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Showing posts from June, 2008

In the Name of Jesus

Have you read this one? I picked it up recently after having received several recommendations to read it. Nouwen has written an insightful, challenging, soul-stirring little book here that strays from wordiness and worldliness. Much like my recommenders, I now highly recommend this book to anyone interested in growing nearer to the heart of Jesus in their daily life and ministry. At less than 100 pages, it is a quick read that beckons to be read over and over again. I am sure that I will pick this one up more than once again in the future.

Nouwen overlays the conversation of Peter and Jesus from John 21 on the desert temptation of Jesus from Matthew 4. In doing this, he shows three of the most alluring temptations for a Christ-following leader in the church (Relevance,Spectacular,Power) and how Jesus' responses to Satan (in Matt 4) and to Peter (in John 21) reveal the ways in which we can humbly respond as we seek to be leaders who live nearer to the heart of God.

God of this City

During our final session at the Arts Conference, Nancy had us stand up city by city as she encouraged us that God wants to move mightily through our gifts in each of our cities, all over the world. Once we were all standing, the band began to play a song that I had not yet heard. The lyrics of the song immediately resonated within my soul: "Greater things have yet to come, Greater things are still to be done in this city..." As we sang, a video montage showing city-scapes from all over the world played before our eyes. We truly live in a big, diverse world, but God is Lord of all and he is still moving. It was a very powerful song.

As the band drew to an end, Francis Chan came on stage. He said he could not leave without telling us the story of the origins of this song we had just song, God of this City. He personally knew the band who wrote it. Here is the story below that he told us, as found at the band's (Bluetree) blog If you haven't heard the song yet, I encoura…

ARISE

Day 3 - Session V

This is the last installment in my debriefing of the Willow Arts Conference from last week. I've posted a lot of content here! God really captured my heart during this conference, so there has been no shortage of things to say and that certainly remains true for my review of the final session of the conference.

Francis Chan visited us from California, a man whom I was not familiar with before, but a man of God whom I quickly came to admire and respect. Francis is pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. After one session with him, I would sum up his mission as one of trying to help the next generation develop a higher and bigger view of God and his intense love. You can visit his video blog site here or another interesting site of his juststopandthink.com.

Francis, a bald, expressive, middle-aged Chinese man, got us laughing right away, when he compared himself to the previous speaker, Richard Allen Farmer. He said "I couldn't be more different.&quo…

"Is Google Making us Stoopid?"

The article by the same title in The Atlantic caught my eye today. Similarly, the article asks, "Is the internet reprogramming us?"

The author writes that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. We struggle to read long pieces of prose, but instead we find ourselves skimming from one blog to the next, pulling out anecdotes and phrases that pop.

"My mind now expects to taking in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the seas of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."

Referring to a study of the behavior of online researchers: "There are signs that new forms of "reading" are emerging as users "power browse" horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins."

Maryanne Wolf argues that we are not only "what we read", but "how we read." She believes that the style of r…

ARISE

Day 3 - Session IV

This morning session on our final day at the Arts Conference opened with a talented young artist from California. Kendal Payne soothed our souls with her beautiful voice and captivating lyrics. I think I might have to look her up on iTunes.

Payne's performance catapulted us into a worshipful spirit and we were ready to listen to Richard Allen Farmer, who quickly became my favorite conference speaker up to that point.

Richard Allen Farmer is a seasoned, gifted pianist and vocalist who really knows how to use words to paint some beautiful images. About every other thing he said I was scrambling to jot it down because it was profound, beautiful, challenging or just so eloquently stated that I didn't want to quickly forget it.

Farmer decided to lead us on a tour of the artist's mind.

The first stop gave pause to the insatiable curiosity of the artist's mind.
"We push the envelope, we push buttons...we'll push anything."
"If curiosity is a…

ARISE

Day 2 - Workshop III

Right-Brain Preaching
Mark Batterson, National Community Church, D.C.

When signing up for workshops, I tried to diversify the speakers that I would hear. I didn't realize that Mark was leading my second and third workshops, but I am really glad that I was at both.

Before flooding us in practicals, Mark wanted to make sure that we - as the teachers of our church communities - remember this: we are nothing without the Holy Spirit. We must have God's favor. Yeah, we can manipulate people and get a rise in emotion through some creative twist on our sermon, but we should pray for God's favor. Simple, but great preface.

Mark started by giving us an introduction to neurology and the psychology of the brain. We are to love our God with all of our heart, soul and MIND.

Jesus was very creative in his preaching, often in parables of less than 250 words. God spoke in various ways at various times throughout history - he likes to keep it fresh and relevant.

Here's a…

ARISE

Day 2 - Workshop II

Snakes and Doves
Mark Batterson, Pastor of National Community Church in D.C.

Mark is a former Willow member and Trinity grad, who has planted a church in D.C. that has now grown to four sites in about ten years. It sounds like they are having a really positive impact on our nation's capital. National's vision is to meet in movie theaters (and near, or at, Metrorail stops) all throughout the city. You can visit them on the web at www.theaterchurch.com.

From the beginning, Mark struck me as a very genuine, positive, God-centered man who really wants God's kingdom to come and not his own. It was only after a failed church plant in north Chicago, that he and his wife found God's favor in D.C.

He opened by wondering aloud if David ever went back to the battlefield where he defeated Goliath. Did Zaccheus ever return with his grandkids to the sycamore tree where Jesus called him from? Did Lazarus return to the empty tomb of his own resurrection by Jesus? We'…

ARISE

Day 2 - Workshop I

Attack of the Killer Brainstorm
Tony B, Creative Dude from Windsor Crossing in STL

Tony is an animated, hilarious guy who worked for several years as a creative strategists for an ad/brand agency. He now works in ministry doing similar stuff, but with, as he said, "soul impact."

We opened up by brainstorming a no-budget birthday party for a 6 year-old boy who likes cars and turtles. It was a fun exercise to stretch our imaginations within some parameters. He came back to this thought later.

He briefly walked through two categories of brainstorming problems that he has witnessed: Process and Professional Problems. For example, the parade of "no, duh!" ideas, the theologian in blue jeans (i.e. can't give an elevator explanation), the laptopper (often me), etc.

He argued that these problems are the difference between "utter awesomeness and a big bag of barf." He like to use very poetic language :)

Tony reminded us that we have the Holy Spirit…

ARISE

Day 1 – Session 3


The Robbie Seay Band opened up the final session of the day. Their musical performance wasn’t overly impressive, but I really admired Robbie’s honesty as he shared the story of his turnaround recently from apathy to genuine concern for the poor and oppressed. He did a great job of expressing how Compassion International kids can change our worldview. I’ll give him this: he does have sort of distinct, raspy sound which makes him stand out in the pool of status quo “Christian” music.

Brian McLaren was on stage next for another interview by Nancy. I had been really anticipating his address, because I have been very challenged, encouraged and perplexed by his writing. I have only read his recent book, Everything Must Change, which has received its share of criticism. B-Mac (as I like to call him – we talked after the session was over. seriously.) opened by giving a highly filtered synopsis of the book, talking about the two operating questions – What are the biggest proble…

ARISE

Day 1 – Session 2

This session began with an UNBELIEVABLE violin performance by 14 year-old Emily from Michigan. This girl was unreal. She did things with the violin that I didn’t know were possible (and you know how educated in the violin I am). At times, it sounded like a banjo, flute, cello, kazoo, you name it. I felt as though I got a “free” ticket to a $70 violin concert. Maybe one step below Joshua Bell.
After that spectacular performance, you can pretty much only go down. So, we moved from high art to low art and had a “Rock Band” competition. They brought up six volunteers from the crowd and had a battle of the bands show, complete with an Idol-esque panel of judges. It was a fun, entertaining crowd pleaser.
This session featured one of the headline speakers for the conference - Gilles Ste. Croix, the founder and creative director of Cirque de Solei. Nancy interviewed him on stage and we learned about how Cirque was born and how it evolved into what it is today. He spoke about th…

ARISE

I’m at Willow Creek’s annual Arts Conference, which is entitled “ARISE” this year. The vision is that God uses arts and artists to help pull us out of the muck of our darkness and brokenness and into his light and healing. So, we’ve come together to be inspired and equipped to be artists who are more in tune with the heart of God and the work that he is doing in our world. I’ve been excited about attending this conference for a while and now it’s here. I’ve actually never been to Willow Creek before. The only thing I have to say is that it is nearly “too much for my eyes,” to quote a man from New Guinea after seeing another mega-church in the Chicagoland area. I’ll try and give a run down of the week’s events.
Day 1 – Session 1
The conference opened up with a fantastic drumline sequence. Already, I was blown away by the auditorium and stage that Willow has at their disposal. About 10 African-American guys and girls gave quite a mesmerizing drum performance on stage. It was fun to see a …

Weekend in Chi-Town

Amber and I had a memorable time in the windy city this past weekend. It really felt like a gift from our Father - blessing us with his favor so that we may turn and praise him for goodness. One of my favorite quotes from his Word is Matthew 7.11, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

The weekend started out with a road trip up from Champaign with our friends, Ty and Laura. Ty got 4 tickets for his birthday and he shared two of those with us. What a super guy! We're going to miss him next year when he and Laura move to Chicago so that he can start school at NorthPark.
We couldn't have asked for a better game. Now, I am still a diehard Cards fan, but I can enjoy a good win and I am not ashamed to root on the loveable losers. The weather forecast included thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes, but none of that ever materialized at Wrigley. So, we had a …