Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Late Night on Sunday Morning

This weekend, we had our World Passion Update, which is our annual missions update. This year, just like last year, they chose to do a talk show theme, but this year, they actually had a Technical Director, yours truly, to help create the environment, and that was a ton of fun!

I was able to work with Randall Wright, who is the design director of the Dallas Children's Theater, who on a limited budget took the late night concept and worked some serious magic. We built some additional, much needed platforms for the stage for the band, and used an opaque blue scrim like curtain to surround the stage. Behind the stage on the desk side was a city backdrop. We also used IMAG so I had the opportunity to get some additional stage lighting, Altman 2ks, and the light that these instruments put out is beautiful. It was the first time I was able to light for video, and it turned out really great! I was pretty stoked. This was also the first time that this fellowship had really used IMAG. We rented a two camera video fly pack from Showtech, and they just have great gear. Our friend Ben Cating from Acoustic Dimensions was the video director. It looks great up on the screens. I can wait to see the footage that we captured.

The rehearsal went pretty well, only a couple of technical issues, but by Sunday morning, everything was ready to go. We had an amazing band, made up of a combination of our Sunday morning guys, and then a couple of hired guns. The sax player, Dave Monsch, was amazing. My friend James Putnam was on bass, and a Cuban named Julian was on Hammond organ and synth. Aaron Hass was on drums. It sounded amazing. The band was so tight, and it is a blast when you have great players with great tone. You can push the decibel levels even more, and the mix was so warm and inviting. The audience ate it up, and haven't stopped talking about it since. I will hopefully have some video up soon of the event.

So now we are on to Northwest Worship Live. We will be doing a live worship recording September 21st, and I am excited about that night. My wife will be on it with two of the songs she has written. All in all, there will be 12 songs on the record, and we are doing an additional 6 "unplugged" songs that evening that we are giving away that night to people who preorder the CD. We will be renting movers for the show, which will be the first time I have been able to use those in this space. I am excited to see how it all comes together.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Live from the DQ!

I am sitting in the Dairy Queen in Lindale, TX. Why would anyone blog from a Dairy Queen you ask? Because it is the only wifi hotspot in the area. The Presley's have been on vacation for the past week, and it has been awesome. Our friends Ben and Robin Pasley came out for a visit as well, and we have just spent our time riding horses, fishing, swimming, and most importantly, resting! It has been awesome.

Ben is now chatting it up with a friend on Skype. It is a very detailed conversation. I am hearing words phrases like "Establishing a spiritual family that isn't completely dominated by the dad..." Oh, come on, we have to have our King. We have to have our President. We have to have our pastor! And we have to have our dad. All of these people have to run everything and they all have to be male...right? Right...of course not.

I love spending time with Ben and Robin because they help me see past the smog of this Christian culture in which I am steeped. You know I love the Church. Part of my calling requires that I engage this American Christian culture that thinks that the only authoritative, shepherding influence must come from the pulpit on Sunday morning, and sadly enough this has created a culture with no fathers, and so many orphans. I was part of an organization once where I began to feel like an orphan. I was beginning to feel like the pastor was trying to be a fathering influence on my family, and it simply wasn't working. When I brought that up, it seems that I pissed in every bowl of Cheerios in that fellowship, but they didn't understand, and in fact most don't understand.

I was thinking today about our commitment to God and His family. In the American church, it seems that we have taken the 10% model to serving God rather than the 100% that He asks for. We have seemingly taken the old testament concept of tithing, and because this American culture needs huge amounts of money to function and expand the parking lot, we have pulled a scripture completely out of context to make it work for our current paradigm. Now I see why that has been done. After all, everyone should be invested in their local fellowship, but 10% isn't a magic number in the least. In fact, Christ didn't ask his followers for 10%. He asked for 100%. So I was thinking about what that meant, especially in light of a drama that my fellowship put on a couple of weeks ago as it related to the guy who discovered treasure in a field, and gave up everything to possess it. I think that way too many Christians are in this thing for the benefits. Hey, my soul is saved, I can network my business, and feel that I am a good person. It's true, you can do that in the body of Christ, but far too few have truly counted the cost, including myself. We give only a small percentage to Christ. Not everything. We give our Sunday mornings, or maybe a mid week bible study. Maybe we give a morning quite time, but still that is far from all. We spend all of the rest of our time going out to make the money so that we can live this American dream. In truth though, if we are instructed to give all, the greatest evidence that we have deviated from that command as a Christian culture is how we spend our money. It is certainly ironic.

Here is what I mean. The current model states that we give 10% first, and then if there is any excess after we take care of ourselves, we ask God who where we can give that...or we buy that plasma tv. Most don't ask God at all how He thinks they should spend His money, because if we are truly giving everything, then God is not asking us to give $50 bucks to support a local missionary. Rather, we are asking Him to be our provision, and if we need a car, we ask, because the money to buy it doesn't belong to us. If we want to buy a home, we ask. If we want that plasma, we ask. That is what it means to have God be the Lord of our lives. Nothing is ours. All his His.

But this isn't the Gospel that we teach/preach/evangelize with. Rather, we tell others of the benefits. People come to know God to be saved from hell. It is as though Christianity is merely an accessory to our daily lives, rather than the driving force that influences our every decision, but the reality is that if we preach that we are all sinners in need of a savior only, then that is all that the majority get out of it, and they spend their lives making no difference in this fallen world. Is it possible that God only gives in proportion to what we give? Take the parable of the talents. One guy buried it. The other two doubled it, and gave it back to the landowner. They guy who buried it was rebuked, and cast out "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Seriously, Jesus despised that guy. We have been given the gift of Salvation, and most believers have buried it. I just wonder how the Father feels about that one.

I love Switchfoot's song, American Dream. He says that he is tired of "Fighting for me." He says, "This isn't my American Dream. I want to live and die for bigger things." It is amazing to me how the Church has bought into this idea of the American Dream and ignored the dreams of the Father. We dream of the vacation home, retirement package, etc. God dreams about saving the babies out of the sex trade. He dreams about feeding those who can't feed themselves. He dreams about giving generations of enslaved people freedom though the power of the Gospel. I don't think that he is dreaming too much about our hedonistically focused approach to ministry. We spend the majority of our time giving ourselves comfortable worship environments and planning one off ministry endeavors that will make us feel like we have been about the great commission. Most fellowships spend the majority of the money that they receive on themselves, and excuse it by saying that if we get 16:9 projection, it will make us better at reaching out to those who are dieing without Christ. It's laughable really.

Meanwhile, all this expenditure doesn't fix this aching hole that so many believers sense that they are alone in this world. They are orphans without fathers, and although our heavenly Father is more than enough, He expresses that love and devotion through His family. I have been listening this week to what God is saying about my family. It isn't the same as yours. You can't have mine. I wonder if it can exist in the current CEO leadership model that has hijacked the American Church, or if it must exist more on the underground, with those who are truly seeking, who have counted the cost and given it all. I think that the latter is true, and only hope that the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my life spurs me on to increasing those percentages in my life that I have given to God.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Todd Lively

Someone very special left this world on Sunday. He was a dear friend, a brother, teetering on the role of father on many occasions in my life. It makes me sad that he is gone. It makes me even sadder as I realize that this world has so few Todd Livelys who live their lives exclusively for others. He was the most generous and unselfish man I have ever met, and he was a man that always had you covered.

At the funeral, I saw so many individuals who were fortunate enough to call him friend. I was fortunate to spend a year of my life in his freezing apartment. I connected with so many people today, and I just can't help but think that the hospitality and generosity of such a great man was still felt the entire day, and will be felt for many days to come.

I wish I could have had one last conversation in his big ass bed...I know that sounds weird, but if you knew Todd, you would understand. I wish I would have made that trip out there to see him after his surgery, and much of me is pissed because God felt it necessary to take something so good from us when we live in a Christian culture barren of such genuine hearts. The world became a bleaker place on Sunday, and although Todd is completely enamored in the glory of the One he served just about every day of his life, we here on earth are left with so little because we are plagued by selfishness and greed. Most aren't steeped in sin. Most aren't addicted to substance. Most are just too damn busy. Most can't see past their own problems to help anyone else. Most are controlled by a sexual and monetary appetite that keeps them from ever experiencing anything real when it comes to relationships, and I find myself often being that person, so self absorbed that I even neglect the family that I love.

Todd always inspired me to be a better man, molded by the hands of a loving God who only wanted to be close. Now he is gone, and I ask myself is when my day comes, will I be that person who inspires others, or will I simply continue to consume this Christian culture that not only gives me an excuse for being an ass, but every day props up poster children that even write self help books to be the best ass I can be. Todd, if you have the chance, don't hesitate to let me know that I am being an idiot. Thanks for being Jesus.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The purging...

This week will conclude my two week extravaganza of the booth cleanse. Our booth has been in great need of a makeover. It is probably one of the worst "installs" I have run across. Basically, think of the worst installs you have ever seen, and replace those installers with monkeys and you have the previously deceased install! As I was working over my new patching matrix, thanks to Ryan Howell's matrix as a guide, I finally reached a breaking point, and just started tearing stuff out! Fortunately, this started on Monday and didn't conclude until Friday.

I redesigned the entire layout of the booth to give us more square footage of table space and booth space. I literally pulled piles of network, audio, and video cable out of corners and spaces. There were at least 15 power strips in the rats nest. I got rid of gear that we no longer use, which enabled me to get rid of two 12 space racks as well that were taking up table space. I moved the console to the corner, where I had my graphics, lighting, and producer crammed, and now they have plenty of space to work. Then I cleaned up the backs of the racks and it is starting to look like a real install now!

Clair Brothers is here this week adding to the patch bay some insert channels for the Drawmer compressors and gates that I added earlier in the year. They are also running two aux sends to my amp room so that I can control my subs and front fills on an aux. Then we are adding 12 desperately needed channels to the stage, getting me up to 40 channels on the stage, which is workable for our setup. So after this week, I won't have to sacrifice my second kick mic for a click channel. Very nice.

This weekend was probably one of the smoothest that we have had. I had an almost full staff, minus an A2, which always makes things interesting for me. Our transitions were flawless as were the cues. It was one of those Sunday's that just make you smile, and are some much needed therapy to the techsticular cancer!

On a personal note, this weekend I had a great daddy day. We hit the water park and had lunch at Hullihan's off of Beltline. Their lettuce wraps were the best I have ever had. I had some great family time, and took my son down the big slides even though he was an inch too short. We don't need no stinking inch!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Keep on Pluggin

Caution-This post is all tech, so if you don't dig that, move on my friend.

This week, we found out just how well we are communicating with one another here at my job. We had an event that was basically the people's chance to get to know the issues that would be voted upon on the upcoming congregational vote. Our new Exec. Pastor took the helm of this event along with a brand new position that we created called the Events Manager. Needless to say, we learned allot this week about how we don't work together as a team, but the good news is that we are working to resolve those issues.

It is amazing to me that typically in many fellowship, tech is an afterthought. I worked in corporate gigs before I came here, and that was certainly not the case. I have also worked at a couple of fellowships where that wasn't the case, but here it seems to be. I think that they have been so used to everything AV related being so sub par that they no longer have a level of expectancy when it comes to tech. Of course, my job would be very easy if I just did nothing and allowed the same 'ol same 'ol but that doesn't really help our cause, and I am a perfectionist, so I can't stay out of it!

We do a number of events in our Christian Life Center, which is supposed to have a "wisywig" system for the common dude to operate. It of course doesn't work worth a crap, and it never has. So we are dropping another $12 grand into the system that will hopefully, but not likely replace our need for a campus wide AV guy/gal. It's a Crestron system, which is so complicated that there are only a handful of guys that can actually service the unit, and they are so busy that we have to pay an additional lump sum for them to simply be available for us the following day after we call for an emergency. I think I might need to learn how to tech that system!

At any rate, since the "wisywig" system doesn't work, I set up a system and lighting for the event, and that portion went really smoothly. I got a chance to rent the Yamaha LS 9 console, and although I have used it's big brother a number of times, and it's even bigger brother as well, I wasn't sure how impressed I would be in this console. Let me tell you, it was a great rig! That console sells at around $4000, and the sonic clarity along with comp and gate on every channel makes it one of the best bargains in the industry. I am going to put the LS 9 in every room in this building that requires AV. I used the 16 channel version, which is capable of 32 with additional input cards. The footprint was 19" which was just great. I was set up and mixing in minutes.

For the mains, I used some of my favorite speakers, the JBL VRX series. I had a big room to fill with these tiny cabinets and they had no problem. I didn't even array them. I used for, and spread them across the front, because the room was so wide. It easily reached the last seat, but there is no treatment on the back wall, so the stage could hear a pretty significant echo from the slap back. The senior pastor threw up the breaks during the program and asked if I could turn the echo down! It's always great when you get called out for a problem during the program. Of course the audience had no idea.

Lastly, I finally made the trip out to Norcostco for some 3204 corrective gel. I have been using 02 for as long as I can remember, and just don't like how bright it makes the stage. You can't control it well when you are attempting to do some significant color changing or dramatic fx. The 3204 was a huge improvement! The light is very natural, and the skin tones work well under it. The senior pastor is a bit olive skinned, so I have had to use 02 to keep him from looking dead, but the 3204 worked well for him as well. I am pretty pleased with the results.

The new lighting in the worship center looks great. We have had a ton of comments, which was nice. It looks and sounds great....which is something they haven't had in a long time. I am glad that I could help them get there!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Love, Art, Magic

So tonight, I got a chance to finally catch an art show called Art, Love, Magic (web site) hosted by my friend Justin Nygren. It was so cool getting to see him in his element. About 6 years ago, myself, my soon to be wife and a couple of others came down to Dallas from Colorado Springs, and helped him produce his first multi-arts event called the Blue Door. He and his wife are so stinking cool, and it is great to see that since then, he has really arrived in his element, and is producing some really fantastic events!

This was one of their coffee house versions, which is paired back a bit, but none the less, I got a chance to see a few really amazing artists that I have to talk about! The first is a guy named Spencer (myspace site). This guy couldn't have been over 18, and he had a Dillon vibe that made you have to listen! Lyrically, his songs were fairly profound. He is one of those make you think kind of songwriters, and his final song, called "America" I believe, was just awesome. I love to see young talent who get the fact that they aren't God's gift to the world, but rather that the world is God's gift to us! Wow, I need to put that thought in my book.

The other was a very new artist named Jason Kinney (website). His medium is pencil with a portrait specialty, and he has only been creating for about 4 years. His detail is astounding. In today's age of photoshop, artists far too often take mediocre works and run it through a digital process to somehow capture a unique aspect. His prints were merely b & w photocopies from Kinko's, undoctored, and you could still see the grain of the paper, the detail of each pencil stroke, and at first glimpse, you would think you were looking at black and white head shot, but upon closer inspection, you see that it is a freehand work. What is absolutely amazing is how he omits certain aspects of the pieces that aren't important but keys in on some that bring the piece to life. I bought a print of the old man on the website. His wrinkles tell stories of being formed by years of hardship and pain, yet reveal the permanent remnants of a smile that may not be present in the portrait, but I am sure is as distinct a portion of his existence as the hat on his head. His eyes bathe you in peace. You sense grace in his demeanor. You see wisdom that cannot be learned in a classroom or because you made it to church on Sunday, but because you lived your life communing with God.

Jason's testimony is pretty awesome as well. He and his wife have been delivered from a meth addiction in one of those miraculous ways that piss people off who don't believe that God still heals people today! You need to go to his sight and read his testimony. Powerful!

Art, Love, Magic has another show coming up at the Janet Kennedy Gallery at Southside on Lamar sometime in June. It will feature about 30 female artists from around Dallas, and I am certain will be an event that should be on everyone's calendar! It will certainly be on mine.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Near Death On the Catwalk

OK, I love lighting. Seriously, I think that audio is probably my "A game" but lighting really gets me going. This last week, I was finally approved to go out and get the necessary lighting to meet the bare minimum for the stage. Finally, I have three points of light for each area of the stage, and it made a great improvement, but getting there nearly killed me... literally.

Thursday, I hired a couple of people that I worked with when I did electrics for Gemini Stage and Lighting Company. There is one guy in particular that I used to tell myself that I would never hire again because he was so slow, but every time I needed a couple of electricians for an install, he was the only one available. So I took that as God wanting me to bless this guy. I really like him. I feel for him honestly, because he is getting older in his life, and doesn't have allot to show for it, other than his daughter that just got drafted into the WNBA. At any rate, I have a soft spot for the guy, so I hire him anyway, although I know he is going to talk on his cell phone way too much and complain if I keep him a minute over the four hour mini.

Thursday was no exception, as he had plenty of "business" to take care of on the cell, and he had to leave no later than 12:30. Fortunately I had the help of a lady named Tammy, who totally rocks. She busted her butt the entire time, and when I describe our catwalk in detail later, you will see why. She got most of the lighting hung, which was my goal with the hired guns, and then I was going to do the focus with my volunteers.

I had rehearsal that night, and one of my volunteers wasn't able to make it because of issues with his daughters car. So, another volunteer and I did the focus, which means we couldn't do it right, having one guy in the catwalk, one on the console, and me on the stage conducting the focus. I don't have a remote focus unit which would make things sooooooo much easier.

Basically, I had to turn on all the lights and wing it, and we really did a pretty poor focus, but I knew the lights were pointed in the right direction. They just needed to be sharpened, shuttered, and gelled, so I figured I could knock that out pretty quickly the next day.

I got our worship coordinator to run the console, and we got through the downstage catwalk pretty quickly. It is fairly easy to access the fixtures from there, even though you have to duck under duct work, the steel, and the fire suppression system, which kills your back and neck and makes the job three times more difficult! The upstage though is another story.

My room wasn't designed with production in mind. I was designed with a preacher, choir, and organist in mind. In other words, it sucks pretty much all around. The upstage catwalk is really midstage, which wouldn't be bad if you could actually focus lights downstage, but you can't. In order to do that, you have to put the lights on an extension, and with the color scrollers, those extentions get pretty heavy. Tammy hung the lights in the right spot, but somewhere we got the dmx mixed up, so I basically had to remove the fixtures to get to the color scrollers and readdress the units. Of course it was about 90 degrees in the catwalk, and I was sweating like you wouldn't believe. I didn't have any help since everyone had already gone home, so I was having to fix what I thought was wrong, come out of the catwalk, go to the console, see if it was fixed. If not, go back so that I could fix it again, only to get back to the console to see that the light was out of focus. Literally, this went on for hours!

At about 11 PM, I was getting pretty close, and was ready to gel the downstage catwalk. I have some 10 degrees hung up there for specials, and to get to their barrels without knocking off the focus is very difficult, because once again, our catwalks weren't designed for production. When you have been working all day, you try and think up the quickest way to do things rather than the safest, and many times that is also the dumbest. Rather than taking the barrel off and inserting the gel, which was the safe way, I decided to hang out over the edge to put the gel in, but to do this, I had to squeeze between the pole and the ceiling. I squeezed, and had to squeeze just enough to literally get stuck. Basically I went past my ribs, and when they expanded back into position, it was like sticking a tape measure in the back of your crap drawer. You can't get it back open. I couldn't get unstuck.

I was having a really hard time breathing because of the pressure on my diaphragm, and I couldn't go the other way because that would end with a 3o foot fall. I thought that I might have to call someone to come and help me out. I was trying not to panic, but then I realized that I left my cell phone downstairs. OK, now I was really trying not to panic! I was in trouble. If I didn't get out of there, I was probably going to suffocate.

So that is of course when the desperate measures come in: prayer, some screaming for help, and finally the resolve to get out no matter what the consequences. So I went for it, and it hurt like hell! Basically I had to push my ribs in, and drag myself out. After about a minute of struggle, I was finally free, but my ribs and sternum were really bruised, and are still hurting today. I don't think that I cracked a rib, but I came pretty close. I am certainly thanking God that I was able to get out.

So I limped downstairs, and sat down and sweated on the console a bit while I did some of the programming. I got finished at about 11 PM Saturday night. All in all, I spent about 45 hours doing the install from Thursday through Saturday.

Then I did a show Sunday night where I loaded in and out a sound rig. It went really well, but that combined with the install and the Sunday service pretty much wore me out. I defiantly was appreciative that Monday was a day off, and that is what I did. After a few ibuprofen and a couple of XX with a lime, I was good to go!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why am I a tool?

So why is it a big deal when someone takes the time t maneuver their walker up the stairs, all the way up to the balcony to flag me down and tell me that I am unleashing the hounds of hell upon this unsuspecting congregation with all this racket? Seriously, why does that piss me off so bad? Why do I have a hard time returning a kind word to someone who is genuinely worked up over the nature of the worship service?

I met with a group of technical directors recently, and I stated that I am an arrogant bastard. You know something, I really am. I have a hard time allowing the spirit of Christ to react when people are critical of my sacred mix. It's pretty pathetic really when I think about it. After all, who is the mix for, because with the way that I react, it would seem that it is entirely for me. The paradox exists in the fact that I have a genuine love for the worship environment and helping to create a worship experience that heals people, sets them free, and changes their lives.

So I am going to stop letting my pride get in the way of how I value the beloved of God.
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