Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Analogue Christian In A Digital World

I ran slides at my church for the first time in their new location this past Sunday. The new set-up has the slide runner and the sound operator and a new technical director in a room over to the left with glass windows.

I wondered what we needed a technical director for, and as it turns out, we've gone high tech. There's now two cameras down front, possibly a third in the back, and the technical director cross cuts between the cameras, and calls out the camera angles during the service. This is because we now have an overflow room in the fellowship hall, for people who can't find room in the sanctuary itself.

We also now have three services, though the overflow room is really only needed for the 10:45am service.

This is how much my church has changed.

And I felt myself getting a little sad. Which is a stupid thing, I know. What's wrong with the church growing, what's wrong with needing to go to three services to accommodate everyone? What's wrong with a bus that takes you from the off site parking lot to the new church location?

I don't have a lot of bad experiences with churches, but there was one that I did, in the early days of this blog. I’m not mentioning names, but their service was maybe the first time I had experienced a high tech glossy service, with video projections, and cross cutting video and dancers, yes, dancers, onstage. Even when I tried to get past that, there were the guest speakers hawking their books or t-shirt in the lobby, the one time they decked out the stage to look like Narnia to celebrate the movie coming out, the endless superficial messages that weren’t about studying the Bible so much as they were taking verses out of context to fit the message they wanted to say.

I left that church with an icky high tech gloss in my mouth.

And now my church, the one I’ve attended faithfully since its inception, is starting to sport some of the high tech trappings. The sermons are still about studying the Bible, so I’m slightly reassured that way. But my hackles are half raised, and I find my own reaction odd.

Maybe I’m just an analogue Christian in a digital community. Maybe I don’t like change initially. Maybe I’m just an ornery Grandma shaking her cane, get off my lawn with your fancy cameras and your cross cutting and your overflow rooms!

We were supposed to show a video about small groups during the middle of the service, and it had worked fine in dress rehearsal, but of course during the first sermon, I punch the button and we have video and no sound. So maybe we’re not so high tech after all. heh.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cactus Flower And What It Might Mean

At the corner of my driveway are a couple of cacti.

And that's weird, because cacti a weird word, but it's also weird because this is LA. I expect to see cacti in Arizona, but not LA and not along my driveway.

But LA is kinda weird when it comes to flora and fauna. Birds of Paradise bushes grow like weeds out here, whereas a single Bird Of Paradise flower sells for something like $7 - $10 bucks back home in Alabama. The prettiest wildflowers will grow on medians down the Wilshire corridor. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

So yes, there are cacti on my driveway, waving hello at me every time I come home. And every once in a while, it feels like once a year, really, a flower will appear.
This lovely white flower, which looks kinda shy in this photo. It lasts maybe three days and quickly withers away. It takes a year to grow. Three days to shine, then poof, it's gone. 

There's an obvious metaphor in there, yet some vital piece feels off.

The cactus flower is about God's timing - it can take forever, but when it appears, it's beautiful and lovely (until it withers away, and are you really trying to say God's timing only lasts three days?)

The cactus flower is about God's blessings - they can take forever, but when they show up, you appreciate them all the more because it took so long to get there (and are you really trying to say God's blessings vanish after three days?)

The cactus flower is about stopping to appreciate God's miracles - this lovely flower coming off a prickly cactus that doesn't look like it's capable of such beauty, (except that beauty only lasts three days and my, don't you sound really judgmental.)

Regardless, maybe it’s just about stopping when you see beauty, where ever you see beauty, and thanking God for it. That’s what I’m going with.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

This Is What He Was Trying To Tell Me

Almost a month ago, I asked God if there was something He was trying to tell me that I wasn’t getting.  Fifteen minutes later a car hit me and took off.  I could’ve maybe written it as a scene in a script, because it was that kind of timing, the kind that only make sense in movies, no, no, no, those things don’t happen in real life. You’re not praying in the car and then a car hits you.  No, no, no, silly writer. Try injecting some realism into the thing.

Almost a week after the accident, I get another one of those out-of-the-blue phone calls. The kind I got more than once last year, except this year, it wasn’t about a script, it was about a job.

Yes.  A job.  In the same area at the Unnamed Movie Studio I was at in 2009, where I wished I could have stayed, but was passed over.

Now it’s four years later and finally, FINALLY, there’s an opening.  And they want me.  Do I want them?  Well, hell, yes, I do.

Now, I’m pretty sure I could’ve received that out-of-the-blue phone call without a car wreck to get my attention.  I’m pretty sure I would have been just as jubilant, just as thankful, just as incredulous at the sheer luck that I’m going to be making significantly more money than I have been, without the car wreck and the ensuing Dark Night Of The Soul that followed.

The night of the accident, I had written something on my facebook, a throwing down of a verbal gauntlet, that, following the theme of the sermon series at my church, I couldn’t wait to see how God was going to display His glory through my negative bank account status ($1,000 deductible folks, yeah, I know).

And this is how.  He’s going to move me into a new job that pays more money. Yes, it’s more stressful, but that’s usually how it goes with Better Paying Jobs – you gotta work to earn those bucks.

And part of me thinks God’s really just showing off now.  That’s He’s doing the equivalent of a Holy Roller Peacock or something – la la laaaaaaa Look at what I did to your life!  La la laaaaaaa, look how I fixed everything!  I’m super awesome!  You are WELCOME, la la laaaaaaaa.

Kind of like this dude – (wait until 28 seconds in. Frickin’ incredible.)

I was going to be okay no matter what happened, because that’s how much I trust God.  Sure, I do my fair share of bitching and moaning, because I’m Amy The Superbitch and that’s how humans roll. But I was never going to stop believing that God was going to help me somehow.

I just didn’t think it was going to be this soon, this immediate, and this breathtaking.

Thank You, God, thank You, God, thank You, God.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

It's Okay Not To Be Perfect

My church moved locations this week. We’ve been meeting for eight years or so at an old movie palace from the 1920s, so it’s sad to leave (and even sadder that the landlord made everyone leave because he wants to redevelop the space for condos)

But having said that, we do have a new place to go to so all is not lost.  It’s not even very far, just down the block, so no reason to panic.  But this past Sunday was our last Sunday in our old space and I happened to be up to run slides.

Because it’s our last day, they’ve come up with an idea - we’re supposed to write little things on post it notes and place them around the church (though I feel bad for the people who have to go around and take them down).

And reflecting on the years, not only the ones in this location, but the years overall at this church, I wonder what I should write down.

Not only have I been with the church practically from the beginning, but I signed up to run slides pretty early on.  I may be one of the last originals to do them.  We’ve evolved from swapping a laptop with the slides on them from one slide runner to the next, like a religious nuclear football, to spending weekend trying to create the slides and sending panicked texts to the service manager when it’s not possible to create the slide that the pastor wants, to now simply showing up on Sunday morning and pressing the button to advance to the next slide (that might also give you some insight into how our church budget has grown.)

And I realize that one thing being a slider runner has taught me for all these years is not to sweat the small stuff.  When I first had the slides gig, I would spazz out and get upset every time I messed up and advanced a song lyric when it wasn’t time, or when it was late, or whatever.  Because I had to be PERFECT!  Everything had to be PERFECT!

But after a good 7 or 8 years of doing this, I realized that nobody’s really going to yell at you, and that in the grand scheme of things, messing up the timing of a slide lyric or a sermon lyric isn’t really that big of a deal.

That sentence makes me sound like I was a buffoon with the slide duty.  And that’s not the case at all, because I’m pretty sure they would’ve encouraged me to try something else if I was completely awful, like clean toilets.  It’s hard to mess up cleaning a toilet.

But no, I have stayed a slide runner for all the times, even though I can’t remember a time where I ran the slides flawlessly.  It’s impossible, since the worship band leader has a propensity for going off book, singing choruses acapaella, or flitting back and forth between songs for dramatic effect, and la la laaaaa.

Doing slides at church taught me, more than anything else, that I will probably never be perfect.  At running slides, at my job, at life.  But God loves me even though I never will be perfect. It’s a lesson I still haven’t wrapped my head around, and will probably take me the rest of my life to do so.  But I’ll keep trying.  At running slides, at my job, at life, at trying to know who God is.

So I write this down and stick it near the computer.

And I run the slides for the services.  And yes, I screw up maybe one or twice.  Or more, heh.  But when the services are over, I say bye to the production staff.  I walk around this beautiful space one last time.  And I head out onto Hollywood Blvd., where the streets are positively teeming with imperfect people.

I’ll be doing slides at the new location in a few weeks.  And I’m sure I won’t be perfect there.  But I’ll do my best to try to be okay with that.  Because God is.