Category Archives: groupthink

Summer Reading List

It’s Summer! I mean, aside from the fact that it’s still hailing and raining and … is Nashville still flooded? Anyway, it’s almost Summer, and that means it’s time for the readership here at Addison Road to do their public good deeds, and generate The Worlds Best Summer Reading List.

I’m going to make this a little more organized this year. Leave your suggestions in the comments, along with your best one or two sentence pitch for why we should read it, and I’ll edit the post with an updated list so that we can quickly find them. Ready? Go!

THE DEFINITIVE LIST OF AWESOME SUMMER READING, 2010

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. (fiction) What if every god brought to America by waves of immigrants were still alive, still wandering through the cities and countryside as ordinary people trying to get by? This is a powerfully written book, with rich characters.
  2. Faking It: The Quest For Authenticity In Popular Music by Barker & Taylor. (non-fiction) This is an extension of the conversation on authenticity. If you like popular music, and like thinking about things, this will be a solid thinky read. I recommend loading up your iPod with the artists that the book talks about, and listing to their catalog while you read about them.

Here’s some music and ethics for ya.

This morning a mom came up to me at school.  She said, “I’m sorry I have been unable to volunteer to help for the school musical.  We are grateful for everything you do.”  Then she handed me a $25 check made out to Sharolyn Borris.

Surprised, I said, “Oh, this is help with the budget for costumes,” or some teacherly thing similar to that.  She said, “It’s for you, do with it what you want.”

Although it is not a large sum of money, what I do with it reveals my character.  What would you do?

1) Spend it on yourself.  She said it was for me.

2) Cash the check and buy something for school.

3) Shred it, as the tax payers and P.T.A. have already paid me.

This Week’s Sermon: God is Good

Posts in the Sermon Prep: God is Good series

  1. This Week’s Sermon: God is Good
  2. God is Good, Good, Good. Mostly.
  3. God is Good: Sermon Audio

Yep. I’m preaching again on Sunday.

This week’s topic, “God is Good … So why is everything so f’d up?” I’ll probably modify the title by Sunday.

A little help please?

Next in series: God is Good, Good, Good. Mostly.

Audio Auditions

Hey there, roadsters. I need some help.

I’m finishing up the final edits and mix on “Our Father, Vindicate”, and I’m having a hard time deciding on the final ending solo. I have three options from 2 different singers, and I’m looking for input on which to choose. Take a listen to all three (the clips are about a minute each), and then tell me which ending solo (the very last phrase) you think is the best fit.

Try to ignore volume and reverb, and focus just on the vocal itself.

Here are the three options:

Option A
m1.mp3

Option B
b1.mp3

Option Salty
m2.mp3

Option 4
ml3.mp3

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!

Blogging Software

I’m building an awesome new blog for our very own June Steckler, and I’m looking around for a design program that won’t cost me $500. When I do my own stuff, I usually just hand-code stuff with CSS and HTML, but that won’t work for what she wants. I need some actually pretty pretty.

I realize that the right thing to do at this point is sub-contract to an actual designer, but I’m working in trade for original awesome artwork, and I’m not sure I can really offer somebody 1/3 of a painting.

Anybody use anything on a mac that they really like for web design, that is either cheap or free?

Mac Business Software?

Hey, Roadies.

I need a little help. My wife’s awesome floral design business keeps growing (huzzah!) and our current system of accounting (legal pads, hastily scrawled notes, tax records sent in on hello kitty stationary) is no longer sufficient.

I’m looking for a way to manage her business finance that will work on a Mac. Some of the more popular choices (QuickBooks Online, etc.) are for PC only (insert snarky “PC’s are for business” comment here). I know several of you are self-employed, income-producing type persons with several of the same businessy needs that we have, so I’d like to know what you use. I need to find something that does the following:

  • Manages basic cash-method accounting, with no inventory.
  • Sync’s with online backing from World Savings Bank, er Washington Mutual, uh WacoviaOne World Federal Freedom-First OmniBank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the U.S. Treasury.
  • Prints and tracks invoices.
  • Simplifies tax accounting for both self-employed taxes and sales taxes (on a per-county basis would be great, since her weddings take place all over the state).
  • MUST run on Mac! Online version would be great, but install software is fine too.

Any “Huzzah, use this!” or “Stay away, do not go to there” advice to pass along?

A Grateful Heart

I’m giving the message tomorrow night at our Thanksgiving service. I thought about giving a 12-part dissertation on the dispensational reading of Romans, with annotated commentary from the Darby Bible. Doug thought it might be better to focus on gratitude.

First, a little music to set the mood.
be-grateful-hawkins.mp3
Be Grateful by The Hawkins Family (not OUR Hawkins, different Hawkins)

I think gratitude is a powerful antidote for some of the diseases of the heart. Not actual heart disease – the cure for that is to quit smoking and lay off the television. But for the pervasive ills of the soul, gratitude is a strong prescriptive. If we choose to practice gratitude, there are some things that come along with it, some benefits that accrue to the grateful heart.

A Grateful Heart is Humble

It is impossible to be grateful and self-satisfied at the same time. It is impossible to be grateful and also arrogant. Gratitude takes humility as a prerequisite, because gratitude admits that we have been the recipients of generosity, have been given something we had no claim over. It acknowledges that we have relied on others to extend to us the benefit of their free will, used on our behalf. It recognizes the freedom and dignity of someone other than us, and places us in their debt.

When Paul builds his case against natural righteousness in Romans 1, he says that the cardinal failure of those outside of the covenant is not that they were ignorant of God; how could they be, with such manifest evidence poured out around them? He says that the cardinal failure is the failure to give thanks to the God that they know must exist. Failure to admit humility before him. Failure to praise. And, out of that failure, Paul gives a litany of crimes against humanity that pour out of the ungrateful heart:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things with are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, unloving, unmerciful …” Romans 1:28-31

Those of us spending time with family and in-laws this Thanksgiving might take pause for a moment to see that “disobedience to parents” was included in such august company with the other mortal sins.

I’m going to hell.

A Grateful Heart is Content

This was one of the 16 points in my epic 96-minute sermon from earlier in the year. The short version, which was definitely NOT the version I used during that sermon, is that gratitude shakes us free from focusing on what we lack, and refocuses us on what we have been given. “Things We Lack” is an infinite category, and like all good infinite sets, no matter how many things we take out of the set and add to the category “Things We Have”, the infinite set is still infinitely vast. (In my previous message, I skipped the whole 20-minute side lecture on number theory and the irrationality of actual infinites. Looking back on it now, that’s probably why so many people complained. Note to self: next time I preach on contentment, include more math-based proofs.)

Gratitude is incompatible with the twin symptoms of discontentment: greed and envy (both make an appearance in Paul’s notorious list in Romans 1). Greed feeds on our fixation with the future, and envy makes us competitors to those around us. Gratitude wrenches us away from the future and places us in the present. Gratitude restores our unity with those around us. Both are the hallmarks of contentment.

A Grateful Heart is Joyful

Gratitude often travels hand-in-hand with joy. The Psalmist knew it. Check out Psalm 100:

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his ;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

A Grateful Heart is Generous

I grew up in a strand of Protestantism that valued states of mind. Faith was a certain way of thinking about things, salvation was a certain state of belief about God, redemption was the renewing of the mind. The purpose of the church was to impart, defend, and celebrate certain states of mind. It was never articulated in quite that way, and if you stopped to talk to the teaching leadership in the church, they would likely protest. But the force of expectation and participation was all intently focused on that one aspect of being: the ideas and perspectives that we held in mind.

In coming to possess my own faith, I see the poverty of that perspective. Ideas, at least the kind of cherished by people of faith, are not static, and cannot be contained by the mind alone. They are ideas that compel, they are states of mind that pour out into actions. Gratitude that begins and ends with a state of mind is not worth celebrating.

Real gratitude expresses itself. It responds. If someone is generous to me, my gratitude provokes me to be generous with others. As God has been supremely generous to me, and if by faith I am filled with unspeakable gratitude toward Him, I will respond. My posture toward those around me will be generosity.

It will be a generosity propelled by humility, contentment, and joy.

Happy World Philosophy Day!

How is everyone celebrating World Philosophy Day? How about celebrating by pondering these four philosophical dilemmas, posed by the BBC?

  1. Should we kill healthy people to harvest their organs?
  2. Are you the same person who started reading this article?
  3. Is that really a computer screen in front of you?
  4. Did you really choose to read this article?

I’m off to plan a worship set, but when I’m done, I’ll drop some thinky thoughts in the comment section. Read the article, it’s cool.

Polytonaly Yours, With Love

The opening lines of “It Is Well” don’t normally include clashing polytonality and inscrutably rhythmic patterns. I took a creative risk this morning. Note clusters. Non-functional harmonic groups. Painting with colors that are so far outside of our normal 3-chord pop-tastic worship that at one point I was screaming inside for a 3rd hand, so that I could fully realize the Eb / D(6/9) / Dbmaj9 stack that I wanted. I know. Using chord notation at that point is just gratuitous. You get my point.

And then, because I like my church and enjoy my current level of employment with them, the crashing cacophony resolved down into notes that made sense, notes that made happy, notes that made me fairly certain that I will be welcome back next week. But for a little while, it was glorious.

I blame Alex Wen, my ne’er-do-well teaching assistant. That kid causes me more trouble. He has a frustrating habit of dropping by, serving up some canapé of intriguing speculation, and then leaving me to process and re-process for the remainder of the week. I enjoy it so much that I don’t have the heart to tell him that it’s supposed to work the other way around.

This week, it was on the role of music in worship. Alex was talking about the use of aggressive and difficult music, modern compositions that will not yield easily to passive listening, but that richly reward the engaged.

Which left me thinking about the role of music in church. Not just in worship, but in the institution at large, the cultural and social phenomenon that the gathered people construct around themselves.

Music is nearly gone from public education. We recruit our best musicians at APU either from secluded art-intensive high schools, or from other countries that still consider a musically literate public to be a worthwhile expense. The musicians who grew up in the church come to us either as butt rock guitar strummers of the most parochial kind, or as power-pop vocalists. Some are very good, but good only in the narrowly confined musical space that is useful for corporate worship. Good at dreamy delays and 3-note gospel harmony. Good at ripping off Coldplay. Good at dropping out after the bridge to build up to the final chorus.

Can we do more? Should we do more? Should we, as the church, be elevating the musical language of our congregants? Should we be force-feeding them dissonance, poly or even a-tonality, and complex musical ideas until they know how to understand that rich language of tension and resolution? Should we give them musical meat that is not yet useful in worship, until it is? Can we move to repair some of the musical poverty caused by our federal abrogation of all non-testable educational outcomes? Can we train up young players to understand and appreciate music that is just beyond them, until it isn’t? Should we bring in talented artists capable of transforming and elevating the congregation’s perception of what music is? Can we set them loose to play things that are not trite rearrangements of popular hymn melodies?

Once we move beyond music as marketing, music as useful, music as emotional scripting, is there a role for music in the church qua music?

Creative By Committee: A Christmas Miracle

In this week’s episode of the popular and ongoing “Creative by Committee” series, the fabulous collective musical genius of the roadhouse will be helping The Right Revered Professor Lee (DMA, MA, SPF, Esq.) assemble the musical soundtrack to that most miraculous of seasons, Stressmas. NervousBreakdownmas. Noseefamilymas. Can I get a shout out from all the pastors in the house?

So, I’m looking for three things this christmasy season. First, I’m in desperate and immediate need of choir music suitable for eager and hardworking seasonal choir members of limited reading experience. In token and pledge of gifts to come, I present to you “Child of Peace“, done by our choir last year, freely yours to use this year. Dan, I’m looking your way. Share the love. The lovely, lovely love. If your piece is picked, you will be the proud winner of a complementary set of rehearsal tracks, recorded for my choir, free to use for yours.

Second, I’m looking for hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that have fallen by the wayside, and deserve to be picked up, dusted off, and lovingly reused as either congregational worship or special music, possibly with string quartet. Chad, I know you have some good good in your back pocket for this one. Aly, I’m looking at you too.

Finally, most contempo worship for Christmas belongs in the crap drawer, next to contemporary music for weddings and contemporary music for funerals. If you happen to be in secretive possession of that most elusive of finds, a singable up-tempo modern Christmas song that doesn’t make you want to drink yourself into oblivion and start a fist-fight with the nearest lyricist, then by all means, share.

It is hereby moved and seconded, the motion carries, Creative by Committee is now in season … er … session.

Non-crappy Bible Study

This message was sent to me on a BBS forum I frequent. I asked the other person if I could post it here, to get your input on her question:

Hey Michael, I’m hoping you might be able to help me with something. The background is, there’s this woman in the neighborhood who I have recently become friends with, and she suggested that the two of us do a Bible study together as part of hanging out with our collection of babies during the days. For a variety of social reasons, there’s no way I can politely get out of doing it.

The problem is, I have spent my adulthood avoiding Bible study groups like the plague because, at the risk of sounding hopelessly arrogant, most of them are SO PAINFULLY INSIPID. It is not enjoyable or interesting in any way to listen to someone say, “I think what he’s saying here is [insert some synonyms for exactly what's on the page],” and then everyone nods sagely. I find large portions of the text to be really, really self-explanatory, and somehow these always seem to be the ones that get focused on in Bible studies. The last time I was in one, in fact, I got in a lot of trouble because I actually said in frustration, “Come on, it’s not like it’s Shakespeare.” Yeah.

So on the occasions where I am obligated to participate in such things, I’ve generally learned to just keep my mouth glued shut and practice my sage nodding. But that’s not going to work when I’m one of only two people in the room. So my question is, are you able to perhaps recommend a set of materials that are meatier and more interesting than your typical “See, here’s how we know God loves us!” kind of thing? She wants me to pick the subject, which is good because I have a chance to make sure it doesn’t suck, but is bad because… well, I’ve kind of been operating on the assumption that they all suck. I know there must be some smarter ones out there, but I don’t know where to find them.

So, any suggestions?

This Week’s Sermon Will Be on Contentment

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Contentment series

  1. This Week’s Sermon Will Be on Contentment
  2. Contentment and Gratitude
  3. Paul’s Writings on Contentment
  4. Solomon vs. Paul: gratitude, simplicity, the present, and meaning
  5. The Secret of Contentment

Well kids, it’s time once again for Doug to take his bi-monthly vacation (this time I think he’s going BASE jumping in the West Andes) and that means I need to come up with something to preach on. In fine Addison Road tradition, you all, of course, will be doing the actual work for me.

I have a theme. Contentment.

I have a premise (two, actually). First, that being discontent is a malicious mindset that robs our lives of both joy and peace. The destructive power of discontentment is underestimated by many. Second, contentment is the fruit of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of humility.

My primary text is going to be Philippians, and I’m using it as a lens to look back at Ecclesiastes (has any better text on contentment ever been written? Sheesh!).

So … hit it! Give me everything you’ve got on contentment. I won’t be satisfied until I have all of your ideas!

Next in series: Contentment and Gratitude

15 Future Conversations

Brief quotes from conversations I fully expect to have before I die:

  1. “Of course we wanted that house, but you have to understand honey, back then a million dollars was a lot of money!”
  2. “I don’t care if it is the ‘casual’ service, you’re not wearing ass-less chaps to church!”
  3. “I just don’t enjoy listening to music on beam-o-wave. I prefer the vintage sound of mp3s.”
  4. “Yeah, we were planning to go up to Santa Cruz for the 4th of July, but Gretchen got placed on the Homeland Security ‘No-Drive’ list, so we’re not allowed on any Interstate Highways.”
  5. “You damn kids, get off my astro-turf!”
  6. “So he’s just bricked? Totally comatose until the next upgrade? See, that’s why I’m waiting for the 2nd generation iControl neural implants.”
  7. “Well, yeah, we used to have salad at almost every meal, but since we deployed the Death-Ray Border-Bots, nobody can afford to grow lettuce commercially.”
  8. “If you read the course description, it still says Logic Pro and ProTools, but these days we spend most of the semester on Guitar Hero.”
  9. “So even though the company went bankrupt and was sold off piecemeal in the mid 30′s, we still use ‘google’ as a verb.”
  10. “There is no plug, it runs on gasoline.”
  11. “This is disgusting. We should just spend the extra money and get the name-brand protein cartridges for the food replicator. I’m tired of the sludge these refills put out.”
  12. “Welcome to the 11:45 Karaoke Service. If you’d like to lead a worship song, just hand your slip of paper and offering envelope to the nearest usher.”
  13. “We would love to put some trees in the backyard, but we can’t afford the mandatory carbon-onset credits to reduce global cooling.”
  14. “Now it’s mostly used as a skate park, but back when it was first opened the Large Hadron Collider was a very sophisticated piece of scientific equipment.”
  15. “Heard of them? I played keyboards on their first two records!”

You kids can take it from here.

Cover Me

Zack, help me out. I want to do a cover song that’s obscure, but awesome. Older is gooder. Something with a haunting melody, that hasn’t been done to death, that can be tweaked out 9-ways strange in a massive science experiment of epic proportions. And i need it by Monday.

Everyone else, feel free to jump in.