God is already present in the most unexpected places.
We just need to make God visible.

Philip Yancey, Finding God in Unexpected Places...
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CHURCH SUPER BOWL PARTIES – The NFL has changed its call!

I thought I would just follow up my post from a few weeks back – The NFL has changed its mind and will not object “live showings of the Super Bowl by religious organizations,” Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner.

To learn more about how the change came about, check out the story in the Washington Post....
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Prone to Wander

Tonight I have the privilege of teaching at our mid-week service where we’ve been studying the Old Testament in an overview format using The Story, a novelized version of the Bible published by Zondervan. My section is all about the children of Israelite wandering in the wilderness. When I read about their grumbling and whining, I honestly think, “What was wrong with those people! Why couldn’t they trust God for his promise to take them into the Promised Land?” But as I wrestle longer with the Scriptures and take a deeper look into my own heart, I see how the pattern of the Israelites is all too common and real for me and for all those who seek to follow God. We are all of us prone to wander.

Wandering takes so many different forms. Usually we think about the blatant nosedives into sin which provoke our gossip and judgment and make headlines. My wandering is far more subtle, almost imperceptible, as I slowly slide away from passionate devotion to God. I am tempted by laziness, self-absorption, and the lure of nothing. C.S. Lewis wrote about this temptation in The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast:

“Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off…The only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy… Murder is no better than cards if cards do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

This Christian fight, the fight for our hearts not to become hardened, is a battle against whatever can draw us away from our fundamental love for God and our devotion to following His voice. The Evil One effectively lures too many of us away by that which distracts and diminishes. I intend to be far more aware of my wandering toward Nothing…and choose to turn my heart back toward my first love, day by day, moment by moment, lest I discover that just like the children of Israel, I have lost my way....
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Each month EQ[U]IP poses many questions to its readers. Our hope is that some of the questions would draw you into a place of self-examination, leading you closer to God. We hope other questions would cause you to take steps to improve your ministry, your gifts or yourself.

In the January issue of EQ[U]IP we asked you “What is one area you would like your team to grow in this year?” Our thought behind the question was that the answers might show you that you aren’t alone, others are pursuing similar paths. We also hoped we could encourage one another with ideas of how to pursue our goals.

We hoped we, Willow Arts, could walk with you on your journey and create experiences that would lead you to where God desires. We hope to see you at ARISE, where we have gathered faculty from churches and ministries from around the country. We are also working on other events and resources that are intended to help you in your pursuit to draw others to Christ. So, keep letting us know what’s on your mind?

Well, here are some of the hopes that were expressed for our arts teams in 2008. How might you encourage and direct your fellow traveler?

· Worship Arts volunteers are "out on the edge" people already. Most of them pack a bit more into their day than perhaps they should. Because of their lust for life, my team tends to be over-committed and "too busy to hang out." Over the years this has created a "how's it going?" culture in the church I serve. Our church is gaining ground quite steadily numerically speaking, but not always in depth of community.I'd like to hear more from various notable sources, whether it is through articles or teaching, about making time and emotional space to "know and be known." I feel like, in my church at least, I'm "flogging that pony" alone.

· I’d hate to speak for our entire team, but for myself (a part of the team) I’d like to see myself grow outwardly.
It’s temptingly easy to grow inward: our church is growing, my responsibilities are building and there’s just so much to do for an Hour on Sunday!
But there are so many on the outside who will never come to a service if I don’t step into their outside and meet them there.

· I want our team in 2008 to grow deeper in love with Jesus, and from that, more courageous in creating art of all kinds to un-numb hearts and un-lock minds in worship especially those who would never darken the door of a church.

· I want our team to increase their technical know-how.

· Our struggle at the present is moving our arts (mostly our hearts) to the place of "missional" instead of "what the loudest voices, (biggest givers) like". (What will unchurched people relate to the Gospel through?)
Moving our thinking to the culture and still maintaining authentic, excellent worship.
We began (15 years ago) as a contemporary, celebrative, intensely worshipping church. Our church has grown and now we are one of the large Methodist church in our state and yet we have people who want the same feel and style of 8-10 years ago.

· The two areas I would like my team to grow in this year are videos and theater.

· If there was one area our team could grow in this year it would be to learn first to REALLY trust God, and out of that to trust and release each other to be who God made us to be in his plan to make himself known.
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“Who is in your 5?” Though this question generally refers to the people in your life you are most connected with, those you most desire to be with and those who bring you the most pleasure, this drama is asking the question in the context of Christ calling us to love all people.

The scene is set for a dinner party and the main character struggles with the questions, "Who are the first five people you do not want to your table? What if they were the first five to the table?” She is faced with inviting those who she finds challenging, difficult and different. She wrestles with Christ’s call to love like He loved. She is challenged to live out her faith.

This drama provokes people to think about how they love and do they want to be different.

Click here to get this week’s free download.

To learn more about this resource visit ServiceBuilder.

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The Facebook Dilemma

A network of church artists has invited me to join them on Facebook. I am wide open to this way of connecting and networking, but I do have one problem – my teenage daughters. They are actually horrified that someone my age is considering joining the Facebook revolution because in their view, this network belongs exclusively to their generation. They turned me down when I asked to be their “friend”, saying it was just weird and their sites are private, like a journal. When some adults asked my daughters to be their “Facebook friend”, my girls found this very odd and uncomfortable.

Here’s what I think might happen (though I’m not gifted at forecasting the future). If more and more adults keep building Facebook networks, the young people will find another way to do their connecting on the web. I don’t see them too excited about sharing their sites when it all began with college students and used to feel like their unique and treasured domain.

Does anyone else come up against this dilemma? If I join Facebook, will anyone under 30 be “my friend?” Does Facebook need to be one more area in which the generations feel divided? Let me know what you think…
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Glorious Time at ROCKHARBOR

Last Thursday I left a snowstorm in Chicago, and when the plane landed at Orange County airport and I saw the brilliant sunshine, I almost cried! That afternoon, I enjoyed a short break out at the hotel pool and saw flowers for the first time in months. They were tiny purple flowers with a little yellow center, and again, I almost cried. Winter is about to do me in this year…but this blog is supposed to be about our Leaders Table and Green Room at ROCKHARBOR in Costa Mesa.

We were graciously hosted by arts leader Chad Halliburton and his incredible team. I visited ROCKHARBOR about three years ago, when they had just moved into this new facility. It was delightful to observe all the changes and improvements to the space, especially the artwork that graces the entire place so tastefully. On Friday I was once again both lifted and spent by rolling up my sleeves and talking ministry with 27 arts leaders from great churches in California, along with Carlos who flew in from Hawaii. Together we unpacked some of our challenges, encouraged one another, exchanged ideas, and reminded each other that we are not alone in this kind of ministry. It was really a good day.

Then Saturday, over 200 church artists and pastors gathered together. We were first led in worship by a team from ROCKHARBOR, and once again I experienced the passion of church artists lifting their voices in praise, especially when they don’t have to worry about anything! Then we spent the rest of the day exploring core values that need to permeate our ministries, and evaluating how we’re doing. I was humbled by the presence of God among us, and the many truly powerful moments we sensed together. I believe that the Holy Spirit re-ignited many of our commitments to serving through the arts in the local church.

At lunch time, I once again poked my head outside toward the warm sunshine, and I actually asked the group if anyone would be willing to adopt me so I didn’t have to return to the arctic blast. I forced the entire group to repeat with me, out loud, “We will not take our weather for granted!” When I got off the plane in Chicago – with a drop of 80 degrees not including wind chill!!! – I knew for sure I’m crazy to live here. How grateful I am for the gift of tasting the California climate if only for a couple days…and even more grateful for the privilege of ennobling and leading such a tremendous group of church artists.
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More Than Words

A new friend had these words as tag on his contact information. I found them inspirational.

I thought I would share them with you.

“Then let us all do what is right...develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us,and never stop learning."
Ludwig van Beethoven

So, what have you been doing to develop your gifts? ...
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Surprised In Seattle

I spent the last three days in Seattle, a gorgeous place I had never visited before. We were hosted for an arts forum (The Leaders’ Table and Green Room) by Timberlake Christian Fellowship and their arts director, Gary Verrill. On Friday, 20 of us spent the day unpacking the challenges of leading worship arts ministries, and I was once again surprised and sobered by how significant it is for these leaders to come together and interact. I expected all the attenders both days to come from the Seattle area, but was delighted to be joined by Caleb from Alaska (who leads the arts at a 200 member church in the southern part of that state where the annual rainfall is 13 feet!), by Dean from British Columbia (who only came to Christ himself 2 years ago and is brand new in his role), and by Sara from Spokane who took a last minute flight because the pass between the cities was shut down from avalanches. All day long we talked about key issues these leaders are facing, and our hearts were knit together with a level of connectedness I was not prepared for.

I was surprised again on Saturday, when over 100 church artists entered the beautiful sanctuary of Timberlake, a 6-year-old facility nestled in the woods with windows looking out to a stunning forest of majestic, giant pine trees. Some of the earliest attenders to arrive were a group of 40 people who boarded a bus at 4:30 am from Beaverton, Oregon to be with us! (I considered it a tremendous challenge to try to keep them engaged all day long without them napping).

Gary Verrill asked me before we began if I’d be open to him inviting the attenders on stage for the opening time of worship. So all of us surrounded the band and expressed our praise to God with passion. What a glorious beginning to the day!

I admit that sometimes I wonder if the travel and time investment are worth it for these gatherings. But then I see what the Spirit does among us, the moments we experience together, the ennobling of all that we do as artists in the church, and the underscoring of core values we all want to hold onto. By the end of the day, I was so grateful to God for bringing us together, and for the opportunity to be used by him to encourage and inspire and equip church artists. I know this is what I was born to do, and I flew home during the Super Bowl with a big smile on my face (until we were severely delayed by snow in Chicago, but that’s another story…) God, you are always, always, so good! Now next weekend, I’ll try not to be so surprised by what my heavenly Father does in our gatherings at ROCKHARBOR in Costa Mesa....
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The Church. The Super Bowl. And Copyright.

Did you see the most recent article in the Washington Post about churches hosting Super Bowl parties?

Many churches plan Super Bowl parties as a community event and/or as an event to invite new people to the church. They have found these parties are widely successful in bringing people together. Well, many are surprised or didn’t even consider that the NFL expects churches to pay attention to the notice that appears at the end of each game, "This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited."

The NFL is serious and is letting churches know that this is not legal. Churches are receiving letters from the NFL telling them that they are in violation of the copyright law. Now, they have to scrap their parties or quickly come up with a new plan.

My guess is that many of you, the arts leaders and artists aren’t responsible for the Super Bowl party at your church. Maybe you are like me. Most years I am not truly interested in the game. I go get food during the game. But when the commercials come on and the half-time show starts I am in my seat & paying attention.

I was intrigued with the Post article because it brought up the issue of the church’s engagement, understanding and compliance with copyright. When I talk to leaders these days I hear a wide variety of views about how their church approaches copyright laws. I meet a few churches who are on top of the law and are to the best of their knowledge complying. I think most churches are challenged to be informed and be in compliance on top of all their other responsibilities. And unfortunately some have just decided for whatever reason they aren’t going to engage.

I am wondering where you are all at. On a scale of 1 to 10 how informed are you about the church and copyright law. On a scale of 1 to 10 is your church engaged. Are you complying with the law? Some of the laws?

Do you subscribe to the philosophy “Do it now and ask forgiveness later?”

Are you making copies of music, CDs or charts, without getting permission and paying for royalties?

Are you securing permission to use movie clips during the service?

Are you using trademarked titles or art for series or services? For example, I know many people use the title and art from game shows or reality shows. Did you know that we can’t use their art and we can’t use their trademarked title?

For those of you who are engaged how do you do it? Do you have a volunteer or staff person just devoted to this task? Does each artist, worship leader, music director, or media person take care of their own copyright issues?

I would love to start a discussion and see if we can help each other and honor God with how we do this portion of our ministry.
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