Monday, July 1, 2013

On WorshipGodWest - Part II

I think I'm just going to keep moving chronologically through the conference.


After the first amazing session, we all split up to various seminars. I chose to go to "Leading a Christ-exalting Children's Ministry" and "From Notes to Charts", the latter of which was a piano seminar taught by Enfield's John Martin.

The first seminar was taught by Marty Machowski, and his main point was that children's ministries need to be gospel-centered. As always, the premise sounds so obvious, but after listening to him and reflecting on my own experiences in children's ministries, it is SO easy to let the gospel escape from our ministries. His introduction was a memo from a children's ministry where the leaders had decided to avoid teaching about the death of Jesus on Easter due to the graphic nature of the crucifixion. Instead, they chose to teach on the Last Supper, a gathering between Jesus and his friends.

Marty argued, and I wholeheartedly agree, that without the death and resurrection of Christ, we don't have a gospel. We just have humanist moralizing. We can teach the kids to act better, but without the gospel, how can they be saved?

No matter what we teach, whether it be creation science, or peacemaking, or about the Old Testament, EVERYTHING needs to point back to Christ.

Some more thoughts:

  • Parents are primary. What's more, parents WANT to teach their kids, and would love to know what we're doing. I need to be more proactive about partnering with parents.
  • A line from Spurgeon that I really liked: "Christ crucified is meat for men, but also milk for babes."

I actually didn't learn much from the piano session. After going to musical seminars at these types of conferences, I realize that you're lucky to learn even ONE thing. Which is kind of ironic, because this is where I thought I would be growing the most from the conference.

Basically, everything I learned in this session can be summed up in four sentences.
  1. Practice, practice, practice. Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong.
  2. Don't trample all over the bass...or the guitars. Pick your frequencies and your spots. Match the drum/bass groove.
  3. The room that we were in had no air conditioning.
  4. John Martin is really, really good at piano.

I think that's it for now. And I haven't even gotten to the second session.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

On WorshipGodWest - Part I

WorshipGodWest was incredible.

There were just SO many good things about it that I literally am having trouble figuring out where to start. The praise? The praise sessions were incredible. One thousand musical people just singing their hearts out to the Lord, led by incredibly talented musicians. The messages? I felt like each of them was perfectly prepared in the perfect order for me to hear and to grow. (Well, I kinda was zoning out during the last one. I was kinda tired.) The seminars were amazing, seeing Abe and Lil was awesome, hanging with Danny and Nelson was awesome...yeah. It was awesome.

I'm on an incredible high right now. It's kinda scary, since I know that feelings can only carry you so long. And I'm preparing for the inevitable backlash. Already, I feel like I'm being attacked pretty hard. But I'm going to ride this train till it runs out of rail.

Anyway, I thought I'd start writing about things that I learned at the conference in chronological order just to ensure that they get written down somewhere.


The first message of the conference was entitled: "Faithful to Receive." Honestly, I hadn't really prepared for this conference at all, so I didn't really have any idea what to expect. I think I had a vague idea that I would watch the Sovereign Grace folk do their thing, and doing so would magically turn me into a better piano player for God.

So this message was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Craig Cabaness taught from John 4, which is kind of a standard passage for most messages teaching about worship. This is where Jesus gives that famous statements that "the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth." There's been many, many sermons spoken and books written about what this statement exactly means.

Craig didn't go into it much at all. He focused on the next clause: "...for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him." The main point is that worship is always a response to God. In his words: "True worship emerges from God's pursuit of us, nor from our pursuit of Him. We are first and foremost recipients, not contributors!"

And in two sentences, Craig dissolved my entire agenda in coming to the conference. I wasn't there to try to learn some secret chord in order to praise the Lord better as a contributor. I was there to remember that no matter where I am in a musical worship session, whether I am in the congregation or behind a piano, I come first as a sinner before God. I first come to receive grace from God, not to contribute something of worth to Him.

So simple...and exactly what I needed to hear.

Some more points:
  • It's funny how we humans tend to find our identity in what we do. When I introduce myself, I almost always say that I am a computer programmer. If I don't say it, someone will ask me what I do. What I do seems to be so entwined with who I am. In the olden days, it was such a part of you that is became your name: that's why we have all the Bakers and Smiths in the world.

    Not so with the Christian. We're tempted to identify ourselves as "worship leader", or "pastor", or "dude who plays piano." But we are Christians, not because we do anything, but because we were saved by God. Being a Christian has absolutely NOTHING to do with what we do.
  • In order to lead others in focusing on God, we must first focus on what we have received from Christ.
  • As musicians, it's so tempting to want to be fresh and new. But we are not called to be original. Worship never originates with us. It's not that we can't be creative or anything. But freshness in worship comes from fresh looks at Jesus, not from ourselves.
Wow. And that was just one session. Guess I'll have to keep writing these.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On Big Data

Just read an article called "How a Computer Program Can Learn All About You From Just Your Facebook Likes." Slashdot linked to it with a little more daring title: "Facebook Knows If You're Gay, Use Drugs, Or Are a Republican." The actual paper that these articles talk about is here, and while it's actually very readable for a paper, its title is "Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior." So...I'm going to go ahead and re-summarize it again here.

The basic gist of the article is that a bunch of dudes from Cambridge and Microsoft wanted to find out if they could find things out about people based solely on what they like on Facebook. Turns out, they can find out a ton. This is kind of scary because Facebook likes are completely public to everyone, even people you haven't friended. So companies and strangers can find out a ton about you, pretty much for free.

Here's the relevant chart that shows how strong Facebook likes correlate with certain traits:

For some traits, like gender and race, Facebook likes are nearly conclusive evidence. It's not quite so strong for things like drug use or lesbianism, but it's still relatively strong. Remember that random guessing should theoretically have .5 correlation, so while Facebook likes can point strongly in a direction for all of these traits, they're hardly a smoking gun for anything below a 0.8 correlation.

The paper also correlated other things like intelligence, age, number of friends, and personality traits like extroversion with Facebook likes with various amounts of success. I'm actually not quite sure how powerful the correlations are, but the paper assures me that the findings have a 99.99% chance of being statistically significant. So there's that.

The fun part is seeing which "likes" correlate with which traits. It's not exactly what you might think: after all, only 5% of actual gay people "like" things that are explicitly homosexual on Facebook. Also, if there's anything that Nate Silver and grad school have taught me, it's that we tend to overfit theories to data. So a lot of these might just be the result of bad training data. But some of them...well, they seem to make sense. Here's a few excerpts:

  • Higher intelligence correlates with liking "The Godfather," "The Lord of the Rings," "The Colbert Report," "The Daily Show," and "Science." Makes sense. But it also correlates with liking "Thunderstorms" and "Curly Fries." You never know, maybe there's something here...
  • Lower intelligence correlates with "Tyler Perry," "Harley-Davidson," "Sephora," and "Lady Antebellum." I'm not going to make any comments here.
  • Neurotic people like "Emo," "Dot Dot Curve," and "So So Happy." I don't even know what those are and it seems to make sense.
  • Homosexual males like "No H8 Campaign," "Mac Cosmetics," and "Human Rights Campaign." Makes sense. And "Wicked." Crap.
  • Heterosexual males like "Wu-Tang Clan," "Shaq," and "Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps." I kind of love that that last one's actually a thing.
  • Homosexual females like "Not Being Pregnant," "The L Word," and "Sometimes I Just Lay In Bed And Think About Life."
And so it goes. I dunno, I think I'm supposed to be scared by these articles into wanting more privacy, but honestly, I find this kind of stuff more fascinating than anything. Some people want to hide from Google or, I want to write the program that crunches all this stuff.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

People Change

This actually has nothing to do with this post, this was just one of my favorite songs growing up.

A while back, before the Super Bowl that never happened, I was reading Jon Acuff's blog, "Stuff Christians Like", and I came upon this post: Why I Don't Believe in Grace. It's really short, so just go read it.  For the lazy, I'll go ahead and quote the setup:

At the end of the game, he took off his jersey to reveal a shirt that said, “Psalms 91.”
I smiled at that. But then deep in my heart, I thought, “Yeah, but that guy was part of a double homicide. Whatever.”
And there it is.
I don’t believe in grace.
Or, I believe in it for me, and people who have sinned like me. But there’s a whole lot of people I don’t think deserve grace.
 Just read it, this is like half the blog post.

He then goes on to say that "grace offends in its generosity...grace offends in its depth."

I'm not here to talk about Ray Lewis, or anyone else. Just about my own reaction. And the crazy thing is that I read this in the weeks leading up the Super Bowl, and I STILL mentioned the double homicide every chance I had because, well, you know, Niners.

But every now and then, I'll think about grace, and this blog post. And I'll think about all the times I judge people that I don't know, like Kobe, or the Maloofs, or Kobe, or Obama, or Kobe. And I'll think there's no hope for them.

Even worse, the other day, I found myself praying for the salvation of some people who I've been praying for a long time. And due to my weakness and lack of faith, I remember an errant thought, "is this EVER going to happen?"

I was pretty freaked out, to be honest. What a lack of faith in God's grace and God's power. I know people can change. My life is predicated on the fact that people can change.

Anyway, that's just a thought that's been rolling around in my head for the past few weeks.


Page CXVI is giving away music for free here. =)

I like them because they do all their hymns in minor chords, and I love minor chords since I'm emo.

But maybe there's a limit. Here's a cover of "I've got the joy, joy..." done in a really sad, slow, driving pace.

I think about this every now and then, because I really like to play "Jesus I My Cross Have Taken" in an upbeat, jazzy way. And every time I do, I'm kind of conflicted because I feel like the music's not accentuating the lyrics at all.

But then again, maybe Page CXVI is thinking on a higher level. Maybe they're having some tough times, but they can still have joy in their hearts because of Jesus. Yeah, that's probably it.

OK, last thought. I was trying to write a song the other day, but then I realized that what I wanted to say was already said in a verse of "Jesus I My Cross Have Taken," in far better words than I could ever do. Hate when that happens.
Soul, then know thy full salvation 
Rise o'er sin and fear and care 
Joy to find in every station 
Something still to do or bear 
Think what Spirit dwells within thee 
Think what Father's smiles are thine 
Think that Jesus died to win thee 
Child of hea'en, canst thou repine?
That's it.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Change

I know, I know, I said I'd update more often, but things at work got crazy busy.

I wrote a post on bragging a week ago or so, but then I realized that I wasn't saying much of anything new. Here's the short version: Bragging stinks.

So here's something else. We'll see if this one makes it to public status.


I don't talk to my dad very often anymore. But a lot of what he says and said sticks with me. And one of the things that he repeatedly said (and still says) is that life always changes.

Really deep, I know.

Let me provide some context. There have been many times when we would talk about the direction of my life. With the exception of the year in which I moved to San Diego, I would always tell him that I would be staying put, in large part because I loved the church I was at, and that I didn't see things being better elsewhere.

He would then sigh and tell me that after some time, I'd realize that life always changes. Soon I would realize that the church and friends I had at the time would move on, and I would be left trying to hold onto a moment in time that could no longer exist. "During your 20s, you must invest in yourself," he would always say. "In your 30s, you invest in your family, and in your 40s you invest in others."

After 28 years of life, even my own paltry experience has shown that my dad is right. Life always changes. It's not that I've lost friendships, but as my stage of life changes, the people I spend the most time with will change as well, and that's just a fact of life.

But you know what? Maybe I'm just stubborn, but I refuse to accept my dad's conclusions. Life changes, yes. But just because my current stage of life is temporal doesn't mean that I can't or shouldn't invest in the people around me. There are people in my past that I don't spend as much time with today, or even talk to on a regular basis. But I still love them, and I believe that if certain life circumstances changed, we'd be picking up right where we left off. More than anything, I know that the time and effort I spent were not wasted.

And that holds right now as well. Maybe my stage of life is temporal. (Then again, seeing the rate at which I'm going, I'll probably be single forever.) But I know that the people God has placed around me are there for a reason. Like I always say, time invested in people is time spent, not time lost. Even if we'll never speak in the future.


Oh, and this was in my other post. It's a bit untimely now, but I still think it's too funny to not share:

My mom was chatting with me the other day and talking about how I'm going to be 28. Then this happened:

Elaine: when are you gonna move?
10:47 AM me: march 2nd
 Elaine: same roommate?
 me: yeah
10:48 AM Elaine: so everything is good?
  you are gonna be 28.
 me: yeah
10:49 AM Elaine: umma and abba are 57 this year.
  time fries.
 me: wow
10:50 AM Elaine: i mean flies.
  so funny

I have no idea how this happened, but I love my mom.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

On Turning 28

I'm going to try to keep blogging this time. Just a little bit every other day or so. Really.


Turning 28 makes you start to think about your life, whether you like it or not. I'm officially closer to 30 than I am to 25, which is...daunting. I'm constantly in fear of my back or knees giving out, which isn't pleasant.

It's not all bad though. For example, 27-year-old Tim would have used the word "terrifying" instead of "daunting" in the last paragraph. 28-year-old Tim is too old to be terrified by anything anymore. Or maybe 28-year-old Tim is too old to allow himself to admit he's terrified by anything anymore. Maybe it's a bit of both, or maybe one feeds the other. Who knows.

I thought I'd have a more definite picture of what I wanted to be at 28, but it's proving more difficult than I thought. 28 is such a nebulous age to me. I don't think I've ever been really close to 28-year-old people in my life, so I don't really have an image of what I think a 28-year-old should be like. Maybe they were all just newlyweds that I never talked to? Maybe that's why? I hope not. But that's probably it.

Anyway, it looks like I have to make my own goals. But that's OK, since 28-year-old Tim is up to the task. So what do I want for the next year?


I feel like there are a few definite markers that break up a man's life. You start off as a baby. You become a toddler when your burps and farts stop being funny to other people. You become a child when you can start to communicate with the big people. You become a teenager once you have learned everything there is to know about the world. You become a young adult when you can survive by yourself.

Clearly these aren't the only possible markers, but I think these are the qualities I think of for each stage of life. If I had to come up with the next marker, it would probably be this: you're an adult when you start feeling like you never have enough time for anything.

And that's what I feel these days: a constant need to use up each second of each day. I hate the fact that I need to sleep each night. I would pay all the money I have to my name if I could just have another year to work on myself or whatever. But I can't.

But you know what? I'm starting to think that's the trap. I really want to make something of myself in this world, which would have sounded really weird to even 25-year-old me. But then I remember the thorny soil, and then I am conflicted and ashamed. I remember that C.S. Lewis quote: "Prosperity knits a man to the world. He thinks he is finding his place in it, when it is finding its place in him."

So what do I want? I want to be driven. But I want to be driven for the right reasons.


Guess that's enough for tonight.