?

I checked the newspaper for a description of tonight's episode of Law & Order. It said, "A body is found in a park." Man...I think I've seen that one.


One of the most recent additions to the Strong National Museum of Play was The Stick. What's next? Adding Boiling Water to the Culinary Arts Hall of Fame?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Leading Worship, Vol. II

Besides proper song selection (see Vol. I), there are other obstacles to successfully leading worship:


Brick Wall, Thy Name Is Technology
Whether it's a PowerPoint presentation of the lyric, a wireless connection for the guitar, or something as simple as having all the right switches turned on, the dependency we have on technological wizardry in order to sing God's praise in our no less days than when we'd first begun has reached a staggering level. I'm sure that the harp-playing shepherd, David, is (rocking and) rolling in his grave as he sees us fret over monitor levels and proper equalization to avoid feedback.


Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Team Gone?
I mentioned before that I have a team of other singers and instrumentalists that work with me on an every-three-weeks basis to lead worship at my church of choice (www.valleycc.org), but what I didn't tell you is that the availability of those team members is not always...how shall I say it...rock solid. Not that I'm complaining! There's not a single person on the team who has ever missed a rehearsal or "performance" for anything other than a sterlingly-acceptable reason. I'm just saying that, human beings being human, there are very few times when everyone has been where they're supposed to be at the time they're supposed to be there. And that sometimes means needing to improvise...like the time I had to take the drummer's place by tapping my foot on a tambourine while singing, playing the guitar, and turning the sheet music for the pianist.

T Minus Three Minutes For Worship And Counting
Just as in comedy, in worship, timing is everything. I'm not talking, "that song needs to go faster," or whether a tune is in 3/4 or 6/8 time. I'm referring to the reality of modern worship services that lead people to say things like "Can we cut the third verse and chorus of the second song and drop the third song entirely? The early service went long." Never mind that the sermon was 27 minutes of introduction and 10 minutes of Bible teaching. Never mind that there were 12 minutes of announcements that were ignored by 97% of the congregation. Never mind that the suggested edits will only delete three minutes from a service that was 15 minutes too long. Do I sound bitter? I don't mean to. I apologize. Never mind.

But Seriously, Folks...
It is a privilege and a responsibility to use what little talent God has given in order to facilitate the worship of God by His people. My prayer is always that we can be saved from being a distraction from that. I know that that sentence isn't funny, but I felt like I needed to redeem this from being a total sarcasm-palooza. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled whine-fest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Herding Cats (a.k.a., Leading Worship, Vol. I)

Every three weeks, I stand in front of a group of people and play my guitar just badly enough to make them want to sing loudly and drown it out. It's called leading worship, and I'm glad that I have a team of instrumentalists and singers with whom to share the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong. (Notice that I did not say if anything goes wrong.)

The first obstacle to overcome is choosing which songs to include in the worship service. Between centuries-old hymns, decades-old folk tunes, and what's-happenin'-now entertainment-as-praise pop songs, there's a huge number of choices...and you're bound to get it wrong.

Not wrong as in "that song didn't really fit the thematic thrust of the service," but wrong as in "that song was too <fill in the blank from the following list: boring, fast, slow, old, unfamiliar, loud, soft, charismatic, fundamentalist, new-age, Calvinist, Armenian, post-trib, pre-trib, amillenial, fattening>." You see, there are a lot of opinions out there in the pews, and as with any classic compromise, you will always have those who are dissatisfied. As a matter of fact, as compromise involves nobody getting exactly what they want, everybody will be miffed at something or other.

Ahhh...ministry for the Master...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Broadway Bound Disney

When Beloved and I saw the stage production of Lion King, we found it to be visually and aurally exciting. The theatrics and puppetry and singing and costuming were all overwhelmingly impressive. However, unlike in the animated feature the show's based on, there was no emotional attachment to any of the characters whatsoever.

With that insight in my back pocket, a friend of mine told me that she's planning to travel to NYC to see The Little Mermaid on stage. It was then that it struck me:

Is there any length to which The Disney Corporation will not go in its parasitic conquest of its own successes?

"Oooh...Beauty & the Beast was a big money-maker as a stage production. What else can we cannibalize for profit?" Lion King. Mary Poppins. Little Mermaid...

What's next? Old Yeller: The Musical!

"Gimme the gun, Ma, gimme the gun. Gotta shoot that dog, no matter what he done. He's growlin' at my brother! He's foamin' at the mouth! Gimme that gun, gotta send 'im down south!"