Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Topical Tuesday 36 - East Coast Bias

I don’t like the SEC.

I know there are a lot of people who like the SEC and they are a really strong conference, but I still don’t like them. Undoubtedly I prefer the PAC-12 because I live on the west coast, watch USC games and just generally like this part of the country better than the parts I don’t live in. But my dislike of the SEC is a lot stronger than simply preferring the place I live over another; my deep dislike of the SEC is rooted in ESPN’s preferential treatment of and fawning over the conference.

ESPN has an east coast bias which extends south to include the SEC. It seems as if in the eyes of ESPN, the SEC can do no wrong. Last night after the game, Brent Musburger and the dreamy Kirk Herbstreet kept dumping praise on Cam Newton for how well he endured the trials he faced this season. Despite what the NCAA ruled, it seems that some of the trials Newton faced were self inflicted. Newton played great but he I don’t know if anybody who was under as much scrutiny as he was deserves such blind devotion and adulation.

This sort of biased coverage will continue for the foreseeable future, though, since ESPN and SEC signed a 15-year contract in 2008. So those of us on the west coast will have to continue to endure ESPN’s east coast bias, in hopes that 2023 will bring some change and recognition of the other half of the country.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Music Monday 39 - Top Albums of 2010

The amount of new music I listen to has been taking a hit over the past few years. I still really love music and listen to it frequently, but because of my iPod, I rarely get introduced to new bands. I’ll listen to my XM every so often just to see what’s out there, but for the most part I listen to my iPod and sports talk. So when going over the new albums I got in 2010, there weren’t too many to compile a list of my favorites. But, from that limited selection, here are my top albums of 2010.

Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Kylie Minogue. I love her pop/dance music and it generally puts me in a really good mood. I’ve probably listened to Aphrodite more than any other album in 2010. The songs “Aphrodite” and “All the Lovers” are great to listen to with the windows down on a warm summer night. Kylie also faced and defeated breast cancer a few years ago, and Aphrodite is something of a victory lap for beating the cancer.

Brooke Fraser – Flags

Brooke Fraser first came to my knowledge as part of Hillsong United, a gifted worship leader and a powerful song writer, penning the songs “Hosanna” and “You’ll Come.” Flags is the follow up to her 2008 release Albertine. I enjoyed Albertine, but Flags is a much stronger album. The lead single “Something in the Water” is a great song with a fun video but the duet with Aqualung, “Who Are We Fooling,” is my favorite song on the album. “Who Are We Fooling” is a sad and honest look at a relationship taking its last breaths.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings are a throwback to the Motown era of the 60s. I purchased this album in 2010, but it sounds like it could have been purchased in 1965. I Learned the Hard Way has such a sublime throwback feel that I can’t help but close my eyes and just experience the music, not when I’m driving, though, that would be dangerous. Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings is a new group that I discovered for myself in 2010, thanks to seeing their album on sale at Starbucks.

Tyrone Wells – Metal & Wood

I love Tyrone Wells; I have every one of his albums. He released the EP Metal & Wood in March and it was less like an EP and more like a full album release. The EP has 10 tracks on it, a few of which are covers and older songs, but it’s still an awesome album. On Metal & Wood, Tyrone continues to address social issues with a hopeful spirit, knowing that things can get better if we all work together.

There are my top albums of 2010. Obviously, there’s a lot of music I missed. I would love for you to educate me. What were your top albums of 2010?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Freeform Friday 22 - Shower Thinking

These days I’m doing a lot of thinking. I have two blogs to update, sermons to write and preaching series to develop. While I enjoy these activities, they do require a lot of focused thinking. The truth is that I don’t have as much time as I would like for focused thinking; I wish I had a dark room with comfy chairs in which I could sit and ideate. Unfortunately I have no such room and I have to squeeze my focused thinking in when I can.

So I do my focused thinking in the shower.

Some people cringe when I talk about the practice of shower thinking. For them it seems a little too personal to talk about what happens behind the shower curtain. If we can get away from that side of showering, though, we can easily see that there are few times better suited for focused thinking.

You’re alone.

There are few distractions.

It happens every day.

In our busy lives, we often don’t have a daily scenario in which we’re alone and free from distractions. Showering provides that daily scenario and we should use it as such. We shouldn’t see showering as just an opportunity to get clean and allow the hot water to wake us up; we should see showering as the environment for our most focused thinking of the day.

In the shower I don’t have my phone, I can’t check my email and there’s no television or radio to derail my thoughts. The only tasks at hand are shampooing and loofa’ing, which do not take too much mental effort. Since the task of showering is so mindless, it frees me up to think about an upcoming sermon or blog post. It also provides a quiet moment that God can use to speak to us.

Since we hopefully shower every day, we should view those 10-15 minutes as more than just a necessary task. Showering can provide the much needed opportunity for all of us to spend some time in focused thought, whether that’s prepping for a sermon, planning out some goals or preparing for a party. Just don’t get shampoo in your eyes.

What other situations provide you time for focused thinking?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Theology Thursday 27 - New Year Mercies

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23

Even though I know that God’s compassions are new every morning, I don’t often live like that. Like so much of the rest of the world, I buy into the idea that I can only start something new at the New Year. January 1 is the only time when it’s appropriate to make a change, try to be better or do something different with my life. Instead of trusting in God’s compassion on a daily basis to make the changes necessary in my life, I only trust in that compassion on an annual basis.

Trusting in God’s compassion on an annual basis, though, only leads to broken resolutions and good intentions that run out of steam. If I really want to be different, if I really want to lose more weight, if I really want to get my finances in order, if I really want to blog more regularly, one dose of compassion at the beginning of the year isn’t enough to sustain me. I need God’s compassion daily; I need to sit in it and revel in it and be empowered by it.

Lamentations doesn’t say that God’s compassion is new every year; it says every day. It’s up to us to accept that compassion on a daily basis and allow it to transform us into the people that God created us to be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Leadership Wednesday 30 - Leadership Crucible

Two weeks ago we took our high school group to a church in Hollywood to help out with a toy drive. There were 20 students on the trip who volunteered their time and sacrificed part of their Christmas vacation to work around the church and do whatever was needed. I always enjoy going on trips with our youth group because they end up being a crucible for leadership.

Most of my leadership development has taken place within the context of ministry. When I was in high school I was a student leader, I volunteered as a leader in different ministries throughout college and now I’m blessed to lead our high school ministry. I’ve learned so much about leadership in ministry over the years and youth group trips really provide an opportunity to put what I’ve learned into practice.


Conflict resolution.

Setting an example.

Motivating others.

These are just some of the skills I had to practice and the trip was only two days. Every trip I go on with our youth group is a real-life leadership training course that I can use to hone my skills.

What’s exciting is that I can look back to the first time I was a counselor on a youth group trip and see how much I’ve grown. I can look back to when I was 16-years-old and knew absolutely nothing about leadership; I can identify all of the mistakes that I made back then and how I’ve grown from them. I’m also really excited to continue going on youth group trips to keep growing my leadership; in another 10 years I’ll be able to look back on how much I’ve grown and how much I learned from the mistakes that I’m making today.

How do you continue to hone and sharpen your leadership skills?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Topical Tuesday 35 - 9,000 Pageviews

Below is a graph of the traffic on this blog from last week.

You’ll notice that it had somewhat of a steep peak on January 30 around 6:00pm. The post in question can be read here and now has over 9,200 pageviews; obviously this nothing to do with me since that post beat my previous best by over 9,000 pageviews.

However, based upon my experience, I have put together a step-by-step guide for getting over 9,000 pageviews or more for your blog.

Step 1: Insult someone on Twitter with over 380,000 followers.

Now this may seem like the easiest step, but it takes some effort. Not everyone with that many followers will see your tweet, much less care about it. The insult has to be worth a response; if not, it will just disappear into the Internet.

Step 2: Receive completely justified hate from the followers of the person you insulted.

This is one of the most exciting parts of the process. Suddenly when checking Twitter your mentions will go through the roof. You’ll have people mentioning you that you’ve never met. Chances are most won’t have the kindest things to say, but at least they’re saying something, right?

Step 3: Write a response to the situation you’ve created and post it to your blog.

Now there are a couple different ways you can go here. You can respond like all those throwing fireballs at you, spilling out levels of vitriol usually saved for jilted lovers. Or you can take the high road and try to respond in a way that will foster reconciliation. Either way, how you respond isn’t as important as whether or not your response gets noticed.

Step 4: Get the person you insulted to share the link to your blog to his or her over 380,000 followers.

Unfortunately this step is completely out of your control. Your response, vehement or penitent, will most likely fall upon deaf ears. Should it get noticed, though, and shared with a large number of people, there’s a good chance that you’ll be on your way to over 9,000 pageviews.

So that’s my step-by-step guide for getting over 9,000 pageviews.

Honestly, though, I have no idea what alignment the planets were in to get that many eyeballs onto my words. In the end, I can only hope others can learn from my mistake and that in some way God was glorified because of my failings.

Now, if I could get another 9,000 pageviews for doing something positive, I’d be all for it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Music Monday 38 - Tron: Legacy

I have very strict rules about listening to Christmas music so December is always a struggle for me. I have to live with the tension of having a limited time to listen to Christmas music and wanting to listen to other music as well. That tension really weighed me down last month with the release of the Tron: Legacy soundtrack.

The first week after Thanskgiving was great, I was blaring “All I Want for Christmas is You” and Band-Aid. But then, on December 6, everything changed. Daft Punk released their soundtrack to Tron: Legacy and I didn’t want to listen to anything else, not even Wham! consoling the Christmas brokenhearted. I was completely conflicted but Daft Punk won out more often than not.

The soundtrack is amazing and completely made the movie; I don’t think I would have enjoyed Tron: Legacy half as much as I did if it had a different soundtrack. Daft Punk are a perfect fit for the movie and they even make a cameo in the film. I enjoy listening to movie soundtracks when I read or I’m trying to write, but I listen to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack when I’m just driving around; it’s that good.

In the end, I feel like I listened to enough Christmas music to get my fill, especially when all the casinos were still playing it last week in Las Vegas. The same can’t be said about Tron: Legacy. I listen to it all the time and I’m sure that will continue for some time. At least it will continue when I’m not with Alycia; I think at this point she’d prefer hearing “The Christmas Song” a few more times.