Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gratitude Campaign

One of the nice things about writing a post read 'round the world is that I get to strike up, well, some pretty nice friendships, sight unseen with many people.

One of them is my friend Susan, who lives out East, and is a remarkable story in and of herself. She is many things, but I often think of her as a "wind beneath my wings" friend. Her sunny disposition and encouraging emails keep me working and writing and always trying to make what I do that little bit better for you.

She'll probably take me to task for pointing this stuff out, but honestly, isn't that what gratitude is for? Saying thank you to the people who need to hear our appreciation?

In that vein, I'm including a video clip that Susan sent me created by "The Gratitude Campaign." It's a shortened version that's been posted on YouTube. The full-length version which, frankly, brought tears to my eyes, is here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tag ... I'm It!

So my friend Lisa has "tagged" me to come up with "Seven Things About Me" and since I kind of like Lisa and have a tremendous amount of respect for what she does, I'm up for it. So here goes, pretty much just as I think of 'em.

1. My knees are double-jointed. Honestly, it wasn't enough that my genes were predisposed to give me diabetes and take away most of my hair, they added this little skeletal aberration, as well.

2. I'm a frustrated musician. Musician, because I play guitar, piano, and bass and compose my own music, though not as much as I used to do. I've even recorded three albums, though I only published two of them. Which is a pity, really, because the third is some of my best work. Frustrated, because I don't have time to learn how to play these instruments really well, and so I fall prey to that most truthful of axioms, "Only the mediocre are always at their best." I play piano and guitar like my fingers are walking through wet cement. I just kind of plod along. But I'm learning to be okay with just being okay in this department.

3. I find it hard to say "no." I have my hands in so many projects and pies, it's no wonder I can't lose any weight. Let's see, we have the usual items that most everyone deals with: being a husband, father, and holding down a full-time job. There's also:
Computer Lab Instructor
Leader of local band "Subject to Change"
Occasional Worship Leader at my church
Drama Director at my church
Treasurer for the Genesee Valley Choral Company
I play fantasy baseball in two leagues
I write, as you probably know, "Mark Mail" every weekday
There's the blog that you're reading
I've also been asked to undertake two other projects in 2008, both of which would be a MAJOR drain on what precious little time, resources and sanity I have remaining. But just you watch, I'll probably try to do them both.

4. I'm one selfish sonuva.... lest you think I have a giving spirit and just do everything I can to help everyone I can, no matter what it is, there's a reason I can't say "no" to some of these things: I like the way the work (and especially the results of the work) makes me feel. I like the heady aroma of power I get when people need me. And I'm just full enough of pride and cocky arrogance to think I can do the job better than most anyone else. I know I need to work on being more humble, and God certainly gives me enough reasons to embrace humility, so perhaps there's hope that I'll grow more mature in this area.

5. Speaking of God, I want to be more like Jesus. The longer I've tried to live a life of Christian faithfulness, the more I'm convinced it all comes down to one verse of Scripture: John 3:30. "He must become greater; I must become less." Christianity is the process of perfection (read Philippians 1:6) and so as I go and grow through life, I truly want to build into myself those principles and realities that will reflect more and more of my Lord and Savior.

6. I use facial hair as an outward sign of my life's changing circumstances. Hmm, that didn't sound as goofy in my head as it looks in print. But here's the deal: when something major changes in my life (son moves out, I get a new job, son moves back in, etc.) I'll change something on my face. Grow a beard, lose the beard, cut back to a goatee, maybe down to just a mustache, etc. So if you see something new going on with my face, you can be assured something has changed in my life.

7. I'm a compulsive-obsessive about neatness and order everywhere except my home. Does that make me a hypocrite? Honestly, though, if you were to look at the workstation there at my job, and then look at my workstation in my home office, you'd swear that space was occupied by two different people. But maybe this makes more sense than I think it does at first blush. At work, there's just work. At home, there always seems to be something else that is more fun to do needs to be done before cleaning and filing. So instead of a filing system, I wind up with a piling system.

Well, there ya go. Seven things about me ... some of them I probably wouldn't have chosen to tell you, but Lisa forced it outta me.

Okay, it's time to finish planning some worship music for the morning, wrap a couple of gifts, and see what excitement there may be in my dreams tonight.

Monday, December 10, 2007

12 Days ... and Toto, too!

Indiana University has a pretty talented men's a capella group known as "Straight No Chaser." Here's a video - with a tip o'the Mark Mail cap to Pastor Tim - of their mashed up version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" ... complete with a "Toto" classic!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Baby Got Book

Usually I'm not one to approve of the Church copying a secular style/song/strategy ... if it has the word of truth, it should be able to stand on its own without being "sanctified" by Christians. All truth is God's truth, yes?

And shouldn't we who are in communion with the Creator be able to be CREATIVE? There's no need to make a poor shadow of a secular concept when, by right of spiritual rebirth, we should be on the cutting edge of what's new and innovative and different.

However, in the case of the video below, I'm going to make an exception. Despite being a rap parody, it is - and I use this word cautiously, given the subject matter - an elegant satire of a secular work.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Meaning of Christmas

The executives at CBS almost didn't air this Christmas special back in 1965. There was no laugh track, they thought the pacing was "too slow," and the whole thing seemed "a little flat." The voice talent was amateurish - why hadn't Schulz used adults instead of kids? - and whoever heard of using jazz music on an animated show? And, finally, they said "the Bible thing scares us."

But perseverance and an iron-clad contract won the day and we now have one of the greatest animated Christmas specials of all time. And a reminder of what Christmas is truly all about.