"This I believe..."

I'm a big NPR listener and have found their recent series called "This I Believe" a great peek into people's core. Today Bill Nunan, a PhD in Fusion Plasma Physics from UCLA, talked about how his faith in God and his firm grounding in science co-exist. An exceptional piece...listen to it HERE.

As a companion read, try looking at Dr. Francis Collins (head of the Human Genome Project) commentary about his faith as a scientist in Anderson Cooper's series on "What is a Christian?"

TIME magazine :: Teaching the Bible in secular schools?

TIME magazine has an interesting cover story in its current issue about the teaching of the Bible in secular schools. Take a read HERE.


Mute Math rocks the free world...

I've been talking about these guys since theirdebut. Hands down one of the best bands to emerge in the last 5 years. A great video too.


My theory on Battlestar Galatica UPDATED

UPDATE :: According to a recent interview a friend sent me given by Ronald Moore, creator of the new "Battlestar Galactica", my theory is indeed right but with a slight twist...President Roslin is Moses.

I had this epiphany today about one of my favorite TV show Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi channel. Besides being an amazing, I believe the show to be a modern retelling of the Israelites wandering through the desert for 40 years. Think about this...humans go into Exodus from their world to wander the vastness of space for years. They are lead by a man of tremendous charisma and character, Admiral Adama (Moses) with his team Lee (Joshua), Roslin (Aaron) and Starbuck (Caleb).

The group grows tired of being told the promise land (Earth) awaits them and settles on the nearest place to call home...leading to further decimation of the group. BSG is a modern retelling of the Israelites wandering the desert. My thoughts on the whole deal anyway...


We're sitting here laughing about some off-key recordings online...check them out if you dare:

Holy is the Lord
O Holy Night

WARNING :: These are absolutely terrible...like fingernails on a chalk board-bad.

Spring arrives...

I'm sitting here at one of my favorite spots in Cincinnati (Coffee Affair) where I meet often with my writing partner to work on scripts and the smell of spring infuses everything. I know little better than the smell of fresh espresso and spring...it brings a smile.

Spring has always been one of my favorite seasons for the sense of life bursting in everything. After a long cold winter here in Ohio there is a sense of new found freedom with the open windows on cars and houses...letting the stale air of blustery days escape and the new air of spring creep in.

Of it all, I wait eagerly to smell the first cut grass (not to cut my grass, of course). To take gulps of that smell makes me feel like a kid all over while I watched my dad mow the lawn, back and forth. So welcome spring...we're glad you're here.


Would you miss your church if it disappeared tomorrow?

Does your church provide such a unique product and church experience that we would be saddened if it didn’t exist? Does the church treat its attendees so astonishingly well that those people would not be able to find another place to treat them as well? Does the church forge such unfailing emotional connections with its attendees that they would fail to find another place that could forge just as strong an emotional bond?

Brand Autopsy has been asking that question of various brands but I thought it was equally as relevant to ask of the church.

Until the last 3 years I would have said NO...I wouldn't have missed it at all. Starbucks was often our "church" on Sunday mornings. But Four Corners Church has provided a church experience unlike any one we have encountered before.

Bono preaches...

He wears his passion on his sleeve and truly annunciates better than almost anyone the plight of Africa.


Monday brings 5 things

Five things that my mind thinks about this Monday...

1. Stranger than Fiction
An amazing movie with a brillantly understated performance by Will Ferrell. Many have compared it to Jim Carrey's "Truman Show" and for good reason...it has many parallels. So many deep and subtle things it says about life and death. Worth the watch.

2. Switchfoot
Saw them in concert this past weekend and what a show. Great performance all-around by both them and Copeland. See some photos here taken by my friend, Paul.

3. Battlestar Galactica
An addictive TV show worth telling friends about. Stunning writing, great acting and compelling storylines. Check it out if you haven't already...

4. Newcastle
A great beer to enjoy with friends.

5. My kids
I love my boys...see them HERE.


LOST (3.14.07)

I DVR'ed LOST and just got finished watching it and they're BACK!! This episode finally delivered what all of us had been hoping for...revelations, action, and some HUGE questions. Just when I had begun to think about waving LOST goodbye...they bring me back in.

Starbucks "Your Way"

Starbucks had their 2nd annual Coffee Break this past week and launched an interesting marketing campaign in association with it called "Make it your drink...". There's a little custom illustration piece where you can create the drink you prefer as a desktop wallpaper or IM icon. Check it out HERE to see what your drink looks like.


Montana Meth Project :: dark and honest

Darren Aronofsky directed a series of :30 second spots for the Montana Meth Project and they are unbelievable. They are pitch black in tone but absolutely honest. This is how a commercial :30 long can create an unbelievable impact.

Check it out HERE


We partied like 1999!

Yesterday at Four Corners we partied...I mean really partied. Disco Ball, DJ, cake, drinks, dancing...the whole nine yards. Not after church but actually during our service.

Ben talked about how Jesus' first miracle was changing water to wine at a wedding feast in John 2. We decided to shut down church to party...to celebrate what God is doing in this world. We have lost the perspective that Jesus is a guy we would enjoy being around and when we lose this, our journey is missing something critical.

He talked about how Jesus delivered an unbelievable amount of wine...roughly 120 gallons of wine, which equals about 3 bottles of wine per person at this party. It wasn't about Jesus making enough for people to get trashed...but it is showing God is not one of scarcity instead abundance. He can deliver far beyond what we believe he can.

He also talked about the quality of the wine. Traditional Jewish weddings served the more inferior wine toward the end of the celebration when people had already had quite a bit to drink. But Jesus delivers the best wine last that supercedes the expectations...and he delivered this great wine last, at the perfect time. He wanted the celebration to continue.

I love that our church loves to have fun...I'll have pictures and maybe some videos soon.

Can the church learn from the Apple Store?

While reading an article in Fortune magazine during a workout this morning I came across an insightful and in-depth look at the wild success of the Apple Store.

NOTE :: Now those that know me probably are rolling their eyes at the mention of Apple...I'm a much-loving Mac user and highly loyal to their brand. Some call it the cult of Mac...I just call it a good customer experience all around. But I digress.

Did you know the Apple Store is far and away the most lucrative retail store per square foot, averaging just over $4000/square foot in Annual Sales? The next closest is Tiffany's with $2666/square foot. For the record, Best Buy is $930/square foot. So this is not just some glitch on the map but something worth noting and learning from. The average Apple Store over 13,800 customers weekly while the NYC Fifth Avenue store averages 50,000+ weekly.

"Our goal was never to have a store for a cult. It was to be a store for everyone."

So what can I learn as a Creative Experience Director of a Church? Is the church a place for a "cult" or a place for all people? Do we have an experience designed by church people for church people? Or do we design a place to welcome all people regardless? We are looking at the future for us in terms of a building as we outgrow the school where we meet and this resounds for us tremendously. How can we create an environment for people to explore and get to know God at their own pace? A place for doubters, seekers and followers...

"We asked people, 'Tell us about the best service experience you've ever had' They said it was a hotel. This was unexpected. But of course: The concierge desk at a hotel doesn't sell anything; it's there to help. We said, 'How do we create a store that has the friendliness of a Four Seasons hotel? Let's put a bar in the store but instead of serving alcohol, we dispense advice."

Do we offer a place in church for people who have questions? Do we rely too much on people taking the iniatitve when they get home to call/email/contact us with the question...will they even ask once they leave? What if we have a place where people can get both pertinent information and advice from trained people?

"Apple has changed people's expectations of what retail should be about. After they've seen Apple, how do they feel looking at a drugstore or the jeans section in a department store?"

Are churches ready and expecting to change people's perception of God and the pursuit of truth? Can we demonstrate to those come in that other "experiences" pale in comparison to a church community that works?

Food for thought...


Music this week [part 2]

Last week I started this whole Blog deal and said I would also begin a weekly (hopefully) column on music I enjoy and discover. Here's this week's:

Regina Speckor + Imogen Heap

Their voices mesmerize and hyponize me. Imogen Heap is also the lead singer of Frou Frou who brought you the song "Let Go" from the movie Garden State.

[if you want a sample, download these] Fidelity (Regina), Hide and Seek (Imogen)

Relient K :: 5 score and 7 years ago

Makes my head bounce and always fun to listen to.
[if you want a sample, download these] Must have done something right, Sadie Hawkins

Over the Rhine :: Ohio & Drunkard's Prayer
Living here in Cincinnati I thought everyone had listened to our local band truimph, Over the Rhine. But to my chagrin, I was sorely mistaken. This band is not one to miss no matter where your journey finds you geographically. Karen and Linford bring soul and depth more than almost anyone I know...almost a lyrical nakedness. Subtle and soothing... If you haven't listened to them yet...what are you waiting for?

[if you want a sample, download these] Jesus in New Orleans, Born

Grits & Pigeon John
Hip-hop with a positive message (and no, it doesn't suck)and social commentary to boot. Both these guys are amazing.

[if you want a sample download these] Oh Ah, Weight of the World

So that's this week's round up...see you next week with some more musical musings.

Catch a Fire

I have always been drawn to films about the plight of South Africa and Apartheid...films like "Cry Freedom", "Power of One", and "Cry, the Beloved Country". And it is this attraction to those films that brought me to "Catch a Fire" starring Derek Luke and Tim Robbins.

A compelling but ethically confusing story about how one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. A man who is mistakenly suspected of bombing an oil refinery and whose family is subsequently tortured to support the claims. It is this torture (a very powerful scene when he discovers his wife in a cell nearby as screams through the bars..."what kind of man are you!") that turns him toward "terrorism" and ending apartheid through violent disruptions.

The ending is powerful when we meet the man himself the story is based on and how the whole ordeal has changed him...he no longer believes that revenge and violence will solve the problems in South Africa.

Don't know what exactly to say about the overall themes without diving into the philosophical and ethical undertones of revenge but often find myself wondering what I would do if my family (God forbid) were ever put in harm's way.


We will fight in the shade...

As I posted earlier this week, I went to a sneak peek of "300" with a group of guys. All I can say is WOW! The film was a violent and visceral masterpiece...a rich story of honor, history, and valor. The Spartans were the perfectly honed fighting machine.

If you haven't read of the vast technical achievements of the film make sure you read about it HERE. I have never ceased to be amazed at the complexity and artistry of film.

The film achieved a look throughout that not only enhanced the feel of the film but transported you back to the battlefield awash in coppery tones. The story itself was simple but yet compelling.

A quick tangent...I have found myself pulled much more by themes of fatherly valor and defending ones family since having kids. Seems obvious but I thought worth mentioning.

The Spartan King Leonidas is a charismatic leader bringing his sparse force of only 300 against the hordes of Xerxes (a strange androgoneous giant who reminded me of the guy from the 'Crying Game'). One of the bloodiest films I have seen but makes you wonder about the art of war and how we fight now. There is some strange honor in the idea of death at the actual hands of an enemy there to pillage and rape your land and now the bombs and missiles fired from continents away.

I'm going to see it again on Saturday at the IMAX...looking forward to a repeat viewing.


My Celebrity Look-alikes

I was curious after seeing someone else's...interesting. Try it for yourself HERE.


A sneak peek at "300"

I was given tickets to tomorrow night's sneak peek of "300" about the Spartans in the battle for Thermopylae adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel (he is also penned such graphic novel classics as "The Dark Knight" and "Sin City"). I can't tell you how excited I am to see it. I'll give a full report on the film on Wednesday but in the meantime check out the official "300" website to satiate your appetite.

Ghost Recon is coming, Ghost Recon is coming

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon has been my little pleasure since the fall and the main reason I got XBox 360. Unfortunately the game hates me and won't let get beyond a ranking of "4" (yes...I could be called a nerd.) And to add to my distraction comes Ghost Recon 2 this week.


Restoration and Shalom

I have been going to some Sunday evening classes on Biblical history...fascinating stuff. We covered creation (Genesis) all the way through Solomon the first night then we moved through the remainder of the Old Testament until 63 BCE when the Romans arrived tonight. Thanks Dr. Nicholas for making it easier to understand much of the grand history.

So much was helped me realize my faith is deep rooted in a rich history. The Bible is littered with accounts many of us simply gloss over or have failed to read...passages that wake us up to the fact that this world (gritty and dark) is nothing new to God. Try reading the book of Judges and tell me it's Sunday school material. I found profound solace in the idea that God relentlessly pursues imperfect people because that's what I am...a man charged with good intentions but plagued by poor follow through.

Here are a few intriguing things I been learning ::

• The 10 plagues of Egypt were directly related to 10 deities of the Egyptian religion.

• When Moses came down from the mountain with the commandments it was actually 10 commandments and 600+ laws for the people of Israel to follow.

• We crave SHALOM (peace and wholeness) within this broken world and the question keeps being asked...can we live in shalom with other people, nature and ourselves?

• The history of Israel is a nasty roller coaster...a feeling of fulfillment one moment and then being undermined from within or invaded the next. What a ride 722 BCE until 63BCE!

Knowing the deeper roots of my faith continues to be both a challenge and an adventure.


Has LOST lost it?

It’s not that it is bad but it is certainly no longer amazing…it’s better than most but not on the leading edge anymore. I have been watching “Heroes” and “Battlestar Galatica” this year and they have consistently amazed me. For example, this past week’s “Heroes” may have been one of the better hours of TV I have seen. It was compelling, emotional and it revealed critical answers to long asked questions. And maybe that’s what LOST lacks…a compelling hour that truly reveals answers to the many complex questions. The danger of a complex mythological narrative is getting lost in its own mythology. As a good friend said, this show may go where “Desperate Housewives” went this season for me…unwatched. We'll just have to see.

7 Days to Stay Dead (and counting)

I have spent the better part of two and half years working on a TV short-run series. We have sweat, anguished and toiled over the idea many times sitting in our little room at Coffee Affair. Dave with his chocolate muffin and tea and me with my oversized latte followed by numerous pieces of gum…and in all this comes a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment (in a good way, of course).

We have now moved into a far more serious and risky area of this project. It’s easy to keep writing when you can keep telling yourself one day someone will want this and it’s another thing when the idea is sitting on someone’s desk under their scruntious eye. That’s where we are now…the script sent to several people who could ultimely help move this project toward something more than living iniside our heads and in a small café.

I am always amazed at Dave’s (my writing partner and friend) tenacity and passion for the project. His hard work has been an amazing asset and I love so many of our times with ideas splashing on the walls.

So here’s to waiting and remaining hopeful to something often deemed overly-idealistic and naïve…to an idea moving toward reality.

FYI : if you want to catch a glimpse of the idea go HERE

Music this week [part 1]

Some days I spend time just wandering the iTunes store...following the trail of "Listeners also bought". The other day I stumbled on a whole crowd of new artists but find it frustrating that I can't save my "favorites" anywhere for future download.

I think I will start a weekly column of sorts with music I have found refreshing or enjoyable or meaningful in some way...and you can explore with me if you like. Here are a few of the artists I have perused lately:

Ray LaMontagne :: Till the Sun turns Black
Thank you, Paul Armstrong for the introduction. A mix of jazz and husky melancholy lyrics slowly trickle from this album to create a beautiful treat.
[if you want a sample, download these] Be Here Now, Can I Stay

Stars of Track + Field :: Centuries Before Love and War
Downright amazing and beautiful. Sweeping in scope and addictive to listen to...I listen to "Movies of Antarctica" over and over.
[if you want a sample, download these] Movies of Antarctica, Lullaby for a GI

Explosions in the Clouds :: The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place
This is a band I find myself meditating too...just sitting inside the musical genius of their guitars. Rarely has instrumental music been so good. These guys were also the entire soundtrack (along with Brian Eno) for the film "Friday Night Lights".
[if you want a sample, download these] Your hand in mine, Memorial

Borne :: Loss of Signal
A free iTunes download a few weeks ago that sounds like a Coldplay with a twist.
[if you want a sample download these] The Guide, Don't Go Now

Pilot Speed :: Into the West
They call them an American U2 meets Radiohead with that epic sound. These days it's seems hard not to get that comparison but these guys are enjoyable nonetheless.
[if you want a sample, download these] Into your hideout, Barely listening

So that's this week's round up...see you next week with some more musical musings.