Sunday, September 18, 2011

Church Artists: The 2nd Service

What seems like most of my 19 year tenure at our church, we've had two or more services. In recent years we've been at one service--and gotten used to it. Two weeks ago we're gladly back at two services.

My observation of the band last week, and dialoguing with guys I was playing with this week, reminded me that as a musician (or vocalist), the second service is harder.

This might not make sense, since intuitively you have one under your belt. You have the confidence that you and the rest of the crew can pull it off. This is deceptive.

It's harder for a number of reasons:

1. You're talking and hanging out with friends in between services. Your mind is elsewhere.
2. Your adrenaline is down--you don't have that natural edge you had in the first service.
3. Emotionally, you've done it before; it's not fresh; doesn't feel spontaneous. 

Playing well in the second service requires something we didn't have to conjure up for the first service that we don't talk about in music rehearsals: discipline.

The second performance requires us to be more disciplined mentally. It's tougher in the space between our ears. And as musicians can be an emotional lot, this feels odd. We're having to think and focus more on something we'd rather feel more spontaneously.

You might say that the uncertainty of never having performed this set, fuels us in the 1st service. But it's our mental focus that fuels the 2nd service.

Musicians want to feel music similarly to the way we all want to feel love. And it actually works very much the same.

When we start dating someone (with whom we're compatible), just being with them fuels our feelings of attraction. The situation of newly dating seems to provide its own fuel. That's the first service.

But after enough time passes, emotional love doesn't exist without the discipline of loving actions. We're no longer new to each other--the situation no longer fuels us quite like it used to. So we choose loving actions that result in loving emotions--that's how post-courtship love works. That's the second service.

What music teams are doing in churches is art. And art requires discipline. Art without discipline isn't very good art, really. So I encourage us as church arts teams to grow in the discipline of playing second services even better than the first.

And please don't get me wrong--I am not mentally robotically playing the second service. That would be hideous. That wouldn't be art.

I am trying to be at least as emotionally vested in the second service as I was the first--and perhaps more. I'm trying to nail it technically and authentically exude it emotionally. This is difficult. I didn't learn to do it overnight. And that my friends is what makes it art...


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Say Something Before You Do Something

In this point in history we are a very vocal people. That is, on social media and to our friends. We're vocal in all the easiest of situations.

But if there's something or someone we don't like; if there's something we don't care for, we quietly, secretly back away. We back away from friends, family, church, restaurants, websites...without a word to those involved.

Last year we had what I thought was a raw deal in terms of a cut-and-dried auto insurance claim. It had been bugging me. I was thinking about leaving our long-time agent. So I went to his office and politely, respectfully talked to him about it like a human. I told him my thoughts and why I was entertaining leaving.

We tried to help each other better understand each other. I talked with him like a man, not an agent. And he talked with me like man, not a customer. I'm probably more likely to stay with him after that. But I'm not 100%. If I do leave his agency, he will know why.

The other day I renewed one of my website domain names. The website was horrible. It was like a visual representation of an army of Billy Maze's yelling at me. I emailed the company. I respectfully told them I didn't appreciate their strategy and that they could do better; that their web strategy will make me reconsider using them in the future.

Those examples were pretty benign: insurance and a website. But what about the local restaurant that goes out of business because no one tells the manager/owner what the product or service was like?

What about the spouse that you stop communicating with because you don't have the nerve to engage them about______________?

What about the friend that's just easier to stop contacting because of ________________?

We think negatively: believing that our words will not result in any change, and so we keep quiet. But in reality our words might initiate change or understanding.

Then of course, if we withhold our words, it's a 100% certainty that things will continue on like they always have.

We're talking about integrity. Believing the best in someone or an organization. Believing that someone might be open to our words. Believing that the other party does not want to let us down or worse.

Holding back our words will certainly add no value to that person or organization.

Holding back our words will simply fester and annoy us while the other party goes blindly and obliviously on their (sometimes errant) way.

In the Bible there is this concept that we all belong to each other. This wise truth makes it harder for me to keep from saying something to people or organizations. Even if that person or organization isn't Christian, isn't it better for everyone if I treat them this way?

The ways of complaining, whining, ranting to uninvolved parties is easy. Integrity--finding respectful ways to appropriately speak into people and organizations is more challenging. And it is the path that potentially makes both parties better. Integrity is doing the right thing even if the other party doesn't.

Not saying something because you don't think the other party will respond in kind, is dysfunction.

Our culture needs more integrity. Integrity rises and falls on all of my interactions and all of yours--from simple things like insurance to momentous things like marriages.

We all belong to each other.
Respectfully say something before doing something.
We can all get better; with each other's help.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Learning from Younger People to...

1. Be Connected
Social media is so much than more noise in my life. It's the potential for real time connections, reconnecting and connecting with people I'd never have the chance to before.

Authors like Mark Batterson, Shannon O'Dell, Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Andy Stanley & Craig Groeschel are speaking every day, and I listen in on Twitter.

The other morning I had a real time 3-way Twitter conversation on my phone with two friends: one in Noblesville and the other in Nashville.

And because life's too serious, I follow Tweets from Jim Gaffigan, The Church Curmudgeon & my son ;-)

2. Be Concise
Now that every baby boomer is on Facebook it's full of bloated posts & comments that look more like essays. Twitter forces me to pare it down. What am I really saying? How do I say it in 140 characters? That's a healthy discipline. I've noticed it's reshaping how I think as well--thinking in more concise thoughts--getting down to the issue.

3. Be Open
Lately I've noticed how much I've heard people my age proudly proclaim, "Ah, I have email and texting. I don't need Facebook or that Tweet thing!"

Let me paraphrase that, "I'm old and don't care what anyone else is doing. I don't need to keep up with the times. I don't need to learn new technology or ways of staying in touch with people."

Imagine someone saying as the telephone was coming in, "Well who needs some clanging noise-maker in their house when I can go down to the telegraph office and get it in writing?"

4. Be Patient
It's so easy at this age to want to jump in, redirect, show them the "right" way. (As if I'm always right ;-)
It's harder to be patient and gracious. It's easy to butt in. They remind me how much I wanted to do it myself at that age.

This is challenging. I want to add advice appropriately, sparingly, encouragingly. I also want them to feel valued and built up. I want young people to smile when I'm headed their direction; not annoyed, "Great, here comes Morgan again..." (Insert eye roll.)

5. Be Alive
Younger people model excitement and happiness like no one else. The things they love in this life ooze out of them. They smile and laugh a lot. They're passionate.

What a noble, endearing and attractive quality. And as I observe them, I realize the more decades I live, the more likely that stuff nu-noticeably leaks out of me, a drop at a time. Resenting this trait will make me old before my time. Aspiring to be more like them in this, has the opposite effect.

Speak Up
I'm blessed to have so many younger people in my life. I'm not just living a segregated life of people my own age. There are so many integrity-filled and talented younger people I have the privilege to know, work and serve with.

To all the younger people in my relational world, I ask that you would speak into my life when you see something that I need to grow in. I want to be open. I want to be approachable. I want to be connected with you. I want us to learn from each other and have fun in the process.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Andy Stanley; Recovery Road pt 1

This talk is about the road to recovery in America. I've yet to hear anyone speak so profoundly and simply about it. This is a bright bright spot in Christendom. Please make the time to watch it.