Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My Struggle With Weight Loss

Posted: August 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have struggled with my weight for almost all of my life.  I would lose some, then gain it all back plus a few extra pounds.  I’m now at a point in my life where I realize that I need to change.  I have joint pain from all the excess weight I’ve been carrying around.  I am constantly wondering what other people think of me when they see me.  I’m disgusted with how I look and feel.  I know that my weight has caused me to have problems with depression.  Thankfully, I haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes, but I know that my chances are high unless I do something.

In the past, I have tried numerous times to lose weight.  All of them have failed.  My most successful attempt, however, was several years ago, when I decided to create a documentary about my weight loss.  I am going to be doing that again.  This time, however, it’s going to be a little different.  First, I am not going to be publicizing like I did last time.  I’m only going to show a few people and then anyone who may stumble upon it.  I may at some point publicize it on Facebook, but not for a while.  I don’t want this to end up like it did last time, with me wondering more about ratings than about my health.

How is this going to be different than before?  That’s a great question.  What I realize that I didn’t really understand before is that every moment of every day, I have to make a choice, and that choice is to either continue on my journey, or surrender to the temptations that are out there.  I also have to conquer my fear, which I will talk about in my next post.

I pray that God gives me the strength to do this, because I know that I can’t do it on my own.  Will be it a struggle?  Yes.  Will I have times that I make bad decisions?  Yes, but I will not allow them to derail me.  I’m making the decision now to fight and to overcome.  Never again will I allow myself to live like I have been living.  Never again…

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One of my favorite aspects of worship production involves media production.  I love doing all of the multimedia stuff for the church.  The biggest thing I do every week is record and upload the sermon to the New Vintage website.

Once I get home from church, I upload Tim’s sermon to my computer.  After that I add intro and title slides, and also add any other videos or items of importance to the video.  Once the video is edited, I render it into a file size that can be uploaded, then I upload it to the website.   I will also separate out the video and audio and create an audio mp3 that we can place on a podcast.

The other aspect of media production is creating videos for the church.  For me, this is the most exciting thing to do.  I love being able to brainstorm and create a storyline.  I love filming and then editing to make something beautiful.  There are a lot of steps to making a good video.  Here are some guidelines that I follow to help me in the process.

The most important thing for me is to make sure I know why I want to make a certain video.  Am I trying to promote something, like an event?  Am I just trying to be funny?  Am I trying to make people think?  What is the purpose?  This is very important because this way I know how to write, produce, and edit the video into what I want.

The next step is to try and figure out the environment for which the video will be viewed.  This ties into my previous point.  I like to figure out what Tim is going to be preaching on in the future so that I have adequate time to come up with something that works for his sermon or series.

Another thought is to make sure that you have good lighting.  Lighting really plays an important part in video production.  If your subject is not properly lit, then it makes them more difficult to see, and that can distract from the message of the video.  For example, if I am filming a testimony video and my subject is cast in a large shadow that makes him difficult to see, then, it’s harder to pay attention to what he is saying, which is supposed to be the most important part.

Musical selection for videos is also very important.  When choosing background music, I try and figure out what style will complement the overall message.  If the video is somber and reflective, then I probably don’t want a fast paced, energetic song.  I might choose something like a piano or strings, something that feels more somber and reflective.  If I am filming a funny video, then I will use something more upbeat and quirky, like a polka or Dixieland band style.

I want to close this series with this:  It’s important to remember that while we all want the best worship possible with the fewest mistakes, we must not forget who we are really doing all of this for, and that is God.  Every Sunday I do my best not because of the staff or so that someone will think that I did a good job, but so that God may be glorified.  He gave me the talents I have so that I can use them for His glory.   I pray that as we continue to grow at New Vintage Church that all of us remember who it is we worship, and whom it is we work for.  We all work for God.  This blog was designed as a way to show the joy I feel when serving in the church.  I also wanted to create a tool for others to use in their churches.  Please feel free to contact me for advice or even if you have an idea you would like to share.  Remember, we are all striving for the same goal, and that is to let the light of Christ shine through us so that He may be glorified, and so that others can see how wonderful He really is.

 

 

Yesterday I discussed the visual side of worship production.  Today, I want to share with you what happens on Sunday before the service.  I call it “Game day.”  Pre-service preparation is extremely important because it is our last chance to make final changes and enhancements to the service.  In this post, I will be explaining exactly what happens prior to service and what I do to make worship as impactful as possible.  I would like to start off by saying that prayer is a big part of this process.

I want to say that there are a lot of people who volunteer a lot of their time to making worship as good as it is.  If you see a band member, sound guy, or even the person who makes the coffee, give them a hug.  We all do it for God’s glory, but a hug doesn’t hurt either.

We usually arrive about 2 hours prior to service to begin setting up.  I usually start by assisting with some of the sound equipment and making sure the band has all they need to rehearse before service.  Then, I will get the audio/visual stuff set up, including my computer, audio cables, and the camera.  I make sure that I always have extra audio cables, connectors, and anything else we might need.  I like to make one more run through all the slides to ensure that the backgrounds look good on the screen.  Sometimes I may need to alter the exposure, brightness, or contrast to get the optimal quality for every slide.

Once the band begins rehearsal, I will sing, play, or run the slides, depending on what I am scheduled for that week.  When I sing with the band, I am Peter’s assistant.  One of the potential roles for assistant worship leader is to assist other band members with musical direction.  For example, because I stand near the drums, I am able to give the drummer cues based on what I feel Peter is looking at that moment.

After we do a music run through, I double check the slides once more, and then move on to lighting.   Some parts of service we want to be brighter, and other parts we want a little darker to create certain moods.   Darker lights create a feeling reflectiveness, and can also allow some people to get into worship without feeling like they are being watched.  Bright lights help people stay more focused and awake, and is therefore used a lot for sermons and announcement times.

At this point, I usually run through Tim’s notes for his sermon and make sure his slides are in the correct order.  I also prepare a pre-service music playlist to help create a feeling of worship as people are coming into the building.  I prefer upbeat songs because it can help keep the energy level high as people are arriving.  To me, this is important because it really gives a good push into the first worship song we sing.

Finally, we do a final mic check with Tim, and I check the camera angle and sound levels so that we can get the best recording possible.  Tim likes to move a lot on stage so it’s good to have him stand on stage and give him boundaries so he doesn’t wander off the video, which does happen from time to time.

During service, I am busy with the band or running the slides.  During the sermon, I usually will stand in the back and make sure the lighting is good, double check the video and audio levels, and also make sure to assist with any distractions that might occur.

Tomorrow, I will be discussing media production and how it fits into the worship aspect.  Again, please feel free to comment or use any of this information.  God bless!

 

One of the great joys I have every week is getting to serve in church.  It is something that I look forward to every Sunday.  I am so blessed to be a part of a church that places such a big emphasis on worship and making it as impactful as possible.  As the self-entitled “Director of Worship Production,” J my job is to help create the optimal worship environment.

One of the great things about the church staff at NVC is that they constantly strive to make our Sunday services as high quality as possible.  My area of service plays a big part in making this happen.  We want to give God our best every day, and Sunday is sometimes the only chance we can get to impact people.  Therefore, high quality worship is extremely important to New Vintage Church.  Everything from lighting and temperature to the music and the sermon are used to create the highest quality worship service we possibly can.

A few words about this series I am doing:  I am writing this for a few reasons.  One is because I feel that this is a vital part of worship and can really be an effective tool in creating the optimal environment for worship.  Second is because I want to share some of my thoughts and techniques about production so others can use them in their services as well.  And finally, I am still new to this area of ministry and would like feedback on some of your thoughts on this topic.

Part one

Visual Production:  Giving Vision to Music

One of my favorite things about my ministry is the visual production aspect.  I love taking music and putting vision to it.   The way I do this is through the worship slides I create on a weekly basis.  For me, this is such a huge part of what I do because everyone sees it, and I take a lot of pride in how it looks on the screen.

NVC uses a program called Pro Presenter.  It is a wonderful tool for worship.  It allows for motion backgrounds, which can really add a lot to the music side of worship.  I prefer motion backgrounds because it adds depth to the slides and also adds some fluidity to the worship.

Once I figure out what songs Peter wants to do that week, I get to work on creating the slides.  Depending on what songs we are singing and if we have done them before can play a big part on how long it takes.  First thing I do is decide how I want to break up the lyrics on each slide.  I like minimal lyrics because I feel that having too many words on one slide can look cluttered.   I always go through and make sure that there are no misspellings and that they are in the correct order.  I also try and go to rehearsal so that I can make sure that the worship minister and I are on the same page.

Another big part of the slides is the background.  I always try to match a background to the song style.  If we are singing a reflective hymn about the death of Christ, I would want to put a slower motion loop, probably with a cross design.  If we are singing something fast paced and energetic, I will probably choose something brighter and faster as a background.  To me, the background is very important to the flow of the song.  A lot of people are visually stimulated, and therefore the backgrounds can help create the right mood for a certain song.

Once I have edited the slides and chosen backgrounds, I will practice moving through the slides to ensure that it flows well.  I check to make sure that the lyrics flow from slide to slide and that I don’t have awkward breaks in the lyrics.  I make sure that they are visible with the background, adding any shadows or outlines to make them stand out.   I also make sure that I have blank slides in places where there are instrumental breaks.  This creates a feeling of unity with the music and the slides, and can really add a lot to the service.   I also study the music to make sure I know the flow of the song and also points where the worship leader might add an additional chorus or verse.  This way, I am prepared in case he decides to sing the chorus of “How Great is Our God” one more time.

Although I don’t do it very often, I love when I get the chance to run the slides.  Usually someone else does it because I am singing or up on stage with the band, but occasionally I get the chance to run the show.  This, to me, is one of the most important jobs on Sunday.  If not done correctly, it can be very distracting and can take away from the worship experience.  Here are a few pointers if you get the chance to run the slides:

Stay focused on what you are doing.

I can’t tell you how easy it is to get distracted when running the show.  People think we just press a button, but there is so much more to it than that.  Everyone notices when a slide doesn’t change with the music.  My job is for you to not even notice my job.  That is when I know I did well.

Timing is everything.

When it comes to slides, timing is so important.  You have to know where you are in the song and on the slides.  I have to keep my eye on the slides so that I don’t change too quickly or too late.  If I’m too early, then the words just sit there, and the flow with the music is altered.  If I’m too late, then people who don’t know the words won’t be able to sing the next part of the song, therefore creating a lag and frustrating visitors who may have never heard that song before.

My advice is this: (and I made it rhyme) learn the flow of the song and sing along.  I always try and change the slides right before the last word on the current slide is sung.  This might need to be altered for a slower or faster song, but if you sing along, it’s hard to go wrong.  (Another rhyme)

Anticipate

I always try and stay a step ahead of the band.  I usually will have a blank slide in the beginning of each song during the instrumental introduction.  This allows for transition and unity between slides and music.  I will watch the worship minister’s face to see when he might come it.  For the most part, I wait for the breath.  He will usually take a deep breath before he sings the first word, and that is when I change the slide.  This way, the slide seems to breathe with him.

Once again, the reason behind all of this preparation is to create a feeling of unity between what you are hearing and what you are seeing.  This way, you can experience the joy of worship through multiple senses.

Tomorrow, I will be discussing pre-service preparation, including lighting, set-up, practice run, video prep, pre-service music selection, and visual adjustments.  Please feel free to comment or use any advice here.  We are all here to win as many people for Christ as possible, and whatever tools I can share or you can share will bring us closer to our goal of reaching those who are lost.

The Biggest Winner

Posted: February 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

I love Hulu.  I love watching TV on my computer.  It’s free and fewer commercials, plus I can watch it whenever I want.  It’s great.  Today, I watched the latest episode of The Biggest Loser.  It was probably one of the most amazing episodes I have ever seen.

This week, there was a “red line.”  Whoever had lost the least amount of weight would automatically be sent home.  When the weigh in started, you could tell that everyone was nervous about the red line.  Jen, who lost her father to elimination last week, gained 2 pounds, automatically putting her below the red line.  After the red team weigh in, It looked like she was going to be the one going home.  Then, the black team took their turn.  They didn’t have very strong numbers, and it looked like the red team was going to only lose Jen and the black team would have to vote to eliminate someone.   Then, the most amazing thing happened.  The parents on the black team, 2 mothers and one father, all deliberately gained weight so that they could protect their children and allow them to stay on the show for at least one more week.  One mother, Deni, gained 8 pounds and was automatically sent home, but because of her sacrifice, she saved Jen from going home.  As she was leaving, she was told that she was not the biggest loser, to which she replied “I’m the biggest winner.”

What an amazing story of grace and sacrifice.  Here is a woman who knew what the consequences would be if she gained weight and sacrificed herself to save her daughter.

Jesus did the same thing for us.  He could have easily looked after himself, but He didn’t.  Instead, He sacrificed his life so that we might live.  I know that sometimes I forget to see Jesus as a loving father.  I know He died for me but today I am reminded of how much He loves me.  Jesus, knew that I was “below the red line” so to speak, and he sacrificed Himself so that I would be safe.

Tonight I witnessed a Christ-like example of love, sacrifice, and grace.  It would have been so easy to just let them fall below, because they didn’t meet the expectations.  Jen should have gone home, but because of the love of one parent, she was spared, and was given new life.  That’s the beauty of grace.   And for Christ, just like Deni, and the other parents who sacrificed themselves, He doesn’t consider Himself a loser, but He knows that he is the biggest winner of all, because to see us be with Him is the best thing in the world to Him.  So, thank you, the parents of the black team, for showing the world tonight the power of love and sacrifice.  You have reminded me of the love of Christ, who died for me, so that I can be free to live.

 

My Beautiful Broken Ankle

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

When I was a music major in college, one of the things I really struggled with was sight-reading, which is where you have to play a piece of music that you have never seen before.  In order to move on to the next level, I had to pass a sight reading jury, which means having to sight read in front of the faculty.  In 3 tries, I couldn’t pass it, and so my teacher believed in me enough to give me one last chance.

That semester, I practiced harder than ever.  I wanted to pass it so badly.  My trumpet professor even told me that she felt like I was going to pass this time because of all the hard work I had done.  I was ready.

On the eve of what would have been the most important day in my college life, I slipped outside of the music building.  I broke my leg and ankle in 4 places.  I was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where I was told I would need surgery to put my leg and ankle back together.  As they put me under for surgery, my last thought was about my sight-reading jury that was to happen that next morning.  I didn’t know what was going to happen when I woke up.

The next morning, my phone was ringing from friends and family checking on me.  My trumpet professor called to let me know that she had moved my jury to the end of the semester.  I spent 4 days in the hospital, and then 3 weeks at home in my bed with my leg propped up.  I spent an additional 6 weeks in a wheelchair.  Due to the anesthesia, I had lost a lot of my breath support, which is key for trumpet playing.  I couldn’t practice because I was stuck in my bed.  All I could think of was what could have happened if I wouldn’t have slipped.

I went back to school 4 weeks after the accident and feverishly began practicing again.  When it came time for my jury, I was so nervous.  I played as well as I could, but when my professor called me later that day, I realized that it wasn’t good enough.  Much like my leg, my dreams were shattered.

Many of us have broken dreams.  Many of us live broken lives.  I spent the better part of the next 4 years wondering what could have been.  All I could focus on was the brokenness.  It consumed me.

The amazing thing about Christ is that he can take the most broken and damaged part of us and turn it into something beautiful.  Jesus took a broken woman, who was about to be stoned for adultery, and gave her forgiveness.  He took a murderer and terrorist in Saul, and turned him into the greatest missionary ever as Paul.   He took his broken, beaten, and bloodied body, and turned it into the most beautiful example of grace the world has ever seen.

As I look back now, I realize that if I had not broken my leg, I probably would have never moved to California.  I probably would have never given my life to Jesus.   I wouldn’t be serving at such an amazing church like New Vintage.  God took my broken life and he gave me grace, forgiveness, and love.  My brokenness is now something beautiful.

That is what God does.  If you think that you are too broken, God believes otherwise, and He will show you just how beautiful your brokenness can be when it is put into the hands of the almighty healer.

 

 

It is Well With My Soul

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

If you have known me for any period of time, you know that I love music.  Music is what drives me.  It’s what makes me tick.  I love sitting down and listening to a great piece of music.  I love to dissect it and see what makes it work.

When I gave my life to Christ 6 years ago I began to love Christian music.  I began to not only pay attention to the melodies and harmonies, but also the words.  In Christian music, it is the words that make it “Christian.”  It is the lyrics that help us to connect with God and worship Him in a way that is absolutely amazing.

Just like the Psalms, some songs we sing mention the glory and majesty of God.  Other songs mention the almighty power of God, or of his never-ending love.  Other songs we sing mention Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, or of His resurrection.

One of my favorite songs of all time comes from a unique category of music.  It’s a song that helps us to remember that whatever our circumstances are, we can still be at peace because of God.  Some of these songs come from the darkest pits of despair, and yet still praise God for His love, His patience, His power, and His wisdom.

Horatio Spafford was a wealthy lawyer living in Chicago in the mid 1800’s.  He was very wealthy, had a great job, beautiful wife, and four daughters and a son.  He was a devout Christian.  His life was perfect.  Then, they tragically lost their son.  A few years later, in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, he lost almost everything, including almost every investment he had.

In 1873, Spafford sent his remaining family on a boat trip to Europe on a much-needed getaway.  He was planning on joining them later because he had to take care of some business.  A few days later he received news that his family’s boat had been in a collision.  All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife survived.

He set sail for England to meet up with his grieving wife.  He was distraught as he crossed the Atlantic.  I imagine that every minute just felt like hours.   As they sailed by the place where his family’s boat had sunk, he wrote these words, When sorrows like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.

Here Spafford sits on a boat, watching the waves roll back and forward, realizing that life, just like the waves of the ocean, will have ups and downs.  Sometimes, it will be as peaceful as a river, and sometimes it will be a tsunami.

That song, called It is Well With My Soul, is one of the best-known hymns.  It’s hard to imagine what Spafford was going through.  I can’t even begin to understand what he was feeling as he passed that spot on the ocean.  All I know is that God gave him peace that day.

Jesus said in John 16:33 that in this world we will have trouble.  He understood that this world was not always going to be gumdrops and rainbows.  But here is the good news:  Jesus says next that we should take heart, because He had overcome the world.  What a beautiful thought.  I believe that Spafford began to realize that on the boat that cold day in 1873.

We have peace in Jesus Christ, and although this world will be difficult, we can be comforted that Jesus has already overcome it, and we will soon be with him in eternity.  I pray that if you are hurting that God gives you peace.  May you be comforted in the arms of Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer.