Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If I die in 2011

2010 comes to a close. The life of Valeria Weaver, Creighton's grandmother (age 92) is celebrated and remembered. My friend Rhonda has just lost her husband to cancer. New adventures await the Alexander family...

Sitting here in a quiet room, watching my children sleep. Dogs curled up at the side of the bed.

I am reminded of one small group experience led by Lori Cousino a few :) years back. She called it Epitaph. "If you died this year", she queried, "what would you envision for your funeral?"

As of tonight, here are a few of my thoughts (to which I reserve the right to add)...

1. Clergy: Please contact Stephanie Hudson Caldwell to officiate. If she's not available, have Greg Taylor do it. Or JD Walt. This has to be someone creative and clever, who appreciates my uniqueness, mildly pastoral, and knows how to BRING IT.

2. Songs: These must make people cry. They may think they are crying for me, but really they are crying in thankfulness for their own lives and choosing to be a better person - more generous, more attentive, more loving. Here are the songs: "my beloved wife" and "these are days" and "where I go" by Natalie Merchant. If Natalie can't make it, these must be sung by Leanne Donaldson. She alone will understand how I want these songs to be communicated.

3. Scripture, excerpts and poetry: My husband, DJ Strong and Kate Pocklington will choose scripture and poetry. Creighton will fly Kate here to read, from wherever she is, whether it be India, or Austrailia or Detroit. Not just because she has a sexy austrailian voice - - but because of her passion and her authenticity. She is an artist and translates the love and sacrifice of Jesus every single day of her life.

*The only excerpt I choose myself is chapter 12 of C.S.Lewis' THE GREAT DIVORCE.

In this chapter the main character sees a procession honoring a woman. Boys and girls prance around her left and right. Our man is told that these are not her biological children, but that she opened her heart to all the children that came across her path. These children received her love and loved their own parents more as a result. Because of her example, men loved their own wives more as well. There were cats and dogs also, because she was kind to every animal that came her way. She shines and she abides in joy and love. She is truly happy in this place. The book says of her:

"The abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them (the animals that were dancing around). It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life." Wow.

4. Pall Bearers. Ladies... They don't actually have to lift the casket anyway - - so this one needs to be done by my besties (not listed in any particular order).

(I think the maximum is 6 but whatev)

Overall plan for the day: My sister is the queen mother in charge. Do as she says. Anne Baker and Sandy Ball will make sure she thinks through all the details of hospitality.

The funeral will be held at Church of the Resurrection because they know how to throw a funeral.

Finally, everyone must go to the after party for lots of Mexican food and margaritas. Creighton will be the last one there, because the Alexanders always outlast everyone.

What if you died in 2011? What are three things you would want at your funeral?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Refresh 2010

Since 2005, Refresh was held at The Woodlands United Methodist church, Houston area. It was a fantastic facility with a great staff. Because my husband and I are two of 5 people on the design team, and we live in Kansas City, we suggested a move to the midwest. Refresh was hosted by Church of the Resurrection this year.

Obviously, this proved convenient for me, as I am the tech producer for events at the church. I had the luxury of deploying staff and volunteers to run the production for the event.

Refresh drew over 200 United Methodist campus ministry leaders (up from 159 last year). Laura Story was our worship leader. The keynote speakers were: Olu Brown, Alan Hirsch, Adam Hamilton and Pete Grieg. Here are a few of the photos from the conference (courtesy of Philip Hernandez and Joseph Mcbrayer).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010. I love these freaking kids.

Thanksgiving at Papa's


Tons of food.

Dallas Cowboys.

4 people on laptops.

Playing with the dogs.

Afternoon walk at the ranch.

Grandma entertaining us with her crazy parrots.

Surprisingly respectful conversations on economics, policy and farming.

I love my family.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Creighton's 40th!!

Hard to believe. My significantly older ;) husband turned 40 last weekend!

Thanks to Daniel Irving and Steve Hambrick for flying in for the occasion. Friday night, I planned a dudemanbro night. 5 guys (Daniel and Steve plus Nathan Webb and David blackwell) on the town in KC.
1. Happy hour at McCoys
2. Dude movie
3. Irish band at the Irish Pub downtown
4. Denny's for closing time munchies

Steve and Creighton took Daniel to the airport Saturday after lunch. Then they went shopping and to another movie. Meanwhile - I was setting up for the party at my house.

Shout out to Rob Webster for capturing the moments!!

Here are some of the photos from the night:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Connecting with my daughter

Whitby is nothing like me (except physically what with her being exactly like me).

She's precious and I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with her. However I often fear that since we are so different, I may be wounding her unwittingly.

I have figured out that her primary love language is "quality time" with "words of affirmation" as a close second.
This is interesting for me because my top two are "gifts" and "acts of service". I for sure know I need to have more one on one time with her. I have taken her on mommy/daughter dates and it blesses her so much. Not sure why I don't do it more often...

She's highly competitive. I'm somewhat competitive, but when I lose, I get over it. She hates to lose - even gets nasty so she won't have to.

She's emotional. She gets angry easily. These are things I don't understand - things that I don't have compassion toward.

She's driven, determined and calculating. All these things are good. But since I don't share such characteristics, I sometimes don't know the best way to shepherd her.

She's an INTJ (Myers Briggs personality type indicator), or at least that's my guess right now. I am an INFP. We are both introverts. We are both future oriented and meaning makers - intuitive. So in that there are a few similarities.

But she is a Thinker and I am a Feeler. She is a need-to-know-everything before she starts, closure person. I am a spontaneous, curious open-ended person.

This girl is amazing. I think the world of her and want nothing more than to know how to connect with her. I guess I just haven't really taken the time to work on it. I need to become a student of Whitby - so I can learn how to love her the way she needs to be loved.

I could really use some advice on this right now.

New ((professional)) blog....

So I decided to start a blog centered around church production - worship, technology, design, implementation, leadership.
Surprisingly all the blog names I searched were available. churchproduction, churchproducer, worshipproduction, worshipproducer...
This confirmed my suspicion that most of the people out there doing worship and event production in churches are islands. Whenever I talk to producers, they express the feeling that they are inventing their jobs as they go. And they are disconnected from others like them.
Note: This theory may only exist in the United Methodist church as we are about 10 years behind everyone else.

So check it out if you are interested in that kind of stuff. I am getting a couple of posts in the hopper now.

Trying to decide on my web banner. Thoughts?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WFX conference

I love conferences.

For real I do.
I'm curious, love to meet people, make connections, discuss what I'm learning with my team.

I'm at a Tech Production conference in Atlanta.

Started out a little Sketch. I went to my first workshop; left disappointed. Went to my second workshop; left wishing they would have had me teaching it.

The worship experience on the first day was nice.
The music was quality, albeit non-sing-along-able for your average white tekkie guy (80% of the room). The video, lighting and sound production was ok.
I look at these experiences with a critical eye (not in a judgmental manner, rather comparing/contrasting/understanding). I try to fully engage while taking mental interpretive notes.
We heard from Ed Stetzer, the director of LifeWay Research in Nashville. He talked about keeping the main thing the main thing. Why we do what we do - - Jesus. A message I have heard dozens of times, but it's ok because he was interesting and engaging and used scripture. His content was clear, his flow was structured and his presentation style was casual and clever.

I had high hopes that things would pick up for the second day. The last thing I want is for my church to spend money for me to go to a conference and to return from the conference empty handed.

Good news: things got better. The three workshops I attended the second day were helpful and added value. The worship experience had the same band singing non-sing-along-able unfamiliar gospel songs - but today I knew what to expect so I just rolled with it.
The keynote was great. Shawn King is a pastor in Atlanta. Talked about staying connected to your congregation through social media. Again, mostly stuff I know already. But he was engaging... shared stories, gave practical advice, and knew his audience.

My favorite take-aways came from the two workshops that Dennis Choy ( @dennischoy ) led. He had a lot of practical counsel on how to lead a production ministry.

Overall, glad I came.

Had a great time with my team.
Got away and got perspective on some things (I have been in a bit of a funk at work lately).
Had time to process ideas and goals for ministry.
Got to have sushi with one of my besties who lives in Atlanta.

Final thoughts:
I'm thinking about starting a blog for church producers. It is a niche but I know we are out there...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gettin' all "mama bear" up in here

My son had a concert tonight.

He was so excited about his performance. He wanted to look his best. He decided he wanted to wear his bow tie and suspenders (the outfit he wore at Bethany's wedding, minus the fedora).
I double checked, "Are you sure buddy?" "Yes, mom. And everyone will notice how handsome I look. And maybe Emily will notice too."
So I helped him get dressed and off he went to the performance.

I arrived just at start time. Canon waved at me. He did a great job; he looked fantastic. What a fun night....

Afterward, Canon came up to me and I could tell something was wrong. "Are you ok?" I asked. "Mom, everyone saw my suspenders and bow tie and they all laughed at me".
He fell into my arms. He held on tight trying to hold back his tears.
I could feel anger welling up inside of me. I wanted to go kick the shins of every third grader in the room. At the very least, I wanted to go jump up on stage and soapbox about individuality and unique expression, about community and bullying, blah blah blah.

Instead, I took his face in my hands and said, "I'm so sorry buddy. Let's go home".

I have been pondering:

1. What is a healthy response to something like this?
2. How do I turn this into a teaching moment for my kids?
3. Why is the incident affecting me in such a raw way?

One person said, "Well, they have to learn sometime". Learn what? How to conform to the opinions of peers? Why do they have to learn that? I don't see the logic.

Creighton took Canon for some ice cream and he seemed to be ok when he got home.

As I tucked the kids in I opened the experience up for discussion. We talked about how it feels to be laughed at. We talked about how to be a leader when we see people laughing at a classmate or friend.
I encouraged them (and reminded myself) that the opinions of others do not define who we are. Nothing can change the fact that we are cherished and unique.

We prayed and thanked God that we are his creation, he gave us life and we belong to him. We asked him to help us learn from this and to give us wisdom when situations like this arise.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Leadership Institute 2010

As the Tech producer for Events at The Church of the Resurrection, I have the privilege of being the production manager for Leadership Institute, a conference put on by our church staff.

My teams were amazing and LI was a success (from what I could tell). In all, I recruited about 50 people to pull off the technical production of this event.

There tends to be a lack of education about what a producer actually does. I wrote about this over a year ago, asking, "What exactly is the role of a producer?"

Over these past 2.5 years at Resurrection, I have come to understand more of what my job is supposed to be.

A producer sees the overall picture.
A producer owns the flow of the experience.
A producer has their finger on the pulse of the audience.
A producer translates the ideas of the pastors and leaders.
A producer assembles just the right team to execute the plan.

I was fretting about LI because while it is valuable to the life and ministry of thousands of pastors and lay leaders, it is a huge drain on our people and resources. I am still feeling an LI hangover 5 days later. I am glad it's over. However, this year (my 3rd Leadership Institute) I experienced a collaboration and a synergy with my co-workers that was blissful. I am so thankful for the worship producers and technical directors I work with. We all locked arms and pressed through together. We blocked for each other, stepped in and filled in. Everyone worked with a grateful and humble attitude.

I am amazed by the friends in my department at Resurrection. It is a gift to work alongside people who are uniquely gifted for creativity and vision.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


We attended to 4 different worship experiences while travelling.

I suppose I should get a hand slap for not remembering the content of the sermons. But there are things I pay very close attention to:

1. The flow of the service.
2. The leadership (pastoral, musical, logistic).
3. The technical production.

The first service was on a Sunday evening at a 4 year old church plant. This community renovated a closed-down United Methodist Church building. They inserted modern and artistic elements to a traditional space, incorporated some historical pieces, and added a hospitality room for folks to gather and connect before and after worship.
The service had a female worship leader which I thought was so cool. She was an entertainer. She was a gifted singer/piano player and a good band leader. But after the third song I realized that no one in the congregation was singing along. They were admiring her and enjoying her music - but not engaging. This is how I feel sometimes at the contemporary service at Resurrection. The worship leaders and ensembles are so talented and polished, it often keeps the congregation at arms length.
The production quality was above average. Sound and lighting were good. They needed some coaching on their graphics though. It looked like they were using "EasyWorship", a presentation software that is fairly limited. I'd rather just default back to PowerPoint, because there is no way to adjust the size of type in EasyWorship.
Overall the service was great. The pastor was engaging and the community seemed healthy and warm. This is refreshing for a United Methodist congregation.

The second service was in a large Southern Baptist sanctuary. There were 800+ college students and young adults in attendance. The worship leader was a good band leader and a decent congregation leader, but I was puzzled with the song choices. I guess it's because I work at Resurrection where we are so careful to choose lyrics that connect both with the religious and the non-religious, I thought the songs were extremely churchy and filled with Christian jargon. I couldn't focus on singing because I was trying to read all of the religious language from the perspective of a non-religious person. Also, there were 8-9 lines of text on each page. I prefer 3-4 lines on each page, so that the worshipper can take in the phrase they are singing, before moving onto the next. Lighting and graphics were tasteful.
The message was 45 minutes long, which would be sortof a beating, except the pastor was funny and had cool tattoos :). I was impressed with his careful adherence to scripture. His sermon was clear and focused - although he talked about his french bulldog way too much. It was obvious that students were excited to be there, because their greeter team had about 50 people.

The third experience was like nothing I have never seen before. It was a student led, non-denominational weekly gathering. There was no band. The worship leaders (4 people on stage) were leading to - - I kid you not, a hip hop worship mix. Sounds ultra cheesy, but actually it was so much of a rave-club-scene-Jesus-pep-rally experience, I left there wanting to drink a red bull and go street preaching.
*instead we went to a local bar to drink a beer.
It looked like someone gave a group of college students $400,000 and said, "Go buy lots of state of the art equipment and teach yourselves how to run it." They did a good job, but it was obvious that there was no direct leader for their production team (or any of their volunteer teams for that matter). It was rather chaotic.
Obviously this is not keeping people from plugging in; there were about 1000 college students and young adults at this service.

The fourth was a United Methodist campus ministry worship service. 30 people. 3 songs, a 16 minute talk, one more song and some announcements. The music was blah, the talk was blah, the announcements were blah, leadership was blah, production was blah.
Sadly, this is the state that most of our UM campus ministries. I like to call it "13th grade youth group". I'm could get out my soapbox. But instead I will end with this.

As a producer, I am thankful I had the opportunity to get outside of my work at Church of the Resurrection, and participate in other worship experiences in other cities and other denominations. It helps me see my work with fresh eyes. I return feeling thankful, inspired and ready to take it to the next level.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Quite possibly the cutest wedding I have ever been to...

At least a hundred weddings.

Early twenties: bridesmaid. I had a pretty impressive non-wear-again-able dresses.

Mid-twenties: wedding singer. You name it, I sang it.

Late-twenties: b-team (cake cutter or guest signer-inner). Yet somehow I am still all thumbs in the hostess department.

All weddings since: My husband is officiant or my children are the ring bearers or flower girl.

One hundred(ish) weddings. All amazing.

This one however takes the wedding cake for the absolute most adorable.

Difficult to describe... Retro - modern - rustic maybe? At times, I felt like I stepped into an "O Brother, Where Art Thou" movie.

I'll let the photos do the describing.