Friday, November 21, 2014

The Six AMAZING Things I've Written On Parenting! ...or the six things I've written on parenting



Ok I probably haven't written anything amazing, but I have written on parenting.

For the first eight years of my time in student ministry I found myself in a strange situation.  I was guiding children without having any children.  More importantly, I was trying to coach parents on how to raise children without having any children.  The gap between my responsibility and my experience led me to do lots of reading.  At the same time, my experience with teenagers gave me a unique perspective on teenagers and their needs.

Now I have two children of my own, AND over 10 years of experience working with teenagers.  When I write about parenting, I write as a parent thinking about my own children 5...10...15 years from now.  I write as a student pastor who desperately wants parents to understand just how important they are.

Our children are our legacy.
Our children are our greatest ministry.
Make your parenting matter!


THE ONLY SIX THINGS I'VE WRITTEN ON PARENTING!


#1 | What Are You Doing With the Limited Time You Have With Your Kids?

#2 | Five Areas Every Parent Must Prepare Their Child Before They Graduate?

#3 | Four Shocking Things I Wish Every Parent of a Teenager Understood

#4 | How to Prepare Your Child to Graduate & Not Keep Moving Back Home

#5 | Are You Missing One of the Five Obvious Ways to Help Your Child Grow Spiritually?

#6 | Five Conversations You Must Have With Your Kids About Social Media
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

"What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage" [Kindle Edition] is Only $ .99 on Amazon Right Now



A great book on marriage "What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage" [Kindle Edition] is only $ .99 on Amazon right now.  It's well worth a dollar and I don't know how long this deal will last.

If you click on the link below and then click the KINDLE button, you'll see the proper price.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Did You Expect From Mama June & Honey Boo Boo? ...a lesson in what happens when you make exploitation entertainment



If you haven't been following the tabloids, Honey Boo Boo's mom (Momma June) is in a lot of trouble.  A simple Google search for "Mama June" will provide you with 9,000 different articles repeating the same quotes and facts on the information.  I have no interest in giving a thorough summary, but here's a quick summary.

Recently it was revealed that Momma June had spent time with one of her ex-boyfriends who was convicted of sexually abusing her oldest daughter, and she took her younger kids with her to see him.

The internet exploded with all of the obvious questions:

  • Is she dating this guy again?
  • How much time has she spent with this guy?
  • Is he one of their parents?
  • Why did she take her kids to go see a sexual predator?

Those are all great questions if we were talking about most anyone else, but given her track record, what did you expect?

Let's Look at Her Track Record

Mamma June and Honey Boo Boo rose to fame by being featured on Toddler's & Tiaras.  This show, which is on TLC (The LEARNING Channel), follows a group of parents and their toddlers as they compete in child beauty pageants.  Each week, you see a new set of three year olds plastered with make-up, walking a stage in front of a panel of creepy grown men who rate them.

To be clear, I know some people do this kind of thing on some rare occasion just for the fun of it.

This show is about moms who force their children to compete in child beauty pageants.  It's not a study of this sub-culture, it's the exploitation of these dysfunctional families.

Of all the families featured on the show, who were the most bizarre?
Honey Boo Boo and Momma June


You can search on YouTube for a best of Honey Boo Boo reel or Google "Honey Boo Boo Gifs" if you want, but here's a quick rundown of this mom and daughter:

  • Honey Boo Boo is known for her bizarre over the top personality.  So, we're to laugh at her odd behavior and strange statements, but it's not like "Kids Say the Darndest Things;"  It's like we're looking down at this child.
  • She's known for her tantrums, whiney personality, and foul language (at age 6).
  • Her mom is known for allowing this behavior and giving her six year old GO GO JUICE (their own special mix of Red Bull, Mountain Dew and Pixie Sticks).
  • When Honey Boo Boo is on GO GO JUICE, she starts acting like she's drunk, hopped up on Red Bull, and perhaps did a little cocaine.  We're meant to laugh at her while she sits there wobbling like a drunk, saying bizarre things or when she starts to lay on her side and run in circles.  
  • And her mother has defended giving her GO GO JUICE by saying something to the effect of, "I could give her worse, like alcohol."   
I could go on and on.  This is all from the ONE episode I saw.  

Now, if you saw a mother and daughter behaving like this at your school or church, you would instantly tell the child they need to behave and then pull the parent aside to confront them about the wisdom of their parenting style.   

TLC saw their behavior and they saw DOLLAR SIGNS!!!  And they were right.  Soon afterwards, Honey Boo Boo received her own spin-off show which has run for several years. A quick look at their ratings indicate the show has MILLIONS of viewers.

Back to Our Controversy

Jump forward to a couple of weeks ago, TLC has canceled the spin-off show after allegations of about her mother dating a child molester came up.

As a business, I can understand why they would want to do so.  As humans, I'm not really sure why they didn't see this coming.

I just have to ask anyone surprised by this, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?!?
  • Would you give your six year old Red Bull with Mountain Dew and pixie sticks?
  • Would you allow your over weight six year old to go on national television and play with their belly fat while hopped up on Red Bull?
  • Would you exploit your six year old for money?
  • Would you humiliate your six year old on national television?

Ten years from now, she will be in high school and on the butt end of every joke.  Obviously, there's something SERIOUSLY wrong with her mom. This is not the behavior of someone with a nurturing maternal instinct.

Everything they have ALLOWED to be seen NATIONALLY, I would describe as RED FLAG warning sign behavior.  Let me repeat that, what they have chosen to present publicly to millions of people is all RED FLAG behavior.

What are they doing in private if this is what they'll allow to be seen publicly?

OBVIOUSLY something else was going on that they wouldn't want to go public!

THE Dr. Phil Show

In light of the current controversy, there are many different ways she could respond.
  • She could remain silent and deal with these deeply personal issues in a personal manner.
  • She could issue a press release where she owns her mistakes and articulates a plan to rectify her past mistakes.
  • She could pro-actively quit reality television.
  • She could go on The Dr. Phil Show as a broken apologetic person desperately seeking help.
  • ...or she could book a spot on The Dr. Phil Show to DEFEND herself and tell her story.
Guess which one she picked?

Once again, there are 8,658 blogs out there summarizing the 45 minute interview. I actually did watch the interview.  IT WAS BAD!  Dr. Phil asked every question you would hope he would ask.  Then he confronted her with everything you would hope he would confront her with (at least in regards to this situation), but nothing she said in the 45 minutes made her seem any less suspicious.

THREE HIGHLIGHTS

  • She started by admitting she's not a perfect parent, but it was the equivalent of her saying, "No one's perfect."
  • She claims that when her boyfriend of five years was arrested and thrown in jail, she didn't know for two months why he was arrested. Then she explained she didn't know her own daughter's side of the story for eight years (which both her mom and daughter refute). 
  • Four of her last boyfriends have served time in prison, and two of them are convicted sex offenders.  When Dr. Phil pointed out her obvious poor choice in men, she responded by explaining she's dated some other guys too.

I guess I was disappointed by the interview because I was hoping she would either have some moment of clarity and drop the REALITY TV delusion.  Instead, we got more fake reality.

What else would you expect from her?

After the interview, Dr. Phil did a quick follow up with TMZ (who ironically are the exact kind of garbage you shouldn't keep watching).  Dr. Phil basically told TMZ she's a compulsive liar drawn towards criminals.  (I can't believe I'm actually embedding a TMZ clip into one of my posts)


Stop Watching This Garbage

Clearly, TLC (The LEARNING Channel ...I will keep emphasizing that point) doesn't care about the safety of Honey Boo Boo.  They don't care if they're exploiting a child.  They don't care if Momma June is a blatantly negligent parent.

They just care about the bottom line.

We have to choose to not support this garbage.


When you watch this type of exploitive show, you are supporting the exploitation.  You are paying someone to exploit their child.  Any parent that would do that, almost certainly has more issues beneath the surface.


If a show revolves around being entertained by behavior that in any other context would be considered RED FLAG behavior, perhaps you shouldn't watch it.


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Saturday, November 15, 2014

The 15 ABSOLUTE Best Things I've Written on Marriage!



...ok these are the only fifteen articles I've written on marriage.

For the first four years of this blog I never wrote on marriage.  I preached on marriage frequently.  I developed an entire sermon series on relationships and marriage for my students, but I never wrote on the subject.

Then a little over a year ago I wrote my first blog marriage: Four Things Every Married Couple Must Do.  At that point in time it was my first post to go viral.  That event led to a rather significant shift in the direction of the blog.  In fact I'm working on starting a 2nd blog which focuses on student ministry, leadership, and preaching since my writings on family and marriage have somewhat taken over this blog.


  1. Four Things Ever Married Couple Must Do!
  2. Eight Things Marriage Couples Should Never Do ...if they want to stay married!
  3. Ten Tips for a Better Marriage
  4. Five Ways to be a Bad Husband in 2014!
  5. Candace Cameron Sets Women Back a Billion Years!!!!  ...or when did submission become a curse word?
  6. Four Ways to be a Better Spouse Today!
  7. Six Things All Newly Weds Must Do
  8. Five Big Mistakes Married Couples Make ...and we've made them all
  9. Fighting With Your Spouse | 8 Rules of Engagement for Conflict in Marriage
  10. Six Warning Signs Your Marriage is in Trouble
  11. Two Things We All Do Which Kill Relationships
  12. Five EASY Ways to a Happier Marriage
  13. Five Conversations You Must Have Before You Say, "I Do"  ...if you want to stay married
  14. The SHOCKING Truth About Love  ...it means more than you think it means
  15. MY MOM'S STORY: How to Love a Husband Who Doesn't Love Jesus


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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Conversations You MUST Have With Your Kids About Social Media



Social media will never be less complex, or a smaller part of daily life than it is today.

While I grew up with computers and joined the internet over 20 years ago, I still struggle to keep up with the social media my students are using.  They have grown up in an era where some of them have never heard a dial tone.  Every single teenager alive today was born after the internet started to go mainstream.  Even the oldest teenagers today, with the best memories, can hardly remember dial up internet.  They are true digital natives.


New technology and programs are invented daily, and you never know what will become the next iPhone and Facebook. It can be extremely intimidating for most parents to try and know what to do.  You don't want to totally ban your children from technology and the internet, but you also don't want them exposed to the dangerous sides of the internet.


The reality is that you can't keep up with technology, but you can keep with your child.

You don't have to be an expert.  You do need to be curious.
- Jon Acuff
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My 10 Most Popular Posts! ...and what I find interesting about the list

This blog is quickly closing in on 500 posts!

With that milestone on the horizon I thought I would spend some time reflecting on past posts.  Over the next week or so I will share some various reflections on the previous 500 posts. 

I should also mention that one of the reasons I've been slowing posting the last couple of weeks is that I'm working on moving this blog from BLOGGER to WORDPRESS.  In a couple of weeks there will be some big BIG changes with the blog.

MODERN MINISTRY'S 10 MOST POPULAR POSTS



MY THOUGHTS

  1. Four out of ten of my most popular posts are about marriage. Another is on parenting, and one is on good advice.  Take away, people really care about practical advice about things which matter.
  2. My 9th most read post is only three words with a link to an audio file about a topical issue.  It's literally one of the most pointless posts I've ever made. But apparently everything I keep reading about search engine optimization is true.  I put the right words in the title of my terrible posts and it received lots of page views.
  3. People like free eBooks of popular books.
  4. Titles matter. 
  5. Seven of my most popular blogs are a numbered list.
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

People SHOULD Care If You Compare Your Relationship With Your Sibling to a Sexual Predator



If you haven't been paying attention to pop culture the last couple of years, you may have missed the feminist-writer-actress that is Lena Dunham. She's known for her strong feminist views, writing/starring in her own show at the age of 25 (Girls on HBO), and being naked on her TV show a lot...for no reason.

She stirred up enough noise around herself that she actually did a commercial for President Obama's 2nd presidential campaign.  In the commercial, she describes what you want your first time to be like...voting.  Though, from the initial language, you might get the impression that she's writing about something else.







She recently sold her first book, Not That Kind of Girl, with an advance deal of $3,700,000.  I don't know how much these B-level star book deals normally go for, but that seems like an awful lot to me.  The book came out back in September to much acclaim. In particular, people celebrated her openness about being a rape survivor.  I didn't hear much about it for about six weeks, and then something interesting happened October 29th...

Conservative blogger, Ben Shapiro, ran an article on truthrevolt.org (a conservative blog) titled, "Lena Dunham Describes Sexually Abusing Her Little Sister '...anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying."

The article quotes sections of Dunham's book where she talked about her sexual curiosity and desire to derive affection from her six year old sister when she was seven years old.  Due to the graphic nature of what she did, I won't give a detailed summary of the behavior, but it's safe to say that her actions easily would be categorized as sexual abuse if her gender was different, or if there was a bigger age range.

Or, to quote Dunham on how she would describe the interactions:
"...anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying."

This led other Conservative blogs to dig deeper into the book's stories and, in true internet form, the story quickly exploded all over.  To be fair, the original blogs were intentionally written to give the least benefit of the doubt to a Liberal.  They were trying to paint her in a bad light but, to be equally fair, they did so by quoting Dunham.

DUNHAM'S RESPONSE

Eventually, this all got back to Dunham, and she was not terribly happy about being accused of sexually abusing her sister.  This led to an angry Twitter rant!

The right wing news story that I molested my little sister isn't just LOL-it's really ****ing upsetting and disgusting.
And by the way, if you were a little kid and never looked at another little kid's vagina, well, congrats to you.
Usually this stuff I can ignore but don't demean sufferers, don't twist my words, back the **** up bros.
I told a story about being a weird 7 year old. I bet you have some too, old men, that I'd rather not hear. And yes, this is a rage spiral.

Then, on Saturday, Lena Dunham sent a "cease and desist" letter to Truth Revolt, threatening them with legal action.  Based on their response HERE, it does not appear that will be happening anytime soon.

Then, yesterday, she canceled several planned book tour stops in Europe.

HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND

The reality is that throwing around terms like "sexual abuse" to describe the behavior of a confused seven year old is PROBABLY over the top and, in this case, politically motivated.  However, pretending like we should shrug this off as just a goofy story from her childhood isn't just foolish, it's wildly irresponsible.  
Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is forcing undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or (often pejoratively) molester. - Wikipedia
There are two elements to sexual abuse:
  • Sexual behavior occurred
  • One person forced the incident upon the other
By definition, a six year old cannot give consent.  In the incidents recorded here, the person driving the encounters was also under the age of 10.  Therefore, it makes things a bit more complicated because the person forcing themselves on the other didn't know they were potentially abusing the other person.

What's very troubling to me is that Lena Dunham doesn't seem to understand why people are freaking out.

As a pastor, if I become aware of even a hint of sexual or physical abuse, I am legally obligated to report it.  I've contacted the police numerous times for FAR SMALLER claims than what Dunham admitted to.   No one was ever arrested from my contacting the police; I wasn't always convinced something had happened, but I'm not supposed to sort through the evidence.  I'M NOT AN INVESTIGATOR.  I'm responsible to do the responsible thing with the information I have.  

The responsible thing to do with a possible story of sexual child abuse isn't to put political spin on it; It isn't to gloat over tearing down a feminist.  The correct response is to show responsible concern for a potential terrible act.  

Lena Dunham's angry, narcissistic response, and utter lack of self-awareness is extremely telling. You either take sexual abuse seriously, or you don't.  You can't take it seriously when other people are accused, but get mad when people suggest that you might be a sexual abuser (especially when you described yourself that way).  If you open up about experimenting with your sister sexually by manipulating her using the tricks of a "sexual predator," any responsible adult would take that extremely seriously.  

RED FLAG behavior is RED FLAG behavior, regardless of why you did it.   
When a RED FLAG is raised, responsible adults take it seriously.  
  • The "HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT ABOUT ME!" defense doesn't cut it!
  • The "KIDS WILL BE KIDS" defense doesn't cut it!
  • The "I WAS JUST TELLING A STORY ABOUT BEING A WEIRD KID" defense doesn't cut it!
The narrative in her mind seems to be, "Why are all these old conservative men trying to bully me, and ruin my reputation? This is because I'm a feminist and a liberal!"  It doesn't seem that she has ever stopped to consider that she openly admitted to engaging in sexual activity with her six year old sister by manipulating her!

Certainly, if her name wasn't in the headline, she would realize that is read flag behavior.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our responses to things really matter.

My hope is that, in the aftermath of this, Lena Dunham will have more self-awareness about how dangerous her response has been up to this point.

Shrugging this off normalizes RED FLAG behavior, and creates more confusion for victims. There are millions of people who were sexually abused as children.  Someone did the exact same things to them that Dunham did to her sister.  All of her defenses of her actions water down the impact of those horrific stories of abuse.  They tell abusers that their behavior was normal, and they tell victims that nothing wrong really happened.

We must take QUESTIONABLE activity with children seriously.  Why wouldn't we take Dunham's story as disturbing?

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

NEW WORSHIP SONG | Hutto Bible Worship | To Him Who Overcomes



The worship team from my church wrote a song for our recent sermon series, "When Jesus comes to church.  Hear the song and the story behind the song below.

The song is available on iTunes and Spotify.



"To Him Who Overcomes"




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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MY MOM'S STORY: How to Love a Husband Who Doesn't Love Jesus



I have frequently written about the Christian perspective on marriage.  A successful marriage requires love, respect, trust, and mutual submission.  A husband must be willing to listen to his wife and take her suggestions even when he disagrees.  A wife must be willing to trust her husband's lead even when she might not agree with his direction.

What do you do when your husband doesn't love Jesus?
How do you submit when you don't share a belief system?

That was my mother's struggle.  For over 10 years, she was married to my father.  In many regards he was a great man, but he had many areas of weakness.

Here is her story of how she attempted to be Proverbs 31 woman and an Ephesians 5 wife while married to a non-Christian:

My Mother's Testimony

I met my husband, Dean, while I was in high school.  He was a customer at the drug store I worked at. I liked his smile.  We dated for half my senior year of high school, and then got engaged when I was going away to college, planning to wait until I graduated to get married.  We moved the date up a few times until we finally settled on spring break of my freshman year at school.  I commuted to school while we lived in Colorado.  I wasn’t a big partier, but I could keep  up with Dean, even though I wasn’t legally old enough to drink.  We moved about every two years, and it wasn’t until we moved to Hong Kong and then Singapore that I realized there was a problem in our marriage.  I used to blame the staying out drinking on his friends until I realized the problem followed us around the world.  By the time I realized there was a problem we were living in Singapore; and it’s hard to leave your husband when you live in a foreign country.  Not only  did he have a drinking problem, but we were both trying to be the head of the house.

One of the other company wives told me about Jesus, and I accepted Him as my savior.  The first thing God worked on in my life was my marriage.  I started to read about what a Christian wife looked like.  I stopped competing to be the head of the house and learned to submit to Dean.

There were challenges.  It was important to me that my children know God, so they were in Sunday School since they were babies, and active in the youth group when they were old enough.  Dean never joined us in church, not even when my daughter or I were baptized.  Dean’s drinking did not change.  My way of coping with this was to pour myself into ministry at the church.  At one time, I was co-leader of the children’s ministry.  I wanted my children to have positive family memories, but Dean was not interested in taking family vacations; He would take his vacations one day at a time on the golf course.  I would feel bad that my kids did not have a more involved father, but I realized that God is sovereign and had them in the family they were supposed to be in, and I did what I could to create family memories. I don’t know if I was right or wrong to do the family vacations – they could have contributed to the choices that Dean made.  Sometimes it was hard to make the Biblical decision when the other option seemed to be the better one.  One time the church was doing a building campaign, and I knew that if I gave to the campaign Dean would never know, but he had not wanted me giving money to the church.  Even as I asked the lead pastor if it was wrong, I knew the answer.

My guiding verses were Ephesians 5:22-23
 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body”  
At times, this was a challenge.  As I drew closer to God, it put a larger gulf between us.  How was I to submit to a husband who wasn’t loving me as Christ loved the church?  The verse did not have a condition that I submit to Dean if he loved me as Christ loved the church.  My other guiding verse was 1 Corinthians 7 :13-16, 
And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not [send her husband away….For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”  
I could not talk my husband into believing in Jesus as his savior, but I could do my best to live my life so that Dean could see Christ in me.

At one point I worked for the church on a temporary basis, but I sensed that it was taking away from time with Dean because when I wasn’t working, I was doing my ministry things, leaving no time for us.  I quit working and went to find him at one of his “watering holes.”  What I found was not what I suspected; He was there with a girl that worked for him and apparently this had been going on since the kids and I were out of town the previous summer.  I told him to choose between the two of us and, if it was her, the kids and I were gone for Thanksgiving and he could entertain his family.  I’m not sure if he ever decided, but the other woman figured out who he was choosing.  Still, I didn’t trust him, and was fearful of what he was doing when I wasn’t there.  I read an article from Precept Ministries that spoke to me in a big way.  I didn’t trust Dean, but I did trust God, and He would let me know what I needed to know when I needed to know it.  I stopped living in fear and trusted God.  God did eventually let me know what I needed to know.  Dean had gotten involved with another woman and put me in a place where I saw this happening.  This time, I did not trust God so fully – I would put the kids to bed and drive around to find him.  I never once found them via my own efforts, but did learn enough about what was happening by God’s leading.  I know God hates divorce (Malachi 2) and I did not want my kids being raised in a divorced home, so I held it together as long as I could. 

At one point I went to a group to learn about living in an alcoholic family.  In the group, they said it’s like the elephant in the room.  Everyone knows the problem is there, but no one talks about it.  I didn’t want to talk about it with my kids because I didn’t want to say anything negative about their dad and cause them to disrespect him.  If they disrespected him, it would be because of what he did, not what I said.  Once I learned that not discussing it could be detrimental to them, I talked to the kids about it a little.  Eventually, I told them I was going to ask Daddy to move out to see if that would help him stop drinking.  Again, I did not want to say anything about another woman and be the cause of them losing respect for Daddy.  I did tell them divorce was a possible outcome and asked what they thought.  My son, Sean, said the Bible says divorce is wrong, so you can’t get a divorce.  I said the Bible does allow divorce if there is another woman involved.  He asked if there was.  I told them Daddy had a woman who was a friend.  He said they are just friends but I told him it was not okay to be friends with another woman and that is all that should matter.  If I had a problem it was not okay.  They wanted to know who she was but I wouldn’t tell them.    Eventually it got to the point that I did move him out and we got a divorce.  While we were in the midst of the early separation it was very difficult to not be angry and bitter and turn my kids against their Daddy.  I knew they were to respect their father, so I had to follow Scripture and continue to live as Christ wanted me to live.  I did have a few lapses where I would plot to blow up “her” car, or we’d walk by her car and threaten to key it.  All the while, I was also encouraging my kids to accept the other woman – so I was a bit of a split personality.

I don’t know how I got through that first year or two and maintained not getting angry and bitter  - I think I focused all of my anger on the other woman.  I’m sure some wondered if I knew Dean was guilty also.  I couldn’t put the anger and bitterness on him, or it would cause my kids to disrespect their dad.  Dean married the “woman he wasn’t having an affair with”  He never did admit the affair or apologize, but I forgave him and we remained friends. Eventually, Dean and the other woman divorced, and he and I became friends who hung out again.  I’m pretty sure I was “the other woman” in his marriage to her because he never stopped loving me.  Dean became very sick from all the years of drinking.  One night he told  his niece who was taking care of him, “I need salvation”.  I don’t remember how he worded it, but basically all the years living out 1 Corinthians 13 paid off – I was with him when he prayed to receive Christ.


Can we win our unbelieving husbands to Christ by submitting to Him and showing him who Christ is by our life and not by preaching to him?  Yes, we can.  Shortly before Dean died I told him I’d see him in the Northwest corner of Heaven.
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

How to Record a Do-It-Yourself Live Worship Album


BACKGROUND

In April of 2013, the pastoral staff of my church was attending the Gospel Coalition Conference in Orlando, Florida.  For four days, we stayed in the same hotel room, just talking about ministry, and brainstorming big, bold ideas for the future.

In the middle of discussions, the idea came up to record a live worship album.  While the worship director and myself have been involved in countless past recording projects, we'd never done anything like this before.  It would be an incredible challenge, but we were up for it.

The process took far longer than we expected, and it became far more difficult than we expected.  As soon as we started this project, I started researching everything I could find on how to record a live album.  While I found a few helpful tips, I didn't find anything which was a true guide for a project like this.

This post exists to hopefully help a church somewhere record their own live worship album. This blog does assume that you have a solid knowledge of sound equipment, and the mixing process does require that you have someone that knows how to mix.  There's no quick and simple tips on how to do either one of those tasks.

As you read my suggestions, always remember that I'm assuming you're a normal size church with normal resources.  Therefore, I'm guessing that you're not using professional musicians, and you don't have expensive isolation booths, and other fancy equipment.  Therefore, this tutorial is to help you record a "Live" album.  "Live" is in quotes, because you will be overdubbing much of the album after it's recorded.

I want to keep this as simple as possible, so each section will feature lots of bullet points, and to-the-point suggestions.

PRE-PRODUCTION

The most important element during pre-production is selecting which songs you want to record, and then you must file all the proper paper-work to legally record and sell each song.  

SONG SELECTION TIPS:
  • The length of time between when you start a project like this, and when you finally release the album, is rather lengthy.  So, if you choose a song that was huge with your church 12 months ago, it will feel very old and dated by the time the album is released.
  • If you're not recording original songs, pick either long-time church favorites, or something fresh and exciting.
  • If you're reading this, I'm assuming your band isn't composed of a bunch of professionals.  Remember that when selecting songs. Just because the song sounds good live doesn't mean it will sound good on a recording.  The room is very forgiving.  Recordings have no mercy.  Pick songs everyone can play absolutely perfectly.
  • Keep in mind that recording 10 tracks requires doing twice as much post-production and mixing as recording 5 tracks.  Start with an achievable goal.

LEGAL STUFF:
  • If you're recording songs you didn't write or that aren't in public domain, you have to file a bunch of paperwork to get permission to record the songs.  
  • To cut to the chase, you will have to pay the song writer roughly 10 cents per copy of each song that you sell.  
  • There's no one place you go to file paperwork, and there's no set length of time that it takes.  For the Hillsong songs we recorded, we received permission within about a week.  Some of the other people took over a month to approve the recording.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:  
Find the liner notes of an album containing the song you want to cover.  In the liner notes, it will list who published the song.  Go to their website and, if you search around, you will find a section on COPYRIGHT and LICENSING.  It will be different for everyone, but they should have instructions on how to apply for permission.  But, it really is very different for each publisher.

EQUIPMENT

In order to record this album, we rented a bunch of equipment.

My church is Hutto, TX, which is about 30 minutes from Austin, TX.  Austin has a vibrant music scene, therefore, there are many places to rent music equipment.  I'm not sure if this is true of all major cities or not.  We rented from a place called Rock N Roll Rentals.

WHAT DID WE RENT:











  • Beta 52
If you don't have a lot of quality mics, you may need to rent higher quality mics.  

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH IT:

  • Unplug your snake from your board (or whatever it is plugged into)
  • Plug your snake into the 24-channel splitter
  • The splitter will have two output cables for each input
  • Plug one set of outputs back into your soundboard
  • Plug the 2nd set of outputs into the OctoPre MKII (each OctoPre has 8 channels, and you will have three of them)
  • OctoPre is used to get each signal up to proper recording levels
  • Plug the 24-channel TRS snake into the output of the OctoPre's 
  • Plug the other side of TRS snake into the Joenco Black Box Recorder
You will also need to purchase an external hard drive.  The Black Box records onto an external hard drive.  The Black Box will tell you which hard drive to purchase.  I just picked up a 2 gig Western Digital external hard drive.  You want as fast of a hard drive as you can purchase.

PRE-RECORDING

Before the day of your recording, spend an entire day practicing with the band.  Record a perfect version of every single song to click.  When it comes to post-production, you need as much to work with as you can get. If you have a perfect version of each song, all you're missing is live crowd noise. If you record to click, you can literally take the crowd noise from the live event, and slap it onto the perfect recording from earlier in the week.

We skipped this step, and suffered for it.  We had to scrap a couple of songs immediately because of mistakes we couldn't fix.


LIVE RECORDING

PLAY TO CLICK! PLAY TO CLICK!  PLAY TO CLICK!

CROWD MICS:
  • A key element to a live album is crowd noise.  With a worship album it's even more important, because you want crowd singing.  This requires that you place as many mics in the room as possible. 
  • The problem with room mics is that they will pick up far more stage volume than crowd singing.  Therefore, you want to be creative to find ways to block as much direct sound from the speakers.
  • The closer the room mics are to the audience, the better.
  • We had four crowd mics.  I would have preferred to have several more.

FILM THE EVENT:
  • This is the 21st century. The cheapest and easiest way to promote an album is online, using social media.  When we posted a video from our live album, roughly 25% of our church shared the video on their Facebook page, and we had twice the number of plays as we have people in our church within two days.  To make this happen, we had to film the event.
  • Ideally, you need three cameras with at least two cameras manned.  
  • CAMERA #1 - Wide shot of the crowd and the stage. If one camera is unmanned, this camera can be unmanned.
  • CAMERA #2 - Camera aimed at the lead singer.  Ideally, this camera is manned so you can zoom in and out to show the other singers but, if necessary, it can go unmanned if you re-aim the camera each time a song has a different lead singer.  
  • CAMERA #3 - This camera is manned and up close to the stage. This camera aims at whichever instrument is most important at any given moment.  Ideally, this camera person would be at band practice, so they can know the songs in advance. 



OVER-DUBS

No matter how good of a performance you pull off the night of the live recording, you're still most likely going to want to overdub parts of the album.
  • Vocals mics will pick up large amounts of stage noise. This means that vocals will be difficult to put in the mix and impossible to auto-tune.  
  • Acoustic guitars sound much better mic'd rather than plugged in direct.
  • You'll likely want to record some extra instruments to fill out the sound. 
The harsh reality though is, if you don't have a professional musicians, you're likely going to have to re-record parts because there will be lots of mistakes. 

TIPS FOR OVERDUBS:
  • Whenever possible, overdub parts in the room where you originally recorded. Overdubbing vocals in the original room will give you some natural reverb which matches the room.  Recording the parts in isolation booths will give the album a studio vibe.
  • This isn't an opportunity to rearrange the song.  This is an opportunity to record what you attempted before, or a cleaner version of what you did before.  If you get too fancy with overdubs, it stops sounding live.
  • Get together a group of at least 10 people to act as a choir for the entire album.  Ideally, you'll have a good mix of guys and girls.  Have them clap at the beginning and end of songs. Likewise, have them make crowd improv noises from time to time.  They will supplement your crowd mics during parts of the songs when the band is very loud.

POST-PRODUCTION

  • We recorded overdubs, mixed, and mastered using Logic Pro. 
  • If you don't know how to mix and master, you can hire someone to do it for you. If you take it to a professional, this will get very pricey. If you can find a young do-it-yourself musician, they will be much cheaper.
  • We have several members of our church who can mix. One of them is great at it. You likely have some people in your church who can help.
  • If you mix it yourself, each song you add is more time that the mixing process will take. My theory going into the album was that once we mixed one song, we could create a preset we would apply to the other songs.  While we did do that, it didn't reduce the amount of time it took to mix by much.  

RELEASE

  • We released our album using TuneCore.com.  They can walk you through the process of getting your songs on iTunes, and you can print physical CDs from their website.  It's all very simple. There are costs associated with their services but, compared to equipment rentals, it's still cost effective.
  • We released the album on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and we printed physical copies.
  • iTunes and Amazon take roughly 30 cents for each song sold.  If the song is a cover song, an additional 10 cents will be paid as royalties to the songwriter.  That's 40% of your gross right off the top.  
  • Spotify pays extraordinarily little.  This is more of a promotional path than a revenue stream.
  • Physical copies will most likely run around $3 per CD.  This number varies based on the type of case you get and the number of CDs you print.  But the cost of printing doesn't change based on the number of songs you put on the album.  Therefore, the more songs you put on the album and the more you charge for the CDs, the more cost effective the album is.
  • Some people prefer iTunes, and some people prefer physical copies. You will significantly increase sales by offering both.

ADDITIONAL RECORDINGS

Late in the recording process, we decided to record two new original songs. We recorded them "Studio live" semi-acoustic.  By studio, I mean our stage in our sanctuary, without a congregation.  By semi-acoustic, I mean it was full band, but the drummer was using brushes, and all lead work was done with more organic instruments.

Once again, we filmed the sessions to create a music video.  We had two cameras going during the recording but, since we recorded to click, we were able to use footage from different takes during the video editing process.

For these recordings, we didn't re-record ANYTHING, but we did add a bass guitar and xylophone.

We recored the two additional songs using a Presonus StudioLive 24 channel board.




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Friday, October 17, 2014

MARK DRISCOLL HAS RESIGNED | It's a Time for Prayer Not Speculation



[ADDITION November 1st]

Roughly two weeks after Mark Driscoll announced his resignation (and I wrote this post initially), Mars Hill Church has announced they will be dissolving Mars Hill Church as a centralized entity.  Each of their over 10 video sites will have the opportunity to become an independent church with it's own elders. Here is the official announcement.

I have many different thoughts on the matter, but I'm not sure how much value any of our speculation will be at this point in time.

The only public statement Driscoll has made since his resignation was at the Gateway Conference.  He chose to attend as just a guest and the pastor of Gateway asked him to share for just few minutes.  His message was simple:  Pray for my family we are in physical danger and my kids are scared.

Regardless of your thoughts of Driscoll, this is extremely disturbing.





[ORIGINAL POST]

After nearly two years straight of back to back, continually escalating controversies, Mark Driscoll has resigned.  It doesn't really matter what my take, or your take on any specific controversy.  What matters are the end results.

  • ACTS 29, the church planting organization he started, kicked Mars Hill out of their association.
  • Multiple Christian retailers stopped selling his books.
  • His church's attendance and giving have fallen through the floor.  They've even had to shut down several locations.
  • Finally, he has chosen to turn in his resignation.
And once again, a mega-church pastor has fallen from glory while the nation watches.  


Whether you loved or hated Driscoll, there's really no satisfaction in his resignation.  If you're a fan of Driscoll, you'll be disappointed that he's leaving his ministry, and disappointed that many of the charges against him were verified.  If you were a critic of Driscoll, his resignation demonstrates a growing humility and brokenness. His actions here deconstruct many of the narratives people have about him.  


Now isn't the time for criticism.
Now isn't the time for praise.
Now isn't the time for defense.
Now isn't the time for speculation.

Now is the time for prayer!

Pray for Our Response

Christians have a long history of shooting their own.  We love to speculate and assume.  While we would all agree that gossip is wrong when it deals with people we know in person, for some reason we give our gossip a pass as long as we're writing a blog post or status update about someone we don't know. Almost none of us know Mark Driscoll (though I did talk for him for 30 seconds once at a conference; he told me I married a keeper).  Almost none of us are at Mars Hill Church.  We don't know what's going on at his church, in his head, or in his heart.

So, what value do our speculations add to the universe?

Up to this point, I haven't seen any new smear or defense pieces pop up online (the general consensus seems to be surprise).  I think there's value in praying that things stay that way.

Pray for Mars Hill Church

At the heart of this story is a local church.  Mark Driscoll has never been Mars Hill Church.  Mars Hill Church has always been the people of Mars Hill Church.  As of today, these people are seriously hurting.  They have lost people, money, and now their founding pastor.  

Regardless of whether or not you like Driscoll's theology, teaching, or personality, 1000s of people in Seattle alone have been positively impacted by Mars Hill Church.

Those people need our prayers during this painful time of transition.

Pray for Mark Driscoll

Driscoll is a clearly a gifted communicator with a charismatic personality, whose talent at times has transcended his maturity.  I've read most of his books, and listened to a great many of his sermons.  I can understand why many are turned off by his style, but I'm not one of those people.  He has tremendous potential to connect with normal people (specifically young males), and still talk about theology.  

I can only imagine the type of influence a more mature Driscoll could have.


Much like the way we forgot that Mars Hill is an actual church, we forget that Mark Driscoll is an actual human.  He has a wife.  He has several kids.  He lives in a suburban house. And, until a couple of days ago, he was a pastor, and his resignation is being analyzed on a national scale.  He's attempting to lead his family while countless people who don't know him (like myself) are talking about him.

  • Mark Driscoll needs our prayers.
  • Grace Driscoll needs our prayers.
  • Their kids need our prayers.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The SHOCKING Truth About Love! ...it means more than you think it means!



Remember in the movie "The Princess Bride" how Wallace Shawn's character kept saying, "Inconceivable!!!"  After several rounds of the man in the black mask surviving these challenges where it is "inconceivable" that any man would survive, one of his henchmen (played by Mandy Pantinkin) turns to him and says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

If there's a word in our culture where we are universally confused, it has to be LOVE!

The Spanish language has 100,000 words.  German has a vocabulary of 185,000 words.  That may seem like a lot of words until you realize that the English language has somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 words. The English language is one of the most robust languages that has ever existed.

The word "chatty" has 40 synonyms!



But, for some reason, when it comes to possibly the most important concept in the English language, we use a single word as a junk drawer for a series of complex emotions: LOVE

Just look at this quick sampling of ways we use the word LOVE


Love Shoes – To really really like an object
Love Dogs - To have fondness for a creature
Love Friends – To find companionship in other people
Love Family – To have a deep, unconditional concern for relatives
Love Boyfriend – To have romantic feelings without commitment
Love Mankind Universal concern for your species
Love Wife – To have romantic feelings and commitment
Make Love – Euphemism for Sex
To be in Love – Romantic Feelings
Love is a Verb – A choice to care for someone which is accompanied by actions
God Loves Us – An unconditional, selfless concern for mankind
I Love God – A selfless affection for who God is and what He has done

I wonder how many relationships and marriages have run into problems simply because of a vocabulary problem.  When one word covers so much ground, it's guaranteed to lead to confusion and trouble.

Whether you're trying to understand your relationship with another person or you're trying to understand the tension in a relationship, you need to understand what you mean when you say, "Love."

One of the things which has most helped me understand what I mean by LOVE and how to better evaluate how I'm doing at loving my wife and family is to look at the different words for, "Love," in Greek.

The Greek language has four different words for LOVE:
  • Storge
  • Philia
  • Eros
  • Agape
Different relationships require different types of love.  A life-long romantic relationship called marriage requires all four types of love.  These four words we call LOVE can give you a grid by which to understand why certain relationships in your life succeed and others fail.

So, what do each of these words mean?


STORGE - Fondness for the Familiar / Nurturing

Storge, "στοργή" or "Affection" is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members.  It has an implied sense of carrying a nurturing nature.  
  •       Nurturing
  •       Mother to a child

This love refers to a desire to see to the well-being for a person or an object.  Storge is so essential to the love a parent has for their kids that any hint that a parent lacks this love will draw extreme criticism.  When we learn of a parent abusing their child, we're appalled, because abuse is so antithetical to the storge love we assume parents have for their kids.

RELATIONSHIPS WITHOUT STORGE

Consider the many people in your life that you may say you "love."  What does that "love" mean without storge?
  • FRIENDSHIP - You may enjoy each other's company, but if there is no "storge," these aren't lifelong friends who truly care for you.
  • PARENTS - A parent without storge love for their children is more of a sperm or egg donor than a parent.  They're the biological parents, but they haven't earned the title. 
  • HERE'S THE TRICKY PART FOR PARENTS - Often times, we will feel a storge love for our children, but we don't know how to communicate. Our children may not FEEL our storge love because our actions communicate something different to them.
  • MARRIAGE - A marriage without storge is a marriage with two people who have stopped caring about one another. Even if you still have the other loves, without storge, your marriage is in serious danger.  Much like with children, your actions communicate much louder than your words.  If you don't communicate storge with your actions, your spouse won't feel loved.

PHILIA - Friendship

This Greek word eventually translated into Latin, and it made it's way into a number of familiar words.
  • Philadelphia - The City of Brotherly Love
  • Philosophy - Love of Wisdom
  • Pedophile - Lover of Children

Philia love is a bond existing between people who share interests or activities. Phileo is a love between family and friends.  When you say you love your friends, that is PHILIA love.

RELATIONSHIPS WITHOUT PHILIA
  • FRIENDS - Friendships without PHILIA aren't lifelong friendships.  These are your buddies and acquaintances.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you need to know which friends are true friends, and which friends are buddies.
  • PARENTS - Philia love is not the most important love for a parent to have for their child. As much as society loves to romanticize the idea of moms and dads as their kids' best friends, in reality, parents need to be parents first, and friends second, or third.  With that said, your relationship with your children will be much stronger, and more fun, if you have a healthy dose of PHILIA.
  • MARRIAGE - When you remove FRIENDSHIP from your relationship with your spouse, your marriage stops being a marriage, and becomes more like a job where you're required to do married people things.  

EROS - Passion / Romance


Eros (ρως) is love in the sense of 'being in love."  Eros longs to emotionally connect with another person, and it is directed towards a specific person.  This is probably the form of love which is easiest to understand.
  • I love him!
  • We're falling in love!
While EROS is probably the most familiar and commonly agreed upon definition of love, it's also the most dangerous.  EROS is the closest love to being purely emotion.  When someone says they've fallen out of love, they're referring to EROS. Likewise, feelings of EROS keep people in relationships which should have ended long ago.  In particular, sex (as a physical act of EROS) is intended to glue two people together in the context of marriage.  In dating relationships, sex can prolong bad relationships by pouring fuel on the EROS without any substance behind it.

Often times, PHILIA love is a precursor to EROS.  When two people of opposite sexes have a strong PHILIA love, it's extremely common for one or both people to develop EROS.  This is why I almost always encourage people who are married to set extremely conservative boundaries in regards to the opposite sex.  It's so easy for PHILIA to morph into EROS if you're not being careful.

RELATIONSHIPS WITHOUT EROS

  • MARRIAGE - Marriage without EROS is a passionless marriage.  While this may seem the most fickle of the loves, in practice, you can fuel the EROS by offering STORGE and PHILIA. If you're distant, avoiding having fun, and not acting nurturing, why would you be surprised that the EROS is fading?


AGAPE - Unconditional Love

Agape love is the love which commits for life.  Agape love transcends circumstances and time. Agape love is a bond which holds friendships, families, and marriages together.  

While we love to receive AGAPE love, it is the most difficult love to offer others.  AGAPE love requires that I offer forgiveness and grace.  AGAPE love exists even when love isn't reciprocated. 

AGAPE love is the ingredient missing from far too many marriages. Ironically, virtually every marriage ceremony has a reading of the passage in the Bible which most accurately describes AGAPE love:


1 Corinthians 13
 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails.

AGAPE love is the reason there is a huge disconnect between teenagers and adults regarding love. Most adults scoff off the words of teenagers when they proclaim they're in love.  The teenagers are annoyed because their feelings of PHILIA and EROS are being discounted by adults.  The adults are insulted that the teenager is using the same word to describe a two month relationship as they use to describe their 20 year marriage based in AGAPE love.

AGAPE IN RELATIONSIHPS

  • FRIENDS - A friendship with AGAPE love is a life long friendship.  These are the friends that you would do anything for. These are the friends that you will continue to fight for, even if they turned far away.
  • CHILDREN - AGAPE love is what keeps a parent fighting for their child during the teenage years.  AGAPE love means that parents love their children in times of rebellion, and times of celebration.
  • MARRIAGE - AGAPE love is the glue which holds marriages together, regardless of circumstances and changes.  AGAPE love is what everyone wants to receive out of marriage, and what almost everyone pledges to give during their marriage.  
A marriage without AGAPE love is in serious danger of ending in divorce.

LOVE PATTERNS

When you understand these four forms of love, you start to better understand the nature of the most important relationships in your life.  


PHILIA + AGAPE
Life-Long Friends

STORGE + AGAPE
Family Relationships

PHILIA + EROS
Romantic Dating Relationships

EROS + STORGE
Co-Dependent Relationships


FINAL THOUGHTS

As you look at the most important relationships in your life, you can usually evaluate their health based off of whether they have appropriate levels of the different types of love.

  • Is your marriage lacking one of the four types of love?
  • Do you have a friendship that isn't a deep as it pretends to be because it's lacking AGAPE or STORGE?
  • Is your relationship with a child strained over a perceived lack of STORGE or AGAPE?

How are you doing at loving with all four loves?


Where do you see that people are most confused when it comes to love?






[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/chatty




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