An Afternoon With the Civil Wars

It should probably be no secret to anyone that I’m a huge fan of The Civil Wars — the wonderful folk/country/bluegrass duo, not the actual war. They’re wonderfully talented and should be listened to by everyone on the face of the earth. Exhibit A is this great half an hour they had as a part of the Lawrence High School Classroom Sessions. The songs are incredible, but the conversations after each of them are worth watching as well. Great talk about the influence of books, movies and other media on the creative process — wonderfully insightful. Check them out!

Which song stuck out to you most? There are all kinds of different bands that come to this class and talk with them about the creative process. All are recommended. Enjoy!


Small Efforts and Big Results

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

There’s a great video I caught at a great blog that I’ve been reading more and more lately. I think it speaks to the power of small efforts to produce a greater picture. In this case, it’s with a piece of art, but I think it can be true with anything we do, really.

It really speaks to those of us who value creativity in our fields. A lot of times it can feel like we don’t get a lot done, the to-do pile is always growing higher, and we’ll never cross that last thing off of the list. But this speaks to the value of small calculated efforts to help create a wonderful bigger picture.

The video is only a couple minutes long. It blew me away the first time I saw it. Check it out!



So what small step are you going to do today to impact your life? Vocation? Ministry?

It’s those small things really do wind up mattering most.


Two Questions for Millennials & Gen X-ers

The only thing that limits us is our imagination…

At the church I’m at in Arizona, I’ve been put in charge of creating a new worship service to attract “all the young people”. That being said, I’m in the brainstorming stages right now and I want to crowd-source some of this brainstorming. That being said, I’d love to get your input on 2 questions.

1. What made you leave (or consider leaving) the church? (Or if you stayed in church, what made you stay?)

2. What kinds of things would be important for you to find in a church, if you were to go back?

Any input you’d be willing to give would be GREATLY appreciated!


The Close Relationship of Grey Poupon and the Modern Church

Malcolm Gladwell has a great TED Talk out right now that talks about mustard. For a very long time, mustard lovers didn’t have a lot of variety to choose from. The basic choice was either French’s or Gulden’s, basic yellow mustards. Mustard seeds, turmeric, and a little paprika was all you needed to make mustard.  Until the early 1980’s. Then came Grey Poupon. Darker mustard seeds, white wine. Different than the other two. But the marketing campaign is what set it apart.

They packaged the mustard in a tiny glass jar and charged $4.00 more than any other mustard at the time. And those commercials! We’ve all seen the commercial (or perhaps the Wayne’s World parody) where the Rolls Royce pulls up alongside the other Rolls Royce and one extraordinarily wealthy man asks another if he has any Grey Poupon. And then sales of Grey Poupon skyrocketed. Completely through the roof.

So if we’re a little dense, we might say that the take-home lesson for a church or business is that people want to pay more than they do for some condiments because they taste better and are different than the others. And somehow that might inspire them to be different as well.

I don’t think that’s necessarily right. I think it’s about identity.

Those Grey Poupon commercials, and really everything about that marketing campaign, forced consumers to ask the question, “What kind of mustard consumer am I?” Am I one who is content and satisfied with the ordinary French’s? Or do I want to be sophisticated like these men in their Rolls Royce’s? Because the economy was good and people were still reaching for that American Dream, they bought Grey Poupon in order to reinforce that they were the kind of sophisticated people who would buy Grey Poupon.

Believe it or not, this relates directly to the church.

The key question that is currently at the center of the “seeker” church is “What kind of Christian am I?” and then trying to find an appropriate representation of that in the community. Am I the kind of Christian that wants a message of social justice? Am I the kind of Christian that wants a coffeehouse in my church? Am I the kind of person that wants a strong musical presence in worship? The list goes on and on. Because choosing a church community is fundamentally a question of identity.

What kind of church are you choosing? What ministry are you helping create? Whether or not it has any affiliation with a church is rather inconsequential. What environment are you creating by the way you assemble your identity? These are interesting and important questions that will say a lot as we move forward into a time of increasingly blurred lines of our own identity.


Re-Defining Art

I’ve been reading the archives over at Seth Godin’s blog and came across a really interesting post on what exactly constitutes art in modern culture. Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a bit of a return to an appreciation of aesthetics whether it’s in technology design or specifically photography with iPhone apps like Instagram. It seems like art is undergoing a bit of a fluid transformation. I am not sure I’d put it on par with some of the past movements in art and culture, but there surely is something happening with the way we relate to and define what art is. Seth offers a broader definition of what exactly constitutes art and I’d like to throw it out there for your consideration. Here’s what he says.

My definition of art contains three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work.

So whatever we do best, when we’re doing that, we’re creating art. Even the language we use for non-art things describes this. When a baseball pitcher is really on, the commentators will say he’s “painting the corners”. I’ve heard Joanna Newsom’s album Ys be referred to as her Sistine Chapel.

What Seth has right is that art can way more than paint and canvas.

Whatever we do best is our art. That means everyone is an artist.

Or more particularly — you’re an artist. So what are you creating?


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