Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blind Thinking

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In case you didn't know, I am a pastor in a church in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. One of my responsibilities involves sharing the Sunday preaching/teaching with the other member of my co-pastor team.

Well it's my week, and I am sitting in a Starbucks preparing for this coming Sunday. I am focusing on the story of a blind man in the Bible who encounters Jesus, and has his life changed. Forever.

Why am I sharing this? Well, I am not trying to leverage my Blog to draw local readers to come hear me this Sunday (although if you are in the area, you're invited to GraceChurch at 10:30). I'm really not.

Also, I am not trying to build myself up by creating an image of self-importance (you're a Pastor?).

No, I mention this because I have been trying to put myself in the blind beggar's sandals to understand what it must be like to live with that condition (being blind, not begging in sandals - although that might be another consideration).

As a creative, I wonder what it would be like to lose one of my senses. I have sometimes thought that I could live without sight rather than without hearing (because a musician depends on his/her ears). But for life in general, I think I would rather see.

One thing I do know: Blind people don't wrestle with questions like these. Instead, they live within their boundaries. They make the most of their situation. They "see" whole new worlds. They deal with it.

Hmmmmm... Another question: How well would I deal with it?

Question: How well would you deal with the loss of one of your senses? Share your thoughts below in comments.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Different Cultures, Or Just Different

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This past Sunday at our church we had a "cross-cultural" worship service, where the members of our Hispanic sister congregation joined with our already somewhat multicultural congregation for one huge event.

Having had the privilege of spending 10 years on the pastoral team of Immanuel's Church, a large multicultural ministry in the Washington, DC area, I was able to bring some insight into the planning and execution of the service.

Three things were determined beforehand, that made for a smooth melding of two distinct ministries:
  • Leave room for Time - Having had a bit of experience with an interpreter (five different languages - not all at the same time though!), I understand that when delivering a message or teaching in another language, it will take more than twice as long. It is more than just translation: There are inflection, idioms, and illustrations that require a little more focus, which require a little more time. We prepared for that, and sought to keep the message short and simple.
  • Leave room for Style - One of my tasks was organizing the music and worship for the service. We combined our English-speaking team with the Spanish-speaking team. It was one thing to choose songs that we both knew, alternating the verses between English and Spanish. But there were many other variables: what key each team was accustomed to playing in, how introductions and endings were done, etc. Even though we worked all of this out in rehearsal, during the service the Spanish team repeated a chorus that we hadn't planned on, because that was the style they were used to.
  • Leave room for Culture - This is one of those intangibles that one can't always plan for, but should be prepared for. Americanized people are different than non-Americanized people. Worship is different, prayer is different, response is different. Americans put their babies in childcare. Hispanics bring their babies with them into worship. American culture is tied to a clock when running a rehearsal. Other cultures, well, you get my drift.
In the end, our combined worship service was a taste of heaven on earth. But more than that, the principles we used in the planning and execution of the service apply to every area where more than one person is involved, because all of us are different.

Question: What have you found to be helpful in dealing with multiple cultures, or even just other people? Share your thoughts below in comments.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Creative Cross-Training

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My oldest son is a brilliant musician. (Actually, all three of my children are brilliant musicians, but I am mentioning only one for this post.) I would attribute this brilliance to three things: natural talent, relentless practice, and cross-training.

My definition of cross-training is when creatives step outside of their usual form of expression, and develop other forms of expression. This could mean musicians learning to play a new instrument, visual artists using a new medium, or writers choosing a different genre.

It might even mean moving to a completely different art expression: musicians working in water colors, writers learning piano, sculptors writing poetry.

My son became an excellent piano player, taught himself the drums, and then laerned the guitar & bass. Today he is an accomplished producer with an incredible boundry-pushing creative edge.

Believing that everyone is creative (because we were made in the image of the Great Creator), here is my premise: Creativity breeds creativity. Moving our soul (which includes our heart and mind) into an area that stretches it by introducing and developing a new area of expression opens the door for an even greater capacity to create.

Simply put, learning to paint will make you a better writer. Learning to dance will make you a better actor. I know firsthand: learning to play the bass has made me a better keyboard player. (I'm not sure what makes a better dancer. Again, firsthand knowledge...)

I encourage you to stretch yourself, to try something new, to create beyond the familiar and the comfortable. You may be surprised by what will come of it.

Question: Has creative cross-training benefited you in your creativity? Share your thoughts below in comments.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Extreme Weather

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I have had the privilege of interacting with people from all over the country, and when it comes to the weather they pretty much all say the same thing: One thing you can count on here. The weather will change. (They may not be true in Arizona.)

If you looked at our nation's weather map for the last week, you would see drought (Texas), flooding (New England), wind & rain (Gulf Coast), and of course sunshine. Multiple extremes over a large area. If only the rain would fall where the drought was, and the flooding... well nobody wants flooding.

The drought will end (not too soon for the folks in Texas). The wind and rain receded here on the Gulf Coast (although now the Mid-Atlantic is dealing with it). And snow will be in selected areas soon.

My point is this: Just as there are extremes in the weather, there are extremes in our lives. It's how we weather those extremes that matters. We can still be productive, we can still have influence.
  • If your circumstances drive you to do something other than what you intended, don't sulk: adapt. It was rainy and windy for the entire three-day Labor Day weekend here. I couldn't work in the yard, but I was able to accomplish some inside tasks.
  • If you are prevented from using a familiar course of action to accomplish a goal, explore the unfamiliar and adapt it to your use. Running was impossible for three days, so I dusted off the treadmill and got my mileage in.
  • Don't allow adversity to frustrate you. Rather work through it, even of it is painful. I opened a door to let my dog out during a break in the rain and the wind blew the door into my forehead. I came away with a one-inch cut and a slight bump - plus it hurt. But, I continued what I was working on, and it looks like I survived.
You can weather pretty much any storm you encounter, and survive extreme conditions in your life. Trust in God, leverage your relationships for support, and press forward. One thing you can count on: It will change.

Question: What adaptations did you make to deal with extreme weather in your life? Share your thoughts below in comments.

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