Review :: The Mist

I have mentioned before that since becoming a dad several years back I have found myself changed when watching media. Stephen King's "The Mist" pricked my fatherly nerve quickly and often.

This suspenseful and tragic tale follows a father and son in a small Northeastern town suddenly crippled by a mysterious mist. A eclectic band representing a cross-cut of culture (the artist, the blue collar mechanic, gnarled Harley rider, teacher, lawyer, military man and religious nut job) is trapped inside the local A&P as this mist descends and begins its devastation. Suspense and drama abound as various plans are hatched to escape from their progressively desperate position. The religious nut spouts Jim Jones-type theology, a weird hybrid of the Old Testament and Revelation sans Jesus, getting scores of followers as the tale moves on. Eventually stirring the crowd to scream for "expiation" to calm the beast.

"The Mist" explores the heights and depths of the human condition under great duress, but in all this lies what many critics have called "one of the most daring endings in recent history". This ending has stuck with me almost a day later and mainly for its darkness and virtual nihilistic approach. While I understand the actions of the heroes, it is nonetheless pessimistic and depressing.

Now this is freaky...

I'm literally left speechless and will let the images speak for themselves...

Here's TREE MAN!


Listening to the other voice

I have tried to start up a routine after letting lay dormant in a strange imposed hibernation. If I am to grow as a leader, father, husband, friend and person then discipline is not my enemy. Discipline creates margin for me to operate freely in. Discipline creates time to reflect and learn from my many failures and few successes. And in my new routine I am trying to be far more intentional in reading from both Scripture and spiritual "giants" such as Tozer, Lewis, Chesterton and Kierkegaard.

In today's reading, CS Lewis talks about hearing the other voice:

"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply of shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting the larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Stand back from all your natural fussings and frettings; come in out of the wind."

- CS Lewis

The Economy of Megachurches

Churches are slowly dying in many ways across this country. With the average church size of 60 or less the average Joe does not darken the do or of many houses of worship. But at the same time megachurches are growing and sprouting up around the country. Churches like Willow Creek and North Point, which have been around for years to places such as Elevation and Mars Hill have sprung up recently. Many of these churches of well over 1500 people are not your run-of-the-mill churches...they are deeply involved and influential in the local economies of their cities. The New York Times has an interesting article from this past week about this new phenomenon.


One Writer's Rant

My buddy Paul just sent me this clip from the upcoming film about Harlan Ellison called "Dreams with Sharp Teeth". In this time of a writer's strike, some poignant words.

WARNING :: the language on this is strong for those with weak constitutions.

Bad Writing at its best...

Anne Lamott and Grace

I have a love for Anne Lamott and her no-nonsense writing style. Her books "Bird by Bird" and "Traveling Mercies" are some of my favorites. Relevant Magazine recently interviewed her and she had a great definition of grace:

"Grace is miraculous, unmerited love and fresh air and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In the book I write about going skiing and having a terrible experience where I ended up stunned and freezing in a shack where the ski patrol brought me to warm up. The kerosene heater in the shack was filling the air with a foul odor, but the cracks in the shack allowed more oxygen in. The smell of the trees through those very small spaces connected me to a bigger space. That’s grace."


What I'm listening to today....

If you're in and around Cincinnati this Christmas...come to their Christmas concert. An experience not to miss.

SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search


Prepping for 2008

I've started preparing for the new year a little earlier than usual. My mind is constantly turning toward what lies ahead for our Life Groups, Creativity and Outreach. I certainly do not want to fascinate myself obsessively with what could happen instead of the reality in front of me. But I think is pertinent for me as a leader to constantly evaluate and flex to create a more vibrant environment for success.

I have fallen out of the habit of reading as I once did so I have started the literary engines again. I just ordered three books from Amazon..."Creating Community" by Andy Stanley, "7 Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry" by Bill Donahue and "The Big Idea" by Dave Ferguson. Excited to see what wisdom I can glean and where it all leads...

Jack Bauer :: 1994 edition

I graduated high school in 1994 when the internet was sweeping the nation, AOL was all the rave, you were cool if you had a Geocities page and a pager meant you were somebody. So check out "24" if Jack Bauer had started in 1994. (FYI...some minor language ahead)

What I'm listening to today....

I'm experimenting with a little feature. Most days I'm listening to some kind of music or another. So I thought I would highlight some of the music I listen to each day. See what you think...

SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search

I feel the need...the need for speed

Who doesn't love to smash the gas pedal down once in awhile to feel the quick burst of adrenline surge and escape ordinary life if just for a moment.

I was listening to NPR yesterday when I heard about Alexander Roy who knows this feeling but not for just a moment...try a hare over 31 hours in a BMW M5. He set the new cross-country from New York to California in the secretive world of outlaw "Cannonball Run-type" racing. Roy has a book out documenting the adventure called "The Driver". How 'bout them apples Burt Reynolds?


What's your name? (NOOMA)

Nooma has always put astounding media out since its inception and their newest piece is a crown jewel. "Name" talks bluntly about what we names we give ourselves and the way God sees us. So many of us, including myself, struggle to get comfortable in our own skin. Watch this and wrestle with what you call yourself...


How guilt stops the called

John Piper has a great article in Christianity Today out about how the current epidemic of sexual immorality within the church leadership is not the most looming danger for the church at large...a sad mistake most everyone makes. Instead the true danger is the guilt associated with so many Christians struggling with sexual addiction.

"…so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ. The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair."

How many of us sit on our dreams because of our pasts? How much of our baggage defines us instead of the forgiveness granted us through Christ?


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, November 11th

Series Message: "Living Generously" in the Losing My Religion / Finding my faith Series

In this series we are talking about what not only defines Four Corners but how we can join with you on this journey. So throw off your baggage...it's time for an adventure of faith.

Music Set:

Forever - Chris Tomlin
Wonderful Cross - Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman
Hands that hold the world - Starfield
Blessed be Your Name - Tree 63
Did you feel the mountains tremble - Delirious

Special Elements:
"Money Rant" (video by The Veracity Project)


The biennial beard growing celebration has begun again! Men from around the world flaunt their hairy faces. We all shave "naked" on November 1st and don't shave again until March 1st. Follow my beard growth and vote for my beard on WHISKERINO as we do photos almost every day...


The customer experience of Church

FAST COMPANY has an insightful article in their latest issue about the future of customer experiences and how Apple has created nirvana for many customers and employees at their stores.

They have a section discussing the experiences in some of the world's largest service-industry companies such as Gap, Starbucks, The Container Store, and UPS. Alex Frankel worked at all of them in an undercover project and described his experiences with each in his new book "Punching In" which the article excerpts:

• Gap was "my gulag. I constantly waited for the end of my shift. Tortured with repetitive music and constant folding".

• Starbucks he describes as "a company with a company culture akin to kindergarten, where employees are taught to play well with others...".

• UPS offered "a highly regimented job but just enough independence for workers to feel energized."

Ouch...how would our volunteers at Four Corners or any volunteer-intensive church describe their experience though? Meaningful? Fun? Spiritual? How can we keep a keen and watchful eye for our volunteers' experience without losing our primary focus on new faces? Hmm...

The Apple mantra in their stores is to "reinvent retail". Training for each employee is carefully designed...ask questions of the customer to understand their needs, get permission to fire away and digging deeper to ascertain the best products. Apple's three P's: Position, Permission, Probe. Apple is trying to set a culture of employees less as sales people and more as distributors of needed information.

"When employees become sharers of information, instead of sellers of products, customers respond."

As churches move toward a more volunteer intensive environment, we cannot ignore the fact we are much like a customer experience at one of the above listed stores. We cannot deny religion has been commoditized for good or bad, and people look at many of their life experience opportunities as customers. They want information on our 'product' (i.e. where's the children's ministry? what does your church stand for? what kind of music do you sing? etc.) How we meet this challenge may decide the future for many of us...


Communication Arts recognized the ad agency Modernista! for their Interactive achievement. If you've never heard of Moderista! you're not alone but there is little doubt you've seen their work for the RED campaign, MTV, Hummer, Cadillac, Gap, Napster and more.

A crazy fact from one of Modernista's many projects...the U2 music video "Windows in the Sky" took 4 months, 2,500 man hours and a huge number of clearances from bands ranging from the White Stripes to The Beatles.

Keep an eye on these guys...I think they're just getting started.


The stars come out swinging their collective fists

You may have heard the Writer's Guild has started an industry-wide strike but the impact is far greater than many suspected. Soon shows such as "The Office", "30 Rock", "Heroes", "Battlestar Galactica", "The Unit" and more will grind to a halt with writers and actors alike picketing sets. Read more about what's happening in the industry right now on Ain't It Cool.


Review :: The TV Set

Rating :: Sour Patch Kids...enjoyable but you can't eat too many or else they burn your taste buds off.

This little indie film – with an all-star cast (David Duchovny, Signorney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Bateman) and an up and coming director Jake Kasdan (Freaks and Geeks and Orange County) – is a blazing ball of satire.

As an aspiring writer of a TV series, this film was amazing. It’s the classic conflict of artist versus institution. Duchovny plays Mike Klein a long-time struggling writer who has continually tried to get his shows picked by the network but to no avail until now. His latest show "The Wexler Chronicles" originally about a brother dealing with suicide gets changed by the network to be about his mother dying… which turns his dreams into a living nightmare. Change after change takes his material from decent into the abyss. He watched his dream get flushed by executives making decisions on shows based on their kids' opinions. The dumbing down of TV...

When the credits rolled and there was Judd Apatow's name I knew this was more than a movie trying to point a general finger toward network executives...this was an indictment film. Both Kasdan and Apatow were heavily involved in 'Freaks and Geeks' , a show now thought of as a cult-classic but at the time NBC shoved it on Saturday nights at 8pm. The show was a hard on to nail down...not a 'Wonder Years' because it was too realistic and not as sweet; but in contrast, it was also not a classic teeny bopper show like 'Dawson's Creek' because it had character in its character. So off to the TV graveyard with it… yet fans have continued to this day to keep the show's legacy alive.

This well-done film crackles with energy and humor as well as its stinging criticism of a system that promotes mediocrity often.

Perfecting Symphathy

My Big Lip
Originally uploaded by ryanhartsock.

My son, Soren, has recently perfected his look of pure pity. Whenever you say 'no' to anything (no matter how small or large) he strikes this pose. Magnum has nothing on this...


Review :: Dexter

Rating :: a steak...rare (and I mean bloody)

Showtime has taken over as the premier storyteller on cable TV. With shows such as "Californication", "Weeds", "Brotherhood" and "The Tudors" HBO's title as the place channel to watch is history.

A macabre and poignant series of a serial killer who is attempting to harness the beast inside of him. Dexter works for the Miami Police Department as a forensic specialist using his "killer" instincts to unlock the mysteries of murders everywhere. The audience is in a tug-o-war loving Dexter as he brings justice to those who take life and wondering if that love should be reconsidered as he slices and dices people who justice cannot reign in.

"Dexter" certainly is not a show for everyone. Too bloody and dark for most but too well-crafted to ignore.

Halloween Helicopter Candy Drop

Halloween Helicopter Candy Drop
Originally uploaded by 4 Corners

I have been noticeably MIA from the blogosphere due to this event and it was worth it. Over 1200 people showed to blitz a field for candy and prize filled Halloween Eggs. It was an amazing time for us as a church to practically serve our community...almost 85% of the people there had never come to Four Corners. Giddy up!