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 amazing.....as 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.







Friday, October 1, 2010

My mom died from breast cancer.

You can imagine how freaked out I was when I "found a lump" 3 weeks ago. I scheduled a doctor visit and mammogram right away, then called my sister. She talked me through all the things it could be and affirmed me for doing a breast exam.

Mamogram was a week later, my husband went with me.

Fibrous cyst. Whew. Same thing my sister found 4 years ago.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. #writepink is encouraging everyone to say a little something.

Everyday during those two weeks of waiting, I told myself "I'm sure it's nothing", and "I'm still too young for this to be happening". But fear and anger kept creeping in. My mind sketched portraits of myself pale, skinny and bald. I pictured other morbid scenarios, which is beside the point. The results came back NEGATIVE.

I am thankful to be fully present, enjoying family and marriage and work and community - reminded to live and cherish life.

Every June, I write about my mom, the amazing Pamela Jean Whitby Strong, whose perfect, beautiful and precious life was taken by that insidious, murderous, careless bitch we call breast cancer.
See past posts here:
Remembering Pamela
In Memoriam
St. Pamela's Feast Day

Mom was first diagnosed at age 45 with breast cancer. She muscled through a couple of years of chemo and surgery, then was clean for 5 years. Then, the tumor metastasized and for 3 long years, she took it to the mat. Chemo, surgery, radiation, chemo, surgery, radiation.

Then experimental.

Then I had my first baby. Then one last surgery. Then a family trip to Bahamas. Then she was gone.