Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Window Story

My boss sent me an email on a Wednesday night looping me in on a project we're going to be doing at my new church.  For those of you who don't know, I'm working for a new church plant in Santa Monica called Resonate.  And David's first sermon series is going to be on the Sermon on the Mount.

To go along with the series, David wants to get 10 artists to work with 10 windows.  The idea is that at the end of each message, one of the art pieces will be revealed.  And at the end of the series, we'll put together an installation at an art gallery.

So David wants me to find 10 windows.  Sound simple?  It's not.  A cursory glance around craigslist and ebay and other sites shows that it's not easy to come by used windows.  People don't replace their windows that often, and they have good resale value.  Even the few used windows there are on craigslist are going for $200 - $300.

The next morning I texted David asking him what kind of budget we were looking at.  While I waited for a response, I figured I'd browse around again, get a better idea of what's out there.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to think up ideas, like calling contractors to see what they do with old windows.  Maybe there's some window graveyard out there.

Craigslist.  Free Stuff.  Type in 'windows'.  There's an ad: 10 Free Windows to be used for art projects only.  Seriously?  And not just little ones, or ones with the glass busted out - they're all intact and good sized and there's some variety in the styles.  I call the guy and he explains that they shouldn't be used for building.  I explain that I'm looking for exactly this: 10 windows for art projects.

A hundred bucks to hire my friend and his truck and 2 hours later - all ten windows are ours.  Problem solved.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bringing God Into the Conversation

Lately, I have found it much easier to bring up God in conversation.  Observe.

What did you do today?

 - I toured a homeless shelter.  The church I work for is looking for opportunities to serve the community and the Ocean Park Community Center provides the homeless with not just a meal, but all kinds of services, from shelter to job training to accountability to community.

How was your weekend?

 - Pretty cool.  The church I work for helped organize over 200 people to clean up the beach in Santa Monica.

What's new?

 - Oh, I had this cool thing happen.  At the church where I work, the pastor came up with this art project to coincide with his next sermon series that involves artists doing pieces with windows.  And he asked me to find 10 windows.  Which I thought was going to be either expensive or a lot of searching.  But I went on Craigslist and there was an ad for 10 free windows, to be used only for art projects, not for building.

Where do you work?

 -  I work for a new church in Santa Monica.

Have you notices the common thread?  To be fair, I'm not mentioning God at all, but mentioning that you work at a church is a really easy way to slip God into the conversation unobtrusively.  He's there, but you don't have to force Him into the conversation.

Which has made me realize something.  Like a lot of you, I've always felt embarrassed about bringing God into a conversation.  But I'm realizing that it's not the God part that I'm embarrassed about, it's the bringing-into-the-conversation part.  I simply don't like to force God into a conversation, when it doesn't come up naturally.  Now that it comes up organically, as part of what I do for work, it doesn't feel embarrassing at all.

Which reinforces something else that's often bothered me.  Too many times I've heard a pastor or other church worker talk about evangelism.  Which is fine.  But then they'll give an example of how they were sitting next to someone on a plane (or in a coffee shop, or while surfing, etc.), and the person asked what they do for a living, and it came out that they're a pastor.  Which led to them talking about God, which led to an opportunity to witness to the person.  And isn't it great how that came up organically?  And really, we all should be trying to have these organic conversations with people.

Ya know what?  Those people need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that they're living in an insulated bubble where it is much easier to talk about God if your job is at a church.  How about giving an example that doesn't involve your job?  How about helping folks figure out how to do it when they don't work at a church?  I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Introverts and Extroverts and the Art of Conversation

I’ve noticed something lately.  If you ask someone questions and take the time to listen, people will talk to you.  And talk.  And talk.  And never shut up.

See, I’ve been trying this new thing where I attempt to be friendly and get to know people.  I know – doesn’t sound like me at all.  Nevertheless, I’ve been smiling and introducing myself and asking questions.  And I have gotten to know a lot about quite a few people.  But I’m willing to bet they don’t know much about me.  Why?  Because they don’t ask.  I ask them about themselves and they talk and talk and talk.  If there is a momentary lull, they will rush to fill it with – you guessed it! – more talking about themselves and their opinions.

Luckily, some of them are entertaining to listen to or have interesting opinions.  But only some.
I think it has to do with the extrovert-oriented culture we’re living in.  Here’s something I’ve figured out about extroverts.  They like to engage in conversation.  It’s an activity for them.  And extroverts like to jump into activities and experience them to the fullest.  The priority is not to exchange information or find meaning or learn anything.  It’s just to do it!  Talk!  Converse!  Get in there and mix it up with words with other people!

The introvert, in case you’re interested, does not seek conversation as an activity.  They seek to learn, to understand, to have a point, even if the point is to be silly.  They want to engage with the other person, and the conversation is a means to that end.  They seek to connect.

Do I sound harsh?  Certainly, there are some extroverts who know how to hold their tongues.  If you are one of them – if you have learned that only the fool blathers on, then this doesn’t apply to you, does it?

And there are introverts who have adopted the extroverted way of conversing – going on and on.  Which is sad, because you’re so much more interesting if you take the time to think through some of what you want to say.

How about if we take the time to get to know each other, instead of just talking?  It reminds me of the animals in Narnia.  Once they started acting like animals, Aslan let them go back to being just animals.  And they lost their power of speech.  Hmm … maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Proverbs 18:2 – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.